Picture Imperfect: @TravelComedian Seeing the World in a Different Light

In an Instagram-ruled world cluttered with travel bloggers and vacation influencers, it’s easy to believe that most of us live in a run-down version of the ideal life. Here we are, young and eager: yet not travelling the world every day. At least we can pretend we are, by browsing through countless travel photos on the explore feed as we ‘explore’ the Switzerland mountains and Machu Picchu through the lives of influencers.

Travel-preneurs who claim they’ve quit their 9-to-5 jobs and began hopping the maps like hopscotch seems like every millennial's dream. This is their reality (or so they say): their orange-teal filters and breakfast-in-bed-with-a-window-nonchalantly-displaying-the-eiffel-tower posts. Oh, what a dream to travel the world, cried the comment section synonymously. 

However, one day after my routine, mind-numbing scrolling, I came across something rather interesting. A travel post with no dire far-fetched caption about wanderlust. Instead, I saw a man that emits dad-joke-energy @Travelcomedian feeding a deer with tourists in the back. “Quick my dear,” the caption read. “Eat this healthy food as fast as you can.Those oncoming tourists just came from the chocolate factory and are going to try to feed that to you. You don’t want to become a constipated deer, my dear.” 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Desmond Ngai (@travelcomedian) on

I became a fan of how unglamorous yet fun his travel experience seems to be. His 72.6k followers seem to enjoy his content as well. Just take a look at this post, where he poses frantically with Kyoto’s sacred shrines for the fear of tourists with big backpacks hitting into him. Somehow, this is the less photogenic reality that travel bloggers love to overlook. But not @Travelcomedian Desmond Ngai.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Desmond Ngai (@travelcomedian) on

 

I invited him to my residence back in March and conducted a brief interview. 

Ruisi Liu: “Please introduce yourself!”

Desmond Ngai: “My name is Desmond Ngai, I’m 34 years old. My parents are from Hong Kong and I grew up in Toronto, Scarborough. I moved to downtown Toronto and then law school in St. Louis University from 2008-2012 and lived in New York to find work, moved back to Toronto and I currently work full time as a lawyer. I wanted to be a surgeon and WWE wrestler when I was young.”

Ruisi: “You’re a full time lawyer? How do you have time to travel?”

Desmond: “Well, thing is: I’m not sure how people on Instagram would feel about this but I just travel for a few weeks, take a bunch of pictures and split them up and put them online bit by bit so it looks consecutive. I travel maybe 3 weeks a year, I save enough money to do that. I try to go to as many places as I can and the cheapest options possible.”

Ruisi: “Where have you been, and what surprised you the most?”

Desmond: “I’ve been to Spain, France, Greece, italy, Croatia, Montenegro, Japan, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Macau and Taiwan. But I like picking places different from Toronto for the culture shock. Japan was the biggest shock: different manners, very polite, no TTC delay. Here if you walk by construction they yell at you, but there they tell you kindly to move aside and bow at you.

“Culture practices, like paying for the washroom, are different. Italy you can go to a crappy place for free, or pay a euro to go to a mildly clean place. Certain realities that people ignore when thinking about travel. That’s why it’s more important to enjoy little things.”

Ruisi: “Why do you post comedy as opposed to having a normal traveling blog? What is your mission? Because I noticed your travel photos look more like behind-the-scenes than other travel photos.”

Desmond: “I get that a lot! So many of my friends would wake up at 4 AM to go to bamboo forest in Kyoto to get that perfect picture. But come on now, I like sleeping. It’s almost like a fake way of showing the world, getting that perfect shot for others instead of actually enjoying it. And I know people that photoshop people out of the pictures. I’m thinking ‘yeah you went to the Sahara Desert, how did you get a shot of you just by yourself in the entire desert? You’re not a billionaire.’

The other influencers are hiding the reality of the world and the troubles that come with traveling. They basically imply that ‘the world is cool only through certain eyes’ when it’s cool in general. You can find happiness anywhere, and humor anywhere. Don’t spend your entire travel day waiting in line for one picture on a railing on the Eiffel Tower unless that is your only goal. There’s more to see.”

Ruisi: “Have you faced any setbacks from the content you post?”

Desmond: “Sometimes I get comments saying that I’m disrespecting certain places or that my photos are too weird. But they are the people who try to shield the world from reality. Like, do these people wake up in the morning looking like that? Waking up, breakfast in bed with champagne 365 days a year. Do they not fight with their spouse? Have days that suck? If that’s their reality, give me some of that magic pill.” 

Ruisi: “What most people don’t know about being a tourist?”

Desmond: “It’s not as relaxing as you think. It’s a lot on your system, you get tired easily from jetlag and jumping from destination to destination. Depending on how sensitive your stomach is, the food will affect you no matter what so be prepared for digestive problems... Also the amount of planning involved. It’s a lot to travel. And a lot of beautiful places are hard to get to, so you have to decide it if it’s worth it for you. You did not fail your vacation if you failed to arrive at a specific location.

Depending on where you’re going, don’t wake up at 4 am to see that nice place. Take in the dollar store around you, the food stand around you. Enjoy everything that there is.”

Desmond has a point. If we all traveled as if we were locals by appreciating the smaller things, we would immerse ourselves in the human experience rather than the tourist experience. Next time I travel, I’ll be sure to take it all with a grain of salt.