In the process of creating this blog, I spend a lot of time on stock photo sites searching for shots of “adventure travel,” “adventure woman,” and “adventure couple.” I also spend a lot of time following “adventurer” accounts on Instagram. And in the course of that research, I’ve concluded that the modern hipster version of the adventure travel photo has squat to do with reality.
Lovely travel bloggers, Insta-lebrities, Unsplash contributors, and the like: I totally get that social media where we live our fantasies. No one wants to see “adventure woman” with chapped lips and snot running down her nose.
But as someone who blogs for real people, I’m begging you. Could we please see less of the following adventure travel photo cliches?
(By the way, if you know me, please ignore the fact that I have personally posted Nos. 2 and 7 more times than I can count. I’m in an adventure travel photo cliche recovery period. It’s very emotional, and I request that you all respect my hypocrisy during this difficult time. Thanks for understanding.)
1. Holding her back
Maybe I’m weird, but does anyone else cringe every time they see one of these?
She wants to run off into the beautiful distance. And what’s he doing? He’s holding her back, the bastard.
Maybe he’s worried she’ll meet a charming French photojournalist with smoldering eyes and a sexy accent on that cobblestone street or that hot air balloon she’s straining toward. Yeah, a sexy photojournalist on assignment for Nat Geo. With a freakin’ huge Instagram following.
Yeah, he knows he just isn’t badass enough for her.
To be fair, the original series was by photographer Murad Osmann, who called it “Follow Me.” (Maybe to make it clear his girlfriend was leading him, not straining to get free of his grasp.
Apparently Murad’s wife Nataly got tired of waiting for him to shoot the perfect adventure travel photo and started dragging him around by the hand. Which to be honest, isn’t that romantic of an origin story, either.
Anyway, whether you love or hate the original, definitely check out this hysterical Taiwanese spoof.
2. Yoga pose au naturel
After a grueling climb up a mountain, the last thing I want to do on the summit is throw off all my gear, take off my coat, shake out my hair, check my face, and strike me some tree pose.
And yet I see this particular adventure travel photo cliche at least 527 times a day on Instagram. There are in fact entire feeds of this.
Personally, my preferred summit post is called the Krave Chili Lime Jerky Salutation. It’s performed seated (no mat required), usually in an unflattering puffy jacket with sweat and snot all over my face.
Apparently the yoga pose au naturel photo is also quite a cliche in online dating. I realized this after three guys in a row told me, “I was so relieved that you didn’t put any yoga pictures in your profile. What’s up with the yoga picture, anyway?”
My best answer: “You’re supposed to imagine she’s a contortionist in the sack.”
For an awesome spoof on this adventure travel photo cliche, follow @backpackingbarbie on Instagram. She does bridge pose on Mt. Tanaki. She planks at Stonehenge. She takes a selfie on a fancy Western toilet. Which is pretty funny, considering she’s 10 inches tall.
And if you actually want to take a shot at Inst-yo-lebrity status, the Yoga Dork blog has some tips for you.
3. Guy holding a gaping fish
In the online dating world, this is the masculine version of yoga pose au natural.
If a dude’s outdoorsy at all, he’s thrusting a dying, gasping fish at the lens. Which makes me incredibly sad as a chick who was a vegetarian for six years and still isn’t quite comfortable eating things that have a mother and a face.
If the yoga poser is sending out not-so-subtle Kama Sutra vibes, I’m not sure what the hell the fish face is supposed to say. Maybe that he’s demonstrating he’s a good provider. Like Khal Drogo has nothing on him. Yeah, Mr. Fish Face will be your “Sun and Stars.”
It’s worth noting that this adventure travel photo cliche also shows up ridiculously often on Instagram, so it’s not just a mating call.
4. I can haz drone!
I think people with drones feel right now the way people with selfie sticks did in 2012. It’s all so very kewl, why waste time on editing, right? Hence we got (and still get) tons of selfie stick fails with faces cut off, tongues sticking out, mooners and streakers photobombing the background, and so on.
By the same token, your 19th blurry shot of yourself in the Popeye’s Chicken parking lot looking upward with a panicked expression on your face because you just flew that sucker too close to the power lines is not exactly an #ig_masterpiece.
There’s also the fact that the general public is less than enamored with drones. It’s one thing if you’re part of a professional film crew. But if you’re just flying it around the beach or the park to look cool, rest assured that at least five people around you are plotting ways to knock that thing out of the sky.
In fact, if you’ve ever been annoyed by your neighbor’s drone, you’ll love this video of a medieval warrior taking one out with a spear.
5. Hiking haute couture
When I search stock photo sites for “adventure woman” (cause I need a lot of those for this blog), I find models standing on top of snowy mountains wearing:
- No hat (but quite possibly fluffy earmuffs)
- No coat
- A backpack large enough to hold a small wallet
- A cotton dress
- Loose hair flowing in the breeze
Yeah, I’m thinking she didn’t hike through 50 mph winds and subzero windchill to get to the top of that mountain. In fact, I bet her big adventure of the day involved riding a ski lift. Probably a heated gondola.
Lovely Unsplash contributors, would it be too much to ask to feature more girls in Gore-Tex, goggles, and gaiters? Because I’m pretty sure none of my readers hike wearing lippy, skinny jeans, and ballet slippers.
6. Your sneakers having an eyegasm
So you’re having a crap hair day (no mountain top fashion show for you), but you still want to prove You Were There. So you hike to a viewpoint take a shot of your oh-so-hip Converse All-Stars dangling above Copenhagen or the Grand Canyon or whatever.
Too bad only 2.6 million other hipsters wore the same sneaks today. Including half the tourists in Copenhagen. Yeah, you’ve just become an adventure travel photo cliche.
My other big beef with this one: no one who’s serious about going into the rugged wilderness gets up and puts on vintage Nikes and skinny jeans. Because that is a legit way to get blisters, black toenails, sprained ankles, and possibly hypothermia.
Seriously, if you see a Connies-in-the-wild shot, it’s pretty safe to assume those Connies didn’t walk more than a mile from the nearest Air BnB.
7. White savior Barbie/Ken
“Voluntourism” in Africa. It’s not all about her, but according to her Instagram profile, “It kind of is.”
Meet White Savior Barbie (@barbiesavior), who was called by god to save Africa from itself. (Yes, it’s another Barbie account, but I promise it’s worth it.)
Her heart breaks when she breaks a heel carrying water from the village well. But hours later she takes a “slumfie” and feels “so blessed.”
As someone who did a volunteer year abroad, I find this feed both funny as shit and deeply cringe-worthy. Because honestly, I think anyone who’s done international volunteer work is at least a little self-congratulatory. (Including the creators, who are former Africa volunteers and clearly geniuses.)
But we also all know the type who uses this sort of volunteering as Instagram set dressing. The locals aren’t human beings, they’re props and extras. Often this person refers to “Africa” as if it were a single country, not a continent with 54 countries, 3,000 ethnic groups and 2,000 languages.
This isn’t to say that people shouldn’t volunteer. Volunteering is awesome, and if you do it with the right program, it really can make a lasting difference. You can also do good by using social media to draw attention to issues (not yourself).
So what the hell should I post?
You should post something so delightful, original, and authentic that even Instagram has never seen it before. But be warned. If you do a good job, you could be an adventure travel photo cliche yourself in a matter of hours.