Jacqui Kenny has always wanted to travel the world, meet new people and discover different cultures, but she suffers from agoraphobia – an anxiety disorder characterized by fear of public spaces, public transportation, open spaces and/or large crowds – so she rarely gets to leave her house. Luckily, modern technology allows her to live out her dream, sort of.
Jacqui was diagnosed with agoraphobia 8 years ago, but she has been dealing with extreme anxiety and panic attacks for over 20 years now. Last year was a particularly trying time, as a company that she had co-founded for many years had just closed, and dealing with the stress of it, on top of her mental issues, was tough. She didn’t know what she was going to do with her life, and leaving the house to face the world was not an option. She needed something to keep her busy, and somehow, she discovered Google Street View.
“I can’t quite remember why I started looking through Google Street View but I happened to stumble across a few things I liked and decided to delve a little deeper,” the 43-year-old artist told Metro.co.uk. “I really loved the possibilities that comes with selecting and curating from billions of images that have been captured and frozen in time. he Google camera gives the images a really interesting point of view.”
Iqualit, Nunavut (Canada)
After toying with the online service a little bit, Jacqui started exploring obscure locations – never touring attractions – going through them street by street, until she found images that caught her attention (usually arid places where the light is either extremely low or high). She would then capture the image and save it on her computer. Experiencing the world from the comfort of her own home became quite a big part of her life, and before she knew it, she amassed a collection of around twenty-six thousand photos. She started editing them and sharing them on her Instagram account, called Agoraphobic Traveller.
“At first I was worried that staying home for long periods of time and searching through Google Street View would be unhealthy, but in fact it has had been the opposite,’ Jacqui says. It’s really opened my world and made me feel more connected. Also, it’s been a great way for me express myself and show my unique view of the world, even though I’m doing it from home.”
As you can imagine, seeing the world through Google Street View isn’t ideal. For one, everything is frozen, but you also can’t see everything, which is one of Jacqui’s greatest disappointments. “So many times I’ll see something in the distance that looks amazing, but then the car stops or something gets in the way. It happens ninety per cent of the time. I always have to be prepared for that disappointment,” the artist told The New Yorker.
Still it’s definitely a great alternative for someone who has great trouble dealing with the mere thought of getting on a plane and visiting a handful of the places she’s seen online. Jacqui, who lives in London, had to undergo therapy for months, before being able to travel to New Zealand for her sister’s wedding. Sometimes, she has trouble walking to the back aisles of her local supermarket, for fear of having a panic attack and not being able to escape. Most times, she dreads leaving her safe spaces so much that she can’t even leave the house.
“Before my anxiety set in I dreamed of being a photographer,” Kenny told the BBC. “I’d resigned myself to this never happening. Now I feel that the condition doesn’t define me but is within a part of me.”
Photos: Agoraphobic Traveller/Google Street View