If a tree falls in the woods but there’s nobody around to hear it, does it make a sound?
If you travel to one of the seven wonders of the world, but don’t check-in on Facebook and share photos, were you really there?
Are you enlightened yet? A bit deep? OK, well the above is not quite the same comparison, however I do think this is the way we’re heading as a generation. It’s as if our urge to share our experiences online is becoming stronger than our desire to be in the moment and have the experience itself. I know I’m guilty of this. I would say my top 5 Facebook check-ins (all with selfie included) would be:
1. The Colosseum, Italy.
2. The Great Wall of China.
3. The Empire State Building, New York.
4. The Grand Canyon, Arizona USA.
5. Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood.
I’ve been there and paid ridiculous costs to turn on my data roaming just so I can ‘check-in’, snap a pic and share it on Facebook, thinking; that’s right suckers, while you’re at home bored on Facebook because you’ve got nothing to do, I’m at the Colosseum… And I’m… Ah… Also on Facebook… Wait…
So what’s wrong with this?
There’s an ad on TV here in Australia at the moment. It’s a beer ad, (we like to drink a lot of beer) and features a group of adventurous young men. The commercial attempts to glorify these men by giving them the title of ‘Experience Collectors’ because they travel through life and have many different and diverse experiences. I think ‘experience collector’ is an interesting term and is perhaps something that we all need to be a little wary of?
“Our holiday photos flicker on
deserted computers as the
screen saver transitions through the
carousel of smiling selfies from
continent to continent.”
To me, when I think of ‘collecting’, I picture model cars still in their boxes, never opened and never played with. Comic books still crisp in plastic sleeves and never read. Coins in plastic cases dusty and displayed but never spent. I’ve never been a collector of anything. I have tried, but I was always too hands on as a child as my model cars zoomed about the dirt in the backyard, comic books were dog-eared and well-read and coins popped from their plastic casing out of curiosity for how they ‘felt’.
I think this same notion can apply to travel. I’ve seen tourists fly through the great sights of the world snapping pics and moving on with such haste I’m not sure if it’s fair to say they were ever really there to begin with… They are just collecting the experience if you like, adding the place and time to their collective bank of ‘experiences’ to display through glossy framed photos on their home walls that tell everyone who visits that they have ‘been there and done that’.
I’ve done the same. Arriving at a destination, I’ve jumped out of a cab so eager to capture and share the moment before anything else that I’m actually completely unaware of the experience outside of the viewfinder of my camera. I think that when you’re in the experience collecting mindset, the present moment gets neglected and we fail to truly appreciate and enjoy the moment we’re having.
“I feel as if my mind has drunk my soul
and is refusing to belch it up and out of
its self-indulgent world of incessant
mental noise and mind-chatter.”
I was in San Francisco recently and for the first time in my life, I walked over the Golden Gate bridge. The whole time I was on Skype to family back home, showing them where I was and what it looked like, rather than just soaking in the experience myself. The funny thing is, I enjoy this. Maybe because I author a travel blog and I’m a photographer I’m more likely to do this, but I enjoyed sharing the experience as I walked with headphones in waving my phone around at different angles trying to take in the bridges giant red pylons and her shy cable beams that peered ever so briefly out of the dense fog. I wonder if, in this instance, sharing it with others actually enriched my own experience?
So I guess there’s a fine line between documenting your holiday versus collecting experiences to gloat on Facebook. I don’t judge either approach and have been guilty of some horrendous Facebook gloats direct from famous locations and pristine beaches. However I do wonder if, as technology advances, are we becoming more and more removed from the present moment and therefore turning into a generation of experience collectors rather than travellers and explorers as we display our experiences on walls and mantels behind protective plastic and glass? Our holiday photos flicker on deserted computers as the screen saver transitions through the carousel of smiling selfies from continent to continent.
I have done far too much business related travel recently that I feel as if my mind has drunk my soul and is refusing to belch it up and out of its self-indulgent world of incessant mental noise and mind-chatter. I know I need to center myself and appreciate the present moment again. So, I’m about to embark on a trip across South East Asia encompassing Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. However this time I’m starting my travel differently.
I’ve booked into a 7 day meditation retreat in Thailand to start my trip. Phones, tablets and any smart (or dumb) devices are strictly forbidden and I must observe a vow of silence as most of my days will be spent meditating. I’m hoping that after this, I will be present again and rather than rushing straight for the camera and phone on my travels, I’ll pause, reflect, absorb, appreciate the experience in the moment and then… Blog about it later of course! Make sure you follow Road Less Travelled to hear how it all goes and wish me luck!