Have you ever felt like there was nothing but travel photos covering your Instagram and Facebook feeds? A nonstop stream of exotic tropical views, poses in front of national monuments, and exhilarating expeditions in foreign places. Seeing my friends’ photos can make me admire the beauty of this world, but it also can make me wonder if I should be traveling more, too. As if moving across the world wasn’t enough.
Five months ago, I moved across the world from San Francisco, where I’d lived for my 24 years of existence, to Sydney, Australia, where I currently work. A huge reason behind it was, indeed, because of the many prospective opportunities opened by moving to a new country.
Broadening your worldview, going through novel experiences, and talking to people from a drastically different context are all part of it. Whether you’re vacationing or living somewhere temporarily, there is so much to glean and learn about yourself, others, and God when you travel to new places—away from all that’s familiar and comfortable.
These reasons, and many more, are valid and exciting. And it’s because of these possibilities that millennials are frequently talking about their next vacation or their dreams to see the world, driven by a persistent “wanderlust” that must be satisfied.
It seems the phenomenon of “wanderlust” is increasingly common and appraised amongst young professionals, who are just beginning to earn decent salaries and can’t wait to spend their well-earned money to see the world. And, because of reasons mentioned above and more, wanting to travel the world is a wonderful desire.
But, we also need to be careful—not about what we wish for, but why.
Doing It for The ‘Gram
Seeking new and enriching experiences can be a very good thing, but it’s also often too easy to take this idea of travel and want it for the wrong reasons, such as as achievements we can add onto our social resumes.
Travel can become yet another form of a status symbol—like more cars or designer bags, so that we might be able to finally say that we’ve “made it.” And once we’ve done that, we can then also feel justified enough to label ourselves as “cultured.”
Suddenly, posting photos that look like desktop wallpapers and being able to tell of extraordinary tales abroad becomes our main motivation, rather than purely enjoying the experiences for themselves.
Buying Into An Illusion
As a marketer and social media enthusiast myself, I appreciate how social media can be used as a powerful tool for spreading knowledge, positivity, and inspiration.
But used without mindfulness of its effects on us, it can also easily perpetuate depression and loneliness by amplifying FOMO and envy within us. When we start to feel inundated by a constant stream of travel photos, we start to believe that “everyone” is “always” traveling (and also forget that many of those photos are latergrams).
Seeing people appearing like they’re having fun while we’re sitting at home or at our desk job can make us subconsciously feel dissatisfied with our own lives—as if we aren’t #livingourbestlives if we aren’t following suit.
It’s interesting how even the word “wanderlust” has “lust” in it, which in itself connotes something we as Christians should avoid. Lust is driven out of a fleshly desire, in opposition to the righteousness God calls us to (1 Timothy 6:11).
Similarly, glorifying travel as an idol may offer a momentary thrill, but it ultimately still falls short of deep, long-lasting fulfillment.
I can bet that most people can recount capturing a scene that looked beautiful, but the reality was far from idyllic: a smiling family that had been arguing all day, an appetizing meal shared between people glued to their phones, or a twinkling city skyline taken on a lonely night.
Even now, though I am incredibly thankful to be in Australia, there are many moments where I feel alone or displaced. These are challenges that I still haven’t been able to fully explain to my communities back home, no matter how hard I try to articulate the imperfections of my experience.
I’m ironically reminded by my own experiences traveling that travel, on its own, could never truly satisfy.
From “Wanderlust” to “Wonderlove”
I’ve found that no matter how luxurious a trip or fancy a meal is, albeit enjoyable, it only provides fleeting feelings of delight.
Instead, many, if not most, of my most treasured moments have been very “ordinary” experiences – simple moments spent with friends and family. Laughing while sharing a takeout meal; sharing life struggles and praying for each other in a cozy apartment; and watching the ocean tide as the waves remind me of God’s unceasing faithfulness and presence. These tender moments resonate deeply and actually fill my soul.
Perhaps many of us millennials fall into “wanderlust” and worship the idea of travel, instead of embodying the real gem behind it—the mentality of wonder. It makes all the difference when we can see the world with eyes of awe and appreciation of God’s hand in the things and people around us. With this outlook, adventure becomes a mentality and not a physical destination nor tangible experience where we need to go to a bunch of places to glimpse life’s beautiful magnificence.
The richest treasures are not in the glamorous experiences of the world, but rather in the moments in which we actually get to experience the overwhelming love and presence of God. We were designed to adore not only creation, but our Creator, and to view the world with wonder, out of our love for him—not to wander from lusting after experiences to fulfill us.
As we see in Genesis, just because something is pleasing to the eye and desirable, doesn’t make it a good thing. In a world crowded to the brim with visual media and content, it’s all the more important to constantly remind ourselves that the most precious things in life are not the ones that can be seen.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
Yes, travel can be incredibly valuable and eye-opening. But at the same time, this earth is temporary, and so is the happiness it offers. It’s only a tiny part of the bigger picture. Even in our travels, there’s always an invitation to seek God and understand his heart for the world—wherever we are.
So before we set off to see the world, let’s ask ourselves the more important question of why. Take another look around, or in yourself, before casting your eyes elsewhere for an answer.
Because the thing you’re seeking, whether it’s adventure, love, joy, beauty, contentment—very well might already be right where you are, waiting to be found.
Let’s make sure we travel not to find fulfillment in the things we can only find in God, and to experience more of him and not to replace him.