Why I’m Bummed Out With Travel Blogging
Way back in 2012 I started a travel blog. It was an embarrassing attempt at documenting my “wild and crazy” adventures of my twenties (spoiler: not that wild and crazy). I wrote loquacious blog posts in an attempt to be a young Jack Keroac (cringe! but I was a freshly graduated English major so I couldn’t be stopped).
Now, at the ripe age of 28 (which is basically 30, which is basically 107), I feel like I’ve gained some wisdom and perspective on what I thought this blog would be, what it has become, and what’s to become of blogging in general.
Here’s what HAS NOT changed since 23-year-old Kels created a Virb website (Virb! lol):
This blog is still embarrassing
My adventures abroad are hardly “wild and crazy.” There were the occasional nights that garner dinner-party bragging rights–ie: making out with a surly Spaniard in Thailand, or convincing a Tokyo club that my friends and I were Kesha and her dance crew (aka: dumb things you do in your twenties).
The reality is, I usually do the same stuff when I travel as I do at home (spend too much money on coffee, go to dance class, and find new ways to eat cheese).
Here’s what HAS changed:
I’ve realized that writing makes up 8% of what it takes to maintain a blog…From what I can tell, the other 92% is promoting what you wrote by making fiscal sacrifices to the social media gods…or taking flatlays of your coffee.
My blog idea (“young solo female traveler bravely explores the world!”) has been done before…approximately 2394872340283408990 times in fact. I am hardly unique. It’s practically a right of passage today for young-white-Millenial females to go travel and document it while wearing floppy and hats and sundresses. Can we please travel for more than back-of-head pics?
I no longer see travel bloggers as the rebel writers I once thought they were–people writing the narrative of their adventures like a long-form discovery story. Today, there’s less “discovery,” and more carefully planned press trips, sponsorships, and affiliate links.
1. I am a travel blogger that might be “anti-travel blogging.”
Once upon a time blogging was a grassroots thing, ruled by undercover creatives looking for an outlet. It was a platform for the soft-spoken and the unheard. (Julie and Julia anyone?!)
Now, it’s a huge shiny glittery business, ripe with opportunities to make A LOT of money if you write words for an algorithm and filter your photos all the same way. People are not starting blogs as a mini-megaphone for their unique ideas and one-of-a-kind stories.. They’re doing it to make money by coercing you into an Amazon shopping spree, or by selling you motivational crack-cocaine (NO I DON’T WANT YOUR COACHING E-COURSE!!!!!).
2. I’m not traveling like I used to anymore
I’m spending too many hours of my life reading top 10 lists that I can’t seem to pull away from. Over-researching often defeats the purpose of travel. I travel to get out of my familiar surroundings. I know enough to keep myself safe but enough to know where I can get lost…Because it’s in those moments of the unknown that something transformational happens. Sometimes good, sometimes bad but either way it’s the unplanned that leaves marks on you.
Sometime’s it’s the unexpected, shitty things that happen to us OUTSIDE of our strict plans that end up being the most memorable.
Example: The end of my solo-trip to London last summer was a disaster. My hotel reservation ended up being a scam. It just didn’t exist. I walked around this sketchy area of town with 75 lbs of luggage for two hours asking random strangers if I could use their phone. As dusk settled in I threw up my hands and found the nearest hostel. It was a party hostel filled to the brim with German high-schoolers running around on Adderall and shouting up the antique stairwell at the top of their strong Germanic lungs. But it was at this butt-hole of a hostel that I ran into the nicest guy from the Wisconson. We went out for a drink later that evening and ended up chatting about the anything and everything while London lights led us up and down blocks.
Boom! Fond memory made. I can’t plan this shit. Travel just happens. Sometimes it makes a nice list, and sometimes it doesn’t.
I don’t have a clear brand or a voice
Sorry Blogging-Rules-101, I just cannot do it. I can’t choose a voice! It’s like asking me my favorite kind of music, or favorite food. For me, this changes more than once a day… Except cheese. Cheese is always my favorite food.
“Why can’t you have one voice, Kels, you imposter of a blogger!?!”
Because today I want to be snarky. Tomorrow I want to be bubbly. Next week I’ll probably be melodramatic because I’ll be PMS’ing. All of those feelings create different kinds of content. And I think that kind of diversity of thought it human, and relatable. I’m definitely NOT always happy, bubbly, optimistic and brewing with perfect Insta captions.
According to marketing hotshots everywhere (and anyone with an e-course…so everyone), consumers can’t wrap their head around inconsistency on the page. I call bullshit. An inconsistent voice and identity are real. It’s not as pretty as a page full of VSCO edited photos and Haiku poetry, but it’s real. It’s what happens in life, off the screen. I think people are drawn to that…or they will be soon once they get tired of a diet of pastel gelato.
Can I just say something here? Yes I can, because I paid for this corner of the internet.
“F**K the brand!”
I can’t tell WHY I’m blogging anymore
Why am I travel blogging? For the money? For the pictures? For the instagram followers? For the likes? For the brand partnerships? I have to sift through posts and archives and carefully scour blogs for a glimpse of authenticity and humanity. When did they stop writing for themselves and start writing for the sponsored hotels and flights? The amount of time a travel blogger has to spend on social media and the internet alone makes my head spin.
I never want my travels to shackle me to the internet.
I try to update things in real time but the truth is–that’s hard, time-consuming, and annoying AF! Let me enjoy my gelato in peace!
I’ve forgotten why I love travel
There’s something about the community of travel that really generates kindness and empathy (which we inarguably need more of in this world). But I wonder now whether that kindness is hiding beneath a cloak of give-and-take.
“We’ll be hospitable to you if you give us a great review” is what I seem to read in between lines of lovely prose.
Is travel blogging dead?
No, probably not. Not entirely. Everyone loves reading epic stories. And if you’re a fabulous writer who can transmit that digitally, then I’m sure you’re travel blog will find an audience of appreciation.
I happen to be an occasional blogger, who gets distracted by shiny things and LIFE.
What WON’T last are the superficial blogs bathed in affiliate links and sponsorships. Everyone is sick of being secretly advertised to. Facebook will take care of that for some time to come before we all demand for it to stop.
Are you a travel blogger? Are you bummed out with my post? Sorry. Go ahead and start the blog, seriously. Here’s a good course that won’t help you look SO idiotic doing it. But blog for you. Let it be a detailed diary of your discovery of this planet earth and the species of Human that inhabit it.
Are you bummed with travel blogging too? Comment your thoughts below.