Don’t let social media devour your travel

Tenele Conway

Don’t be devoured by your device whilst travelling. It’s all about balance people, balance.

In 1976, my mother went around the world as a 17-year-old solo female traveller. She travelled across Siberia on the trans-Siberian railway, was taken hostage overnight in the deserts of Africa, danced on the tables in Spain, high on Sangria, and sailed halfway around the world fuelled by Brandy Alexanders gifted to her by charmed crewmen.

Throughout this whole experience that lasted six months and for obvious reasons, she didn’t tweet, Facebook or Instagram a thing. She also didn’t write a blog, e-book or take pictures of herself from behind looking wistfully into the distance. What she did do was send her parents a postcard once every few months and told them all about it when she got home.

Fast forward now to 2016….

Sitting around the large table at our chosen restaurant in Times Square, I looked at the faces of my 12 colleagues/travelling companions. Or should I say, I looked at the tops of their heads. Every single one was hunched over their phones posting to or catching up on their chosen forms of social media, the glow from the screen highlighted the amusement they were experiencing, amusement that bore no relation to their surroundings. In that moment I felt despair and I vocalised it to the group who reluctantly relinquished their devices to eat their meal.

As I looked out the window across the brightly lit, bustling square, I missed the days pre-smartphones. It is very easy to romanticise times long gone but I distinctly remember the feeling of sheer freedom at being out in the world without a tie to bind you to all that was familiar. It was a thrilling experience and one that is sadly gone.

Is it just a sign of the times?

Now, your first instinct is to say that it’s a generational thing, but evidence suggests otherwise. The people surrounding me ranged in age from 19 to 55 and were all as equally enthralled by their devices. You may also say that we have just swapped another form of entertainment like books or newspapers for a more modern version. Again, I call bollocks to that as well. Can anyone over the age of 30 seriously remember a dinner companion reading a book at the dinner table, mid-meal and in a location like Times Square… let alone all 12 of them?

Now don’t misunderstand me here, I am by no stretch of the imagination a social media pariah. I too was guilty on the same trip of facebooking the “cook your own hot dog” station at the Chicago Bulls game, selfies in front of the Chrysler building, my hot fudge pudding at the Sheraton, the snow reflected in the shiny surfaces of The Bean sculpture in Chicago. I could go on an on. But it wasn’t till I saw an entire table of intelligent women in one of the world’s most iconic locations buried in their smartphones that the thought truly crystallised for me.

Social media is here to stay

I am not being unrealistic here, social media is here to stay. According to a Social Times article, at last count Facebook had 1.59 billion – I said BILLION – active monthly users. Instagram 400 million, Twitter 320 million, Google+ 300 million, and the list could go on. What that says, besides the fact that I wish my husband had invented one of these platforms so we could be billionaires and I could Facebook my travels as a full-time job, is that people love social media. The world is obsessed and obsession that runs that deep is here to stay.

Social media tips for travel

So why am I here writing about it at all then I hear you ask? What I want to impart on you is a little wisdom from a generation who got to experience travel pre-social media, however short that time may have been. These are my top tips for not being devoured by your device while travelling. It’s all about balance people, balance.

Be in the moment

Friends and family back home don’t need every update, every hour on the hour. Keep your social media posting for the end of the day when you are back in your hotel room, unintelligible foreign television on in the background with your PJ’s on snuggled up in bed.

Socialising can happen in real life too

Your dinner companions or bus trip buddies want to get to know you. Put down the phone or even turn it off so you can engage with who is around you. Friends at home will be there when you get back, take the time to make some new ones.

Travel, (and life) are transient, don’t miss it

Take in the people, the smells, the sights. Travelling is a moment in time that you can never get back, and you want to take in as much as you can while you are there so the memories can last a lifetime. You can’t do that when you are focused on your everyday social networks.

Don’t rely only on social media

It is easy to be misled into thinking that you can document your entire life on the internet and that is enough. Think about those things that are tangible as well.

Write a journal…I mean on real paper. There is nothing more evocative of a place and time to look back on than real handwriting on real paper.

Send postcards, I know it is incredibly old fashioned and that is exactly why you should do it, receiving postcards stamped and dated from places around the world is romantic, you can even send them to yourself for a keepsake. Future self will thank you.

Consider not taking a smartphone with you at all

Just kidding.


Tenele Conway

Tenele Conway is a veteran of the Canberra Travel industry having worked in retail travel stores around the city for well over decade. Taking full advantage of the perks of the job she has travelled the world primarily at the expense of others and when she isn’t zip lining in Guatemala or cruising the Nile she is bringing together her two passions of world cuisines and travel on her blog With a cookbook collection worthy of an episode of 'Hoarders' she sees a future as a travelling cookbook author, look out Rick Stein. More about the Author

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