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Everything Wrong With Travel Blogging, By A Travel Blogger

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What annoys you most about travel blogging? Does anything stick out as a bug bear? Hear me out on this and get ready for a mini rant about what I think is everything wrong with travel blogging.

Stay with me here. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE travel bloggers. Heck, I AM a travel blogger! I love the fact that no two pieces are the same. Everyone’s experience is different and unique. However, I’ve noticed a bunch of things about travel blogging that I find personally to be really frustrating. There’s always room for improvement, right?

This is in no way meant to point fingers, shame, or disrespect any travel bloggers. I qualify for more than one of these travel blogging annoyances so can hardly talk! So without further ado, here is everything that’s wrong with travel blogging, as noticed by yours truly – a travel blogger.

Promoting Places As Instagrammable Is Everything Wrong With Travel Blogging

This is the top of my list for several reasons. Anything deemed Instagrammable is such a turn off for me. Whether that’s pastel pink decor, a novelty cafe, or queueing for ages at a mountain lookout – enough is enough.  Often the reality is so far removed from the Instagram post I get tired of seeing the same content on repeat.

Here are the reasons I dislike using the term “Instagrammable”, and why it summarises everything that’s wrong with travel blogging.

  1. Places have more value than just appearing on social media. I know that people who promote Instagrammable destinations don’t mean that’s ALL there is to the place. However, it seems a shame to focus on this and reduce a destination’s value to a social media post alone. Locations have beauty that is over and above social media and more importantly, they are not commodities designed to increase your likes. We have more responsibility than that. In fact, some places are better left untagged.
  2. I find it cringey. A personal opinion of course, but I simply dislike the word “instagrammable”, and I have no real justification for why, it just doesn’t sit right for me.
  3. Overtourism is a real problem (more on that later) and we should be doing all we can to help people appreciate an aesthetically gorgeous destination without the need to share it. By all means take photos, but do they all HAVE to be for Instagram?! Being in the moment is just as special as sharing your experience with others. Soak it in as well as snap your pics.
  4. It’s promoting a ‘seen to be seen” culture, and feeds into everything wrong with social media (don’t even get me started on that one). Why perpetuate the problem?

But Suzy, Aren’t You Being A Bit Of A Hypocrit?

Yes, I’ve done the Roy’s Peak hike, and I even went to the lookout! But you know what? It wasn’t even that great. The real reward is reaching the ACTUAL summit! We hype up places around the world and saturate them until they burst, and it means blinding ourselves with doing the same things as everyone else rather than forging our own paths.

The recent articles exposing THAT Bali temple as being a simple photography trick show how such Instagrammable places are not only causing overtourism issues, but they’re also misrepresenting the actual location. Whatever happened to just visiting a place for its intrinsic value?

It goes without saying that Instagram is a place for inspiration. Sometimes that turns into aspiration, for a lifestyle, product, or experience. Aspiration is great, but only if the goal isn’t harmful to ourselves, others, or the environment. Aspirations can also mean that we’re wanting to be someone else, rather than focussing on our own journeys.

I would love to see travel bloggers continuing to inspire, without driving their followers to crazes and trends. Instead, encourage individuality, personal experiences, and finding value in places simple because they’re awesome.

Honestly, I could write a whole post series about this topic alone (maybe I will?!). But a quick Google search for “travel influencer problem” or another synonym will show you countless reasons to be wary of the Instagram effect.

Don’t Worry I Still Think Travel Photography Is Awesome…

I will finish this point by saying that I fully appreciate the talent, time, and passion that goes into very curated images of “Instagrammable” locations. Travel blogging and travel photography are two separate things which often overlap. Rather than the finished photo/content itself, I’m really focussing on the habit of visiting and sharing places as Instagrammable, rather than them being aesthetically enticing places. I think we can all agree that there’s no question about that!

No two photos are the same, and no two experiences are the same. That’s what is so amazing about travel photography. If you like a destination and want to put your own spin on an awesome photo, go right ahead! Some places are so gosh darn amazing they simply MUST be visited, and that’s great!

I only object to the use of Instagram as the single driving force to visit a place, because Mother Nature didn’t create this world for us to put it on Instagram… Just sayin’.

sunrise at the horizon over beach

The Follow Unfollow Problem On Social Media

OK, this isn’t restricted exclusively to travel blogging, but it is rather prevalent and VERY frustrating.

For those that don’t know, the follow unfollow problem is when an account follows you on social media, with the sole intention of getting you to follow back. Now, in the good-natured spirit of a blogging community many will follow back. Mere days, hours, or even sometimes minutes later this spammy account then decides to unfollow you. Thus, boosting their own follower count without wanting to benefit anyone else. Is sharing no longer caring?

In a world such as blogging where follower count is a currency for reputation, authority, success, and potential brand partnership, it would make sense to want to boost ones own following without giving competitors an advantage.

How. Bloody. Ridiculous. If you’re working hard, proud of your content, and sticking to fair and sensible practices then what have you got to worry about? No one likes a cheater, and follow unfollow is a petty tactic that is a far cry from the supportive network that blogging should be.

I personally don’t know any bloggers who use this approach, but I’ve sure enough been victim of it plenty of times. It’s just another factor that makes Instagram so frustrating!

Not Sharing the Rough That Comes With The Smooth

Look, travelling isn’t always beaches and sunshine and smiles. It can be hard work and stressful. Especially when, like travel bloggers, you’re not quite able to switch off from content ideas, taking the right photos, and soaking up every grain of the experience to write in detail later.

I know I’m very guilty of rose-tinting trips. But I’m trying to get better and being more realistic. Hence why I’m writing this post and published articles about travel fails and what to do when things go wrong. We can all do more to share the bad alongside the good. Bad experiences don’t diminish good ones, but they balance a realistic portrayal of a trip that we should keep in mind when reading and writing travel posts.

Social media is a big reason for the highlights reel. We all want to be perceived as successful and happy, thanks to our addiction to likes and followers. Thankfully, it appears the age of hyper-glossy lives plastered online is dwindling. Now, there is a lot more realistic and honest work out there.

Bloggers have always strived for the truth, and it seems now more than ever that travel bloggers are sharing details of disappointing, disastrous, and downright dismal experiences alongside the amazing ones. Yay for owning the crap moments as well as the awesome ones!

Unfiltered content is something that sets bloggers apart from your guidebooks and travel magazines. There is no edited version when it’s coming from personal experience, right? I’d love to see bloggers continue to share every angle of their experiences. I want to hear that it’s not easy, and I want to see how these awesome creators overcome the challenges.

Some great accounts who do their best to show the “real” side of travel include:

The Wandering Quinn – giving real talk about budgeting and costs, long-term travel, full-time travel blogging, and life on the road. Ellie is also a seriously fab lady too!

Where Goes Rose? – showing that not every day is perfect and sometimes you just have to follow your gut (literally, food is everything). Rose has also highlighted that destinations have flaws. A rich tapestry of politics and religion is often dominant in her travel accounts to show the struggling side of many places.

Cassie the Hag – sharing the highs and lows about moving abroad as a solo traveller in a poignant and thought-provoking way. Cassie’s writing is so creative, and her photography is just as jaw-dropping.

And SO many more!

Selling More Than Sharing

Professional travel bloggers are awesome. They totally deserve every penny they make for their hard work! However, sometimes there is a limit to how the same old promotion needs to be seen. I don’t know about you, but I want to see real people sharing their real stories, rather than endless self-promotion.

While we all want people to actually read the blogs and see the photos we arduously spend hours creating, there needs to be a balance between being a content machine and being a real person creating real connections.

Some of my favourite bloggers that are keeping it real are:

Kerry Life and Loves – nothing is off limits for this travel and lifestyle blogger sharing deep and personal stories alongside helpful and insightful posts. Kerry’s charm and wit shine through her social media and blog posts, I’d even consider her by far one of the most relatable accounts I follow!

Faramagan – antics and laughter seem to be the core values for this Scottish pair. I’ve loved seeing their vibrant personalities shine through all their work, and they’ve struck the perfect balance of being genuine and getting readers onto their awesome site.

postcards and flower flatlay

Scam or Success? Travel Blogger Courses No One Needs

Even worse than over-promoting oneself, are the courses that no one needs. Many bloggers have some truly valuable content and information to share, that’s amazing! But there are some out there who are really taking the biscuit.

There was a huge controversy around the Travel In Her Shoes $500 Master Tribe course which claimed to teach wannabe influencers the tricks of the trade. The nosedive of the course was caused directly by those who had enrolled claiming content was missing and, unfortunately, basically useless. It was proclaimed as a money-making scam and followers were not happy…

This example is on the extreme end of the scale. However, there are plenty of resources out there from bloggers wanting to share their wisdom on marketing, writing, blogging, photography, Instagram, and more. You name it, there’s a course for it.

Obviously, sharing your knowledge is great! One does have to wonder who it benefits most, though, and remember to carefully consider the price tag before signing up.

Having said that, many awesome bloggers out there sharing genuinely AMAZING advice. Make Traffic Happen run by Gemma from Two Scots Abroad and Laura who runs several food blogs is just one of the resources that is helping bloggers on the road to success, and clearly has its audience’s needs as the focus.

What’s The Future of Travel Blog Monetisation?

I’ve noticed there is now a new way to expand a travel blog beyond the website itself. Bloggers like Twins That Travel are organising trips to their favourite countries, and I think it sounds awesome! It’s the perfect way to share your expertise alongside a brand partnership to offer fun and engaging tours around the world. Not only does the blogger benefit, but the customer gets an amazing experience out of it! I truly see this as the future of the business-savvy travel influencer/blogger.

From podcast spin-offs to merchandise, and book deals to Lightroom Presets, the possibilities to monetise your blog seem endless. There are certainly even more smart ways to do it.

I love seeing innovative techniques to share knowledge. Bloggers like Steph My Life are not only running tours to their favourite countries (in Steph’s case Bali), but also offer personalised travel planning services to help you prepare for your dream trip. Again, this is likely the future of travel blogging to me. It’s directly using tried and tested knowledge and engages readers and followers in a personally connected way.

I can’t wait to see where the future of travel blogging takes us. Success is measured in all sorts of ways and these out-the-box thinkers are leading the way to a whole new type of travel blogging!

Promoting Destinations That See Extreme Overtourism Without Addressing The Problem

Overtourism is quickly becoming an issue we have to collectively tackle. While we shouldn’t stop writing about destinations that face overtourism, travel bloggers need to be addressing ways to reduce their reader’s impact on the environment.

Complaining about crowds and suggesting waking up extra early for the perfect pic won’t really cut it when overtourism contributes to so much more than crowding and tourist inconveniences. It means environmental damage, economic problems for locals, and the detriment of delicate and precious places. Travel bloggers could do a lot more (myself included) to promote tourism to heavily-visited places responsibly and respectfully above all else (it at all!).

Locations such as Santorini, Venice, and Dubrovnik are already doing what they can to reduce cruises docking at their city gates. And iconic landmarks such as Machu Picchu and Mount Everest have been facing crowding issues for some time and are already taking action by regulating visitor number. Travel is well and truly #trending.

So what can travel blogger do to help? Firstly, be realistic.

It’s better to be honest about a location’s issues than gloss over it. Evidently, people aren’t put off by overtourism, so it’s hardly as if saying it how it is will deter tourists from making plans to visit. Plus, you can still have a great time and showcase what you loved about a place.

Maybe suggest alternative ways to travel, such as overland rather than flights, or booking with a local B&B rather than a chain hotel. Overtourism doesn’t mean we should STOP travelling, but it does show how habits need to drastically change.

Some fabulous bloggers highlighting the need for a serious social and sustainability overhaul in travel are:

Abbi from Spin the Windrose is my all-time favourite sustainability and social issue-challenging inspiration. She’s passionate and knowledgable about travel and the environment, so for tips and facts about all sorts of travel-related issues like overtourism she’s my go-to blog.

Carmen Huter is one of my photography IDOLS. She also actively promotes sustainable brands, and gives some helpful ideas on being a better global citizen.

glasses and orange flower on open laptop

Giving Misleading or Inaccurate Information

We’re all guilty at times of writing posts with an especially clickable blog title. Seeing “complete” guides written after only a couple of days visiting a destination seems a bit like cheating, though.

Compare two titles:

“The Definitive Guide To Travelling New Zealand As A Backpacker”

vs

“My Trip To New Zealand and What I Learned”

Which one sounds catchier?

Writing posts with enticing and Google-happy titles is just what we do. It’s tempting isn’t it? But, it can also be misleading. Bigging up your knowledge without careful consideration could have negative consequences. The wrong information is not only problematic for your reputation if it turns out to be bad advice, but also misinformation could be potentially dangerous for your reader.

Sure, an article claiming to be an ultimate destination guide won’t do much harm, but it might lead down a slippery slope of claiming more authority on a destination than actually exists.

Honesty is the Best Policy

There is a clear distinction between debunking scaremongering myths about a destination and glossing over actual laws, customs, and risks. By all means we should be shining a light on why visiting “high-risk” places can be a good thing. What we don’t want to do is write about trips to more challenging destinations as completely free of worry (think the rough with the smooth mentioned above!). If a trip involves luxury resorts and personal escorts – then say so. If you can wear/eat/say/do what you like because of a particular privilege then it’s deceptive to not share the true nature of the visit.

Be truthful with your readers!

Full disclosure and honesty is key to a great travel blog. Keep your catchy title by all means, but if we want to eliminate this problem that is contributing to what’s wrong with travel blogging then we should also provide additional resources and explain the nature of our experience to allow readers to make well-informed decisions.

pen and passport on notepad

Travel Bloggers Have A Duty To Give Accurate Advice

I read an article a while back (I can’t for the life of me find it…) where a travel blogger was giving some pretty dodgy advice to their followers. A reader had asked about appropriate clothing to wear in a particular destination. The blogger who deemed themselves qualified to answer, advised that X clothing was fine in Y destination. Turned out a lot of people disagreed.

Impressionable readers who ask such questions believe the Influencer as a source of knowledge and expertise. Without a second thought, they might find themselves not adhering to correct local customs. All because a blogger who claimed authority they didn’t have.

I’m sure it’s happened on multiple occasions and will continue to in the future. A reader looks to a blogger for reassurance and advise, but sometimes the best answer is “I don’t know”.

Why pretend to be an expert when you’re not?

It might also be small things that are passively misleading. Making sweeping statements, not considering alternatives, or using the wrong flag on an Instagram post (a personal pet peeve) could all be misleading in some way.

Travel bloggers need to tow the fine line between sharing personal, anecdotal information and sharing a narrow, one-sided view. The personality and unique experiences is what is so loveable about reading blog posts. However, I fear without proper research or understanding we risk misleading readers.

Fortunately, as Travel Off Path pointed out, there is a difference between a travel blogger and a travel influencer. I’d like to think that travel bloggers who write in depth accounts and advice articles are a little more astute. With the ever-blurring lines between blogger and influencer, it’s still worth being mindful of this problem.

There’s A Lack Of Diversity In Travel Blogging

It’s not a secret that there are distinctly fewer males, people of colour, and a limited mix of nationalities amongst travel bloggers. It’s a bit hypocritical coming from a white British woman I know, but I would really like to see more diversity from travellers of all sorts of backgrounds.

Travel is inherently privileged, so maybe it’s a lot to ask, but surely there is more than what we see on social media? The classically beautiful, white, middle class westerners grow tiresome after a while. That’s one of the many reasons I prefer to avoid having myself in photos which might promote unrealistic travel expectations that all bloggers are the same… That, and I’m rubbish at posing!

As a community, travel bloggers can do so much more to promote each other, particularly if a blogger you love can offer a different perspective.

Just a handful of my favourite bloggers who enlighten me are:

  • How Not To Travel Like A Basic Bitch – Dr Kiona has taught me a lot. About social issues, about travel practice, and about some awesome destinations!
  • My Breaking Views – Adebola’s ordeal of being arrested in Athen’s is heartbreaking. She writes so honestly and her powerful message of supporting women of colour in their travels is so important.
  • Barefoot Backpacker – A seriously insightful and unique travel blogger is Ian from Barefoot Backpacker. Curious and inquisitive is just what I like in a blog and Ian has it all. He visits some unusual destinations and his podcast Beyond the Brochure is well worth a listen.
  • Man vs Globe – Dave is a phenomenal photographer and creator. I’ve gained more than a couple of photography tips from his blog, and I love the earnestness of his writing. A real pleasure to read a blog with such sincerity.

And there are plenty more… The likes of Hey Ciara and Packs Light also deserve a shoutout!

flower and glasses on laptop keyboard

Travel Bloggers Don’t Always Practice Good Travel Behaviour

Not everyone is perfect. Although we’re all fallible, writing with the purpose of encouraging action means it’s vital to take responsibility for your and your reader’s direct actions. If they see you visiting a tiger temple, they might do so too. If they see an “epic” photo taken from a jumped fence, they might also think it’s ok to trespass on private property.

The list of bad travel influencer behaviour is scarily long, and the consequences can be dangerous physically and psychologically.

Curiosity Magazine spoke to April Harter, who said:

“Audiences make an assumption that because an influencer has followers, that certainly, they are credible sources of information”

Being careless when travelling becomes not only risky for yourself, but for your readers too. That’s not to say your actions are entirely consequential for another’s actions – they have autonomy after all.

However, in a content-consuming world it appears very likely that actions can have a see-think-do process for readers and followers. If they see you do X, then they think it’s ok for them to do X. Therefore, they do X. It’s a pretty logical formula – but it makes sense!

Even if a reader isn’t driven to act the same way as you, there’s a potential impact on their attitudes.

The perception of a culture or place can be altered by a prominent figure’s posts. Voluntourism and exploitative appropriation are examples of when influence impacts attitudes toward a whole culture or race, and not in a good way.

However, from travel insurance to wildlife tourism, there are plenty of ways that travel bloggers can inspire good habits abroad. Instagram’s alert system for animal abuse is trying to re-engage the platform’s audience with responsible practices. Travel bloggers can emphasise this message by sharing the right places to go, who and what to trust (and avoid), and back it up with their experiences.

A favourite travel blogger doing the right thing:

Young Adventuress – one of my biggest blogger idols. She’s always realistic, honest, and won’t shy away from serious issues – especially in her adopted home of New Zealand. If there’s anyone championing good travel behaviour, it’s Liz!

tui bird in tree in New Zealand

Final Thoughts On Everything Wrong With Travel Blogging

While writing this post I quickly realised what is really wrong with travel blogging. And that is that not enough is being done to be transparent, honest, and responsible (thanks, Instagram).

There are LOADS of Earth-loving, sustainability-driving, eco-friendly passionate bloggers. We gotta listen to them, learn from them, continue to spread an aligned message, and continue being our awesome travel blogger-selves through responsible writing.

Now go share some love to the world and your friendly neighbourhood travel bloggers.


So there we have what in my opinion is everything wrong with travel blogging. There are definitely other issues with travel blogging but this just covers my thoughts. AND OF COURSE – there are looooads of great things about travel blogging which is why we all do it! Sharing our stories, inspiring others, and a mutual love for the world are just some of the reasons to keep blogging. But hey, there’s always room for improvement right?

What are some things that annoy you about travel blogging? What’s some of the worst things about blogging in your opinion? Drop me a comment or message me on social media if you’d like a chat!

 

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6 Comments

  • Reply
    Davida | Wonders of Wanders
    08/16/2019 at 8:45 am

    Hi Suzy, this was an insightful read. I must say highlighting a place as “instagrammable” without much else is one of my pet peeves as well. It’s closely followed by some of the discussions centering on reasons why a place is “overhyped” – I always ask myself by who?! There are many others, but I’ll leave it at these two for now. Ultimately as a travel blogging community, we can all do better in bringing the stories of the places we visit without papering over the cracks, dismissing certain places because they didn’t fit our idea of “perfection” and so on. Thanks for sharing your thoughts in this post.

    • Reply
      suzystories
      08/17/2019 at 7:49 am

      Thank you so much Davida, I really appreciate your comment! It’s so true, I wonder how travel destinations end up being so popular sometimes, and others not. It’s quite fascinating if it weren’t so frustrating! Thanks for sharing your ideas too, it seems I’m not alone in my observations around how we can improve as a community 🙂

  • Reply
    ellieslondon
    08/16/2019 at 4:20 pm

    Such an important and relevant post ? It would be so great to see more diversity in travel blogging for sure – I also don’t ever pose next to the canyon or colourful old car or painting, I always feel like I look awful and so awkward! Don’t get me wrong, I have taken some pictures of ‘Instagrammable’ things before, but I always find that the best content for me are the things there’s not already 100000 square filtered versions of! I am also quite proud to say that I have never gone somewhere based off of a geo-tag or something I’d seen on Insta! Really well done with this post – it is so nicely written and an interesting read.

    • Reply
      suzystories
      08/17/2019 at 7:50 am

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Ellie! Oh me too, that’s part of the Instagram trap, isn’t it? I feel compelled to do it even when I don’t really want to! I’m really glad to hear you enjoyed the post, thank you so much 🙂

  • Reply
    Wendy
    09/05/2019 at 10:08 am

    Thanks for keeping your thoughts real and address this big elephant in the room. There are massive problems in travel blogging, to the point when I tell people I’m working on my travel blog, I sense a hidden eyeroll. But as you pointed out, lots of others are doing things right and inspiring people to see the world without harm.

    • Reply
      suzystories
      09/06/2019 at 7:16 am

      Thanks Wendy, I’m glad you liked the post! Oh yes I always get a bit worried about telling people about my blog, I hope the assumptions they make about my hobby are mostly positive… But we can only do our best!

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