Instagram’s Updated Terms of Service: How It Affects Travelers

Doesn't it look pretty?  Keep your fucking hands off, corporations!

Doesn’t it look pretty? Keep your fucking hands off, corporations!

My Instagram account was created with my wanderings in mind – I found it to be an easy way to share some quick snaps with my followers and transport the images to various other social media sites. Since I am an amateur photographer, I take pride in the photos on my Instagram account. Mostly when people take my photos for their blogs or tweets, I’m always credited. That, to me, is satisfactory enough. It’s social media use, in a social media world. But now, those boundaries are being crossed.

According to an article on, “Under the new policy, Facebook claims the perpetual right to license all public Instagram photos to companies or any other organization, including for advertising purposes, which would effectively transform the Web site into the world’s largest stock photo agency…That means that a hotel in Hawaii, for instance, could write a check to Facebook to license photos taken at its resort and use them on its Web site, in TV ads, in glossy brochures, and so on — without paying any money to the Instagram user who took the photo.”

If I used Instagram for recreational purposes, I’d say “fuck it, if someone really wants to use my photo of my friend and I making ‘duck lips’ to the camera on New Years Eve, be my guest.” But that’s not how I use Instagram – for the most part, at least. Yeah there are sometimes stupid photos that I post but oftentimes I am trying to help my readers and followers understand the places I am in, in the moment I am there.

Do I want to be compensated for my Instagrams? I mean that’d be awesome, but I’m not going to hunt down lonely bloggers to pay me for posting my cool image their Tumblr. What I don’t want however, is for a brand or a location or something similar to take my photo and call it theirs. I’m definitely the type of person who warrants credit when credit is due. The fact that most of my photos do highlight this Mexican resort or help followers vicariously travel with me through New York City, is not something for corporations to bastardize simply because they are too damn cheap to pay photographers.

In fact, I’d feel better if those who paid Facebook to buy my photos at least plugged the source where they got them from. “Photos by KatkaTravels” or “Follow KatkaTravels on Instagram” would be sufficient for me. It’s this idea that the people who take these photos and then have them essentially stolen by big-wig publications and their creative merit is never even touched upon.

So what’s the solution? Delete Instagram accounts? Demand the clause be taken out? Develop an even better social media photography app that doesn’t rape us of our creative rights? There is a good chance that with all of the uproar Instagram will conveniently take this part of the bargain out, and yesterday,  co-founder Kevin Systrom released this statement.  But in reality, the shittiness of the internet includes not being able to tell who is using your images and under what capacity.

In the meantime, feel free to experiment with The Next Wave’s Instagram Alternatives: 8 Great Choices.

What do you think about the new Instagram policies? Are travelers and photographers making too big of a fuss, or not enough?

My Latest for Matador Network: 5 travel lessons that got me through Hurricane Sandy

My latest article for Matador Network

People whose homes were not annihilated during Hurricane Sandy still freaked out a bit. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN, I’M LIVING WITHOUT ELECTRICITY/HEAT/WATER/GAS FOR TWO WEEKS? HOW AM I EVER GOING TO DO ANYTHING EVER AGAIN?!?!?!??!”  People lamented and “woo is me”d until the the magic lights came back on and suddenly, everything was fine.

What most people don’t realize however, is that there are people all around the world who live without basic amenities every day – sometimes, for their whole lives.  This is something you would only be able to know by traveling the world and exposing yourself to the way other people live.  It’s one thing to see it on the news, it’s another to actually live it.

No power?  No problem.  I wanted to write an article about how it’s alright to live without the things we take for granted, as long as we are resourceful in other ways.  I love learning how I an improve my life from watching another way of doing things.  For example, I never would have known what to do with myself in the dark if I hadn’t lived through continuous blackouts in Ghana.  And I never would have figured out what I could and could not eat if I hadn’t been without a fridge in Slovakia.  We learn as we travel, it changes us, and it helps us grow in other ways.

Before the next natural disaster hits, check out my survival lessons I applied to Hurricane Sandy.  You’d be surprised how easy it really is to live without technological innovations.

5 travel lessons that got me through Hurricane Sandy

What were some travel skills that you were able to use to get you through the storm?

How To React When Your House Is Destroyed By Hurricane Sandy

I wrote an essay on my recent experience with Hurricane Sandy, and it was published by Thought Catalog!  Thought Catalog is a series of articles, essays and funny quips largely relating to millennial 20something culture.  Writing this essay, for me, was very therapeutic and helped me put things into perspective.  I hope it will help others the way it helped me and inspire people to write their own versions.

Listen to your fellow LAWN GUYLANDERS talk about their harrowing experiences. A woman with big, blond, bushy hair nervously chatters about losing the first floor of her home in Bellmore, including her bedroom, after the tidal surges. She’s currently sleeping on the floor of her 3-year-old daughter’s room. Her laundry companion relents about taking the bus to the laundromat on account of her car getting flooded; she had just paid off the auto loan, and now it no longer works. A man from Lindenhurst is interviewed by the news on the laundromat’s television. He talks about how he left his laptop above his television cabinet “because I didn’t think the water would get that high.”  When he came back, his entire house had fallen into a canal adjacent to his property.

Realize that although your life sucks right now, there are people out there that have it way worse.

How To React When Your House Is Destroyed By Hurricane Sandy: My First Essay for Thought Catalog


Voluntourism: Hurricane Sandy

Volunteers gather supplies at a local donation shelter in Queens, NY

There is often a disconnect between travelers and local communities; many people stay in hotels, eat in touristy areas and shop according to their guidebooks.  Most rarely interact with local people unless during some sort of transaction.  Voluntourism is a great way for travelers to help out while experiencing all their temporary community has to offer.  Voluntourism – the act of traveling for the purpose of volunteering – is a growing trend within the travel community. Many times, voluntourists can get their lodging and meals from host families in exchange for their services.

I used to work as a volunteer coordinator at the College of Charleston, setting up students with local non-profits and communicating with the public about community needs in Charleston, South Carolina.  One of the programs we ran was called “Alternative Spring Break,” where students organized voluntourism trips across America and around the world.

Never been to New York City before?  What better way to explore my hometown than creating a voluntour to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy?  New York and New Jersey are in dire need of extra hands.  You can help to help rebuild homes, hang out with awesome people who need a friend, and clean up what were some of the best beaches in America.

Here are some great resources for helping out the local communities in and around New York City.  Can’t get away from home?  You can still donate your time and effort from afar:

How to help in New York City after Hurricane Sandy: Time Out New York lists ways you can volunteer locally in NYC, donate blood, collect food and clothing and funds to Hurricane Sandy victims.

Storm Aftermath: Live Updates: Great resource for those wishing to go to New York City/Long Island to help with the aftermath.  Includes live updates of transportation routing, which areas have restored power, emergency supplies distribution, school closing information, and up-to-the-minute news articles.

How to Help the Survivors of Hurricane Sandy: issued by the White House Blog, a list of ways you can help those affected by Hurricane Sandy including a link to FEMA’s volunteer/donation resources.

Long Island Volunteer Center: Come clean up my house! Just kidding, but here is a great list of organizations from my neck of the woods, along with how YOU can help my community get back on its feet.

If you are interested in helping out the Hurricane Sandy relief effort but are still stuck, feel free to contact me via email.  I’d be happy to point you out in the right direction!

Happy Halloween! And Happy Stereotyping?

From the 2012 STARS campaign, led by students at Ohio University

Recently, Gadling posted a list of Halloween Costumes for Travel Lovers which I’m sure is mainly tongue-in-cheek but I found to actually be a bit judgmental.  Halloween played a very big trick on us this year with Hurricane Sandy. But that doesn’t mean your Halloween has to be a natural disaster!

When I first saw the article, I thought “Oh, this will be a cool list of common items travelers have that can be used to make creative costumes on the road!” After all, I’d pulled the same MacGyver tactics to create a last-minute Batman costume while celebrating Halloween in Prague.  Instead, what I read was basically a list of travel stereotypes, and how you cam emulate their “looks” to enhance the idea of this stereotype for yourself.

Let’s start off with the Trustafarian Backpacker.  I don’t think it’s wrong for wealthy people to travel.  They may not travel in the same way you do, but their presence in the travelsphere is not to be scoffed at.  Wealthy travelers keep many developing parts of the world in business – many of the Caribbean islands, for example, rely solely on tourism to keep a steady economy.  I  know a lot of wealthy people who act like hippies because they didn’t agree with the lifestyle they grew up with and are trying to change themselves; traveling offers them a chance to explore places away from their upbringing and make their own life decisions.  I also know a lot of poor travelers who are just as culturally insensitive as what is implied by the Gadling article.  Basically, let hippies, wanna-be hippies, and non-hippies do what they want and mind your own business.

Harajuku girl: I’m not really sure what this is supposed to be.  Harajuku isn’t really a person, it references a place (Harajuku is the area around Harajuku station in Tokyo, Japan), a sub-culture (Japanese teens congregate socially in this area on Sundays) and a style (Harajuku punk mixes a lot of genres and is one of many fashions paraded around Tokyo’s Harajuku area).  Harajuku fashion is not merely limited to exaggerated punk styles as well – Cosplay, Lolita, Kei and Decora sub-cultures are also present.  Not only that, but to dress in any of the aforementioned styles as a Halloween costume is actually offensive to many of these sub-cultures.  They don’t view their clothing as charactery or costumey.  Would you dress as an Amish person and celebrate Halloween in Lancaster, PA? Probably not.

Euro Trash Guy: Again, let’s not make fun of the man for his sense of style.  Just because you don’t dress in pointy shoes, “douchey” scarves (what determines a douchey scarf from a non-douchey scarf?) and shirts with high-thread counts (those sound heavenly, actually) doesn’t mean Euro Trash Dude wants to wear your second-hand shirt from Goodwill and cargo pants from Old Navy.  Offering Ecstasy tabs to strangers?  That sucks.  Holidaying in Ibiza?  How does that even factor into this equation?  If you don’t like the way this guy looks, don’t hang out with him!  Also, half of Europe dresses like this on a daily basis and I’m sure they wouldn’t like to be referred to as “trash” just like Americans don’t like being referred to as “obese.”

Moral of the story folks, is that Halloween is meant to be a fun day where people dress up in crazy outfits in search of sweet treats – it shouldn’t be an opportunity to visually bash people’s appearances or attitudes using Halloween as an excuse.  Some people go as far as to remind people not to stereotype on deeper cultural levels, such as the STARS campaign started by students at Ohio University.  Most Halloween costumes are innocently created, but if you think your idea might bother someone, maybe stick to one of those cheesy store-bought outfits instead.