Travel | How social media can change your travelling experience
The world of travelling has changed immensely in the last twenty years – not only has tourism completely changed the cultural experience we have in certain parts of the world, but we are simultaneously more connected and yet further separated from each other than ever before. Travelling twenty years ago, there was still the opportunity to get completely lost without ever straying far from the beaten track. Now it has become far more difficult – but not impossible – to get away from it all and really switch off from the world around us. When people are planning a trip away, whether for a weekend break, a two-week holiday or a year long expedition, their main reason for doing so is usually because they want to get away from it all and experience something new. “Getting away from it all” is such an interesting phrase – I used it myself when I was planning my travels. I needed to get away from everything I knew; from my job, my relationship, my life. I needed to gain space, to give myself time and to escape the world that was keeping me pinned. Now, over a year late, I’ve had everything I dreamed of and more – I’ve completely lost myself over and over again in beautiful landscapes, fascinating culture and incredible moments.
It’s interesting to look back now with fresh eyes, with perspective, and to think about how much I wanted to escape everything I left behind. And yet, my biggest project since travelling has been this blog – I’ve finally had the time, energy and inspiration to throw into turning this into something greater than I ever envisioned. And despite my claims that I wanted to cut myself off from all that I knew at home, I have put all of my energies into communicating every moment of this journey through writing, blogging and social media. It’s a passion of mine and I think it has had a huge impact on my travelling experience. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve given myself plenty of time away from the screen and the internet – I think that’s something that screams out of the pages of my blog. It’s all about fun – about life coming first and the amazing things that happen when you switch off the laptop and leave the phone at home. That’s what I love to document, the moments that happen when you truly switch off from your old life and open yourself up to these amazing new experiences. For me, capturing it all in my memories and camera is made all the more special when I sit down to write about it and get to relive it as my thoughts come pouring out of my fingertips.I’ve had those amazing moments when I’ve called a tiny hut on a beach in Cambodia home, when I’ve sat watching the sunset all by myself and realised that no-one in the world knows exactly where I am at the moment. It’s an incredibly empowering feeling to be entirely alone and know that it’s nothing to be afraid of, to know that you have only yourself to rely on but that’s okay. I’ve loved those moments of feeling completely lost in the world and I’ve also had moments when I’ve felt more connected with the people I love at home than ever before. I stay in constant contact with my family and speak to them almost every day thanks to social media and the huge range of communication options available. If I had been travelling twenty years ago it would be reduced to a phone call, or perhaps an email every now and again, but now, they can be with me every step of the way. Knowing that my mum is at the other end of a WhatsApp message, that my sister will always tweet me back or my dad’s emails can be relied on like clockwork completely changes the travelling experience and perhaps thats why I never get homesick. Because there’s nothing to miss when you’re just as close to the ones you love as you were before you stepped on the plane – because they’re never far away and you can have the everyday conversations with them whenever you want.
Social media doesn’t stop at family and friends on the other side of the globe – I’ve lost count of the amazing new friendships that I have developed over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram since travelling. Some have been random meets that have led to travelling advice, recommendations for accommodation, places to eat or trips. Others have been a comfort in a time of struggle – my own gang of cheerleaders that kept me going, inspired me to write and travel, made me see the amazing things Ive achieved through their eyes. And then there are those that started out on social media but grew into something more, the ones who I have been lucky enough to cross paths with along the way. I can’t tell you how amazing it is to have the opportunity to meet up with people I have only spoken to online, to explore a city halfway around the world and to build an actual, human friendship. I have made so many amazing new friends since travelling – many of them started out as fans of my blog and the next thing we know, we’re perusing the markets or exploring the sights in some far off land. It’s extra special because I often wonder whether our paths would have crossed were it not for our online presence. When you hear so many negative things about social media on a daily basis, it’s so lovely to see such huge positives come out of it. This is what social media was invented for – to bring people from all walks of life closer together.For backpackers, social media has completely changed our concept of travelling and our attitude towards it. Backpacking culture seems more accessible than ever before because now it is all available at the touch of a button. Particularly when it comes to Facebook groups for those travelling Asia and Australia – I’ve found these amazing for when you are travelling solo. They are packed full of tips, advice, recommendations, friend requests, invitations to join trips, opportunities to buy or sell items ranging from camping gear to vehicles, the list goes on. I’m sure backpackers managed twenty years ago without the conveniences we have now, but I just love the way these channels open direct communication from backpackers cross the globe. The Australia groups I’m currently a part of have an open dialogue between travellers who are currently scattered across the country, those travelling Asia and heading this way, others in New Zealand, and many who can be found across the rest of the world – with eagerly anticipating their trip or happy just reminiscing about travels gone by. It’s a beautiful mix of people and really does help bring people together – I’ve seen many travelling groups formed for road trips or even to head overseas, I’ve seen many people organising meet-ups and nights out, and I’ve seen so many inspire others to step outside their comfort zone.It’s so important to let yourself switch off from Facebook and Twitter (and Snapchat for all you addicts!) when you’re travelling. To not let your status updates stand in the way of your fun – trust me, no-one will notice if you switch off for a while! But at the same time, social media can have a fantastic impact on your travels. Manage it well and it can really help to nurture precious relationships while encouraging you to build new ones. After all, we’re all just here for a good time so why not have a good time together?
How has social media shaped your travelling experience? How do you use social media to make your backpacking life easier? Has social media had a negative impact on your travels?