Why I Literally Can’t Anymore With Travel Bloggers
Have you ever felt a little uncomfortable scrolling through dime a dozen travel blogs and instagram accounts? Me too, so much so that I (a full-time traveler and freelance writer) quit writing about travel altogether a year ago and have lost all motivation to maintain my Instagram account. And I think I finally figured out why: travel bloggers are annoying as hell.
Real talk, I think it’s time we all sat down in a circle (on the internet) and had a real conversation about the state of travel blogging, instagramming, and travel culture in general.
I’m tired of the profiles filled with nothing but perfectly curated photos of "impromptu" picnics, perfectly spotless luxury hotel rooms, and selfies of girls in full makeup and prom dresses standing on Macchu Piccu. #youdidnoteatthat #youdidnotsleepthere. It’s fake, and I know it’s detrimental to people’s self esteem when they don’t realize the work and money that goes into these (often branded, professional) shoots. (Have you seen Ingrid Goes West yet?! Do it.) I’m tired of travel bloggers selling bullshit “You Can Quit Your Job and Travel Too!” e-courses that brush off their privileges and ignore the reality that no, not everyone can do this.
I’m tired of travel accounts that are 100% about aesthetics but don’t provide any real info about the place or even the location the photo was taken. How are 100 photos of a girl walking in front of a generic colorful wall with no geotag really "travel blogging"? I’m tired of the #doitforthegram mentality...it’s fun once in a while, but when the value of destinations is judged by how insta friendly they are, when I watch people go to sacred sites just to snap 1,000 selfies and leave, not even taking a single moment to breathe in the air, process where they are, and look at the place through the lens of their own eyes...it’s too much.
I’m tired of the minimalist wanderlust flower power travel bloggers who live in the forest and eat dandelions for breakfast and proclaim that money isn’t real after they drop 2 grand on their campsite at Burning Man while people in poverty suffer the very real consequences of very real money. Or trophy sustainable travel on their social media platform and then secretly go on a giant cruise because "it was just such a good deal." (Yep, real story.)
Frankly, I’m not sure of the social value that travel blogging provides anymore. Sometimes, I even feel cynical about the social value that travel itself provides.
I’m tired of the self indulgence of travel and travel blogging (which I obviously partake in). Travel is incredibly rewarding, and finding personal happiness is something to savor. But is it more important than (or even seperate from) collective happiness? When peoplenof privilege travel, it doesnt help anyone else, it doesn’t contribute to the world (yes, even if you spend a week rescuing monkeys or volunteering in an orphanage...in fact that mostly just makes things worse). I think the election in the US was a wake up call for a lot of us who are from there, and for me, it’s becoming harder and harder to just enjoy myself and see the world without doing something more active to change it.
And then there’s the fact that...#travelbloggingsowhite . It’s getting better, and there are some awesome travel bloggers of color out there, but the face of travel marketing is still white AF. This is not self deprecating, it’s just the truth - the travel sphere does not NEED my voice. White blonde girl #10,000,003 up in this space. The travel world needs to open its ears up and show a little more interest in hearing from marginalized folks. Why don’t we talk more about experiencing street harassment abroad...as a trans woman? Why are white people expats and adventurous travelers while brown people are immigrants and not even part of the travel space? Why is it a funny, crazy story when a white person overstays their visa in Central America, or super awesome when a white person finds random under the table jobs to fund their travels, but an outrage when a Mexican comes to the U.S. undocumented? Why are all the popular travel bloggers also MODELS? Seriously, since when is being thin and able bodied and conventionally beautiful a prerequisite for being a badass traveler? Where are all the fat travel bloggers? Where are the travelers with disabilities? INTERSECTIONALITY…travel blogging is so pathetically behind on this one.
And - this one is the biggest problem - why are white people and people from the global North the loudest voice and most prominent authority on brown countries and cultures from the global South? Why don’t we ever read about a NICARAGUAN’S perspective on Nicaragua? Why are the people who are living in the destination you’re writing about totally erased. Non-existent. Or represented as one dimensional, ignorant stereotypes. Or criticized. Or pitied. Not sure which one is worse. This one is so unbelievably damaging and perpetuates colonialism and turns travel into a new form of imperialism.
I’m constantly questioning whether or not there’s a space for me in travel media to do what feels good and right, and what that would even look like. On top of that, I question whether or not I have an inflated sense of the good that travel can really do in this world. Whether it can ever benefit marginalized communities, whether it can really educate and make people of privilege open their eyes and minds, whether it can truly be sustainable.
But I know one thing: the travel community is sorely lacking dialogue about this (and self awareness/critique). I would love to start here with a conversation about what you all think! Also, I know of very few faces in travel blogging who seem to really be doing it right and setting good examples, so I would love recommendations.