Bon Voyage Bullies – Say No to Travel Shaming

Back in the good old days (like 2019), our summer social media feeds were filled with vacation photos posted by friends and family. You couldn’t go a day without scrolling through pics of a happy couple kissing below the Eiffel Tower during a romantic getaway or a too cute for words toddler, grinning ear to ear, while nestled up next to her favorite Disney Princess. No matter where you went – near or far – you posted photos to share your journey with virtual onlookers.

Now, during a time when the whole world has gone virtual, travelers are having second thoughts about posting vacation pictures. Some are keeping their adventures private to spare themselves the wrath of nay-sayers who believe it’s safest to stay home, while others are wrought with guilt over having the budget and time to take a vacation when so many others are struggling to make ends meet. 

Are You a Victim of Travel Shaming?

Whether it is fueled by fear or guilt, or a little of both, tourists are experiencing “travel shaming”. Washington Post reporter Natalie Compton recently delved into this new phenomenon, which is resulting in an increase in ghost trips. She discovered a growing number of people are traveling under the radar and keeping their vacation a secret rather than face public backlash. “Unlike other breeds of coronavirus shaming, travel shaming doesn’t seem to lead to people being ‘canceled.’ It slides quietly into direct messages or shows up passive aggressively on social media timelines,” she explained.

More often than not, these comments stem from frustration or jealousy. Krista Thomason, a Swarthmore University associate professor of philosophy, told CNN, “Many people canceled vacations or canceled trips to see their loved ones. When they see others enjoying nonessential travel, they may be angry, envious and feel that it’s not fair. People feel like they’ve given up things that are important to them, so they’ll naturally be upset to see that others haven’t done the same.”

Overcoming the Guilt

Travel shaming may also be self-induced. Many travelers don’t want others to know they are still taking vacations, during a time when millions of Americans are unemployed. There is an immense amount of guilt felt by those spending money and escaping from reality, when so many people have had their lives and livelihoods destroyed by the pandemic. Rather than face their feelings of guilt, they are choosing to keep their travel adventures private.

To Post or Not to Post, That Is the Question…

As the world slowly begins to reopen, there is a growing camp that strongly believes posting travel photos is a sure-fire way to help resurrect the tourism industry, which came to a screeching halt last spring. At the end of April, the World Tourism Organization found that 100-percent of all global destinations introduced some form of travel restrictions. 

Months of cabin fever has spurred an outbreak of wanderlust. Camping in our national parks is experiencing renewed interest as families look for ways to enjoy a socially distanced vacation. Likewise, Airbnb rentals provide a safe cocoon from which to enjoy the beauty of nature at the beach or in the mountains. Even hotels and airlines have stepped up their sanitization efforts to ensure safe travels with hospital-grade HEPA filters, mandatory mask wearing, and social distance protocols. In many ways, traveling is now safer than a trip to the grocery store.

While the travel community is quietly embracing this fact, industry expert Gary Leff says more needs to be done to diminish the prevalence of travel shaming. He encourages travelers to share their stories on social media. 

Leff believes it’s important to educate people that it is safe to travel and to inspire people to plan future trips if they are not ready to venture out quite yet. He shares, “One of the ways to cope with the current times is to have a vision and inspiration for something better down the line.”

There is no shame in traveling. It’s an innate human behavior. If you are lucky – or brave – enough to get away, don’t keep it a secret. Please post your favorite photos. It gives us all something to look forward to. 

Connect with Stacey on Instagram @guided_getaways or check out her latest travel guides here.

Stacey Bomser

Stacey Bomser