everything else France Italy Portugal

When travel feels photoshopped

I’m not going to lie. When I visited Paris for the first time at 18, I was somewhat taken aback by how dirty it was, how much graffiti there was. Where was the picture perfect Paris that I had seen images of growing up? Or the Paris in the extremely cheesy but cute (at the time) Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen movie, Passport to Paris? Sure, the Paris landmarks I could recognize in my sleep like the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe of course looked magical, but in my teenage naivete, the areas around them not so much.

When travel feels photoshopped

How did I achieve this? Well, I woke up at 6 AM for starters.

Fast forward a couple of years to when I hopped a short flight from Spain to Rome, where I would spend a week. As surprised as I had been by the gritty and not perfect visage I had seen in Paris, it was felt even more so in Rome. Sure, it didn’t help that our hostel was located in the somewhat gross and definitely unappealing Termini neighborhood or the fact that I would get multiple propositions when walking around there from men who were not Italian supermodels. But the gorgeous Spanish Steps that you want to spend all day sitting on? Well, depending on what time of the year you visit Rome, there may not be space. Or the fact that when I was there, Trinità dei Monti, the church at the top of the steps, was under construction, which meant that perfect photo of the Spanish Steps was in reality not so perfect. And I just couldn’t get over the fact that even in non-sketchy parts of the city, buildings would be covered in copious amounts of graffiti. It was a reality that where I come from, if graffiti is on a building (and more importantly remains on a building), it must be a bad section, the owners must not care. But in Europe, graffiti just seems to exist.

When travel feels photoshopped

This was taken on just an average spring day in Rome. And yes, there were that many people pouring in to visit the Spanish Steps.

When travel feels photoshopped

Prior to visiting Lisbon, I had heard it described as a city with “crumbling” buildings (not literally crumbling, but ones that were old, on their last breath, etc). So when I visited there in 2012, I wasn’t as surprised as I’d been in Paris and Rome. In fact, I found a type of timeless beauty in Lisbon’s streets and buildings. Sure, I took the typical photos of the Praça do Comercio and the famous Se, but a photo I have of one of its streetcars going up an extremely steep street, one that truly embodied the whole “crumbling” feel, is one of my favorites.

When travel feels photoshopped

Travel guidebooks, magazines, and especially movies make it seem that the cities many of us spend our lives dreaming about visiting (or returning to again and again) are 100% perfect without any blemishes. Woody Allen’s films are a perfect example of this-in Midnight in Paris and To Rome with Love did either city look anything but star-worthy? There were certainly no street hawkers who harass you incessantly at the Eiffel Tower or in the area around Sacre Couer.

When travel feels photoshopped

What you think Sacre Coeur looks like

When travel feels photoshopped

What it really looks like

I think that whenever you visit a destination for the first time and you’re left feeling disappointed because it wasn’t how you thought it would be, it does have a sense of feeling meticulously staged. What you see in Travel and Leisure or in Hollywood, well, that IS probably photo shopped. And yet, with the exception of when someone alters the color of the sky or changes the Eiffel Tower from black to red, these famous cities have always been this way. What you see when you’re actually there is real. So just be sure to savor the moment and take it all in.

When travel feels photoshopped

And then there’s Hawaii, which never needs to be photoshopped.

You Might Also Like

6 Comments

  • Reply
    Daisy @ Simplicity Relished
    May 7, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    This is SO true. What has actually bothered me the most lately is that the popular pins on Pinterest and photos on Instagram are SO over-saturated. Those colors just aren’t real; they’re sloppily edited for the instant appeal on social media. I wish people would take the time to take real, beautiful photographs– the ones that don’t turn the whole world into a fantasy! This is such a good post
    Daisy @ Simplicity Relished recently posted…8 Purchases That Actually Make You RicherMy Profile

    • Reply
      Julie
      May 7, 2015 at 12:16 pm

      Thanks Daisy! Pinterest is actually one of the few social media sites I have NOT joined and it’s somewhat for the reason you mentioned. I like to see places as they are, not done up to the 9s just so they look like they belong on the cover of a Fodors guidebook. I agree, it would be a lot cooler if people just presented destinations how they actually are.

  • Reply
    Traveolani
    May 7, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    I love your people free picture of the Spanish Steps! I could never wake up at 6 am to take picture:). On most pictures I have seen, Italy looks so crowded! I hope the era of pictures which don’t look real will come to an end soon!

    • Reply
      Julie
      May 11, 2015 at 4:54 pm

      Ha, that was like the only time I willingly ever woke up early! But yes, it sure is a nice contrasting picture compared to the one when I was at the Steps in the afternoon! I’m sure if I went in November or January it wouldn’t be as bad, but I think for many months of the year, Italy is always crowded.

      And yes, I’d love to just see the real thing for destinations, not those doctored or enhanced.

  • Reply
    Gina
    May 17, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    Haha, I love your last picture and the caption. 🙂 I am so not a morning person, but got up to see St. Peter’s Cathedral in Vatican City at 6am and was so glad I did since it had such a different feel (crowded!) when I went again during the afternoon. I think maybe next time I’m in Rome I’ll have to get up to visit the Spanish Steps at 6 in the morning!
    Gina recently posted…Changing a Baby’s Diaper on an AirplaneMy Profile

    • Reply
      Julie
      May 17, 2015 at 9:48 pm

      Although I’ve seen non-glamorous Hawaii (i.e. getting from Waikiki to Honolulu), it still is a one of a kind place 🙂 I should have done what you did for St. Peter’s. We were in line forever to enter the museums and then the basilica and cuppola were just overwhelmingly crowded. Save for having to catch a flight or joining a tour, I have not gotten up that early since on a trip but I really need to! My goal for the next time I visit Hawaii is to catch a sunrise.

    Leave a Reply

    CommentLuv badge