Selfie Time

How many of you can name Africa’s second-highest peak? It’s Mount Kenya. And to climb it, it will cost you roughly $50. Kilimanjaro? $500. For a fucking day climb. All so that people can stand up there, take a selfie, and claim that they stood on the roof of Africa.

One of the 90% of people populating my Facebook friends list who I never speak with just updated her photos. She’s standing with her back turned to Machu Picchu, on a lovely Peruvian afternoon. It’s a popular shot, as indicated by the other half-dozen people with the same picture. Nowadays, the Inca trail, formerly a tough test of personal fitness and drive to achieve the summit, has been worn down to the point that desperate repairs are necessary during the rainy season. Not unlike Angkor Wat, with its hordes of flashlights and blaring guides, the sense of adventure has been lost among the sensation of being herded like cattle.

From humble beginnings as an attempt to breathe, traveling has become a fully-fledged scream for attention. Everest is a prime example. From a mad test of fitness and determination to a dick-measuring contest for wealthy industrialists. Each time a sixty-something climber, clad in several thousand dollars’ worth of gear and down six figures in preparation fails to make it past Camp Three, I rejoice. But the damage is done, and the brief window of optimal climbing conditions has the area blanketed in competing teams, each with several hundred thousand dollars’ worth bitching that they need their own picture at the ceiling of the world. Can you imagine how many of these folks would partake in such missions if they were sworn to secrecy?

I love to climb, but who hasn’t seen the pictures of the utter devastation seen at the base of Everest? The piles of oxygen tanks, garbage, and shredded tents? If I in the position to train my ass off and make the trek to Nepal or Pakistan, I wouldn’t even consider it. Part of the appeal of making an assault on a mountain is the degree of silence, the solitude, and the knowledge that you are beyond help. You are dependent solely upon yourself to make it back down, so you take it less than lightly. Give me Annapurna, Nanga Parbat, or – hang out the rabbit’s foot – the 25% mortality rate runner-up, K2.

If you look through your photos and can’t escape the nagging sense that your entire mode of travel is predicated on self-aggrandizement, you aren’t traveling for yourself. You’re travelling for your online ‘friends’ and your advertised presence. You’re expending a pile of energy in the pursuit of projection. You are a whore for attention.

Travel for the swag, for the direct connection to your animalistic side. Go for the food, for the booze, for the exotic women, and the mystery grub. The view, the smell, the stench of the city, the cold rain. Tragically, you will need to battle long and hard for a profound experience, one untouched by the profiteering mentality that seems to follow tourist hordes around like a bad smell.