We, the millennials, are traveling much more than our preceding generations. We are spending more money traveling than buying a house, purchasing a car, or paying off our debts. Travel has become a part of who we believe we are. This is not an anecdotal reference. Multiple studies have been conducted on rich samples of millennials across the world, by the likes of AirBnB, booking.com et. al, that have confirmed the generational shift in priorities. Millennials are either traveling, or aspiring to do so. Those who are happy in their own part of the globe are few and far between. Let’s analyse what led us to this shift towards Travel Obsession
The Triggers to the Paradigm Shift
One of the decisive moments, in the lives of the Millennial workforce, was the financial collapse of 2008-09, around the globe. Many of us had just entered the workforce, or where in the last leg of the preparation cycle. We had aspired to the prosperity, and consumerism, that the previous generation advertised. But, the dreams proved hollow, and we lost faith in what Generation X called financial stability. This has made the need to ‘live in the moment’ an anchor for many of us. Travel serves to that need beautifully.
The other trigger was the proliferation of Social Media, a technology that proved way more influential, than we gave credit for at the beginning of the millennium.
FOMO (Fear of Mission Out) is one of the (I want to say, adverse) side-effects of the Social Media boom. Booking.com’s study mentions that 44% of people between 18 and 34 years of age think they are missing out, when they see travel pictures posted by peers.
Travel has also become a symbol of ‘intellectual’ status, the non-traveler being at the lowest rung of ‘social intelligence’.
The Race around the World
Thus began our race around the World. Instead of boasting about the square footage of our mansions, we now boast about our air miles, and ‘number of countries’ covered. In fact, such is our desire to showcase our ‘rich experiences’ to the world, that the ‘capturing’ of the moment for Instagram, has become more important than the experience itself.
I am guilty as charged. Recently, I was watching a breath-taking sunrise over the dark, beautiful waters of an island paradise. The moment was ethereal, and an experience of a lifetime. But, that was not enough. It was important that someone capture the scene perfectly, for others to drool over my moment of self-discovery. Whatever little wisdom I must have gained from nature that morning, was made futile, in my need to impress my peers. And, I was NOT LIVING IN THE MOMENT AT ALL, no matter what the hashtag on my Insta photo read.
The Entitled Traveler
One of the things that really peeves a millennial is the accusation of entitlement, that the Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, throw at as regularly. Is there any truth in the epithet? Probably not, probably it’s a gross generalization. However, sometimes, the way we travel makes us look pretty entitled.
For example, a fascinating trend emerging in the SE Asian countries, is the appearance of the ‘Beg Packers’. They are (typically) white, millennial ‘Gap Year’ travelers, who resort to begging on the streets of Thailand, Hong Kong, Vietnam, India, or Malaysia. They are looking for patrons to fund their wanderlust. Their mighty, western Passports have afforded them one-way travel tickets to these relatively poor countries, and they have dried their resources to the point that they cannot get out. Here, we are talking about some countries that are struggling to feed all their people. But, these millennials are convinced that their ‘wise’ desire to travel should be a priority for the charitable citizens of these countries.
Some of us are setting up crowd-funding projects to sponsor our travels. At the most extreme, young women are ‘learning the art of being sugar-babies’, to honey-trap older men for personal travel needs.
Then there is a case of gross neglect of local customs, while traveling. An interesting section of travelers believe that it is a liberating show of self-love, to pose naked near international monuments, whether or not the nakedness is welcome to the locals. Many, if not all, millennial travelers are loud, brash, and disrespectful to the local communities. The entire world is our party ground, after all.
If we are trying to show our predecessors that we are not an entitled bunch, we are doing a pretty messed up job of it.
Such a thing as Responsible Traveling…
It is predicted that by 2020, around 1.5 billion people would travel each year. So, to travel or not to travel, is hardly a question anymore. Therefore, it is time to understand responsible travel, and hold ourselves, and our peers, accountable to it.
Responsible travel entitles being socially, and culturally aware of your destination, and make a conscious, positive impact on the place. If we keep some of the following in mind when traveling, then our obsession may yield much more positive results:
Also Read: Are AirBnBs a threat to local communities?
- Consider our carbon-footprint while traveling. Limit jet-setting, use public transport, and pool our commute as far as possible. Traveling in groups is often an easy solution to this issue.
- Stay in the moment, a bit, before our ‘perfect’ shot
- Learn from the locals. Appreciate the differences that make us and them unique. Try sharing our learning with people back home, not just our ‘conquests’
- Be informed about the culture, and norms of the place in question. Do not assume, do not project our ‘normal’ on them. It is disrespectful, and quite contrary to the objective of traveling
- If there is time to travel, and not just be a tourist, then subscribe to a local program, to give back and make a difference
All said and done, travelling is a noble act at heart, that leads to greater understanding of varied earthling communities. But, if we let the obsession win over the impact, the loss is ours, and the resources spent are completely futile. Let’s change the commentary!
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