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Is travel no longer fun?

It is a particularly warm and humid era in Goa. However, the humidity is no obstacle for the hordes of Instagram clip makers descending on Parra Road. Some stand on their bikes, others on their bikes, and a couple of them decide to sit in the middle of the road, sulking as the sun beats down mercilessly. but why? Simply because this stretch of narrow road lined with coconut trees featured in the 2016 film Dear Zindagi starring Shah Rukh Khan and Alia Bhatt in the lead roles. Check Instagram and you’ll find #DearZindagiRoad or #ParraRoad reels by the dozens.

Writer Beena Nayak, who lives near the now famous Barra Road, recalls how Barra Road became an Instagram phenomenon, ever since some tourists would ask her for directions to the street. She admits that she went through moments of frustration when she wished the coconut would fall and disrupt such buds. “You will find a hundred other streets in Goa that are exactly like this one,” she says.

Barra Road became such a headache for locals who had to use the stretch daily that a ‘Swachata tax’ was proposed, albeit later cancelled. The pandemic has exacerbated the situation. While the country was in lockdown, Goa opened up its businesses a little sooner and influencers started emerging, Pena recalls. In fact, it was the rush of influencers and scenes in Bara that inspired Pena to write Goagr@m, which centers around a fashion influencer who comes to Goa to vlog and create videos on Instagram and ends with a sympathetic look at the influencer ecosystem.

You can spot these consistent roller makers wherever you travel, whether it’s London’s Portobello Road, searching for the door featured in the 1999 romantic film “Notting Hill” or the crepe display at Takeshita Dori in Tokyo’s Harajuku. And by the way, these sites are very popular on Instagram.

How has the platform renewed the way we travel? Have we forgotten how to take in the beauty of a landscape, enjoy a stunning sunrise, or engage in the sights and sounds of a place without waving the phone around? We did, sighs Pina, who remembers that even before the social media sharing craze started, she found it time-consuming to constantly take photos or pose for them. “Memory is magic,” she says. Because it adds layers to what we see, hear and feel in a place, which is something pictures cannot capture. Today, we seem to have outsourced our memories, and nostalgia itself has disappeared, she laments, referring to how social media platforms bring up “memories” every now and then.

Mumbai-based writer and co-founder of ad agency Devaiah Bopanna recently posted on Instagram and At Chichen Itza in Mexico, he was “a disappointment” and that he traveled there with high expectations and found the site “barren” and “infested with lizards”. The picturesque and peaceful views should have stirred something in me. I don’t blame the places themselves; I’m sure I would have loved them if my perceptions weren’t clouded by Instagram filters.

The post showed a huge response on X, with many feeling the same way and chiming in with “So… get off Instagram.” Isn’t this the dilemma then? “I can be critical of the platform and stay on board,” Devaiah says. “There are downsides to everything. People complain about big tech’s use of personal data, but I haven’t met anyone who says, ‘Sorry, I don’t use Google Maps because Google will get my data.’”

Shivya Nath is a well-known advocate and influencer for sustainable travel with over 1 million followers on Instagram. “I try hard to avoid Instagrammable places, but sometimes I find them without even knowing it,” she says. She recalls an example while hiking in the Andes in Ecuador when a local recommended visiting a remote hut that felt “at the end of the world.” At the place, I was shocked to see flocks of people. What was the fuss? They were all rushing to take a photo on the swing which became an Instagram phenomenon! “The hut itself has been turned into a tourist site with an entrance fee. It was fun to see people taking turns riding the swings and taking pictures that made it seem like they were alone when the reality was completely different. As I continued my trip, I noticed similar swings set up a few hundred miles away. meters – but she was devoid of interest because Instagram had not given her anything yet,” wrote Shivya from Taiwan.

“Ask any long-term traveler, and they will tell you stories of miserable bus journeys, bad food days, nostalgia for a place that has changed for the worse, accommodation nightmares, and days of bank balances,” continues Shivya, the author of Shooting Star: A Girl, Her Backpack, and the World. “The exhausting… But these little travel facts often get lost behind the facade of great travel photos, and make the life of a frequent traveler seem a little too perfect.”

Is the medium the message?

Maybe the medium is the message when it comes to Insta. “Instagram as a platform is a low-barrier entry; all you have to do is upload photos or videos to be part of the platform. And people who consume it mindlessly scroll through it. The platform is meant to showcase the highlights of your life and show your peer group that you are having a good time. On the other hand “With

Sarita, a copy editor and content writer based in Kathmandu, recently returned from a trip to Japan. She and a friend who traveled together got their travel recommendations from Reddit and from other friends who had traveled to that country. “We saved a list of places from Instagram, but that didn’t make it into the final version,” she says, adding that posts from cafes or restaurants that looked great on Instagram received average ratings on Google.

So, what is her real experience like in Japan? Sarita found Kyoto disappointing. She tells how she let herself skip the much-photographed Arashiyama Bamboo Grove because the park opens in the early hours of dawn and within half an hour, the crowds start arriving. If you look at travelers’ experiences with the bamboo grove on user-generated review sites online, you’ll realize that it’s not the glamorous grove one sees on Instagram!

Another experience that was not significant to Sarita was the famous Battle of Shibuya, which appears in the movie “Lost in Translation.” “I’m someone who has seen the crowds in Mumbai. For most of us South Asians, this is not an unfamiliar sight at all. Some places in Japan that weren’t as big on Instagram, like the Cup Noodles Museum in Osaka and the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo, were more fun for she has.

Speaking of Japan, recent reports indicate that a large barrier will be erected to block views of the iconic Mount Fuji – a view that is very popular because the peak appears to cover a convenience store, creating visual drama. Reports say that tourists are crowding the small area, blocking sidewalks and disturbing the peace. The Italian city of Venice has also been in the news for imposing a tax on day visitors to enter the city. Overtourism is a real problem, thanks to Instagram and other social media platforms.

“It often breaks my heart when I see how Instagram has amplified some of the negative impacts of travel,” says Shivya. “Geotagging has allowed pristine natural sites to be destroyed due to overcrowding and irresponsible behavior. The growing sense of fear of missing out has put a damper on tourism in places around the world, Which led to environmental degradation and erosion of living culture.

Sudipta Sanyal, currently based in London and co-founder of an experiential travel company in Mumbai, curates personalized travel itineraries for clients. Do you see clients asking her to organize a vacation based on what they saw on Instagram? “We often have travelers asking about a specific trip (that might be particularly long or challenging) based on Insta photos or a B&B that looks great but is too far from the city center but we help them manage expectations and keep things real,” she explained.

On the issue of overtourism, she says they often ask clients to consider other options – for example, if Venice is burdened by overtourism, how about another city with beautiful canals? The company also doesn’t collaborate with Instagram influencers and prefers to keep things real. “For example, Colmar is a quaint city in France but it is very crowded in the summer. When our customers want to head to the Christmas markets, we tell them that they will need to keep in mind that it is very cold at that time,” says Sudipta, adding: “We make sure we give them the real picture because our clients are our influencer clients.”

Fake it and never do it!

It’s really easy to fake your vacation photos in the age of AI and editing apps. A US company, dubbed ‘Fake A Vacation’, made news when it launched a service that offers photos of a destination for those who can’t go on holiday but want to show they went!

In 2020, Natalia Taylor, an American Instagram influencer, was able to fake her vacation to Bali as part of an experiment to see if people would see it all. She recreated her vacation at an IKEA store and her followers believed her. Reports at the time said she posted fake vacation photos to prove a point, telling her followers not to believe everything posted online. There are a lot of videos on YouTube where influencers show how they faked a vacation on Instagram. Fake vacations became common during the pandemic when lockdowns and social distancing prevented people from going out.

But the word “forgery” has different connotations. This happens when you turn on the auto-responder on outgoing emails and voicemails to say you’re “out of the office” and on vacation when you’re actually catching up on pending work and don’t want to be disturbed!

published May 19, 2024, 01:03 Est

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