My story is stereotypical. I quit my two jobs, sold all my stuff, moved out of my home of five years, and took off to parts unknown on a one-way flight to travel the world and work as a digital nomad and travel blogger. To make things work out, I took a deep dive into Instagram as a way of getting my blog out there and started following all the top travel bloggers and traveling Instagram influencers.

At first, the travel photos were motivating, but slowly, a feeling of uneasiness and inadequacy started creeping in. Every Instagram post was trying to one-up the others with the next best-fabricated travel photo to get the most likes and drive the most traffic to their website. I was taking pictures of myself sweaty and in proper hiking apparel when the rest of the community appeared to be models climbing mountains in sundresses.

I love a good exotic travel photo as much as the next person, but eventually, I started asking myself if Instagram was doing more harm than good. If our minds are constantly plotting about how to share the most epic photo in the most bad-ass location, are we truly experiencing the joy of traveling and exploration? Or are we just collecting destinations like a materialistic person collects possessions? Wasn’t this “keeping up with the Joneses” mindset what I had run away from? Yet, here I was again, feeling like I didn’t measure up because my country count wasn’t high enough and I wasn’t the first traveler to post from the latest trendy destination.

How do you avoid the Instagram follower rat-race? How do we keep the mystery, spontaneity, and joy in travel while still being able to share it in a fun way? Well, first, catch yourself the next time the ‘gram starts making you feel less-than and remember that “comparison is the thief of joy.” Second, live your best life, without worrying about how it looks on social media — where is the fun in spending hours posing for the best image when you could be enjoying the beauty of a place and its people instead? Third, take a break from being overly connected and go somewhere beautiful without your camera or phone — you may stumble upon a great spot that no one has ever heard about and keep it a secret from the rest of the traveling community.

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