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.
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.
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?