Traveling is overrated

If you have a smartphone you probably have had one of those lazy nights scrolling through a mountain of content on your Facebook / Instagram feeds and suffered from the bombardment of photos of people from their vacations, which would walk you through every step of a typical trip: the food they ate (compulsory); the Airbnb they stayed in; probably a bikini shot on the beach (for a healthy dose of “vitamin sea” of course); a generic photo of a worn-out popular location that had already been taken a million times (accompanied with an irrelevant caption to suggest the person’s sudden interest in philosophy); their views from the planes and my favorite – their passports and boarding passes. The glorification of the wanderlust culture is truly at its peak.

Yes traveling is fun. I, too, like the idea of having time off and go to a new place once in a while. But it’s not something worth quitting your job for (which people absolutely have done). Ignore the financial strain after the trip or the stress of a new job search, traveling for an extended period of time could be boring too. Who knows leisure could be taxing as well? The beginning of the trip is exciting but as it progresses the fatigue kicks in and things gradually don’t seem quite appealing anymore. After visiting the 2346th local attractions who cares if that old church was built in the Baroque era or not?

Which reveals another fact about traveling: things are not that interesting. Most of the civilized Western world offers basically the same experience. Most resorts are the same. Most luxurious hotels are the same. If you have spent time in New York, would you be amazed by the lifestyle in London/Berlin/Amsterdam? Probably not. “But I’m going to Phnom Penh” you might said. Excellent choice. In fact, tourist attractions in Asia might be able to offer more nuances for your trip, mostly because the facilities in many places are underdeveloped. However, once the place has gained the status of a tourism hot spot, the commercialization built around tourism itself is often the leading catalyst in the destruction of local beauty (Sapa I’m looking at you). In other words, if you don’t dine with the tribes in the Amazon forest, it’s likely that your experience isn’t as “free and wild” as your hashtags imply.

While traveling still requires a considerable budget, it has no longer been a luxury only the elite few can afford. Thanks to affordable transportation, folks from all corners of the world can afford to pack themselves in concrete sardine boxes called airports. After a series of queuing and waiting for their turns to be harassed by security, flyers spend an ungodly amount of time doing nothing in the lounges since their flights are most likely delayed. If an activity entails stuffing yourself in claustrophobic settings, shoveling awful foods down your throat and being aggressively searched by strangers, you wouldn’t reasonably see it as “fun” would you? But when people travel this exhausting part of the deal is very often overlooked in this travel is nothing but fun fun fun culture.

Having said that, I concede that traveling offers invaluable experiences that cannot be replicated in any other way. So do reading, exercising and God forbid, working. Social media, like all other religions, preaches a certain set of virtues and I believe that if you open a page of its Bible you will find “Thou shalt travel and annoy everyone on Instagram with that mediocre photo of the Poke bowl you had for lunch” being one of the amendments. Traveling, in fact, is just an activity among thousands of activities a modern human has the luxury to do in his/her lifetime. The ridiculous endorsement of traveling on social networks has resulted in people moaning about how they crave a Caribbean odyssey because they haven’t been away for 3 weeks. This speaks volume about how self-entitled people are in this day and age.

Yes, do travel! Pack your backpack, get a ticket and leave. But if you use your journey as a tool for virtue signalling, you’re probably missing the authenticity of the experience.