If, let’s say, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter did not exist, would you still travel?
Nowadays, many are led to believe that the spike in the travelling culture and backpacking tendencies amongst the millennials is due to our appetite for sharing. We share our experiences offline and online. We have special journals and photo galleries that document our travels.
So, the question comes to mind today. Would you travel just for the sake of the experience, or for the sake of sharing the experience?
Would you still travel just to feel the excitement of navigating the labyrinthine bazaar, with the smell of grilled meat wafting the air, and the dusty gust blowing on your face?
Here’s my take.
While there is this unique feeling of satisfaction that one may derive from sharing his travelling experience online (I won’t lie, posting a selfie in front of the Brandenburg Gate made me feel…quite good), I would still travel even if Instagram never existed.
The main reason is simple. Travelling is one of the great pleasures of life. It opens my mind to the diversity of cultures that people from many different corners of the world hold dear to.
Travelling makes me appreciate people at home even more.
I remember, walking alone in the streets of New York City; one of the biggest and the most crowded place in the world, feeling alone. I was on a 10-day trip in the city- I didn’t even leave the city, as I wanted to experience what it was like living in one of the most exciting cities on the planet.
It was fun, it was a great experience, but I felt lonely. I felt that, amidst all the good things that money could buy in the city, I missed my company at home. I had dinner alone most of the evenings I spent in the city, and I missed having someone talk to me from across the table. I went to some nice galleries, and I wish I could have someone to share my joy with. I walked the Central Park alone, and I imagined how my mom would enjoy the view. I had a hipster brunch in Williamsburg and I remembered how my friends and I would laugh over a similar cup of coffee back home.
Being alone puts you in the perspective; it allows you to experience the sweetness of company. Solitude helps us find ourselves.
Travelling opens my eyes to the power of human kindness.
Flashback to October 2015.
I got off the bus at a wrong stop; my mind was groggy and I was beyond exhausted, so my street smart was probably not at its best. Stranded in Sharm-el-Sheikh, instead of Dahaab, which was 2 hours away, I looked like a lost tourist at the bus stations. My ticket to Dahaab was no longer valid, as the bus I was supposed to be one already left. Desperate for tourist dollars, taxi drivers came to me in groups and tried their luck to cash in on my vulnerability (if you’ve been to Egypt you’d know how persistent and aggressive Egyptian taxi drivers were).
Then an Egyptian couple approached me, offering to assist me. Long story short, they took some time out of their honeymoon to take me right to my hotel doorsteps in Dahaab. They were even kind enough to buy me lunch (which I insisted on paying for). The couple also repeatedly apologised to me for the difficult experience I had to go through as a solo traveller in Egypt – the country isn’t the best place for solo travels, I must admit.
Dahaab was at the tail end of my Egypt itinerary, and after encountering so much hassle in Cairo, I was glad that my experience in the Sinai taught me that wherever you are, there is human kindness. There will be someone who’s kind enough to assist you, and (as cliche as this may sound), protect you.
This is because, deep inside, people, most of them, are kind.
This is also something the kind of travel experience that Instragram won’t be able to document.
We don’t need Instagram to enjoy travelling, but if sharing pictures of your travels on social media enhances your experience, or makes you feel good, go ahead.
However, it’s important to not let our appetite to share distract us from the joy of living in-the-moment. Snap ahead, but don’t let taking photos be the main purpose of our travels.
Never let Instagram rob us of our experiences. Great memories and experience last forever. Social media validation, on the other hand, is short-lived.
Know your priorities.