How Instagram is Changing the Way People Travel
Last week, I got up at 4:30 in the morning to go photograph a volcano. I had to climb a mountain, another volcano that was opposite this one, Mount Agung, to get there. Mount Agung is the one that recently erupted, by the way.
I wanted to get a photo of this volcano at sunrise before it was surrounded in clouds and shoot the photo through a temple gate. That’s actually very photogenic and that’s how I found out about this location in the first place. It’s a very magical, serene, and spiritual location.
About a year ago, or maybe six months ago, an instagrammer took a really amazing photo of this volcano in the middle of the temple gate and it went viral on Instagram. Now, people have been flocking to this spot to take a similar photo, myself included. And so, I invited my friends to join me on this. I didn’t actually expect them to wake up that early just to take a photo for Instagram, because to them, it was just an adventure. So I had four friends waiting for me at 5am, and we set off in our motorbikes. We had to drive an hour through the dark and wind our way to this curvy mountain road up to the temple known as the Temple of Thousand Steps, which is actually has 2100 steps. It was perfect. We hiked up the first set of steps to the main temple gate and there was Mount Agung with the sunrise hitting it from behind us right through the middle of the temple gate, and we got the perfect shot.
We noticed when we arrived that there were three or four local Balinese people standing, staffing the donation booth where you register. They ask for a donation. It was before sunrise that they are out there working. And I thought, wow, this is amazing, right? An Instagram viral photo has driven so many tourists here that they are staffing this temple full-time with people to accept donations. They told us that the donations would be spread around the village to any of the temples that needed maintenance or upkeep. As we were walking through this main temple complex area, we noticed all of the fresh gold paint on all of the temple artwork and there were new temple dragons made of marble. So clearly, this had brought this temple, location, and village a lot of tourism money.
Some people might say that because you are going there for a photograph, you are not experiencing it authentically, as you would if you didn’t have a camera. They say that you just have to go and appreciate the beauty and serenity of the surroundings. But you see, going to an instagrammable location creates its own special type of adventure, its own special pilgrimage, if you will. You may also find in several locations that you want to go to because you want to recreate a photograph and make art, or you simply want to see this thing because it has been in photos all over Instagram or Pinterest, which is another visual story-telling medium. And so you create your travels around taking photos or experiencing instagrammable locations. It makes your travel more meaningful as it gives you a mission or quest. Its like having a photo bucket list.
As we were there taking our photos, a Korean couple arrived with two local Balinese photographers. We gave them their chance to get photos without us getting in the way. They were getting their engagement photos taken. So, they had an about three-hour drive from the touristy area. To get there, you had to leave at about 3 am. It takes a very dedicated person to go and capture these images and they hired two photographers to come out and take this photo. I’m assuming they could only have known about this out-of-the-way temple in an un-populated and un-touristy area of Bali because of social media, especially Instagram.
So, if you want to know more about Instagram, I have a couple of great interviews with Brendan Burns and Elise Darma. Both of them can teach you how to grow your Instagram and use it primarily for business. I have been using mine to get free hotel stays and free adventure trips and connect with people that eventually become followers on Instagram. You can build relationships that way, just like you can by hosting a podcast. And my friends are telling me that Instagram, in particular, Instagram stories, is the best platform for marketing in 2018. It’s because these Instagram stories are like having your own little reality show where you could show the behind the scenes of your life and really build that personal brand and this connection between the heroic version of yourself and potential customers.