I’ve recently spent a lot of time reflecting on the past few months and the opportunities to travel with which life presented me. It goes without saying that I am beyond blessed and thankful to have lived, even for a brief time, in another country; I would be foolish to deny that I am privileged, because I now know the joys that come with traveling while young. Despite all the incredible experiences I’ve had, though, I have found myself feeling frustrated and oddly disappointed—not in my experiences, but in myself.
I tend to hold myself to a standard that is ever-elevating and ultimately unattainable; no matter what I do, I am never quite satisfied with myself. My conscious mind congratulates me on my efforts, but my subconscious never fails to cut the celebration short. It pushes me to “do better,” rarely allowing me a moment to take pride in my successes without comparing my own accomplishments to those of others and reminding me that there is still more work to be done.
So despite visiting seven countries in the past four months—more than some people will ever have the opportunity to visit in their lifetime—I still feel as if I should have done more. I feel as if I didn’t try hard enough to experience as much life as I possibly could have in sixteen weeks’ time. I imagine that I somehow neglected to take full advantage of my time living in such close proximity to dozens of destinations that I ached and still ache to explore.
I blame this feeling partly on social media. I spend hours every day scrolling down my Instagram feed, comparing myself to my peers and to influencers, thinking I’ve failed if I still have an empty box where others have a tick mark.
This feeling is not exclusive to me nor uncommon. Although users may be aware of the negative effects social media has on their self-worth, they may not realize how truly potent those effects can be. It is unfortunately easy to adopt an unhealthy mindset based on images that are, at best, only partially representative of reality. Instagram is a platform that inspires as well as stresses; that creates space for expression and growth as well as for intimidation, competition and unrealistic ideas of what life “should be.” Sometimes I wonder if I gain as much joy from what I see online as I do anxiety and self-doubt.
I also blame the unnecessary but arresting sense of urgency I’ve felt during the past several months for causing my stress. I have felt obligated to constantly go-go-go as if I would never have the opportunity to “go” again.
Prior to 2014, I had yet to feel the rush I now know traveling gives me. A trip to Spain before my senior year of high school first taught me how meaningful exploring other places and cultures could be. Then, starting at an out-of-state university in the fall of 2015 gave me the courage I needed to venture from home, as well as reassurance that I could survive a departure from the familiar. Later, time spent living in Boston and New York pushed me out of my comfort zone into environments vastly different from any I had previously known. And now that I’ve seen a few parts of the world and know how important doing so has been to me, I know I am subconsciously afraid of losing the sense of freedom and adventure that traveling gives me.
I know these feelings are not based on logic and I am working hard to defeat them. I am an artist who denies the quality of their work for fear that it contains imperfections; I am an athlete who denies the impressiveness of their progress simply because they have yet to win gold. I fail myself not because I have truly failed, but because I deny myself the pleasure of celebrating my own growth, experiences, and successes. I want to learn to lift myself up and to see the worth in my work; I want to look back, be proud of how far I’ve come, and be excited—rather than anxious—about how far I have yet to go.
These are the reminders I give myself in order to quash self-doubt:
There is no need to compare yourself to others. Doing so does not bring you more happiness but instead detracts from the happiness you already have.
Your life has been, is, and will be filled with beautiful moments deserving of appreciation and thanksgiving, and you must learn to be more grateful for the experiences you have had rather than envious of those you have not.
Despite what your brain may tell you, this will not be your last chance to “go.” In fact, it is the first of many, as you will build a life that allows you to go on exploring.
Travel is what fuels me; it is what inspires me; it is what makes life worth living. And although it sometimes scares me to know that there exists so much of this world I have yet to see, my fear is always outweighed by the excitement of knowing that someday, I will finally get to those places.
So the adventure can and will continue. I will make sure that it does.
The next part of my journey is back in New York this summer where I am interning with the editorial team at Away‘s new travel magazine, Here. I cannot express how excited I am to keep moving forward and to share with others, in the most genuine way I know how, the love and passion for travel that will always be a part of me.