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Life (and Vacation) Isn’t All Sunshine and Palm Trees

It’s time to get real on our social media profiles. What’s truly going on beyond the newsfeed?

I recently spent a weeklong vacation at an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica. Like many resorts in the Caribbean, as soon as you arrive your life seems to resemble the worry-free mantra the great Bob Marley has chanted in our ears for decades. I mean really, what’s there to complain about when your days are spent lounging by the ocean, your stomach is always full from the all-you-can-eat buffet and you carry a sun-kissed glow on your skin and a frozen cocktail in hand everywhere you go?

These are the details my Instagram followers witnessed via filtered photos for the majority of the week I was away.

But the truth is, there was a lot more to it than that.

It’s Time to Get Real on Social Media

I didn’t share a photo of the stress I felt when I learned the dog-sitter we had scheduled for the week changed plans on the second day of our vacation. I didn’t post about the time I accidently slammed my husband’s thumb in the lounge chair as he tried to adjust it for my utmost comfort. I didn’t take a selfie by the pool the day my eye nearly swelled shut from a nasty wasp sting. (But I did blog about it later, and you can read more on that here). I didn’t even mention the awful cold I caught, the type of post which, let’s be honest, you can always count on for some sympathy likes.

It’s simpler to be “happy” on Facebook than to be honest.

A few of the vacation shots I shared on Instagram (filter included).

A few of the vacation shots I shared on Instagram (filter included).

I consider myself a social person. I enjoy making new friends on vacation and at friends’ birthday parties. I appreciate an invite to a good wine and cheese soiree. I warm up quickly at networking events. And a significant part of my workday is spent interacting with people on social media. Because of my nature to engage this way, and since the work I do is dependent on having an existence online, I am fairly open with what I share on these channels. I try to be transparent in what I do. But editing my vacation to exist strictly of waterfalls, sunsets and flowers in my hair, is not really being transparent at all (even though I did experience all of these things).

We all know how easy it is to filter our lives to portray a certain level of perfection on social media. It’s simpler to be “happy” on Facebook than to be honest (unless you’re the type to complain about every personal drama – and if that’s the case, you should know that some things in life really are meant to be filtered).

But maybe it’s time we challenge ourselves to stop taking the easy route. It’s time to get real on social media.

“Facebook Happy” is Not Reality

Honesty has been something I strive for in my own social endeavors, but that’s not to say I’m always successful in this. I too fall victim of being “Facebook happy” (a term I learned from one of my blogging idols, Erika Napoletano). And I realized about halfway through my vacation that this was exactly where I was headed.

I realized it the day my husband and I returned from our “Horse Ride and Swim” tour, which I had booked prior to our departure from Toronto. The writer (and romantic) in me pictured a stunning ride through the rainforest, along the beach and eventually into the ocean.

Of course, I would quickly learn this was far from reality.

The real ride happened on a rainy, overcast day. It began with smelly, dorky helmets that resembled the bicycle helmets you dreaded wearing as a kid. What was supposed to be “an intimate ride through the rainforest” (according to the tour description) was actually a trip along a farm trail with 30 other riders following in a slow, single-file line. Instead of ending with a dreamy ride into the ocean, wind blowing in our hair, we were literally dodging horseshit floating in the murky water all around us.

Life isn’t all romantic horseback rides down the beach. In fact, this is rarely the case.

As usual, I took a lot of photos that day. I got some nice shots of the one spot where the trail fell upon a picturesque view of the ocean and the waves were crashing angrily (yet beautifully) against the giant rocks hugging the shoreline. In another shot captured by our tour guide, my husband and I are shown riding our horses side-by-side, looking quite content and even a little cute (despite the horrendous helmets).

But these weren’t the images I shared on my Instagram feed that day.

vacation2Instead, I posted the photo you see here. It only got nine likes (didn’t even hit double digits), but it was real. (Note: I had no idea when taking this shot that the horse in front of me would choose this precise time to use the sea water as a toilet).

You see, life isn’t all romantic horseback rides down the beach. In fact, this is rarely the case. More often, it’s about dodging the shit. Some days you’re able to steer around it and move forward. Other days, you have no choice but to ride right on through.

As my husband and I took the large tour van back to our resort that day, we smiled quietly to ourselves and vowed to never again sign up for another “Horse Ride and Swim” tour in the Caribbean. But as much of a disaster as it was, I still wouldn’t take it back. It was a real experience, one we will always remember and share a laugh about. And it also provided the photo above (which I will treasure forever), and gave me something to write about here today.


Charlotte Ottaway

Charlotte is Co-Founder and Managing Editor at The Reply. She is a writer, blogger and amateur photographer with interests in positivity, creative muse, generational differences and the future of work. She has written for Canadian Business, Zoomer Magazine, The Globe and Mail, The Huffington Post Canada and other Canadian publications. At her company, Web of Words, she helps solopreneurs and small business owners create real human connections online through blogging and social media. Better known by family and friends as Carly, she currently resides in Newmarket with her husband and dog-child. To learn more, check out her website at and follow her on Twitter @charlottaway.