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Why Experience Still Matters

Why Experience Still Matters

Hiking to Liverpool Hut in New Zealand

Without a doubt, Socality Barbie is my absolute favorite thing on the internet this week. In case you live under a rock and missed it, someone created an Instagram account for a Barbie doll mocking all of the hipsters on the app and it’s all kinds of glorious! Glorious people!

Why you might ask? Because someone is finally drawing attention to something that has been bugging me for a year – the fakeness of social media, especially the fakeness on Instagram. What Socality Barbie so cleverly draws attention are people who are using the wildly popular #LiveAuthentic hashtag on Instagram, who are, well, anything but authentic because they all take the exact same photos. It all blurs together into one giant feed of dark green hues and beards.

Overexposed photos of barns. Wooden railroad tracks through the Pacific Northwest mists. Hammocks in ridiculous places. A frame cabins in the woods. And so much plaid and canvas. I can’t take another shot of a tin mug filled with organic French press coffee in the hands of someone wearing a blanket looking out by a campfire ANYMORE. NO MORE.

Why Experience Still Matters

Sunset at a Bedouin Camp in Jordan

Why Experience Still Matters

Phinda, South Africa

I’ve been hinting about writing this for a while but I really didn’t know exactly how to put into words or talk about it in a way without sounding like a judgmental dick; not to mention I am friends with a lot of people who take those exact types of photos. Oops.

It’s a really big gray area when we are talking about what’s real and what’s fake online. I can tell you I’ve probably been guilty of some of these things before so who am I to judge or tell other people they are being fake, right?

Well, I am going to throw caution to the wind and do it anyways. If I see one more pair of legs sticking out of a tent in a place where you didn’t actually camp, I am going to scream.

Why Experience Still Matters

My tent in Mongolia horse trekking for a month

Why Experience Still Matters

Cordoba, Spain where I taught English for a year

Let me be honest, I am not sick of those views, or stereotypes or even that lifestyle; in fact, I secretly like it. What I am sick of seeing things that are totally staged and fake, and let me tell you from firsthand experience, many of those accounts are. Maybe they weren’t when they started out, but boy have times have changed.

I work with those people, I’ve hired those people, hell, I’ve even posed for those people. And to be fair, I’ve been that person once or twice before. Who am I to judge?

Photographers always have composed and staged shots, so what’s changed?

What has been bothering me for months and months and what I just can’t wrap my head around is the simple fact that somehow with the rise of Instagram and social media, experience seems to matter LESS than the photo. The shot has become more important than the story. How the hell did that happen?

Why Experience Still Matters

Giza, Egypt

why experience still matters

Finishing the 4 day Milford Track

In the past, there was a clear line between being a photographer and the rest of the world of non-picture-takers. Nowadays anyone with a phone is a photographer.

And you know what? I love that. I love the accessibility of art now and that anyone can become whatever they dream of being. If you want to be a writer, you don’t need to go to school for it, you can be a writer. Same with photography and video.

We are a generation of content creators, and that’s awesome!

Why Experience Still Matters

Great Barrier Reef

Why Experience Still Matters

Cappadoccia, Turkey

But thanks to Barbie, the negative side has been clearly, bluntly, and sarcastically tossed in our faces this week and raises the question of how much is actually real? Is that truly authentic living or did you just stage everything in your Instagram feed to seem authentic? And are we staging our very lives online for approval nowadays?

Which begs the question – if it didn’t get shared on social media, did it actually happen?

Where is the line between reality and fantasy?

Why Experience Still Matters

Routeburn Track

Why Experience Still Matters

Petra, Jordan

There are plenty of fantastical Instagram accounts out there that I love, but that is what they profess to be – fantasy. I start to get angry when I see Instagrams that PRETEND to show something real, but the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s like we are shaping a world that doesn’t actually exist. Do I even need to point out all the potential problems with that?

Don’t try to be something you’re not.

This is something I’ve been seeing grow a lot this past year in New Zealand especially, and it is freaking me out. And to be honest, sometimes it feels like its my fault. I don’t feel comfortable saying I pioneered Instagramming in New Zealand by any means, but two years ago when I moved here, there weren’t that many people on the ‘gram. I got involved in the community, worked on getting features for people, and really tried to encourage people to share this beautiful part of the world online, especially Wanaka.

But somehow between now and then it’s spiraled into something that makes me cringe and back away slowly.

Why Experience Still Matters

Daintree, Australia

Why Experience Still Matters

Becoming an advanced diver on Koh Tao, Thailand

Now I feel really disconnected with Instagram here, and I’ve found myself saying the same things Socality Barbie is saying here too. And I’ve even become disillusioned with certain places and things around New Zealand because of it that never bothered me before.

Not to mention everyone is copying each other and trying to out do one another; I’ve had a number of projects ripped out from under me here and I learned the hard way to keep my ideas to myself in Wanaka – this taker attitude really bothers me because it kinda goes against everything I love about New Zealand to begin with.

For me New Zealand is the very definition of community and positive living, so seeing it start to shift away from that in photography upsets me more than I could ever possibly express. I hate that I can’t talk about the things I am working on anymore.

How did that happen?

I didn’t realize it until I was on the plane back home to America for a visit that I needed a freaking break. I was sick for the 4th time in 2 months, burnt out and exhausted. I slept for 2 days straight once I got home to Virginia and then realized I needed a little social media detox. And you know what? It’s been awesome. I gave a @TED talk over a year ago about how we’ve become so addicted to mobile technology, so I decided I needed to follow my own advice and disconnect, spend time with my family, and rest. I didn’t even bring my camera with me. And now I feel more creative than ever. Sometimes you gotta put yourself first, listen to your body and remember that the world doesn’t end if you don’t Instagram for a week. Peace #socialmediadetox #homesweethome #nocameranoproblem

A photo posted by Liz Carlson (@youngadventuress) on

For me Instagram is about sharing my view of New Zealand, my perspective, how I see life here, not how someone else sees it.

I am so sick seeing those damn foldable white kayaks in places you aren’t actually kayaking. I’m sick of seeing tents posed all over the country in places where it’s illegal to camp. I’m sick of seeing artful nighttime silhouettes of people gazing up at the Milky Way with a headlamp on. No more colorful hammocks tied over an impractical creek or skateboarding down a deserted road towards a mountain. We’ve seen it all before on Chris Burkhard‘s feed, stop copying him.

Be original. Be creative. Challenge yourself.

Why Experience Still Matters

Treble Cone, New Zealand

Why Experience Still Matters

Logroño, Spain

It doesn’t count if you fly in a helicopter up a mountain and pose with a backpack and puffer jacket for a photo implying you hiked there. Where’s the story behind that? And what about if you pitched a tent just for a photo only to take it down a minute after – did you even camp? Or staging a whole sunset shot in a kakak that you paddled in for approximately 5 minutes?

I get frustrated because I actually climb mountains and I camp all the time and I love kayaking around the lakes in summer. Sometimes I take photos, most of the time I don’t. Come on, nobody kayaks in New Zealand in winter!

It’s all about the photo now, and not the experience itself which drives me nuts, like going on a hike JUST for the photos. And it’s creating a fake image of New Zealand and a fake lifestyle. It’s like photoshopping life, people!

Why Experience Still Matters

Asturias, Spain

Why Experience Still Matters

Sri Lanka

Jeeze, this sounds so negative, doesn’t it? That’s not what I want. What I want to do is to make an argument for the value of experience, especially in travel, and at the end of the day, those amazing moments you share and undergo around the world matter so much more than a photo.

The stories should be what matter. The experiences themselves. Not the evidence.

Every year we become more and more obsessed with our phones, with how we look, about the evidence of our lives, and I think it’s getting to the point where we are forgetting to actually live. This is something I strive to work on all the time and fail spectacularly at. If things go on, what will the world be like in a decade?

I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve had to decide between pulling out my camera for a photo and just living in the moment. And I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been on blog trips where I wasn’t even given the opportunity for experience, rather just a quick photo opp. I know which I prefer.

Why Experience Still Matters

Altai, Mongolia

Why Experience Still Matters

Pamplona, Spain

Given a choice, I would still take all the same trips and explore the world even if I didn’t own a camera, if only for the memories and the amazing things you learn when you get to travel.

Life doesn’t revolve around sunrise and sunset, good light and dark skies and new moons. The day isn’t ruined if you didn’t get the shot or if it rains. Life is all a matter of perspective and what you make of it and being inspired. Travel is about the people you meet and the impact they have on you. It’s about overcoming challenges and learning new things, putting yourself in foreign cultures and even making a fool of yourself sometimes. It shouldn’t be about pictures.

Tomorrow Instagram could be gone, remember that. And what will we be left with? Trust me, experience still matters. In fact, it’s probably all that matters.

So I am calling for more stories, more experiences, and less bullshit, more creativity and less copying. I’d rather see a crappy original photo with an amazing tale behind it that the most artfully composed sunrise in the world with flying rainbow unicorns frolicking in a golden reflecting lake below it.

So thanks for the reminder to live, Barbie. #Ironic.

Am I the only one who feels this way? Is there anything you’re sick of seeing online? Are you guilty too of any of this? Be sure to follow me on Instagram as I try to keep it real!

Why Experience Still Matters

Luxor, Egypt

Why Experience Still Matters

Ephesus, Turkey

177 Responses to Why Experience Still Matters

  1. Sarah September 14, 2015 at 7:36 pm #

    I can’t begin to express how much I agree with this. I noticed it at Stonehenge earlier this year- countless people taking selfies and artfully posed photos, and hardly anyone actually looking at the most famous Neolithic monument in the world! I think that social media has created an incredibly self-absorbed culture, in which people care more about looking amazing and outdoing one another online than immersing themselves in their experiences. It doesn’t just apply to travel photos, either- kissing selfies are another good example. Instead of trying to prove to everyone how in love you are, why not just *be* in love, and enjoy a moment together? I admit that I take quite a lot of photos when I go on holidays, but never at the expense of the experience itself. I think it’s great that you’ve called people out on this- maybe it’ll encourage people to re-examine their priorities!

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:18 pm #

      Agree 100% the couple thing drives me nuts.

  2. Dan September 14, 2015 at 7:40 pm #


    Liz, I frigging love your honesty and you put this so well (you don’t sound like a judgemental dick, you sound like someone with a valid opinion as always).

    Got to admit it’s something I have been thinking of lately, my blog is full of opinions and travel realities yet somehow my IG tends to just be great landscapes without too much context. Something I have become super away of lately.

    I have lost so much respect for people I used to read regularly as they use bots to like any certain hashtag and they can’t get a true narrative on their blog linked to their photos because, as you put it, there wasn’t an experience to write about in the first place.

    Thanks as always for being honest, it’s what keeps us coming back for more!

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:19 pm #

      Thank you!

  3. Sarah September 14, 2015 at 7:46 pm #

    This is a brilliant ranty post (as usual). It’s very fitting – I’ve been reading up this weekend on how people are travelling through a lens and not seeing what is literally the bigger picture.

    I am terrible with pictures. I need to improve on that. As I get to pawn those duties to others, I get to live in the moments and I love it.

    The camera does get in the way. As for the morons who stage that they went camping or climbed a mountain… Well there isn’t much you can say. Apart from that they are idiots who are only fooling themselves.

    Thanks for writing this. Great for a silly Monday morning.

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:19 pm #


  4. Emma September 14, 2015 at 7:58 pm #

    Sad isn’t it, that we’ve reduced our lifestyles to this passive-aggressive online bragging.
    Faking social media seems to be the natural progression of a consumerism obsessed, electronically over stimulated society that values empty rewards.
    However, there are some fantastic original instagram accounts out there, including yours – I’m so pleased with all that you’ve done our (New Zealand’s) tourism industry and some of that was done using instagram.
    Keep on keeping it real Liz

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:20 pm #

      It’s so sad and I hate it.

  5. Ola September 14, 2015 at 8:02 pm #

    I love that Barbie instagram lol. The thing is that social media (not only instagram) gives everyone the opportunity to present themselves however they want to be seen. The experiences I had are much funnier and more exiting than my pictures and even though pictures can tell stories sometimes I prefer to blog about funny travel anecdotes… And since everyone can fake instagram pics I would feel like having the most boring life ever if I would check instagram every day 😀

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:20 pm #

      agreed xx

  6. Jordan September 14, 2015 at 8:08 pm #

    Thanks Liz, I enjoyed reading this… and just to throw it out there I feel that anyone who as ever set up their tent just to take a picture of it in an epic location should slap themselves in the face and a get a life ;P

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:20 pm #


  7. Charlotte September 14, 2015 at 8:47 pm #

    Thanks for writing this! I can’t agree more with you 🙂

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:21 pm #


  8. Kailey September 14, 2015 at 9:08 pm #

    Oh my gosh, YES! I had a friend who invited herself to Disneyland with me on my birthday and she was super happy until she got her “instagram collage” and then turned into a total bitch saying she was bored and tired. I remember being LIVID at her.

    And yes, who the heck kayaks during winter in NZ!? haha I also saw a photo of Roy’s Peak the other day with a tent all set up at the top. I was thinking uhmm did you seriously just do this?

    Great post, Liz!

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:21 pm #

      what? that sucks! The tents on Roy’s Peak drive me nuts too.

  9. Alisa September 14, 2015 at 9:37 pm #

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    Not only is there bullshit on social media but also I feel the bullshit pressure to take *the* shot. Just be! Experience! Let ourselves live.

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:21 pm #

      I feel both and I hate it too.

  10. Sanna September 14, 2015 at 9:42 pm #

    Ah, there has been something bugging me on Instagram for a while now, without being able to identify it. Now I get it! I wondered just today how people manage to get up to the most remote areas, and then take a photo with flawless makeup and hair. And I’m just looking like one big (but happy) mess. Thanks for a great blog by the way!

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:22 pm #

      I am such a mess when I am hiking or doing outside stuff

  11. LC September 14, 2015 at 11:46 pm #

    Hear, hear Liz. You have so wonderfully articulated an issue that many people have beef with.
    I love photography too but sometimes I like to just put the camera down and take what I call a “mental picture”. These snapshots are the most precious ones of all, due to the fact that they are mine and mine alone.
    Keep doing what you’re doing. I love your Instagram account.

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:22 pm #

      I call them mental pictures too! I do that a lot, and try and savor the whole memory

  12. Kas Sommers September 14, 2015 at 11:57 pm #

    THANK YOU for permission to use crappy photos on my blog and channel. As a fledgling photographer, blogger and youtuber, I often feel my pics are not good enough because I’m striving to be as good as you. 😄

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:23 pm #

      Haha don’t! People forgive quality if you tell a good story.

  13. Jade Craven September 15, 2015 at 12:38 am #

    I’m in two minds about this. First of all, I’m not a professional travel blogger. I have a almost non existent blog about birding and my partner loves photography. I *sometimes* enjoy this poorly done accounts. Yes, the adventure is better then getting a cliched photo. Sometimes, though, your main purpose is photography. So many amateurs are now getting into photography, especially since the iphone was released. For some, the photography is the adventure.

    It is for Glenn and I use this accounts to find inspiration for him for when we visit. However, we set aside specific time *just* for photography. And we use the experience to push the camera to its limits and learn as much as we can.

    In this context, I can see why brands go for it. It works. It’s stupid but on that platform the user doesn’t want to know about the experience. Sometimes seeing an image of it does more.

    I totally get your point of view though. I’m a bird watcher and hiker. When I birdwatch, the camera is always out. I don’t have binoculars and use the photos later for ID purposes. In this case also, the photos are part of the adventure. I can say ‘I spent 4 hours looking for this one stupid bird.’ or “I fell into a river to get this photo.”

    With hiking, though, I only take the camera with me just in case I see something different or unusual. I’m finding that the photographic aspect takes away from my enjoyment of the experience. I’ll make a note to come back to a particular place, probably with my boyfriend, to just focus on photography. I think this mindset will filter through to other forms of travel.

    I guess it depends on what type of experience you are after. For me, photographs are very much part of many travel experiences. But I’m lazy and don’t share a lot of the curated, staged ones. I share photos of wacky looking jellyfish or whatever else takes my fancy.

    My partner is a street photographer and I’m having a lot of conversations with him about how much on social media is staged bullcrap. He is torn between wanting attention – he loves photography but it is just a hobby – and focusing on the stuff he loves to do.

    Anyway, thanks for this post. I rarely comment on blogs but loved this.

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:24 pm #

      I totally agree on all of this and all of it is so far from black and white, and I wasn’t even addressing the whole professional side of it. often I am hired as a professional photographer which requires me to set up shots. It’s a fine line and gray area for sure. If you like birding, I hope you’ll like my newest post about kakapo!

  14. Susanna September 15, 2015 at 2:40 am #

    AMEN! It isn’t about the photo it is about the experience. I am actually really bad at taking photos. I prefer writing as a method for expressing myself and capturing memories. And yet, I still find myself tending toward posting these types of #liveauthentic photos to get more likes on instagram. What kind of authentic living is that?

    I am moving to Wales… TOMORROW! I’m glad I read this post as a reminder to focus on enjoying the many adventures ahead of me. If I feel compelled to share them later, I should do it in my own way, even if it isn’t quite as visually stimulating as the most popular poses of the moment.

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:24 pm #

      That sounds exciting!

  15. Megan B September 15, 2015 at 3:24 am #

    It’s funny that you write this as I was thinking the same thing when I saw that Barbie account.

    Yesterday, I went for an intense hike and forgot my phone. At first, I had the inane thought that nobody would see that I had reached the top…did it even happen? What a silly thought to have had. When I made it to the top of the mountain I was climbing, I didn’t look at the view through a camera lens. I just looked out and appreciated the moment.

    I post a lot of those hiking pictures because they keep me motivated and I love the views. However, I agree that people are staging so many pictures now in exchange for likes. They post one yoga picture as if they just did a long practice when they haven’t.

    We should live in the moment and for the moment, not for the picture.

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:25 pm #


  16. Jen September 15, 2015 at 3:54 am #

    I love Instagram … and I LOVE Hipster Barbie. I’m probably guilty of taking a few of those types of photos (but just a few!) myself and I still think it’s hilarious.

    My favorite Instagram thing to hate on right now is when people post what looks like a pensive picture of themselves, standing on a mountain, gazing off at the sunset … AND YOU CAN SEE THE FREAKING SELFIE STICK that they used to take the picture. Again, I understand that taking those types of pics is fun and I am NOT in any way opposed to a good selfie but, holy crap, at least make an effort to hide the pole that you used to take the picture of you supposedly unplugging from technology! Gah!

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:26 pm #

      Hahaha I’ve noticed that too! Like they hold it behind them! I do pensive shots a lot but that’s pretty much how I am, I always take a book or journal with me when I am outdoors or sometimes I just go places to think.

  17. amelie88 September 15, 2015 at 3:57 am #

    I understand what you’re saying but I get the feeling you’re more irritated with how people post their best selves online and not necessarily the whole “Live Authentic” hashtag (which I was completely unaware of). It happens on all platforms–Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. You seem to follow a lot of outdoorsy people which is why maybe you’re seeing all of the same kind of shots on Instagram. There is a reason why all I see on FB are engagements, wedding pics, babies, cool trips abroad, physical fitness updates, recipes and the like. Nobody wants to read about your troubles with depression or how frustrated you are at work or how much you hate Obama (my uncle still hasn’t gotten the memo that nobody cares about his politics), it doesn’t really make for a good story.

    Also I definitely think you were defiinitely key in kickstarting NZ’s Instagram community. Now that there are more of you Instagramming NZ, it has gotten more competitive and people’s ideas get stolen, copied, or borrowed–whatever you want to call it. As things get more competitive, it gets less fun (or maybe it gets more fun depending on who you are.) I think it has more to do with the fact you may be disillusioned with what’s going on around you–which is fine, it happens. But don’t let it stop you from doing what you love to do. Let the others Instagram/post/Tweet/post a million pictures of sunsets if that’s what they want to do. Keep living your experiences and post what you want to post. If you focus too much on what others are doing, it’s going to sap your energy from focusing on what you want to do.

    Again I could have completely misinterpreted what you wrote and disregard all the above but that’s my two cents. 🙂

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:28 pm #

      I totally agree though I don’t overly fixate on what other people are doing unless it effects me, which a lot of this does, this was just a trend I noticed since Instagram is basically my life now, and I wanted to make an argument to show the value of experiences.

  18. Chelsea September 15, 2015 at 5:23 am #

    So. Much. Respect.

    A million thank yous for keeping it real, Liz. You ROCK.

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:28 pm #


  19. Lindsey September 15, 2015 at 6:12 am #

    I was scrolling through instagram the other day and spotted Barbie and was totally confused. Haha. Now I know what that’s all about! I agree with you, but in all honesty I didn’t really realize that was happening. I guess I am naive and I can’t even imagine someone putting up a tent just to take a picture of it to pretend they camped there. Does that really happen? I am guilty of wanting to “look my best” in photos I post on social media but my experiences are definitely real!

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:29 pm #

      Happens all the time. I saw one today of a tent posed on a cliff arch next to the see at night with someone standing next to it looking at the stars and I lol’d so hard. Incredibly staged and fake

  20. Heather September 15, 2015 at 7:31 am #

    Hold on a sec while I try to organize all the thoughts and feelings I had while reading this..

    1.This is fantastic post. Writing like this is the exact reason yours is the number one blog I read and actively care about it.
    2.I agree with everything you’ve said. I recently have made the decision to take my blog seriously for the past couple months even though I’ve had it for a year and I’m already bitter! I’ve noticed how ridiculous the pictures have become and how uniform the “lifestyle” is. Did these people get some sort of memo? Are they part of a cult that has specific rules? I don’t understand. I’m already planning a post on how much travel blogging irritates me, I’m sure I’ll be fired from the internet for it, but I don’t care. Some things need to be said.
    3.I’ve also had the problem of trying to coordinate having a great experience while taking pictures. It actually stresses me out quite a bit. I like to take photos and explore places so I can share it with people. I enjoy writing about it. But focusing on those things seriously takes away from the actual experience. Everyone doesn’t need to know everything you do every second of the day.
    4.Ok last one, Solcality Barbie is indeed glorious. She reminds me of a barbie version of Annabel Porter from Parks and Recreation.

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:29 pm #

      haha I love that!

  21. Alexandra September 15, 2015 at 8:21 am #

    OMG! Those kayak photos drive me crazy! And also all the motivational quotes that come with the photos! So so so annoying! I ended up unfollowing a lot of gramers with good pictures simply because my feed was full of the same freeking photos. Not inspiring!

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:30 pm #

      It’s so frustrating, right?

  22. Alisa September 15, 2015 at 8:30 am #

    Yessss. All the yes. As much as I love taking pictures, and looking at other people’s pictures, the picture isn’t what matters. What matters is the experience. I mainly take pictures to remember the trip. I have a horrible memory and pictures are a wonderful trigger for recalling events. So I take tons of pictures, but if I forget, oh well. What matters is that you enjoyed the experience.
    I love your posts. It is nice to know someone I’m following on Instagram is being completely honest about their life. I hate looking at a picture and realizing it is all staged. I also love when you shame people like this, it cracks me up.

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:30 pm #

      lol thanks, glad someone likes it

  23. Laura Nordberg September 15, 2015 at 8:36 am #

    Ok, so I feel super naive after reading this post. I’m not gonna lie, as a total social media junkie I spend more time that I’d like to admit crafting the perfect Instagram post, but I never realised people were actually faking stuff like climbing mountains for more likes? That’s INSANE. Thanks for bringing this up. I’ll try to be less gullible next time…x

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:30 pm #

      Yup they do!

  24. Emily September 15, 2015 at 8:38 am #

    PREACH! It’s insane the amount of time we waste on documenting every mundane detail of our daily lives only to offer ourselves on a freaking platter to be judged and picked apart by our peers. You reminded me of an article I read a while back basically about how smartphones are ruining the restaurant experience. (I listed the link below 🙂 I had an instagram account for a whole week and then realized that I just. couldn’t. deal. It’s difficult enough to keep my mouth shut about things like this on Facebook. With that said- I still have to remind myself not to fall into the same trends. So thanks for the encouragement and thank you for so eloquently stating what everyone else is thinking haha You’re a brave soul!

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:31 pm #


  25. Christabel September 15, 2015 at 8:48 am #

    This is my first time on your blog, and I couldn’t have picked a better post to read and comment on!

    Some of my most memorable experiences around the world haven’t been captured on camera (for good reason…;) ), and I love that. Living in the moment is SO important, and it’s something we forget now that social media is so pervasive.
    I remember the last concert I went to, everyone was watching the performance from behind their phones, instead of being present. What’s the point of shelling out $$ if you’re just there to record it for your ‘memories’?!

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:31 pm #

      I know, right?

  26. Stephen Jones September 15, 2015 at 9:22 am #

    Bravo! I so love your rants! Thanks for calling it out for what it really is. Photos have their place. I love taking photos. But the experience is what you’ll remember. Stopping, just to take a photo, and then moving on, is just a waste of time. This is a bit of a cliché. Don’t just take a photo of the roses – take some time to smell them. Because that’s what you’ll remember. A photo is all well and good. But, without the experience, it’s just a dead photo with no meaning. In hindsight, so many photos I’ve favourited, on IG, have probably been staged. And that’s really sad. Just another example of how narcissistic we’ve (people in general, that is) become in this day and age.

    Looking forward to your next rant. 🙂

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:31 pm #

      haha thanks!

  27. Michael September 15, 2015 at 9:23 am #

    This is an interesting topic, and I am of course interested in your thoughts on this…

    I don’t have a cohesive thought on this … only random babblings …

    1) You mention the democratization of photography. I agree with you totally … I think it is great that photography is affordable …and anyone and everyone can take and share great photography (and writing). In the “olden” days (before 1999) … photography was in the hands of a few professional photographers …and yes …their professionalism and standards may have been higher …but I am more than okay …as you are … that anyone can take photographs now. We see so much more than we did before. We are all content creators …I think that is great. It is like the invention of the printing press in 1440 by Guttenberg … the power to write and distribute writing …once in the hands of only a few … is now in everyone’s hands. A great thing. And I must say … your photography and writing is very excellent.

    2) As you say … with this great power of photography and self-publishing …comes a pitfall or potential for being fake…or unauthentic. True. And the Barbie Instagram is an absolute perfect example of this. Although … I think there are other less extreme examples of this …

    3) I really like your clearly stated thesis “What I want to do is to make an argument for the value of experience,” Perfect.

    4) The proof …or support for your thesis …I agree with … but I think could be better supported. One, the essay is filled with photographs (beautiful photos as they are) …and while the experiences were real … look real … the photos do look a smidgen …not staged… … but the photos are so excellent … some thought had to go thru your mind to say “this is a great photo to take) … semi-staged perhaps … not fake like the Barbie Instagram account … but so good that I am not sure it is entirely credible to dismiss the value of good photos in favor of experience. I mean …if a tree falls in the forest …and no one is there to hear it … it makes no sound; so if there is a good travel experience …but no photo to share it … the experience has value for the traveller … but it is through the photography and writing that the experience has value for the reader of travel writers. I like good photography …and am not ready to dismiss it entirely in favor of experience.

    5) And can good photography truly be totally dismissed in favor of experience? Isn’t there sort of a “devil’s deal” with photography? Good photography …drives click-thrus—readership —ad revenue — which is required to fund further travel?

    6) Good photography may get me to click, but it is good writing that gets me to stay. So you have both. Nice work … I love to read your blog and facebook posts. Enjoy the photos, the writings … and your travel has motivated and influenced me to travel more …which I have (Spain, Prague, Amsterdam, Norway) and be more adventurous in my recent travels.

    7) This dichotomy between the online self …and the real self … yes the Barbie Instagram account is a great satirical and hyperbolic example. But I also see this theme in many places … Hunger Games for example. And even a poem by the great poet Mark Strand titled “The Tunnel”. It is a common …and quite interesting … modern theme … the dichotomy …and the interplay … of the online or projected self … and the real self. The online self … the projected self … I don’t think it can be totally dismissed. There are 2 selves in this modern world … the projected or online self …and the real self. And this is why I like Mark Strand’s poem … and I think this theme and interplay between the 2 selves in the Hunger Games is quite good and interesting.

    8) Almost the absolute complete inverse of the Barbie Instagram account … is the story of Vivian Maier…in the recent movie ‘Finding Vivian Maier’. Where the Barbie Instagram account is all projected self with no authenticity … Vivian Maier is an example of the complete opposite. A totally real person …who took hundreds of thousands …perhaps millions of photos … and never published a single photo to facebook, instagram, or even showed a photo to a single person. Some film she never even developed. 180 degrees opposite of Barbie Instagram.

    End of rambling babbling …

    Love your blog …and this thought provoking post by you. Keep travelling and sharing your experiences!

    Michael (active reader of your blog)

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:32 pm #

      awesome rambling, thanks!

  28. Francesca September 15, 2015 at 9:58 am #

    YES! I’ve seen some kayaking pictures from Wanaka this week and was thinking “who the actual fuck does this in winter?!” Seriously, if you only do things for the sake of taking a photo then you are probably a little bit dead inside.

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:32 pm #

      I can’t wait for summer to kayak on the lake! Even then it’s freezing!

  29. Robyn - The Flashpacker September 15, 2015 at 9:58 am #

    Thank you for this post. As a fledgling blogger and occasional instagrammer, but above all honest person, it genuinely didn’t occur to me that people faked those shots. I know that sounds ridiculously naive but seriously, I had no *idea* that people would take a helicopter up a mountain and then pose for a photo pretending they’d climbed it; all for “likes”?! Don’t they feel guilty every time someone compliments them on their faked image?! I know I would! Evidently I’m too honest for my own good but I feel pretty betrayed by all of those people falsely claiming true experiences. We could all be doing that, for gods sake, but some of us value genuine authenticity.

    I have barely any photos of my gap year, 12 years ago, before the eras of social media or even digital photography. Does it make the memories any less real? Not in the slightest. If anything, it makes them more so.

    Thank you for this timely reminder 🙂

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:33 pm #

      Sometimes I really wish we could go back to pre social media, even though I’d be out of a job haha

  30. Ashley September 15, 2015 at 10:37 am #

    Thank you so much for writing this. Don’t worry about sounding negative. Just like I’d rather look at authentic, lower-quality photos, I’d also rather read honest, authentic posts like this.

    Like you, I also ‘actually’ climb mountains and camp in remote places and chase down adventure every opportunity I get. Hell, most of my greatest memories were never caught on camera! I also live very close to Banff National Park here in Canada and see a lot of bullshit photos circulating online.

    As a blogger, we obviously try to capture most of them, but I do think that sometimes it’s important to put the phone away and really take the moment in through our 5 senses. It’s sad that we have to fight ourselves on that sometimes.

    Anyway, I won’t ramble – but thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m going to share this on my FB page right now.



    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:33 pm #

      Oh man I bet you see crazy stuff there!

  31. Amanda September 15, 2015 at 11:49 am #

    I love taking photos, don’t get me wrong. But the thought of “staging” travel photos is baffling to me. I like to capture moments that I’ll remember later, sure. But there are ways to do that and still keep it real!

    And don’t worry, you’ll never see fake photos of me atop huge mountains or with my feet hanging out of tents, because you and I both know that shit just isn’t me. 😉

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:35 pm #


  32. Marta Kulesza September 15, 2015 at 11:52 am #

    I think it is a difficult topic to be honest. I agree with you to some extent, but I also understand the people who actually do what you describe as the annoying behaviours. They want to get that awesome shot no matter what, because they want to make it in this ridiculously competitive field that photography is. I also get annoyed because I see so many accounts that look the same and I get frustrated thinking that mine looks just like them. I roll my eyes every time I see a photo of someone looking away towards the mountains and never ever, not even once have I seen this persons face. I find those photos beautiful, but I can’t really find the connection.
    Then gain, I have quite few photos like that myself! It’s so difficult to find the balance. I do want to experience everything but I also want to get that shot that I’ve been thinking about. It makes me so uneasy that I sometimes forget to take in the moment and enjoy it. Thanks for the article. I couldn’t stop thinking about it on my way to work:)

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:36 pm #

      I know exactly what you mean because I feel the same way all the time. Also it’s different when it’s work which is a whole other topic. I just feel like there is so much looking through the lens and not actually taking it all in that upsets me, especially when I am guilty of it.

  33. Megan September 15, 2015 at 12:27 pm #

    “Somehow with the rise of Instagram and social media, experience seems to matter LESS than the photo. The shot has become more important than the story.”

    This. A hundred times this!

    I also have a gripe with DMOs and tourism bodies who constantly share staged, fake shots instead of those that show a more real perspective of that place. You can still promote a place using great images that represent what a tourist is likely to experience.

    And don’t get me started on the tents! If the tent is practically see-through and it’s the middle of winter, no one believes for a second that you slept in it (especially if the shot was taken in Tasmania!).

    On the other hand, I’ve realised why my hiking shots aren’t that popular on Instagram. Why or why aren’t I carrying a blanket or a coffee press when I go hiking? Note to self: must pack coffee press in backpack when on a six-day hike (because, you know, the extra weight will be worth it for all those likes).

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:38 pm #

      hahahahaha I agree! though secretly I take a cheap grimy red fake french press on my shorter trips because COFFEE though I’ve never taken a photo of it haha.

  34. Imogen September 15, 2015 at 12:29 pm #

    100% yes. Thank you.

    It’s such a shame, isn’t it? It feels like the only thing that matters in 2015 is the visual. It’s as though stories don’t matter if you can’t advertise them with a professional hipster-style photo and a “super pinnable pinterest pin”. We’re encouraged to write posts with catchy headlines, a great photo, and then break up your content with bold headings because no one has the time to actually read anymore! It is really sad. There are so many beautiful wonderful stories to be told and many people will never see past the photos.

    People who actually travel extensively know that not everything looks like the photos. It’s always different to your expectations. That is the beauty of living the experience… realising that a place is so much more than one single tourist trap caught in the right light. Hmm.

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:38 pm #


  35. Elena September 15, 2015 at 12:57 pm #

    Nice one Liz!

    You know what I say?.. If photograph does not tell a story, it should never be born…

    For a month in Mongolia .. on horses?? It’s in my plans now!! Can I do it bareback though? Don’t like galloping on a saddle.

    Don’t have an insta or any other social network for my work. I like like to swim against a tide..

    By the way, Liz.. since I’ll be in NZ this Winter, maybe we can tell some crazy story with you behind the camera and I’m in front.. NUDE .. (not kidding) how’s that for authentic and unique.. and being nude in the beauty of NZ’s nature is incredible.

    We can also switch the places later ; ))

    Have a wonderful week!

    Elena xo

  36. Rafiqua September 15, 2015 at 1:34 pm #

    I love this! I used to love using instagram, but since everyone/thing has gotten so “professional” and “staged” I loathe uploading my photos. I have a whole hard drive stuffed with beautiful photos that I can’t even be bothered adding to Social Media.

    And I agree, a social media detox every once in a while is great for the soul.

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:39 pm #

      Just keep them for you 🙂

  37. christophe September 15, 2015 at 2:05 pm #

    Live and let live, I reckon. Do what makes you happy and record it in whatever makes you satisfied.

    The best stories always seem to bubble to the surface.

    Socality Barbie is, like all the best parodies, a little bit close to the bone for many of us 🙂

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:39 pm #

      I imagine haha

  38. Lauren Meshkin @BonVoyageLauren September 15, 2015 at 2:29 pm #

    “What has been bothering me for months and months and what I just can’t wrap my head around is the simple fact that somehow with the rise of Instagram and social media, experience seems to matter LESS than the photo. The shot has become more important than the story.” THIS! Definitely something for me to think about…

    Thanks for sharing and happy travels 🙂

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:40 pm #


  39. Rebecca September 15, 2015 at 8:52 pm #

    Amen to that!

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:40 pm #

      woot woot!

  40. antonette - we12travel September 15, 2015 at 9:00 pm #

    Your article really made me think … First because I’m very active on Instagram and I completely missed the hype about #LiveAuthentic and second because I just wrote a post about the 10 best instagrams for outdoor lovers. I totally agree with you when you say that it’s all about experience – sharing is optional. I see the pictures of those tents too and think “hey I want to do that” so it’s definitely inspiring and motivating to get outdoors more often en explore more. However it doesn’t really bother me that people stage it, if that’s what they want, then sure go ahead. It’s up to their audience to decide whether they appreciate that or not. We can’t escape however that visual is the future for bloggers but it’s a shame that there is less appreciation for unstaged (and possibly lower “quality”) photos rather than the unrealistic ones we all seem to like.

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:40 pm #


  41. Sonja September 15, 2015 at 9:16 pm #

    Love this post! I’m finally taking my travel blogging seriously after a couple of years of dabbling in the “hey Mum look what I did” sort of way. Instagram has always been my favourite social media platform and so it’s been the main place I’ve been trying to improve myself. I had just been thinking this week about how some of the accounts I follow are just TOO perfect. Like who really lives like that?!

    At the moment I mostly post pictures of my previous travels before I start off again, and I have been steadily gaining followers. However, nothing makes me sadder (ok maybe a few things…) than when I see someone has followed me and I go to see where I’m up to and the number goes DOWN. I realised what makes me sad about it is that I would rather people don’t follow me in the first place if they don’t genuinely like my pictures and want to see more! This gets more into the follow/unfollow game than realistic pictures, but I feel like they go together in the sense that it annoys me people can’t just be REAL. Are we too honest in how we put ourselves out there?! I don’t know.

    Keep up the awesome work! x

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:40 pm #

      never look at your follower #

  42. Carmen September 15, 2015 at 9:19 pm #

    Thank you, Liz, for this amazing and very honest post 🙂

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:41 pm #


  43. antonette - we12travel September 15, 2015 at 9:21 pm #

    Me again – as I said, your article really made me think. About the whole experiencing thing… I had the pleasure of spending my summer in Alaska and the words that Chris McCandles wrote “Happiness only real when shared” kept on haunting me during my stay. I decided to write an article about it later whether happiness is only real when shared. In various kind of ways, but also whether it’s always necessary to share everything. Blogger or not. Maybe the world was a better place when not everything was shared. Just my (other) two cents. If anyone would like to read the article, see the link in my name. However Liz, feel free to delete if you think it’s not appropriate.

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:41 pm #

      link me! I totally disagree, happiness doesn’t have to be shared. I think being comfortable with yourself and alone and happy is one of the greatest things a person can achiece.

  44. ivonne September 15, 2015 at 9:40 pm #

    Wow, quite the article and o so true. Ofcourse these pictues are inspiring but I’ve been struggeling with this feeling myself. I used to blog for at home family and friends and started a public blog, with some of the social media, last year. So many people just do the same, all of a sudden it looks like everybody is going to the same places….It’s a strange world and I’m struggeling to find my own way. What to show of yourself and what not….I love the outdoors, camping and hiking but I don’t like rain. I’m a sucker for space and peace and quit but I also love backpacking in croued in your face Asia. Well, thanks for sharing your 2 cents, food for thought!

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:42 pm #

      just share what you love

  45. Rory September 15, 2015 at 11:26 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more… And glad you’ve posted about it. In fact, it’s Pinterest that has me wondering if people even know the difference between reality and a fantasy photoshopped world. As a lover of travel photography, it really gets me stirred up when the most outlandish landscape photos along with a string of comments that are equally ludicrous. Oh well, I guess it’s just how things will be in the online world…

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:42 pm #

      so much photoshoppped BS on pinterest.

  46. Victoria | Girl Tries Life September 16, 2015 at 12:30 am #

    Love it! And yes, I have been totally guilty of it. I remember being at Angkor Wat and having my husband take photo after photo of me sitting in a window frame “gazing” out at the rest of the temple. Have I ever used that photo since? NO. Because it looks so staged, fake and it FELT staged and fake. Instead I’ve used the selfie of us in a tuk tuk, sweaty and smiling, or of the lotus flowers opening.

    Canadian Instagram accounts aren’t much better than the NZ ones, I imagine. The same hipster, camping, kayaking, mountain climbing ones that often come from the photographers who have been flown in and out. It’s probably one of the reasons I don’t actually follow too many folks on Instagram, because when you’re flooded with gorgeous images, you sadly become numb to them!

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:42 pm #


  47. Phoebe September 16, 2015 at 3:05 am #

    I have a million things to say but they can all be summed up with YES YES YES all of this!

    I once met someone who has a “travel” instagram, and during a conversation with me he walked away mid sentence to take a picture of his sneakers in the street! I genuinely felt bad for him, because I knew right away he was trading experience for likes and follows.

    I will also say that while I can’t even use the word “authentic” anymore, if I did you would be the FIRST thing that comes to mind. The success of your blog, at least in my opinion, is based in your honesty, not only in your words but in every aspect. Thank you thank you THANK YOU for this post.

  48. wanderinjon September 16, 2015 at 4:08 am #

    So true. Take pictures to hold your experience dear in your heart and mind. Don’t do it for anyone else. Don’t forgo living in the moment by missing it trying to take the perfect pic. A staged foto is just ‘stuff’. You can choose to gather experiences or collect stuff. Real experiences result in real impact on your life.

  49. Hilary September 16, 2015 at 4:54 am #


    I have some good friends (that I adore don’t get me wrong) but when I hang out with them all they do is take photos for Instagram. They aren’t even talking or hanging out together!! It drives me crazy! And I find myself getting sucked into when I’m around them!

    After watching your TED talk a few months ago I did purposely try to NOT take photos or videos at concerts/museum/etc. and I had a better experience. I was actually THERE. If I need a picture of Starry Night I can find it online. I don’t need my own. Pictures of paintings never turn out interesting anyway.

  50. Molly September 16, 2015 at 5:23 am #

    I’m a big lover of Instagram. It is my favorite social media platform just because I love the idea of telling a story with a photo. Call me naive, but I wasn’t aware that people staged their photos, but thinking about it now I’m not surprised and it kind of breaks my heart. I’m from Utah and have grown up in the great outdoors hiking and camping. If I wanted a picture from the top of a mountain, I was going to have to hike it. That was how I was raised and I can’t fathom the idea of paying someone to take me in a helicopter to get to the top of a mountain to stage a photo and then leave (unless hiking is out of the question). Your feet work use them. It will help you in the long run by staying active and everything.

    As I look at my Instagram feed now I do see a lot of the A-frame houses, hammocks, white kayaks, etc. and I question every single one of them. It hurts to do so because I so want people to have a crazy awesome story about how they got to where they took that picture. Photographs used to be worth a thousand words, but now I fear they aren’t even worth a single word. I myself have fallen victim to the classic sunset/sunrise photos. My Instagram has a lot of them, but I do try and put my own creative spin on them which may cause them to look fake but that is okay to me because I edit them how I like.

    I truly hope this trend does not continue. I hope people can find a way to experience life instead of simply living it. In today’s world it is hard to put down our phones and cameras because it has gotten to the point where if there isn’t proof it didn’t happen. We even start to question ourselves down the road when we can’t prove it happened. I know I take a lot of photos wherever I go either with my camera or my phone, but I think there can be a balance. What I try to do is when I take pictures I do my best not to look at them until I go to edit them. This way I feel I have a nice balance between capturing the moment and experiencing it. Of course it isn’t a perfect balance and I’m still working on the balance, but so far it has helped.

  51. Victoria@ The British Berliner September 16, 2015 at 6:14 am #

    ‘Love the article Liz. As always, you try to keep it real. I checked out Socality Barbie and I found her absolutely hilarious! If a doll can make waves of a fake life, then the owners of the account must be onto something LOL!

    I’m always inspired by your posts and your wonderful photographs and I always try to do my own thing as I’m not in the habit of copying others. At least I hope not LOL!

    Since you asked Liz.(please don’t kill me), I don’t really like photographs when the person is sitting backwards. I don’t really know what it means. Is the person in the way? Is the view causing an issue? Is the person shy? A trend that I don’t know about stuck in the beyond of yummy mummy-dom? I’m new-ish in this game and perhaps I simply haven’t got a clue.

    p.s. Please don’t strangle me in my ignorance. 🙂

  52. Michelle September 16, 2015 at 6:25 am #

    My sister recently asked me why I look like a hot mess (sweaty, exhausted, pissed off, etc) in so many photos on our blog.

    Hello, it’s because I’m backpacking, or caving, or climbing. I look like a hot mess whenever I do any physical activity.

    Love this post. Been thinking about this alot as we have started to vlog, and nothing ever seems as “perfect” as the videos other vloggers do. But I guess that makes sense. After all, we only wanted to cross that river once, so there was no time to set up a camera and tripod. And we don’t want to spend half the day holding a camera up to our faces to talk to the camera, so the first or second shot just has to be good enough.

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:46 pm #

      I will never cross more rivers than I have to haha

  53. Mary Hood September 16, 2015 at 7:57 am #

    Ha! I loved this.
    I too am sick of the carefully arranged flower laying over an open journal, fireplace crackling in the background. The over-saturated pair of wornout converse taking cautious steps out over a wet street…Give me a freakin’ break! Whose life looks like that?? I might be guilty of trying to craft the perfect hipster photo, but it’s annoying when entire instagram accounts are made up of them.
    You made me laugh with this one, but very insightful. Thanks 😛

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:46 pm #


  54. Abbie Synan September 16, 2015 at 8:13 am #

    Well said, my thoughts exactly! I had just started clearing out my Instagram feed with some accounts that seem way too artificial, authentic experiences are so much better to see and read about. Thanks!

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:47 pm #

      that’s a good idea! I have been needing to do a clean out and haven’t had time!

  55. Precious September 16, 2015 at 9:37 am #

    Exactly to all of these things! People I know who have never gone further than our neighboring state pretend as though they have experience with traveling the world. The last year I have tried to get my feet wet with travel blogging/instagramming and it is difficult not to get sucked into the “wanderlust” cult that is going on. I cringed when I see #wanderlust from people I love on social media. The phenomena with traveling has almost made anti-travel to an extent.

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:47 pm #

      uh oh don’t let that happen!

  56. Kelly September 16, 2015 at 1:46 pm #

    Saying “ditto” doesn’t even cover how much I agree with this. Instagram embodies the saying “love to hate, hate to love” more than anything else. I cringe at about 90% of the photos I scroll past because people are either taking themselves waaay to seriously, or just being completely unoriginal. My number one pet-peeve as of late is the “candid” photo. Yeah, it’s cute, but c’mon!!! You were not just walking through a dark alley looking all moody at the same exact moment someone just happened to take your photo.

    I studied abroad for a semester and never liked carrying my camera around or stopping to take pictures because one, I hate asking people to take my photo or to stop or for me, and two, I’d rather appreciate the moment. My fellow study abroaders, however, lived for the faux candid photo (or should I say…. faux-to…). I cringed taking their photo because it was just so fake and they were just doing it for the like (which I didn’t give them out of spite, mwahaha).

    It’s such an annoying topic because everyone is guilty of it and everyone wants to post that perfect photo, but some people just take it to the extreme and it’s so frustrating! Wow, this topic really gets people ranting, haha. I think just about everyone with an Instagram account can agree to your post!

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:48 pm #


  57. Kirsten September 17, 2015 at 1:01 am #

    Ha! So glad you wrote this!!!!! Bravo, Liz.

    I’m definitely guilty of sometimes staging photos to represent experiences that weren’t as photogenic as the staged photo, but which I actually still had. And I frequently wonder, if I don’t get a good photo of an experience and I didn’t stage one, if I should share at all on Instagram or just act like it didn’t happen. I definitely curate my feed way more than most.

    But I never post a kayaking photo unless I actually sweated the three hours up or down a river that it took to capture that photo. And I don’t post food I haven’t actually eaten. Ever.

    For me, there’s definitely a line. And it’s about balance. I want my feed to look good and inspire people, but like you, I want to actually be authentic, not just use a hashtag to pretend I am. And the experience is ALWAYS most important. Which is why I am busy having experiences and not staging food photos in trendy NYC cafes or coffee shops. Which is a HUGE trend here at home.

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:52 pm #

      staging food photos is insane, I never have the patience for it! But yeah it’s such a fine line to walk, especially if it’s your job. I just wish there was more value in experiences now, I feel like it’s dying 🙁

  58. Britt September 17, 2015 at 1:28 am #

    This has also been killing me for a while now. There are some accounts I just had to unfollow because I got soooo sick of it.

    I also feel uneasy about the kind of precedent it sets for how and why you can become popular on instagram. It seems like the super skinny blonde women who can pose in bikinis can gain followers super fast, especially when they buy into the fake and posed photos you mentioned above. I’m a bit worried about what that means for objectification of women etc.

    On a recent trip to South Korea I travelled with other people for the first time in forever and I got so shitty about the number of photos some of my friends had to take because they needed the absolute perfect one for instagram. As I said to them, there is no problem with taking photos and wanting to document your travels. But I think there is a fine balance between using photos to help you collect memories and only seeing the world through a lens (or the camera preview on your iphone).

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:53 pm #

      oh yeah that’s definitely true. I think there should be some crazy study on it, if you’re hot, boom popular.

  59. Ron September 17, 2015 at 4:28 am #

    Clearly stated, you take speaking out and stirring the pot the next level. Reminds me of Donald Trump on the campaign trail. Take that as a compliment.

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:53 pm #

      Trust me, if you compare me to Donald Trump, that is NOT a compliment.

  60. sherifa September 17, 2015 at 8:34 am #

    to be honest its been a while since u posted and i liked ur post from where i come from kuwait instagram is the new hit and blow its every where we even have business that are based only because of instagram i understand the addiction that we’re going through its like we enslaved ourselves in this technology and forgot how to live we even seek some self comfort and esteem from these devices thats why i decided to become less active on the social and start living !

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:54 pm #


  61. Emily I September 17, 2015 at 11:42 am #

    I love this post! Recently I felt myself fall into the social media trap, I was upset that I wasn’t doing those wonderful things I was seeing. But, I took a step back and realized a good majority of it is fake. And, a lot of people only share the good times and not the bad. It was a reminder to me to stay real.

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:54 pm #

      keep it real!

  62. Brock September 17, 2015 at 12:29 pm #

    “The stories should be what matter. The experiences themselves. Not the evidence.”

    You summed up the whole article in this statement, for me. Couldn’t agree more. Rewind about 30+ years ago. There was no main stream way to photograph. Just pen and paper. And even that was rare for someone to document everything about their experience.

    Regardless, I do not need to share my experiences with the world through social media to be happy. Sure, it is fun – we can inspire others, but it’s not necessary.

    The true reward is having lived and absorbed the experience, itself.

    The extra sharing/inspiring others is plus, however, but not a requirement.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:54 pm #

      I agree!

  63. Katy September 17, 2015 at 7:00 pm #

    Yes!!!! This is a post I’ve been wanting to read for ages. An honest take on what it feels to try and compete with the real like barbies online. You can compete you can only be you.

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:55 pm #


  64. Camels & Chocolate September 18, 2015 at 4:03 am #

    I have to take all social media with a grain of salt. It’s true that most of us only share our highlights reel and it can look like, from the outside, that everyone else’s life is perfect, when ours are not. I’ve definitely had to do more stepping away in introspection lately because I’ve been sucked too much into that vortex.

    • Liz September 18, 2015 at 12:01 pm #

      It’s such a vortex!

  65. Amy M September 18, 2015 at 10:40 am #

    This. This. A thousand times this.
    I’d make this comment lengthier but there’s no need – you’ve said everything that needs to be said! xo

    • Liz September 18, 2015 at 12:03 pm #

      🙂 yay

  66. Martin September 19, 2015 at 1:06 am #

    I agree with you! Society needs to pay more attention to the culture behind the place and not do selfies and posting irrelevant comments on their social media! It’s very sad!

    • Liz September 19, 2015 at 11:07 am #


  67. Cat of Sunshine and Siestas September 19, 2015 at 7:05 am #

    My life has been boringish as of late, so seeing all of the “cool” things people are “doing” merits a big ol’ eyeroll from me. I usually forget to take pictures when I’m in the moment (aka our post-wedding roadtrip around the south… do pictures with giant mixed drinks on Bourbon Street count?!), and I have learned to shrug and forget about it. I tried to buy my husband a camera and his reaction was, what for? it’s all in my head.

    Though I really enjoy your tag ‘Things That Will Get Me Hate Mail.’ bahaha

    • Liz September 19, 2015 at 11:09 am #

      hahah thanks 🙂 I totally agree! I took about 5 photos on my phone on my trip to the US and it was AWESOME! No regrets!

  68. Alison September 19, 2015 at 8:28 am #

    Very well said. We should be enjoying ourselves so much we forget to take photographs.

    • Liz September 19, 2015 at 11:09 am #


  69. Nicola September 19, 2015 at 8:22 pm #

    I was looking at this article just before I read this!

    • Liz September 22, 2015 at 8:07 pm #

      love that!

  70. cameron September 20, 2015 at 3:17 am #

    Oh thank you for writing this! In Arizona we get this all the time! Stop with the nonsense. Not everyone has to “get lost” or “wander” or some other fake catchy phrase. Great post

    • Liz September 22, 2015 at 8:07 pm #


  71. Aleksandra September 21, 2015 at 8:40 am #

    Thank U Liz, for this post. I don’t have an instagram, but I like taking a pictures and every time I think “oh it would be great to share it on instagram”, but now I have realized that would be a fake, it’s like u noticed it’s more about photos than experience. I hope after reading your text, I’ll be more awareness of living and feeling than evidence.

    • Liz September 22, 2015 at 8:09 pm #


  72. Audrey September 24, 2015 at 10:20 pm #

    Thank you for this reflective post, Liz. I read I don’t know how many travel blogs and if I’m being honest, the content I enjoy the most are the articles like this one. Not the photo essays, not the 10 best cute coffee shops in Sunnyville. For a long time I questioned why I disliked these posts (seeing how much I like to learn about new places) but you’ve nailed it. I don’t like them because I always question the authenticity. Did this blogger really do this? Was the sunset perfectly illuminated like that? Or was it all just staged?

    I think things like Photoshop, Lightroom and even simple Instagram filters in and of themselves distort reality. Yes, people stage as you suggest, but even if they photograph a delicious lunch they just happened to make, you know how much cosmetic work was put into the photo itself. So, even if our experiences are real and we photograph them, there’s always that bit of inauthenticity because of editing.

    Perhaps, even as you suggest, the act of photographing takes away some of the realness. It’s like the groups of Native Americans who refuse to be photographed, thinking that the act of picture-taking removes a piece of the soul. I can relate with this much more now in the over-shared world we live in. Every time we take a few seconds to take a picture, we’re taking a couple seconds away from living spontaneously.

    • Liz September 25, 2015 at 3:20 pm #

      wonderfully put, and totally agree xx

  73. Amelia September 25, 2015 at 4:52 am #

    This is such a great post. I often feel like I don’t have a place in the writing industry because I don’t have amazingly staged photos of stunning sunsets, camping trips or photos of me doing something awesome. I just have my stories to share with the world. I sometimes feel this is not enough because I’m constantly battling with the fakeness I see plastered all over instagram.

    It is the experience which I live for, and if I have a photo, great. If not it still happened and I can still write about it. But why do I feel pressured not to write when the photo isnt as great as the story…

    • Liz September 25, 2015 at 3:21 pm #

      still write even if you don’t have photos!

  74. Jean September 26, 2015 at 1:39 am #

    Well said. Photography has been a passion of mine since I was 7 and my grandma gave me a Polaroid camera. I took so many pictures throughout the years, and took classes in college. This was all (shortly) before smart phones and selfies and Instagram. It’s still a passion of mine but not my profession and I see so much competition in the field now that everyone thinks they’re a photographer. It’s less about art and more about showing off. Anyway, more to the point. My issue on IG are all the “look how perfect and happy and awesomely amazing my life is” pics. I especially see this in the “mama groups” of IG posting these perfectly lit, perfectly styled, perfectly organized photos of angelic babes posing perfectly. Then they go on to detail how “blessed” they are and how perfect their babe is. I mean come the F on… Real life doesn’t look like that. We all know you spent an hour getting that shot ready and took 29 different shots before you then processed it through some editing software before finally picking that one shots to post. Then spent another 10 minutes coming up with something sweet and endearing to say. I’m not sure I’m explaining myself quite right. On the one hand I know IG is but a small window to see into ones life and who wants to see ugly raw real life pics? (I do, actually) So picking the best or cutest or sweetest pic makes sense. I just see a lot of the same perfectish pics over and over again like the pretty mama dressed just right with a cute little babe nursing (you know that pic, angled down just right so you see baby and a bit of mum). I don’t know. But I agree with you. A lot of things (most of the “popular” things) seem so perfectly posed and less about experiences and more about proving to IG and the world how perfect and put together and “blessed” their life is. So, I agree and thank you for voicing this and showing your true self.

  75. Paul Pichugin September 30, 2015 at 11:49 am #

    You have no idea how much I am yelling yes in agreement with your article right now. I came to Instagram as an already established photographer and originally found it a fun way to document behind the scenes stuff from my work and travels as well as share my work. I gathered a somewhat decent following pretty quickly and was offered trips and projects which have all been fun… But on a few of these trips I was introduced to “Instagrammers” as they call themselves, people who came to photography through Instagram (awesome, more the merrier) and when traveling with them I would hear them talking about setting up a shot or not taking a shot due to the number of likes they thought it might get… I was dumbfounded that this would even cross someone’s mind, it wasn’t something I’d ever taken into consideration and still isn’t! Watching them set up scenes and people to take an “authentic” experience photo was just bizarre and more than a bit off putting.

    I’m a photographer so most of my travels are about the photography, but I’m always concious of being present in the moment and actually enjoying and living the experience. There is a balance to it all. Loved your rant, it is the first thing I’ve read of yours 🙂

    • Liz October 3, 2015 at 9:18 pm #


  76. Helen October 1, 2015 at 6:41 am #

    Well said Liz! Experience is all that matters, I’ve always stood by that.

    It never even crossed my mind that people would set up fake tents or still on a backpack and pretend to hike! Wow.

  77. Elena October 3, 2015 at 9:06 am #

    This is exactly how I’ve been feeling.. I’m travelling abroad for my first time (I’m in Turkey) and I love taking photos. Instagram happens to be the most popular platform for posting my photos, but I really don’t want the reputation of only caring about the posts! I love to travel and take photos while I am somewhere new, and I just want to share what I take. I think it helps if you post what you post because you think it is a great photo and not because you think it will get a lot of likes. Also helps to post as frequently as you want. (Of course this probably does not apply to you since you have a ton of followers!) But these two things help me ensure that I am posting for me and not for what others will think about me.

    • Liz October 3, 2015 at 9:22 pm #

      Stay true <3

  78. Rebecca October 5, 2015 at 3:29 am #

    So, so true. Just spent a weekend at Iguazu Falls where people stopped at an incredible location, then immediately pulled out their camera or phone, took a selfie and then spent a few minutes looking at the photos they’d just taken. Then wandered off to the next spot to do the same thing. Rather than looking directly at one of nature’s most amazing sites and absorbing it all. It’s so frustrating to see how vain and superficial people have become. It’s like you say – if it’s not on social media then maybe I never went there / it didn’t happen / I didn’t eat that quinoa and green salad so no one knows how healthy I am. And what’s so surprising to me is that it’s not just young people – I see people of generations that didn’t grow up with technology in their hands doing the same thing. And people sharing parts of their lives that just really shouldn’t be shared! What happened to privacy and wanting to keep some things to yourself? What have we become people??!!

    • Liz October 11, 2015 at 12:41 am #

      I know!!

  79. Venessa October 7, 2015 at 6:30 pm #

    Great article! Honestly as new bloggers it’s sometimes hard to find our own inspiration and figure out a way to showcase our travels in a different way. It’s so hard because everything you read is all about, ‘finding a niche’ and ‘getting something that separates you from the rest.’ When really some of those articles should read, ‘just keep it real, that’s what it’s all about.’ And that’s exactly what this article says. So thanks for posting some positive reinforcement to enjoy what’s around us and worry less about everything else!

    • Liz October 11, 2015 at 12:55 am #

      Thank you!

  80. Emily S October 10, 2015 at 4:52 am #

    The shot being more important than the experience. I think of this all the time!! Last weekend I spent time with family (who don’t take many pictures). One part of me wanted a few good shots to commemorate the weekend, but the other part didn’t want to interrupt the fun we were having. In the end we got a good shot shoving all of us into a photo booth–experience and photo in one! 🙂

    • Liz October 11, 2015 at 1:01 am #

      SOunds like the perfect compromise to me 🙂

  81. Leigh October 16, 2015 at 7:10 am #

    This is how I feel about Go Pro’s! Ugh!!!! I recently rafted the Grand Canyon and there were at least two guys who had to Video everything! At the end of the trip, I was thinking “if it’s not on GoPro, did it really happen?” Even worse….GoPro on a selfie stick! The funniest part is we’ve all been sharing photos since the trip and these videos have yet to be shared!

    As for “living through the lens” it’s a tough one for me, but one I’m becoming more aware of. I get 4-5 weeks of vacation a year, so the other 47 weeks I like to have lots of photos so I can re-live those great experiences!

  82. Nicole October 20, 2015 at 1:18 pm #

    Yes, yes and YES!! I’m glad to see someone else who feels the same! Always looking through a camera is exhausting, when I’m traveling, hiking or doing whatever. I’ll snap a few photos here and there and call it good because I still want to enjoy myself. Usually if I’m with a friend they’ll ask well aren’t you going to get a picture of that? No, I’m good. Sometimes I just want to be there for the experience and just look at it with my own two eyeballs. I live in Alaska and it’s so scenic and there are so many good hikes around where I live, and I see so many people that just went on the hike to get a good selfie cause the weather was prime. What happened to going for a hike for the hike?!?

  83. Barbara October 29, 2015 at 12:46 am #

    Ok, seriously, what people do you follow that “fake” their “success” pictures?!?!?! I didn´t know whether to laugh or cry when I read this, hahaha. That´s so absurb.

    • Liz October 30, 2015 at 6:34 pm #

      So many!

  84. Julie November 7, 2015 at 11:34 pm #

    I agree wholeheartedly with you Liz, that Barbie story made me laugh so much when it came out a while back, I especially love where they said ‘holding food up to a wall makes it art’ haha. I agree that the world has gone fake in its photography and thanks to the ability to filter on instagram everyone looks amazing even if they have supposedly just done ‘one brutal legs session at the gym’. yeah right. I have done brutal legs sessions at the gym and I sure as Hell don’t look like that afterwards.

    I was saying to a friend this morning that we used to at least have to go out and buy women’s magazines before we were exposed to unobtainable and unrealistic images. But now we have access to them on our phones 24/7 and worryingly so do our children. I don’t know about you but a picture of a ten year old pouting is just wrong.

    Whether it be the people themselves looking glamorous or the places they have supposedly visited or even the food they eat none of it is real anymore. There is a girl near me at work who posts pictures of her #clean #healthy #macros #protein lunches everyday but I would love to take a picture of the diet coke sitting on her desk which is out of the cameras view #notsocleanafterall.

    Anyway, I love what you do and I love that you have chosen my country to call home for a little while. It saddens me when you say that my little country is now being caught up in all of this but sadly it seems there is no way to stop it.

    I sent you a facebook message when you were in Dubai but not sure if you got it, but if you ever need a place to stay (I’m sure as a travel blogger, you probably don’t) you are more than welcome here.

    Stay true.


    • Liz November 8, 2015 at 4:01 pm #

      Hi Julie, such an awesome comment, thank you! My FB inbox and email are like a war zone, I’m bummed I missed it 🙁

  85. Steve December 6, 2015 at 1:22 am #

    I understand what you’re saying regarding the ‘realness’ section, but lightly suggesting that the sole reason New Zealander’s use Instagram is because of you is a bit much.

    • Liz December 6, 2015 at 7:29 pm #

      I definitely didn’t say or imply that, not sure where you imagined that.

  86. Regan March 20, 2016 at 3:51 am #

    Ten years ago today, me & a few buddies riverboarded from the North island of New Zealand to the South. It was before instagram, facebook or twitter. We kept a crude blog of our adventure, but that was mostly for our immediate friends & family. There was no real social media to promote it at the time. We didn’t have gopros or iphones cause they didn’t exist yet. We duct taped 1MP cameras in plastic bags to our helmets, and just went down the rivers hoping for the best. Of course we lost the cameras in the whitewater, so we don’t have much visual record of our adventure at all – but you know what? I’m cool with that. Cause we had a blast! You posed a tongue in cheek question in your post, “If you have an adventure and its not on social media did it really happen?” My short answer? “Hell yeah!” Now having said all that, 10 years on, I’m about to dive head first into the deep social media pool and start my own travel blog with all the GoPro, iphone & drone tech of the day. I agree with what you wrote about the posers and the fake-ness running rampant on Instagram, and I found your article extremely funny. Personally tho, I really just tune out the posers. Much the same way I tune out the ego based Kim Kardashian selfie obsessed culture we live in today. I may shake my head at some of it, but in the end, It really doesn’t bother or even concern me if someone is being authentic or not in their lives or travels. Who cares? Just like in life, I seek out the authentic people, and focus my energy on having my own authentic experiences before I leave this earth. Anything else is just wasted energy.

  87. Angela May 5, 2016 at 3:08 am #

    Thank you SO much for writing this. It resonates with me so much. I’ve literally driven to lakes with my friends just to take pictures. We didn’t actually do anything!! It’s good to be reminded that, even though my Instagram isn’t poppin’, I’m still living a full life; sometimes fuller than people I know with beautiful photos.

  88. Rose June 14, 2016 at 1:35 pm #

    Oh dear , this do sound negative. You trek hard , you kayak cos you love that . Why do you get upset when people just kayak for 5 mins and post their photos ? That is their way of having fun , just admit it. You keep writing about authenticity and your pics look quite staged many times. What would do about that . Your blogs look like trying hard at times , asking people to follow you tellibg them how honest and candid you are… mmm… thats just a marketing technique .. at first you need to be honest , then focus on getting irritated at people. I really wonder with this attitude how you managed to be a kind of good blogger. Anyways good luck

    • Liz June 16, 2016 at 8:50 pm #

      learn some grammar and how to spell if you are going to give me shit

  89. Pooja Kshirsagar July 15, 2016 at 6:50 pm #

    This is awesome!


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