Every morning I have the same routine. Wake up, scroll through Instagram and head to my 40 hour/week job that helps me pay the bills. It’s post-graduation and let me tell you Instagram is on FLEEK right now. What else do you do after graduation other than travel around Europe, hostel hopping and tasting some of the greatest food the world has to offer? Right before you’re about to take a bite of the world’s greatest ice cream sundae, don’t forget to snap a picture at just the right angle to make all of your friends at home jealous of your great adventures.
About 5 days ago, I returned home from an exhausting but monumental trip in Israel through the birthright-taglit organization. On my very first day, we were overlooking Syria on top of a giant mountain and I found myself thinking – man, I’ve got to get an awesome picture of this.
Not to create a permanent memory to preserve this moment in time, but to post online and make all of my friends back home jealous of my middle eastern adventures.
But on the second night, something changed the nature of the trip. As a part of the program, 8 Israeli soldiers joined us for the trip. They were all around our age and seemed vastly more mature than the rest of us. They were fun and knew how to let loose, but also carried a look of wisdom and experience that none of us could relate. At night, we dove into a discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that plagues their lives on a daily basis. We listened intently as each soldier described the painful experiences they had witnessed since they were children. Political agenda aside, it’s impossible to understand the full capacity of their war-ridden lives, but it was the only time I had every traveled with a different purpose in mind.
We travel to understand other cultures, to see how life is different outside of our own bubble and to try and evolve our perspective of the world.
But what about taking photos and posing in front of beautiful scenery challenges the way we think? It has become trendy to publicize the glamorous pieces of traveling, rather than seeking the uncomfortable. When we travel, we often bring familiarity in our travel companions, only to continue the same interactions we have back home in new environments. But real travel encompasses loneliness, it exposes your underlying fears, it breaks your heart and makes you want to cry. Real traveling is not trendy.
The thing is, I don’t blame my friends for seeking these fun adventures. They are experiences that create memories that will last a lifetime. I will never forget sipping a peach margarita on the beaches on Mykonos with my mom, or roaming the streets of Barcelona in the early hours of the morning with my best friend, but these experiences didn’t challenge me or shape my view of Spain and Greece.
The sight-seeing and exploring we do on these kinds of adventures lack the deeper connection to the world that we could otherwise gain from going the extra mile.
So travel. Travel to have fun and eat great food and take incredible pictures. Travel with your friends and drink good wine and laugh until your sides hurt.
But also travel to explore and learn and understand life with a new perspective. Travel to meet locals and share in their joys and heart aches. Be uncomfortable and lonely. Because in the midst of the fear and unease, you will discover something far more beautiful than any picture on Instagram.