A couple of years ago, Kelli, a 34-year-old in California, was backpacking through Vietnam when she tore a ligament in her ankle. She didn’t want to end her trip, though, so she did as much as she could without having to move, eventually taking a cruise ship to Ha Long Bay.
“The only problem was that my ankle prevented me from getting off the ship,” she says. And so, there she was, in one of the most majestic places on earth, unable to actively participate in any of that majesty. “I was traveling solo, so all I could do was drink beer on deck and look from afar,” she tells me.
The only real upside? She knew exactly who to commiserate with: the members of r/ShittyBeerwithaView, a subreddit dedicated to photos of picturesque landscapes with “shitty beer” in the foreground.
That said, the subreddit’s rules are very flexible, as posts can also include “shitty beers with a good view, shitty views with good beers” or shitty beers with shitty views.
“It’s perfect,” Kelli tells me, adding that she regularly posts there because it combines her two favorite things — “travel and shitty beer.” “There’s something about the juxtaposition of really terrible beer and gorgeous views that makes me laugh,” she explains.
It’s definitely a playful way to mock the stereotypical Instagram travel post, where perfection reigns supreme and where the drink you have in your hand goes a long way toward establishing that flawlessness — as my colleague Ian Lecklitner learned when several Instagram influencers explained to him how to curate an impeccable vacation Instagram despite being in quarantine.
r/ShittyBeerWithaView, however, is all about reality and a life/trip filled with bumps in the road. It celebrates not a sun-kissed margarita on the beach during a tropical getaway, but a single, room temperature Busch Light at the end of a long, hazy day of canoeing.
Which is why Kelli says it’s not just a subreddit, but a state of mind. “In my experiences traveling, stuff goes sideways a lot, so you can’t let an imperfect situation ruin your time,” she explains. “You’ve just got to let go, embrace the paradox and enjoy that shitty beer during an otherwise beautiful moment. And if you can’t enjoy it by the first beer, you will by the fourth one.”