My 21st Century Travel Conundrum

My 21st Century Travel Conundrum

Battling my mixed feelings towards travel.

I have always loved the idea of travelling.

My first trip overseas was to Tokyo with my family when I was five. I don’t remember much about that trip; what I have now are fragmented memories of cherry blossoms, rustic ryokans and one too many stopovers at udon and donburi outlets.

My lust for travel only grew once I was exposed to the star-studded cities of New York and Paris in secondary school, with shows such as America’s Next Top Model and The Devil Wears Prada cementing my impressions of the West as the pinnacle of glitz, glamour and all things fabulous.

Andy at Fontaines de la Concorde in Paris (The Devil Wears Prada, 2006) | Image Credit: The Hollywood Reporter

Eventually, it took me a great number of trips overseas as well as many years of failed expectations to realise that the realities of travelling were a far cry from the ideals that the media had sold me at a very young age.

Now that I’m 23 with a half-bag full of travel experiences, I’ve decided to tackle what I’d like to call “My 21st Century Travel Conundrum.”

Of the overexposure to travel

It’s lovely being able to experience new sights and cultures in the flesh, but it often feels as if everything there is to see has already been documented on the Instagram feeds of friends, celebrity influencers and the like.

There is less sparkle and anticipation in travelling because so many places have already been chronicled by those before me.

Of expectations VS reality

We’ve all seen the curated versions of travel on Instagram – selfies with gorgeous sceneries, #OOTDs against architectural wonders, and of course, long walks on the beach at sunset. There is no pain in travel – only gratification.

Don’t get me wrong – there is much about travel that I love, from taking full-day cycling trips around Rottnest Island to discovering the rich, emboldened heritage of old-world Kyoto.

However, to genuinely love travel is to love it in its entirety, from last-minute rushes to airports in different cities; 12-hour commutes in a compressed flight vacuum; to the ceaseless crowds at places of interest during peak season.

Of the expense when travelling

Unless you’re backpacking across the globe on a shoestring budget, it’s safe to assume that you would want to spend on good food, a nice accommodation and shopping when travelling.

Travel, while much cheaper than it used to be, can still be a costly adventure, especially in an era where it’s regarded as the gateway to whole new experiences and an enviable Insta-worthy lifestyle.

When you feel like you have to live up to the media’s expectations of what travel should be like, cost is often the deciding factor that determines if you will “enjoy” travelling or not.

For countries that have a much higher standard of living than Singapore, even travelling modestly can amount to quite a bit of money spent. For instance, my sister recently went on a twelve day trip to Norway and spent approximately $3.5-$4k there.

This is a staggering chunk of money for those who may want to travel far, but who have to save their money for more pressing matters.

Of the constant need to travel

There’s an added pressure to travel the world for millennials who are part of the aspirational middle-class. Tell your friends you’d rather spend the summer reading books and doing art and the responses you’ll receive will range from a mix of surprise to well-intended pity.

Admitting that you’d like to take a break from travelling is like declaring a war on self-discovery and exploration. Travelling has become the norm, and not travelling is a one-way sign of financial lack, social suicide and mundanity.

Most of my time on social media is spent perusing the accounts of creatives and travel-cum-lifestyle bloggers, and for now, seeing their interpretations of travel is more than enough for me.

While I still yearn to travel West, I’d like to do so with my own money, in my own time and space. I know for a fact that this is not an unreachable goal, and I patch the hole left by delayed gratification by living vicariously through others.

To each his own

Some might argue that travel is one of the best forms of enlightenment money can buy, but I’d beg to differ.

If you’re a couch potato who much prefers binging on nuggets and re-runs of Rick and Morty to spending money on a flight halfway across the world, don’t be ashamed that your version of happiness is so different from others.

Different people find fulfilment in different ways. For some, it’s writing. For others, it’s cooking, dancing, or learning a new sport. Ultimately, finding out what works for you is the key to true enlightenment, happiness, and fulfilment.

Travel only because you want to, not because you feel like you have to.

About Author

Melanie Lim
Melanie Lim

Travel writer by vocation, Instagram aficionado by passion. Melanie’s interests include reading, photography and social media. If you're looking for buoyancy or creativity, she’s your best bet.


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