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Is Instagram really changing the way we travel?

I have read a few articles lately about a generational shift in how people travel and more importantly, how they choose where to travel. This article in particular talks about how millennials are choosing to travel to destinations based on their ‘instagramability’ – is that even a word? Basically the thought is that people are choosing to go to that popular destination they saw on Instagram just to get that shot – the one that will guarantee the likes roll in.

While I think doing anything just for the likes is nothing short of ridiculous I am totally on board with visiting a location fuelled by the desire to get a particular photo. You see, I’ve done just that. More than once.

Is Instagram really changing the way we travel?
I’ll give you an example. When planning a trip to New Zealand I turned to Instagram for inspiration for what I should see and do. That is when I was introduced to the picture perfect town of Wanaka. It was spectacular and I had to go. Wanaka is a photographers paradise not in the least bit due to this little tree that pokes out of the lake. Just look up #thatwanakatree on Instagram and you will be overloaded. But you will also see just how beautiful it is which is why it keeps getting its photo taken.

When I arrived in Wanaka it was the worst day. It was sleeting and there was a thick fog covering all the spectacular mountains surrounding the lake. I decided that while I couldn’t experience the true beauty of Wanaka I could still go and take that photo of the tree. This trip actually made me want to get into photography properly but for this photo, it was just my me and my trusty iPhone. As a side note, I am pretty sure the lakeside is now packed with tourists trying to get this shot, but when I went it was just us and maybe 1 or 2 others walking along the lake’s edge.

Is Instagram really changing the way we travel?
Would I have known this little tree exists without Instagram? Probably not. Would I have made the most of the miserable day in Wanaka if I hadn’t gone in search of this photograph? Probably not. Do I want to return to Wanaka and hike Roy’s Peak to get that classic Instagram shot? Hell yes!

The issue I have with these kind of articles are the negative associations placed on travelling for the ‘gram. Because this is not a new concept. Not at all. Surprisingly there was once a time before Instagram, however this little app has put the power in our hands quite literally and we now have a 24 hour feed of picture perfect moments captured and posted for our engagement. It’s hard not to get caught up in trying to capture the perfect Instagram moment, and I am the first to admit that I do it too. But taking photos is part of my enjoyment of a destination. It is my souvenir of a place, a memory I can hold onto and revisit.

Isn’t the desire for an incredible Instagram feed of destinations kind of like a modern, visual bucket list?

Is Instagram really changing the way we travel?
I was late to the Instagram party, but let me tell you another story about a time I travelled specifically to get the shot. We were planning a holiday to Italy and being my first time to Europe I was eager to learn as much as I could before our departure. So like many travellers before me, I purchased a Lonely Planet guide book.

As I got lost in the pages of the amazing places I could visit, I stumbled across an image. It was a photo of a statue on the edge of a cliff overlooking incredible cobalt blue water. As soon as I saw this image I knew that I wanted to go there and take that photo myself.

This single image sparked such a strong desire in me to visit that I added the Isle of Capri to our itinerary. Without seeing this photograph I would have potentially missed out on experiencing one of the most beautiful places I have ever been and I would have missed out on the memories that I made that day.

After a bit of research I found exactly where I needed to go and yes, I took the exact same photo. And you know what? My iPhone photo was every bit as incredible as the one I saw in the guide book. There is a reason everyone wants to take the these photos, because the places are generally pretty amazing.

Is Instagram really changing the way we travel?My advice though, is that after you take that shot you came to get, stay a bit longer and explore your own angle. You will be happy to ticked that box but you may come home with a photo a little more unique and maybe even more amazing.

I don’t think it matters at all where you get your inspiration to travel or your desire to see and experience a place. Maybe it’s Instagram, a guide book, or from looking through friends travel albums on Facebook. Travelling to get the shot is fine because if that is the motivation you need to get out and explore, go for it! This is exactly why tourism boards pay top Instagram influencers to post amazing photos. Because when we double tap on that image, we are saying that we too want to experience the destination, take our own photos and make lasting memories.

Just remember to look out from behind the lens and truly appreciate the place around you, because there is a reason these photos are so popular on Instagram – they just might be some of the most incredible places you will ever visit.

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Is Instagram really changing the way we travel?

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