When I tell someone that I have a little travel blog that I run for fun, the next question is always – what’s your Instagram? And the answer is: I don’t have one. I mean, I have a personal one for myself as a human, but I don’t have one for the travel blog that shows all of the photos of the amazing places I’ve visited. Instagram is one of the best tools for driving traffic for travel blogs, so why have I made the choice to not use this amazing tool which it’s clearly hurting the marketing of this site?
This is something I’ve struggled with and gone back and forth on quite a bit. I did start an Instagram account at first since I thought it was something I needed to do in order to make this blog successful, but I’ve since stopped using it because I feel like it is adding to an increasingly growing problem which needs to be reversed before there’s nothing left on this Earth for us to enjoy.
Like everyone else, I see amazing pictures of beautiful places on Instagram and think “I want to go there”. Instagram has made so many remote beautiful places #instagramfamous – which ultimately is a death sentence. Even the big funded National Parks (let alone the small hole in the wall off the grid roadside attractions) are not equipped to handle the influx of thousands and thousands of new people who are visiting it every year. I’m guilty of it too – I’ve visited several places that I had never heard of before that I only learned about from Instagram and I have a bunch of screenshots for several others that I hope to one day visit. It’s impossible not to see something amazing and want to see it with your own eyes.
This giant increase in traffic is taking a huge toll on the land and is killing the once amazing serenity and solitude of these locations. It’s ruining them not just for the experience of the visitor, but for the ability of the planet to heal itself from the thousands of crushing footsteps and pounds of litter and trash that previously was not there.
I saw this personally the last time I stopped at Horseshoe Bend. I had first visited this place in 2011 and had only heard about it because a fellow traveler on a trail in The Grand Canyon had mentioned that we should stop by and take a look. We stopped here again in 2018, on our way to Paria Canyon, I wanted to stop by and see it again since I had such fond memories of the beauty and serenity of this place. I was deeply saddened by what I saw:
A sea of tourists as far as the eye could see, guard rails and sections of the view that you can no longer get to, shaded pavilions, and a paved parking lot. Horseshoe Bend has been ruined. While the view is still breathtaking, the experience is completely gone and so is the magic of this place.
It would be impossible to take this photo now.
A really informative article talks about this problem and says that Horseshow bend went from “a few thousand annual visitors historically to 100,000 in 2010 – the year Instagram was launched. By 2015, an estimated 750,000 people made the pilgrimage. This year (2018) visitation is expected to reach 2 million.” — THAT’S INSANE!! A small place like Horseshoe Bend can’t handle that large of an influx of people.
And for what? To get a picture for Instagram? And yes, I’m guilty of that too – trying to get a great, perfectly positioned photo of a beautiful place to project the image of living some amazing fantasy life. I can’t fault anyone for wanting to see these places, but I can fault people for not being conscious of the impact they are making and for visiting a location.
Pretty soon there are going to be a lottery for permits for just about every beautiful place in the world. It’s the only way to try to protect them and ease the burden of this high amount of traffic. While that is really the best way to go for protecting the land, it’s really going to suck for everyone that wants to see these places as it’s going to become more and more difficult. Next the wild places will start to be tamed with more paved parking lots and cement pathways – until there’s nothing left of the true wilderness except for our memories.
So that is why I don’t have an Instagram account for this blog – because I don’t want to add to the problem any more than I already am. When I first started, I didn’t think about the #InstagramFamous issue – that just by having this blog and giving away “secrets” on how to get to some of these places, that I’m becoming part of the problem by shining a spotlight on some places when it might be better that they stay hidden.
I rationalize keeping the blog because I’m not luring people in with a pretty picture and then exposing tourists to an area that they haven’t already heard of. If you’ve arrived here, it’s because you were already aware of a location and went out searching for more information about it. You already knew it existed and wanted to learn more about how to properly visit it. And if you were already going to go there anyway, then I’d rather provide solid, accurate, all-encompassing info while also sprinkling in reminders about being eco-conscious, than have you get bad non-eco-friendly information from somewhere else.
Also, most of the places I write about, or at least try to write about, are more “strenuous” backpacking or longer hiking trips – places that are harder to get to and don’t attract someone who is looking to just quickly take a picture (even though I do cover some of those places too). To me, the quick photo takers are a different type of traveler than the backpackers and long hikers. To me, backpackers have more of a respect, awareness, and consciousness for the world and the area that they are going to visit, so I feel less bad about “giving away secrets” for these types of trips.
It’s a small distinction, and maybe I’m still a hypocrite, but for now at least, it’s what lets me ethically (in my mind at least) continue this blog, which I really enjoy, and which hopefully provides useful insights to others like me who respect the planet and want to experience its beauty off the beaten path.