Lately, as we’ve scrolled through our social media feeds, we’ve noticed a growing sense of déjà vu. In and amongst the colourful photographs of far-flung beaches, bite-sized quotes and ‘Top Tips for any Traveller’, we’ve seen a pattern emerge. Take a closer look and you’ll realise you’ve seen these photos before: the girl gazing out of a plane window; a hand clasped around a passport; an individual peering pensively over an impressive landscape.
And the bow, binding all these images and quotes together? Travel.
Travel isn’t new. As flying became increasingly cheaper and the world more connected, so travel became commonplace. That annual summer holiday and infamous ‘Gap Year’, ensured that travel became a regular part of our lives. But as social media has grown, with sites such as Instagram and Twitter exploding in popularity, travel has become something more: a lifestyle to be coveted and a brand to be followed. Travel even has a new, sexy name: Wanderlust.
Wanderlust (meaning ‘a strong desire to travel’) and its devoted ‘wanderlusters’, loom large in the world of social media. You can pin, tweet, Instagram and share quotes about it, you can define yourself by its values and you can follow its very own heroes. Indeed, wanderlust idols such as the enormously successful, Brooke Saward – the mind behind World of Wanderlust – have huge followings of fans across the globe. These accounts represent a generation who, more than ever, are banishing jobs, homes, and the general routine of life, to travel. They are a group we like to call: ‘Generation Wanderlust’.
Generation Wanderlust are certainly inspiring. They travel the world solo; create successful businesses from travel and explore the world with increasingly open minds. They are the very individuals who inspired us to start our own travel blog. But as the number of wanderlusters increase, so the wanderlust brand builds.
Though there is nothing wrong with brands: they offer values, ideas and a sense of identity, when applied to travel it can weaken rather than enhance the experience. We have experienced this ourselves, becoming so preoccupied with trying to achieve a photo for our Instagram community that we’ve failed to appreciate the moment. Being a wanderluster becomes a stressful experience, bound by an expectation of where we should go; what we should wear; what our photographs should look like; what our poses should be and even how we should feel about travel.
The problem with a brand, copied and repeated by thousands across the world, is that it soon loses its authenticity. Travel becomes generic. The same places, the same photographs, the same experiences.
Except travel shouldn’t be like this, should it? The entire point of wanderlust is to explore, to adventure, to gain your very own experience of the world. Your travel experience should be as every bit unique as you are. It should also contain the good, the bad and the ugly. We’ve always attempted to provide a blog that offers the ‘real deal’ on our travel experiences, from panic attacks to extreme food poisoning. So what if travel to you means a weekend away an hour from home? Or maybe it does mean travelling the world, solo. As long as it’s your own personal experience, then that is your wanderlust right there.
Of course, this is all easy to say. And it’s certainly not unique. This sort of branding happens to most things and providing a polished version of life is endemic to social media. Furthermore, we are the first to admit that the wanderlust brand is definitely attractive and has influenced our own blog and social media.
Yet maybe it’s time to find a balance and to encourage Generation Wanderlust to travel in a way they want to, without feeling they have to document it with a particular style or attitude. Who wants to see the world through the same pair of eyes anyway? We definitely don’t. So here’s to 2015 and Generation Wanderlust doing things their own way: different perspectives, different captures and different experiences.
Photo courtesy of Send me adfrift.