Selfies Don’t Kill People

Height, water, trains, and animals lead the list of factors involved in selfie deaths

259 deaths worldwide have been attributed to the selfie between 2011 and 2017.

While that statistic may sound alarming, there are well over 1.4 million accidental deaths per year worldwide. Risk taking is not a new phenomenon nor is doing it in an attempt to become famous. That we are all talking about selfie deaths is likely just the result of the media’s obsession with reporting about them. 

Canyonlands National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No one has ever been killed by a selfie. A lot of people have been killed by stupid behavior. No beautiful destination has ever been ruined by an Instagram post. A lot of beautiful places have been ruined by irresponsible assholes. 

selfie

[sel-fee]
noun
An image that includes oneself (often with another person or as part of a group) and is taken by oneself using a digital camera or smart phone, especially for posting on social networks.

In 2016, Ponnurangam Kumaraguru, an associate professor with Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) Delhi in India, served as the principal investigator with researchers at IIIT and Carnegie Mellon University on a study called “Me, Myself and My Killfie: Characterizing and Preventing Selfie Deaths.”

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kumaraguru, a computer scientist who is interested in following societal problems and patterns and developing solutions through technology, said he read an article about someone who died while taking a selfie and was intrigued. He lives in India which leads the world in “killfies,” the word sometimes used to talk about deaths tied to selfies.

He and his team collected newspaper articles on selfie-related fatalities to document and categorize the problem. Height, water, trains, and animals were the leading causes of death in the 127 cases the team studied. They also found that the victims were primarily young and male: The majority was 24 years old or younger and 75.5 percent were male.

In 2016, a man was taking a selfie by the Ganges River in India when he slipped and fell in. Six others tried to save him and all seven died after being swept away. “It is not about just me trying to take a selfie and making my life dangerous, but I’m actually putting others also at risk,” Kumaraguru says.

The so-called selfie deaths aren’t anything new. There’s hasn’t been an increase in the frequency of accidental deaths since the advent of Instagram—people have always managed to find stupid ways to die. Smart phones could stop working tomorrow and a teenage boy will still find a way to put his life at risk in order to impress a girl even if he can’t snap a photo in the process. The biggest change would just be that the rest of us wouldn’t see a photo of the shenanigans and would never get the chance to get outraged about it. 

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When people get the opportunity to visit a really cool national park or see a neat wild animal, it is only natural that they want to document the experience and share it with their friends. Again, this is not a new phenomenon. Are Ansel Adams’s photos of Yosemite Valley really that different from an Instagram photo that tourists snap in the same spot?

Every time I see a news story about national parks and other public lands being “loved to death,” and blaming social media for a boom in visitation, I can’t help but see a missed opportunity. More visitors should equal more dollars for the places that we love; the only reason that it doesn’t is that the media and politicians would rather grandstand about other issues.  

Every time I see a news story blaming a selfie for a death, I also see a missed opportunity. If social media was powerful enough to draw a person to that place and inspire them to take a photo then surely it can also be powerful enough to reach that person with a powerful message about responsible recreation. 

Are you practicing safe selfies? It might be time to examine your photo-clicking habits and put caution first. Consider these suggestions for practicing safe selfies:

Snake River at Twin Falls, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stay focused on your surroundings, not your shot. Tripping, slipping, and falling have all led to selfie deaths. A single distraction or moment of inattention could mean the difference between life and death. Keep your eyes focused on where you’re going and where your feet are when taking a selfie. Make sure your feet are planted firmly before you line up the shot, and then don’t move once you do that.

Worth Pondering…

As Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

6 National Parks to Visit & Instagram This Summer

With summer in full swing, you might be planning an RV getaway. Here’s a suggestion: visit a national park—because the great outdoors is always a good idea.

Summertime is in full swing and that means barbecues, relaxation, and of course camping. What better way to experience the summer season than by enjoying the great outdoors in an RV.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Park Service offers an extensive array of experiences across the country for young and old. In 2016, National Park Service locations topped over 330 million visitors. Looking specifically at the 59 National Parks, attendance is expected to be well over 60 million in 2017.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the advent of social media, these locations have offered awesome photo opportunities to share with friends and family. With all this in mind, we bring you the six national parks you should visit and Instagram this summer.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon is world-famous for its vibrant red rock spires that shoot hundreds of feet into the air. Known as hoodoos, these totem pole-like formations are collected in a series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters that are easily accessible and provide breathtaking views.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While most visitors experience the scenery by car, Bryce Canyon’s magical beauty is best seen on foot. With eight marked trails, most of which can be hiked in less than a day, there are plenty of areas to explore from within.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Established in 1934 and featuring 522,427 acres of land, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a great spot to camp. With over 11 million visitors annually, it is the most visited national park and for good reason, too. One hundred unique waterfalls and cascades, over 800 miles of hiking trails, and the designation of being the salamander capital of North America make this park a must-visit.

Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Imagine you’re walking through a gorge 20 feet wide with natural rock walls as high as 1,000 feet. Underneath you lies the Virgin River. At Zion National Park, this isn’t an outdoor fantasy, it’s reality. The Narrows remains one of Zion’s peak attractions driving nearly four million visitors each year. Campers beware, most campgrounds are full by mid-morning and are full in peak months most every night. 

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In a list featuring some of America’s greatest national parks and camping spots within, how could we not include the Grand Canyon. Clocking in at 18 miles wide, 277 river miles long, and a mile deep, its size is sure to overwhelm park-goers.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With regards to camping, it is split between the South and North Rims. The southern side is easier to access and by far the most popular, however, during the summer months its popularity causes the canyon to be reserved to capacity. Meanwhile, the North Rim requires more driving and because of higher elevation and heavier snowfall has a very short season.

Arches National Park, Utah

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arches National Park is a red, arid desert, peppered with oddly eroded sandstone formations such as fins, pinnacles, spires, balanced rocks, and arches. Natural arches abound and come in all sizes, ranging from an opening of only 3 feet to the 306-foot span of Landscape Arch, one of the largest in North America. The 73,000-acre region has over 2,000 of these “miracles of nature.”

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 18-mile Scenic Drive climbs a steep cliff from the visitors center and winds along the arid terrain providing amazing glimpses of red rock features. The road passes the Park Avenue area, Courthouse Towers, the rolling landscape of Petrified Dunes before arriving at Balanced Rock.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Scenic Drive ends at Devil’s Garden area, site of the park’s campground (reservations strongly advised) and the trailhead for the popular Devils Garden Trail.

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rounding our list is Joshua Tree National Park. Two deserts converge in this stunning locale situated in Southern California. While there is no shortage of hiking trails, the best activity to take part in happens at night. As the sun fades and the cool desert air fills the atmosphere, dozens of stars, meteors and planets shine bright in the desert night sky. What better way to cap off a long day than to watch the Milky Way from one of several campsites.

Worth Pondering…

Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.

—Rachel Carson

Overtourism and Undertourism in 2019

Celebrating the “Undertouristed” places for RV travel in 2019

If there was a competition for the Word of the Year in tourism, a serious contender would be “overtourism”.

From Barcelona to Bali, the Indian Ocean to the Adriatic, 2018 was the year that people in the world’s most coveted, visited, and Instagrammed places said enough was enough.

There were protests in Barcelona and Mallorca. And the New Year began with Venice vowing to charge tourists for entry.

Let’s celebrate the alternatives in 2019—the undertouristed places that deserve more visitors and where the locals won’t take to the streets and forums to protest.

Let’s hear it for undertourism in America. From the rugged mountains to the giant forests to the vast desert, the RV traveler has it all.

Overtouristed: Charleston, South Carolina and Ashville, North Carolina and Zion National Park, Utah

Undertouristed: A sampling follows

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Capitol Reef received its name from the great white rock formations resembling the U.S. Capitol building and from the sheer cliffs that presented a barrier to early travelers.

However, it is the park’s multi-colored sandstone that earned it the nickname, “land of the sleeping rainbow”. The park runs along a huge buckle in the earth’s crust called the Waterpocket Fold. This noteworthy geologic feature is a wrinkle in the earth’s crust. Layer upon layer of rock folded over each other.

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, Kentucky

The Bernheim Arboretum in Clermont (about 30 miles south of Louisville) includes 15,625 acres of fields and forests, as well as over 40 miles of hiking trails that weave their way through the forest and a bike route that winds along Long Lick Creek.

Whether it’s hiking one of the many trails, fishing in Lake Nevin, enjoying public art, reading under a tree, or taking advantage of one of the many informative programs, Bernheim offers visitors unique opportunities to connect with nature.

New River Gorge, West Virginia

A rugged, whitewater river flowing northward through deep canyons, the New River is among the oldest rivers on the continent. The park encompasses over 70,000 acres of land along 53 miles of the New River, is rich in cultural and natural history, and offers an abundance of scenic and recreational opportunities.

Hiking along the many park trails or biking along an old railroad grade, the visitor will be confronted with spectacular scenery. There are opportunities for extreme sports as well as a more relaxing experience.

Holmes County, Ohio

The Amish have established themselves in the Holmes County area, and it is estimated that one in every six Amish in the world live in this area. The Amish choose to live a simple way of life, which is clearly evident by the presence of horses and buggies, handmade quilts, and lack of electricity in Amish homes.

Entrepreneurial businesses owned by the Amish add to the friendly atmosphere along the byway while creating a welcome distance from the superstores of commercial America. The Swiss and German heritage of the early settlers in the county is evident in the many specialty cheese and meat products and delicious Swiss/Amish restaurants.

Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia

This pristine 680-square-mile wilderness is an ecological wonder. Wetlands provide a critical habitat for abundant wildlife and migratory birds. Take a walk on the 4,000-foot boardwalk and view the prairie from the observation tower. Visitor center offers displays and film. TAKE THE GUIDED BOAT TOUR. From the open, wet “prairies” of the east side to the forested cypress swamps on the west, Okefenokee is a mosaic of habitats, plants, and wildlife.

Worth Pondering…

This is not another place.

It is THE place.

—Charles Bowden