This past weekend I watched “Eat Pray Love” (2010), in which Liz Gilbert has an existential crisis and decides to travel around the world to, well, eat, pray and fall in love. The memoir which inspired the film was published in 2006 when MySpace and Facebook were up and coming but most definitely unknown to 34-year-old Liz. The point of her adventure was to separate herself from everything she had ever known and ‘find herself’ after her divorce and subsequent relationship; but if “Eat Pray Love” (2006) took place in 2019, Liz Gilbert would most definitely be posting #livingmybestlife photos all over Instagram, reminding everyone that finding yourself in this day and age has become a shared process, whether it’s with your inner circle or all 1,000 of your followers.
Since camera phones and social media became part of the fabric of daily life, the way we travel has changed, for both better and worse. With the influx of influencers into mainstream society, whose careers are based on traveling and posting beautiful pictures on Instagram to promote different products, there’s most definitely an increased sense of wanderlust in all of us. Who wouldn’t want to watch the ocean from an infinity pool in Bali? Millennials in particular are making travel a higher priority, taking an average of five trips a year, three of which are international. The internet and social media have actually helped the tourism industry: Since there is more access to information about different places and activities that may be off the beaten path, people are more apt to go to new places and try new things. In a recent study, AARP found that Millennials are more likely than other generations to take all their vacation time at work, but they are much less likely to unplug than Boomers. More graduating high school students are taking gap years as well, many of them using the time to see different parts of the world with a freedom that they likely won’t have again due to the constraints of work and life. Millennials and Gen Z are taking advantage of the world around them and breaking out of their comfort zones to become more worldly and experienced, rather than staying in their insulated communities.
We already know that traveling is great, but as always, you never see the full picture in the pictures posted. There are canceled flights, arguments, food poisoning and storms. Once, my mom was in excruciating pain from dry socket and a lot of the family vacation was spent waiting in oral surgeons’ offices instead of on adventures (we don’t talk about that trip much). When these things happen, it’s difficult to not compare our experience to the elevated travel highlight reel of other people. But oftentimes, those mishaps become lessons learned that will never be repeated, or stories we laugh about in the years to come. We’ll come to see the multitude of feelings, experiences and random motels as an adventure, and piece by piece they’ll become part of the story of our lives.