Hello. My name is Georg and I am a traveling narcissist.
It truly is hard to admit and honestly, embarrassing. Narcissism is defined as the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s own attributes. Guilty.
I came to realize my affliction as I was sitting watching my Twitter and Instagram notifications pour in after a recent series of photo postings. With each notification came a sense of relief, joy and fulfillment. This is so fucking stupid and goes against everything that I stand for. Yet there I was, admiring the accolades and ego boosting validation of mostly complete strangers on the internet.
So. Fucking. Stupid.
I decided to come clean and write about this embarrassing affliction as I assume a vast majority of travel minded social media users share a similar shame. We travel to gain enriching experiences. To see & feel the reality of the world in all of it’s complexity, the beauty and the struggles, the people, the animals and the landscapes. We seek to form lasting experiences and memories so that when our short time on earth comes to an end, we may say that we truly lived life to the fullest. So why the hell are we so concerned with showing off our travels to others? For some, there may be monetary motivations as in the case of paid travel bloggers, sponsorships or marketing promotion. Fair enough. However the promotion of travel and experiences seems to have led to the development of a culture of ‘look at me’ travelers.
Case study: The High on Life (Sundayfundayzs) crew. If you are unfamiliar, this is a collection of young(ish) males who travel around doing crazy shit and produce videos of themselves. They have a huge & loyal following of impressionable young kids. The High on Life crew made news last year for a stunt they pulled in Yellowstone National Park where they purposely & illegally veered off the established path onto the sensitive bacterial mats of the hot springs in an attempt, and in their own words, “to get the perfect shot”. Why were they after the perfect shot? Because they make a living showing off. Seriously. Their entire business model centers around their ability to demonstrate how ‘awesome’ they and their travels are and in return obtain sponsorships. They are professional traveling narcissists. As a result, their impressionable followers seek to emulate and born is a systemic culture of traveling for the sake of demonstrating how awesome your life is. Should it bother me? Probably not if I am to be true to my intentions but for some reason it does bother me. Jealousy? (I just looked at my phone to see how many likes I was up to)
So. Fucking. Stupid.
Many suggest that the need to show off is routed in our own insecurities. After all, if we were truly content with our lives, the experience alone would be enough. Perhaps this is true for my own personal experience. I grew up as the poor kid in a relatively affluent community. I didn’t set foot on an airplane until I was in college and collected cans and bottles on the side of the road to save up for school trips. This will set one up for some later in life insecurities. Yet here I am, an accomplished world traveler, successful professional, healthy, well-adjusted and living by all measures, one truly incredible life that I am grateful for. Yet I still look at my phone to see how many likes I receive.
So. Fucking. Stupid.
Now I will admit, I have been profoundly inspired by others on social media. The late Harry Devert (RIP) was one such person who regularly inspired me to get off the couch and do something enriching. Of course, I have no idea if Harry found fulfillment in the sharing of his adventures but a part of me really wants to believe that he simply shared his stories and photos for the sake of inspiring others, to make them smile and act on their dreams without expectation for monetary return or superficial validation. This is admirable.This is what I want and aspire to be.
Do you think you could take a trip and not post about it on social media? Do you simply enjoy your experiences in life without the innate desire for validation through acknowledgment? Do you share with the pure intent of inspiring others? If so, I envy and truly look up to you.