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hanging-Rock-The-Blue Mountains Australia

I want to start off by saying how much I love Instagram. From fabulous food around the world to hidden travel gems, I find it a huge source of inspiration, and a constant creative outlet for my own work. In 2017, I went on a book tour to Australia and visited Hanging Rock. I had seen a post by @WeTheFoodSnobs of the precipitous ledge of doom that overhangs a vast eucalyptus strewn valley in The Blue Mountains. After researching the national park, I spent a long weekend hiking and canyoning in the outback before visiting the feed friendly landmark, and then spectacularly wussing out when faced with actually climbing it. It’s very very high and very very narrow. Madness I tell you! What I’m not a fan of is ‘doing it for the gram.’ Putting the onus on getting ‘THE’ shot and making your moment about that perfect picture, and then getting anxious over online likes.

As we start the New Year, many of us will be drawing up plans for our next big trip. The sales are on and it’s a great time to pick up a bargain and get the hell out of our grey old, Brexit riddled shores. This year I’m all over Faroe Islands and Gaza. For a generation of Millennials – sorry to band that term around, but it’s what the stats I have been sent looked at, and by that they mean anyone aged 18-33 – instgrammability is the number one driver for choosing a holiday destination. A third said that posting their vaycay snaps was just as important as the holiday itself (source WeSwap), finding that killer backdrop to capture or pool to fill with inflatable children’s toys. I have never understood this fad and think its mega weird for a grown up to want to be photographed straddling an inflatable unicorn. Can someone please explain this to me?

Imli Morocco Mountains
Moroccan Kebabs

If we all travel to the same places to get the same picture, it encourages conformity. That’s rubbish, get out and do your own thing. Find something new and to hell with what anyone else thinks. If, for example, mainstream Instagram were to be believed in my hometown, London, you’d think that we all live in mews houses in Notting Hill, our front doors decked out like a Hamleys window display, sipping lattes with hearts on them and eating avocado roses. You’d expect us all to be gingerly looking at pink cupcakes outside Peggy Porschen, wearing matching clothes that of course you can click to buy. Heads up, we don’t. London is the epitome of cool and most of that, thank god, doesn’t hit mainstream media. You have to work harder to scratch the surface. Please do, you’ll have so much fun, and there are many wicked accounts that will point you in the right direction.

As a food and travel writer, my work takes me all over the world. I love to challenge myself and go to undiscovered places. I get such a buzz from meeting new people and eating delicious dishes I’ve never seen before. I find getting lost and seeing what happens utterly thrilling. The desert is one of my favourite places and I think that brown is the greatest of all food colours. None of which are very feed friendly, but who cares, I like them.

Next time you’re thinking about going away, I urge you as someone who thrives on the unexpected, do it for you. Of course use Instagram for ideas. Why wouldn’t you? But pick an adventure you’ve always wanted to have or a city you’ve longed to explore. Run in the forests and climb a mountain, holding the hand of someone you love instead of your phone, and if you can, take a few cool pictures on the way, brilliant, I’d love to see them however they look. Remember that when you travel, always live in the moment and enjoy every second of it. That’s way more thrilling than likes.

Desert-Morocco

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John Gregory-Smith Istanbul