When did travelling become a competition?


“You only have 3 weeks in Colombia?! Shit, kinda pointless coming here.” I listened as the skinny French guy tried to light his cigarette off the gas cooker. Instant karma got him as he burned his fingers, but he wasn’t done yet. He flopped down on a chair, and looked wistfully out to sea as he continued “I mean, I could spend 3 weeks just here, you know? You need to slow down, everyone travels so fast, but not me. I wanna connect with the place I’m in, connect to the locals”.

Up on the hostel roof, the girl he was initially talking to was barely listening, but that didn’t put him off. His comments were for everyone here, all of us fellow backpackers who he desperately wanted to impress.

It’s an all too common situation that manifests itself in many different ways – from the loud bragging tourist who shows off all his passport stamps and forces his expert opinions on his hostel dorm mates, to the homeless looking guy who refuses to wear shoes and hasn’t visited a single interesting landmark during his trip because there are “too many tourists”.

Perhaps it’s in part due to the modern day obsession with social media. The affirmation that comes with the likes, knowing that other people enjoy what we are doing and the momentary feeling of actually being interesting. Social media is fuelling this competition between travellers. I’ve lost count of the amount of natural wonders and infamous historical sites I have visited and have seen the same scenario. Tourists all fighting to take the same picture, the same angle, recreate something they have seen on Instagram. So that they can post it online and show the world, “Hey, look where I am!” Maybe there’s nothing wrong with that, but I always wonder, have these people really seen this place? Not through the camera of their iPhone, but really looked around and enjoyed the moment.

My boyfriend recently took me to a lookout point in Montreal, a place where you could get a wonderful panorama of the whole city. We stood talking and enjoying the view, as he pointed out all the famous landmarks. It was so peaceful, until another tourist, wearing her finest attire, backed into us whilst posing for a photo. Ignoring her, we carried on admiring the view, until she rudely asked us to move as were were in her shot. The sole purpose of this viewpoint was to admire the city, yet here was someone trying to clear it out so she could pose, have her picture taken in front of a stunning backdrop, one that she barely even looked at, to no doubt show off in front of her virtual friends. Of course, she got her shot because we moved on, but when we passed 15 minutes later, she was still there. Still at the view point, taking centre stage so that anyone who wanted to enjoy the view of the city in real time had to enjoy the view of her too.

But where do we draw the line? As someone who travels a lot, I love to get pictures of myself in magical destinations around the world. Sometimes though, I look back on my social media and cringe. What do other people think when they see these pictures? That I want to brag? Show the online world how travelled I am? How great my life is? I mean, I never post the pictures of my legs, ravaged by sandflies and covered in bloody bites. Or a photo of me spending 12 hours on a cramped bus with matted hair, having not slept for hours. Only the glamorous stuff goes onto social media, the glossy side of travelling. And so I have to ask myself – am I part of this millennial travel competition that I hate?

It’s not only online, but in real life too. Perhaps it’s in part due to the fact that when travelling, we are repeatedly meeting new people, giving us the opportunity to be whoever we want to be and show what we deem to be our best side. With so many people from every corner of the world, with a million different stories to tell, we fight to be the most interesting. We can reinvent ourself every day.

Group conversations in hostels quickly turn into a bragging contest, backpackers always trying to one up each other.

You went to India for a month? Well I was there for 6, and I did a silent retreat for a month of that. You’ve just been on holiday in Bali? Oh I was there at a yoga retreat for 2 months. The endless flow of advice from other travellers becomes tiring too. If you mention where you are heading next, no doubt someone will throw out some random unrelated town and declare that you absolutely have to go there, to see the “real” country. It doesn’t matter if it’s 8 hours out of the way and there’s absolutely nothing of interest, it’s going to get suggested anyway just so that everyone knows that the person suggesting it has been somewhere no one else has.

I’ve lost count of the people I have met who have belittled others for their travel choices. So what if someone chose to pay for a guided trek rather than go it alone! The die hard backpackers who poke fun at those that choose to holiday in a luxurious resort. The people who believe the only way to travel is by getting “off the beaten track” and going to the most obscure places possible, whilst looking down their noses at those go to popular destinations. But the track is beaten for a reason, and destinations world wide become popular when they offer lots for travellers. With the ever growing industry of budget airlines, and a generation of people yearning to explore, its hard to avoid places where you will find other tourists. I once met a guy who went to India, even to Agra, but didn’t go to the Taj Mahal. It was obviously a great source of pride to him, and he declared it proudly to all who would listen. He told us all how he didn’t want to get involved with that “super touristic stuff” and only wanted to experience “the real India”. But what does that even mean?! That a landmark visited by thousands of visitors each year is not representative of the country it’s in, just because it’s popular?

Some people save for a long time to take a short holiday, it’s all they can afford. They want to enjoy it, go all out. Not be belittled by some snobby backpackers who thinks it’s not travelling unless you eat at local markets or travel around on local buses, even if it means adding 3 hours to your trip in a steaming hot bus. The “gap years” who turn their nose up at the people who want to have a little luxury on their holidays, instead of sharing a dorm room with 15 other people.

We need to stop trying to impress others and enjoy the world around us. Travelling isn’t a competitive sport, which means there are no winners or losers. Enjoy the world around you, in whichever way you choose, there is no right or wrong.

20 thoughts on “When did travelling become a competition?”

  1. Thank you for sharing this article. It’s so on point. Travel and let travel, right? No matter how long and where it’s everyone’s own decision and no one is to judge.

  2. Loved this! It’s so true, there’s so much snobbism in some travel these days, especially the backpackers. And you’re so right thag the path is beaten for a reason, I can’t imagine skipping the Taj Mahal. Those are the people
    Who will have regrets later on, I believe. Interesting perspective. Thanks!

  3. Thank you for writing this. I hate judgey travelers and they to convince you that any popular you should avoid but it is popular for a reason. I love how you highlighted the 10 bus ride without a shower because bloggers show the gorgeous shots but never the reality. I am guilty of this too!

  4. THIS!!! LITERALLY ALL OF THIS! Travel is such a subjective thing – you do it your way, and it doesn’t matter if someone else wants to do it differently. It’s completely up to them. I don’t have time for people who belittle everyone else, but unfortunately I totally agree that social media plays a big part of this. Like the girl pushing you out of the way so she can have her 15 minute photo shoot – if you want pretty photos, that’s fine too, but what ever happened to respect? I don’t generally judge anyone for their travel choices, but if you’re disrespectful to everyone around you, wildlife, or the environment, then that’s a whole other issue.

  5. Thanks for sharing this!! When I was backpacking I used to have SO many conversations with people about how they got this cheaper and had a better experience here. Lol, everyone’s experience is different you know? And yes photos and social media I feel are ruining travel a lot and how we wanted to relate our experiences to the world. Portraying an upbeat image constantly is not really how real life works! Great post girly. Sophie x

  6. Love this post, annoyed by all those types of people! The best part which I really learned in Ecuador, is when locals who get to travel actually do the “tourist stuff” and when it’s only those upright backpackers doing random stuff claiming that it’s local but local people don’t do it. Like taking a party bus to see waterfalls (locals) vs biking to all the waterfalls (tourists). Also once I got asked to move at an Instagram coffee shop that actually has really good coffee (which is why I was there), because this girl’s photographer was coming. She didnt even drink her coffee or bus it when she left! It was so annoying, I can’t believe that happened to you in Montreal too!!

    1. Very valid point about the tourist stuff vs what the locals actually do! Sometimes I get the feeling they think backpackers are a bit strange (and it’s understandable) for always looking for the most obscure things to do! ?

  7. I used to love having the “I’ve been there/you’ve seen this” convo with other backpackers but lately I’ve found myself edging out of the conversation and changing the topic slightly. It gets really tiresome to have that same discussion over and over again. Although, to be fair, I do love to pick up hints and tips from other backpackers. It’s a fine line between a constructive convo and a competition.

  8. Great article. I hate the judgy snobbishness that I see. Not everyone can spend 6 months off the beaten track. They have a week and they want to see good stuff! I also find it hard not to feel I’m showing off when I post about my activities. A lot of people say ‘you’re so lucky” (and I am, though it comes at a cost both personal and financial). Mostly they are being pleased for me but sometimes I wonder if they are having a shitty time and I’m posting about my jollies!

  9. I love your viewpoint! For me, I don’t care what other people do (unless their Instagram photoshoot is blocking my view!), but what I do care about is being judged for my own choices. I’m sure slow travel is lovely, but I have a day job and a mortgage and that means shorter trips. Let’s live and let live – we all have our own travel styles, and none of us is wrong!

  10. It’s what each person will see or experience that matters and the commonality between them is ultimately irrelevant as we each walk our own path, find our own joys, or earn our own fly bites. It’s terrific you describe the challenges of living and traveling within a social media society and sometimes those moments are the fly bites. There were explorers who traveled this Blue Marble before us… not a single one of us are new in tread and yet we share because it’s our nature and we only see what is within our views. Personally, I love reading the glossy side of travel articles!!! Keep them coming!

  11. Ahhhhhh, seems like this is going to be an ongoing thing. In a way, I feel sad because it is like travel has not taught anything to people who engage in this type of conversation. Like you mentioned, it is not about competing, it is about getting to learn from other cultures and making a connection with the locals. Lately, I have been connecting with people with whom I can talk travel in a nonjudgemental way. It is about sharing experiences and getting ideas for the future. That feels so good! BTW, I have been asked to move because somebody wants to take a picture. Really? I have had to contain myself.

  12. Thank you for this thoughtful post. I have wondered a lot of these same things myself and this post really distills those. Slow travel is important when you can but it’s not the only way. The point is to see what you want to see in the timeframe that’s right for you.

  13. Your headline is definitely thought provoking and I’ve certainly seen a lot of other travel bloggers express the same concerns. Unfortunately in our ‘Like’ culture, and with the influx of ‘influencers’, people have begun valuing travel/experiences to what our parents did with materialistic items like cars, TVs, homes, etc. Thankfully it’s not everyone but it’s definitely a large group of people who are like that.

  14. This is such a great post! I have experienced very similar situations. Especially the crowds fighting for the very same angle of a picture… It is really tough to decide how much we want to play along. Like you, I also enjoy taking pictures of memorable locations but I get really annoyed if it’s too crowded and people make it seem “peaceful” on Instagram. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  15. Well written. There’s so much competition out there, and not that it’s wrong, but I’m a firm believer, be unique, go to places because you want to see them, not to be able to say you’ve been there… and be considerate towards others.

  16. This is brilliantly said! I even feel like there’s a voice in my head judging me when I don’t try to squeeze as much as I possibly can in a weekend, or do things as cheaply as possible; this voice likely came from all these travel conversations where people always one up each other, so unfortunate. Thank you for your post, it really hit the nail on the head!

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About Me!


Hi! Thanks for stopping by. I am a 20 something writer from the UK. As a PADI Dive Instructor, if I am not exploring life underwater, I am getting on a plane to find adventure on land. I love to share my travels with my readers – with a big focus on solo female travel, budget saving tricks, and of course Scuba Diving. I love to connect, so feel free to reach out on social media! I am always open to ideas and collaborations – just drop me and email!

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