by Jordan Phillips
Every time you click on the popular page on Instagram your feed will become flooded with young people exploring exotic locations and staying in luxury resorts. Their bios always have the same formula: their age (usually under 23), an airplane emoji, and a philosophical quote about traveling.
As you keep scrolling through you begin to wonder what you’re doing with your life. You’re sitting in your dorm eating ramen while ‘@alexisren’ and ‘@jayalvarrez’ gallivant around the world together without a care in the world. All of the comments are a version of the same thing: goals. They’re jumping out of airplanes, swimming with sharks, kissing in the forest—they’re the living embodiment of your Pinterest ‘Wanderlust’ board. And they’re under 20 years old.
Clicking on another profile you see a yogi bending all over the world with quotes about wandering wherever your heart longs to go. Well, your heart wanted guac at Chipotle but you didn’t want to pay the extra charge. Your heart also thought going on that Tinder date would be a good idea too (it never is). Meanwhile other people your age are going on exciting adventures around the world. Does that make you less of a person than they are? Does that make them more accomplished? More successful? More worldly?
It’s natural to feel envious of the profiles you see on social media, especially when they’re of people that are your age and while you’re studying for exams they’re riding elephants in Thailand. It doesn’t make you feel any better when their captions are quotes that literally suggest that you aren’t as understanding as you would be if you traveled.
“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Andre Gide. Does that mean you aren’t courageous because you aren’t riding horses through the rainforest? No. You are courageous in your own way, you don’t need a passport stamp to prove it. Yes, I know what they’re doing looks fun. It probably is, but don’t let it poison your outlook on the life you have.
Traveling doesn’t make you a better person. It doesn’t make you more understanding. It doesn’t make you smarter or kinder. It doesn’t make you more go-with-the-flow. It can, but that doesn’t mean it will. Just because you travel doesn’t mean you suddenly know the meaning of life, and if you don’t travel you’ll never find it. Sure traveling can be great but you shouldn’t feel like less of a human if you don’t.
Zen captions about “picking up your life and moving because it’s good for your soul” or “you’ll never know yourself until you travel” subtly suggest that you must not care about yourself enough to strike out on an adventure. Traveling is great, but it doesn’t mean you suddenly know all of life’s questions. Your life is fine. You have to work full time while going to school You live paycheck to paycheck and the only vacation you get is your day off. You aren’t less of a person. You live in a dinky apartment with your other broke college friends. Just because you aren’t staying in a loft in Amsterdam doesn’t mean you aren’t living. You walked your dog down the bike trail instead of walking the Great Wall of China. That’s okay, it really is. Having responsibilities can teach you just as much, if not more than traveling can. It’s important to keep in mind that a lot of those accounts are being sponsored and don’t have to pay for their travel expenses; chances are they aren’t living that lifestyle on a minimum wage job.
Don’t let social media shame you into thinking that you aren’t living a full life just because you aren’t in a new country each week. Don’t resent the life you have because it doesn’t seem as glamorous as the people you see on Instagram. I’ve met plenty of people who have traveled the globe but have learned nothing and people that have never left the state but are full of life wisdom. The act of traveling doesn’t make you a better person no more than taking a first aid class makes you a doctor.
If you get the opportunity to travel, great! Go and explore but don’t shame those who don’t have the opportunity into thinking that they aren’t living. Getting to experience another culture and interact with locals can be an incredibly enriching experience if you are open to it. There’s nothing wrong with you just because you’re eating Easy Mac for the fourth time in one week and drinking cheap wine out of the bottle with your roommates while watching Netflix (from your ex’s roommate’s parent’s account). You’re in college and being broke is the norm. Your current lifestyle may not be glamorous or exciting but there are plenty of moments and memories to cherish. You are working towards bettering your future, and that is nothing to be ashamed of.
There are endless opportunities to learn and grow as a person anywhere in the world, from the Kremlin in Russia to rush hour traffic on I4, because personal growth comes from within. You have the same chance to learn the same lessons as the “glamorous” accounts that you envy. Life lessons have the same value no matter where in the world you are when you learn them, so don’t worry or stress about what you see on social media.
Remember that when you scroll through Instagram next time because while traveling is a great experience, so is loving the life you have.