Why comparing travels can damage your trips.
“Ladies and gentleman, welcome to London’s Heathrow Airport!”
These words – the epic “green light” for adventure – usually give me butterflies, waking me out of a fuzzy (and quite grimy) state of jetlag.
But this time, no such luck.
Instead of Londontown, I was in La La Land, dreaming about all the places I needed to visit and photograph for that quintessentially “perfect” trip. Now, I’ve always scoffed at the idea of a perfect vacation (what constitutes perfect? And aren’t the mishaps the best part?), but for some reason, the mix of Instagram stalking and lack of sleep had me second guessing all five of my previous London trips.
Instagrammer A took the perfect shot on Abbey Road, shouldn’t I see it for myself?
Instagrammer B did high tea on a rooftop – why did I choose Kensington Palace?
Thankfully, a little London air and “mind the gap” slapped me back to reality. I lived in London for a summer. I frequently visit London. I know how I want to spend time in one of my most cherished cities ever.
Why was I second guessing this London trip?
Two words: Travel comparison.
It’s a problem most travelers – particularly travel bloggers – fall into. We craft our custom trips and make our own memories, but then, upon diving into social media, we realize how many other sights we missed.
I spent one week road tripping through Iceland, but only saw the Northern Lights once (and briefly at that). It pains me to see those colorful swirls of green, blue and pink filling other Iceland-goers’ feeds. (Like, serious pain … must … go … back.)
I came face to face with the waterfall of my dreams, Oregon’s Multnomah Falls, but it barely lived up to expectations because of all the photos I’d seen beforehand. Believe me, it was breathtaking, but I can only imagine what the view was like had I climbed up those snowy stairs…
Gah! See how terrible that is? Instead of appreciating two incredible trips (and, um, even SEEING the Northern Lights) I let comparison sneak in and burst my travel bubble.
While I’d love to, I’m not going to sit here and tell you how to overcome travel comparison because, as you can see, I still struggle with it. But I can tell you why it’s no bueno, which will hopefully encourage you to stop doing it anyway!
Why travel comparison is no good:
- Travel is personal: Everyone travels for different reasons, with various interests, so what works for one person may not work for you – even if the ‘gram that resulted from said trip was gorgeous. You do you, because only you know you!
- Social media is a highlights reel: Let’s be real – most photographers on social media could make a day stepping in dog doo look beautiful. Instagram only shows the highlights. While the top of a mountain may look stunning, if you don’t enjoy climbing, you’ll waste valuable hours doing something you hate just for the perfect post. Again – do what you enjoy, not what will get likes on Insta.
- Conformity takes the fun out of it: Travel is a way to express yourself. It’s a chance to explore things you want to see and follow your gut on where to go – even if the turn is wrong. (Wrong turn? Never heard of it…) If we’re all following the same aggregated “gut” based on a few influencer photos, we can’t enjoy the full travel experience. It’s your gut – go with it (even if it’s wrong!).
Now that we got that out of the way, let me totally contradict myself here with one caveat: When used properly, travel comparison can work in your favor.
But seriously – hear me out! I still do use social media to hunt down places I want to visit in upcoming trips, but only as a suggestion – not a must. I don’t let pretty photos tempt me. I like to cover all my bases when it comes to travel research, and find Instagram to be a particularly helpful resource. But again – it’s a resource, that is all.
I know the style of travel I like (independent, road trips, outdoorsy), so I won’t be wooed by a ritzy shot with champagne flutes and sundresses. But, sometimes I uncover secret hikes or unusual destinations that have me salivating in seconds. The Seven Magic Mountains art installation was one of those finds, and believe me, it topped the itinerary seconds after discovery.
While Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Pinterest and – you get the picture – make it easy to see what incredible trips your fellow travelers are taking, remember one thing: Those trips are their trips. Your trips are way better than anything someone else plans because, well, it’s your trip. You get to do what you want to do, when you want to do it – and isn’t that the best travel perk of all?