By Phoebe Harper
Photography by Emma Stevenson
The millennial generation is constantly surrounded by the incentive to travel, to ‘see the world’. It’s on our Instagram feeds, our Facebook tailor made ads, in the photos posted by our friends. Everyone has been bit by the Wanderlust bug and as these dreary winter months draw in, it’s only getting stronger. Well-placed marketing strategies plastered on our news feeds play on our millennial sensibilities and desires, making us feel as if we’re not living our truest life by not being out there.
The idea of travel certainly appeals to the majority of us, myself included but this constant bombardment can generate a nasty pressure. Why is it that the perfect opportune window in our lives to travel before we are swallowed whole either by 9 to 5’s or children sometime in our thirties (or so society says), has to coincide with the period when we tend to be at our most vulnerable financially and often emotionally too? Am I going to miss out on the time to be young, wild and free? How am I meant to be finding myself in Cambodia when my budget at most caters for a weekend easyJet stint in Amsterdam? This is surely a fallacy, the world after all, is not going anywhere, at least probably not in our lifetimes. Travel is still just as valid an experience wherever you go and however old you might be. The world will wait for you.
I am lucky enough to have been able to scrimp and see a few places. All through my university career, I knew that as soon as it was finished I wanted to head to India. My partner and I packed up and headed off for a few weeks. Perhaps this is just my incessant insecurity at being typecast, but the whole time I was there and when telling people about it back at home, I felt myself playing in to a stereotype that distracted me from the true experience of it all. I didn’t enjoy overtly playing in to that whole ‘white student, harem pants, attempting a yoga pose on a beach somewhere’ image, although it definitely wasn’t being done consciously. I was uncomfortable at the thought of these incredible experiences being reduced into that neat little stereotyped package. That being said, the worry did not overrun my adventures and you learn to laugh at perhaps how predictable you’re being, holding the Taj Mahal in the palm of your hand or letting your slightly materialistic side run riot in the bazaars, asking if they really don’t do that elephant printed wall hanging in any other colours?
When travelling, there is always an initial guilt at resorting to home comforts. Sat on your hostel bed asking for the WiFi code at first to me always feels like a betrayal to the city you’re in, as does inevitably ordering chips and a Coke at some point. There is no shame in this. There is no right or wrong way to travel and don’t let other people tell you so, what matters is that you enjoy yourself and experience wherever you are. That could be well and truly safely on the ‘beaten track’ or not. Straying from the crowd does always present some exciting opportunities. To be the only foreigner or tourist in sight is an exciting feeling worth pursuing, since we are so often the majority. For me, this hit me on Palolem Beach, South Goa during monsoon season, running with locals to find shelter from the rain before heading back to our extortionate Airbnb cabin in the jungle that had definitely been priced according to authenticity. Zero hot water, sheets mouldy from the humidity and cockroaches for bedmates all made for the legit jungle experience.
To travel is a blessing, but there is no rush and no one way that is more meaningful or ‘real’ than another. Try to ignore the FOMO, you are likely experiencing a million and one other things that are just as worthy of the title ‘adventure’ that will contribute to you finding yourself, whatever that actually means.