Destination Irrelevant: The Rise of the Self-Absorbed Holiday

Thai island landscape with selfie pose (photo of woman: credit

It’s fair to say we’re in the grip of a selfie epidemic. Not only has the National Gallery’s newly relaxed photography policy potentially unleashed a tidal wave of idiots standing in front of (and deliberately obscuring) world-renowned artworks, but there’s also the queen of selfies, Kim Kardashian, taking things one step further. It’s been reported that Kim K took a mind-bending 1,200 selfies in a single day during a holiday in Thailand this summer.

Now we can admit we’re not safe from pouting posers in the shadows of a city gallery or on a sun-bleached Thai beach, perhaps it’s time we all acknowledged the growing trend of the self-absorbed holiday. You know, the one where the background is fairly immaterial, an all-inclusive resort or a luxury yacht is hungrily booked up and the tourist doesn’t actually have to tour anything. They might venture out on a very occasional excursion, but it will mainly be an exercise in creating photo opportunities (starring themselves) and trying not to engage with anyone who doesn’t speak impeccable English.

Animal photobomb by the pool
Are you as demanding as this posing llama, with its sun loungers and sunglasses at the ready?

You may spot them at the airport, wearing highly inappropriate clothing for the season, the changing weather or the culture of the country; alternatively, perhaps you track them down rolling their eyes as a despairing holiday rep or hotel receptionist tries to engage them in a brief overview of the destination. Suffice it to say that their travel prep did not include reading up on the history of the area, but you can rest assured they’re ‘bikini body ready’ and have packed their GHD straighteners.

If you, or people you know, are in danger of morphing into this type of holidaymaker, there are ways to restore the balance – for everyone else’s peace of mind as well as your own…

Light-up quote on pavement in Belgium
A thoughtful quote on the floor in Brussels, Belgium: ‘It is for me to be more than a man’.

How to curb the self-indulgence

  • Balance every photo of yourself with ten more of your surroundings. Get to know what you’re looking at by doing a bit of research before you go on holiday and you’ll be less likely to breeze past something important, like a quirky bar or a well hidden historical site
  • Think beyond posing opportunities; use all of your senses to explore a destination and be curious about its people. Where’s the best place to try their national dish? Where can you listen to great live music? Pick up tips from shop assistants, waiters and tour guides
  • Look at the macro side of things when you’re documenting a famous landmark. Set your camera to macro mode (the flower icon) and get up close to your subject without using the zoom, to get a fresh perspective on something like the Great Wall of China
  • Don’t miss out on seeing religious sites if you’re a non-believer (or agnostic, like me). As long as you’re respectful, most will welcome you with open arms, and you can learn a lot about a country’s society, history and culture from a temple in Koh Samui, a synagogue in Prague or a church in Florence
  • Research basic local customs of the country you’re visiting, to avoid causing offence. And don’t forget to check what their tipping culture is, as some places pay their staff solely from the tips they receive, so your spare change could make a big impact
  • Try to book accommodation with a sustainability policy – even luxury hotels or tiny B&Bs can surprise you with their eco credentials. This can involve day-to-day tweaks like using recycled water and asking guests to re-use towels, or it can be linked to service provision such as employing local people and sourcing seasonal food nearby
  • Indulge in a little ‘me-time’, but don’t constantly broadcast it. Grab a massage on the beach or have a guilt-free meal by yourself, without the need to rub all your good fortune in everyone else’s face back home

Are you sick of self-absorbed holidaymakers, or do you secretly take more selfies than photos of your surroundings when you’re travelling? Let me know by leaving a comment below or getting in touch on Twitter and Facebook.