Kicking Travel Consumerism to the Curb

Kicking Travel Consumerism to the Curb

Being able to achieve what our hearts truly desire, I believe, is our life’s purpose. Whether that is true love, traveling to Nepal, or finally owning your home is up to you and cannot be decided for you. Not by society, not by a company, and not by another individual.


Having grown up in the United States, I am no stranger to consumerism culture.

I grew up thinking that success and happiness meant having the nicest and newest things. My parents would drop thousands of dollars on Christmas presents every year. They owned two vehicles, a boat, and their house. We lived in a neighborhood filled pristine lawns and two-car garages.

We had it all until we didn’t.

Due a combination of familial issues, unemployment, and the economy, my family lost it all. My mother, my two siblings, and I found ourselves living in a mobile home on a single income, barely scraping by.

I was not “happy” in the traditional sense of the word, but I felt more content, loved, and assured than I had ever felt in my life.

Most people will tell you that money doesn’t buy happiness. But man, do we try to make it happen.

Travel consumerism- doodle of various travel items

Even the most frugal and “conscious” often fall victim to the “if only I just had this ONE thing” mentality. We buy into the idea that it will make our lives easier or more enjoyable. It will help us make new friends or feel better about our appearance. It becomes difficult to distinguish between Need and Want.

Lately we can see this movement from spending money on THINGS to spending money on EXPERIENCES. I see this as a great thing. The desire to travel to experience the world has been on the rise, particularly for Americans. We are breaking outside our “bubble” and seeing what the world has to offer.

The value of travel cannot be understated, but HOW and WHY we travel must be examined through a more critical lens. Where there is money to be made, there is an opportunity for commodification and consumerism. There is always a way to want more.

The question then becomes…

 Are we truly traveling as an experience, or is it simply another way to buy happiness?

We often justify our spending on “experiences” because how we spend time with others and what we see and do is more salient in our lives than what we buy and own.

What I see happening though, is people saying things like “you NEED to travel” and that infamous quote, “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”. The focus is still on “necessity” and monetary value.

What is travel consumerism?

In reality, there are companies and individuals that exist to make money off of tourism and adventure travel. The dark underbelly of your favorite Instagram account may be tourism and product companies hoping to make a buck. The ethics of this won’t be discussed in this post, but it is this system that breeds consumerism and a “more is more” mentality. It is not unique to travel or any industry in particular. At its core, it thrives off of the idea that happiness can be bought at a price, rather through goods or experiences.

This idea that travel is necessary for happiness or to have a fulfilling life is problematic.

Not everyone has the ability or means to travel. It is simply not accessible to everyone.

I refuse to believe that happiness is not accessible to everyone.

There are many ways to achieve happiness, and they are unique to each and every person.

For many, travel is not financially feasible. For others, it is a physical or psychological impossibility.

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It is possible to live an enriching life without ever purchasing a plane ticket.

It sets people up for failure.

If you think traveling alone will make you happy, you will be let down.

Any time your worth and joy depends on one thing (whether it is a product, person, or an experience), you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Plans go awry. Things break. People are imperfect. Only you can create happiness for yourself.

Going in with high expectations is not necessarily a bad thing, but be aware that travel often tests you in the most unexpected of ways. I can assure you, things NEVER go exactly according to plan. Life is often unpredictable, and it is that way no matter where you are in the world.

It gets expensive.

Travel consumerism- doodle of luxury resort

Traveling is not free by any means. It involves money and time to plan a trip; whether that depends on your own funds, sponsorship, or a friend who is lending a hand. There can be many ways to reduce the costs of travel, but in reality, it is an experience that depends on a combination of opportunity and resources.

As stated, where there is money to be made, you will find people waiting to claim their piece of the pie. Endless companies and individuals are lining up to sell you the latest travel gadget, tour, plane ticket, hotel booking, or adventure. Many of these are great experiences and others… not so much. You don’t always get the best bang for your buck, and even when you do, you are liking to find another product that is ripe for the purchasing. Next thing you know, cameras and sundresses are out, and drones and floppy hats are in. There will always be the Next Best Thing.

Travel can be expensive but it doesn’t have to be.

These costs can add up, and travelers are often looking for the best deals. “Budget travel” is becoming more popular. There are great ways to cut costs and live with a more minimalist mentality. In fact, the NEED to travel may not be a need at all.

Traveling won’t make you happier on its own. Your mindset will.

Going on a trip may expose you to different cultures.

Whether that encourages you to feel gratitude about your life back home is up to you.

Traveling solo may test your patience and independence.

Whether you come back with a new sense of confidence and self-worth is up to you.

Going to another part of the world may cause you to face your fears.

Whether you choose to overcome them and adventure on is up to you.


I used to think that traveling would make me happy. I saw it as a huge open door of possibilities. What I didn’t foresee was traveling being challenging, exhausting, trying, uncomfortable, anxiety-inducing, lonely… the list goes on and on.

I quickly realized that I am the same person in any other part of the world as I am back home. No amount of travel could change the fact that I have very real insecurities and fears. I realized I would need to face these head-on and change my attitude. I could allow travel to paralyze me, or I could choose to come out on top. It was my choice and mentality that made the difference.

More travel does not equate to more happiness.

Travel consumerism- doodle of travel photos on a bulletin board

We all have read those stories. A spontaneous twenty-something that has dropped it all to travel the world for a year (or indefinitely). Chances are, you want to be them, and no shame in that. There is something so inspiring about people who give up a life of convention to follow their dreams.

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At the same time, there is much less glorification of people who have “given up” their life of travel to settle down. Sometimes it is temporary and sometimes it is for good. These people often describe feeling burnt out, or say that they simply need a “break”. Perhaps these stories are not the norm, or perhaps they aren’t as popular. Either way, they are a testament to the fact that more travel doesn’t necessarily assure a life of endless bliss.

I believe it is perfectly possible to live a life of constant and unending travel and be incredibly happy. I don’t think this kind of life is for everyone. Many bloggers, movies, books, etc. sell us this idea as a dream “lifestyle”. There is a way to purchase it- through ebooks, “get rich quick” tips, and tour packages. We can ogle our favorite bloggers on Instagram in hopes of being them. Whether this is possible or not is beside the point.

You cannot buy happiness, whether it is through travel, a new outfit, a college education, or that puppy you have always wanted. Eventually you will begin searching for more- the next great destination, the new travel trend.

No matter how many places are on your bucket list, there are people and companies that aim to make a profit off of consumerist travel culture. They will “wine and dine” you with the best places to eat in X and the top hotels in Y and Z.

If travel is your passion, take a step back and consider why you want to go where you want to go. Is it because a listicle told you the Best Destinations of 2017? Is it because you saw a beautiful photo on Instagram?

Nothing wrong with any of those reasons.

But I encourage you not to be sold out. I encourage you to consider how this idea of travel is another product ready to be sold to you by others who may not have your best interests in mind. I also hope that you travel the world on your terms, in hopes of creating happiness for YOURSELF.

If travel is your dream, do it.

 Travel consumerism- doodle of travel landscapes- pyramids, castle, mountains, water

If you have the means and ability and desire to travel, do it. If there is a call in your heart to just go, then listen to it, because that call is real and important.

This post is not to discourage you from living a life full of travel and adventures.

I have heard the call myself and I plan on traveling wherever I can and as often as I am able to.

There are parts of the world I simply want to see and experience for myself. I recognize the privilege I have to be able to do that.

We all have those moments when we just KNOW what we need to do. No one can determine it for you, and no one can make it happen for you. You can’t purchase it with money and you can’t buy it through experiences.

Being able to achieve what our hearts truly desire, I believe, is our life’s purpose. Whether that is true love, traveling to Nepal, or finally owning your home is up to you and cannot be decided for you. Not by society, not by a company, and not by another individual.

When your heart and soul yearns for more, listen to it, just be sure than the call for “more” is genuine and authentic.

Sometimes it is okay to have and be enough.


34 thoughts on “Kicking Travel Consumerism to the Curb

  1. There’s so much truth is this post.
    When I was an expat I travelled all the time, often planning trips when I was bored at work. Often by the time I went on these trips, I was so burnt out and tired that I probably would’ve been better off hanging at my house and spending a few days under my doona, reading or catching zs!
    I don’t regret doing this and look back on those times fondly. Yet, I have to say, in the three months I’ve been at home in Australia, I’ve not really travelled at all and I am happier than I’ve been in the last few years.
    You’re totally right. Things don’t make you happy. Experiences are what you make of them. We all have the power to find peace and happiness within ourselves and we don’t have to leave our countries, states or homes to do so.

    1. Thank you so much for your heartfelt comment <3 I will never be one to discourage people from traveling, as I think it can expose people to different ways of thinking, push them to face their fears, and allow them to encounter different cultures. I just hope that people are seeking out those opportunities with an open mind and not solely as a way to find happiness. I can see travel being a "trend" that can easily be packaged and sold. It's a shame that happens to some of the best things and experiences in this world.

  2. So spot on! I feel like this is the new “thing” that people are obsessed about. Getting that perfect insta pic rather than actually enjoying the experience. So well written!

    1. I want travel to be something that changes lives- not simply an “idea” or trend to be packaged and sold. It can be life-changing but it is not all luxury and fantasy. Thank you for commenting <3

  3. What a fantastic subject! I know as I am getting older I want to travel more and more. When I was younger I wanted to remain home no matter what. Now middle-age is approaching and the travel bug is hitting. Saving this for the day-dream time of lists!

  4. Thank you for this post. It’s an eye-opener! I’ve travelled a lot, and enjoyed every bit of it, but reading it from your perspective just blew my mind! I love your doodles, too, btw.

  5. After travelling a lot the past few years, you definitely need to step back occasionally and ask yourself why are you doing it. I love travel and for me it’s an adventure. But if you start to put yourself at financial risk to keep up with the joneses that is just silly.

  6. YES! I really like the saying “wherever you go, there you are” because I can totally relate to feeling like travel will totally “change you” and then realizing that the choice to change is ultimately up to you. Yes, travel will present you with opportunities and experiences to grow and change, but you’re still the same you. I definitely think the consumerist society we live in has fueled our desire to move on to consuming experiences, like you said. And ultimately, if we’re coming at it from a place of needing more and more to satisfy us, is it really any better than buying a crapload of clothes or what have you? Very interesting article!

  7. Amazing Jessica! Fiest of all you are a wonderful writer! Second, I totallty agree. When you wrote “I quickly realized that I am the same person in any other part of the world as I am back home. No amount of travel could change the fact that I have very real insecurities and fears.” it really struck a chord with me! sometimes it’s disheartening when every travel experience isn’t AMAZING, but hard and a bit tiring. But that’s life. I really enjoyed reading this! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  8. I read this the whole way through, thank you for sharing your thoughts like this. I completely agree. My daily struggle is actually not becoming like one of this bloggers that do sell you the dream, when all I want to do is show how it can be accessible. But perhaps I am inferring it will make them ‘happy’ but what I mean to say is that it will open your eyes to the different and beautiful cultures that this world has to offer, and make you a better person for it. I’m happy there are bloggers like you trying to promote the essence of what’s really important, and being really honest too. P.S. Love your doodles 🙂

    1. Obviously as a blogger myself, part of what I do is try and inspire people to travel more. It is a truly enriching experience for a lot of people. But I would never suggest that someone should choose travel as a way to escape their problems in search of happiness. Travel may help with that, especially if they are feeling a strong call to do so, but it won’t be the sole solution to their unhappiness. Thank you for your thoughtful comment!

  9. This post really touched a part of my thoughts that I haven’t been able to voice eloquently. I grew up with a lot of hardship. It wasn’t always like that but when the world did go south I always wished I had more. I thought I would grow up and turn things around.

    Then I got married and started traveling. It changed my perception and enriched me in a way that nothing else ever did!

    1. I am glad you can relate to my story, and I am sure it is one a lot of other travelers are familiar with. It is hard to move from having money to barely scraping by, and vice versa. But really, sometimes it isn’t really money that makes the difference- but your attitude and own strength. We can’t look for answers in the things we can buy with money.

  10. I always love your posts Jessica! And I completely agree with you on so many points you raised.
    I was really sick during my childhood, and I suppose the positive thing to come from that was a huge appreciation of now being healthy and able-bodied, the fact that I’m here to experience life is enough and I’ve never needed to be wearing the coolest clothes or have the latest stuff. Even though I do love to travel, I’m happiest when I’m hiking or camping or just spending time with people I love.
    What you say about consumerism in the travel industry is so important. There seems to be this really competitive nature to travel, especially with instagram and the huge popularity of travel fashion blogs. We can’t just climb a mountain anymore, we have to do it in the right outfit, with the right hairstyle and return to our 5 star hotel with an infinity pool afterwards.
    I love that you choose to voice to a different perspective – it’s inspiring to those of us who climb those mountains in our old sweaty gym gear 🙂

  11. I so wish I could travel more often! One day I’d love to do it. I do agree with you though: only you can create your happiness and I try to do that on a daily basis. When I see certain people travel all the time, I do wonder if they are truly doing it for themselves.

  12. i agree with you regarding consumerism. I learned from my parents that living in too much materialism is not good. Right now am enjoying that non-materialism lifestyle and explore and enjoy in experiential travel.

  13. Lots of great points here! It’s so true that money can’t buy you happiness. We as Americans always live beyond our means spending on frivolous things. And travel is not cheap but sometimes it doesn’t make you happiest. My husband travelled for work and he’d much rather be at home! Lol

  14. This is such an interesting post! I’ve never really thought about travel as a consumer product before but it’s true that it’s a luxury to be able to take time off work and afford a trip.

  15. This quote of yours really got me thinking… “Traveling won’t make you happier on its own. Your mindset will.”. I mean, it’s so true. I always say, be happy where you are with what you have and the rest will come. Love this post Jessica. Well done.

  16. I recently went on my first international cruise and had so much fun! Sometimes we get so caught up in working that we forget to live. That experience opened my eyes and I knew that along with working hard I wanted to be in a position to experience all of God’s wonderful earth. It helps put things into perspective and prioritize your actual needs vs. wants.

  17. It is very true that more of anything does not guarantee happiness and while I really would love to travel more, I want to do it for the right reasons!

  18. I like to travel and also don’t really care about making money. So I instead set my life up so that I could travel easier. I found a teaching job in Spain. If I cannot afford a new country this month, I have tons of new places that are either a day trip away or only a few hours. It’s awesome!

    1. Local “vacations” are always a goo choice as well. No need to travel to far and exotic places to “make it count”. No problem with having a bucket list of course but long, expensive trips aren’t the only way to go.

  19. I think the idea that you would only be happy if you travelled is definitely something that I do not agree with. I love to travel and travel whenever I can but I also enjoy just staying at home. This was a great post to read.

  20. What a beautiful post highlighting about present scenario of this materialistic world where everything comes with a price tag! And tourism industry is also the part of it!

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