I just got back from an incredible weekend in Ireland. I went back to Dublin, visited Galway, and topped it off with driving to the Cliffs of Moher on the far west coast. It was all fantastic but my favorite part by far were the Cliffs. This fascinating, almost mythical landscape just rising out of the pounding ocean took my breath away. While I was awed by nature I was a bit discouraged by us humans. Again.
There is a well constructed path along the first of the Cliffs with stone walls, handrails, etc-everything one needs to avoid a lawsuit. When you leave this path you’re confronted with signs saying “caution, you’re leaving the path, go at your own risk” and path turns into a fairly narrow foot trail that runs right along the cliff side. It’s vertigo inducing but really amazing. About half the visitors heeded these signs and stayed a healthy distance away from the vertical drop. The other half decided to stage their own personal Instagram photo shoots at the edge of the Cliffs. Instead of enjoying and experiencing the moment, these people- okay I’ll say it-KIDS (yes I know I’m not that much older) were simply using this awe-inspiring setting to take every cliche picture in the book. And some were doing it while quite literally risking their lives. Girls were going right to the edge of the cliffs, (right next to the sign that says “caution: soft cliffside” which was next to a clear hole in the cliffs) to spread their arms out wide and have their boyfriend snap a photo while they face the open ocean.
I’m all for social media sharing and taking pictures (I mean I do have the blog after all) but what I saw here was the general breakdown of people looking but not really seeing what is around them. I recently read an article in Travel + Leisure that talked about how it’s sometimes dangerous to make a travel bucket list as it promotes “box checking” rather than experiencing. The same logic could be applied to what I witnessed in Ireland. All these people so obviously “doing it for the ‘gram” instead of embracing the overall experience. I never understood while places are banning selfie sticks but after this trip I get it. People get so wrapped up in social media status that they forget to stop and smell the clean ocean air, observe the puffins on the Cliffs and generally marvel at nature’s glory.
Did I get a picture at the Cliffs? You bet I did. But was it a selfie? Nope. And I didn’t even ask my fictional boyfriend to photograph my impending swan dive into the rock incrusted sea below. I asked my friend to take one of me after we had enjoyed a snack on a quiet slope of the third or fourth cliff. I wanted the photo so I would be reminded of the gulls swarming near the water, the light spring breeze ruffling the grass, the sun beating pleasantly down on my black windbreaker, and the clean crispness of the sea air. But mostly I wanted to remember the feeling of being present-not trying on every instacliche in the book.