We Must Stop Selling The ‘Dream’ Of Travel

Photo by Mesut Kaya on Unsplash

She always posts beautiful images of herself in a bikini on some beautiful beach somewhere.

She’s always laughing, always having the time of her life, and it looks like she is living in some sort of second-heaven. She makes sure to make it seem that way, too.

This is a problem.

There’s nothing wrong with her, she’s stunning and enjoying her life as a young single solo traveler here in the Philippines. I am happy she’s traveling, and I believe that travel — even when it’s the “bad kind” — leads to a lot of self-growth and horizon-widening.

But let’s not act like “bad travel” doesn’t exist.

To me, bad travel is going to a new country and staying in nothing but beautiful resorts the entire time. Bad travel means being overly focused on beautiful locales than spending time immersed in the culture.

Furthermore, “bad travel posting” is throwing all of this up on social media to make it look like everything is perfect and NOT showing any of the raw, realistic moments from your trip.

It’s selling the dream of travel, not the reality of it. And as travelers we need to sell the reality of it more if we’re going to make an impact on the world — not just rack up followers and make our lives look good.

There are so many people using the “dream” of travel to sell courses, coaching, and mastermind groups, but please, if you’re going to do that, sell all the other aspects of travel as well — not just the beautiful parts.

There’s so many problems with this on so many levels, so I’ll just attack them one by one.

1. It’s Repetitive

Do you know how many people I know that post the exact same stuff on social media?

It gets to a point where I don’t even know where one feed starts and the other begins. It’s the same gorgeous beach-front picture taken with a $1,000+ phone or, even crazier, a 2 pound piece of machinery that’s quite literally hovering in mid-air.

A drone.

Everyone seems to be a clone of the other and it’s boring. On a social media level, this needs to get reeled in because it’s obvious how much you’re copying from someone else.

It’s not giving us the true essence of what traveling SHOULD be about.

To break this up, I post goofy pictures on Instagram to make myself seem a lot less like a snobby model and a little bit more like a human.

Because I am a human.

2. It’s Missing The Point

Traveling should be about learning from other cultures. It should be uncomfortable, and awkward, because these hard experiences are going to help us grow.

Humans don’t grow that well in comfort, we grow in adversity.

And staying in a beautiful Bali villa isn’t adversity.

Just for the record, I’ve stayed in these myself! I don’t think it’s bad to experience the high life while traveling for a long time, but it is a problem when literally all you post about is the high life.

Because other people are viewing this. They will want to stay in the same places you stayed at and will expect things to be perfect on their trip.

But you’re not going to tell them about all the stray dogs they’ll find or that many folks don’t want any more building in Bali or that most foreigners are just in Bali to get drunk and party it up.

The crazy thing is, you’ll play into the partying and “sell” it as a must-see place.

If you wanted to party on a beach you could’ve done that in Miami. You didn’t need to come to Bali if that was a big reason why you came.

It’s so short-sighted. I don’t think most people even want to travel for the culture anymore — they just want to travel for the pictures or the party or the beaches.

That’s fine as long as that’s one aspect of the trip — just make your trip about learning and cultural immersion as well. It will be much more worth it that way and less of a waste of money.

3. It’s Not Realistic

Going to Bali for the first time was both amazing and terrifying.

I almost got in a scooter crash multiple times during my first 7 days there, but the temples were breathtaking. The rice fields were sublime, but the stray dogs weaving through them made my heart break. It was a lot of good and bad.

Recently I’ve seen a lot of people sell programs promising a gorgeous life of travel at the end of it. This is FINE. Like I said at the beginning, even bad travel can teach us things.

But we need to start promoting the aspects of travel that are more realistic — and in my mind, this could actually make for a more dynamic pitch.

Promote the beaches you’ll see, and the locals you’ll meet, and the sights you’ll photograph, but also promote the character-building side of travel. Tell us about the painful things that will shake us to our core, and sell THOSE moments as the true treasure, because they are!

4. It’s Damaging Local Communities

Paris Marx wrote a brilliant article last year called “Digital Nomads Are Not The Future.”

In it, he talks about how digital nomads love to leverage areas with a low-cost of living without giving anything back.

When I was in Bali I remember seeing graffiti on the outside of villa walls telling travelers/investors to “Stop building in Canggu!”

While I think that digital nomads can actually give back to communities in indirect ways — the sprouting of beautiful villas in Bali that could only be afforded by rich folks from certain countries is damaging.

For one it’s displacing people from their homes. Two it’s destroying the culture by getting rid of indigenous people who once lived there. I saw a Hard Rock Cafe in Bali. How much does a building like that make Bali look more like America?

A lot.

The Digital Nomad movement isn’t a bad thing, okay? It’s just bad if we keep doing what we’re doing. We need to talk to the locals more, learn their language, volunteer in their communities, and figure out ways to donate some of the money we’re saving by staying in their country to help them instead of ourselves.

That’s a really, really great use of privilege if you asked me. Have fun! Travel. Stay in villas. Visit the hard rock cafe if you want to..

But don’t forget about what makes traveling truly meaningful in the first place.

Interacting with the locals. Immersing yourself in the culture. Eating new food. Understanding the real problems some people have who deal with them with much less money than you have.

The good news is, when you start thinking about the locals first, it’s when travel can really get meaningful.