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My Work

Social media and seeing the world are two of my biggest passions in life. Being so deeply invested in both, it’s a real thrill to watch how both concepts continue to revolutionize and feed off of each other. But, having done business for so long and also being a stark realist, I’m fully aware there’s always a price to progress. So I have to ask: in the same way social media is adding to the art of wanderlust, could it also be taking away from it?
 
It’s important to first realize how dramatically the landscape has changed. These days, the majority of travelers use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to plan and inspire their getaways. In the U.S., social media generates $102.9 billion dollars annually in domestic tourism alone. That makes travel bloggers and platforms like TripAdvisor really important. They give people the license to dream big, because now creating any adventure just takes the click of a button. But as travel has become so easy to manage and accessible, perhaps it’s also becoming less magical.
The Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail published an article last September that puts it all into perspective. Titled, “How social media has ruined backpacking through Europe”, the author talks about how technology can distract and subtract from an epic journey. On his most recent backpacking trek, he realizes:

“Young people were so directly connected to home that they were hardly away in any meaningful sense. The lack of connections we made with locals in any country no matter how much we tried. Instead of making us feel closer to a place … hostelling actually made us more insular, being with like-minded people became too comfortable.”

Now, I’m not sure I agree that that social media is totally to blame as the article’s title suggests. Globalization is also a big factor, considering traveling between continents and oceans isn’t as big a deal as it what 30 years ago. But that being said, I can still definitely see the author’s point. Creating a balance between social media and travel is something that I myself am constantly challenged with. The two may be inextricably linked, but I never want to miss a real moment or any of the magic, just because I was too busy playing on my smartphone.
Therefore, I think technology has to always be taken with a grain of salt. Websites like Airbnb, Couchsurfing and Hipmunk can be incredibly useful, improving the quality and cost of travel immensely. Meanwhile Facebook, Twitter and Instagram make it easy to keep those memories alive. But handling the technology, and making sure it only enhances the experience and doesn’t overtake it, is ultimately always up to the user a.k.a. you.
 
From all my travels around the world, I’ve realized there’s beauty out there everywhere. Let technology capture those moments, but never distract from them.

8 Responses

  1. I think things have changed dramatically. When we traveled the world in 2009, the internet was a resource for planning, but we had one laptop between the two of, always struggled to find decent internet access, had no smartphone, or GPS, or apps of any kind. Now, it is so much more easy to plan, to not get lost. That has its good points and bad points. I don’t know that I interact with folks less while on the road now, though. Rather, I feel like I am part of a worldwide community of travelers, many of whom I keep in touch with because of social media, chatting with them on a regular basis, and meeting up with them in the far corners of the world when possible. Now, I feel like it is worth while to strike up a conversation with someone, whether a local or a fellow traveler, because there is a chance they may not be merely a one night stand friendship, but might turn into a longer term and meaningful relationship, even if based online.

    1. @Amber Considering how we met (Twitter) I think that the digital age brings so many benefits to travelers, outweighing the cons by a huge amount.

  2. Great post! One could make an argument that people aren’t even aware of the treasures in their own Cities. Many people don’t stop and smell the roses anymore, as if the roses do not exist at all. Your point hits so close to home for me as it is one of my biggest inspirations as an artist and passionate preservationist. I like to create photographic art that makes people think “That’s really interesting…What is it?” My favorite part is when they find out it’s an architectural detail, an object, or a place they’ve seen 1,000 times but have either forgotten or ignored. There are so many interesting and exciting wonders all around us at any given moment. The key is to be present with our surrounding environment, and to take a small step back from our devices so we see that there are not just roses, there are infinite sensations waiting to be discovered!

  3. I totally agree with your perspective on this. Technology is a catalyst for travel these days, which is amazing! But it can truly rob someone of their experience in a new environment if that person is so wrapped up in their phone/social media channels that they don’t take the time to truly appreciate where they are and what they’re doing.

    Traveling is special; while it is fun to post pictures of your trip on Facebook, Instagram, etc., your travel experience should be more about your own interest in a place than your desire to be seen on social media channels as a traveler. I have some friends who have traveled places and will wait until they get home to post pictures or talk about what they did, which I think is a great idea. You can always take lots of pictures and write down what you did for the day, but it is very easy to lose sight of the real reason for traveling as well if you’re not careful.

  4. Leaving aside the extreme examples of social nerds on the road, I think social media has become an enabler to most travelers, sort of like having your own personal guide to help you find and explain things, places and people right now. Most travelers do not have six months to make their way through a journey, they have two, three or four weeks. That is where social media shines: it is “now”. Need to find something, where is a cool place to go today, not next week, you get answers and you go. Yes, you remain connected with home, but that does not necessarily diminish the adventure. To the contrary, friends back home can share your moments now, this instant, not on a postcard in three weeks. We used to send postcards of the local markets, now we share pictures of the exotic dish we are eating right now. It may sound superficial, but it is quite similar to the casual exchange friends have when meeting in person, the only difference is that now we are sharing impressions and visuals remotely, yet concurrently.
    … I am now very curious to see how Google Glass would fit into that social travel experience.

    1. @Patrice I couldn’t agree with you more, and I am also waiting to see what happens with Google Glass, I think its going to be an amazing thing to see.

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