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Travel Doesn’t Always Need to be “Instagrammable,” and You Should Embrace That

Sarah Lempa

Chicago, IL, USA

In a world of picture-perfect feeds, apartments created just for Instagram, and a profusion of selfie taking, it’s safe to say people have social media on the brain while they’re traipsing the globe. It fosters a sense of connection while we’re far away and allows us to share our most exciting moments with new friends and old. The benefits are fabulous. But, somewhere along the road (literally), we may have gotten a bit swept up in it all.

Travel is not always perfect. Instagram, however, might have you thinking otherwise: manicured beach scenes, mysteriously non-sweaty jungle shots, outlandish Bali brunch spreads — often, it’s just poised perfection. Many travelers have become engulfed in chasing these perfect shots, so much so that it’s taking away from other important aspects of the globetrotting experience.

Here at Seeker, we believe that you should be focusing on the non-’gram worthy times, and here’s 6 reasons why:

Destinations should move you, not just your feed.

Sweaty AF and kinda lost somewhere in Central Vietnam. Credit: Sarah Lempa

On the road, we experience diverse cultures, learn about starkly different lifestyles, and inspire ourselves (and others) to do more. Not to mention, we feel drawn to certain places for the lure of pristine beaches or snow-capped mountains and the peace and joy they evoke within us. All of these are fabulous reasons to travel.

Unfortunately, it appears these salient drivers have fallen to the bottom of the motivation bucket with millennials. According to a recent survey by a U.K. home insurance company, over 40% of people under the age of 33 are citing “Instagrammable” as their number one determinant for trips. Disappointing and disturbing? Agreed.

The moment that travel becomes more about decorating your feed, getting likes, or heightened status — it’s time to reevaluate, ASAP. I’m not saying that gettin’ your ‘gram and diving deep into cultures can’t coexist in balanced harmony (they 100% can), but it’s simply not right when your trendy Instagram shot takes precedence over meaningful experiences.

The non-glamorous parts of travel help us grow.

Getting stuck under an awning during a sudden rainstorm in Rio de Janeiro. Credit: Sarah Lempa

Between fumbling with foreign languages, mid-desert breakdowns, and an endless list of travel-induced growth moments, being on the road often teaches us more than we ever bargained for. The funny thing is, those seemingly unfortunate moments rarely see social media, perhaps because they’re uncropped, unfiltered, and totally freakin’ real.

Mid-trip imperfections are seen as pesky nuisances or roadblocks, but those moments shape us as travelers and human beings. Yes, even getting crunched in the middle seat from LAX to Hong Kong will teach you something about patience. That kid that ran right into your photo? He’s a lesson in acceptance.

Exploring should never be a popularity contest.

inding cover at the Colosseum in 105 degree weather. Credit: Jody Vandergriff

The picture perfect pressures of Instagram are beginning to wear on travelers. Research conducted by Jet Cost revealed that many Americans actually lie about their vacation satisfaction. That’s right: roughly two-thirds of respondents admitted to lying about their experiences, ranging from weather to time spent sightseeing, according to Travel Pulse. If that isn’t entirely counterintuitive to the point of a vacation, I don’t know what is.

“Instagrammable” destinations are being thrust into the limelight in the vein of competition and image projection, seemingly more so than genuine enjoyment. Isn’t the latter where we should put our focus, instead of fixating on what the virtual world will see?

Destinations are not just items to collect, and they’re certainly not props for likes or social stardom either. Everyone travels at a different pace and style, and your preference may not be what’s hot on Instagram’s explore page. Instead of doing it for the ‘gram, do it for yourself, and enjoy every moment of it.

Honesty and authenticity unite us.

Street food isn’t beautiful but it’s delicious! Credit: Sarah Lempa

Most travelers can relate to food poisoning woes, needing a bathroom at an inconvenient time, and being hopelessly lost in a sea of strangers. I’m not talking wanderlust fairytale lost — I’m talking oh sh*t we just took the metro 17 stops in the wrong direction lost. Been there, done that? Me too.

The mishaps and eye-crusted jet lags almost never see the light of Instagram, but they’re so omnipresent in our lives on the road. A picture is worth a thousand words, but that doesn’t mean they’re always genuine. Next time you have an utterly crappy day navigating the world, why not be completely transparent about it instead of fabricating a different story? Surely someone can relate. It might even lead to fostering a real connection, which is what social media should be about.

Life simply isn’t Instagrammable 24/7, nor should it be.

Domestic flights in Spain not made for tall Americans. Credit: Jody Vandergriff.

I know this. You know this. Anyone who exists knows this. My recent semi-dilapidated 8-hour bus with a broken toilet in Ecuador was anything but Instagrammable. Neither was the bone-chilling rainstorm I experienced while riding through the mountains of Vietnam, or the disturbing, blistered mosquito bites that covered my legs in Chile. Having said that, these are some of the memories that I (semi-surprisingly) hold near and dear to my heart. They taught me so much about myself, and what I’m capable of. Not to mention, they make the good times even sweeter. Cheers to that!

So yes, take photos to your heart’s content. Share what makes you happy, but just remember: there are so many more important qualities that come before “Instagrammable.”

Travel is an amazing privilege, and it’s up to us to make sure we’re getting the most out of it by helping ourselves grow and using it to effect positive change (instead of using it as a social media show).

How can we check in, without checking out?

With nonstop notifications and documentation abilities at your fingertips, it can be difficult to stay present all the time. Oh technology, you’re wild. Social media should be a tool, not a governing force. Here’s a shortlist of ways to stay present:

  • Turn off unnecessary notifications.
    • Do you really need to know that someone liked your post while you’re traversing the foothills of the Swiss Alps? Probably not.
  • Start the day with a walk outdoors instead of scrolling media.
    • Traveling can take you to beautiful places. Why not dive in as soon as you wake up? Hit the trail or city streets for a walk as soon as you wake up — sans tech — for a mind-clearing morning.
  • Avoid using your tech in social settings.
    • Whatever is going on in the real world is more important than your feed. Prioritize conversations and genuine in-person connections! You can still use social to keep in touch with them after your paths diverge.
  • Try the 5 shot rule.
    • Do you really need 15 photos of the same temple? Probably not.  The five shot rule is exactly what it sounds like: stick to five photos when you’re at a particular sight. Then just walk around and enjoy it for the rest of the time.
  • Check in, but don’t check out.
    • Check in online. Tell your friends and family where you are, where you’ve been, and where you plan to go. Share your joy, humorous moments, and hard times. But don’t check out by getting sucked into a 2 hour scrolling session.

Embrace real life moments when they happen and share them with others. You’ll look back at them with a fond smile in remembrance of overcoming the hard times, and surely, you won’t be the only one.