Documenting Every “PASTAble” Moment Abroad Through Social Media

Did you ever really go abroad if you didn’t post about it everywhere you PASTAbly could? Ha, see what I did there? While I was abroad in Italy in the Spring of 2017, I found myself consistently assuring others “I Promise, This Picture is Actually Real.” Social media and apps were part of my abroad experience from the very beginning to the last second. It began with Pinterest, searching for cute travel hacks to travel in style, of course. Once I made a “Travel Essentials” Board, I was hooked. I was pleasantly surprised with how many good ideas there are on Pinterest that I had never thought of, like this handy headphones holder so your headphones don’t get tangled, or solar powered phone chargers. Pinterest rating for abroad purposes: 5 stars.

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The most valuable resource I found on Pinterest was an article by Buzzfeed entitled “12 Apps You Gotta Have if You’re Always Traveling.” Apps were essential during my time abroad. The most useful was definitely Google Translate, except for the time it took six of my friends and me and 30 minutes to order a birthday cake without peanuts in Italian. Out of Buzzfeed’s list of 12 apps, Currency is a definite must-have. I never knew how confusing different currencies were until we reached Prague where the smallest bill is a 100, which for the record is less than $5. I never really knew how much I was spending until I started utilizing this, so I was happy that I discovered it before I even got to Europe. Currency rating for abroad purposes: 5 stars.

Throughout my travels, I took thousands upon thousands of pictures, always trying to get the best angle. There was always a challenge, however, that no app could help me with. Instagram captions. As much as I wished to be clever and witty, I’m just not good at it. In such a digital world, each picture had to be captioned perfectly in order to catch people’s attention. That’s when I discovered The Abroad Agenda, which had an entire page dedicated to Instagram captions broken down by city, food, alcohol, brunch, cheese, literally everything you could imagine. I can pay tribute to this website for almost all of my witty captions.

Wine tasting in Italy: “I’m not (wine)ing about this view.”
Berlin: “Danke, Berlin”
Amsterdam: “It was a DAM good weekend.”
Prague: “This pun will Praguably not be good enough for some people’s caption standards, but I got to Czech this off my bucket list.”
Paris: “@thechainsmokers where you at”
Budapest: “Too Hungary to think of another abroad pun”
CinqueTerre, Italy: “ ‘Cause I’m on top of the world, ey”

Even if other people didn’t like them, I thought I was really funny. The Abroad Agenda rating for abroad purposes: 5 stars.

Posting on Instagram became almost a weekly occurrence for me. I got so many messages and comments from friends asking me how I came up with the captions and others telling me that they have been living vicariously through my posts. It is how I kept most of my friends and family updated with where I was as I was traveling to a new country every single weekend.

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Some of my posts on Instagram from when I was abroad

I also created a Facebook Album for those that I do not have on Instagram and to document my favorite pictures from each city I visited. Facebook has become a main source of communication for many, especially those who have family spread out through the country or world. In 2015, it was already dominating all other forms of communication with over 1.43 billion active users.

It has become common for millennials to document their travels and adventures through social media. World of Wanderlust wrote an entire article about how to document travels talking about everything ranging from Instagram and Snapchat to starting a Blog. CAPA takes this even further by suggesting creating playlists for each trip or creating your own vlog. In such a digital world it is essential that we still capture our memories somehow, even if it’s not through physical objects like souvenirs or a scrapbook.

The travel industry is shifting due to social media. The availability of information and pictures of destinations are making certain spots that might have not previously been fully recognized, as popular destinations. Ever since Insider Travel featured the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, prices for flights to Iceland have skyrocketed. The same happened with Lisbon, Portugal. Social media is encouraging travel despite the continuous safety threats that have been prevalent in European countries.

Insider Travel has 334,000 followers and features pictures and short videos on Instagram, Facebook, and its website with various places throughout both the United States and all over the world, featuring fun or unique aspects of the location. The posts are almost addictive. It has me excited and looking to plan a new trip each time I look at it. If you haven’t seen their accounts, I highly suggest it. Beware: May cause impulse trip planning. Insider Travel rating for abroad purposes: 5 stars.

Not only are social media outlets useful to share experiences during travel, but they’re useful for safety measures. The New York Times recently wrote an article on how they are essential travel tools that provide travelers with emergency information, security threats, and ways to check in as “safe” during a natural disaster or terrorist attack. Social media is a lot faster than websites to get information out to those that need help or may be in danger. I was in Paris during the Orly Airport shooting in March. I was in the Prague airport during the bomb threat in February. Deplaning in a remote location and walking into an airport with an unbreakable line of men with bulletproof vests and guns about the size of me was not how I had imagined my trip to the Czech Republic to start, but it was through these social media outlets that I was able to tell my family what was going on and that I had not been harmed.

Social media was a huge part of my abroad experience in many ways and I am glad that I was able to document so much of my time there. It is interesting how much of an impact social media has had on travel, and I am interested to see how it affects it further in the next 5 years.

• 4.5 months abroad
• 33 cities
• 10 countries
• Hundreds if not thousands of Snapchats
• 8 Instagram posts
• 570 pictures on Facebook
• 6,757 total pictures taken


Everyone who was abroad last year



  1. cgoettelman23 · ·

    I was one of the few juniors who didn’t go abroad for a semester. However, I thought it was pretty cool to see where all of my friends were while they were traveling–social media was definitely the way I kept up with their lives across the world. I want to travel after graduation, and seeing people’s photos gave me inspiration for where I want to go myself. I’m glad you listed a few of the apps that you found so helpful while you were abroad–before I go, I’m absolutely gonna check them out!! Great post!

  2. Hilary_Gould · ·

    I can definitely relate to the currency app– the ATMs, especially those in airports, try to trick you with the amount of money you take out. In Poland the lowest option was actually about $200… Poland is an incredibly cheap country so I ended up with a bunch of extra money. I used that app all the time especially because often times friends and I would split something and then venmo… this made the process of converting back to dollars significantly easier. I also loved your point about the rise in Iceland’s popularity as a tourist destination– between WOW airlines offering cheap flights to Europe through Iceland and travel bloggers/groups like Travel Insider posting about it, it has gained a lot of traction. I’m curious to find out where the next “undiscovered” destination is!

  3. whitmcdonald2 · ·

    Brittany, what great hacks you found on Pinterest! I wish I knew about Currency and those headphone holders as that would have made life a lot easier! I also have a greater appreciation for your captions now :)

    As you know, I also used social media while abroad. I had many conversations with friends and family about how it was used to my advantage and that it didn’t take me away from that once in a lifetime opportunity to live abroad. Like you, I used my social platforms to document my experience for myself and to keep my friends and family in the loop. I found that even talking on the phone with my parents about what I was doing or what I was looking at that day was a boring conversation until they saw my perspective with those posts!

    The photos on Facebook, Instagram, and my Instagram Stories allowed people to live my experience with me. I found that people who saw my posts or stories were more likely to hold a more substantial conversation instead of the “Oh cool!” and then move on. People who saw them could visualize me taking the pictures, could see for themselves why I fell in love with the food I was having or the views I was seeing, etc. They had a million of questions to ask and were really interested in my experiences. And that’s why I don’t think sharing your experiences on social media takes away from your real experiences (of course in moderation and not prohibiting real time conversations) because it lets you and others re-live them!

    Thanks for sharing Britt!

  4. Really nice post. We’ve talked alot in this class over the years about how digital/ social media is changing the study abroad experience. Back it my day (1993), it was too expensive even to call home. We were immersed in the experience. On the other hand, now with digital platforms there’s so much more information that you can navigate and thrive over there much more than we could. It’s just a tradeoff.

  5. clairemmarvin · ·

    I honestly wish I had read your post before I went abroad last spring! I also spent hours trying to come up with Insta captions when I should have just been enjoying the sights of Europe! I also enjoyed how you were able to tie in social media with the travel industry at large. I also looked into going to Iceland and Portugal after seeing some seriously amazing Instagram pictures but the prices were so high it just wasn’t feasible. It seems as though social media has really opened up the travel market in a way that was virtually impossible before. It will be interesting to see if this has any impacts on the necessity of travel agents and other travel professionals previously used for their wealth of knowledge on certain destinations. If social media is making travel more transparent, then perhaps these professionals will no longer be necessary to provide travel information and travel will become a more individually accessible experience.

  6. camcurrie99 · ·

    Great post, Brittney! Social media played a huge role in my time abroad as well. Even though I spent most of my time in an English-speaking country, my trips around Europe really wouldn’t have been possible without Google Translate and a currency-exchange app. I posted online constantly, always documenting as I took thousands of pictures just like yourself. At the end of it all, I picked the ones I liked best and had a photo book printed. It was so interesting to see how my impression changed once the photos became physical rather than just “passed-through” online.

    Having the ability to share my experiences abroad allowed my family to live along with me as I traveled and explored. I totally agree with Whitney’s point that it allowed my family and friends to experience and not just say “oh, cool” to everything I was doing at the time. Communications like these were a total game-changer for students abroad and will continue to be for quite some time, I imagine.

  7. ericiangesuale · ·

    I so feel many of your experiences from abroad. I too took countless pictures at every beautiful or significant place I went to, and it was honestly overwhelming! I actually never finish my Facebook album from abroad for this reason. I have to say Im really surprised you only posted 8 Instagrams! I agree that certain apps were invaluable to me. Specifically Google Maps (with the feature of being able to download a city map for offline use) was one of the most helpful for me!

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