From helping navigate unfamiliar cities or pointing us toward that hidden hole-in-the-wall gem, our smartphones and tablets have transformed the way we experience travel. Without the free Wi-Fi or handy GPS devices, some of us – ahem, ok, I’m one of them – would struggle to find our way out of the airport.
But for all the ways technology has aided the traveller, it’s not all positive. Technology has removed some of the excitement of travel. We tend not to wander aimlessly in the hope of finding something cool, but instead follow unalterable directions to every “must see” stop on our regimented itinerary. We spend a large part of our day checking we’re going the right way rather than just looking up and taking in our surroundings.
At the very least, this technology – the maps, the GPS, the apps that show the best restaurants near us – has a use. It helps us fulfil our checklist obligations by directing us to the best attractions. It helps us find that friend who always goes missing on a night out. And it invaluably tells us the history of the destinations we visit. But it’s not all like this.
Documenting Every Step
Somewhere along the way we started doubting that our memories could sufficiently document a trip and began to digitally document everything on our cameras. When you see someone recording a video and notice they’re actually looking through the camera instead of looking first-hand at the spectacular scenery in front of them. You have to wonder, will they ever watch the tape back? And if they do, what meaning will it have? Will the hairs stand on the back of their neck as they remember the first time they visited an incredible destination? OR will their memory be checked, knowing they were too preoccupied with recording the surrounds to enjoy them?
We spend too many hours looking at a screen, can’t we put them down on our holidays?!
The Selfie Stick: The Ultimate Anti-Travel Tool
However, provided they’re used sparingly, cameras are a fundamental – and enjoyable – part of travelling. Other travel tools are more hindrance than help, only benefitting the pockets of the creators rather than the traveller. One example of this is the selfie stick.
The selfie stick has turned our open traveller’s spirit into a shameless exhibition of narcissism.Click to tweet
Visit any tourist destination or event and, instead of seeing a collection of people engaged with their surroundings, you’ll see people engaged with themselves desperate to prove “i was ere” by taking dozens of photos of themselves from every imaginable angle. When they look back at the photo, the background will be ignored, only functioning as a framework for their own glorious image. Of course, only those photos that make the subject look fantastic will be posted on Facebook.
Perhaps everyone should turn in their smartphones before they travel. Failing that, disable the camera. Failing that, make carrying a selfie stick a criminal offence. Let’s look at what the selfie stick has cost us…
Selfie Stick Beatings
In our increasingly isolated world, it’s the little things that count. Asking a stranger to take your photo is one small gesture that reminds us, hey, there are other people in the world! In distant lands, it’s an opportunity to meet a local that you would otherwise never have spoken to. They might tell you where the best bar in the city is, or which beach has the best waves and/or least crowds. They might ask where you’re from, wish you a happy journey, or even invite you to grab a beer. You might even get a date out of it (WARNING: The last line was used for illustrative purposes only. Unfortunately, Hotel.com.au can only guarantee Chris Hemsworth and Margot Robbie a date).
If you’ve got a selfie stick, those small, seemingly inconsequential meetings will never take place, and a little part of why we travel has been lost. Instead of throwing yourself into a strange culture and absorbing all it entails, you’ve lived within a little bubble and sequestered yourself from the fascinating and beautiful world around you. And all you got was a few photographs.
Distant Lands, Disengaged
In Fight Club, narrator Jack says, ‘everything is a copy of a copy of a copy’. It wasn’t a good thing. He meant that there was a barrier between his perception and actual reality. This is what happens when we obsess over using our selfie sticks as we travel. The wonder of a breathtaking destination is lost; it becomes a background that shows the world how exotic our lives are. If you arrive at an attraction and your first thought is “let’s get a selfie to share on Facebook”, you’ve lost an experience you’ll never be able to get again. Instead, you should keep your phone in your pocket, throw your selfie stick in the bin, and just look at the magical sight. And I mean, really look. Don’t think of it as a background or cover photo – think of it for what it is: an example of earth’s beauty. If we look at it only in terms of ourselves, the beauty becomes a commodity that serves us. In reality, we should allow earth’s beauty to take us to a higher plane – not bring its beauty down to our primitive existence.
Alienation in Australia
When we look back at the golden days of the past, we think of it as a time of great community spirit, when neighbours really did become best friends. Today, there’s a view that strangers are evil, that we should be cynical of help and sceptical of friendship. Will the man offering to take my photo run away with my camera? If I ask that stranger to take my photo, am I setting myself up to be mugged?
I’ve got news for you: Australia is one of the safest societies in the world, and the chance of you randomly becoming a victim of crime is unlikely. There really ought to be no reason why you shouldn’t take the first step to speak to a stranger. People are kind, helpful, and receptive to friendly interactions – let them. You’ll be helping bring back the community we all want – one where people talk to each other without any inhibition.
I hate to sound like an 11 year-old but… selfie sticks are lameeeee, bro. Have you ever seen a person using one and thought “hey, I gotta get to know that crazy cat”? I didn’t think so. Also, you’ve got to carry it around all the time. A wooden-handled umbrella is a cool accessory to carry with you. A selfie stick is the equivalent of wearing a bum bag or socks with sandals. Think about that.