October 9, 2019
Anyone who knows me will know my love of Instagram. My account is littered with fat clumps of peonies, pristine Caribbean beaches, Huji app snaps of avocado on toast from lofty arm length heights, and I’ll never pass up an opportunity to slip into a high leg bikini. I’m a millennial cliché, made even worse by the fact I can use my job as an excuse to spam my followers with countless images of both press trips and my own annual leave.
We live in a culture where bragging about holidays is not only normal, it’s expected. Everything from your favourite place to eat, to the brand of swimsuit you wore – it might be just you and your significant other on holiday but you’re taking friends, family, colleagues, exes and a bunch of people who you don’t know along for the ride. Grazia recently asked if social media is ruining our holidays; If a tree falls during a girls’ trip to the New Forest and no one uploads an Insta-story, does it even make a sound?
Having worked in PR for over five years, I have the inherent inclination to spread my clients’ word, when sending tips for city breaks, honeymoons and the like and I make sure each of my destination clients looks as flawless as possible on my own social media accounts. But in spite of my eagerly helpful recommendations and my constant stream of perfectly saturated, brightened and cropped imagery on Instagram, the truth is, when it comes to new holiday destinations I’ve just discovered, I don’t like spreading the word. At all.
In search of exclusivity
Is there anything more special than finding a beach, a hotel, a little jewellery shop that you know no one else has been to? There’s still just about enough of this planet left for travellers to find their own little patch which they don’t necessarily need to share with everyone back home. Of course, it’s highly unlikely you have actually found a destination that no one knows about, but the feeling that you might have stumbled across something secret is intrepid and refreshing.
I once holidayed on a tiny Greek island with terrible roads, no ATMs and only a handful of tavernas that were unable to serve any dishes that weren’t completely seasonal. The island was almost empty of tourists, which meant naked swimming wasn’t even a second thought, and each evening was spent in tiny beach side bars sipping questionable mint juleps against the sounds of lapping waves and a scratched Ministry of Sound CD. I swam on deserted rocky beaches perilously punctuated with sea urchins, I dipped fresh bread into chipped saucers of local olive oil, I dodged clouds of wasps to pick pomegranates off trees and gathered a posse of adorable but stinky stray dogs. Everyone else was welcome to Santorini’s picture-perfect whitewashed vistas, Athens’ nightlife and rainbow grafittied walls: I had found my own little patch of sun-soaked heaven, which no one else knew about.
Of course, that was until I got back to London that very weekend and opened up the Telegraph to find a double-page spread on my new discovery – heralding the little island as a ‘gem you’d never thought to visit’. I felt myself and the handful of yachties completely betrayed. The same feeling in your teenage years when the band you felt you discovered was now providing the backing track to an insurance advert. If that had been one of my clients featured, I would have been thrilled, yet seeing my tiny forgotten island splashed across two pages left me feeling deflated.
A slice of the unusual
The industry has a constant call for hidden gems and off the beaten track experiences because everyone wants a slice of the unusual and the unfrequented. We’re all conditioned to want something that no one else has and we’re drawn to social media shots showing long deserted roads in Canada, Man Friday-style beaches in the Maldives and ancient crumbling cities which no one seems to visit anymore.
Now, despite being someone who seems like such an over-sharer on Instagram, I try and keep the very best of my experiences and adventures just for myself. Maybe I don’t need to tell everyone about the little wine bar in Porto, the lady who sells turquoise jewellery off the back of a van on Brick Lane or my favourite bench in Golden Gate Park. Chances are, someone I know might have already been, or even more likely no one actually cares, but that’s really not the point.
Keeping a portion of your holiday magic completely to yourself and knowing that experience was just for you and your family/friends/boyfriend/girlfriend is just a small way to combat a culture of keeping tabs and divulging secrets. It’s a way of making that little holiday bubble last just that bit longer when you’re back to reality.
So fellow travel PRs, spread the word about your accounts – tell your friends, your family, your neighbours, tell all the media houses, producers, radio stations you can. But when you have your own holiday and you’ve found somewhere no one else is talking about, you really don’t need to tell anyone, not your parents, not your best friend, not your colleagues, not a soul.
Well maybe me, but I can keep a secret.
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