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Does the pressure of doing it for the gram outweigh the benefits of having technology at our fingertips?
I’ve read loads of blogs lately proclaiming that being glued to our phones and chasing that perfect shot is ruining the experience of travel for our generation. Their arguments are very valid – I see it.
But like anything, there are pros and cons.
As someone who remembers travelling before Instagram, I feel on the cusp of two eras…
When I compare my 2009 travels to my recent travels, I can’t believe how much has changed. I’ve gone from emailing my mum once a week from an internet cafe, to a world where I can take a photo on my camera or GoPro, send it to my iPhone via inbuilt Wi-Fi then post it on five social media platforms and to all my group chats within five minutes.
Tech can be so handy but I wonder whether I enjoyed the moment more when I travelled with no phone or internet connection when I was 19.
So how is it affecting the way we travel? I’m going to weigh up the pros and cons.
THE BAD BITS
We’ve seen it before
I feel as if I rarely see somewhere for the first time. I’ve always seen it online first. Social media can make places feel like a book you’ve read the last page of, especially when online you didn’t see the massive queues or the McDonalds around the corner.
Copying other people’s travels
I know I’m guilty of this. I read blogs and follow their suggested itineraries and seek out their photo spots. When there’s so much information at your fingertips, it can be easy to copy rather than pave your own route.
That’s not the worst of it though. Competing with how much of an awesome time everyone else on social media is having and all the cool places they’ve been is one of the biggest struggles of our travel generation – there’s a constant risk of FOMO if you skip a destination or do something differently.
If you didn’t get a photo, did it happen?
Experiences are sometimes deemed less valid if they weren’t documented today. And what about those awesome moments that are just as meaningful but aren’t photogenic?
We look around less
If you’re sitting alone in a hostel bar or restaurant or even the beach, it’s so tempting to check in with the world on your phone especially if you feel self-conscious that you’re sat alone. Usually there are sights around you way more interesting and loads of people in hostels you could be chatting to instead.
We don’t use our intuition
When you have Google Maps, Maps.me and Citymapper and can even use them offline, why trace your steps and make an effort to find the way yourself? If I suddenly find myself with a broken device or flat battery, it’s a crisis because I’m not used to being without them.
The constant struggle of getting ‘that photo’
I’ve said it myself – I’m not leaving ’til I’ve got the perfect photo! Even if that means waiting til 10 people pose first and have to crop out some others in the background. I arrive in places feeling more like I’m on a mission than like I’m there to relax.
Who are we doing it for?
It should be for YOU but so often there’s a focus on letting everyone back home know you were having the best time like, eva and trying to impress rather than just enjoy.
THE GOOD BITS
Technology makes it easier to meet people while travelling. I have a couple of groups I really enjoy being part of like Girls Love Travel. Users give each other advice, meet and become real-life friends, and even show each other around their hometowns and offer up their spare rooms. For every person sat ignoring others in a hostel bar to go on their phone, there’s probably someone in an empty bar using their phone to connect with others based in that area.
Blogs that inspire
There are some would-be travellers out there who need a push – encouragement that you won’t be lonely if you travel solo and that you CAN conquer this big wide world. If your immediate friends and family haven’t done it, you might not know achievable it is. If there’s one person out there who’s made their dreams a reality as a result of inspiring travel accounts and groups, then I’m all for tech.
When I travelled in 2009 it was normal for my family to not hear from me for a week. A lot can happen in a week – and who would have known? Nowadays the ease of staying in touch is also your security net. The peace of mind that the internet provides can get your family and friends onboard with your travels when they might have stressed or been less supportive otherwise.
Apps and resources can help
One of the downsides of solo travel is doing all the admin. Tech takes the edge off that. Travel apps include Hostelworld, XE Currency and Airbnb make booking easier and keep everything saved in one place. When I think of the times I rocked up with a heavy backpack and wandered the streets only to find an expensive and crappy place to stay, there’s no contest.
Your memories remain fresher
The high-quality photos and videos we can make today for a relatively low cost keep your memories fresher than ever before. Technology also makes it easier to take photos of yourself travelling solo – for that, I’ll always be grateful!
Remote working opportunities
The chance to work online means you may not run out of money on the road or have to head back after your annual leave is over. The internet is providing so many people with opportunities to build a business and make their travel dreams their day jobs… Yes, please!
This blog was originally published in 2017. The principles remain the same but now things are even ‘more’. The popularity of Instagram stories mean people can basically live stream their travel experiences, or at least the bits they want you to see.
A downside is not feeling the need talk to your friends because you’ve seen what they’re doing online. When I travelled in 2009, all my friends had seen was a few blurry Facebook photos. When I got home, they had questions about my mysterious adventure away. Now? Well, they saw it all, from what I ate at the airport to the highs and lows of the trip and how I felt about coming home.
On the plus side, vlogs and Instagram stories demystify travel. If you were curious about going to India, for example, but unsure what it would be like on a daily basis, you could follow a blogger’s stories and get a pretty good idea. Same for YouTube. I’d class this as a positive, being able to get a feel for a place (rather than seeing a staged photo) when deciding whether or not to go there. Particularly as a solo female, this can be helpful and reassuring.
So… where do you stand?
We have to embrace the good bits and don’t give in to the bad (basically, stress LESS about what everyone else is doing and DON’T sit on your laptop in a hostel bar)… but once you’ve given a man fire, it’s hard to take it away. Our techie habits are inherent and ingrained now. Scrolling Instagram on the beach is so tempting and socially acceptable.
Yep, social media is affecting the way we enjoy the moment. The desire to keep up with our friends (including people we barely know) is stronger than ever and that affects travel as well as other areas of life.
But when it makes it easier to make great photographic memories, join blogging communities, keep in touch and inspire others to do it too – how can it be so bad? I’m in two minds and glad I got to see both sides.
What are your experiences of travelling with and without tech like? Let me know in the comments – I’m so intrigued to hear!
Thanks for reading
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Check out my other opinion blogs:
- 101 solo travel tips
- Why you shouldn’t ride elephants anywhere
- Tours vs solo travel: the pros and cons
- Why coming home is the hardest part of any trip
- How to take photos of yourself travelling solo
See you next time for more adventures,