If you are on Facebook or Instagram, you can notice all these nice travel pictures, cheap airplane tickets, and great accommodation deals. I have to confess I also like to travel and am planning to travel more, but first time in my life I realized that it wasn't always like that and that with my 26 years I traveled much more than my parents will in their whole life. Is that some kind of new travel obsession era and a must-do for all Millennials? I decided to research what is actually going on and what kind of consequences traveling has on culture and environment.
The belief that travel is the key to happiness
We have to understand traveling is one of the world's biggest businesses and this wisdom is pretty much delivered by travel bloggers and writers. All that glorification of travel that is fuelled by social media can often leave young people feeling envious, bitter, deflated and fearful about missing out. Go backpacking the world and you will find yourself and true happiness. However, the argument that travel is the key to happiness and escape 9-5 working days while working online is too simplistic. Of course, some people managed to do it but for most of them failed. The experience of traveling might be the happiest time of your life, but if you have issues back home, whether it’s to do with your job, family, lifestyle, or personal issues, coping with them after returning home might be even more stressful as it was when you left. Reality has not changed, only your attitude towards it. If your newfound perspective or priorities after traveling do not fit in with your old life, this can even cause a personal crisis. And you begin just there, where you left it some months ago...
Life is limited and experiences are worth more than things
Millennials for sure want to leave different-without any regrets that the previous generation had. We want to have the courage to live a life true to ourselves, not the life others expected of us; we don't want to work so hard, enjoy, have many stories to tell and want to be happy. But the answer is not always traveling. it can be starting your Bachelor study, create a family or founding a business. A lot of Millennials also life by the value experience over materialistic things. When you travel with few possessions, carrying everything on your back, seeing people living happier lives with less stuff, and experiencing a lot with very little money, then it starts to seem insane why everyone back home would waste money on a new car, apartment or expensive clothes. For me personally, that is a good value change, but I'm asking myself if it can last forever. We can, of course, transfer the minimalism from travel to our daily life too.
Cons of traveling
When we travel, our western culture gets diffused through different regions of the world and we're unintentionally erasing the cultures we travel to. We are bringing western shops, food, and drink chains, our music, dances, and way of dressing. Some of us embrace new places and everything that comes with them, but most don't. With this act, we are also slowly destroying local businesses, because we for example rather go eat in McDonald's and have a coffee in Starbucks than struggle with the menu and service we don't understand in a local restaurant. We rather sleep in an expensive and well-known restaurant than support a family guesthouse or go Couchsurfing.
The place you're visiting probably looks a little bit different when you are not there. Our ideas of what foreign cultures are supposed to be, cause locals to act on our views, even if only in part. This "pretending" locals put on to please us has two negative side effects: inauthentic experience for us and a disruption of normal life for them. For example, they speak English in countries they never have spoken English before. Or locals in Muslim countries have to get used seeing all these bikini swimsuits at hotel beaches even if they weren't part of their tradition 10 years ago. Instinctively, when we host guests, we tend to carry ourselves a little differently, maybe not better or worse, but certainly different. And we also know about the problem of air transportation and it's damage to our environment and leaving our rubbish in already touristically overcrowded areas.
What can we do?
Nevertheless, travel still bring us self-growth, freedom, fun, and opportunity to learn. The best way to keep travel and be aware of its bad consequences is some research and taking action. Eat and shop at local restaurants and stores, wherever you are. Choose locally owned accommodations or try some of the platforms like Couchsurfing, Housesitting, Woofing or Workaway volunteering. Whenever possible chose to travel by land by bus, train, ferry (try to use public transportation or share the vehicle). Always pick up your trash and try to produce as less of it as possible. Check local societies, clubs or volunteering organizations and try to contribute or spread the voice about their good actions. Talk to people on the street and ask them for advice instead of listening to YouTube vlogger guidance.
We need to be the difference in the world of traveling if we want to continue doing it!