I grew up without social media. I got my first cell phone when I was 16 and my bills cost a fortune. There was no texting, just phone calls and you really had to watch your minutes. If your finger accidentally fumbled on the button that connected you to the internet or email all hell broke loose because you would automatically be charged $5 or more. There wasn't a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram - which in my opinion is what I imagine teenage bliss looks like these days. I didn't have to worry about a photo of me getting drunk for the first time passed out on the bathroom floor circulating online. I also didn't have to scan endless photos of beautiful people traveling to exotic places and wondering 'what do they do?', 'How do they afford that?'. The job, social media influencer was not even imaginable at that point.
I was 23 (about 10 years ago, guys!!) when I took my first adventure sans parents. When I was in university, the cool thing to do when it came to travel was not staying in luxury hotels wearing unaffordable clothing and going for the sole purpose of getting an Instagram pic. The cool thing was to go to your local outdoors store, buy a heavy duty backpack, fill it with practical clothing and shoes and go backpacking. My, how the times have changed so quickly! Right before my graduation date from University of Ottawa, that's exactly what I did. I rounded up two of my close girlfriends and we went backpacking through France and Italy for two or three weeks...because that's all we could afford. We used Lonely Planet books to map out key landmarks and destinations we wanted to see (not Pinterest and Instagram photos) and because we did it this way, we often got off our train because we saw a cool beach or fell in love with a city and stayed an extra night. There were no expectations other than experiencing as much authenticity as possible and taking in the culture of the places we visited. Imagine that now!
Now, everyone is SO influenced on where to go, where to stay, what to see. Places are being destroyed because of the amount of tourist traffic they get, tourists leaving garbage behind and the carelessness for the environment and culture of the location. We are so eager to get the Instagram-worthy photo that will get us lots of likes, maybe a sponsorship or lots of engagement that we are really missing out on the experience. I'm not saying I don't do this - I LOVE taking photos and I love inspiring others to take advantage of new experiences. But maybe because I traveled before social media was a thing, I've been able to set this mindset aside to appreciate where I am and why I came to the destination. My Instagram photos are certainly not a priority when I travel. Most are done before I set about my day, and I'm not snapping as many posed photos throughout the day. I'm usually dressed in a way that's not appropriate to be seen in public lol. My hair will be matted and knotted and I'm probably wearing shorts and a t-shirt. I'm generally not on my phone and if I take any photos, it's probably of the landscape or people. This gives me an opportunity to take in my surroundings and experience things my way. Now, as for being directed to places by social media, I would be lying if I said I'm not. I will see photos of places that will inspire me to travel there, but I try not to limit myself to all the landmarks travel influencers outline. I've found that I gain better experiences when I stumble on my own landmarks, hotels, hostels, places to eat etc. This is best thing you can do! It can be tough, because there are a lot of really great travel influencers who are amazing at editing and taking photos...but what you don't see is what is beyond the photo. What did they crop out? What colours did they adjust? There have been a few moments where I've been let down because of social media's influence - so I hope this post will help you keep this in mind when you travel.
Before you travel somewhere, ask yourself if you're going for the photo...or if you're going because you want to experience the culture and environment of the destination. That should really be what influences your travel goals.