I was debating on whether or not to publish this post. I wasn’t sure if it sounded too negative but then I figured it really wasn’t. In fact, just the opposite. I like to read travel blogs because they provide more value to me than say a fashion blog, and also because I love to dream about, and if I’m lucky, go to some of those places. I was reading a blog that I really enjoy, where the author wrote a post about how people no longer travel to experience the place or the culture but rather to find the perfect picture for Instagram. I agreed with the author’s points, but what followed in the comments seemed to be subtle, and not so subtle, digs at people who take pictures, either of themselves or in general, when they travel. While I do agree that a lot of people are overly concerned about the “aesthetic” of their Instagram feed, I don’t think taking pictures, even selfies, when traveling is necessarily bad. I can see it as a problem when it becomes more about the blogger (or vlogger) than the place where they are visiting, but who doesn’t like to take pictures to remember a special trip or occasion? Memories fade, but a picture can revive fading memories.
I love Instagram but lately I’ve been speeding through it, whereas even a few months ago I’d spend a few hours on it. Not all at once of course, but throughout the course of the day. It just seems that everything is so fake and staged. Joker style smiles at some location (it doesn’t matter because the same huge open mouthed smile is present in every location), more food than one or two people could possible eat, adult women infantilizing themselves with cutesy clothes, shoes, and even manicures that are more suited for 13 year old girls than fully grown women. Or adult women who are more interested in showing pictures of themselves in bikinis, or a floaty sundress with the perfect background behind them. Or people in general more concerned with the background than the place itself.
I was watching this one travel vlogger, whose Egypt videos I really enjoyed, where the first three minutes was of her and her friend either underneath a waterfall, doing that open mouthed shaking the water out of their hair thing (in slow motion of course), or running down the beach in bikinis (alternately at regular speed and in slow motion). About 2 minutes later, they’re at another waterfall with the same hair shaking shots in slow motion, this time with them splashing each other with water. I saw some blurry background shots, but I can’t even remember which country they were visiting since half the video was of them in bikinis.
I came across this one blog where the blogger went on a trip to Paris with her husband. Paris (among other cities in France) is on my travel wishlist so I clicked on the post and while there were a ton of pictures, a large majority of them featured the blogger herself. I got about halfway through before I clicked on another post of hers, this time on Venice. I love Venice. I was lucky enough to go there with Esther when I went to Italy last year. As with the Paris post, a large majority of the pictures were of the blogger, posing in different locations, but where she was the main focus.
Don’t get me wrong. I like seeing pictures of the bloggers because it adds a more personal touch to their blog, but seeing them in almost every picture, and the constant posing does my head in. It just seems so vain. The majority of the time it isn’t even a natural pose, like smiling at the person taking your picture. It’s that “staring off in the distance, thinking deep thoughts” pose. Or the “holding the hand of someone behind you” pose. Or the “even though I’ve been stuffing crepes in my face like I’m going to the electric chair, look at my perfect body in this size 00 barely there bikini” pose. The other day at the bus stop (and I wish I had been able to get a clear picture) I actually saw two girls with, I shit you not, a frickin mannequin arm and a camera. I hardly ever post pictures of myself on my blog or my Instagram, which I’m not saying is better. I’d like to find a nice balance between adding a personal touch to the blog without veering off into vanity.
Even food pictures are like some competition on who can have the prettiest, most Instagrammable table setting. My food pics on Instagram are by no means Instagrammable. I’m not trying to impress anyone. I originally liked looking on Instagram at food pics or travel pictures because I like finding new places to eat, and being able to see the food makes me more likely to go there at some point in the future. Even that has become fake. If there is a description at all, it’s usually some stupid pun with nothing written about the food, even the name of the damn dish. It’s like Instagram has become one giant ad.
I even unfollowed on Instagram the slow motion running travel vlogger from above (although I still do watch her videos because she does visit some amazing places and provides a bit of history about the areas) because she posted this really nice anecdote about how she had fond memories of drinking coffee with her family and discussing hopes, dreams, problems, etc. I thought that was nice, but that was only leading into her plugging some portable coffee maker that was sent to her by the company. 😡 . I’ll give the girl props for at least being creative about it, but I don’t like when these vloggers/bloggers try to sell crap to their subscribers/readers so that they can keep on traveling the world. You want to travel the world and not settle down with a job, great. I mean it, and not even sarcastically. But do it on your own dime. Don’t shill crap and put on this fake persona like some professional actress, all while portraying yourself as a normal person who is just living their dream of traveling the world. There are plenty of ways to travel the world while still earning money. In fact, the travel blogger whose post about people not enjoying the place as much as getting a perfect shot for Instagram did a number of these things, such as working on a cruise ship, writing a few e-books, etc.
Here’s where I disagree. I don’t think it’s vain, or that you aren’t as interested in the place you’re visiting as you are with getting the perfect background for your picture, if you take selfies or have someone take your picture in front of famous landmarks or with a nice background. How many pictures have we seen of someone either pretending to push over the Leaning Tower of Pisa or pretending to be preventing it from falling? Are they dorky and tourist-y? Of course. But do they bring feelings of happiness to the people in them when they look back on them from time to time? Most likely. My friend Simona is great at finding beautiful backgrounds for photos. I told her she should try to do that professionally but I think she thought I was joking. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t enjoy the places she visits, it just means she likes to have something to remember them by when she looks back on those pictures.
Esther took a picture of me in front of the Duomo when we went last year. I love that picture because I had such fun on that trip. If I ever make it to Cairo you can bet your ass that I will have my friend take (multiple) pictures of me there. Granted, I won’t be in a silky maxi dress with perfectly coifed hair and dramatic eye makeup ( 😆 ) but there will definitely be a bunch of pictures taken.
Another commenter said she and her husband were in another country on vacation and how they were distracted by two young women who were sitting at another table at an outdoor restaurant, taking selfies and taking pictures of their food instead of enjoying the scenery and the moment. Why were they distracting to the woman and her husband? Were they being overly loud? If so, I can understand the problem but if it was just because she felt that the young women weren’t experiencing things in the right way (in her opinion) then that’s a little silly. Why should she, or anyone else, care? For me personally, unless someone’s behavior directly impacts me, I don’t really care.
I’ve been laughed at for taking pictures of my food before. Incidentally, both times were in Italy. 😆 The first time was last year, either the day before or a few hours before Esther got there. I was trying to find someplace to eat, but I was nervous because I had never been by myself in another country before. Even in Germany, Ahmed was only a 15 minute walk from my hotel. Simona told me to just sit at a table and someone would come up to me, but nobody did for 15 minutes. I couldn’t even catch someone’s eye. Long story short, I finally was able to snag a waiter. When my food came (sushi from Bomaki Uramakeria) I snapped a quick pic as usual. The Italian couple in business clothes exchanged looks, said something in Italian, and started laughing. I was too hungry to care and I can accept that it can be a strange thing to see sometimes. Their laughing didn’t affect me, I even laughed about it later, and my picture taking didn’t affect them.
The second time was this year. I was craving some gelato and there was an Amorino not far from my hotel. It only took me 3 seconds to snap a pic but somehow, an older Italian couple walked by at that exact moment. They started laughing and the man made this gesture that I should be eating the gelato instead of taking pictures of it. Okay, that sounded totally dirty but trust me it wasn’t. 😆
I guess my point is do what makes you happy. If you want to take pictures of your food, do it. If you want to laugh with your friends and take selfies, do it. If someone has an issue with that because they feel that you’re too involved in the digital world instead of enjoying the moment, that’s their problem. I take selfies, or have pictures taken of me, when I’m with Simona, or sometimes when I’m with my mom, or my nieces. As long as your behavior isn’t disruptive to someone else, live your life in the way that makes you happy. Those pictures that other people find silly may bring a smile to your face when you look back on them and you’ll remember all the other fun memories of that trip. This picture brings back so many memories. Just like last year, Simona and Davide met me at my hotel within a few hours of my plane landing and we walked around a bit. Seeing this now reminds me that for whatever reason, I forgot to put a battery in my camera, so I had to rely on my cameraphone to snap some pictures. Davide took this picture with Simona’s point and shoot camera. I always have fun when Simona and I hang out and this picture reminds me of good times.