instagram shots

Not long ago a story about a social media star-turned activist, Essena O’Neill, took the Internet by storm. Essena amassed half a million followers on social media, earned a healthy income from her posts and then did the unthinkable: she deleted her accounts. Essena realized what so many of us already know but fail to remember: that social media is not real. For every perfect shot, there are multiple failed ones behind it. For every effortless selfie there is an hour of preparation going into the look. For every “on-the-fly” travel shot there is a half an hour of photo editing to make it look idyllic. Essena took a stand and decided to leverage her following to share an even stronger message: why not just be real?  I am just as guilty of constructing a dream on social media and fueling the fire that we all live in this perfect Utopian society. So to celebrate life’s imperfections and the rise of the truth, I am starting a monthly series to share the real stories–for better or for worse–behind a few of my Instagram travel snapshots.


A Slip & a Fall in Jamaica


This shot was taken while I was on a press trip in Jamaica hosted by the Jamaican Tourism Board. We were visiting a holistic wellness center and spa in the town of Negril that was about a two hour drive from where we were staying. Once we arrived at Jackie’s on the Reef, I couldn’t resist snapping a photo of the ocean and saw an opportunity to take one of those “idyllic” travel shots. When on assignments and press trips, I travel with a Nikon DSLR, my iPhone, a selfie stick and a collapsible tripod tucked away in my camera bag so to get this shot, I set up my tripod and iPhone with a self timer and then walked out towards the sea. It took perhaps 3-5 attempts to nail this photo and during one of the tries I slipped on a patch of algae and landed hilariously in a puddle of wet water on the pier. Of course, you would never guess this from the inspirational quote paired with this image.


The “Perfect View” in Wine Country

Finger Lakes

At the end of the summer my boyfriend and I took a road trip upstate to the Finger Lakes Wine Region where I was invited for a weekend by the local tourism board to explore the area. On the way up, we passed by some gorgeous views of perfect blue skies and mountains that I was excited to capture in a photo and share with my readers. This image was taken at (wait for it..) a Chipotle parking lot! Yes, this picturesque image of wanderlust was taken just steps away from a parking lot with a view behind the camera that was less than ideal.


One too Many Cameras on a Camel in Morocco

Sahara Desert

While on a Topdeck tour in Morocco I ventured into the Sahara Desert for what would prove one of the more incredible experiences I’ve had while traveling: camel trekking into the desert to spend the night at a local Berber camp. For about an hour our caravan of travelers snaked its way around sand dunes and flawless desert vistas as we made our way to the camp where we would be spending the night under the stars. In the first 15 minutes of my camel trek I went into technology overload as I alternated between selfie stick, Nikon camera, iPhone snapshots and iPhone video. After fumbling with my equipment in a sort of attention-deficit way, I realized I was spending more time trying to capture the moment than actually enjoying it. After this shot, I put away my selfie stick, camera and iPhone and listened for the crunch of the camel’s hooves on the sand, the feeling of the swaying ride, the sight of the vibrant sand dunes – allowing myself to experience the moment.


Beach Reflections in the Dominican Republic

instagram shot

On my last assignment abroad, I flew to the Dominican Republic to review culinary week at the Barcelo Bavaro Resort. Before the trip, I had anticipated being able to leave the resort and explore the country but because of a busy itinerary and very isolated resort, I ended up coming and going without ever really exploring the DR. In hopes of still capturing some “wanderlust” images, I decided to experiment with my new GoPro for an attempt at a beach shot in front of the resort. What you don’t see in this photo are the numerous failed attempts to get a good GoPro photo and how this one stretch of beach is the only thing I really saw that entire trip.


Non-Photogenic in California


While on a recent press trip in California, I was traveling down Route 395 towards Las Vegas. The first stop was to Lake Tahoe where I immediately fell in love with the melancholy weather, the dark color scheme and moody clouds hanging over the blue-grey lake. Our press group had a talented photographer, Max, whose job was to snap photos for the journalists to use in stories and social media. Max snapped this candid shot of me taking a photo with my Nikon of the surrounding nature up in Lake Tahoe. Thankfully, I am facing away from the camera because this photo was taken the same day I flew in from New York leaving me visibly exhausted from a red eye flight across the country and the subsequent “easy” hike to this vista point.


Catamaran Lullabies in Jamaica


This photo was taken while on a recent trip to Jamaica, on a catamaran sunset cruise in Montego Bay. After driving up and down the island all day, I had been hit with motion sickness and was wary to finish off the day with a boat ride. In an effort to rally, I took two tablets of Dramamine without thinking and in horror, realized the medication was marked “very drowsy.” The next two hours played out like a scene from Weekend at Bernie’s as I became a lifeless figure shuttled around the Caribbean. I fell asleep in the car on the way to the marina. I fell asleep on the pier as we waited for the catamaran to set up. I fell asleep on the catamaran itself as other guests danced and drank champagne around me. The Dramamine had knocked me out – to say the least – but I managed to keep my eyes open long enough to watch the sunset and snap this photo.


When I travel I often feel this push-pull between disconnecting and staying connected on social media, between capturing my travels and simply enjoying them. Often I have to remind myself to simply put down my camera and take note of what I smell, what I hear and what I see – allowing myself to truly appreciate a beautiful moment and remember it for more than just a photo. I both admire social media’s ability to inspire and connect and also lament it for its tendency to make one feel insecure about their looks, career and how they’re spending their day. The next time you spot an “idyllic” Instagram shot, know that there is much more than meets the eye!

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The REAL Story Behind Those "Perfect" Instagram Snapshots | Travelettes