When social media steals away travel moments and memories

I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately online, on TV interviews, and in person about the effects social media, in particular viewing the world through your lens, has on your in-the-moment experiences.

The growing consensus is that people rarely participate in the travel experience in body form anymore, they see it through their camera.

They arrive, pop up their lens, and shoot like crazy then put their phone in their pocket and walk away. That is after they’ve edited the photo, laughed about it with their companions, uploaded it, and hashtagged the crap out of it.

Even worse is the selfie epidemic that is causing humans to lose their sanity, place themselves in such dangerous positions that you have a greater chance of dying from a selfie snap than a shark attack, and heinous acts such as mobbing a baby dolphin for a selfie pose and causing its death.

All for a like and a look-at-me social share.

As someone who fell in love with travel for the experience way back when postcards were the norm, and have been travelling ever since with a full gypsy heart, I feel as if the soul of my greatest love is being destroyed.

Connecting a little deeper

unplugging to reconnect

I recently wrote to my email community about these rumblings of discontent as to how the soul of travel was being lost to selfie snaps and ridiculous staged scenes like someone swinging on a hammock in the middle of a snow-covered alpine forest smoking a cigar, or someone striking a yoga pose on a rock in the middle of the ocean.

What’s happened to the stories and real life connections? Does anyone travel for this purpose anymore?

It’s getting harder for the stories to be heard and it can be so draining to produce them that many people are opting out.

Many of the stories inside my soul – the journey of travel and how it shapes you – gets lost because of the effort of publishing words on the blog. The art of polishing to get it right for the online world strips its soul and my motivation to write.

To keep those stories alive,  we created a travel podcast – to share the authentic purpose of travel, about meaningful memories and deeper connections.

The response I’ve received from it shows me the discontent is happening to more than just me and people want the real-life travel stories back.

What does the discontent really show?

Maleny Botanical Gardens - Sunshine Coast Hinterland, Queensland, Australia

Grumblings and discontent help us dive deep and figure out what’s going on within – if you’re aware and open to introspection.

If you’ve been a reader of ours for awhile, you know I believe there’s a greater magic at work lining up experiences and lessons to help us learn and grow. Sprinkled in between are messages and signs helping to steer us on the right path.

You miss them if you don’t pay attention and end up stuck in frustration, discontent, and wearing a fine pair of cranky pants.

This feeling of not sharing the stories and discontent with social imagery brought into my world an experience on my recent trip to MacKay that upset me but helped me inspect and figure out just who I want to be and how I want to make an impact.

I’m totally disgruntled with Instagram, which I’ll explain more of within the post, but it’s not Instagram’s fault, which is what your ego will make you believe when the discontent starts happening – it’s the tools, the circumstances, other people – everything outside of you causing your unhappiness or lack of success.

The truth is, the discontent is a glaring sign that YOU are off path – out of alignment with your true purpose and values. Once you understand that you can readjust, re-evaluate and start afresh.

Usually, when we travel, Craig will take care of the photography while I play with the girls or take a quick photo or SnapChat on my phone. Nothing fancy – raw and unedited doing my best to capture a moment or memory.

Craig likes to take photos. I thought I once did, but now I realise I don’t. I’m not an artist. I’m not a photographer. I prefer to be in the experience absorbing it, not framing it up and balancing the light and shade of it, and the changing it later in the light room.

I want to be a storyteller and dream shaper and a person who empowers people to experience authentic travel.

It’s different for everyone and it’s important to think carefully about your values and dreams and not let the demands and pressures of social media take that away from you. That world can suck you in so quickly you don’t even feel the compression until your breath is gone.

Trying to get the perfect kangaroo photo

kangaroos on the beach Cape Hillsborough

I completely fell apart when it came to take photos of the kangaroos on the beach in Mackay. My focus became on getting a perfect Instagram shot – I mean come on, this is the moment for it, right – kangaroos on the beach. Tourism Australia would love it and feature it.

Since when do I give a shit about TA featuring my photo and what hashtags to use? That’s the sign of a good trip to me?

I’m a traveller. I care about connection, about authentic experiences, and helping others do the same. I don’t care about how many likes I get, but this social media world was sucking me in.

I felt so pressured and had so much going on around me that I completely forgot how to take a photo and was devastated once I saw what I’d produced. Not only did I drop the bundle and get so un-worthy Instagram shots, but I walked away with scant memory of my time with the kangaroos on the beach – a really special moment.

kangaroos on the beach Cape Hillsborough
Look at how I messed that up!!

What did I experience instead?

ISO, aperture, a focus that wasn’t working, fear of the raindrops breaking the camera, and dragging tripods and equipment around. Before I knew it the kangaroos were gone and I was left on my own wondering where the time went. I didn’t even get to experience it with the girls. Thankfully, they had friends they happily played and weren’t bothered at all.

So began a process of totally beating up upon myself as to what a failure I was. I should have taken my camera off the tripod and got closer to the kangaroos, I should have put my shutter speed up higher, I should have chased them down the beach and cornered them for that selfie shot. I’m such an idiot.

Everything in life represents a lesson for us, and I knew there was something the Universe wanted me to know because I was so bothered by this.

Why did I hang back so much? Why did I drop my bundle? Why did I mess up?

I found my breath to reflect.

Who I really am

The evening before, the girls became friends with some other children at the Cape Hillsborough Tourist Park. They were beautiful, kind, sweet children and I hope will be the type of people my girls would be blessed to have as friends throughout their entire lives, no matter where they lived or roamed.

I remarked to nine-year-old Shaun that Savannah can be shy at first before she gets to know someone.

I paraphrase his reply, “That’s okay. You know the shy ones are really smart because they sit back and watch and learn from everyone else.”

The hairs prickled my skin at his profound insight.

travel with kids

The next morning, after the kangaroos at sunrise, his words came back to me and I realised he was also talking about me. I’ve always been an observer, especially when it comes to travel. I travel for connection, to be fully engrossed in a moment and walk away with a memory. If I don’t have that, I feel I have not travelled.

I’m terrible at taking photos. I often walk away from events and social gatherings thinking I forgot to get a photo. It feels like such an intrusion of the moment to me. I even had lunch with my parents the other day and walked away thinking, “Gosh I didn’t even get someone to take our picture together.” followed by a shrug. I don’t care. I was enjoying talking with them too much to interrupt them with a staged photo.

I’m not naturally inclined to be a photographer, even though I like the idea of it. I’m glad Craig takes care of it when we travel because then I can be the engaged observer and the absorber. It’s how I find my stories.

I unconsciously held myself back from the kangaroos because I did not want to invade their space, chasing them and shoving my camera in their face. As Shaun said, I like to hang back and learn through the bigger picture – the beautiful colours of the sunrise, and the kangaroos and wallabies gently picking up seaweed from the water lapping up on shore.

kangaroos on the beach Cape Hillsborough

While people were hustling for the kangaroo selfies, I chose to hang back and so missed a lot of opportunities for Instaworthy photos.

I don’t want to be the person that haggles and hustles and forgets about an animal’s comfort zone just to get a photo.

I wanted to capture the gentle story of the kangaroo in their natural moment playing at the water’s edge, scratching themselves, and play fighting. I captured those photos of the roos and wallabies, just not in a technically brilliant way worthy of an Instagram feature.

kangaroos on the beach Cape Hillsborough

My frustration really stems from me forgetting who I am and not staying in alignment with that.

I’m not an artist or photographer. That’s someone else’s role who can do it was better than me and with a lot of passion.

I’m a storyteller and a gypsy. I don’t feel right unless I’m travelling, experiencing the moment and then sharing it. I don’t want to give our community beautiful images – I want that to be a part of it – but my priority is to tell you stories you can connect to and then empower you to do the same.

Here come the signs

The universe is always working in our favour, and as I was going through these mixed up emotions, that remark from that sweet young boy gently reminded me of my truth.

But another beautiful message from the Universe arrived via Lisa Wilkinson, the host of the Today Show and a lady I admire a lot. I’ve not met her personally, but I’ve met people who have and have spoken only to her kind, caring and authentic nature.

She shared one of our photos of the girls taken at Kings Canyon on her Instagram feed talking of how this region of Australia creates so many treasured memories. It was a photo snapped on my phone – definitely not technically amazing, but amazing because of the story it tells.

Kings Canyon

This is my truth. That was my lesson. I’m not here to do things the way others do it. I’m here to share the stories. I love capturing these unstaged moments with my children the most. These are the ones that make me reach for my phone to quickly get it. I want that memory with me forever. Raw, unfiltered, exactly as it was.

They won’t get featured by people on Instagram, but I’m sick of that being the only important thing in travel anymore, and playing that game. I’m over the hashtagged life.

I’m happily handing the camera back over to Craig. He does a way better job than me, and I’m moving back into observing, absorbing and creating memories.

I came home upset and told him how much I failed with the kangaroo photos. “I felt so pressured and so distracted. I just couldn’t do it.” He helped me edit and rescue them a little reassuring me that they weren’t a disaster at all, that I was being too hard on myself, and I’d captured a different story.”

kangaroos on the beach Cape Hillsborough

Finding the balance

As long as I have this travel blog, social media will be a part of my world. It is a valuable medium as long as you’re careful it does not overrun your life, steal way your sanity, and the joy of travel.

I’ll continue to share our photos on Instagram and Facebook, but I don’t care if they’re perfect or not. I don’t care how many likes they get, and what Tourism Australia thinks. I’ve been travelling for twenty years not caring, why start now? With each picture I upload, I’m going to share more of the story of the moment and more in-the-moment stories.

I’m happy that I’m finding a way to make this work better for who I am and what my values are.

It might be different for you. You might be the artist and the photographer and spending time with the frame to create a beautiful image and have it seen is your thing. I like to have my words read so I understand.

What’s important for each of us to inspect is who we are and live in alignment with that. If you don’t, you’ll feel off, dissatisfied, disgruntled, frustrated and ready to lay blame.

One thing I think we can all do better at is to put the camera down more, absorb ourselves in the golden light of experiences more, and harass animals less. They don’t care for selfies they care about roaming, playing, eating and sleeping. Let them do it in peace.

kangaroos on the beach Cape Hillsborough (8)

We’re emphasising a bigger theme through our blog now about unplugging – I’ll share more next week as to how I mean that to be more than just digitally.

One way we can unplug is from the expectation to be like others or from doing things we don’t really value or care about.

Please note that this was my own story caught up in a job I’ve taken on. I’m redefining how that looks so it stays in alignment with who I am and my mission. This is in no way reflective of the travel experience you’d have visiting Cape Hillsborough. The kangaroos and wallabies on the beach at sunrise is special – and there are so many of them!

My only advice is to step back, take in the glorious colours of the sky and the rising sun, watch the kangaroos and wallabies do their thing, and take fewer photos and more memories through engagement. They last forever in your heart, where a social media update only lasts about four hours.

kangaroos on the beach Cape Hillsborough

Although the majority of my time was spent frazzled trying to figure out how to capture the perfect roo shot, I did have one precious experience that gives me that feeling of having truly travelled.

The girls and I walked straight from our cabin door with only the faint hint of light. I saw the shadows of the kangaroos on the beach and gasped with delight. They’re here already! As soon as we stepped onto the beach a kangaroo bounced right up to our feet to say hi.

I’ve never had a wild kangaroo come so close before and with such open, curious welcoming energy. She was divine and felt like she was an old friend. I swear I felt her hug me and smile. It was a beautiful, unexpected moment that sent a wave of awe, respect, and wonder through my body. You don’t feel that connection and life energy when you look through the eyes of a lens.

How do you balance social media and photography with being present in the moment of travel? Are you finding it destroying the travel experience?

58 thoughts on “When social media steals away travel moments and memories”

  1. Love this post Caz! I have seen so many experiences being taken over by ‘getting that perfect instagram shot’ on our travels around Australia. I am really conscious of this and don’t bother taking photos on those really special experiences.

    We swam with the whale sharks at Ningalo a few weeks ago and so many of our group were so focused on getting the perfect go pro shot I feel like they missed the whole experience!

    Makes me want to scream put your cameras down and enjoy the moment!

    1. It can run away from you so quickly. It really does require a lot of awareness to say, “hang on a minute, you’re missing the experience. Step away from the camera.”

      You did the whale sharks!!! What an awesome experience. It sounds like you’re having an amazing time! Hard not to in WA

  2. A topic near and dear to my heart. You’re right. Social media is fine…in moderation. But many are far past that and in the addiction camp — and that’s where it ruins travel (and many other things).

    I believe a world experienced face to face is exponentially than a world experienced through a screen. I believe life’s magical moments come via in person experiences/conversations, while living in the moment. I fundamentally don’t believe lasting empathy comes from anything other than in person conversations, experiences, and friendships (resulting in deep understanding). Lastly, I believe this world needs empathy more than anything else right now. Which means people need to go actually experience the world, not watch it from your phone.

    1. I love this idea about the empathy and the world needing more of that. I think some of the best portrait images come from photographers who’ve first spent that time talking with the person and using that empathy. They capture the story more.

  3. Oh, you’re absolutely right saying that by trying to capture a ‘perfect shot’ we sometimes forget to look around and simply ‘smell the roses’! I found out recently that I started think about every image: “Hmmmm, what can I do with it to make sure it will be promoted in the Instagram?” When I realised it, I simply created a ‘private’ account to share my everyday life as-it-is. One day I’ll get back to my ‘business’-account. Meanwhile I turned IG into a small personal blog about our life down-under and enjoy every comment that I get from my friends.

    1. I love that. I think when you catch yourself thinking about how to take the perfect social media photo rather than the memory, is when you start moving in the wrong direction. I’m totally guilty of it and this experience really made me think about how to use the platform better so it doesn’t take away my travel enjoyment.

  4. I love this!
    It is so hard to find balance between getting a good photo and staying in the moment.
    Memories are so much more important than a photo, but photos can also trigger lost memories when looking back at them. So hard to get right, something I struggle with a lot and I think we all do!

    1. Yes. Photos are so great for triggering memories, which is why they’re important to also take. We love to try and capture in the moment shots more because they trigger better memories. The solution is to have a photographer follow you around!!! Which is another growing trend and a post for another day. I love the idea of it, but the funds don’t cover for it yet!

  5. This is so true!! As a long-distance walker, I got used to the fact long ago that I wouldn’t always arrive somewhere when the light was good or the clouds were interesting. And if there’s another 20 kilometres to be walked to my next bed, there’s no time to wait around hoping for better conditions.

    Many travel websites have gorgeous photos that I’d love to hang on my wall but often fail to reflect what the traveller will actually see. I love that yours always seem real – and that is what makes them inspiring!

    1. Oh yeah we gave up the perfect light photos a long time ago. It’s impossible with kids.we always end up taking photos in the worst lighting conditions. Craig can make it work, I can’t. Craig will often now go out on his own to do sunrise and sunset while I stay with the girls. It’s working out much better.

  6. I totally get your sentiments. I’ve been wrapped up in the moment of traveling and not gotten a photo and then felt stress because I was just enjoying the moment and didn’t document it. The Instagram accounts that frustrate me are the ones where people are traveling with kids but their kids are always perfectly clad in designer wears and perfectly posed with the perfect backdrop. Is this reality? Meanwhile, my kids are in 3 different shades of blue because they dressed themselves and I can’t get all three to look. I have to remember that some of my “memories” from travel will be the drama of hauling the kids around- no matter their mood. Now that I think about it, maybe in their little souls they are wondering why I need a picture of them in every spot of the earth instead of just enjoying it like they do. (and thank you for sharing the REAL life of traveling with kids on the road- love the Snapchat videos).
    I saw that Intrepid Travel offers “Digital Detox” tours where you can’t even take a camera (phones must be left in your bag). I thought long and hard about this– would I be able to “do” the tour. I think they are getting at something- we’re all burnt out on traveling but not really SEEING.

    1. We had a funny experience once – someone left a comment on a photo on Facebook that we made them sick because our children always looked well groomed and too perfect. Another reader jumped in and said, “What are you talking about, every photo I’ve seen their hair isn’t brushed or done!!” I laughed so hard because my mother always says that to me about Savannah and my friends laugh at how she often looks like a hill tribe baby.

      I was talking to mum once about a photo and she said, “Is that the one where Savannah’s hair is done?” I let them dress themselves too, which is why they’re always in pink. We do have a lot of people ask if we dress them so colourfully for the photos, but it’s all the girls choices.

      I love those Digital Detox tours. I’m seeing so many more of them coming out. We were speaking to a lady from a retreat the other day who said they ease people into it because they go through terrible withdraws. Others have said they can see people twitching. I’m not surprised because it can sometimes feel that way for me and I don’t really overuse them that much.

  7. I often get caught up with clicking away and not enjoying the moment and I am trying to change that. My daughter was in a mothers day concert at kindy and I was the only mum not filming it. The kids were a bit overwhelmed with all these cameras pointing in their face. Take the time to soak in what is happening and just be in the moment.

    1. Yes, that is a tough one. I saw that recently somewhere at school and I felt glad that we escaped the intensity of that as children. I tend to not film it as well, or I’ll take a quick snap from afar which ends up turning out horrible! I’m also very conscious about taking photos and getting other kids in it, which often leads me to not take them at all.

  8. Steph Burgess

    Gosh Caz, I know I’m going to be in the minority here, but I actually really disagree with the premise here, if in fact that premise is that photography somehow dilutes the value content of the experience. I understand the angst that is felt at the annoying couple perched precariously in the middle of the best place to view a setting sun with their selfie stick and their complete lack of awareness of those around them while they search madly for the right filter… but I think to lump all users of social media into that bucket is decidedly narrow. I’m a fan of this blog, and your social channels, but I don’t live and die by each post you make. Similarly, I enjoy the relationships I’ve been able to form via my own instagram account but I don’t gaze into the new dawn as the sun rises over the ocean thinking ‘now which filter will get me the most likes here…’. I love photography. It’s a metaphor for life, to me. What you focus on, why people have different perspective on things, how precious a frozen moment in time can be, etc… My camera is with me often. It’s a companion, an enjoyable form of entertainment and a friend that doesn’t mind being deserted on a towel while I go and throw a Frisbee with my kids or left on the floor at home if an outing is going to be particularly grubby or wet. From my point of view I guess this debate is simply another one that falls into the ‘all things in moderation’ category. Travel photography is wonderful fun! Its an activity that my whole family participate in together. Its something that starts brilliant conversations about why we chose to capture a particular scene a certain way and why our views of the world were different. It has a big place in our family experiences which enhances rather than detracts from those precious moments. We tend to be ‘later-gramers’ rather than the instant variety, so perhaps that means we’re more focused on the creative process than the connectivity, but I still enjoy the latter, when it eventually comes about and am glad for the opportunity to chat about the things we’ve seen and done with others who have similar passions. I think I get where you’re coming from here, in terms of the extreme users of social media, but my personal experience is that it can be pretty harmless fun, and that being ‘in the moment’ can also be achieved with a camera in your hands. Thoughts only. Very much enjoy following your adventures.

    1. Totally I agree. I’m glad you don’t live and die by my words as that would be too much pressure for me to handle!!

      As mentioned in the post, it’s not Instagram’s fault, it’s how we approach it – and that’s an individual thing. I was talking about the extreme usage of it and a growing discontent that I’m hearing all the time about the overuse of social media and the disconnect people are experiencing from the travel experience. We were even asked to talk about it on the Today Show, a couple of papers, and Huffpost, so it is quite topical and I’m hearing a lot of stories about it.

      But, of course, you often only hear the bad stuff, the good stuff goes silent, so it’s great you can share the good.

      I wasn’t writing this post to really lump people together or create division, and I tried my best to not put it across like that although difficult to do as I also have an opinion on it. I more wanted to share my angst in finding the balance, which I know many others are also suffering with.

      As I said, the photography and social media side of things is just not for me. Craig, on the other hand likes it and he’s happy to take care of it so if the post was written from a narrow point of view then he’s probably going to be upset with me!! lol

      I think it’s great that you’ve found the balance Steph. Thank you for sharing your perspective with us – it’s a great one and it really helps people to see how the photography and social media can enhance the travel experience if used in a balanced way.

      Oh and I think Latergramming is such a great way to manage it. We generally do the same. We never used to, but made the decision to put in more boundaries so the social did not overtake too much of our time connecting together. Thanks for that tip! (I think I might write a follow-up post with ways to find the balance with this as a tip. Thanks for the inspiration and if you have any other good tips to share like this please let me know!)

      1. Steph Burgess

        Pleasure, and thanks to you too Caz for being happy to entertain a point of view which differs from your own. Interestingly, I’ve found myself sneered at by folks I would suggest are less able to be open-minded and who have taken the ‘purity of experience doesn’t involve image capture devices’ point of view to the other extreme. I’m not the kind of shutter bug who would clamber over others for ‘that’ shot or have my lens making rapid-fire noise meters away from a couple who are clearly completely lost in the way the sun is reflected in each others eyes… and yet I’ve felt the occasional wave of negative energy sent surging my way by strangers who obviously consider taking ten shots of a shell as a wave passes over it to be abhorrent in some way. Perhaps the answer for all of us, regardless of how we choose to roll, is tolerance. If the extremes are avoided (perhaps in life in general) then we’ll all be a little closer to that balanced way through that everyone is looking for. 🙂

        1. So true. I think the best way around it is to watch people with curiosity rather than judgement – which can be a hard thing to do sometimes. But, I think if you’re aware you can switch to saying, “Isn’t that interesting?” It makes it easier to just observe and accept. I’d look at you taking all those photos with the desire to learn what you’re doing. I’ve had similar experiences with people doing the same to me, particularly when the kids are around!!! The thing is you never know who that person is or where they have come from. You might have spent three days on the beach just admiring the sunset and on the fourth decided to spend the morning just taking pictures of it.

  9. This is part of why I’ve fallen in love with Snapchat – I mainly only go on IG these days to update my work profiles. I love that Snapchat is better when it’s a little bit raw, entertaining etc – not perfect.

    1. Yes. I have fallen in love with Snapchat for the same reason and don’t look at IG or FB much anymore. Well FB I do to keep in contact with my friends and I find a lot of good stuff to read through it. But, Snapchat is so easy and quick. I feel I can show the real travel story, have a bit of fun with it, it only takes me 10 seconds here and there. I don’t have to edit or filter anything – I rarely use any stickers etc because I couldn’t be bothered and I don’t have to use hashtags!!! Whenever I do an IG update, Craig follows up with hashtag instructions for me on how to do it right. I always respond, “I don’t care about the bloody hashtags!!”

      I was thinking today how I even like how it’s hard to find people on Snapchat and get people to find you because then you’re worried less about numbers and more about just having fun with whoever is there with you! It’s such a great platform and it makes me laugh so much. I was dead set against it up until a month or so ago when a friend convinced me it would be worth using. He was right!

  10. Solid post, even though I have no photo skills at all I take too many snaps trying to get a better one each time. I guess I haven’t fallen for the trap majorly as I don’t travel with a camera, now I’m convinced that is best for me! cheers

  11. This so resonated with me today. I’m so focussed about getting pics, stories, videos, hashtags etc etc etc out that I’m devoid of time to actually enjoy this World Cruise we’re on. 104 nights, but counting down now from 93. By the time we reach Dubai, I need to have reigned myself in to a different focus. But how? So hard. By the way, your kangaroo pics are just wonderful 🙂

    1. It’s so hard to balance it Jo and I know exactly how you feel. I think get back into enjoying it and the stories will find their way to you. It’s hard to let go of wanting it to be perfect, but showcasing the real experience is best. We do that now with our videos, they’re often out of focus and have mistakes, but I don’t have the time to reshoot or get it right. sometimes the raw experience works well. There are many people doing really raw photos and videos on their phones and killing it. Also focus on you strengths. For you, it’s your writing, so put more energy into your stories. #dropthehashtag Let’s start a campaign!!

      1. Thanks for your thoughtful and encouraging response Caz x and yes ironic but let’s start #dropthehashtag campaign!

  12. Sometimes I look back in horror on my camera card. I’ve been somewhere I really liked and was so into it that I’ve actually forgotten to take a photo. While I am happy that I was present in the moment, I also wish I’d remembered to snap a photo!

  13. You’re totally right, it can be so tempting to get lost in the taking of a good photo to share on social media. I have however come to terms with the fact that building a blog takes a LONG time and that waisting truly magical moments during my travels on it is just not worth it. I will always have my camera with me and yes I will take photos but I’ll also put it down do enjoy the silence, the colors and especially the animals.

    There really is no excuse to invade an animals personal space, everybody should just be happy that you get to witness such a great moment in stead of chasing the animal off so it might not come back in the future! After all these animals is why we are here and there is nothing more important than respecting them. Greetings, Marijs

  14. Thank you Caz for this honest post! Honestly this is something I am struggling with, after my last 2 trips. I love writing, and that is my passion, while I would love to take photography as a hobby. But as I didn’t have a photographer come alone, I found myself in the photographer’s seat with only 2 months of owning my camera. I am still trying to figure out this ISO and aperture business, so not only did I feel like I was missing out on moments with family and friends, I felt frustrated because I spent half the time trying to figure out the settings on my camera. The pressure to share ‘perfect pics’ on social, the pressure to capture the ‘perfect picture’ it’s all been getting to me…so I totally relate with your post…it is what I needed this morning. I have only been blogging for a month, so I know I can’t afford to lose my way this early on. I want to share the heart and soul of the places I travel to and to inspire the people who read my blog…time to do some reflecting. I am happy this email arrived in my inbox this morning. I will be following on the ‘uplugged’ series. Thanks a lot 🙂

    http://www.scrapbookjourneys.com

    1. Thank you Marion for sharing your experiences. I’m so glad it resonated with you. I think this post probably will resonate more with those in the blogging or social media industry because that pressure is there for all of us. It takes a lot of strength to fight it off and not lose yourself in it and some time to also figure out how to best make it work for you. I think if you focus more on what you love and what works and less on the stuff you feel pressured to do, then it will evolve into something that works. I think that this is what this experience taught me – putting less pressure on myself and being okay with not being perfect, and only doing the work I love or in the way that I love to do it.

  15. Hey Caz,
    I completely agree with most of what you said. I have visited way too many outstanding natural spaces that are filled with people bunched up trying to get the perfect selfie for Instagram.

    But, I have also had the opposite experience of documenting my travels. When we took off for our (almost) round-the-world bike trip, we decided to write a blog post every single day. That meant we needed photos and a story to tell every day.

    Because of this, I found myself noticing things I wouldn’t normally notice and examining my experience in a much deeper way that I would have otherwise done. Now our days that would have been forgotten are all painted in words and pictures on our blog. The biggest benefit for me is that I can reread it and relive those memories.

    So, I guess this is just a tip for people who are about to set off on a journey. Keep a detailed journal – we decided to do it as a public blog because that kept us accountable and motivated to keep posting every day.

    But, as you said, try not to worry about SEO, hashtags, social media reach and blah blah blah – you may not make money with your blog, but you’ll have something far more valuable at the end.

    J

    P.S. Long before social media, we went on a tour around the Middle East. One person on our tour was a photographer, and she spent the entire time behind her camera. There was a church we visited where no photos were allowed, so she said “I’m not going there. It’s not worth seeing if I can’t take photos.” It struck me as very shallow at the time, but she has turned into an extremely talented photographer, so to each their own, I guess!

    1. Oh that’s quite a sad story. I guess it’s her choices though. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I think you’ve shown it can be balanced and how photographs can help to tell a story. Documenting your travels is such a great way to keep memories alive and I’m so glad we have so many stories and pictures on our blog, for us, but also for the girls who won’t remember a lot of it.

      I think the key is to not let the pressure to get X amount of likes be the focus of taking the photos. Take them to enhance the story and capture the memory but balance the experience with the lens and the eyes.

  16. Sofia Kyriakopoulou

    That’s suddly true not only in our travels but in all the ceremonies we attend. Trying to catch the perfect foto of my daughter’s theatrical play role I missed to enjoy her live. So sad!!

  17. Great points, Caz. Sometimes I do feel I miss the real life moment as I’m trying to capture a shot. And then often come back with way more shots than are needed. Luckily my kids tell me when I am being a pain.

    I don’t take photos of social moments very often… too busy nattering… I’ve always loved the social side of travelling and especially loved travelling on my own. My hubby and I went to Dubai recently for a social get together, what joy to blether for hours with dozens of Scottish people… and we met a really lovely Egyptian man who worked a lot with my hubby in Kurdistan. SO interesting… Anyway, good to read this, I am sure it will resonate widely.

  18. Gosh Caz, I really needed to read this! I’ve been struggling lately, feeling like I’m not taking/sharing travel photos the “right” way – I’ve felt like I should be trying to emulate National Geographic, and that because I don’t put ~enough~ time into snapping pics and choosing the right hashtags, my experiences are barely worth putting out there. Not a good way to feel 🙁
    So thank you so much for sharing, and reminding me that even if my photos don’t feature on the Popular list on Instagram, it’s the experience and memories that truly count and will last forever!

  19. My friends always thing i am a bit too much because i hate having cell phones and the like when we travel. Yes i understand that they want to capture the moment and share on social media with their many followers, but what happens when you miss the special moments? This was a great read 🙂

  20. I actually don’t share 99% of my photos online. Photography is a private hobby for me. Things I share online are just iPhone snaps. Whatever grabs it in the moment.

    Years ago I looked at starting a photography business but I don’t like most of what most people do in photography, let alone the few clients I had that solidified it being a hobby & not a job or business for me.

    I enjoy photography; I can tell you where I was, what I was doing & thinking with any photo I’ve taken.

    It’s little things that tell a story to me. I don’t care if the photo is grainy from a high ISO, to me that means I was shooting in low light and out experiencing something. I don’t care if the clouds blocked a “perfect” sunrise at my local beach, I just wait for those stunning rays to shine through in their own unique focus & ways.

    A picture perfect photo takes knowing an area, weather, so many variables that it’s frankly ridiculous. And it doesn’t need to be picture perfect.

    It’s just a moment, the moment you were there. That is more than good enough.

  21. 100% agree with you! I’ve been there–even pre-social media. I spent 2 weeks looking through a view finder for mediocre photos and I missed half of the experience itself. My greatest regret was wasting the magic of a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I also learned that no one cares as much about my photos or social moments as I care about living them in real time. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

    1. “I also learned that no one cares as much about my photos or social moments as I care about living them in real time”
      Love that! Thank you

  22. The first time I experienced this phenomenon was years ago during my first encounter with the mountain gorillas and this was before social media for goodness sake! We were lucky enough to find them fast and in a clearing. We stayed back the required distance and formed a semi circle around them. Everyone went made clicking. This quiet magical moment in the middle of the forest with these awesome animals and all you could hear was click click click. We only had such a short time with them and all of us paid a fortune for the experience, the experience we were missing. Then something went click in my brain and I was able to toss my camera to one of the ports and just sit and absorb. My efforts were rewarded by a mock charge by one of the babies! Funnily enough someone in the group took a photo of it and just by accident got me too. They sent me a copy months later when they developed the roll (yes it was that long ago), it is grainy and not perfect yet it is my one of my treasures. Now that I write about my adventures I am even more prone to missing the point but I am always trying to just be. Thanks Caz, nice to know another feels the same.

    1. We had almost exactly the same experience, but we were charged by a silverback and it was almost as soon as we arrived so no one had time to take any photos. It was an incredible moment and a story I tell over and over again!

  23. I really agree with Christel’s point – why should I ruin a personal experience by taking photos that other people aren’t really going to care about anyway? Having said that, I travel purely for pleasure. I gain nothing by posting on social media. When your job requires you to use it actively, I can see where the struggle would be harder. Posting these moments on social media impacts your income. Therefore, I understand why some people would feel a lot more pressure to record ALL THE THINGS!

    1. Yes. The posting on social for income makes it a whole new pressure level. It’s a delicate balance but I think people can find ways to make it work so it doesn’t take over the experience. It’s also different for some in that photography might be their work, not necessarily travel, so therefore there’s less pressure for them to experience the travel as they’re just showing beautiful images not necessarily the reality of the travel experience.

  24. Thanks for sharing your experience so openly. I can definitely relate! I keep a South-east Queensland based wildlife blog and occasionally find myself so absorbed with capturing the moment the right way for ‘presenting’ that I forget to ENJOY the moment. I try to manage this tendency by occasionally having days out where none of it is to be ‘shared’. Maybe to sustain your passion and authentic connection to travel, you could take one trip away per year that you choose not to share? A holiday from holiday writing 🙂

    I also really respect that the welfare of the wallabies was more important to you than the perfect shot. I see so many bloggers and wildlife photographers presenting shots where the animals are clearly disturbed and alarmed, even if it looks impressive in the moment. Nesting birds with mouths open in alarm, dragons with their frills out, snakes ready to strike and kangaroos with their ears pricked or bounding away – from the animal’s point of view, none of that is really worth it just for ‘likes’ on social media. So I have to say, your pics are actually really great, because the subjects are undisturbed by your presence. You captured a series of authentically natural nature photos.

    1. Thank you Christian. I’m so glad you liked the natural style of the photos. I was thinking today how I’m also like that with people. I have so many moments where I think oh it would be great to get this person on camera, or video, or snapchat and then I hang back and don’t because I don’t feel right invading their space. I thought it was because I was shy and felt awkward asking, but I think it also might be because I don’t like imposing on others and making them feel uncomfortable – which is difficult because sometimes people help tell better stories!!

      Craig and I actually spoke the other day of taking a holiday where photos, social media and writing about it is not allowed – back to the old days. I think we’re going to make it happen!

  25. Excellent blog post. I completely agree and while reading was thinking, it’s all about finding that balance, and then, like always, you addressed that. Great minds…
    It is necessary to have an online presence, especially with a travel and documenting your journeys, but you have to remember to be present and take time to connect and enjoy the experience. You can do it ALL!

  26. Hey Caz … WOW … your observations on the whole insta-twit-face travel photo taking malarkey that seems to be gaining momentum, resonates with me in many ways, particularly more-so recently. I’ve been following your travels for a long time now, often with envy at the places you’ve been and the experiences you’ve shared, however its not until recently that I’ve begun thinking of the “cost” of it all.

    I’ve always wondered how much of everything you guys share has been, not so much staged, as thought about heaps, given the amount of content you’ve produced as you travel. And then I’ve though about the effort required to collect, sort, write etc as part of your business, and I can’t see how you’ve managed to just be “in the moment” with all that extra baggage as such. That kind of effort must have had some sort of a cost!

    I know with our life I’m split between the strong drive to “get in there and experience it” and the equally strong “record my family getting in there and experiencing it” emotions.

    Being in the online space as well, and taking my family on an open ended journey around Australia (for now … then the world!), I’ve felt pressure to document everything, take copious photos for the different online channels, come up with interesting/funny/informative/SEO’d out the wazoo blog posts … all in the name of building a sustainable income stream from our travels.

    Long story short, we have spent a long time getting the hang of being on the road full time, managed to really enjoy travelling, but have also now given up the idea of building a travel based business, as we have realised the constant pressures of travel combined with taking photos of everything we did (without just being in the moment), pretty much negated the reason why we hit the road in the first place!

    I do actually enjoy taking photos, and think my technique is improving, however I only use my phone, and it is only secondary to enjoying the actual experience with my family. I think it will still form “part” of the experience, just so we can look back at and remember later on, however it definitely won’t take centre stage.

    Funny thing is we were out the other evening enjoying the “staircase to the moon” from our favourite viewing spot … along with about 200 others who were frantically adjusting camera settings, moving tripods and with a near constant staccato of flashes firing, the place was fairly lit up! After the main event had essentially finished, I asked the people (other travellers) next to us how they enjoyed this wonderful phenomenon, and they basically started whinging about how it was disappointing and they didn’t have photos like the brochures, and was all a waste of time. I though no wonder why they think that way … I’d be surprised if they even experienced 30 seconds of the event for real without futzing with their gear.

    Anyway, I can see “insta-twit-face photo fatigue” will soon become more of a “thing” that people will need to be medicated for 😉

  27. Great insight and interesting how my family paralells yours. My wife is the writer and I love making videos and taking photos. We’ve talked several times fretting about how we’ll manage the balance between publishing and experiencing in our upcoming long term travel. In fact, my masters thesis film dealt with this as well (https://goo.gl/EFapLS). One of the wonderful things about my career is the opportunity to go fantastic places to see amazing things and meet fascinating people but I always make sure to take a moment or two and just try to soak in the experience and the place, whether it’s filming polar bears battle or fly fishing in Tierra del fuego.
    We love following your travels. If you are near Yellowstone before August on your US trip, give us a shout. We’d love to point out the hidden gems in our area.

  28. Great post, and a particularly relevant one. It seems like our culture now is obsessed with social media, making your whole life public, trying to get the most number of strangers to ‘like’ your photo, etc. As a blogger, it is definitely hard to find a balance between enjoying the moment, but also thinking about your business.

  29. I find this happening with humans. Sitting across from friends at lunch who spend twenty minutes searching through their phone for that ONE picture they took that ONE time or searching their social media for that ONE quote leaves me asking myself why I came in the first place. People are too valuable to lose in a wasted search for someone else’s words.

  30. Everything in life should be done in moderation. Only then can someone reap the benefits of life. We get too caught up in the most recent trends that we tend to forget about ourselves and our experiences. What ever happened to mental pictures? lol Anyway, not forgetting to enjoy each moment is what’s important.

  31. Mahee Ferlini

    This is a great post – sometimes it can seem like stressing over photos takes over the experiences we have traveling, but other times, I feel like the artistic aspect of capturing the moment specific to how you felt it makes the stress worth it 🙂

  32. This post is so true and relatable. I definatly struggle with getting so lost in taking a great picture i forget to enjoy the experience. Looking forward to reading more about unplugged.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.