I have had my fair share of horrible travel experiences. Two concussions in a week and visit to a French hospital. Check. Robbed of all of my possessions on the first night of a six week trip in Chile. Yes. Forced to spend the night in a Moroccan home until we bought carpets. Yup. And, according to a recent New York Times article “Great Vacation? Don’t Brag to Your Friends,” my social networks would rather hear about these travel mishaps than my recent trip to Cape Town. The caveat being that if your friends have had a similar experience, they are more likely to enjoy hearing all the details. Everyone else doesn’t even want to see the photos. This poses a dilemma for expats, since we often live in countries that are faraway, expensive travel destinations for our friends and family. The added dimension for me is that I started a travel and food blog that features my photography. What happens if the way that I am trying to connect with friends and family back home is actually annoying or even alienating?
It’s one of the interesting contradictions that social networks which are intended to enhance connectivity can also lead to increased dissatisfaction and loneliness, according to recent studies about adults who use FaceBook. We compare ourselves to our networks and judge our success on whether we achieved lifes’ milestones according to some predetermined timeline. It’s the commonality of our experiences that connects us. Our mishaps just remind everyone else that we are human.
While living in South Africa allows for some incredible travel opportunities (in under two hours I can be in six different countries), my life isn’t perfect. I have to contend with frequent electrical outages, spotty internet connectivity, and hyper-vigilance when it comes to safety. If I am not working, I spend most of my time alone. Traveling has been a way of coping with being by myself most of the time because it affords me the opportunity to meet new people, engage in interesting conversation, and gain new experiences. Writing about travel and taking photos for this blog has become a creative outlet and a way of occupying my free time.
I hope this blog is useful to people planning trips to South Africa and maybe it will even inspire some people in my social networks to take their dream vacations whether it be to Dubuque, Iowa or Paris. I will even scroll through and like all your vacation photos because at least one person in your social network likes hearing about your travel adventures.