It used to be that first came the view, then came the photo of the view. Capturing devices were meant to be secondary aids to our memories, just in case our eyes forgot the moment the sun rose, or when we saw the valley from the summit for the first time. (Setting aside the intentional arts of photography and cinema.) Why is it now that I have a gopro strapped to my head like a complete dweeb, because somehow, the capturing of the moment has to be precisely simultaneous with the experience itself? What does it mean to take a photograph, and why has the present for the present become insufficient? I’m interested to know how much of this evolution has to do with a wholesome desire to save these happy days for rainy ones, and how much of it is a gnawing need to prove to friends and followers just how well we are living.
I recently rejoined the Instagram community after a hiatus in which I realized I just didn’t care enough to craft posts that garnered a respectable amount of ‘likes’. After being told by numerous friends that I blatantly sucked at social media, I just kind of gave up. At the risk of sounding totally pretentious, I never picked up a camera before six months ago because seeing my life just through my eyes was more than enough for me. Now, I have an account to share my adventures, and I’d like to think that I use it as an afterthought, almost a favor of reflection to the future me who might want to reminisce on her more able-bodied days. That being said, I would definitely say that I have failed in this intent to keep my virtual life on the back burner while here. How many of my norcal friends saw I was at the Fitz Roy? Which New York buddies would appreciate the speakeasy I was at on Thursday night? “Travel 2.0” in the context of social public interaction can be this insane, constant nagging that greatly deteriorates its’ subject. I think it’s partly about the approval of others, and it doesn’t solely concern the most obvious social platforms. For example, I recently stayed in an airbnb in El Calafate, a town in southern Patagonia, and after an interesting stay in which the landlord had to come numerous times to help us with water heating and kitchen appliances, we were left wondering if she would have been so accommodating were there no airbnb ratings. We sometimes checked TripAdvisor or Yelp before going to a store, instead of exploring without the preexisting approval or disapproval of past travelers. Of course, there are many scenarios in which reviews are important, but I’m referring to the subjective opinions of our peers that have grown pertinent enough to influence our thoughts, and consequentially our actions.
Referring to the actual functionality of apps such as Expedia, Airbnb, etc., traveling with the internet in our pockets has no doubt made things easier, but easier only in a very refined way. In a few weeks I can take a trip to Peru and have a seamless experience with pre-booked accommodations, nearby vegetarian restaurants mapped out, and everything else orchestrated to have an “easy” trip. Is that the kind of trip I want, though? Maybe accessibility makes for smoother experiences, but the way I see it, the worst that actually have a high probability of happening can only make for a great story. And I’m all about stories.
In general, it seems that the innovations of travel and media have connected us with the remote but distanced us from the immediate. As I document my time in Argentina, including writing this blog literally right now, I know it’s good to have some reflection, but I also don’t want to get so consumed with it that I forget to just see through my own eyes.