Why You Should Never Judge a Vacation By Its Social Media Photos

by Tausha Cowan in

Chances are, you have heard the saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover." In other words, don't make assumptions of someone or something based on appearance.

Well, it's time to modernize that saying for our Snapchat and Instagram-obsessed, FOMO generation: Don't judge a vacation by its social media photos. In fact, don't judge someone's entire LIFE by their social media photos, but for the purpose of this blog, I'll focus on vacations. To add to this: Don't compare what you see in these vacation photos to your own life. Once you do that, you start getting into dangerous woe-is-me territory.

To compare the reality of your vacation or life to the curated, shiny version of someone else's vacation or life on social media means you're likely going to start feeling disgruntled, jealous or somewhat inferior.

I recently had a conversation with several friends about real life versus social media life. We were chatting about an experience we had that we felt looked more appealing on social media than it was in reality. And that seems like something that happens increasingly โ€“ events and moments take on a shinier hue once they go online. We curate and tailor moments of our lives to share on social media with the main intent to present the best versions of our lives or, focusing on the topic of this blog post, the best parts of our vacations. It's a digitized version of showing our best selves and, in some sense, keeping up with the Joneses.

So, to compare the reality of your vacation or life to the curated, shiny version of someone else's vacation or life on social media means you're likely going to start feeling disgruntled, jealous or somewhat inferior (note: you're definitely not inferior).

This is why it's important to remember you CANNOT judge someone's vacation based solely on their social media photos. I realize it's much easier said than done, but I feel like so many people get caught up looking at their friends' photos and forget there's more to the story than what you see. This goes for everyone, including travel bloggers like myself.

To further illustrate my point, I'm highlighting some photos from my own social media accounts to show that not everything you see is all rainbows and ice cream (though I wish it were). This is not to say these trips were actually really terrible because they weren't; this is mostly to show that so much of what we see online is filtered, enhanced, cropped, curated and tweaked, just as you would find in a magazine ad.

Slipping and Sliding on Arthur's Seat

#FBF to a week ago when I hiked up to Arthur's Seat, the highest point in Edinburgh.

A photo posted by The Globe Getter (@theglobegetter) on

Prior to my trip to Edinburgh, Scotland, a good friend of mine told me I needed to climb up Arthur's Seat in Holyrood Park. So, I slotted in some time while running errands, and for reasons I can't explain, set off to climb up Arthur's Seat like I was returning something at Macy's. In other words, I was not prepared for this hike (and it was most definitely a hike). Luckily I had on sneakers and exercise pants but I also had on a lacy top, my black cardigan, my favorite scarf of the moment and a cross body purse. This is not what one should wear hiking.

Long story short, I huffed and puffed my way to the top, literally dripping in sweat straight through my cardigan and had to mop up my face with my favorite scarf. After asking a nice German man to take my picture and hanging out on Arthur's Seat for awhile, I started back down only to discover minutes later that I had somehow gotten lost. I have no idea how I got lost, but I did. I stopped seeing people and started seeing lots of tall bushes. On the plus side, I also started seeing wild rabbits, which was fun, but I also heard a distant warning bell in my head that I needed to find my way back to the trail.

I went in what I thought was the right direction, which involved climbing down a slightly steep and rocky incline (I couldn't remember if I had climbed up it). I ended up skidding on some rocks and sliding down on my butt, and then grabbing on for dear life to a plant I hoped wasn't poisonous. After I realized this was also the wrong way (clearly), I carefully climbed back up and tried to reverse course until I spotted people and followed them back down. By the time I reached the road, I was sticky and sweaty and my limbs were slightly shaking from the steep climb and fall. Needless to say, I'll be much more prepared next time I decide to casually climb a mountain.

A Birthday Present to Myself

On the blog - Hotel vs Vacation Rental: Where Do You Like to Stay? Head to the link in my bio and let me know your choice!

A photo posted by The Globe Getter (@theglobegetter) on

Thailand had long been on my travel bucket list, and though I could only spend a few days there, I was so excited to visit Ko Phi Phi and go island hopping all day, every day that I booked a super cheap room that looked perfect for crashing for a few hours at night after hours of sea and sunshine. 

Well, it turns out, despite booking during the dry season, I arrived in Thailand during what was unusually rainy weather. Dreams of being on a boat all day were dashed pretty quickly. Added on to that, the super cheap place I booked, which was a mattress on the floor and a fan, started to look pretty bad when paired with the soggy dirt and loud frogs I could hear outside the room. I spent my first day in Ko Phi Phi shuffling around the muddy roads or sitting on my mattress trying to figure out what to do. 

By 6am I knew I couldn't stay here for the rest of my trip, even though I had already paid for the room for several nights. I chalked it up as money wasted and spent the next few hours researching where else I could go that wouldn't be so bad in the perpetual rain. Luckily, I came across a new hotel in Phuket that wasn't fully occupied (many were since it was the high season) and would let me look at the rooms before booking. By 9:30am, I was on the ferry heading back to the place I had left less than 24 hours earlier. I arrived at the hotel and, even though it was more than three times the amount I paid for my place/mattress in Ko Phi Phi, I booked it and decided it was an early birthday present to myself. It also helped that the rain had briefly stopped and there was a pool right outside my room. So I took advantage, jumped in the pool, lined up my camera on the edge with 10-second timer and captured myself in the water before the rain returned. 

The Most Painful Flip Flops

Found my favorite rock on the way from Coogee to Bondi #seeaustralia

A photo posted by The Globe Getter (@theglobegetter) on

Before heading to Australia, I was so excited thinking about seeing my friend, the activities we were going to do and, of course, what I would wear during my time there (perhaps shallow but I'm owning it). I had recently bought these new flip flops that were bedazzled and went well with my Zara romper.

On the day we decided to go to Bondi Beach and do the Coogee to Bondi coastal walk, I decided it was the perfect time to bust out my bedazzled flip flops. After a great lunch at Coogee Pavilion, we headed out to do the walk and took the above picture halfway along the coast. By this time my feet were starting to hurt a little but nothing too crazy.

By the time we reached Bondi Beach, those bedazzled flip flops had turned into the devil. They had slowly been rubbing against my skin and after awhile my poor feet were so chafed, I could barely walk in them. As soon as we got to Bondi Beach, I threw them off and enjoyed my flip flop-less feet for a too brief period of time.

You know when you put painful shoes back on and they're even more painful than before? That was the case when we decided to leave. I was in so much pain, I could barely lift my feet. Luckily, my friend had to make a stop at the Bondi Junction mall, so I headed/hobbled straight for the shoe department in Target (yay for Target in Australia!) and bought some cheap black flats that felt like the most luxurious shoes of all time. I never wore those bedazzled flip flops again.

Left at the Train Station

I've written a little bit about this before, and to this day, it remains one of the most memorable moments from my travels. It's also a cautionary tale for anyone traveling with a large group to make sure everyone is accounted for. 

After attending a wedding in Jaipur, my family and I got on the train back to Delhi with what was probably double the amount of luggage we arrived with. The Delhi train station has porters who help you with your luggage, and we had also arranged for three cars to pick up the eight of us. Before arriving, we decided the easiest way to keep track of everything was to follow our luggage to whichever car it went to. We all did this successfully, except my mom, though we didn't realize this until after we left the Delhi train station.

While driving to our hotel (we had left the train station about 20 minutes before), we realized the three cars had two people in one, two people in another and three people in the third. Hm, that's seven but we're supposed to be eight, I remember thinking at the time. 

Turns out we left my mom at the train station, and while it certainly makes for a funny story now, we were actually pretty stressed and panicked about the whole thing at the time, as we had no way of getting in touch with my mom, and when we drove back to the Delhi train station, the place that had been overflowing with people had turned into a ghost town. Luckily, my mom knew where to go and sought the help of a train station employee to help her get a taxi to the hotel. It's a story we can all laugh about now but in all seriousness, make sure you always have everyone accounted for!

Running to Catch the Boat

Prosecco + sunset = ๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿพ #yachtlife #hornblowerny #travelmassivenyc

A photo posted by The Globe Getter (@theglobegetter) on

Though this is technically not a photo from vacation, it illustrates some of what I mean about not judging someone's life off of a series of carefully curated photos. This photo came from an event I attended after work one day. Despite finishing up work early, I decided to pass the time by surfing the Internet until it was time to leave for the Travel Massive boat cruise happening that night. When it was time to leave, I got on the subway train and started heading downtown, only to be told all express trains were going local due to switch signal problems. I started to sweat a little when I realized how many stops I would be making on the now-local train. Add that on top of usual rush hour traffic and the backed up trains were running incredibly slow.

I ended up getting off the train to get on what I thought would be a faster train, except it wasn't. By the time I got off the subway, it was 7:05 p.m. and the boat cruise invite had said last boarding was at 7 p.m. I was still about 15 minutes walk from the boat, so I had two choices: run or just give up. Well, I really wanted to get on that boat so I ran in the 98-degree heat to the dock.

Luckily, the boat was still there as I ran, frantically waving and yelling for them to wait for me. The poor woman checking names must have thought I was crazy, but I didn't care; I had successfully made it onto the boat with literally a minute to spare (the boat left not even one minute after I boarded). As soon as I got on the boat, I mopped up my sweaty face, snagged a glass of prosecco and walked outside to enjoy the view and my successful albeit stressed run to the boat.

These are just a few examples, but the main message is: there's always more to the story than what you see. Don't judge a book by its cover, and don't judge a vacation (or a life) by someone's social media photos.


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