11 In Dear...

Dear Female Travel Bloggers…

Dear Female Travel Bloggers, 

I, like you, love to travel. I love travel so much that I started a blog to document my travels. I figured that starting a blog would be a great way to curate my photos and memories to share them with friends and family. After discovering the success of professional travel bloggers, I realized that creating a travel blog could potentially lead to a career. I address this female travel blog world because that is the one that enticed me.  I know there are people of any gender identity who fit or do not fit this mold, but I admired the beautiful women who built brands out of being an independent traveler with charm, beauty, and grace in any enticing landmark backdrop.  She is the one who captivated my attention. Naturally, I got hooked on the fantasy

After discovering the success of professional travel bloggers, I realized that creating a travel blog could potentially lead to a career…Naturally, I got hooked on the fantasy.

I remember scouring the web for information about SEO and how to get the most likes on an Instagram post in hopes of getting more traffic to my blog. I studied the blogs of already successful bloggers like Nomadic Matt, The Blonde Abroad and The Hungry Partier, and I  learned that I needed to create multiple accounts to be well-rounded on social media to gain more traffic. More traffic means scoring a deal with Google AdSense. Google AdSense means monetization, right?  And then, with more followers, I would have sponsored content and eventually free accommodation from hotels, correct? 

Finally, I thought, I found a way not only to secure free or discounted accommodations while traveling but also to profit while doing it. This would mean that I did it: I found the way to become a digital nomad. It was like being a Kardashian. I could make money for simply living life and sharing it with the world – the new American dream for millennials. 

It was like being a Kardashian. I could make money for simply living life and sharing it with the world – the new American dream for millennials.

But I started to notice something was not jiving with who I am as an individual, with my ethics.  There is nothing wrong with learning Spanish and trying to communicate with the locals in a Spanish-speaking country. But when you bring a camera crew and post selfies that glamorize a nation marked by an oppressive regime, there’s a problem. There is nothing wrong with having this dream of being a travel blogger, but we need to consider the implications of making our way to that point.

There is nothing wrong with having this dream of being a travel blogger, but we need to consider the implications of making our way to that point.

How many of you blog simply because you want to blog? How many of you partake in an activity while traveling that genuinely interests you so much would you do without a photo to prove you did?  With no proof of how cute you looked and how blessed you are to be welcomed by another culture? How many of your photos were candid travel moments? Did you have to plan that outfit? Fix your hair? Do you ever meet locals in a given area, share it, and then question why you shared that photo? Was it for likes? Comments? Why did you have to share it with the world and then use #worldtraveler? What is the goal of this:  purpose or attention?

How many of your photos were candid travel moments? Did you have to plan that outfit? Fix your hair? Do you ever meet locals in a given area, share it, and then question why you shared that photo? Was it for likes? Comments?

I have asked myself all of these questions in the past year both during and after my travels. The thing is, I am guilty. I am guilty of having poor intentions and poor motives during my travels. Reflecting on my travels after the whirlwind romance of it all, I wonder if I did some things because I truly wanted to do them or if I thought that it would be received well on my blog or social media platforms. Did I do it for me, the locals, or for the story?

Reflecting on my travels after the whirlwind romance of it all, I wonder if I did some things because I truly wanted to do them or if I thought that it would be received well on my blog or social media platforms.

These questions hit me the hardest when I was in Ujjain, India and I was taking photos of the beautiful clothing that the women were wearing. Hundreds of people were sitting around, waiting for the train to come and some families asked me to take their photos. When I realized that I had no means of getting the photos back to some families since they don’t have an email account, my stomach dropped. 

The fact that I had a camera with me that was worth more than some of these individuals’ life savings, and that I was able to share their photos with the world, but not them, to potentially monetize, made me cringe. I felt so guilty and ashamed for the way I had been going about obtaining my blog content since it was insensitive towards the locals. Nothing made me realize my privilege more than the events of that day.  It was sobering. 

We as travelers are privileged. But, it should be said, we are not inherently wrong for it.

We as travelers are privileged. But, it should be said, we are not inherently wrong for it. When you do not recognize your privilege, then it’s bad. Observe the situation of those you interact with while traveling, and understand that many locals you meet in less wealthy areas, will never have the chance to see what you are able to see.

Once you recognize your privilege, you will be a more mindful traveler, and in turn, have more genuine experiences while you travel.

If you choose to share content on social media that illustrates your experiences with locals, share them – it may inspire others to be better global citizens. However, be conscious of your motives. Share it because it was an event that truly touched you and not because you think you will be featured on an Instagram account to garner more likes. Once you recognize your privilege, you will be a more mindful traveler, and in turn, have more genuine experiences while you travel. This is something that I am working on, and I think you will be happier (and better bloggers) if you do too. 

Sincerely, 

Not Quite Indiana Jones

Here’s to those who make the journey special.

11 Comments

  • Reply
    Moani H.
    December 16, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    This is something I have been reflecting on as well lately. I started my blog because I loved sharing my experiences, and then my tone shifted into some basic type of marketing nonsense and I stopped writing about my experiences from my heart. And to be honest I’ve lost my motivation to write at all lately. But your post makes me feel like I need to refocus and get motivated back to why I really started! So, thanks 🙂

  • Reply
    Karla
    December 17, 2016 at 5:51 am

    Thanks for this letter. The questions are really thought provoking. It’s the same with the question: “If you don’t have a camera, will you still travel?” I made a blog to document my travels, and help other travelers. I don’t have any Google adsense. I don’t really have plans on making money out of it, and I want to keep it that way. 🙂
    PS.
    The benefits I get from it is meeting new people, and sometimes free accommodation for hotel reviews. <3

  • Reply
    Shelley
    December 18, 2016 at 1:38 am

    I blog because I enjoy writing, and as a record for myself and my family to have in the future. I’ve never really thought much about monetizing, though of course, I’d love to make money doing something I already do as a labour of love anyways. But…for me, I’m not really willing to cross some of my own lines of integrity just to post something that might garner a lot of “likes,” or follows. In fact, I don’t post even a fraction of the photos on IG that I could, cuz I just can’t find the time on the road, and I’d rather enjoy the experience of where I am, rather than run around trying to find a wifi connection just to post. But you nailed it when you said that the more mindful we are, the better we are as travellers. That’s what I aspire to.

  • Reply
    Nicole
    December 18, 2016 at 2:10 am

    I find the whole Instagram female travel blogging world really intimidating sometimes. How do they fit so many amazing outfits in their luggage? Why is their make-up not sweltering down their face in the sweltering heat? Then, when I think of it, so many of those photos are staged and it seems like a lot of people travel specifically for Instagram likes. As women who come from countries with passports that allow us to travel, and where we had the opportunity to receive a proper education, we are extremely privileged. And, you’re right- we should recognise our privilege and count our blessings everyday 🙂 xxx

  • Reply
    Hallie
    December 18, 2016 at 2:53 am

    It’s a hard game those travel bloggers play for sure. I started blogging to document the life abroad for my family who were always asking. “They have internet in Korea??” Seriously?!?! It’s the most wired country in the world… but I guess not enough people know that yet. This year, I decided to dip my toe in the game but came away with similar reflections. I love our quirky not quite right photos where I’m laughing with my mouth agape. I don’t like posting pictures of locals for likes and I will never be perfectly picture perfect. Making money from something I already do and enjoy doing would be great… but it’s no the end all. Living the journey and really being there for it is more important.

  • Reply
    Kayley Chislett
    December 19, 2016 at 1:50 am

    Our blog is pretty new, and while we would love to be able to earn some money from it, we have to remember the real reason we started out – because we want to document and remember our travels and allow our friends and family to see what we are up to. I think ass long as you try to remain true to you, your experiences and your motive for your blog, its great to be able to receive benefits from something you’re putting effort into anyway!

  • Reply
    Samantha
    December 19, 2016 at 4:10 am

    Thanks for your perspective on this. I agree… I feel weird if I take photos of locals living in their elements and then share via social media. And if I start monetizing from it, then I’d feel even worse. I like to blog to share my stories with those who wish to travel and I hope that we can all become global citizens and m ake differences in the world because of it. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Kate Carter
    December 19, 2016 at 8:45 am

    This is something I’ve been considering more and more. Living in Korea, however, I have my photo taken sans permission ALL the damn time. Men also think that because I’m blonde/ a foreigner they can just run up to me, swoop their arm around my waist, and pretend I’m their girlfriend to make the instastory. People do it for different reasons, but people do it everywhere. Be respectful and share your adventures with the world. We’re pretty lucky!

  • Reply
    Alla
    December 19, 2016 at 9:20 am

    Your concerns are very sobering and heartfelt. I think for me, the motivation behind my blog is to firstly document my memories as they happened so that I (or fellow readers/travelers) can look back at them and recall those memories and stories as opposed to having them be stored away in the back of my mind for me to forget. Secondly, my blog is my motivation to be a better story teller and photographer and I see it as a drive to take better and more creative photos. Lastly, if I happen to make any money off of my blog, it’ll of course make me happy and hopefully will result in more traveling and more story telling.

  • Reply
    Rocio Cadena
    December 19, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    Great post addressing the important things we sometimes overlook while on the path to achieving our dreams. It’s so easy to go about enjoying our privileged traveler lifestyle without giving a thought to local’s lives, and I see it all too often. I personally write and blog to share my thoughts, experiences and interpretations with others but I do hope to make more meaningful connections with locals when I travel more.

  • Reply
    Hedgers Abroad
    December 19, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    My husband has been tediously documenting his life through photography and writing for years; not for the love of the craft, but the fear of losing memories. While we’ve both grown to entertain the prospects of paid travel, we reflect on the reasons we share and why we chose to put hours each week into narrative revisions, photo edits, video productions, and other such ventures. Thank you for this post, as it’s reminded us of the “why” we so often forget.

  • Leave a Reply