There can be a somewhat unfair pressure on us when travelling, I think. “Yeah, tough life ain’t it, visiting different places, enjoying new experiences and having fun?” said no-one ever, probably. If there is indeed any semblance of truth in my sentence, an undeniably first-world problem though it would be, surely it is that the “pressure” I speak of is wrapped up in those very key words that so readily serve to undermine such a sentiment; “different”, “new”, “experiences”, “fun”.
The romanticisation of travel is aimed squarely at our generation - we who are blessed with more disposable income, more access to means of travel, more affordable modes of transport, more opportunities to travel, more variety of affordable quality hostels, more access to information and more ways to book than any generation before us. The world is a smaller place and it’s simply easier to travel now, in theory anyway, than it was for our parents and their parents, and that makes travelling very marketable.
was merely a necessary component to “going on holiday”. Literally a means of getting to where you’d spend your vacation - travelling by car, bus or rail for the more common domestic holiday, or, if you could afford it, by plane or boat for the far more expensive & more infrequent luxury of getting further afield. You might send a postcard or two and take a few photos to develop once you return, to accompany the holiday anecdotes you’d share with your nearest & dearest before they take their place in the family album or in some sentimental shoe-box in the closet.
is a much more loaded idea, marketed as a sexy concept, it’s fashionable and, despite being easier to do & more common than ever before, is portrayed as something to embrace, make the most of, experience with earnest, something that allows us learn more about different cultures and, ultimately, learn more about ourselves – we’re reminded of this everyday by travel-sector companies and our young, energetic, go-getting, travelling peers on Instagram, in our Facebook feeds and the like, telling us why we should be travelling, be travelling more, or planning our next trip, be it the epic backpacking journey of self-discovery cliché, or the action-packed weekend break full of fun cultural experiences. This contributes to what I refer to as “a somewhat unfair pressure”.
I’m aware I may be considered a major hypocrite if I neglected to acknowledge that you’re probably reading these very words having clicked through from a social media post designed to peek your interest in travel topics, or appeal somehow to your wanderlust, attracting you to a place where you’d inevitably be marketed to; after all, we are a hostel booking website and routinely promote the joys of travelling & having wonderful experiences while staying in hostels, meeting new people and discovering new places, so it’s important to point out that all of those things are indeed travel-truths & genuine positives which should rightly be celebrated & promoted; They just happen to lend themselves much better to marketing travel as an aspirational, fashionable and constantly fun thing to do than, say for example, being fed up of all the Gothic-Revival architecture you care to appreciate already, or feeling a little down one day because you miss your creature-comforts or family at home - very normal, understandable, and legitimate aspects of travelling; albeit not very ‘cool’.
So, although the romanticism & marketing of travel aims to highlight the best things about travel, it can give the false impression that this is how you’re supposed to travel, and that this is what travel should ‘look’ like (& thus ‘feel’ like) all the time.
The playlist accompanying the writing of these ramblings you read has unwittingly influenced the wrapping up of my opinion piece, as the late, great Chris Cornell on Audioslave’s 2005 belter Doesn’t remind me
opens with delicate vocals in my ear, proclaiming “I walk the streets of Japan till I get lost, Cause it doesn't remind me of anything.” At the risk of ignoring the deeper meaning intended by the song itself, the idea of meandering through some foreign streets simply to wander, to switch off, to see where I might end up is wholesomely appealing to me - a travel experience devoid of being necessarily share-worthy, devoid of some ‘created authenticity’ for the benefit of internet friends & strangers. My status update reading “Just walking around” might not get any likes, or retweets, or shares, or whatever, but so what? It’s for me. And travel should be just that, for you.
Travel should be exactly what you want from it. There’s no right way or wrong way to travel.
Pack in as much cultural box-ticking as possible, or swim with dolphins, or go caving, or visit a tribe, or numerous other ‘amazing’ experiences and rave all about it on social media, or just sit on a bench and people-watch for a few hours or walk the streets aimlessly till you get lost, or do it all in equal measure – it’s up to you. Don’t feel pressured to travel the way that travel is marketed to you, because it’s just marketing. Don’t feel like you’re doing it wrong, or like you’re wasting the opportunity because you feel like chilling at the hostel, reading a book rather than enthusiastically getting out there and “grabbing life” with both hands. That’s okay, you’re on holiday. Do what you want, and don’t apologise.
Feel free to comment, agree, disagree and all that jazz below, and remember there’s all kinds of hostels on HostelCulture.com
for when you travel to do just what you want, all with a 5% discount on displayed rates at point of booking. Happy travels.
Written by Ray, in Sweden, while listening to the Pixies, Bjork, Audioslave, & Moby, and eating Marabou chocolate with little bits of digestive biscuit in; perhaps the least exciting of the Marabou range.