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frankie Magazine

THE AGORAPHOBIC TRAVELLER

Tell us about the Agoraphobic Traveller project. For over two decades, I’ve lived with severe anxiety. Nine years ago, I was diagnosed with agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder where you fear and avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped or embarrassed. At times, this has severely limited my ability to travel far from home. I went in search of a creative outlet to help me get through it, and found refuge online. I began travelling the world – through Google Street View.

What made you start exploring that platform? I've always had a vivid imagination and been interested in worlds that are slightly surreal or out of my grasp. I haven't been to any of these places in person, so I thought it would be fun to imagine them in a unique way. I was excited by the possibilities of Google Street View – a tool primarily designed for functional purposes, not creativity. I realised I could use my passion for photography and culture and combine it with modern technology, to create something unique and of its time.

With an entire world to scroll through, how do you manage to spot these visual gems? It’s so much fun jumping from one country to another – I love discovering remote places I didn't even know existed. Once I find an area I like the look of, I spend as long as I can trying to capture that perfect moment, experimenting with angles and composition, which can take days or weeks. My favourite places so far are countries like Mongolia, Senegal, Chile and Peru. They all have amazing light and incredible colours. It’s really hard to find a great image, though – like finding a needle in a haystack.

What kinds of things are you looking for? I try to find spots of magic and the extraordinary in everyday scenes. I love matching colours, bright blue skies and dusty towns, as well as celebrating similarities throughout the world, while highlighting the uniqueness of different places. When I find something I love, I often imagine little movie scenes.

Are there any particularly interesting or funny situations you’ve come across? I’ve taken over 27,000 screenshots, and I'm always finding little things I love. The small moments that show so much humanity are my favourites, like an elderly man walking his little dog, while the dog’s lead is tied to his Zimmer frame. Moments like that make me smile and love the world a little bit more.

How has this project changed you? At first I was concerned that staying home for long periods of time searching through Google Street View would not be very healthy, but, in fact, it has had the reverse effect. Not only has it connected me with people from around the world with similar struggles, but openly talking about it has made my life feel both bigger and better. I’ve received messages from people all over the world, from artists to travellers and students. It’s also given me the confidence to take on more challenges. I've found some beautiful places on my Street View travels, and I want to venture further away from my comfort zones and check them out for real.

What have you learnt about the world? That we are all more similar than we realise.

Where can we see more of your snaps? theagoraphobictraveller.com or on Instagram at @streetview.portraits

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