I admit it. I’m lowkey obsessed with Instagram. I know there are tons of articles out there explaining exactly why Instagram seems to consume our lives and our thoughts and why research suggests Instagram leads to lower self-esteem for some by way of comparison. But! I’ve always loved having the ability to curate a collection of photos that best represent my own personal identity — photos that I enjoy taking, editing, and looking at. I believe (maybe naively so) in the power of social media to really capture who we are in any given moment of time and I like the elements of history and identity encapsulated in this idea, which is why I believe that the accounts you follow are also a good indication of who you are or who you’d like to become. So what happens when, like I do, you follow way too many lifestyle and travel accounts? Well, major travel envy, to be honest.
It’s true. Instagram has changed the way I travel.
The first few weeks of the new year have found me planning all the trips I’d like to go on during the next twelve months. A lot of these are road trips since I’ve lived in the U.S. for about eight years now but have only ever been to a handful of states. Driving allows me to cover multiple stops en route to my final destination and gives me an excuse to try out the ultimate road trip playlist. The best part? Road trips offer endless opportunities for Instagram posts and stories.
I think about this even when I’m booking accommodations on sites like Airbnb. If a listing is well lit and artfully decorated or the neighborhood it’s located in is particularly scenic, I’m more likely to stay there. My Instagram bio says, “Just here for the photo op,” and that’s pretty spot-on.
While some people advocate ditching social media on vacation, I just can’t bring myself to quit cold-turkey. Although I often won’t post anything until I return home, a lot of my travel activities are influenced by whether or not they’ll make for good Insta-opportunities. In fact, long before I even get to my destination, I create an Instagram collection of photos taken in similar locations (sometimes, the exact locations!) for inspiration for my own posts. I mean, how could I not when there are actual lists of the most Instagrammed spots in just about every city in the world?
If this seems crazy extra, it’s because it is but it’s also led me to some of the most fun travel spots that I probably would have never known about it if not for Instagram. For example, I’d seen photos of this perfectly picturesque neighborhood in Boston for months before finally booking a trip there with my mom. We spent four days walking the entire city, taking in views like this one.
And enjoying the best coffee on the East Coast in quaint coffee shops like this one.
I visited Cha Cha Matcha — a matcha-themed cafe — in New York City after seeing hundreds of other pink and green posts on Instagram that convinced me it was a must-try. I purchased a coconut matcha latte and walked to the High Line — another NYC favorite I found out about through Instagram — where I captured these shots.
If I’m being honest, visiting both places were among the highlights of my solo trip to New York and because I was relying on the Instagram community to show me around, I felt less alone. I’d like to think that for every person who argues that Instagram is fun only for the narcissistic and self-indulgent, there’s at least one person like me who celebrates the app’s ability to bring people together even when they’re miles apart. People who have never met each other in real life but who have formed friendships on Instagram. People who have never left their hometown but who have traveled across the world through the eyes of their favorite Instagram influencers. People who are afraid to go alone but who have found comfort in an online community that says, “You’re not alone.”
So, yes, Instagram has changed how I travel but for the better. I take more photos, I remember more vividly, and I explore more confidently.