I’ve been to several countries now, communicated in different languages (attempted to), made one or two hostel beds, spent more money than expected because of currency exchange, eaten (and loved) new foods, posted up on train station/airport floors, brushed my teeth in a public bathroom, written a Yelp review, and have shamelessly taken touristy selfies. If you know me well enough though, you know that I am not the biggest selfie supporter. A silly picture here or there, sure, but cropping out the top of the Eiffel Tower in order to get your head in the frame just seems a little counterintuitive.
With all the travel I’ve been doing this fall I’ve seen a lot of selfies taken, mostly on sticks too ~shudders~. I’ve watched people roll up to a tourist monument and immediately turn their back on it to take a picture of their own face. Though this makes me slightly uncomfortable, I’m not saying don’t take pictures when traveling. In fact I’m all for it, go nuts! Use pictures to capture the beauty of a place you’ve never seen before, the smile of a friend laughing at an inside joke, the food that may be overpriced but definitely worth it, the street performer you have spent a minute too long looking at, the thing that you think your sister would like to see, the beach where you found a perfectly circular stone, and the joy on your face as you blissfully carpe that diem.
However I do think there is something to be said of scraping the selfie and asking someone else to take your picture. With technology today we virtually don’t have to talk to anyone ever in person. There’s no need to ask for directions, restaurant recommendations, or even to ask someone to take your picture.
The other day in the Dublin airport, and as I was waiting for my friends to finish getting through security, a man came up to me and asked me to take his picture. The airport had just put up some Christmas decorations and there was a life sized Santa Claus you could sit next to on a bench. As I stood there taking this middle-aged and balding man’s picture next to Santa I couldn’t help but smile. I didn’t know anything about him, except that he was traveling alone (and loved Christmas obviously). I started to wonder who he would share this picture with, what he would say about it, and where the next smile would come from it.
Touristy areas are full of people, so why not share with them part of your experience. Ask someone to take your picture, talk to a stranger, share a smile. If you travel without interacting with the environment around you, don’t you think you’re missing out on one of the best parts of traveling?
...but I also totally get it if the lighting is just right and you’re feeling the angle.