Our Kyoto meltdowns. Are we all just photo-clicking monkeys? What’s travel about?

Are we all just photo-clicking monkeys? What’s travel about?

Are we all just photo-clicking monkeys? 

On my last post I listed the “Must See” highlights in Kyoto. Kyoto has a lot to see as far as temples and gardens and we appreciated the architecture and natural beauty that we saw during our month there. I’ll be honest though – we both had meltdowns. They fell on different days, in different places, but they were both meltdowns.

For Lissette
 it was at Kinkaku-ji temple (the Golden Pavilion). It’s beautiful. But we entered and found ourselves in the middle of a crowd. Everyone gathered at the same spots, taking photos, some holding their cameras up high to take photos over the heads of others, others monopolizing the barriers for the usual selfies. If you finally got into a good position to take a photo, you could feel the pressure from others to take your photo and move on. In short, the whole scene was frenetic and stressed. I have the advantage of being tall and seeing over most people’s heads, but Lissette felt herself surrounded by a forest of people, all clicking away, some with their cameras right above her head or next to her face. So instead of trying to take photos of the temple she made a game of it and decided to take photos of the people crowding her space for a photo.

whole bunch of people taking photos in Kyoto. Are we all just photo-clicking monkeys? What’s travel about?

And this guy, who blocked the path for everyone while trying to get the perfect photo in the new exercise move sweeping Japan: The Photo Squat.

Golden Pavilion, Kyoto. Golden Pavilion


Lissette made a game of it but the energy at the temple, where taking the perfect photo was primordial and imperative, really got to her. And raised other questions about travel. But I’ll get to that.

My meltdown came later during our month-long stay. For weeks I had been dealing pretty well with the crowds of people at Kyoto’s temples and gardens (I usually don’t deal very well with crowds).

Below: crowds at Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine

crowds at Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine
Below: crowds at Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

crowds at Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.
Below: crowds at Kinkaku-ji temple

crowds at Kinkaku-ji temple

I was doing well until the day we decided to visit the Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji temple.

Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji is famous for one thing: the red Maple trees surrounding the temple. It was packed.

Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji crowds. Are we all just photo-clicking monkeys? What’s travel about?

Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji crowds. Kyoto

Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji tour. Are we all just photo-clicking monkeys? What’s travel about?

Above: “please move, tour bus coming”.

And then I saw the cost to get into the grounds of the temple.

Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji


1,000 Yen, ie. $12 Canadian per person, to get into the grounds so that I can take photos of Maple trees with hordes of people?? 

That’s where I lost it. I think my exact words were “Screw that. That’s ridiculous”.

We walked away. And it was while walking that we talked about a few things that had been nagging at us in Kyoto.

“Why are we doing this? Why are we paying all this money to get into these temples just to take the same photos as a million other people? Is this what travel is about, just taking photos like a bunch of monkeys? There’s nothing original about it. Why would I pay $12 just to take photos of maple trees around a temple when there are lots of maple trees everywhere?? Just because everyone else does it? It just doesn’t make sense. This isn’t what travel is about”.

We’re to blame as much as anyone else. We enjoy taking photos. But where’s the line between finding the pleasure of ‘discovering’ a place and capturing it and just feeling like a photo-clicking monkey who’s visiting the same spots as everyone else?

I’m not sure if I know the answer to my own question. Maybe the answer depends on how someone defines travel and what inspires you. Which raises another question: is travel just about getting that perfect photo to post on Instagram? *

* Note: when I originally wrote the above that line finished with “Facebook”. How much has Instagram changed the way people travel over the last few years? As full-time travellers we’ve really seen the difference a few years can make. 

But talking about it was good. We decided that we would, from now on, be a lot pickier about the tourist sites we see. So, over the remaining 10 days of our stay in Kyoto we skipped a few of the popular temples. Instead we visited a few of the lesser known temples. We wandered the grounds of Chishaku-in temple (also known for its gardens) for free. And didn’t have to contend with any crowds. We also walked along the Kamo River which was lined with colorful trees and enjoyed the nature along the river. Again free with no crowds. More importantly, we felt that we were enjoying ourselves again and getting to know the real Kyoto. That, for us, is what travel is about.

Below: Chishaku-in temple. Almost totally empty.

Chishaku-in temple. Kyoto


Related: Why you should travel solo, even if in a relationship


Do you ever feel like a ripped-off Photo-Clicking Monkey?

How do you balance wanting to see a place without falling into the trap of being a Photo-Clicking Monkey?

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Are we all just photo-clicking monkeys?

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  1. I love Japan and was in Kyoto twice in my life, once in December 1975 and later in 2014. It was crowded at the popular sites but I was unlucky as I was in Kyoto the second time during a three-day Japanese holiday. I don’t get to travel much and I do tend to head to the typical tourist places, which are crowded. However, one day I found myself wandering all alone down quiet streets in Gion, the Geisha district of Kyoto. I was surprised that I was almost alone. I wandered through back alleys and ended up passing a small hole-in-the-wall where I had okonomiyaki, a sort of veggie omlette/pancake sort of thing. The temples are gorgeous and the crowds are insane but sometimes just taking a little detour can bring a person to unexpectedly magic places, away from the crazy crowds. In Japan I ended up in several places where there was hardly a foreigner to be found and only I had a camera clicking: in an old ryokan in Matsumoto in the Japanese Alps, at a large shrine at the foot of Mt Fuji, at a Buddhist temple several miles outside of Nara, and many other places. However, there were some chaotic sites like Arashiyama, where the crowds were so insane that cars couldn’t drive in the streets or over the bridge. That was a real disappointment. But still, I would like to go back “one day.”

    1. Sounds like you really like Japan Edith! My overwhelming memory of our 7 weeks there are people who always went out of their way to be welcoming and helpful. I can’t say anything bad about the Japanese. (well, except that everyone is an amateur photographer!).
      Hope this virus goes away in the near future and that we can all go back to places we love. For me it would be South Africa 🙂

  2. These photos do a great job of capturing the reality of travel these days! I absolutely hate when people hold their camera above my head to take photos, pushing and elbowing me while they’re doing it. Happened to me at the Golden Pavilion and on a train in Switzerland recently. During my trip to Ireland, I realized that I wasn’t enjoying visiting the most popular sites and preferred going places that were off the typical tourist trail. For our upcoming road trip to the US, I’ve even decided to skip Antelope Canyon in favour of a lesser known, but similar canyon, just because I’ve read so much about people not enjoying the experience at Antelope solely because of crowds and being rushed through by the guides.

    1. Isn’t that 1st photo crazy? There you are in nature and people are jostling and holding their cameras up to get a photo over other people’s heads. This is what travel has become?
      I know Kyoto’s temples are impressive and all that – but we were actually happy and relieved when we left Japan and went to Belgrade. Sure it’s gritty in places – but it was authentic and there weren’t a hundred tourists lining up to take the same photo. The Kyoto experience kind of turned us off “travel” for a while there and just made us question everything…I glad to see I’m not the only one.
      I had to look up Antelope canyon because I never heard of it. Looks gorgeous. But of course they never show any other people in those photos…Look forward to reading about your trip, would love to go to the region (haven’t even seen the Grand Canyon yet)
      Thanks for the comment Rhonda.

  3. Ah, this issue has me completely split down the middle. Photography has been such a natural extension of my experience of the world for a decade or more. In my head it’s a way of encouraging myself to be reflective about what I’m seeing (what do I want to highlight? How can I best present what I’m seeing? Is there a better photo here?). But if I’m honest with myself, it often has the opposite effect. I see a view, I take photos. I move a bit, I take more photos…always moving onto the next thing in search of a better shot. I don’t ever take a photo without properly appreciating the thing itself, as I’ve seen many people do where they see everything through a viewfinder, but there’s no doubt I’m guilty of being a photo-clicking monkey on a regular basis!

    I had a really similar experience to Lissette’s at the Golden Pavilion. I love her response of taking photos of the culprits. Mine was a mental commitment to start taking companion photos to the “postcard” shot showing exactly what the throngs around me looked like when I took the other photo. I’m planning a photo post dedicated to them in the future!

    1. Ha! Great Lorna. I think a photo post of people taking photos would be interesting.

      We love taking photos as well. But nothing turns me off more than being in a throng of people doing exactly the same thing. That’s when you start questioning what you’re doing. That’s how I felt in Japan.

  4. GREAT post. I don’t know that I have the answer to your question, but I can completely related to the panic induced by crowds and having the sudden realization of WHAT in the WORLD am I doing here?!?! Beam me up, Scotty, this is getting ridiculous.

    I think things like this are why I’m coming across more and more people who are deleting social media from their phones. No more Instagram? No more temptation to take a zillion photos of one place for self-gratification in the form of numerous “likes.” No more Facebook? Well, that means more time being IN the real world and less time getting sucked into cyberspace.

    I admit that I have not yet taken the plunge myself, but even banning myself from FB/Instagram during business hours has decreased my consumption by a lot.

    As always, great thoughts, great post.

    1. Thanks so much Katrina. I hope you are well – I just shot over to your blog and I’m happy to see you are writing again. You always keep it real.

      You don’t see us doing selfies and I’ll just have the occasional photo of myself on the blog (“you have to, you’re the face of the blog” says Lissette). I just don’t get these people who HAVE to be in front of every damn photo. I’ve seen people walk up to a monument, turn around for a selfie, snap it, and then walk away…without ever having really looked at the monument. WTF? I just don’t get it. And everybody does it, but especially Asians (I hope that doesn’t sound racist but it’s the truth). Then there are those chicks that think they are the center of the universe. I think you know what I think about that.

      Thanks for the comment, you managed to get my blood boiling 🙂

      1. I’ve seen that too – those who take the selfie in front of something and then walk away. Makes me crazy! At least take a few minutes to appreciate what you’re seeing and have paid mega bucks to travel to see and then take the gosh darn selfie! I saw that so many times in Prague that it very definitely affected how I thought of Prague. Now when I think of Prague I try very hard to forget that part of it and remember the beauty of the city. I once watched a young woman (yes, Asian, sorry) spend 30 minutes taking various selfies of herself in different poses. This was here, where I live, in Vancouver, BC. Oh my. Okay, now my blood is boiling too! On another note, absolutely love your posts, keep them coming!!!

        1. Thank you very much Denise for the kind words. Always nice to know there’s people reading!

          You know what burns me? These teams of young women going around and posing everywhere, the two taking turns taking photos of each other for Instagram. Or the beautifully dressed women on the top of mountains. Are we supposed to believe they hiked up there in high heels? C’mon. How pathetic is it that they go up there with a change of clothing for Instagram photos.
          And I saw a young Asian woman doing exactly the same in Bamberg, Germany. Walked right up to the bridge looking towards the Old Town Hall while preparing her phone, turned around and spent 10 minutes taking selfies, then walked away from where she came from. Not once did she actually look at the building. Beyond belief. I just don’t understand it…

  5. This is one of those Catch 22s. Complaining about there being too many tourists…yet we are technically part of the problem. The crowds look horrendous at Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine. And what is the answer … go off season? visiting at 6am? stop visiting popular sites?

    1. Yes, it’s something we always struggle with. But you know what we are increasingly finding? That we like more off-the-beaten-path places even if sometimes the attractions may not be as spectacular. It’s more and more about the experience rather than what we see…
      You’ve been to some pretty isolated spots. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about Ric…

  6. The most recent time I felt that photo monkey mania was our visit to Niagara Falls – the Canadian side – in the spring of 2016. When planning our trip, which was mainly to visit family, we didn’t realize the weekend we chose was a Canadian National Holiday. Okay, you’re Canadian and you’re going to ask me which holiday weekend. It was in May, I think. Anyhoo… it was a mob scene at the falls. Had it not been our first visit we may have said to hell with it and wander off somewhere else, but we stuck it out because it was our first – and could very well be our only – visit to the falls. They are spectacular and we really did enjoy the day, but trying to reach the fence in order to catch a quick photo was indeed an effort.

    We don’t carry cameras, we use our phones, and sometimes I’ll take just one or two photos and then put my phone away either to just enjoy the experience, or because there are just way too many people.

    Curious…. Japan is not on our radar, but I’m wondering if the country has an off season and … it looks as if most of the people in your shots were local. Is there a large tourism base from outside countries?

    1. Niagara Falls – haven’t been in 40 years. But it is a huge tourist spot including every visitor to Canada…so you may have had a 50/50 crowds. And that part of Southern Ontario pretty densely populated.
      Japan – Kyoto especially very, very popular…we didn’t see those crowds in the small towns of Central Honshu. But yes, they are mostly locals – foreigners go but many are Korean or Chinese. You see Westerners but the fact that Japan is really quite expensive compared to a lot of places means it keeps the backpacking hordes away. We counted on that – but didn’t expect so many local tourists. The Japanese really like to visit their own country. As I say though, very polite people and despite the crowds we rarely felt crowded which is pretty remarkable. Very respectful people and I have a lot of respect for the way they conduct themselves. We could all learn.

  7. I would say that Geisha and Sumo are more significant Japanese culture than a few pretty temples that tourist hordes photograph.

  8. well common practice these days is to take 100 photos of yourself in the place. i guess people’s photoshopping skills arent what they could be. Yes. we are photo taking monkeys. no way would i pay 1000 yen to get into one temple. although im sure i have. phew.

    1. I still argue that buildings (temples, churches) represent cultural heritage. Since I love hiking, I also think it’s about nature and geography.
      There are many facets to travel, the problem is that some places are just too popular with the masses…

  9. Hang tight – you won’t see crowds like that once you get to Ukraine – everyone thinks the whole country is a war zone and avoids it like the plague. I know you are heading to Lviv, but try and make it south to Kamyanets-Podilsky – it has one of the prettiest medieval towns in Europe and the lack of tourists will having you scratching your head in wonderment 🙂

  10. “Maybe the answer depends on how someone defines travel and what inspires you.” Absolutely! Some people are keen on ticking off places from their to-do list. For the rest of us, how refreshing to find those quiet corners no one bothers about, the little towns everyone rushes past, the beautiful details that get overlooked for the big-ticket items. So happy you got the chance to experience Kyoto your way, on your terms! Looking forward to doing the same at some point in the future.

  11. Love Lissette’s response and photos! I was tempted one time during a visit to a Gaudi home in Barcelona to include one woman in all my post pictures as she and her selfie stick were in the majority of them anyway! As a “vertically challenged” person I’ve spent a lot of time in a sea of chests so, while I like to visit the tourist hotspots, I also make an effort to avoid the crowds as well as those tourists who seem to be intent on recording their presence in a place versus the place itself. Like you, I remember a time when film cost a lot, the developing costs were expensive and our success rate seemed to be about 2 savable photos out of 30. It’s fun to take photos but it’s great to remember why you’re there to visit in the first place. Your post is a good reminder that it might be worthwhile to disconnect from our cameras from time to time as well as the internet!

    1. Oh, everyone thinks Lissette’s the sweet one but when she feels slighted she’ll do the same thing right back (I usually won’t, “nice Canadian” says Lissette).
      I’m finding, as you say, that I can’t take crowds anymore. But I’m also finding as we’ve travelled more that off-the-beaten-path destinations interest us both more. They’re not always beautiful but we feel like we’re discovering something different instead of walking in everyone’s footsteps. The ‘usual’ places are predictable, in the lesser known places you’re more likely to have weird personal encounters and adventures.
      Totally agree with your last 2 lines!

  12. Research and Purpose help alot…

    Many of the well known spots in Kyoto are flooded with people – They can be found empty at certain times of the day / season, while lesser known locations can have almost no one present. If you’re visiting to experience a place and not photograph it, you can stand and let the crowds move past you – or you can go off of peak hours. Are you going to photograph? Or for another reason, I see many tourists in Japan rushing through a place, taking a snap and moving on, without enjoying being present.

    1. Thanks for the feedback. Yes, definitely have to photograph but also can’t be a slave to it. I see people looking at something through a lens, snapping it, then moving on without even looking at it ‘for real’.
      I think I was surprised by just how much domestic tourism there is in Japan. There are not that many foreign tourists because it’s expensive – but I’d say 95% of tourists are Japanese. Good to see they are visiting their own country though.

  13. Thanks for this update. We hear so much about the magic of visiting Kyoto and it sounds like you found it with this lesser known temples. It’s the same thing at Angkor Wat where the more famous places were mobbed but you could still find a quiet corner elsewhere.

    1. As I mentioned in another comment: in Japan the majority of tourists local Japanese and despite everything they’re very polite and civilized. We also went to Angkor Wat where the majority of tourists were Chinese and Korean. Same, same but not same, same 🙂

  14. Ahhh yes, the crowds in Kyoto got to you, eh? I felt the same way when we visited the more popular temples in Kyoto – and that’s why the temple complex that we stayed at for 3 nights was so perfect. These temples, though not as grand, have NOBODY around. You can take your time to really enjoy and understand what it means to be Zen. I HATE crowds and have skipped many popular spots because of it.

  15. Welcome to tourism and travel in the 21st Century …
    a) all due to (air) mass tourism which started in 1970 with the first wide-body jets , and when there were a total of ‘only’ 310 million airline passengers world-wide .. by 2000 , aided by safer, more secure planes and ever cheaper airfares – especially in constant fund cost (as a percentage of earnings) the total exceeded 1,6 Billion for the first time, and in 2015 air travellers topped 3,6 Billion – ie: roughly half of all humanity travelled by air that year !
    b) since 2000 everything worsened with the spread of the numeric / digital camera. Before that photos were expensive and tourist photographers counted their pennies – and photos – with miserly talent (they had to..) Now its not unusual for anyone to have 500 or a 1000 photos after a 2 week jaunt to mowhere … .I don’t think is makes too much difference whether people photograph themselves in front of attractions, monuments etc or just take photos of the sites and monuments themselves (there is a lot to be said for both options – or either option), its basically just the sheer numbers of travellers that are the ‘problem’ in so many places today.

    I’m all for ‘user pay’ charges , and the higher the better. Its something that is coming – it has to come – simply to try and thin the crowds, especially at internationally famous and renowned attractions. Italy is considering a ‘entry fee’ of 100 Euros a day to visit Venice .. Bravo ! If people are willing to pay steep fees to visit Disneyland, why not for the real thing ? Why should places be free – especially when so many of them have trouble finding finance and funds to be maintained properly ? The place can’t but be improved (and better maintained) if the visitors are those that are interested enough in it to pay the entrance charges. So many places have been or are in the process of being ‘destroyed’ by the sheer numbers of visitors , a large portion of whom often have little knowledge of, or interest in, a place other than because its the place to see, be or visit – another item to be taken off the bucket list.

    In the interim the only thing to be done is try and visit the places during quieter times (using the Kyoto temple problem, not in the autumn because of the Japanese maples, or the spring because of their cherry trees, sort of thing..>) or at lunchtime (in places like Spain, South of France, Italy or Greece), when everyone’s at lunch and/or siesta, and there are is a lot smaller ‘mob’ visiting the chosen attraction.. Travel today is no picnic, and in so many places, it takes a pile of patience and very high degree of tolerance to visit it while being zen and cool about things… I guess the question is, “Is a ‘meltdown’ worth it, in order to see, visit, and hopefully enjoy the place anyway ? Good Luck !

    1. Thanks Tony,
      Totally agree with the passenger traffic and digital camera (actually Greenway Tours above made a really good point about digital cameras). But a far as tourism numbers, I think it’s also what I said to Gilda – people are going to the same places and seeing the same things. It’s a mass concentration in very specific places. In a way we know more about places than we did 20 years ago but on the other hand we also educate ourselves less.
      I’m actually surprised there were so many tourists in Kyoto but they were almost all Japanese which is interesting.
      *By the way, I complain about the crowds in Japan. Well, if ever you wanted crowds anywhere it would have to be in Japan because despite everything they are incredibly well-mannered and polite. If they’re not…well, chances are they’re Korean or Chinese.

      The other scourge – cruise ships. I’ve seen them in Cartagena, Kotor and here in Split. Suddenly a huge cruise ship docks and out come 3,000 tourists wreaking havoc on a town. And you mentioned Venice – I know they are a huge problem there as well. Hate those cruise ships and, I’m sorry, I don’t like those kinds of travellers either for the exact same reasons you state.

      Thanks for the comment Tony.

  16. Photo taking is part of why we travel. For my husband photo taking is a creative outlet. For me it’s step one to making a painting. But we still get annoyed by other photographers. My bottom line is that the primary purpose of travel should be to see and experience. If it’s to document that you’ve been somewhere prestigious, or to check off a bucket list item, you’re doing it wrong. It’s the photographers who are doing it wrong who bother me.

    The ones who bother me the most are selfie and family photo takers. It takes twice as much space along a railing to take a photo of yourself as it does to just take a picture of what you have come to see. And the result after annoying everyone around you, is a bad photo neither doing well by the selfie taker or by the scenery. But people taking group photos in crowded places are worse. They may be less egotistical, but they take up more space and jam more traffic. I know you and Lizzet do not visit many art galleries but people taking self-esteem with iconic art are very the worst. They can make actually looking at the paintings all but impossible. I’d love to see signs prohibiting selfies and portraits. Take the group photo or selfie in front on the entrance sign and let the rest of us actually see the sight.

    But I’m also irritated with places whose motivation for prohibiting photos is purely financial. Charging money to enter a religious site and then prohibiting photos because it is religious is hypocrical to say the least. But I do understand prohibiting flash to protect artwork and reduce annoyance.


    1. Thanks for the photographer’s perspective Jenny. Now that you got the rant rolling:
      1) People who’ve asked me to move because I’m in the shot they’re trying to take of their partner. Nothing makes my blood boil quicker. Wait until I’ve moved on or shoot around me – but don’t dare ask me to move so that you can take a photo of your wife.
      2) People standing there 5 minutes blocking everyone to take a photo with a goddamn cellphone. It’s not like they’re photographers for National Geographic, they’re blocking everyone while taking photos with their goddamn cellphones. Or Tablets. That burns me.

      I’m in total agreement with your last paragraph, it’s why it bothers me so much paying $7 to get into a temple and not being able to take a photo. Sorry, but for $14 between two of us I get annoyed when you get some guy following me around like I’m a criminal about to pull off a photo heist…

      Actually Lissette and I do go to a whole bunch of galleries but, unless I’m blown away by one, I don’t usually write about it on the blog. But I get exactly what you are saying – many years ago we drove from Montreal to Ottawa (2 hrs) just to see a Van Gogh exhibit. Well, couldn’t see anything with all the people and their damn selfies. Ugg, and we hated the Uffizi in Florence, so many people and the rooms and passages were so tight…just made me hate people even more.

  17. Hi,
    Hope you are still enjoying Split. Your posts always touch a nerve, a real one.
    So true about being squeezed into a crowd, can you imagine I am 5,1″. I went to Siena, Italy to watch the Palio and couldn’t even see the horse’s head…speak about crowd frustration…..
    You see, there is an advantage traveling alone, I can’t take a good photo of myself (not selfie…hate them). And don’t they have great maple trees in Canada too? sorry my ignorance Frank! and yes, the reason for me to travel, is to know that I left the small tight box of my life and feel the world around me. This is a good enough reason. Humbly, SY

    1. Great comment Sara, love that 2nd to last line. Yes, there has to be a deeper reason to travel than just take photos of stuff, right Sara?
      Sorry to hear about Siena. You know what? We hate crowds. Avoid them like the plague. Never go to concerts, special events, or anywhere else people congregate.
      Very much enjoying Split and it’s especially quiet right now. I really hope you enjoy your time here (May, right?)
      Always nice to hear from you Sara.
      PS Yes, great Maples in Canada which is maybe why I wouldn’t pay $12 to walk into a garden of them…but lots of Maples in Japan as well.

  18. I’m not a big fan of selfies at all. I can totally understand the meltdown. We had one in Sintra as you know. Yeah..we get picky about where we go now. I just don’t care about the same picture, the same everything. I also think we will concentrate on lesser visited places, countries and such. Maybe we’ll discover the next “it” place. I really loved Toji Temple as well and wish we could have taken pictures inside. Lovely as the gardens were, l was spooked, awed and amazed at those big statues on the inside and it would have been nice to have images. It’s nice you got to visit the less visited temples.

    1. Thanks Kemkem – I like that we both enjoyed the Toji temple, it’s not a place that ever makes it on the “Best of” lists of Kyoto. But there weren’t many people there and the atmosphere inside the Buddha buildings felt authentic. I think we were maybe 5 people in there and you could hear a pin drop. I guess you felt the same thing. I think these are the travel memories we remember – not the memories of walking around a bamboo path (however impressive) with hordes of people making noise and taking photos. It’s as you say, both for countries and highlights. I think we’ve come to that realization as well the last couple of years and I think our best travel experiences reflect that.

    1. Appreciate you posting your comment here Greenway tours. It’s very true – remember the days of the film cameras when you had 30 shots on a roll and had to be very picky about the photos you took? (and still, I’d be lucky if 10 out of 30 came out ok). I think just the change in technology has changed the way we see the world and like anything else, the easier it is the less we appreciate it…
      Anyway, great point.

  19. These very touristic places are busy for a reason, I guess you can’t go to Paris and not visit the Eiffel Tower or go to Rome and not visit the Vatican at least once in your life? These iconic places are a big pull and who would want to miss out? I remember hating the hordes of tourists in Rome and in particular at the Vatican Museums where it was just impossible to see anything, you just had to keep moving like a big conveyor belt. But maybe it is a case of trying to visit out of season? Earlier on in the day? Times when is not as crazy busy? Or like you said choose carefully what you really want to see. I totally agree about the selfie taking compulsion that has spread like a virus. I don’t particularly like selfies and try to avoid it if I can. But I do enjoy taking photos, but perhaps we should put the cameras down more often and just enjoy the moment without relentlessly wanting to capture it all.

    1. I agree with almst everything you say Gilda. But I also find that certain places are over-rated and that the energy to see them actually makes for a more unpleasant experience than going to see some less popular places. All I have to do is look at my Pinterest account and it’s always the same thing: Rome, Paris, London, Florence, Venice, Prague…I don’t think there’s that much diversity in the places that the majority of travellers go. And then there’s the other matter you mention: when they do go to these cities, they all have the same ‘Top 10’ list of things they have to see. So in the end, people are going to the same places and seeing the same things. And I totally agree with what you say – you can’t go to Paris without seeing the Eiffel tower or Rome and not visit the Vatican. But why not maybe eliminate 5 out of 10 things from the Top 10 List and just go to a local cafe or walk the streets. I think we are too focused on crossing highlights off our list. I can’t remember how many ‘highlights’ have disappointed us over the years…while some places not highly considered have really blown us away. And I really find today that we get more pleasure finding something different and really authentic, something off the beaten trail, than just seeing highlights in touristy cities. Maybe that’s just us. But over the last year places like Skopje and Belgrade (as well as some more touristed cities like Cape Town and Sevilla) have been much more rewarding experiences than highly-touristed cities like Lisbon and even Kyoto. And I also remember how much more we enjoyed visiting Venice the 2nd time around when we didn’t enter all the sights. We had seen them before, so this time around we sat on a small square, had a Spritz, and watched all the other tourists going crazy.
      But what you say is totally true and always a struggle – you always say to yourself “well, I paid all this money to get here, might as well pay another $20 to see XXX museum”. And for some things you can’t miss out, but others I think we really impose on ourselves and make our own travels more stressful by focusing on what we have to see and take photos of.
      Your last sentence. Agree 100%.

      It’s complicated. Thanks for taking the time to comment Gilda, much appreciate.

  20. Japan in spring and autumn (and especially Kyoto) is extreme in terms of picture taking tourists. Did you see the map at the entrance of Kinkaku-ji highlighting the best photo spots? All Japanese travel magazines have the best photo spots marked as well on their maps. But I guess this is a fact of tourism in general – travel, or the abiltiy to travel has become a status symbol and more and more people worldwide want to and can afford to travel. And they want to take pictures! For the Sanshusangendo – a pity that you skipped it! One of the best temples in Kyoto, I think, not at least because they do have this `”Don`t take picture – don`t talk policy!. But it is good, that you found other places you enjoyed. Personally I never understood this urge to take pictures with myself in front of xy – Isa and I, we both prefer pictures of monuments, gardens, streets ……

    1. Thanks Natascha.

      The Japanese love their photos and the good thing is that they’re never shy if you ask to take a photo of them.

      Yes, I noticed the maps with the best photo spots. Honestly, I think that takes the fun out of photography – I think it’s always best to discover them on your own, that’s the challenge. So any monkey (literally) can now get a great photo by standing in the spot marked by an X.

      Sanshusangendo. It’s like the Toji Temple where Lissette was brought to tears by some of the beautiful buddhas but couldn’t take a photo. I honestly have a pet peeve about it because they don’t let you take a photo, yet they have stalls everywhere selling their own photos. Never mind all the ugly signs everywhere telling you not to take a photo. I just think that if you’re going to pay $7 to get into a temple you should be able to take something away from that. Not everyone will agree with me but that’s what I think.

      And I totally agree with you about taking selfies of ourselves. We very rarely do. I asked an Indian guy about that once (because they loved their selfies as well) and he basically said the same thing you did – not everyone has a chance to travel and they want to be able to show their friends and family that they’ve been to these places. Which I guess makes sense. I just don’t understand the need to put one’s face in every single photo…

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