With Instragram, smart phones, and selfies, we live in the age of self-documentation. On the one hand photos perfectly capture and freeze real life moments that we can instantly share. On the other hand, photos often misrepresent the actual travel experience.

A photographer once told me that the most powerful tool a camera has is its ability to frame – or its ability to include and exclude what it wants from a picture.


As tourists, it’s easy to fall into the trap of taking pictures that will look good on Instagram and perpetuate an ideal travel experience while sometimes ignoring what the moment feels like in real life. Here are some examples from my recent trip in Italy.

How I made  my experience feel on Instagram:

Laocoon and his sons at the Vatican Museum in Rome

A post shared by Laura Rowley (@rowleylaura) on

What it really felt like:



Michelangelo's Pieta in St Peter's basilica, Vatican city, Rome.

A post shared by Laura Rowley (@rowleylaura) on

What it really felt like:



What it really felt like:


In the end, my experiences of these places falls somewhere in between the perfectly framed Instagram shots and the more claustrophobic images of overcrowded site seeing. Either way, it’s important to remember that photos don’t always capture the whole story. Sometimes travel is messy, or tiring, or crowded. Sometimes it’s just plain difficult.

And that’s part of the point. Travel isn’t only about experiencing beautiful paintings — it’s about experiencing the world in all of its glory and chaos.

— Laura Rowley


Written by Laura Rowley

I am an artist, flight attendant, and travel blogger.


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