Browsing Instagram in 2019 is like watching Musafir Hoon Yaaron, featuring your friends instead of Deepti Bhatnagar. One friend is on a solo trip to Sikkim, where he has gone to find himself but possibly found a photographer because none of his pictures are odd-angled selfies but professional faraway shots featuring him playing with monks and eating at cozy restaurants. The monsoon trekkers are posting pictures on how they are “roughing it out”, ironically from the luxurious confines of their AC tents to convince everyone that they are “one with nature”. The “mono couple” – she in her flowy white dress, he in his linen trousers – is honeymooning in Bali, updating their Instagram stories every 12 minutes so that their followers know what they are missing out on. School friends are aping the Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara life with a roadtrip in Spain with an Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani aesthetic. And Mr Mountain Dew has decided to be the desi Bear Grylls – bungee-jumping, skydiving, paragliding, and making sure there is someone to record his adventures all along.
Going through the feed, I often wonder, “How can these people afford so many vacations? A trip every month?” “Inko leave kaise mil jata hai? Koi job-vob nahi hai kya?” Of course, the answer lies in their Tinder bios, where you’ll learn that “I earn a paycheck to plan my next trip.” Travelling isn’t a leisure activity anymore. In 2019, it is a competitive sport. And social media is where the games are played. Travel is the new iPhone and everyone must aspire to get one.
But that is also a double-edged sword. It’s this pressure to travel that is sucking the joy out of #wanderlust and I, for one, refuse to give into it. For starters, as a family, we can afford a trip once a year, trying to balance my dad’s leaves, sister’s college schedule, mom’s festival plans, and my start-up life. I have only 21 leaves, so we plan our holidays more meticulously than Milind Soman’s diet routine. But somehow these middle-class limitations don’t come in the way of the aspirational standards set by perennial holidayers.
For them, #travelgoals are like work targets. If it’s a free weekend, a getaway to Aamby Valley is a must, and if it’s a long weekend, you’ve got to have a Bangkok plan. If you want to take a week off, you must go to Leh on a Harley Davidson with a cotton Feng Shui flag attached to your bike. June-July are reserved for a trip to Europe and at the end of the year, “It’s Thailand bitches”. Somehow, you got to take a break every three months even when you’ve maxed out five credit cards. Your social cred today is after all, determined by how many visa stamps you have on your passport. And what will you brag about if don’t eat, pray, and love your way through life?
It’s not surprising then, that travellers now opt for packages that cover eight countries in 11 days, where most of the time is spent in a train or bus. But how does that matter as long as you have ticked off London, Paris, Berlin on the checklist seen even if you’ve barely covered five per cent of any these cities. You see, “So how many countries have you travelled in the last year?” is the new dick-measuring contest. And mind you, the more obscure and Instagrammable your travel destination, the more currency you have. If your vacation is not exotic enough to make everyone on your timeline jealous, are you even a true traveller?
The novelty of vacations is to sit back and rewind once every few months, when you are ready to plan, pack, travel, and unpack.
A recent study revealed that roughly 40 per cent of millennials choose a travel spot based on its Instagrammability. Another survey reported that one in six people feel compelled to be “more adventurous” than they really are while on holidays and the trend is only rising. In an article titled “Are holidays becoming a time to show off rather than switch off?”, clinical psychologist Dr Maline Coyne says, “With the recent social media explosion and the shiny image many of us choose to portray of ourselves, especially when on holidays, there can be a lot of pressure to have the most adventurous or exotic holiday.”
I know of friends who’ve gone on treks only to come back battered because their body wasn’t prepared for the strain but peer pressure demanded it. The ordeal of long and tiring vacations where you stretch your mind and body to extreme limit calls for another minor break before you can actually join back at work. People now go on vacations, and then take two more days off because they’re too tired to immediately resume work. If you need a break from what was supposed to be your break, it is probably not working.
Like every other millennial I love to travel, explore new places and meet wonderful people from different cultures. But I’m not a believer of performative happiness. And I’m not in a mad rush to burn myself out. Travelling is supposed to be about experiences and about switching off from the routine. The novelty of vacations is to sit back and rewind once every few months, when you are ready to plan, pack, travel, and unpack.
It’s time to cancel the “all Instagram, no play” kinda holiday. Maybe we need a break from this constant obsession and pressure of having to go on breaks. And maybe some weekends are meant to just Neftlix and Chill.