Do you take selfies on your trips? If you do, fret not, I won’t shame you for it. But we’ve all seen landmark locations flooded by tourists carrying selfie sticks reaching out for that perfect profile photo. My question to you is: is that all we want out of our trip, hunting for picture-perfect moments?
I have been often accused of selfiephobia (fear of the selfie). In December I came across this great article that speaks my mind on the selfie culture. You can find it in Romanian on Tedoo, it speaks of how this culture has changed how we experience trips: looking at a camera pointed at ourselves.
The excerpt that really caught my eye was the following (translated into English by yours truly):
The modern traveller considers himself the centre of all action. His face, his opinions, his likes and dislikes along the road, his actions and, of course, his poses fill out more than 3/4 of the photo/selfie. Even when he takes photos with a bushman or with a long-neck woman, with a zebra or a 1,500 year old Mayan temple, it is still about him and his success in getting there. Because in the last decades traveling has become a scope in itself, a must-do, an expression of social and financial success.
Brăduț Florescu, the author of the article I quoted, mentions pilgrims of ancient times in comparison. Once upon a time, travel was meant to fulfill a mission of spiritual connection with a higher being. The pilgrim destinations bore symbolic meaning and the journey on foot allowed time for a deeper connection with their surroundings and locals. They just had to, they had no Google maps (sometimes no map at all!), Airbnb, Tripadvisor…you get, they were offline.
This leads me to believe that the only useful solution to the conundrum ‘to selfie or not to selfie’ depends on your answer to this very simple, but really important question: WHY DO YOU TRAVEL?
The Reason You Travel Designs Your Experience.
There is no right or wrong answer to the question WHY. You might want to discover a different civilization, to take a break from the grind of the daily routine or to (re)discover your roots. Or, to investigate if a country would be a better home for yourself. Let’s just talk through some of them.
–> Alain de Botton: some people travel to escape their reality. But most of the time we all buy return tickets.
In The Art of Travel the famous modern philosopher talks of traveling as a means to escape our own reality. But is that sustainable? You go away for a couple of days/weeks and then you confront whatever you’re running from again. You rinse and repeat with the expectation that this will improve your wellbeing. Meanwhile, your bank account is emptied and your problems/projects are nowhere near a resolution.
But those selfies sure look good on Instagram and give you just a little hit of endorphins while stuck at your desk job, right?
–> You travel for self-improvement, personal development, to ‘find yourself’? Welcome to the ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ experience, don’t forget to bring your yoga mat and your selfie stick!
I’m not saying that some of us don’t find our true selves among the ruins of Machu Picchu or the pyramids of Giza, I am just questioning using other people’s recipes for self-discovery and self-centering.
Why not ask yourself how to translate this into something that fits you? I, for one, now want to experience new ways of traveling, meeting new people and actually talking to them to really find out what life is like on the other side of the border. I want to hitchhike and hike more than I did, to find that off the beaten path pub where people cook local recipes and drink home-brewed beer, to discover that museum no one talks about in the official guides and immerse myself in contemporary art for an entire afternoon. To wander among the poorest neighborhoods and read the writings on the walls. Will I want to record me doing all of this? Most likely not, I will focus on living them to the fullest.
–> The Selfie As A ‘Fast Travel’ Trophy. Do we really need it?
We’ve all been there. Climbing hundreds of crooked, crowded stairs to get that panorama of the city. Your feet hurt, you are out of breath and constantly hurried by people from behind: even our vacations seem to have a schedule! When I do reach that high top most of the times what I feel is disappointment. It’s crowded, hot and loud, with people from all over the world trying to take photos of the exact same thing.
in 2017 I took small steps toward traveling in a different manner. I actually went camping and slept in a camper trailer and a tent for the very first time. And my boyfriend actually took one of the very few photos of myself that I really like: I am smiling in the sun after I left the tent I slept in. On that trip I actually got to talk till midnight with the owner of the camping site, a Dutch guy who fell in love with a Romanian girl and decided to relocate and start his own business in Romania. He talked with such joy of just living life in the mountains and barbequing with his family that I almost envied him.
I learned that people camping or choosing hostels, against all my stereotypes, do so not just for cutting costs, but also for the experience itself. While in a hostel I had one fun Hungarian couple offer me some of their freshly squeezed juice and tell me stories on how they visit a couple of European countries each year. None of the three-star hotels I checked into facilitated such an ecounter! And no one took out a camera to take a selfie throughout our conversation, we just enjoyed each other’s company and we were proud we could understand each other in a combination of English, Spanish, Russian.
–> Don’t Quit Your Day Job Because of Selfies on Your Social Wall (FART content to stay away from)
And then there’s the mirage of a life of travel luxury selfies with no apparent costs. You just need the courage to quit your day job and leave your entire life behind. This guy says it best, just watch the clip and let me know your thoughts on this issue in the comments below.