Tourism through the back of your head


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Published: February 24th 2016
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R : This blog doesn't relate to any specific location or group of people, but seems to relate to tourism in the 2010s. We have noticed it more in South America but it was also certainly present in north America and Canada.

A new kind of tourist has emerged - one who is not interested in views, or landmarks, sites of scientific interest or natural beauty. They go on expensive trips to look in the mirror. This is the curse of the selfie and selfie stick.

An example - Today we visited a set of beautiful waterfalls, surrounded by lush forest, with a brilliant blue sky above them. We watched as person after person walked towards the viewpoint, immediately turned around 180 degrees and held their phone up in front of them to take a selfie. We saw some of the products of their photo taking and their face / body took up more than three quarters of the overall image. You couldn't see the waterfalls in the images at all. After taking the selfie, most walked straight away from the viewpoint and left the area, not turning around to take in the scene whatsoever. Some people actually were asking others to move so they could cautiously back in without having to look at the view.

Its not just confined to selfies. Another example. We were also on a boat today. We sat at the back of the boat, outside so we could ogle mountains and lakes as they went by. Numerous people came to sit on the back bench of the boat to take selfies, or pose for a photo. Some of them spent 10 minutes preening themselves, lifting their legs onto the bench and arranging their shorts and legs so just the right amount of flesh was showing. One girl made her friend stand there for about 10 minutes and take a series of pictures with different amounts of leg showing. When they were done, they got up and went inside the boat without stopping to look at the scenery.

Now don't get me wrong, or call me a hypocrite - i love to take photos and often annoy Cate by spending too long setting up a shot. But what good is the photo if you don't remember what you were looking at? What's the point of taking the same image of your face that you can take at home AND not stop to look at the view, listen to the sounds, smell the air? For me, travel is about experience - and having a cracking set of photos to look at (or not!) when you get home is just one part of that. So what are these people travelling for? The cynical part of me says bragging rights on Instagram or Facebook. (Again - I realise that we use these forms of social media to show off our adventures like others do). But if I don't come back with a solid experience of what a country/place is like, then my trip wasn't successful.

Has it come to this, where, the record of you being a place has surpassed the experience of going there in the first place? Where your eyes seeing an image is less important than the lens of an iPhone? Where carrying a DSLR makes the purpose of every trip to capture an image to save forever on a large hard drive, never to be looked at again.

Amusingly, we found places in the US where management had banned carrying selfie sticks due to the nuisance they caused. Actually, they are a genuine annoyance. Often people hold them out across a whole path, while a line of polite British people / Europeans wait for them to take the image, check it, take another (as they cut someone off the edge), repeat as necessary. Maybe this is a "a very British problem". South Americans seem to be less bothered about photobombing the images of others. Maybe as Brits, we have decided to extend our British politeness to these situations when maybe we ought not to.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying there shouldn't be selfies. It's great to get a group shot of friends and family enjoying their trip together that previously would either require one friend to be missing, or a flat surface and a self timer. But obtaining selfies can't be the primary goal of travel, can it?

Who am I to say? Their opinion is just as valid as mine. But I wouldn't pay huge sums of cash to travel if all I got in return was a load of pictures of me with different backgrounds. It's bad enough paying £5 for a set of Passport photos!

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25th February 2016

yes!!!
when we were on the coast in mexico in January, I went to for a swim on two different beaches for about 30min in total and through the whole time a couple was taking selfies in the same spot! excruciating.
16th April 2016

very well said
I have been following your blog & greatly enjoy the details & photos. My husband Dave & I feel the same way. What's the point? We have taken one .... yes one ... selfie. It was terrible and we laughed hysterically [ a bit tipsy]. We do have the giant hard drive but we pull up photos all the time, especially when friends are going that way. And I love making fantastic scrap books that tell a story they are full of pictures, written notes, napkins from good food, all kinds of stuff. Well I'm going back to reading your trip. I got behind.

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