A few years ago, I experienced one of my favourite days ever. I was in New Zealand, visiting a friend, and while all my evenings were booked, days were mine for the making. Honestly, one of the best ways to holiday. Still with people, but with plenty of solo adventuring thrown in.
Fortunately for me, my friend leaves near Matamata, which is the home of Hobbiton. I grew up on a steady diet of Tolkien, and have always been in love with the town of round doors and the party tree.
I knew that I would enjoy the day, but what I was entirely unprepared for was how utterly perfect it would be. Because it is exactly as pictured. Down to the details of actual hobbit-sized washing hanging out to dry. Of course, this is because it’s a film set that has been maintained on purpose for people like me.
But it got me thinking; how many places that you travel to are exactly as pictured?
I got frustrated recently on one of my favourite London walks along Southbank. Bearing in mind that I have spent the majority of my time in London during a pandemic, you might understand my confusion at the sudden influx of tourists. Especially on Westminster bridge. Everyone is trying to get that perfect photo. But the photo isn’t perfect when other people are in it. Therefore, there’s a lot of people huffing impatiently when others are walking past, and a lot of waiting to be able to walk past. Hence my frustration.
I think that we want to be able to present our lives exactly as pictured. We wish that we could just be honest when it’s hard, say it’s dull when it is, exciting if it is, and terrifying when it is. But instead we want our life to be a perfectly curated film set.
I have no answers for this. Except to say that if you don’t want to share, remember that you don’t have to. And that if you do want to share, you don’t owe anyone perfection.
Also, maybe we should just get over having the perfect tourist photo.
Jena Ren, 2022