BY ROSLYN KENT
There’s a lot of content on Instagram these days. Billions of images, to be more specific; endless photos to scroll past, endless images to “like” and comment on. Fashion, fitness, food, travel and more. But how much of this genuinely represents reality, and how much of this is just a slice of a larger, more authentic picture?
There’s something to be said for the way that Instagram makes us feel about something, someone, or someplace while we view it on a screen, in comparison to how we experience that moment in person as a human being. Don’t get me wrong, Instagram is an amazing, visually creative platform that allows us to share some of the happiest, most exciting and incredible moments of our lives with those we love. But to what extent are we willing to create that moment, even though it may have never existed in reality?
I’m an avid traveller, a true adventurer, and I love to represent the moments I experience as authentically as possible online. However, there’s a lot my followers can’t see through a single image and a carefully curated caption. There’s raw emotion, there’s fear, there are tears, there’s confusion, there’s fascination, and there’s a larger, more inspiring story that a perfect picture will never be able to tell.
I recently travelled to Nicaragua, and prior to that, I was lucky enough to venture to Africa, Europe, Southeast Asia, and two other countries in Central America over a span of 6 years. Before I go anywhere, I usually use Instagram to research destinations, and I make an effort to visit those places while I’m away. But regardless of what I see online, there’s always quite a big difference between what I experience in person, and what Instagram made me expect I would experience:
There will be moments of “why am I here?”
Instagram always makes us feel like everyone around us has everything figured out, when in fact, no one does. When you travel, there will inevitably be moments of “why did I even leave in the first place?”. Travelling is hard. Travel takes work. Travelling will take you so far out of your comfort zone that all you’ll want to do is crawl back in. On my most recent trip to Nicaragua, I had to flee the country due to political unrest and 150 civilian deaths. This isn’t something everyone would share online. Why? Because it’s easy to post a photo of yourself exclaiming just how happy you are to be on the beach in San Juan del Sur, but it’s another thing altogether to admit defeat and tell your followers that you’re leaving the country while laying in your hostel room at night, all alone, wondering why you ever got on that plane in the first place.
There will be times when you feel exceptionally vulnerable
Confidence looks good on all of us when we see it online, but it takes real courage to be vulnerable while travelling. You’ll have to make new friends in every city (if you’re a solo traveller), ask for directions on a street corner hoping that that stranger speaks English, and even learn the hard way that short shorts aren’t acceptable in some parts of the world.
There will be some loss
Financial loss, lost items, and physically just being lost! When you follow someone’s travels online, seldom do they talk about the day they had their phone stolen on the streets of Barcelona (I saw this happen), when they got ripped off at the Market in Bali (happened to me), or when they had their purse ripped from their shoulder while wandering around Ho Chi Minh city at night (this also happened to me). We see the pretty, edited moments of being a tourist when we scroll our feeds, but there’s something missing from these images, and that something is the raw emotions that come with moments that teach us hard, but invaluable lessons.
Travelling comes with disappointment
It’s one thing to see a photoshopped image of a destination online, and another to see it in person, in the flesh. Sometimes you’re blown away, and sometimes it’s nothing like what you thought it would be. This happened to me in Bali, Indonesia. I saw gorgeous photos of a waterfall on Instagram, but when I got there, I was incredibly disappointed to find a muddy, unswimmable stream of water, polluted by plastic and other toxins.
You will feel pure exhaustion
There will be moments where all you want to do is crawl up in a ball and sleep in your own bed, in the comfort of your own home. But instead, you’re on an 18-hour overnight bus ride to Hanoi, Vietnam, in a seat that won’t recline, listening to the relentless sound of honking horns and the person snoring in the seat beside you. Your Instagram stories might say, “I’m so happy to be in Hanoi today!”, but your mind and body might be on the verge of burnout.
There will be pain, sweat, and tears (literally)
There will be sweat and lots of it. There will be tears and lots of them. And sometimes, there might even be an injury or two. We put our best looking moments online, but what you won’t see is the other 99% of times where you look like you’ve been living in the same clothes for days, without a shower.
“But at the end of the day, you will never be able to sum up what you experience travelling in any single photo or caption.”
Despite all of the harsh realities of travelling that Instagram doesn’t capture, it also doesn’t have the ability to capture your fascination, awe, pure joy, or bliss.
We have to remember that Instagram is just that—Instagram. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s a platform to share and enjoy, but it’s not real life and all of its ups and downs. The two are independent and cannot be clumped together into a single category.
Travel, explore, adventure, and experience, but remember that what you see online is usually only a snippet of the entire story; and indeed, there is always a bigger story when it comes to travelling.
Reality: Minutes before getting stung by a jellyfish in Gili Trawangan, Indonesia
Reality: A beach below us so crowded with tourists we didn’t even want to sit down.
Reality: Went on this boat cruise for the day and was promised a vegetarian option for dinner. The chefs forgot, and there was no food for me all afternoon until we got back at 10 PM.
Reality: The realization that we were jumping into polluted water that the locals nearby use for all their household purposes.
Reality: We weren’t staying here, we snuck into this pool.
Reality: The same day we had to leave Nicaragua due to political unrest.
Roslyn Kent is the Founder of But First, Plants. She’s on a journey to become a Holistic Nutritionist and you can keep up with her latest recipes, adventures and wellness pursuits by following her on Instagram – after your social media refresh, that is!