Why I'm Fighting Against Everything I Believe In and Travelling With A Selfie Stick

taking self portraits when travelling solo jennifer hulley travel writer travel photographer hamilton ontario

I hate the selfie culture  I hate the face tuning, the snap chat filters, the pressure to put your best self forward in every millimetre of your online life, the need to keep up with the #joneses and to buy into the "Generation Narcissistic" trap.  Then why the heck is there a selfie stick in my travel bag? During my last trek to Europe, I marveled at how harassment as a solo female traveller was now pertaining to buying a selfie stick. The vendors were everywhere, watching me take image after image of iconic structures, of the floors, the walls, the people, the culture. "Madam, selfie?" I wouldn't even comment. I'd turn my back and keep snapping away. I was so not part of that. I wasn't one of "those" selfie people.

Sometimes pride can come at a cost. In the last few weeks I've been working on creating more content for this blog and it propelled me down memory lane scrolling through an endless stream of images from the past 10 few years. And you know what? I am in probably 0.05% of them. Maybe less. The cost of this selfie shaming pride? I have no photos of myself.

 Why does this matter? Well, because I matter.

You Exist

I've been wrangling with the issue of feeling invisible lately. Invisible because I fall into that "single, never married, no children" genre of living. In a life where all adult milestones that are recognized, celebrated and documented revolve around those things that I don't have: engagement parties, bridal showers, stag and does, bachelorettes, weddings, baby showers, first birthdays, second birthdays and more. It feels endless. These are the moments that are playing on my life's highlight reel right now.  There are no "congrats, you landed a big client!" celebrations or "you just bought your second house, solo!" showers or any other alternative life bucket list checked celebrations. When society doesn’t recognize and celebrate these alternative milestones the responsibility to do so becomes transferred to the individual and when that individual lives independently it is easily be forgotten, shelved away as something that’s narcissistic or self-involved or all sorts of other nasty adjectives. Sprinkle on top these feelings the deeply ingrained societal expectation that girls/women are supposed to be selfless, kind and giving to others and you have a cluster fuck of existence that "forgets" to recognize, celebrated and document themselves.

There's an article by the Telegraph that discusses the modern digital dilemma: if we are storing most, if not all, of our memories on social platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, what will happen to our records once those platforms no longer exist? Will there be any memories, stories, and emotion to pass down to future generations? I hoard old photographs. I have bags of them in my closet. These photos are from my family's time before I was alive. There is something magical about them, being able to hold them in my hand and peek at a time that no longer exists, one that I was never part of. I easily have thousands of images from the last ten years. Places I've been, things I've eaten, random items and scenes that have caught my eye. But there is one critical element missing from many of these images. Me.


Self Portraits On The Road Aren't Easy

When I travel I make a point of taking my photo at least once in each city. Yes you read that correctly: ONCE. That's not a lot. Part of this is that it can be cumbersome to set up my iPhone on a mini tripod, get the settings just right and blindly take a successful photo. Sometimes they work out, sometimes they don't. It is not always a quick process. There's also the worry about placing my phone somewhere that is not within arms reach should someone decided to grab and run off with it.

taking self portraits while travelling jennifer hulley travel blogger food photographer hamilton
taking self portraits while travelling jennifer hulley travel photographer hamilton

A selfie stick would make it so much easier and I'd be able to snap some more casual images of myself in these exciting places. Maybe this is why online dating has been so hard. I struggle to put together a profile with current images of myself. All my photos are of travel times, often with me wearing sunglasses. I actually once had a guy message me and ask if there was a reason I never showed my eyes in a photo and if there was "something wrong" with me. It's amusing to try and imagine what he thought lay beneath those tinted lenses and heavy shadows.

how to take self portraits while travelling jennifer hulley travel blogger food photographer hamilton

Maybe it’s the increasing levels of nostalgia that I experience as I age but it doesn't sit well with me that I don't have much to look at in terms of images of me in my life, enjoying my life. Having 4-5 travel portraits each trip just simply isn't enough. I realize I need to start documenting myself in my life at home as well as abroad. I've started and abandoned a self-portrait project more times than you'd probably guess. Why is that? Fear? Frustration? I don’t really know. Perhaps a little bit of both.

Simplifying Your Life With a Selfie

And so this time I've packed a selfie stick. I definitely did cringe a bit as I put it in my bag, not wanting to be labeled as a "tourist" or one of "those" people when abroad, but I'm going to give it a whirl and see how it goes. If I come back with more than one image of myself from each location I will consider that a win.

Do you travel solo? How do you capture images of yourself? Maybe you don't bother? I'd love to hear your comments, experiences, and suggestions in the box below.

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