As soon as I put my deposit down, securing my spot at NYU Sydney back in March, I began my endless search for the best places to eat in Sydney. I looked on multiple different platforms: Instagram, Buzzfeed, Urbanlist, etc. I took dozens of screenshots of aesthetically pleasing photographs of meals from restaurants in all parts of the city. Still having months to go before I even started my journey to Australia, I had a list of enough brunch spots to feed me every day of the weekend for the whole semester.
Since arriving in Sydney, I’ve been trying to go to as many of the places as possible. I find that I prioritize the places I’ve seen recommended on social media over others, even if their Yelp reviews are good. I think this may be because I know that one Insta-famous foodie knows what is trendy, tasty, and photogenic, while Yelp isn’t so focused on how ‘hip’ a restaurant is. Once I’ve decided on a place to visit, I search the menu and decide what I would order. Without even knowing how to get to the restaurant, I have my order rehearsed, ready to go. In general, choosing a place to eat is a process. It involves research and analysis over many different sources. This is definitely not something my parents did as they traveled the world at my age, and it’s something she still wouldn’t do now. The need to explore things like food before even getting there is most certainly a component of Travel 2.0.
Along with searching for the must-see (or must-eat) places of a city, another important aspect of Travel 2.0 is sharing what you find. The one food I was most excited to uncover in Sydney was acai bowls. I took recommendations from a fellow acai-lover who had been to Sydney and did my own bit of research, finding a huge list of restaurants and cafes to find the best acai. I decided to make a ‘foodstagram’ of my own to document the many acai bowls I’d be eating over the semester. A lot of people make these kinds of accounts to gain lots of followers, knowing millennials love looking at pictures of pretty foods. This was not my intent. I mainly just wanted to remember every sacred moment I had eating my favorite food. I followed my best friends and began posting. What I didn’t anticipate was the stress I would feel to keep up with my account, even though I didn’t plan on using it to please others. I felt pressure to get acai bowls often and even planned days around getting one from a new place, rather than exploring a new part of Sydney. It didn’t help that my friends would taunt me to post or provide more descriptive illustrations of my food.
After about three weeks of experiencing more stress over this account than my actual schoolwork, I decided to give up. I wouldn’t get an acai bowl just to put on my Instagram. I began planning days around things I wanted to see instead of food I wanted to try. Of course, I still have the occasional acai bowl, but it’s because I want it. Also, there are people who enjoy creating content for their followers. This just wasn’t what my trip to Sydney was about, so I needed to move away from that. I think something the modern-day traveler needs to be weary of is the fact that we don’t need to go places or try things because it’s what our followers would want to see. We should be doing what we love and are interested in, and capture these moments as we go.