Solo Travel - Part 3 - In Defense of the Selfie

“I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.” 
― Frederick Douglass

Remember family vacations as a child? Someone constantly asking you to “stand here” or “in front of that” “act like you like each other” “etc etc? At the time these photos may have been annoying – but now they are treasured. A good vacation photo album isn’t a bunch of pictures of scenery – it’s you and your loved ones within the scenery. You were there. That is the memory.

Traveling solo doesn’t mean you have to give up those memories – you can ask a kind stranger to take your photo, you can set up the camera timer (my fav – tips at the end of this post), or just take a selfie #noshame.

Selfies have gotten a bad rap – and for some good reasons. I don’t want to see a picture of someone’s face in the front seat of their car every day either but, honestly, I’d rather see a few of those than someone who’s hating. So here are some reasons why I am not ashamed of taking selfies – and why you shouldn’t be either.

Selfies are a digital self-portrait. Just like the original self-portraits of the 10th century – they are a mark in time capturing who the subject is and the emotions associated with that moment. Just like the childhood vacation photos, eventually we are going to forget about the places we went, the weird hairstyles we had, and the excitement we experienced in a new place. A photo can bring us back to that place. I don’t feel the same connection to a photo of a mountain as I do a photo of me as a child in front of the mountain doing something ridiculous. That’s the memory. That’s my experience of a place. I was there.

A selfie can also be a way to actually celebrate confidence and promote psychological well-being. The Dove film “Selfie” is a great example of how accepting yourself(ie) can be so powerful, especially for girls and women. As women, our entire lives we are bombarded by media images of perfection – a selfie is a way to show your uniqueness and boost your confidence. Due to social media there are now more images of “regular” people than models – how cool! While there are still the airbrushed unnatural standards of perfection selfies – a girl growing up today is much more likely to just see photos of real people - people who are unique and beautiful in all different ways. Social media and selfies are actually widening and redefining the definition of beauty – everyone can (and deserves to) be seen.

Taking a selfie is also a great way to show your personality. Whether you think about it or are consciously aware of it – we are all trying to create an image of ourselves. On and off social media, the things you do, say, write, read, etc. are all a part of how you are projecting yourself to the world. People often say that they don’t feel known – but maybe they just aren’t showing anyone who they really are. We can define ourselves in a way with a self-portrait. I love a photo where I just look like me – when I am outdoors, probably wearing a backwards hat, and smiling. This is when I feel most like myself. 

Obviously my view of selfies is pretty positive. I think it can be empowering to practice vulnerability by putting yourself out there – opening yourself up to ridicule, judgement, and even comparison. It’s also just really great to feel confident. That “who the hell cares if anyone likes this picture of my face and this thing behind my face because I LIKE IT” attitude - I like it and I want to be reminded of this moment later. I want to share this moment with the people who aren’t here. I want to remember the joy on my face and not just the backdrop.

But, what about the detractors (haters)? Well, I already explained that who the hell cares – but really, who cares what anyone else thinks? Why is anyone that concerned about you or what you do? The truth is they probably really aren’t concerned about you at all (remember the spotlight effect). And if they are – that says a lot more about them than it does about you.

What does science have to say? Well, research shows that looking at pictures of smiling faces makes you smile – and smiling makes you already feel that much happier. While there are also studies that show selfies lead or come from a negative place – I feel like those are all extreme cases. I’m not suggesting that you post a selfie every day or that you get all of your self-worth from the likes it receives – I’m just saying there isn’t anything wrong with it. But, like almost everything in life, balance is the key.

So, in a culture where women are given totally unrealistic standards of beauty – be comfortable with yourself. If that means take a selfie – do it. If it doesn’t – don’t. Really, who cares. No shaming necessary.

Camera Timer Basics

If you want a picture of something more than your face, use the camera timer! I like selfies but I also think photos with a person as the subject just look better and are more dynamic -  so I do this all the time (obviously and shamelessly) Here are a few tips:

Basics: Set the timer on your phone camera to 10 seconds and find something to prop your phone up against. It could be a wall, a fence, your water bottle – I’ve found some crazy stuff that works.

If you can, use the front camera – you won’t be able to see yourself but the quality of the photo is much better.

Set your phone up as high as you can. Sometimes a pic from the ground can look cool but generally closer to eye level makes a better photo.

If you have an Apple Watch - set your phone somewhere farther away and use the watch to cue the photo

Camera timers are the secret to the cartwheel/active shots – the timer takes a burst of photos so you have a few to choose from.

Take a bunch! Haha but seriously – take one, look at it, and then make adjustments as necessary.

And then post them all over the internet. (duh)

Thanks for reading :)