Travel has become so easy and accessible nowadays that it is almost taken for granted. Many of us, me included, have had the privilege of not only exploring the world, but growing up as a world citizen, in a mixture of cultural environments that makes us different from any generation before. Even if you haven’t been far from home, the world is right at your fingertips whenever you have access to Internet. The world, in fact, is so close by that some people have difficulty adjusting, and many are pushing back against this furious tide of globalization that is sweeping away our past lives as we once knew it.
But traveling for pleasure is not exclusive to our age. Indeed, the feeling of wanderlust and the need to explore has long been a part of human nature. When we are not satisfied with our homes, when we desire to learn something new, when we’re just looking for excitement and change, we travel. The thing that differentiates traveling in this time and age, apart from the abundance, is that it is not only a discovery, but also an opportunity to create something new.
In fact, it often seems that while traveling, we produce more than we learn. We take pictures of ourselves with every interesting looking thing on the street; we make videos, write travel blogs (like these ones), collect mementos of our experiences, and we post them online for the world to see. We look up the most popular, Instagram-worthy places, we use GPS to navigate streets that we forget about even before we pass them, and we are so busy with social media our life back home (trailing us everywhere thanks to that Internet) that we often don’t take the time to really take in the place with all of our senses and minds. We’re so obsessed with broadcasting some proof that we’ve done all the worthwhile things, been to all the most interesting places, that we forget the adventure of discovering a place through our own eyes. Of struggling, learning, and growing.
It might sound like I’m critical of the way we travel these days. Perhaps I am, a little bit. What are we doing with our time abroad if we’re only repeating what other people have done before, going to places we already know about, and returning back more or less the same person we were before? What is the point of seeing the Eiffel tower, which you’ve seen hundreds of pictures of already, just so you can take one yourself and cross it off your list?
Of course, seeing something online and experiencing it in person is completely different. But how much difference can it make if you’re just confirming things you’ve already heard about?
I’ve often been frustrated myself with how homogenized the world is becoming, how pervasive English is becoming, how easy travel is transforming into lazy travel and we lose so much of that adventure that we still romanticize when we talk about travel.
But inspiration and adventure come nonetheless. Even with all the tools available to us now, travel is far from free of trouble. The things we see, whatever leaves an impression on us, might one day come to shape something new into being. And all those pictures and videos we’re taking, all the stuff we’re writing down, might someday crystallize to something more than just the same old patterns on repeat. There are so many more people creating, and many more chances for any one of them to discover things, and any one of us to share those discoveries with them.
Or perhaps we’re all just seeing the same things because all the things worth seeing have already been seen before. But if none of us are the same, then how can we say we are seeing the same things as everyone else? We each have our own history and future to add on to these places, even if they are already buried by color.
So travel 2.0 isn’t exactly good or bad; it’s what we make of it that matters. With all the shortcuts and advantages, we should be careful not to let them take control of what we see and do. But then again, who am I to tell you what your travel should be? Have fun, see the sights, cross that place off your bucket list and tell the world. Who cares? Not everything needs to have something come out of it.
- An Ironic Picture of Me and the Eiffel Tower (It’s not even in focus): Alice