The heyday of the traditional travel blog is over. The public doesn’t want to commit 10 minutes of their time to read a couple thousand words about the reality of travel anymore; no, they’d rather spend approximately half a second to like an edited photo of an attractive woman’s butt in a pretty place. The sad fact of the matter is that social media and travel blogging have become one, with writers scraping out a meager $25 for 1,500 carefully crafted words and Insta-stars earning $9,000 for a single sponsored photo (see here for more). As a writer and a traveler, I often bemoan this fact to my ever-patient partner, Kane, as he consoles me from an Instagram induced self-doubt binge.
All I must do to lower my self-confidence, make me doubt my worth as a writer, or ability to make it in the travel writing world is spend more than 5 minutes on Instagram. Thus, why I am giving up Instagram for a while. I need a social media detox to focus on my writing, to improving my craft for me, and remember why I do this crazy thing called travel blogging in the first place.
You see, very, very few people get rich on travel blogging and those who have “made it” started out at least 7 years ago, back in the early 2000s when the travel blogging world wasn’t inundated by millions upon millions of bloggers trying for the ‘have it all’ lifestyle that so many of those very travel bloggers sold. Even now, many of the famous blogs, such as Nomadic Matt, the Expert Vagabond, or Adventurous Kate, are making most of their money through diverse income streams, like courses that cost over $300 to teach budding travel writers out there how they too can live off their blog. I should probably say I’m not calling bullshit on these famous bloggers for the sake of PR, but I am. I’m sorry the travel blogging world is simply too crowded for anyone new to make it off their blog anymore. These days it is the combination of social media and travel blogging that is bringing in the money for all those pretty, 20-something blondes with a laptop and a bikini.
Sometimes I ask myself why I don’t embrace this hostile takeover, why I won’t resort to posting pictures where the main subject is my butt*, and all I can say is that’s not who I am. I don’t care if going the way of so many other bloggers out there, embracing social media and travel blogging, would boost my blog’s readership, because it wouldn’t be for the right reasons. I want people to read my writing, because they genuinely enjoy what I have to say. I want to create entertaining stories, honest exposes, and snapshots of the big, wild world that we call home. I want to open up someone’s world, expand it, and add something of value. I do not want to contribute to the dark, twisted, narcissistic world of Instagram where competition reigns supreme and lifestyle jealously is peddled for likes.
I feel this is a symptom of our instant gratification society, a society in which we want the latest and greatest gadget immediately, where we cannot seem to fathom investment of our time into something that does not show direct return, and where pleasure is sold to the masses on the glossy covers of ad-ridden magazines. Why does it feel like someone, somewhere is always selling us something? Is nothing left untainted by the greedy hand of profit, the religion of unfettered capitalism ripping away any semblance of authenticity that is left? Why can we not create for the sake of creation, travel for the sake of discovery, and interact for the sake of friendship, not networking?
Maybe I am naïve. Maybe in twenty years’ time I will be harden to the covetous ways of this world, but for now, I am not. I am not a photographer, model, or “influencer”; I am just a young, nerdy girl in love with the world and the stories that inhabit it. I want to write down all the wondrous, beautiful, and terrible things I see. I want to make something that endures, something that lasts longer than a picture on a newsfeed, and to do this I will write. I will not waste my time trying to make social media and travel blogging work me, because it doesn’t. My blog will have a handful of readers at best and I will be mostly unknown to the world, but maybe, one day, I will write something that is read. Maybe if I write enough something will resonate with the world and that will be when I have made it. Maybe what I write will never make it past my immediate circle, maybe my words will be all I have left when I am 85 and have lost my memories, maybe I’m making my own traveling version of The Notebook. Whatever happens, I will write and I will stay true to myself.
*Yes, I do see the irony of having the featured photo of this post be one of me on a beach, in a bikini, but I would like to think that my butt is not the main subject of the photo and that the photo conveys joy. At least that was my goal, after all, I did say I’m not a photographer, who knows if it worked.