Having started her journey with the outdoors at a young age, Jessica Pienta, 21, an avid backpacker and traveler from Georgia, has been sharing her adventures through her social media pages and conversations with friends and people she meets along the way.
Pienta’s love for the outdoors was molded by her family when she was little, but for other people in her generation, Generation Z (Gen Z), they do not all have the same opportunities as her.
“I would say I’ve been hiking a lot of my life since my parents have been pretty active and love going to state parks,” Pienta said. “Traveling is so fun to me. I think it’s so fun to just pick up and go somewhere you’ve never been and also knowing no one as well.”
The fun of traveling that Pienta experienced early on was in her own backyard, North Georgia. “My first big trip was a 3 day on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia,” Pienta said. North Georgia has always had plenty of scenery to show off, but unlike Pienta, many Gen Z young adults have not found that same adoration for the outdoors. Gen Z young adults have taken a different route for how they view travel, and the greatest impact is the use of technology and social media.
A recent study by Peter Jordan, head of TOPOSOPHY Ltd., a travel marketing agency, dives into how technology and social media has affected Gen Z young adults who have taken up traveling. TOPOSOPHY shows that 69% of Gen Z young adults have stronger preferences and connections to the world through photo sharing, and since Gen Z has grown up mobile in the sense of technology, the purpose of traveling is not the same as someone like Pienta who travels because it brings her peace.
“…in a similar way to Millennials, Gen Z is heavily influenced by photos and videos. As a result, social media platforms have an immense influence on their choices as consumers. Today, im- age-dominated platforms, such as Instagram and Pinterest are the most common source for travel inspiration,” Jordan said.
Colin Kilgore, 24, a North Georgia local who favors the outdoors, has recognized the role social media plays into the influence of Gen Z young adults, and although a millennial, still posts his adventures for people to see and experience through his feed even if he personally feels connected to his adventures outside of social media.
“I think most national parks/ hiking trails are growing in popularity. I think the role social media plays is that it brings up the idea of exploring the outdoors for those who haven’t experienced it.” Kilgore said. “I find what brings me back is always sharing the outdoors with new and old friends, but primarily seeking solitude away from media (really just outside influence).”
The growing popularity the Kilgore recognizes within National Parks and hiking trails is also being seen and recorded by the National Parks Service. From the year 2020, the United States’ National Park Service recorded that “327,516,619 people visited National Parks this past year,” compared to the number of “318,211, 833 people” from the year prior.
North Georgia alone has seen an influx in visitors to its 11 National Parks. Within this year, the state has supported 6,706,170 people. Aside from Pienta and Kilgore, a Gen Z who has recently gotten into travel, Bailie Kole, 22, has decided to take on new adventures because of the influence that social media has on her generations.
“I love hiking so much. I always thought it was something I wouldn’t be good at, but now that I have gotten into it, I can’t stop!” Kole said. “My next stop is Brasstown Bald Mountain, and hopefully many more from there.”
Gen Z all over the world is wrapped in the influence of social media and technology, especially when it comes to how its generation views travel. Whether it be the world, or North Georgia, the drive to get people outside has increased in a positive light, but the purpose is what seasoned adventurers like Pienta, and Kilgore are trying to change.
“The biggest influence for people is that once they see the affects that being out in nature has on them, it’s very captivating. Personally speaking, being out in nature has provided a lot of healing and freedom for me and I think as more people begin to transition outside, they experience for themselves the authentic beauty in nature.”