Travel, we are told, makes us better people. When you travel, you develop a truer sense of self. You learn empathy. There are endless studies that show that travel and exposure to other cultures can reduce racial bias. But that’s not always going to be the case and the learning curve won’t always feel easy — as evidenced by the recent outrage over an Instagram post by travel influencer Colleen Grady (aka @mindbodycolleen).
Last month, Grady went on a rant peppered with troubling implications, after losing her iPhone in India. In a now-deleted post, she explained that she’d lost (and later found) her brand new iPhone X in Jaipur. “Yep,” she wrote. “Lost it in the poorest most overcrowded country I have ever visited and one of the most scammy tourist cities in all of India.”
The post — which drew a number of short-sighted conclusions that seemed well beyond Grady’s range of expertise — was met with significant backlash. “I felt kind of hopeless,” she wrote in the caption. “That phone is worth more money than some people in this country will have in their whole lifetime.” She continued that the phone was too complicated for most Indians to figure out and that “miraculously” the phone was recovered by a fellow iPhone owner. She also wondered whether she should have brought mace to the dark alley where she went to retrieve it.
Considering the powerful position that travel influencers have in, quite literally, influencing travel, the post caused a tidal wave of fury (and very uncool death threats) in India and beyond. The anger all stemmed from the assumptions Grady seemed to draw about a massive nation while pulling from her own limited experience as, ironically enough, a yoga instructor. This is to say nothing of the descriptor of Jaipur, population three million, as “scammy” writ-large.
After the post started gaining international attention, Grady shuttered all of her social media accounts and froze her blog, mindbodycolleen.com, which now lands on an apology page.