It Doesn’t Look Like That: Why I’m Tired of Travel Bloggers Lying about Their Travels

No offense to pretty travel bloggers, but I’m not buying it anymore. After following accounts on Instagram and Facebook within the travel industry for several years now, it’s disheartening to see bloggers still trying to achieve that lifestyle-porn look while not really being honest with their readers. For anyone who follows these accounts like me and thinks, ‘I wish I looked like that when I traveled,’ rest assured, no one does.

I understand that the idea is that viewers and readers can escape from reality and use these photos and posts to feel as though they could be there too. It’s all based on the idea of fantasy, and that travel can fix all of your problems. I’ve been guilty too of only sharing positive photos on my Instagram and not the messy stuff that we all deal with when we pack our bags and head to a new location. I’ve chosen the most-flattering pictures of myself instead of the ones that truly show how frustrated, lonely, or stressed I feel because that’s not really what readers want to see.

The truth is that travel is hard. It tests you and stretches you in ways that you might not have been expecting, and the likelihood is that you’re not going to have perfect makeup while doing it. I remember recently attending the Loi Krathong festival in Thailand, where I was looking forward to getting a number of pictures to share on social media. I came prepared with my camera and sense of wonder. Hell, I even put on eyeshadow that day, hoping to capture the magic of the event.

It was magical. But it was also quite dangerous and lit lanterns were flying everywhere. I was trying to hold mine up, which was a challenge because it was nearly half my size. I was worried about burning my hands, face—and everything else. While we got a few good pictures, my camera didn’t even come close to giving the sight justice, and we were very done with the ceremony after we saw a careening lantern land on a spectator’s head. We were really happy he was bald so his hair couldn’t catch on fire.

travel bloggers lying
Expectation of Loi Krathong Festival.

That, to me, is a lot more representative of what travel is. We took part in this festival that did feel like it was unreal, but there were constant reminders that life isn’t ideal and that fire burns everywhere. As for great photos of myself, there were few because I was pretty freaked out by the flame burning above my face.

travel bloggers lying
Reality of Loi Krathong Festival.

It’s okay to look at travel blogger’s photos and to enjoy them. I still peruse my Instagram every now and then to see which places I might want to visit, I just know that these pictures aren’t accurate representations of the bloggers or the places themselves. Just know that it takes a lot of professional help and bikini workouts for travelers to look like models—and a lot of photo-shopping to take out tourists and air pollution ruining a shot.

To be fair, do we really want our travels to be perfect? I think events that aren’t ideal tend to make much better stories, and you’re likely to remember them long after you’ve returned home. A pretty photo is just that. But one that documents things as they really are says a lot more about your adventure and what you learned as a person while on the road. I’m glad I don’t have perfect representations of my travels—they aren’t perfect, and neither am I.

How do you feel about unrealistic travel pictures and blogging?

Keep wandering,

Alex Signature Wander

Comments

  1. Teja

    I’ve always been drawn to the real, the true. But the fact is that most people would rather gaze on the fantasy, because real is all around them and they have trouble turning it into gold. That is why we have celebrities. I blog myself and I try to write to show how the real things are more interesting and beautiful and empowering and lasting than the glossed up illusions. It’s not easy to do that and not come across as being a downer, especially in the current age when people are not used to, and have so little endurance for, uncomfortable feelings – those very feelings that build character. So I’m all for others who would pull back the curtains and look under the hood and show how much more rewarding the real things are compared to the fake.

    1. admin

      I agree completely. The more real we can be about our travels and our lives, the better. Thank you for your comment and stopping by!

  2. Barb

    Really excellent post. Thanks! I’ve been struggling with exactly this issue when people ask about our recent trip to Cambodia- how honest should I be? Because most people don’t want to hear the reality. Yes it was a totally awesome trip I wouldn’t have wanted to miss, highly recommend it. But it was also miserably hot and humid, and often frustratingly difficult. But people just want the one minute overview about the fabulousness, and one or two perfect photos.

  3. Liss

    Totally agree…. the thing is… when I get back home from a trip I tend to remember/focus on the good stuff when writing about it ..not the down sides.. but may advice/warn people in a fun way what not to do when visiting the same place 😀

  4. Amanda Schreiber

    I 100% agree! A lot of people like to hear the truth and feel like they can relate to the writer. If I looked glammed up and modeled my bikini in all my perfect pictures, people wouldn’t be able to relate to that. Yes, I’d probably get a lot of likes, but are those authentic likes from people who care about your work? Probably not. I’m a food blogger, not a travel blogger, but I do travel a ton. I see so many people spend so much time trying to capture the perfect picture that they aren’t enjoying their surroundings at all. I was just at Abbey Rd. in London and I saw one girl attempt to get the classic Abbey Road picture for about 30 minutes, each time getting frustrated with anyone in her way. She ended up leaving unhappy and that sucks! Travel should be able enjoying the trip, not trying to impress your Instagram followers with the perfect pic.

  5. Julie Cao

    Thanks for this great post. I have finished writing a post about a hard day I had on crossing the border in Patagonia but I could not hit publish cuz I feel it does not add any value to my readers, but now I have courage to publish it to show my readers the reality of travel, and regardless how glamorous travel is and beautiful the place looks, it is not all roses. Thanks for inspiring me

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