Serene turquoise waters, lush jungles dotted with waterfalls, breathtaking hilltop views of towns overlooking the Mediterranean. I know you've seen these pictures in your feed or on Instagram's explore page, and I know for a fact that the FOMO is real. If it's not just an image of the landscape that ignites a feeling of longing in you, a perfectly tanned, well-dressed blogger alone or with his or her partner usually doesn't help make your life or relationship seem all that great by comparison either.
Looking off into the distance atop a mountain in Norway, casually walking down the cobblestone streets of Paris, or giving a "candid" smile or laugh from the deck of a Tahitian villa are common examples of some of the images I've seen just today on Instagram. How much of this is real though? And why is it that we can no longer go places without trying to show everyone that we went there? What happened to looking, understanding, and loving with our eyes?
After seeing countless snaps of sunsets over Mykonos, couples sipping champagne on a gondola ride through Venice, and dewy shots of the Taj Mahal at dawn, of course, I felt awe at the beauty of the world, its vibrant cultures, and its diverse peoples, and excitement as I add each destination to my mental bucket list; however, these feelings were not the only ones present. For me, it is not the feelings of jealousy or envy that arise in instances such as these, but rather a deep sadness at the fact that I have not yet had the opportunity to experience so much of it. It has been said that comparison is the death of all joy, but with everyone oversharing things once seen as luxuries, like exotic vacations, as if they are commonalities, it becomes difficult to do anything but compare.
Being in college, too, adds an even greater pressure, because as we teeter on the precipice between adulthood and adolescence, figuring out who we want to be, what we want to achieve, and what our purpose is, alternating back and forth between feeling like we're behind in some way, and wishing to stay in this time of our lives forever, presents an even greater dilemma. We long for the days of our childhood when the word "stress" was one used by adults, and our greatest worries were of who we were going to play with on the playground, or who our partners were going to be for the group project. Yet, at the same time, we see celebrities, peers, or public figures who may be younger than us or who are our age having already accomplished so much, becoming financially successful, or having an enormous impact on an industry.
No matter what stage of your life you're at though, I promise you will see these sights and many more beautiful ones, in time. With the commodification of luxury resort stays, first-class flights, and visiting the most picturesque of what the world has to offer, I find that the true purpose of travel has been lost. After a busy week at work or school, all we want is a break. Time to unwind, destress, and escape from the day-to-day is necessary to recharge, so when it comes to traveling and taking vacations, why is it that often the first thing we think or do is, "Let me film this,"? In a few instances, people still film sights and places for themselves, to look back on several years down the line and recall the memories of the trip. With most social media users today, however, no trip is complete without quasi-photoshoots in front of landmarks, or at enviable destinations, solely for the purpose of posting for one's personal circle of followers to see and double-tap.
In viewing travel as an escape from the lives we have worked so hard for, yet as one that is not real or valid unless acknowledged by others, we present ourselves with the greatest contradiction of all: in an effort to see everything, we don't experience anything except for through the lens of a camera or from behind the screen of a phone.
Whether you're traveling across the world, or just down the street, look up at the sky above you, open your eyes, notice the people moving and the life happening around you. Being young, learning, and growing does not mean waiting for life to start, but instead it's the embracing of the fact that life has begun that should propel us to want to stop, experience, and be present in the moment, because how you see any interaction, site, or place in this world is the only view of its kind.