From Postcards to Insta-Posts

Since the industrial revolution, traveling the world while keeping in contact with loved ones has become easier than ever before. In today’s connected world many travellers keep in contact with home using platforms such as Facebook, Skype, Instagram, and Wordpress, as opposed to previous methods such as posting letters and postcards. Developments in transportation also mean that travel time has been decreased substantially, leading to an increased ease of travel. Communication advancements have indeed altered the face of travel but in what ways? Furthermore, what are the effects of this on storytelling and one’s social media “followers”?

The need and desire to communicate with others is a part of our nature as humans, and over 100 years of drastic change has not altered that, even though only ten years ago communications were very different. From informing family and friends that you are safe and well, to sending home travel stories of leisure, business and even war. The need to stay connected with loved ones hasn’t changed, but what has changed is the number of platforms that deliver these services. From sending postcards and reverse charging phone calls, to now instantaneously uploading pictures and video calling, the ways in which we communicate with our loved ones and deal with homesickness have changed drastically and have become more economical.

We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words, and that each picture tells a unique story established by the cultural representations and knowledge that surrounds it. Today, an image can be captured and uploaded instantaneously, providing a connection with loved ones in real time. Whereas once upon a time a hand written letter coupled with a few small printed pictures had to be posted, transported and delivered, taking a long period of time and slowing down the connection between people. Thus, what has changed is the platform on which these pictures are shared. Many researchers have found that the internet is breeding a narcissistic generation. Debatably, people have always been narcissistic, and the internet has simply given them more power to express that part of themselves in a public sphere.

A prime example of how social media has changed the face of travel communications is JacksGap. Its foundations were established by Jack Harries who vlogged his gap year. The overwhelming response he received to his content led him and his identical twin brother, Finn Harries, to capitalise in their YouTube channel. What differentiated their channel against others was their investment in planning and creating high quality content, as opposed to posting daily or weekly videos. This meant that they had one of the most content rich and diverse story telling channels on YouTube.

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Jack and Finn Harries of JacksGap[/caption]

Their travels are now followed online by millions. Jack and Finn Harries have 2.4 million and 2.2 million twitter followers, respectively; 1.7 million and 1.6 million Instagram followers, respectively; and 4 million subscribers and over 170 million views to their YouTube channel, JacksGap. To date one of their most successful travel videos is The Rickshaw Run, a four part series of their adventure driving the width of India in rickshaws. The trailer and four part series received over 7 million views, promoting India to their viewers, who are young adults.

By sharing travel stories we inspire others to travel and gain cultural capital, much like Jack and Finn Harries’ coverage of their Indian travels. To many, cultural capital is worth more or just as much as financial or material capital, as a result this belief and technological advancements, both in communications and transport, have lead to a developing culture of “gap decades”. Obtaining cultural capital is now easier than ever and the market has reacted with the rise of youth travel companies offering to show young travellers the world on tours, thus their self confidence in travel increases. It is now common for late-teens to twenty-something’s to travel for months on end or move overseas to experience another culture. Many things fuel young peoples wish to travel, the obvious is to explore the world. Another is the growing need for university graduates to stand out from the crowd when moving into the workforce. Universities actively promote exchange programs to send students to foreign countries in a bid to make them more desirable in the interconnected organisational world where employers look for graduates who have a global mindset, as well as good grades. As a result of the travel promotions listed above the younger generation, described by some as narcissistic, could instead be the most culturally accepting generation yet.

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A Contiki advertisement that aims to encourage young people to act and begin an adventure on a tour[/caption]

It is also important to recognise the tangible technology, such as the smart phone, that has allowed us to become better connected. These technologies have given the world access to a wealth of information that can be taken anywhere. As time has gone on companies who manufacture these products have become aware of the physical demands that these devices face day to day. Because of this many are now developed to tackle harsh environments, such as the Samsung Galaxy S5 that is water resistant and shock proof. They are also developing a range of options to suit a range of lifestyles, for instance the iPhone 5C targets a younger market that wants to socialise with friends, whereas the iPhone 6 Plus focuses on professionals who have demanding work needs. The growth of telecommunication networks and public wifi has also powered this trend. Today it is relatively easy to access wifi in cities around the world to connect with loved ones. Although this is of course a challenge in third world countries, but then again these travels take on a different experience and the traveller would most likely be aware of this.

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The Samsung Galaxy S5 is water resistant and shock proof[/caption]

Communicating with those around us and those we love is an essential part of who we are as human beings. The way in which we communicate while travelling has changed dramatically, most notably in the last 10 years. Ultimately, by actively promoting travel experiences and lifestyles in both citizen journalism and commercial manners, today’s younger generation could become one of the most cultured and accepting generations of all time.