The Curse Of The Mindless Tourist (and How to Break the Spell)
Along with hordes of tourists from all over the world, we stand at the gates of the Iguazú National Park. We are ready. We are all SO ready. Before us there are over 670 square meters with the hundreds of waterfalls that form one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. This is serious once-in-a-lifetime tourism, and the atmosphere is tense. Everyone wants that perfect spot right at the very edge of each and every lookout where of course, it’s imperative to take a selfie -or three- and if the view is really worth it, get someone to take an awfully framed photo for you.
We all do it.
We take selfie after selfie in a snapping frenzy until we get a moment of clarity where a stray thought tells us it's time to put the camera away and simply BE THERE and enjoy the view with our very own eyes.
Wow! Such immense beauty!
As we try to take it all in we notice something's not quite right. It feels unreal and hurried, as if the view is constantly escaping us. We realise how little resemblance those photos have with this reality. One truly needs to be here to experience it. So we make a mental note to mention it to our instagram followers. Maybe a filter would do the trick and get that magical feeling. Yes, that’s it. That will certainly make them gasp. And this view deserves a pile of gasps. But this pic is not quite there yet. Maybe the next fall…
And off we go. Because as it turns out, every new lookout feels even better than the one before. Every new fall is worth at least a couple of selfies. And then, at the big platforms where the true winners are like the Garganta del Diablo, there really is not enough time (or space) for all the pics. But hang on, shouldn’t I be enjoying this instead of thinking how would people react on Facebook?
We find ourselves repeatedly caught in this whirlwind of photos and selfies that let’s be honest, are a BORE to look at because not only they all look the same, but as we’ve wisely concluded earlier, there is no pic that can substitute being physically surrounded by such monstrous beauty. Why do we do it then? Why do we systematically sabotage the actual experience in the name of sharing by cropping, filtering and diluting reality through a tiny screen?
The short answer -the one that we all silenced so long ago- is it gives you 'likes’. No surprise there, they’re the cornerstone of all social media: that dose of endorphins that kicks in every time we get a thumbs up, a vote, a red-filled heart or a comment that not only validates our experience, it validates us! It tells us with a very precise number how much we are liked, loved and ultimately worthy. We are in such a need of being approved that we forget to be actually present, in the moment, with ourselves and our senses, with the feelings and sensations of our current reality. We forget to live! We have sold our most precious inmediacy, our sensuality and the intimacy with ourselves for the promised of deferred self-love, certified by others. It’s a cheap -if powerful- drug, because how could we not share it? What is the point of experiencing anything if we cannot share it with everyone whose opinion we so much care about?
Of course there is a point. Because the most important ‘like’ that you need is your own. And as it turns out, it is only when you embrace that feeling of impermanence, the essence of living, that you can relax and stop worrying about what other people will think. Then you can experience life as it is. You can't snap it, frame it, filter it, freeze it, or turn it into something else. It simply happens, and it is by removing this need to be approved by others and just be, us and the world, that we can regain our ability to enjoy the moment.
Sounds complicated? It isn’t. Next time you’re out there ready to snap your life away, take your one selfie -which is more than you need- put the camera away and forget about it. On this view, and the next one, and the next one. Don't touch it for the rest of the visit and soon you will start feeling a sense of liberation, something clicks into place, your body relaxes, and you can finally let it all sink in. In those moments you will find not just peace, but also that much needed self-love.