The trouble with ‘me tourism’
Travel. That’s an answer that always comes up when you ask people what they want to do in life. But why do we really want to travel?
These days, on social media feeds, specifically on my Instagram, I realize how I just gloss through the contents, as everything seems to look the same — including my posts!
Everyone is so excited about posting something of themselves in a well-known breathtaking place to prove that they have been there, and in hopes of getting many hearts and thumbs-ups from people.
I must admit, I am very guilty of this. This is what I call “me tourism.”
Recently, I had the incredible opportunity to visit the wonderful Mount Pinatubo crater lake. The blue water twinkled under the sun and in between fascinatingly formed green hills.
It was beauty created by the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century. Since I hadn’t made any travel plans yet in 2017, I thought it would be a great place to end my year with a bang.
So while hiking, I took lots of photos and videos, thinking about sharing them immediately once I get home. I did share an album, an edited video montage of the whole adventure and some Instagram photos.
I didn’t only get hearts or thumbs-ups, I got shocked emojis from people as well. Mission accomplished, I thought.
But then, a few days after, I listened to an interview on the radio and there’s this woman talking about how young people these days go to places just to take pictures of themselves with famous landmarks and share them online.
She pointed out that most of us travel with the desire to show off to people, instead of just being in a place and experiencing it, getting to know its people and culture better.
Damn! That hit me.
Yes, I did hike the mountain. I did talk to some locals (our tour guide and some playful Aeta children). But, I asked myself, did I really experience it enough?
I did what a normal tourist would have done in the limited time allowed by the tour, but something in me said I could have used a lot more of that short time talking to more people, knowing more about the place personally and just really feeling the moment, rather than capturing every bit of it with my camera.
Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing horribly wrong with what I did. I’ve always been that girl with the camera trying to capture the beauty of things, people and moments around me. But for some reason, I regret not being the one experiencing some of those moments for a change.
Now, I am wondering, what would it be like to do the adventure all over again without any gadgets with me? I bet it would be more free of social concerns.
I am not telling anyone to stop posting about their travels, just pointing out that it would be nice if, for a change, our travels become less about letting people know about them and more about making the most out of the experience.
When you go to places, eat the food there and put down the camera. Appreciate the people and not only the view. Smell it. Feel it. Dig deep into its wonders.
Then, if you failed to take any photos or video, you could just write about it, if you really want others to know about the place and encourage them to visit it as well.
I think writing is still a powerful way of encouraging people to do things. Driving tourism, in most cases, is a nice way to give back to a place and its people for the good time you had there.
I guess what I’m trying to do here is making fellow travelers think about what’s more important: Is it to truly live in the moment of your travel, or to share how everything went by?
If you’re one of the people who could balance the two, then good for you. But if you’re just in it for Instagram tourism, then you may end up missing out on the really good parts of the journey.
In the end, “me tourism” is not a crime or a sin. But when you think about it, what does it really serve?
* * *
Kimberly Ilaya, 22, is a mass communication graduate from Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.