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Traveling Narcissist: The Rise of 'Look at Me' Travelers

by Georg Papp Sep 12, 2017

HELLO. My name is Georg and I am a traveling narcissist.

Narcissism is defined as the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s own attributes.

Regrettably, I stand guilty.

I came to realize my affliction as I was sitting watching my twitter and Instagram notifications pour in after a recent series of photo postings. With each notification came a sense of relief, joy, and fulfillment. On one hand, I recognized how it was stupid, and went against everything I stand for.

Yet there I was, admiring the accolades and ego boosting validation of mostly complete strangers on the internet.

So. Stupid.

I decided to come clean and write about this embarrassing affliction as I assume a vast majority of travel minded social media users share similar sentiments. We travel to gain enriching experiences. To see and feel the reality of the world in all of its complexity, the beauty and the struggles, the people, the landscapes, the wildlife. We seek to form lasting experiences and memories so that when our short time on Earth comes to an end, we may say that we truly lived life to the fullest.

So why then are we so concerned with showing off our travels to others? For some, as in the case of paid travel bloggers, there may be an obvious monetary motivation. Fair enough.

However, the promotion of travel and experiences seems to have led to the development of a culture of ‘look at me’ travelers.

Case study: The High on Life crew. If you’re unfamiliar, this is a collection of young(ish) males who travel around doing crazy stunts and produce videos of themselves. They have a huge and loyal following of impressionable young adults.

The High on Life crew made news last year for a stunt they pulled in Yellowstone National Park where they purposely and illegally veered off the established path at Grand Prismatic hot spring. They ventured onto the sensitive bacterial mats in an attempt to (in their own words), “Get the perfect shot.”

Why were they after the perfect shot? Because they make a living showing off. Seriously. Their entire business model centers around their ability to demonstrate how ‘awesome’ they and their travels are, and in return obtain sponsorships.

They are professional traveling narcissists.

As a result, their impressionable followers seek to emulate this lifestyle and thus is born a systemic culture of traveling for the sake of demonstrating how awesome your life is.

Should it bother me? Probably not, if I am to be true to my intentions, but for some reason it does. Jealousy? (I just looked at my phone to see how many likes I was up to.)
So. Stupid.

Many suggest that the need to show off is born from our own insecurities. After all, if we were truly content with our lives, the experience alone would be enough. Perhaps this is true for my own personal experience. I grew up as the poor kid in a relatively affluent community. I didn’t set foot on an airplane until I was in college and collected cans and bottles on the side of the road to save up for school trips. This will set one up for some later-in-life insecurities.

Yet here I am, an accomplished world traveler, a successful professional, a healthy, well-adjusted adult living a truly incredible life by all measures, a life I am grateful for. Yet I still look at my phone to see how many likes I receive.

I admit I have been profoundly inspired by others on social media. The late Harrying Devert was one such person who regularly inspired me to get off the couch and pursue enriching experiences. Of course, I have no idea if Harry found fulfillment in the sharing of his adventures, but a part of me really wants to believe that he simply shared his stories and photos for the sake of inspiring others, to make them smile and act on their dreams — without expectation for monetary return or superficial validation.

This is who I want and aspire to be.

Do you think you could take a trip and not post about it on social media? Do you simply enjoy your experiences in life without the desire for validation through acknowledgment? Do you share with the pure intent of inspiring others? If so, I envy and truly look up to you. I still have some work to do.

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