Don’t be THAT person. I certainly don’t expect everyone to be a serious photographer but with the advent of the cellphone and the resulting ubiquitous Selfie everyone seems to think they have a right to be rude.
It appears to be part & parcel of our new uncivil global culture. It used to be just the ugly American that got the bad rap for uncouth behaviour but other cultures now seem to be following our lead. And it’s not just the young folks who are guilty.
Nowhere is this new rude behaviour more evident than at our world’s most iconic tourist destinations. If Joel and I could afford to hire private guides to authentic locations (with serious photography in mind) we would but it’s prohibitively expensive for the everyday traveller and especially for the budget traveller (backpackers & trekkers) like us. I try to keep my blog posts positive and studiously avoid the temptation to dwell on petty irritations, frustrations and false drama that permeate so many blogs these days. But sometimes the frustration just boils over.
Like I said earlier if we could afford private guides we would. We’ve done so several times before while trekking Latin America and they are indispensable when shooting wildlife in strange and out-of-the-way locations—but they are usually affordable in both Latin America and Asia—not so much as we travel east through Iceland, Ireland, Scotland, England and Eastern Europe. To see the sights we are having to hookup with non-photography commercial tour groups. These groups are not helpful to serious photographers—you gotta trust me on this. But you do what you have to do.
Common courtesy in these groups is nonexistent and photography etiquette is completely unheard of. I’m an old guy (I turned 70 this past May) and grew up with manners and consideration for others. When I travel with a group like that I leave my tripod and filters back at the hostel, guesthouse or local hotel. I don’t want to get in the way of others or slow them down in any way. Just a little consideration in return would be nice but it rarely happens. I get it—I’ve lived too long for these folks and I am just taking up room in their eyes but I wouldn’t trade places with them for a million dollars.
I don’t particularly like being a crotchety, grumpy old man but this new world order (with its lack of civility) drives me bonkers. We’ve taken two daylong excursions into Iceland’s hinterland to see the sights—and the sights have been beautiful. But the human behaviour on display during these excursions has been atrocious and downright disgusting. We’re not big on the group dynamic anyway (we prefer the solo experience) but we try to behave appropriately when forced to mingle with the herd. We will often choose to bypass iconic tourist spots in favour of lesser known authentic sights.
Some observations—if you do any of these things yourself (doubtful if you’re reading this blog on a regular basis) then stop it. Just STOP IT. The whole time the bus is travelling to its various locations no one is looking out the window to see the sights, their little deformed thumbs are dancing over their cellphones. Seriously folks? The minute the bus stops everyone is clambering for the exits, it doesn’t matter if it’s their turn or not. They literally run to the scenic wonder with their Selfie-stick and cellphone in hand and start doing stupid shit (you look like idiots).
Then they start elbowing and jostling their way into other people’s shots (like mine). And if that’s not enough they ignore all the signs and safety warnings and cross barricades and ropes to further spoil the photographs of others. I have been whacked in the head with Selfie-sticks (several times) and physically shoved aside because I was in their way. Once they get their dumb-ass grinning mug shot they continue to hog the best vantage point so others can’t enjoy the benefit of the location. Then they all run back to the bus or cafe so they shove copious amounts of slop down their gullet.
Simultaneous with downing thousands of calories (they don’t need) they get those gnarly little thumbs moving again. It’s all just mindless behaviour and shallow to the extreme. Then it’s off to the next destination to repeat the same aforementioned routine ad nauseam. We’ve come to learn (the hard way) to stay on the bus until the herd exits, then enjoy our stroll to the scenic beauty that awaits, mill around until the idiots are done with their idiocy and then try to really appreciate what’s before us while they head back to the bus. It’s not the best solution but if I mix in the fray I’m going to hurt someone.
This would be a good time (after my rant) to say the locals in Iceland are wonderful. They are kind, courteous and helpful. This rant is directed at my fellow travellers (not all of course but a very high percentage). Iceland is a beautiful country and if you can afford to travel its hinterlands solo (rent a car or hire a private guide) then do so. If you’re budget constrained like us you will probably have to suffer the indignities of the commercial tours. The tour guides and bus drivers have been wonderful, it’s the damn passengers I’m railing against. Don’t be one of those people.
Note: In my future posts I promise to regain my emotional equilibrium. My frustrations rarely, if ever, involve locals or the indigenous—it’s my fellow travellers that often get my goat. You might be glad to know that the ugly American stereotype is quickly being overshadowed by other cultures. We’re still known as fat, loud and overly friendly and polite (we tip food servers) but for sheer rudeness I will gladly pass the gauntlet to the Chinese, Russians and French (and despite what you might think I am not a racist). Yeah—I know that’s not politically correct but like I said before I’m old now. SFD