Can we please stop making travel a competition?
Long gone are the days when travel was the pursuit of the ultra-wealthy.
Budget airlines, rapidly improving technology, and changing social attitudes have meant that travel has become extremely accessible. And people are travelling at every opportunity.
Generally, this is a good thing.
At its best, travel challenges your assumptions and expands your horizons. It forces you to grow up and take responsibility, or adapt and change your worldview.
But now, there’s a problem – and the problem is largely social media.
Travel has gone from being a personal journey of discovery, to a very publicly documented adventure. An extended boast.
Some people seem to live their whole trip through an iPhone 7+.
Taking pictures is fine. But elaborately staged photos of yourself enjoying the luxury hotel spa? I’m not such a fan.
This doesn’t just extend to Instagram. It’s also in the conversations had upon return.
Sharing stories is an integral part of human life. We want others to understand our experiences, and storytelling is an important part of this.
But there is a difference between storytelling and showing off.
There is a line between sharing an interesting, relevant anecdote, and just spouting off about your gap yah again.
Nobody wants to be that person who can’t contribute to a conversation without somehow linking it back to their experience on a yoga retreat in Bali.
Perhaps worst of all is the conversation between groups of travellers, where it goes around in circles, each person trying to one-up the one before.
‘Oh, you took the bus around South America? Hmm, I hitchhiked.’
‘Oh, you visited a home stay in Indonesia? Well, I spent three months living with a monk in the Tibetan Himalayas. We only ate one meal every three days and had to poop in a bucket.’
All travel is good travel.
Let people stay in a boutique hotel if they want to. Not everyone likes hostels.
Does it matter if they spent loads at the markets instead of haggling over that last 10p?
And why can’t they spend a few days lounging around the hotel pool if that’s what they want?
It is not a competition.
You had an amazing spiritual enlightenment? Fantastic! You crashed a motorbike in Cambodia? You were chased by an elephant in India? Good for you!
I hope you learned something from these experiences, but please don’t shoehorn it into a conversation about the weather.
You don’t have to try to convince everyone you meet of how much travel has changed you.
And you also don’t need to dismiss the people who just had a perfectly nice time, and tragically missed out on those near-death experiences.
Travel should be about the journey. Not the heavily filtered Instagram shot of the infinity pool. Not the hoarding of stories to tell at the next party.
For God’s sake, can’t we just enjoy it for what it is, and stop making it a competition?