Did you know that if a tree falls in the woods and you don’t post the video to your Instagram story, it still actually happened? I’m aware of the irony of writing about a topic like this on a popular travel website, where, if all goes well, it will be retweeted, shared on Facebook, and maybe even receive a video response on YouTube (please?), but there are ways to enjoy traveling without social media.
Low-tech travel is still an option
Some travelers get the idea that getting offline also means completely cutting themselves off from technology, when in fact a simple reduction will do. Leaving your phone at home and using a calling card to stay in touch may be annoying, but isn’t it worth removing the temptation of snapping a selfie? Just because we no longer live in a world where Polaroid cameras are ubiquitous doesn’t mean they aren’t out there to capture memories. If you use your blog primarily as an outlet for your creativity and not as a form of income, you can try jotting your experiences down on paper. Travel like it’s 1999.
Time goes further without technology
You may not be able to look back on what happened one day ten years ago in Thailand without some digital photographic evidence, but if you spent that time bathing elephants and getting drunk with expats you’re going to remember the experience better without wasting time documenting everything as it’s happening. My weekends in Japan usually fly by when I’m traveling solo and stop to write on my Macbook or scroll through IG on my phone, but when two Couchsurfers came to visit and we spent the whole day talking and exploring, I couldn’t help but appreciate how much longer the days seemed to last. Being mindful during your travels means taking the minute between when your food is served not to find the perfect angle for a picture, but instead reflect on how fortunate you are to have this nourishment in this foreign country with good friends.
Live your life without online feedback
Social media has fundamentally changed how we communicate in many ways, but probably none more than allowing snapshots of our lives to receive immediate feedback from the whole world. We’ve probably all taken a picture of a scene like a sunset over the ocean with the intention of wanting to know want other people think about it, without taking the time to wonder whether we actually like it in the first place.
Your travel experiences have value even if no else sees your picture and gives it a like. Seeing someone’s expression in person and understanding their reaction to your temple stay and spiritual awakening (even if it’s an eye roll) are going to mean more to you than someone writing a cliché comment with an emoji.
Think about where you travel, and why
I had a falling out with a friend last year after – having discussed the issue of the treatment of elephants at length – she chose to ride on one in Asia in a stereotypical tourist fashion. When I quite angrily asked what the hell she was thinking, knowing full well she was aware of how these animals were tortured, she casually replied “Yeah, well, I wanted a selfie with one.”
Think about your motivation in traveling to a place like Macchu Picchu or posing with a tiger… is it something you genuinely want to do, or just something you think would look pretty sweet on Instagram? Take away that incentive, and would you still go there, or do that?
Traveling without social media forces you to focus on why you travel, knowing that people may still hear about the story ex post facto, but you completely control the narrative. Why work yourself to death squeezing in another attraction before sunset to make sure it’s posted during prime viewing time if no one is going to see it? Avoiding social media generally gives you quality over quantity.
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