Why You Should Travel For Yourself, and Not Just Copy Influencers
This is something that I've been thinking about writing for a while, but I've been worried about the reaction it might get. After all, I occasionally work as an 'influencer' and I'd absolutely love to work with travel companies one day. Just to be clear, I'm not slamming influencer marketing and I'm not saying don't allow yourself to be influenced by where your favourite Instagrammer is holidaying this summer - I'm just encouraging you to have your own mind and think beyond the obvious.
I used to follow hundreds of travel & fashion influencers on Instagram, obsessing over the places that they visited and feeling increasingly envious that they had this opportunity to travel all around the globe. Then I realised something: they were all going to the same places and taking the same photographs. There was barely any variety in what I was seeing. It became increasingly obvious who was working with which tourism board, as they would send scores of similar-looking girls to the exact same landmarks. I'm sad to admit that I went through the list of people I was following and had a massive cull, deleting all but the people who were actually inspiring me to travel to new and exciting places. What was the point in following 30 people who were all sharing the exact same photos?
Off on a little bit of a tangent, @theslowtraveler (someone who does show their own, unique view of the world) recently posted about @insta_repeat - an account that is calling out Instagrammers for taking identical photographs. I have mixed feelings on this. Part of me agrees with other comments on the post - people have been having their photos taken by popular landmarks since the advent of photography and this trend on Instagram is nothing new, it's just easier and faster to share your images these days. But back then, people were travelling to see far away places that they'd always dreamed of visiting. Nowadays, it seems that people are more consumed with taking a photograph than actually enjoying their surroundings and exploring the place that they have traveled to. It makes me so sad when I see a stream of people stepping up to a view, a mural, a beautiful building or a landmark simply to have their turn at taking a photograph, then leave immediately after they've got their shot. Also, I don't see how these people are qualified to offer recommendations if all they are doing is taking a photo.
Personally, I am sick of seeing the same photos. I know I'm guilty of it too, that many of my shots are very similar to those seen on other feeds (I'm poking fun at myself with some of the photos used in this post, FYI), but at least I put my camera down and enjoy the moment. If I hike up to a beautiful view, yes I want a photograph, but I also want to take some time to stand at the edge and contemplate everything that I can see below. I know many people feel the same, but over the past couple of years, I've become increasingly exposed to a growing number of people who seemingly do not give a shit about anything other than nailing the shot.
There also seems to be a growing trend for influencers flouncing around in completely impractical outfits or even putting themselves in danger to achieve the perfect shot. I've been known to walk up a hill in a summer dress - but hiking up a mountain in heels?! I see these shots of beautiful women balanced on the precipice of cliffs in floor-length gowns and towering stilettos and wonder how they got up there. and don't even get me started on the people who are attempting challenging hikes or altitudes that they are not prepared for, simply to nail a photograph. Trolltunga in Norway is the perfect example of this. It takes 10 hours to hike up to the famous viewpoint; a serious hike that you should prepare for and be decked out in all the correct gear. Time it wrong and you could be stuck up there in the dark, waiting to be rescued. I'm a keen walker, yet I know I would struggle with a hike of that intensity. Yet people are wandering up there in droves, completely unprepared but in search of the perfect photo opportunity.
I still look to Instagram for inspiration for where in the world I'd love to visit and what I'd like to see when I'm there. I follow people who inspire me and who travel to interesting destinations that I may otherwise never have considered. I've tailored the people that I follow to ensure that I see variety in my feed. If there are a group of similar-looking girls that all seem to travel to the same destinations and take the same photos, why would I follow them all?
For me, the most important message is the title of this post: travel for yourself, not to copy influencers. If you feel inspired by someone's trip, do a little bit of research and see if that destination is right for you. Does it sound like the kind of place you would like to explore? Would you be interested in the activities available there? Are you intrigued to try the food of that particular country? Would you return home with just as many memories as photographs? If you find that the main reason that you'd like to visit a particular destination is to capture the perfect shot for Instagram, it probably isn't the right destination for you.
Not that there's anything wrong with taking photos for Instagram while you are travelling. One of the thing I most enjoy about discovering a new place is taking photographs along the way. But it's a balancing act - you also have to live in the moment. How can you capture the true heart of a destination through a camera if you haven't fully experienced it? You can't just rock up in a beautiful dress, take the shot then leave. You'll also discover more interesting locations and more unusual things to photograph if you throw yourself into exploring your destination. Do you want to take the same photographs as everyone else - the same restaurant table, the same mountain view - or do you want to discover a different side of the place you are exploring? I know what I want to get out of my own travels.