This Agoraphobic Traveller Explores the World via Google Street View

She travelled to Russia, Peru and Mongolia, but never left her house to get there. The Agoraphobic Traveller (Jacqui Kenny) has been making a splash in the Instagram travel community with her Street View portraits. She does so by posting the most gorgeous snapshots of everyday scenes around the world. Her posts aren’t just aesthetically pleasing, but they are also challenging established views on what it means to explore our planet in the digital age. What counts as travel in the 21st century?

Raising Awareness for Mental Health and Mobility

A kissing couple in a quiet desert town, a lonesome boy blowing a blue balloon, and a plastic swimming pool in the streets of Peru. If you practice patience and look around long enough, you will start to realise Google Street View has become a potential treasure chest for slice of life street photography. The Street View portraits is a wondrous project that explores the imagery of human cultures, simultaneously raising awareness for mental health.

We live in a world where mobility is an assumed capability. The reality is that many of us suffer from physical or mental disabilities.

Limited by agoraphobia (fear of open and public spaces) and anxiety, Kenny describes her journey on Google Street View as “[finding] another way to see the world.” Rather than judging her project as a flimsy attempt at “genuine” travel, the value of Kenny’s admirable endeavor lies in its exposure of privileged mobility. Indeed, we live in a world where mobility is an assumed capability. The reality is, however, that many of us suffer from physical or mental disabilities. Digital explorers like Jacqui Kenny are finding and presenting alternatives modes of travel.

Who is the Photographer?

These new modes of travel also complicate traditional notions surrounding photographic agency. Who is holding the camera and who created the image? The advent of 360-degree cameras has shifted control away from angles and perspectives and leaves that framing up to the viewer. Perhaps Kenny’s Instagram page functions more like a curated collection of photos. Still, she is the one who frames the Street View into focus, into a single photo. One thing is for sure: The Agoraphobic Traveller has an incredible eye for spotting the most captivating scenes of everyday life around the globe.

What is Travel in the 21st century?

Evidently, the rules of travel haven’t quite caught up with the possibilities of the digital age. With the rise of augmented and virtual reality, it will become even more difficult to determine the limits of travel. Whatever cynical arguments can be made about the advent of mediated forms of travel, we should also stop and appreciate the supportive features it can offer to those struggling with mobility.

Aside from its promising potential for the mobility-impaired, mediated travel can play an enriching role in education. It could give some insight into other ways of living. New techniques can offer views far beyond the famous landmarks and celebrated sights. Projects like “I struggle where you vacation” cleverly adopt VR techniques to raise awareness from afar. They highlight important issues, otherwise overshadowed by the tourism industry. When used in the right way, mediated travel techniques can help us become more responsible globetrotters.

Are you also charmed by the Agoraphobic Traveller’s Street View snapshots? Don’t hesitate to give her a follow over at Instagram!

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