This is something we do not hear often, but I am tired of traveling. While Instagram is as flooded as ever with dreamy ocean views on top of cliffs, and pastel outfits in sunny destinations, I am beginning to get a sense of “been there, done that.” In previous generations the idea was to be married, with a reliable job, a house, and kids by your late 20’s. Now it seems the focus has shifted. There is a hunger to add up passport stamps, and show off the number of countries traveled on your Instagram profile. But what are we really proving by adding another flag emoji to our social media bio? It seems our lives are deemed only as exciting and interesting as the number of countries we have seen.
“When it comes to saving for travel, millennials are leading the pack. Over half, 52%, of millennials are saving for a vacation,” Megan Leonhardt reported on CNBC. This is how I lived my 20s. I was always on the lookout for my next trip, sometimes flying or riding trains and buses monthly. But last January I realized I was in desperate need of a break. It was the week I found myself taking 3 buses to move cities, two of them being overnight rides, one of those without a bathroom. One missed bus, and 2 unhelpful hostel staffers later, the thought entered my mind, “I don’t want to do this again for a long time.”
The scarier thought came a week later, as I settled into an AirBnB in a brand new city: “If I don’t want to travel for a while, what do I want to do?” Being a 30-year-old, nowhere near marriage and children, nowhere near owning a house, and completely clueless as to what the next 2 years of my life will look like, I was shook. I have already swam in clear water beaches, hiked to the top of mountains in all four seasons, and checked top dream destinations off my bucket list. There are still places I would love to visit, and things I want to do with my life. But could it be that by traveling full-time, I did too much too soon?
There has got to be a middle ground for people who are not building a home with a partner, nor roaming the beaches in Southeast Asia with nothing but an iPhone. So maybe that’s the answer. Maybe I have been living too fast. Maybe the next thing is to live slower. Here I am telling you I am tired of traveling, when I know my next flight is booked for this April. I should note this is a business trip. My family is spread out in different states and countries, so I will also keep doing the travel that involves staying in touch with them. But I want to take time off from itineraries, tight bus schedules, low-budget airline flights, constant packing for more than one weather, and feeling like I am missing out if I do not keep up with this lifestyle.
I recently read this statement by Deepak Chopra: “Despite economic ups and downs, we live in astonishingly prosperous times by any historical measure. The sages, saints, and spiritual guides of the great traditions would look at our situation and expect us to evolve in our inner life, not endlessly pursue more things driven by blind consumerism.” I am all for the travelers seeking to enrich their lives with experiences rather than material things. I cannot help but wonder, is it possible that we are now blindly consuming countries like shoppers on Black Friday? Looking at overwhelming amount of travel content found on all social media platforms makes me feel pressured to book my next flight, and have frequent pictures of exotic foods and breathtaking views to publish.
When I began travel blogging in 2013, I did not own Instagram, and merely used Facebook to stay kind of in touch with people that may not live in the same state as me. I created a WordPress site to document my travel experiences, and to have a general place where my friends and family could read how things were going (because I used to not even have a smartphone back then, so keeping in touch was not as easy). The travel I did then was primarily for me, for my own personal growth and self-actualization. Recently, travel has felt like a competition.
In 2015, influencers were invited to a small town in New Zealand where their job was to share their experiences with their Instagram following. As a result, the town experienced an increase of 14% in tourism. In a National Geographic article, photographer Chris Burkard shared that now we are 10 clicks away from looking at a travel post on Instagram to buying a flight ticket to go there. “I think a lot about social media’s role in tourism. Now you can almost curate your whole experience based on the images you see online, and it’s an unnatural approach to travel. It makes me wonder what happened to exploration.” While I love seeing people who may have never explored life outside their American suburbs fly across the world, and even working abroad or backpacking for months, it is also possible that traveling full time means we run the risk of falling out of wanderlust.
It can be easy to demonize other cultures, religions, and ways of living if we have never ventured outside our comfort zone. I am still an advocate for travel. Whether you are looking to relax by the seaside with a cocktail in hand, walk the narrow streets of a European city, or learn a new language while living abroad for a year, there is no question that travel will expand your view of the world. It will test you and teach you, fill you up with meaning, and tire you out. Travel will not only show you who you are but who you can become, and what people other than your kin are really like.
For now, I am furnishing a loft in the city center of Queretaro, and I have no idea when I will move out. I enjoy this feeling. I have no major adventures planned other than to set up a routine, decide on a go-to coffee shop, a favorite restaurant, and frequent those same places for a while, relishing in the ordinary and the predictable. I am excited to make new friends without feeling exhausted at the idea of leaving them in a few months for a new place where no one knows my name. I am stripping the labels, and while I will keep my travel Instagram account active, I can honestly say that for the first time since I started my account I do not care how many likes my content gets or if I am keeping up with other influencers and digital nomads. I do not even mind losing some followers. I am not looking for the approval of an audience, which only sees the highlight reel of my life. I have had a decade of big adventures, and I am truly ready to sit back and take in where I am without thinking of where I am going.
“Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to.”
Photo: Vanessa Uzcategui