Travelling for the wrong reason: As a measure of success

Airplane in the sky

Everyone loves travelling, right? Travel photos littered across social media convinced me that I needed to travel too, and so I hopped on planes and flew across oceans. Looking back, I was definitely travelling for the wrong reason. I treated travel as a measure of success, despite not enjoying it that much. Since then, I’ve stopped forcing myself to travel excessively, because it really wasn’t getting me anywhere.


How travelling became a metric of success

Travelling with family

I was fortunate to grow up in a family where we traveled a lot. Every holiday, we would fly somewhere far and stay between a week to a month. It was a lot of fun, but I felt more excited getting out of school than travelling. Perhaps I was jaded from all the flying, but I was happy spending my time with people I love.

Lake Louise
Enjoying the view of Lake Louise with my family

Social pressures

Recently, travel blogs skyrocketed in popularity and suddenly travelling became the new trendy thing. Young adults with selfie sticks and DSLRs flooded social media platforms. Now everyone’s obsessed with crafting perfect photo galleries to document their adventures.

Scrolling through my news feed seemed like an endless stream of “candid” back photos and serene landscapes. These photos radiated freedom, youth, and most importantly, success. I felt like if I wasn’t out there exploring the world, then I wasn’t living a fulfilling life, and thus I wasn’t successful.

Travelling girl with backpack walking away from camera
“Candid” back stock photo

Travelling for “success”

Suddenly my family holiday trips didn’t seem good enough. All of my vacations paled in comparison to the beautiful photos online. I knew I needed to change.

First, I upgraded my crappy point-and-shoot camera to a mirrorless camera and a $500 lens. If I was going to document my adventures, I needed top notch quality photos.

Second, I started planning more trips with my classmates instead of my family. None of those “successful” travelers explored the world with their entire family. They traveled in small groups and made friends with locals, right?

And so my adventures began…

Places I’ve been highlighted in blue, am I successful yet?

After my first trip, I spent hours organizing my photos. My favourite photos would be added to my travel scrapbook and uploaded on social media. The shower of internet “hearts” and “thumbs up” that came after reinforced my idea of travelling being a measure of success.

I knew one trip wasn’t enough, because successful travelers travel all the time! This prompted me to start planning my next trip, and develop a travel obsession.

Travelling for the sake of it

Travel obsession was stressful, expensive, and exhausting. I felt guilty if I didn’t travel during extended breaks between school. But when I did travel, I felt agitated. It was frustrating because I desperately wanted to enjoy travelling.

Big Ben
Views from London, UK

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed snorkeling in Maui, climbing up the Eiffel Tower, watching Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. However, these experiences didn’t change my life or give me a fresh perspective like everyone promised. Despite all this, obligation to travel loomed in the air, because staying home made me feel worthless. I felt chained to the routine of travelling, the very activity that was meant to explore freedom and the world.

The trip that never happened

Last year I had a three-week window without school or work. As usual, I scrambled to plan my next trip for that break. After looking at flights and hotels, I settled for Iceland and Amsterdam. That effort was wasted because when I went to book those flights, the prices had risen past my budget.

My initial reaction was frustration because I loathed the chore of picking a new destination, not because I couldn’t visit Iceland or Amsterdam. I didn’t even know what to do there in the first place! After the initial anger faded, I realised that there was something wrong with this train of thought. The hardest part of planning for me was choosing a destination, because I didn’t even want to go anywhere.

Roses
Views from my staycation

It was a difficult decision, but I decided to have a staycation. In those three weeks, I ate home cooked meals, played video games, and worked on my hobbies. For the first time in my years of “successful” travel, I was happy and free, all while staying home.

Lessons learned: Not everyone enjoys travelling all the time, and that’s okay

Occasionally I still hear the nagging voice in my head calling me a loser for not travelling, but I try not to let it bother me anymore. I’ve stopped pressuring myself to hop on a plane every chance I could. This doesn’t mean I’ve given up on travelling. Instead, I will only travel when I want to, not because everyone tells me I need to.

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