Turning your travel adventures into social-media stunts can sometimes attract the wrong sort of attention and cause an avalanche of international condemnation.
In August 2021, British student Miles Routledge thought he’d take a holiday in Afghanistan despite reports that a Taliban takeover was imminent. He blithely shared social-media updates on his dubious adventure, including photos posed at military checkpoints. Hey duly went viral. He was evacuated in a British military plane, though many commentators thought he should have been left behind. In February this year, he was posting from Ukraine.
PRETENDING TO BE DISABLED
Earlier this year British tourist Wolf Jenkins, on his way home from Spanish party island Ibiza, thought it was a good laugh to post a TikTok travel hack about how to skip long airport queues. He pretended to sprain his ankle outside the terminal and was soon kindly helped into a wheelchair, rolled past the long security lines, and helped onto the aircraft where he made a sudden recovery.
See also: Heathrow Airport boss hits out at fake disability TikTok travel ‘hack’
HANGING FROM A TRAIN
Photo: @explorerssaurus_ /Instagram
Here’s a great idea: hang off a moving train in a pretty yellow dress as it crosses a bridge in the Sri Lankan highlands while your boyfriend – also leaning out, though not quite as far – kisses your forehead. Portuguese travel-blogging couple Raquel and Miguel did just that in 2019, and the Instagram world wasn’t amused. Dozens of people are killed annually attempting dangerous stunts for the perfect pic.
See also: Travel bloggers slammed for dangerous train stunt for Instagram
HANGING FROM A SHEER DROP
In 2019, it was the turn of American influencers Kelly Castille and Kody Workman to attract you-are-morons reviews of an Instagram shot that showed them kissing while Kelly dangled over the edge of an infinity pool with a multi-metre drop in Ubud in Bali. The couple were unfazed by the backlash, saying they were all about positivity – and adding followers after television appearances to explain it all.
DRYING LAUNDRY AT AN AIRPORT
When in 2015 a Chinese tourist draped her damp underwear and eye-catching neon-pink bra over chairs in the departure lounge of Chiang Mai airport in Thailand, a torrent of social-media tut-tutting followed. In her defence, the traveler hadn’t posted the pix herself, nor had she done anything illegal. Thai tourism authorities later weighed in and instructed tour guides to be more proactive in policing decorative behaviour.
DRIVING A MOTORBIKE OFF A PIER
In 2020 Russian influencer Sergey Kosenko, who’d presumably watched too many Mission: Impossible movies, leaped off a pier on an orange motorbike with an orange-bikini-clad accomplice clinging behind. His Instagram stunt caused more than just literal waves, sparking social-media outrage in Indonesia. A month later, and even after making a fulsome apology, the Bali resident was deported, although escaped being fined under environmental protection laws.
Social media is filled with tourists stalking, catching or clutching animals as decorative or entertaining additions to their poses. In 2017 one example received over 600,000 negative comments (and a few encouraging ones) when American frat boys on holiday in Mexico caught a small shark and used its teeth to open drinks cans. In 2020, a theme-park in China thought that showing a pig bungy-jumping would create positive social-media attention. It didn’t.
The group of people who are undressed and posed for photos on Mount Kinabalu. Photo: Emil Kaminski/Facebook
When in 2015 a group of German, Dutch and Canadian tourists got naked atop Malaysia’s Mt Kinabalu, considered sacred, nobody was amused. Their guide denounced them for ignoring his advice, the tourists were temporarily jailed and fined 5000 ringgit ($1623) each, consular officials became involved, and the whole fiasco was played out in the international press. An earthquake that struck the mountain shortly afterwards was attributed to the anger of the gods.
GETTING NAKED AGAIN
Legions of bare-assed influencers shed clothes in inappropriate places, with the Bali authorities particularly vigilant in detecting offenders. Last year Alesya Kafelnikova posted a since-removed Instagram photo of her lying naked on an elephant (as you do). Recently another Russian influencer Alina Fazleeva thought a naked yoga pose beside a sacred banyan tree was a smart move. No: she faces a hefty fine and potential jail time.
TEETERING ABOUT WATERFALLS
In August, a now-removed TikTok video posted from Niagara Falls in Canada showed a visitor striking selfie poses on the far side of a retaining wall designed to keep onlookers back from the watery plunge. Niagara Parks Police are now hunting the culprit, who faces a fine of up to C$10,000 ($11,130). In 2011 a visitor climbed over a railing, fell into Niagara Falls and was killed.