How often do you find yourself scrolling through your Instagram feed with an overwhelming sense of travel envy?
Don’t worry, we’re all guilty of it. “Damn, I wish I could go there. Damn, look at that hotel. Damn, that is freaking magical.”
Yes, sometimes the only way to describe the perfectly shot, perfectly filtered pictures on Instagram would be magical.
A favorite blogger of mine and proliferate Instagrammer, Brooke Saward from World of Wanderlust, recently flooded her Instagram with her snaps from her stay in Bali. Vibrant flowers filled half of a photo in the foreground, while a crystal clear pool and palm trees filled the other half. Rooftop bars suggested money while coconut stands were completely devoid of the sand and slight grit that it likely had. A tea set fit for a queen was featured in an Instagram shot from the Intercontinental Bali Club Lounge.
And all I could think was, “Damn, that’s magical” followed by, “Damn, I should really go to Bali.”
Except, I was just in Bali this past August. I spent 20 days touring through Singapore, Java and Bali on a honeymoon that was so great it nearly out-shadowed the wedding. I even Instagrammed my time there! Were my photos like this? Was this the Bali that I experienced? World of Wanderlust’s Instagram painted a Bali that was a paradise on earth. Was it real?
In a word, yes … and, no.
I, too, have a picture of vibrant flowers over the crystal clear water of the sea. Along with that, I have a very clear mental picture of the salt water that came out of the faucets on that same island in the sea. I can perfectly recall the dust of Ubud. The stray dogs. The beautiful flower offerings outside of every home and shop, stomped and dirtied by passerbys after a long day.
Is Bali truly a paradise? No. Can it be? Absolutely! Each resort is constructed like an island oasis within the island oasis, offering cleanliness, peace and calm away from the hectic dichotomy that is the real Bali. The problem with Instagram is that it only shows one side of that dichotomy.
Of course I’m not blaming Brooke. Besides the useful tips she shares on her blog, World of Wanderlust, one of the largest draws are the beautiful photos she shares. Whether highly edited or not, we’re drawn to them like moths to a flame. Like travelers to a map.
As humans we gravitate toward beauty, and our photos represent that. While a photojournalist might seek to photograph all the elements of life in a destination, a vacationer or travel blogger is more likely to photograph his or her specific experience, filtering over the grittier details.
Still, it’s important to see all sides of a destination and to be open to the reality of a place. Indonesia is a nation in development and expecting only a paradise could easily leave you disappointed (the best example of this is the author referenced in my previous Bali post, Bothered by Bali? That’s Your Fault, who expected only the oasis and was wildly disappointed in the reality that she found in Ubud).
We all love our Instagram dreaming, but the Internet isn’t the world, and we certainly can’t get the full experience from a perfectly square, perfectly manicured Instagram. Next time you’re scrolling through Instagram with unbearable travel envy, try to remember that the truth might not be fully represented in that small square. Next time you’re scrolling, start to make a list of the destinations. Then, go see it for yourself!