We Need to Stop Believing that Adventure is Only Possible for "Other People"

Have you ever looked longingly at an Instagram photo of someone else's adventure and thought, "If only I could do that?" Stop thinking, start doing. This is for you.

It was 6:45am on a Thursday morning, the sun was streaming through across the woven blanket laying atop the plush queen bed, and the gentle sound of far-away birds chirping in the distance kept me company as I waited for my cousin - and recent travel buddy - to wake up and greet the morning light with me. 

After two days of traveling through wine country, sipping on some of the finest vinos Ontario has to offer and gorging ourselves on wood-fired pizza made from dough imported directly from Italy, my cousin and I were exhausted. Driving, hiking, and cooking homemade pierogis over the world's tiniest grill, we had taken in our surroundings with a fresh, youthful optimism most would assume any 25 year old would have but, in reality, many of us are entirely devoid of. It's that feeling of total and complete contentedness; no worries, no cares, no anxiety or stress. 

Those two days were spent in a yurt, in the middle of a field, surrounded by tall grass, leaping frogs, slithering snakes and fluttering butterflies. It was majestic - at least, it looked that way on Instagram, anyway. 


The following week found us at a lake-side cottage where the wrap-around porch was bathed in sun from dawn to dusk; a golden retriever puppy named Sparky ran up to us for a brief cuddle before taking back off to the lake to, we both assumed, get cuddles from other doting beach-goers. All around us, wineries bustled with fresh grapes perfect for picking, while stalks of corn grew idly and shook gently in the wind. Whether you emerged from your tent to find your face soaked with early morning sun, or you awoke in your cottage to the gentle whirring of a standing fan, this was what the next two weeks for us would look like. Bliss. At least, it looked like bliss on Instagram. 

In actuality, our time traveling throughout Ontario (and other provinces in Canada) this Summer has been nothing short of idyllic. What I post of my travels on Instagram are the moments I've actually lived, but I'd be hard pressed to think of a time when I didn't scroll through Instagram and stare agape at images of rolling hills, windy cliff sides, endless ocean views and moody seasides. I always catch myself thinking, "If only that could be me." If only it could be me standing along that cliff in Scotland, or stopping by a mountain with a jeep to take in the stunning mountain vistas of Iceland. It never fails that I find myself feeling as though none of my own adventures and experiences could possibly compare with or measure up to the ones I see on social media. 

This is, of course, totally self-destructive behaviour which belittles our own accomplishments and downplays the experiences which make us who and what we are. 

But it's also commonplace. 


It's no secret that social media can give any one person anxiety; whether it's stress over an exciting life not yet lived or anxiety regarding our own lack of adventure. The struggle to face our own realities when measured against those on social media is strong, and absolutely common for most millennials whose lives are defined by what we post and how many people "like" our lives. Rarely do we stop to consider the fact that large travel or photography accounts are payed for what they post or make their living by posting wanderlust-y content that is mostly unrealistic for those of us who cannot afford costly trips or have travel agencies pay our way. 

Contrary to [recently] popular belief, wanderlust and the need to travel isn't genetic, though it can be fostered within us, even at a young age. But social media magnifies our wanderlust, and our sadness, when what we post of an adventure doesn't match up with what others post. This is normal, right? Of course it is! That's why people chase adventures and have life-altering experiences. There's always something to do, something to see, somewhere new to discover. If we let that dictate our lives based on what we see online, however, are we actually living, or just trying too hard to live?

Ask yourself, for example, how much influence social media platforms like Instagram have over your vacation or travel plans. Do you plan trips based on destinations or travels you've seen on IG? What about Airbnb; is your travel plan based around staying in a remote yurt you found on the platform, decorated with modern furniture but smack dab in the middle of a country oasis? (I may or may not be describing my recent adventure, sorry). 


Here's the thing: your adventures will never be the same as anyone else's. Your experiences will never compare to others' experiences. And no two life changing adventures are the same. 

If you've ever found yourself longingly staring at a random photographer's picture on Instagram or a distant friend's Facebook post about their time spent cycling through France, put the phone down, step away from the IG, and take a breath. Then, remind yourself that your adventures are just as amazing as anyone else's. Whether near or far, your travels and adventures are no more or less important and significant that someone else's. 

What we have to recognize is not how our experiences measure up (or don't) with someone's online, but rather, how we experience things in and of themselves. Slow down and enjoy your hike; your camping trip; your drive across the US; the trek to the peak of a mountain. Instagram it, or don't. Send it to friends, or don't. But don't belittle your own adventures for the sake of a "like" for someone else. 


My cousin and I have developed a motto of sorts, and we apply it to everything we do. We say, "live your best life." And no matter what your best life is, let it lead you on great adventures, to unreal experiences, and a healthy approach to exploration. After all, the time you spend looking at someone else's adventure could be spent having one of your own. 

Published: August 23, 2017

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Jacalyn BealesExplorer

Toronto

Toronto-based freelance writer, outdoors enthusiast and wildlife conservationist.