27 July 2017
Just how sustaining is travel?
by Amelia Power
Young people today are infected with the travel bug. Itchy feet, wanderlust, whatever you want to call it, it’s a phenomenon rife in society. It seems as if no one can sit still for more than a few months at a time, myself included. I lead an itinerant existence in that I stay in one place for a few months, enough time to see the sites, get a feel for the place, and earn enough money to then go somewhere new and exciting; it is a fast-paced, exciting lifestyle that allows me to constantly meet new people and see wonderful places. But in many ways, it’s poisonous. A life like this is unsustainable and addictive.
In a world governed by technology and, increasingly, social media, we are always lusting after the best next travel destination and the money shot that will get us those oh-so-precious Instagram likes. That makes it virtually impossible for any of us to be completely satisfied with our current situation; we’re under the illusion that everyone around us is seeing more, doing more, LIVING more. But that is simply not true; we’re all just putting our best foot forward in the social media sphere, with our highest definition shot, and our favourite superlatives condensed into a measly 2000 characters. Everyone’s lives may seem to have become exponentially more exciting over the last ten years but they haven’t. We’ve just got really good at photo editing and reducing our best bits to punchy catchphrases – basically self advertising. In a world of fast paced technology in which everyone has Facebook, WordPress, Snapchat and Instagram, we’re all travel bloggers, writers and photographers, living our lives fleetingly, based on places that Insider Magazine says we MUST visit, living life behind the screen of a laptop and behind a lens. We write lists of trips we want to do, places we want to go to and things we want to see when we get there, reducing, not only these countries, but ourselves and our own experiences to mere bullet points, snapshots, and social-media worthy moments.
No wonder, then, that it seems impossible to feel completely content with a cup of tea and a crumpet in some English, April drizzle, when it seems that half of our Instagram followers are jet-setting from one destination to the next. We’ve become a generation of bingers; bingers of food, bingers of alcohol and bingers of experience. We visit somewhere for a few months at a time, cram in as much as we can, and then leave, in search of our next adventure and our next fix. But I realise more and more how important it is to be accepting and appreciative of the sometimes menial textures of every day life, because that’s the real stuff; that’s the gentle flicker of a candle rather than the the raging, petrol-doused fire of 3 weeks backpacking in South East Asia. The candle will burn for far longer than the inferno of the fire. The candle and every day life are a constant, a constant which involves friendly faces, and family and the strange comfort of landing at Heathrow in that familiar light drizzle.
In many ways, the unsustainability of a sporadic lifestyle like that of a traveller can be severely detrimental to mental health. The inability to sit still and feel content with normality, and the loneliness of a life made up of hellos and goodbyes, can often lead to isolation. Moving from place to place, you constantly make friends, but you also have to constantly say goodbye and leave friends behind, and can find yourself persistently on the periphery of friendship groups, not invited to the party because of the assumption that you’re in another city or another country. And though the lifestyle may be full of excitement and adventure, we’ve all got to get off the rollercoaster at some point, and sometimes it’s quite nice to have something worth getting off for, people and places we can appreciate, simply at home.
This is not to say that travelling isn’t an amazing experience which offers endless opportunity for sightseeing, meeting new people and exploration, but more to acknowledge that often it is necessary to take a step back and see it for what it can sometimes be – a social media sea of gloating and an attempt to find fleeting adventure and excitement for short periods at a time. The search for this experience should not make one disenchanted with the texture of everyday life. That can be just as rewarding.
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