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7 ways to deal with travel envy

woman overlooking ocean sunset

While most of us haven’t had a chance to travel much in the last 15 months, stirrings in the tourism industry are starting to awaken our wish list and as some folks begin to dust off their passports, an old enemy returns too: Travel envy. We’ve all been there, turning green at seeing another’s holiday photos and desperately wishing we too were there. So what can we do about it? Here are a few of the ways I’d suggest on how to deal with travel envy.

Travel envy in the pandemic

Even before the big C event that stopped travel in its tracks, I’ve always felt travel envy. A yearning to also visit extraordinary places and see for myself the wonders that others can experience.

Since leaving Perth after a year of living there, I’ve certainly found it hard to see friends and a number of Australia-based folks exploring some of the incredible places I was lucky enough to visit as well as the places I didn’t yet have the chance to see.

Similarly, seeing the activities and adventures of others in New Zealand was particularly hard. I have such bad FOMO when it comes to NZ! It was particularly challenging while I was in the UK, stuck in a never-ending lockdown cycle, and my partner Kaz was able to roam free through his home country (not helped by the inverted seasons – watching summer while suffering through winter will test anyone’s patience).

So you see, even when we can’t go anywhere (and I still personally am not planning any overseas travel just yet) travel envy has still been present. At least, for me. What about you?

Stairs leading down to beach

Jealousy vs envy

I don’t think I am the jealous type. But I do get envious.

Although often used synonymously, jealous and envious feelings have a crucial distinction as defined by Psychology Today:

Envy is a reaction to lacking something. Jealousy is a reaction to the threat of losing something.

Envy occurs when we lack a desired attribute enjoyed by another, but jealousy occurs when something we already possess is threatened by a third person.

I will admit, I’m the worst for wanting what others have, thinking the grass is always greener. Perhaps there are some deeper questions that need answering here, but so often I’m easily sucked in when I see somewhere new and exciting that just looks so enticing.

Typically, I don’t feel travel envy when I am on a trip myself. This leads me to think that my envy is born out of seeing someone travel itself, not always the destination. It always just sounds so much more fun than whatever I’m doing at home!

I think we can all feel travel envy to some degree. However, there is a point where it perhaps becomes unhealthy. This could look like obsessively stalking someone’s trip, extreme negative feelings about yourself or others, taking drastic actions to avoid travel envy such as getting into debt or over-compensating in other areas of your life.

How to deal with travel envy

So, how can we deal with travel envy? Should we just accept the feelings and hope they go away? I’ve tried a few ways to help myself feel better when travel envy is spiralling into a far more negative place than merely wishing away a rainy day.

1) Look through photos from past trips

There’s nothing like a photo album of happy memories to cheer you up.

If you can’t take a trip right now, the next best thing is a trip down memory lane to good times in new and exciting places.

When I’m feeling low about all the places I wish to go and seeing others getting to enjoy those places, I flick through an old album from a favourite trip. I’m immediately reminded of how lucky I am to have been. I’ll chastise myself for feeling ungrateful and give myself a stern talking to about privilege.

helicopter with mountains behind

2) Try to feel inspired rather than demoralised

How many times have you visited somewhere because a friend recommended it, or you saw it on social media? I’m betting more than you’d think. That’s because word of mouth is a fantastic marketing tool – and a great source of inspiration.

Whenever the little voice inside says “Ugh, I wish I was doing something as cool as hiking through the rainforest in South America” or “Wow, that restaurant in Paris looks phenomenal. If only I could be there!” I try to tell myself that I CAN and WILL get to experience these things. And you know what? I have! I’ll bookmark, save, or make a note of that place and I have used this when planning my own trips.

That’s not to say it’s easy, or that it’s even possible every time envy whispers in your ear. But it can help to try and turn that envious feeling into something to aspire to.

3) Plan your ideal trip to that destination

When seeing someone have a whale of a time, this is the perfect chance to steal all their hard work and plan your own trip. Like the look of their dinner? Add it to the itinerary for when you can finally go.

Better still, if you’re feeling envious ask yourself why that is. Are you just feeling despondent, or is this a place that you really want to visit? If it’s the latter, start researching your own ideas and get planning!

There are so many great blogs, YouTube videos, and resources out there so when you finally can visit for yourself, you’ll be having the best time. Even if it’s a place you’ve already been, you could look into what’s changed or places you’d like to revisit or see what else you might have missed. The possibilities really are endless, and the niggling feelings of envy could be a sign to start planning a trip.

4) Think of what you’ve done instead

Travel is not the be-all and end-all. I KNOW, terrible advice from a travel blogger. But there are sooo many other things that can be done with your time and money. Two hugely valuable resources that travel can take a lot of if you allow it to.

Sure, you might not be sleeping in an over-ocean hut in the Maldives or scuba diving with turtles, but what other achievements can you account for? It might be a different trip you’ve taken, the ability to save up for your dream trip of the future. Both are great in moving forward with your own travel goals.

Try not to let the presence of someone else’s situation distract from your past or future.

Or maybe you’ve reached non-travel goals such as buying a new car, starting a new job, maybe redecorating your home or focussing on your relationships. These are also incredibly valuable things to work towards. There is so much to find merit in, but you may not always see it at first glance. Particularly the more untraditional signs of success are worthy of celebrating just as much (don’t even get me started on that one).

If you’re someone who’s brushed over an achievement, I’d like to pause and say Go You! You deserve to feel proud and take this moment to enjoy it.

I’ve said it before on this blog and I’ll say it again. A friend once said:

Don’t let the achievements of others diminish your own accomplishments. 

I don’t always remind myself of this when I should, so I’m sharing it with you now in case you need it.

Plane flies over London skyline at sunset

5) switch off

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Whatsapp, TikTok… It feels like there is an endless stream of smiling faces doing awesome things, doesn’t it? If it’s all getting a bit much, it’s time to turn off the apps.

 The internet is a curse for comparison and peeking into the lives of others. There is no shame in shutting the door and taking a break.

I’ll admit I’m terrible at taking my own advice here, but do as I say not as I do, right?

If your source of travel envy comes from overstimulation and excessive scrolling, it’ll certainly not be helped by more time online. I’ve made the mistake in the past of thinking I’m fine and that my increasingly low feelings are nothing to do with the millionth time I’ve picked up my phone. You know what usually helps? Getting outside, talking it out, cooking a meal. Heck, even doing the dishes or taking a bath can be the cure I need.

I get it, though. Switching off is hard – it’s what we’re used to. Here is your friendly reminder that it’s ok to take a break from it all when it’s feeling overwhelming. Feelings of envy might be just one way your mind is saying hey, I need a timeout!

Phone and fairy lights on map

6) Work on improving your mindset

As the saying goes, comparison is the thief of joy. It certainly is a catalyst for envious feelings.

Recognising your comparison triggers is a good step to working on your mindset.

Have a think about the topics and themes around what gets your envy flared up. Is it a particular person (either in your life or outside of it), destination, activity? Dig into how you can better handle encountering those topics. Whether that’s avoiding them altogether, giving yourself a pep talk, or finding some external help to improve that mindset.

Try a different perspective

The funny thing about comparison, is that other people probably look at you the same way! You’re someone’s greener grass. Someone sees your adventures and thinks “wow, wouldn’t that be amazing?”.

Perhaps try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It might just help you get out of the rut you’ve dug yourself into.

Could you see it from:

  • Their position – it was probably not their intention to make you envious of their trip.
  • An outsider’s take on it – other people may not feel the same way you do.
  • A loved one’s point of view – is the way you feel a help or hindrance to those around you?

A big element of comparison online is that someone else’s reality is not what you are seeing. They might not always be having as much fun as we think, or have various other challenges they’re not sharing. We hear about it all the time: social media is the highlights real – not real life. We all know it, but do we ever really acknowledge it? Reminding yourself of other perspectives could settle your travel envy.

Remember to take ownership of how you feel

On occasion, I’ve not felt good enough. Been mad that I’m not living life as fully as others. Wondered why my life doesn’t look as fancy-free and full of incredible experiences. But that is not their problem because how I feel isn’t directly related to their actions. They have no responsibility for making me feel good or bad about my comparison triggers. That is down to me. Not feeling good enough is not on them, it’s on me and my sense of self-worth.

I am by no means an expert on comparison, I’ll leave that to life coach and comparison guru Lucy Sheridan who has even written an incredible book all about changing your comparison mindset. Highly recommend giving her a follow and a read, as there are lots of really valuable pieces of advice if this is your main cause of envy.

sun sets over island across water

7) Sit with the feeling

I mentioned earlier that I’ll often feel bad about, well, feeling bad. What a fun cycle (read: sarcasm)! Sometimes, I just have to let the feeling pass. That usually looks like have a good rant or moan to Kaz or a close friend who understands. Reminding myself that a bad day doesn’t define me – I can feel bad about this and still recognise an immense amount of privilege and fortune.

Leaning into how you feel doesn’t mean trying to enjoy feeling bad. It means listening to yourself and not shying away from how you really feel. Trust me, I’ve tried that one too and I always feel worse. Pushing aside a feeling usually results in it growing and bubbling over at a later date.

Addressing the feeling face-on tends to mean I feel travel envy in a short, sharp, burst rather than letting it fester in my mind and causing greater harm.

Can you relate to any of these tips to deal with travel envy? Do you have any of your own suggestions to add? I’d love to hear them if so.


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