Too many people have told me that they wished they traveled more when they were younger. The thought of waking up one day in the future and regretting not taking the chance to travel is just one of my motivations to go out and explore the world. Immersing yourself in new places with new people and different cultures can give you a new perspective on the world and your role in it. At least that’s what I’ve heard.
And that’s where, for me, the problem starts. I have this romanticized view of traveling that I have acquired, not from my own experiences, but from stories told, statuses posted and pictured shared. Everything people say about traveling may very well be true for some, but before I have been able to really travel myself, I already have high expectations that I am striving to meet that are based on the retold experiences of others.
Amongst the excitement of researching, planning, anticipating and experiencing a new destination, there is the quiet worry that it may not live up to everything I want it to. And odds are, it won’t. Not because I’m pessimistic, but because my expectations are based on a highly idealized image of what travel is like and should mean.
The thoughts above were all spurred by a recent trip to Montreal, Canada with a group of friends. Being the foodie that I am, and recognized as one by my friends, I began my research into Montreal cuisine to figure out where and what we shouldn’t miss. I did not want to be in a situation where we settled for fast food out of convenience when we could have had a famous sandwich from a shop right down the street.
My research began in the Northeastern Spoon Facebook page, where I asked my peers about their Montreal recommendations. This led me to Spoon McGill’s homepage, where I opened up an obscene amount of tabs, not wanting to miss anything.
As I scrolled through articles and Instagrams making a list of places I wanted to hit, I quickly realized how insurmountable a task it would be to eat at every place that I wanted to in the three days I had in the city. I began to get nervous knowing that I would miss out on most of what I was l not “supposed” to miss out on, according to social media.
What started out as innocent research into how we should spend our meals in Montreal turned into a strong case of FOMO.
FOMO: anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website
My excitement and anticipation of my trip to Montreal was being replaced by anxiety and worry about missing out on experiences that other people have had. I was stressed about planning meals, trying to simultaneously check popular places off my list and please a group of eight friends. I wasn’t even in Montreal yet and my high, idealized expectations were already negatively impacting my experience. So I decided to close all my tabs and relax.
Even though it was difficult to admit to myself, it was clear that trying to micro-manage every detail was going to be detrimental to my happiness during the trip and to my memories afterward. A healthy amount of research, like asking a cultured family member or a friend from the area for a recommendation, is great to get excited about traveling and hopefully experience something new and unique. But leaving the rest up to chance by going with the flow can also lead you to new and exciting things while traveling that you just can’t find on social media.
“Places to eat before you die” articles and food and travel Instagrams are fun to read and great to scroll through, but by their nature, they embellish traveling experiences and promote jealousy, whether it is intentional or not. The sharer is not the only culprit. The viewer also contributes to embellishment by making comparisons between their life and the lives of others and finding dissatisfaction with their own experiences.
It is necessary to combat this culture of envy and FOMO in order to preserve the excitement and enjoyment of traveling. One way is to remove the root of the problem by either limiting or cutting out your time spent exposing yourself to the experiences of others on social media. You don’t have to do anything drastic, but taking some time to reminisce and appreciate the experiences you have had is a good exercise to prevent yourself from getting caught up in comparison.
It’s also a good idea to evaluate how you share your experiences. Being honest about what you’re sharing, remembering that you are fortunate to have had your opportunities and being conscious about who may being viewing your content are healthy activities to practice on social media.
After deciding to go with the flow and prioritize enjoyment over management, I truly had an amazing and memorable trip to Montreal with some great friends and some great food. I learned that the attitude I chose towards my experience and the people I shared it with are what really made the trip one for the books.