This post is going to have to start-off with one of the most first-world, privileged, spoiled sentences ever uttered, but here goes…traveling is hard. Now that we’ve gotten that out-of-the-way, don’t think for a second that we’re not grateful for our lives and our ability to travel the world. But the truth of the matter still remains that being a full-time traveler is a far cry away from the pristine images you see online.
A perfectly curated Instagram feed can make any destination look like it’s worth your time. Angles, filters and clever captions draw you into a moment, a sheer still-shot taken from a lengthy movie that you actually never get to view in entirety.
Before you drown in jealousy over that blogger/influencer/Youtuber who blows up your timeline with stunning pictures from a country you’ve never even heard of, we want to talk with you about the downfalls of being #wanderlust.
Travelers Aren’t on Vacation
Our backpacking trip through Southeast Asia was anything but perfect. It was uncomfortable, hard and sometimes frustrating. There were times when we wanted to just pack it up & go home (even though at the time we didn’t have a home). There were nights we had to sleep under the sky (literally in the Philippines we had to sleep on a bench with dogs because our bus dropped us off in the middle of nowhere) we grasped our belongings and made do, days we spent walking around aimlessly with our heavy backpacks because we lost both of our phones to the ocean in Thailand, there was countless bug bites, questionable street food & approximately 3 missed flights… But between all of that there was so much BEAUTY. We learned so much about ourselves, our limits were tested daily & we came out stronger than ever because that is what traveling is about! Traveling is more than an Instagram feed and selfies! It’s not about just crossing destinations off of list, it’s about GROWTH! We are so unbelievably grateful that we get to live this lifestyle and share it with one another… Now onto a new home in a new country!
The idea that travelers are on some sort of lifetime vacation is pretty absurd. A vacation, by definition, is a short-recreational escape from normal life. If you embark on a year-long backpacking trip through South America, that is not a vacation, that is your new “normal life.”
When you go on vacation, it allows you to clear your mind, enjoy your temporary surroundings and maybe even forget about your problems for that week or two. When you are traveling, those problems come right along with you.
The ups and downs of everyday life can’t be pushed aside when you are a long-term traveler. That means that if you find yourself depressed, irritated or upset near a shanty town in a foreign place, you have to deal with that on your own. You have to keep those feelings of isolation at bay while you try to navigate through a culture completely different from your own. It’s a lot to deal with.
While you are on vacation you might find yourself spending most of your time on guided tours, at the beach or simply staying put at your all-inclusive resort. As a traveler, you have to come to terms with spending copious amounts of time in transit, on smelly buses and trains, squashed on long-haul flights or waiting inside the border control and airport food courts.
Want to learn how to save on your next adventure? Check out our “Slick Traveler” video here for all the juicy details!
Lots of Hype- Not a lot Happening
If you want to see a random, old, feral-cat ridden alley in Italy made to seem like the most quaint and adorable spot to sit and have a picnic, just take a scroll through a hot ticket Instagram account. We are living in a digital age where people are willing to try to make anything seem interesting.
Sure, these people get to create dazzling pictures that may inspire others to get out there and travel.. but what is it really doing to the tourism industry?
For a couple of weeks, videos and pictures of a Mexican lake with hot pink tides went viral. Every blogger, influencer and photographer was rushing to this area to snap a photo of the creamy, Pepto-Bismol water. After further research, most bloggers could hardly even pretend that they had an enjoyable time traveling to see this lake.
First of all, new rules and regulations were put in place to protect the lake, which meant tourists weren’t actually allowed to get in the water. So to be clear, these content creators traveled out to this lake to pose in front of the water… aaaaand that’s about it. One blogger even said… “Yeah, there’s not much to do once you get there, but you can snap a pretty cool Instagram pic!”
Is this what travel has become? Have we become a society that literally travels for the ‘gram? Not only is it sad, but now you have an entire subculture of people who are promoting spots that literally offer nothing but a played out photo-op.
Checklist Travel is a Joke
The explosion of the travel movement has turned what once was the chance to learn about new cultures and societies into a rat race to see who can see as many countries in the shortest amount of time.
You’ve seen the click-bait headlines, “Girl sees 52 countries in 1 month,” “First man to venture to every sovereign nation sets foot on the moon.” Yes, it’s amazing to say that you’ve got a passport that’s been around the block a few times, but what about the true value in traveling?
If you are on a hunt for checking countries off of a list… are you even talking with the locals? Are you veering off of the beaten path? Have you tried the food… no really tried it and learned why the people of this region eat this way?
Or do you merely stop for a picture, upload it to Instagram with enough time to add a meaningful caption from Gandhi, Buddha or Taylor Swift?
When traveling long-term, you are going to journey to cities, villages or entire countries that just are not for you. That can be really disheartening when you’ve planned out an itinerary that falls short of your expectations. Any traveler who doesn’t want to give into the feeling of defeat has to keep a flexible attitude.
After spending nearly two weeks in the Philippines we were so overwhelmed with the amount of money and time we were wasting. We blew an obscene amount of money on transport, miserable accommodations and lackluster food.
Although the islands of the Philippines offer crystal-clear waters and white sand beaches, we just couldn’t cope with the lack of infrastructure. Soooo… we lost the money from both of our flights to Boracay and instead paid to go to Hong Kong.
For our Trendsetter’s Guide to Hong Kong- click here!
Could we have just dealt with it? Sure of course. But this leg of our backpacking excursion was only the beginning of a trip that was set to last 4 more months. We wasted loads of money in constantly resetting and rescheduling, but sometimes that’s what you have to do for peace of mind.
On a positive note, there were instances where we changed our plans simply because we couldn’t bear leaving the city we were in. We spent 2 months in Hong Kong and Laos because we absolutely fell in love with everything from the culture to the food.
Wanderlust Final Thoughts
Travel is what you make it. Some places are all about the sites, others are about adventure… and most are about the people. It’s up to you to really look into yourself to understand what it is that you want out of your trip.
In a world full of updates, likes, followers and subscribers…. challenge yourself to have a real experience. Whether it’s painful, uncomfortable, scary or completely exhausting, make it authentic.
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