In today’s world dominated by social media, it’s easy to lose sight of why you do the things you do. Why did you buy that outfit? Why do you workout? Why do you travel? Social media is often a driver of these behaviors, as it makes us seek perfection and status. It seems as though we live our lives with an underlying intention of showing off. When you catch yourself posting the "perfect" photo for a certain person you like to see, it hits you—who am I fooling? It’s easy to let social media define your actions. So how do you avoid this ingenuity when traveling?
Traveling—to go from one place to another, typically over a distance of some length. This word holds a lot of different meanings for a lot of different people. For some, traveling means exporting yourself to a certain location to get away from work, take some photos for Instagram, and check it off your bucket list. This type of travel is ideal for vacations, where you simply need to unwind and indulge. But there is another type of travel that offers a deeper human experience: immersion.
Depending on where you are from and what your current life situation is, it can be difficult to find opportunities to immerse yourself in a different culture and life. It often requires time and money. Lots of it. But even if you don’t have the resources to spontaneously uproot your life to live in a foreign country for a year, there are other ways to create deep value in your travels.
This is going to sound ludicrous to some people, but I urge you to try it: delete the Instagram app off of your phone during your trip. Now wait, this doesn’t mean you can’t post your picturesque snapshots to tell the world where you are and what you’re doing. You can and you should. But, we often forget that it doesn’t have to be in real time. Take photos and videos, but just save them. When the trip ends—or if you’re gone for a long time, then maybe once every couple of weeks—sort through those memories and post them. But in the moment, cleanse yourself from those distractions. Fill your empty moments with observation and enjoyment, rather than curated content. When you return home, you will feel fulfilled in your experience and realize the power of being present. Your followers can wait.
Because our perception of other people’s lives is often limited to a series of heavily filtered and posed photos, it’s easy to assume that any travel experience we have will meet that expectation. But these high expectations are simply not realistic. This fact does not mean that travel is any less amazing and valuable of an experience. However, it does mean that you should be prepared for challenges and surprises. You might face language barriers, homesickness, physical sickness, difficulty navigating, or financial issues. A location might not be to your liking. Just because you are traveling does not mean that you escape problems that you would face in your normal life. But, this is the beauty of traveling—it takes you out of your comfort zone. We often get stuck in routine and forget to do things that push us to grow. Traveling, with both its highs and lows, has the ability to teach us so much about ourselves and how to navigate diverse situations. Once you realize that this is part of the journey, you will face a lot less disappointment and a lot more appreciation for the learning curve.