Let’s face it, most of the things we do these days, we do for the likes. We eat out to take pictures of our food, so our Instagram followers will know what sumptuous meal we’re having for brunch. We party, so our Facebook friends scrolling through our night-out albums will see that we know how to have fun, and we hang out with the coolest people in town. We join marches and protests, so our Twitter contacts know we have progressive politics and that we’re on the right side of history.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. In the age of social media, everything is performance. This idea is aptly discussed in Peggy Orenstein’s New York Times piece titled I Tweet. Therefore I Am. In the article, the author cited M.I.T. professor Sherry Turkle, who said that “On Twitter or Facebook you’re trying to express something real about who you are. But because you’re also creating something for others’ consumption, you find yourself imagining and playing to your audience more and more. So those moments in which you’re supposed to be showing your true self become a performance. Your psychology becomes a performance.”
Yes, even your travels, documented on social media, are performances. And the end goal for any performance is a rave review. In social media, these reviews come in the form of likes, hearts, and shares. That’s just how it is, and given the whole thing’s pretty innocuous, you need not be bothered.
Still, it’s worth noting that there are other benefits to traveling beyond impressing your social media network with your charmed and freewheeling existence. Here are some of them.
You stay active
Traveling’s an excuse to walk and get lost. If you’re in a walkable city, there’s no point paying for public transport. The smartest thing to do is make use of your banging legs and thighs. Wandering somewhere strange but spectacular gets you the amount of cardio you need without the whole experience feeling like torture. Sure, you might need a licensed physiotherapist after all the walking you did, but it’s definitely worth it.
Just make sure to stay hydrated. And have a chapstick ready in your travel tote bag, so your lips stay moist despite physical exertion.
You immerse in different cultures
This is perhaps the sweetest perks of traveling. You get to know a place and its people up close and personal. No matter how brilliantly filmed those travel shows on TV are, there’s no substituting the real deal.
So when you travel, your goal should be to move as far away from your comfort zone as possible, without sacrificing your safety. Eat what the locals eat. Do what the locals do. Do not limit yourself to the usual tourist traps. Who knows what life-changing surprises await you.
You enhance your budgeting skills
If you’re afflicted by wanderlust and your travels are not funded by a trust fund from your granddad’s fracking empire, chances are you have to follow a strict budget whenever you travel. Consider that a lesson in financial literacy. You no longer need to hire a financial guru to tell you how to live within your means. You learn to do that from traveling.
You become street savvy
This is most apparent when you’re traveling alone, even more so if you’re a woman. As supportive as we are in gender equality, reality bites. The reality is that traveling poses more risks to single female travelers than their male counterparts, simply because there are many jerks out there. So if you’re a female traveler traveling solo, you learn to stay on your toes. Your survival instinct kicks in, and your dormant street savviness comes out.
You get to know your travel buddy more
There’s no better way to know whether the man of your dreams lying in bed by your side is truly the man of your dreams and not a nightmare in the making than to travel with him. On the road, your love will be tested. If after traveling you’re still madly smitten with your guy, then honey, you better get a ring on it.
There’s nothing wrong with sharing your travels. Not everyone in your social media network has the same privileges as you do. Those who do not have the resources to travel might appreciate the chance to live vicariously through you. However, you should also know when to hold back.
Have enough self-awareness to gauge whether you’re sharing travel pictures and stories for the sake of sharing and when you’re doing so to gloat. There’s nothing inherently wrong with enjoying the dopamine rush from those likes. Just make sure you’re still in control and far from hooked.