When I first started blogging a few years ago, all I could find on other travel sites and Instagram pages were declarations of lifestyle porn—or beautiful photos and posts about how everything on vacation was perfect and went swimmingly. While this type of content is still popular, it’s definitely receiving some backlash recently, and many travel bloggers are choosing to be a bit more honest with what they share.
Part of the problem with the way the industry is set up is that the media is rewarded with press trips—and press trips are usually granted to people who can show off the tour company or the city’s tourism in the most favorable light. I love press trips as much as the next person, and many of my favorite journeys have been facilitated by companies who have made sure that I see the very best of the country or area they are trying to promote. However, I’ve made sure to warn them beforehand that I will be honest with readers.
So what can we do as bloggers and travelers to convey a sense of reality to our travels? For me, it’s important to share both the good and the bad, but it’s a fine line between receiving benefits for what you do and to do it in an ethical way.
Accept reviews for products that are in line with your brand
I focus on adventure travel for Generation-Y, which is a very specific niche. I’ve been sent products that definitely not in line with my readership and what they would be interested in. One example of this was the original Try the World box. While I loved the concept, it was a bit too expensive for my readers, which I pointed out in my review. A few months later, they sent me their much cheaper snack box, which I was happy to recommend to my readers.
Getting free stuff is nice, but unless you actually believe in the product, it’s not a good idea to recommend it to people who trust you and your expertise.
Show the good—and the bad too
I’ll admit it—it’s hard to share the gritty side of travel sometimes. I wrote a post recently about my time in Lisbon, Portugal. While I mentioned I was tired after a long flight, I didn’t fully explain what I didn’t like about the city. Readers were confused how I spent an entire post writing about the things I liked rather than the parts that weren’t my favorite. It didn’t ring true and I felt like I wasn’t being honest. I wanted to love Lisbon but I just didn’t, which is the message I really should have shared with the people reading my blog.
Let the readers get to know you
One of my favorite bloggers is Alice Nettleingham from Teacake Travels. She’s candid and has a voice that is recognizable. Along with working with companies, she also shares valuable information with readers—some of it incredibly personal.
Lifestyle porn bothers me because it prescribes to a certain kind of voice that influencers think will do well and help them gain free trips and products. This might be for a while, but styles change. Your readers might get tired of hearing about which lotion you use while abroad, but they aren’t going to get tired of well-written stories and your voice. Make your passion the reason why readers keep coming back instead of the seemingly-perfect life you live (because that’s not authentic).
Ethical blogging isn’t always easy. It can be hard to share difficult events and to give an honest review about a trip that was paid for. But it is important. As more and more travel writing is available online, let’s remind readers that it’s not all fun and games—and that’s part of the adventure too.