I was eighteen when I first felt wanderlust, long before I knew there was a word designated to describe the feelings I had after coming home. I had just spent a month in Greece with my best friend’s family. During this trip I ate sweets in cafes in Athens, roamed the streets of small Greek towns, jumped off of boats into the sea and even attended a huge engagement party (yes, there was lots of broken glass and LOTS of dancing). I came home feeling changed, feeling disconnected to my life as it had looked before the adventure. Discovering things for the first time was like being a child again. It was freedom. I had been bitten by the travel bug.
Six years on, I would say that my love for adventure has just increased. My travels have taken me all across the States, all over Canada, to the Caribbean, and to Europe. But the adventures have changed. When I traveled to Greece I had no idea what was in store for me. Every new destination was a surprise.
With the rise of social media, and especially Instagram, travel looks very different. With so many places becoming popular through word-of-image, it is hard to find somewhere you feel as though you discovered. When you travel to a location you have already seen in pictures, there are expectations set. And sometimes that can lead to disappointment. It either does not look as great as it did in those fancy Instagram pictures, or there are so many people are you that it is not enjoyable.
After many of these experiences I was able to find my way back to the unknown, with a little bit of patience and a whole lot of adventurous spirit. I learned to travel “off the beaten path” and find areas of a location that others had not thought to explore. This renewed my sense of adventure and soon I was back to making my own discoveries. As I found beaches that were completely empty, located spaces that were not easy to find, and became good at exploring I started to face a moral dilemma. Should I share these places with others or keep them my little secret?
After experimenting with many different ideas, here are my thoughts that I hope will guide you on your adventuring in the age of Instagram!
Truthful Travel Adventuring Thought #1: It is okay to love some places, and make sure to keep them wild
“Love her but leave her wild.”
Picture this: After hiking in the blistering heat of Nevada on a hot Summer day, you spot a clearing in the trees. Through it is the most transparent water, and sand that sparkles like gold in the sunlight. With only a handful of other people there, you spend the day floating in a watermelon and watching your dog happily swim in circles.
Would you believe that this happened in Lake Tahoe, a place that hosts about three million tourists a year? I scoured the Internet through forums and blogs to find somewhere that other people did not know about.
I am protective of these finds. Although I like to share vague locations to encourage other explorers, this also gives me a chance to deter those that want a quick fix of beauty. Sure, other parts of Lake Tahoe are also beautiful. But in my experiences throughout life, the most beautiful things require a bit more effort.
Because of this newfound sense of adventure, my eyes are open to finding new places more than they ever were before. I am constantly discovering places to add to my list of secret locations, simply because I am open to taking the narrow dirt roads and exiting the highway when something looks beautiful.
I think in the age of Instagram, it is alright to keep some of your favorite finds to yourself. That beach at Lake Tahoe would not be the same beach if there was no room to swim. It would not be as beautiful if there was garbage strewn in the sand. That picture from the bridge in Washington of the small town would not be as quaint if there were ten other people also looking to capture the same shot. In the crazy, fast-paced world we live in, I find peace in these places.
It is okay to love some places, and make sure to keep them wild.
Truthful Travel Adventuring Thought #2: Allowing everyone to experience the Earth gives the planet the best fighting chance
“You have to love it before you are moved to save it.”
Like with all things, there is another side. Instagram has opened up the world to people. Movements like REI’s #optoutside has been key in encouraging people to get outside to discover. With locations tagged on Instagram with hundreds of thousands of pictures, people who may not have wandered before now will. It is quite beautiful: utilizing technology to return to nature and the outdoors.
Unfortunately people do not always respect these newfound popular areas. I have seen trash along trails, garbage floating at the shore and litter hidden in the crevices of beautiful monuments. Although this can be disheartening, it gives us an opportunity to educate one another. I believe that the more people get out and experience the beauty, the more interested they will become in preserving it. It will never be a perfect system, but it can increase the number of stewards of the planet.
So sometimes I feel compelled to share where I have been for no other reason than I believe it may strengthen someone’s relationship to the Earth. There are some locations that are almost unbelievable. Imagine a 68 mile highway 10,000 ft in the sky. It runs through mountains and small lakes, and you can throw snowballs in August. This places exists (maybe closer than you would think!)
Although it is open only a few months each Summer, the Beartooth Highway is a place like no other. It is a direct route into Yellowstone National Park, and was an accidental find a few years ago. You feel like you’re in a different world entirely when you’re up there. Experiencing the cold in the middle of Summer, experiencing viewpoints that go on for miles and miles and miles, experiencing the fragility of it all: it is the best way to make people care.
Allowing everyone to experience the Earth gives the planet the best fighting chance.
It is not an easy thing, keeping an adventurous spirit in the age of Instagram. Although the platform makes it easier and more appealing to develop that spirit, it can be tempting to overlook the value in making discoveries for yourself. As you make your own discoveries it might feel difficult to strike a balance between keeping them to yourself and sharing them with the world. In those moments remember that there is no correct solution to the issue. We are all just trying our best to protect our beloved spaces.
So get out there, explore, share the Earth’s beauty with others and keep a few beautiful discoveries to yourself!
Until Next Time,
A Truthful Traveler