This guy hates your travel Instagrams, and he might not be wrong

“Do it for the instas!” Sadly, that seems to be part of the travel experience these days. And if you’re not careful those photos end up looking an awful lot like the images of so many others prior. Undoubtedly, those who come after will produce similar shots as well. With a bit of spare time and some photo editing chops (as well as likely violating copyright on every single image included since the Instagram credit isn’t given) Oliver Kmia put together this video showing off many of the photo themes.

Kmia was inspired to create the short by his own experience traveling in Rome.

I came up with this idea last year while traveling in Roma. I wanted to take a look at the popular Trevi Fountain but I never managed to get close to it. The place was assaulted by hundreds of tourists, some of them formed a huge line to get a spot in front of the Fountain. Needless to say that I was very pissed by this sight and left for the not less crowded Pantheon.

I feel that. Truly. I had a similar thought when in Luang Prabang, Laos a couple years back (and I understand it is way worse these days).

Most of the people I saw respected the rules, the monks and the sanctity of the event. But there were enough who did not that it made me feel guilty about being there, watching it happen.

I was part of the problem there, taking the photos, though certainly not flash photos nor interfering with the procession. Still, I wondered if I was really having the “correct” experience at that moment.

Read More: Monks on parade in Luang Prabang, Laos

Similarly, I’ve taken many of the same photos that Kmia calls out his video. There’s a segment at Maho Beach in St. Maarten, for example. I’ve definitely been there and snapped plenty of shots. Airplane wingtips and a passport shot with the next flight are common for me, too. Less with the bikini selfies, fortunately for everyone.

Does that mean I’m traveling wrong?

Does that mean I’m not “experiencing” a destination?

At a conference I attended last summer a representative from AirBnB suggested that the company allows people to “live like a local” rather than be a tourist. As though one is better than the other. But as a short-term visitor to a location I generally am a tourist. I certainly am not a local. I can ride the metro or bus, eat at the corner restaurant and even buy groceries to stock my room. That doesn’t make me a local. And it shouldn’t.

There are certainly destinations where I feel more comfortable. I’m pretty good at navigating the Hamburg metro system, for example. I even mostly understand the ferries there. And I have a few “regular” restaurants I try to hit up when I return each year. But I’m still not a local. I’m a visitor.

That doesn’t mean I’ll fight my way through the crowds to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. I’ve been in Paris a half dozen times and chosen other museums to frequent. Because that’s my prerogative. But I also went to Sacre Coeur and watched evening settle on the city. Like hundreds of others on that afternoon and thousands that month.

Those shared experiences are not necessarily bad. So long as you’re doing it because you want to. Travel, and really life in general, should be about exploring yourself, not performing for others.

Unless you’re an actor. In which case get out there on your stage. Just please don’t call yourself an influencer. Because that’s disgusting.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. We are tourists. We do what tourists do, though we try *very* hard to do it respectfully (And probably still come up short). We like to enjoy the activities of “locals” in most places, but having lived in tourist destination cities I know that also means we’re annoying people who try to live away from the crowds.

    But I do dislike that people take so many of “the same” shot. We are blessed to travel more than our friends and try to take interesting pictures, most of which don’t include us. After all, they can see us every day, why does my big fat face have to be blocking part of the vista (or have my ugly feet blocking part of the beach)? You know I was there, I took the picture! 🙂

  2. “Just please don’t call yourself an influencer. Because that’s disgusting.”
    LOL…so true. It is disgusting. Nobody wannabes. They are either full of themselves or hustlers trying to make a buck.

  3. Such a great article. I do travel for myself so I can see the the world and learn something new either about myself of the places i visit. I mainly take pictures so I can share my experience with friends and family hoping at least one of them would be inspired to travel but I would never ever call myself an “influencer”. It’s also nice to look back at the adventures I’ve had.

  4. Thank you for this great post! So true! I don’t know that it matters what label you put on something when it comes to being a tourist or a local. I moved to a new part of the country, but often go back and visit some of the same sites (museums, stores, restaurants, etc) that I used to visit more regularly. Does that now make me a tourist versus a local? Does it really matter?

    Perhaps the distinction should really be between a respectable person and a show-off. And this is by far more important in the end.

  5. Funny video, but for every single location, it was probably that person’s first time there, so why not? I don’t care that lots of other people have seen the Taj Mahal or whatever, and have taken a similar picture. I want to see it too for myself, though maybe also come up with more creative photo ideas.

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