I have a generally low opinion of the state of travel blogging today. You don't need to be the world's most popular blogger nor the world's greatest writer to be able to separate the proverbial piss from the rain – and there's a lot of piss out there, folks. There have never been more people writing about travel than there are now, and a depressingly large percentage of that writing is – and I'll get colloquial here for a moment – crap. There. I said it, I meant it, and I'm here to represent it.
I expect quality writing and critical perspectives from travel bloggers. I expect ethical standards, intelligence, and all-around human decency. And yes, there are MANY great bloggers out there whom I respect and admire...but this piece isn't about them. This piece is about those travel bloggers and digital nomads who need to drastically step up their game. I refuse to believe that these are standards too rigorous for the field, and so it's time to start calling out the BS.
So without further ado, here comes the snark.
1. You Ride Elephants, Swim With Dolphins, and/or Pet Tigers
Contrary to popular belief, animals aren't here for our perpetual amusement. Animals, like people, should be allowed to live free and dignified lives without being poked and prodded by idiotic tourists hoping to snag some pics for their Instagram. If you want to see them, see them in their natural habitats or at an ethical animal sanctuary.
For some further reading on the topic you can start with these articles:
- Lonely Planet - How To Interact Ethically With Elephants in Thailand
- The Dodo - The Disturbing Truth Behind Your Swim With The Dolphins
- National Geographic - More Controversy For Tiger Temple
2. You Support “Voluntourism”
First, read this because it's awesome.
Ok, “voluntourism” is the seemingly awesome mix of volunteering and tourism. In short, you go some where and do some volunteer work while also getting to experience a new locale, usually somewhere economically downtrodden. On paper, it's supposed to shed light on important issues and bring in much-needed skills and tourist dollars to fix said issues. Unfortunately that's not really how it works. Do you know why?
Because people who are not trained as, say, bricklayers don't have the necessary training to, say, lay bricks to build a school.
Because people who are not, say, trained as child educators or teachers don't have the necessary training to, say, effectively teach a classroom.
Do you see where I am going with this? If you have a particular set of skills and want to volunteer abroad to put them to use, do it! If you don't have those skills, by all means go and travel but don't think that your 2 year Creative Writing certificate will somehow make you an expert at anything other than creative writing...and even that is pushing it. The world doesn't need any more white saviours.
3. You Hustle "Laptop Secrets"
If your travel website or social media profile is all about teaching people how to earn a FULL-TIME INCOME from their laptop, all with help of your SECRETS (dutifully highlighted by emojis) then you, my friend, are officially a disappointing digital nomad.
These laptop gurus all have the same trite landing page that promises the same trite results. All you need is my email, right? And I get all the answers, right?
I call BS.
These people remind of used car salesmen: a smooth facade immaculately pasted over a questionable underbelly. The world doesn't need more people selling crap systems to get rich quick. The world needs more genuinely decent and interesting people exploring, connecting, thinking, and wondering. So you can keep your secrets, you “freedom-preneur” you.
4. You Follow/Unfollow
This is painfully common on Instagram these days, as travel bloggers and digital nomads attempt to unceasingly grow their number of social media followers.
First, the digital nomad or blogger will follow someone. That someone will naturally take a look at who they are and might just follow them back. Within the next 24 hours, the digital nomad will then unfollow them, boosting their ever-important number of followers while keeping their “Followed” number low.
It's cheap, it's disingenuous, and it's all too common.
Social media sages suggest using this method for rapid growth, and it has been tragically embraced by the travel blogging community. I've been followed and then unfollowed by a copious amount of big name travel bloggers (some of the biggest out there, to be honest) who I shant name but who have lost a lot of my respect.
Don't get me wrong, I'm more than happy to follow you on social media if you produce good content, regardless of whether you follow me or not. BUT if you follow me just to lure me into your warm digital embrace only to leave me once I've followed you...well, I will likely just unfollow you in return. Do you know why? Because that's a shitty way to operate.
5. You Comment With No Like
I'll keep riding the social media train here for a moment. #snarkfest2k16
If you leave a positive comment on a photo (say, on Instagram or Facebook) but don't like the photo you're pulling a bit of a jerk move. If it's “Gorgeous!” or “Amazing!” enough to warrant some applauding emojis then why the heck isn't it good enough for a like? Let's see some consistency here, people.
👌 👍 👊 🙏 🙌 👏 😍 💖
6. You Post Deceptive Photos
In case no one mentioned it to you, your audience is smarter than you think. We can tell practiced yoga poses from mere imitations; we can clearly spot the difference between actual meditation postures and...whatever it is you are doing. If you do yoga or meditate, that's awesome – keep it up and share your photos! If you don't, however, stop being a poser. It makes you look shallow and phoney. Be yourself.
P.S. - If you snap a photo of some far-flung city and then sneak in a bunch of irrelevant #hashtags just to get more likes you are just asking to be called a tool.
7. You Religiously Post Generic Quotes
Naturally, I've saved the best for last. And by best I mean the very, very worst. Few things are more disappointing in the world of travel than those generic, repetitive travel quotes. Sure, if you want to sparsely pepper your blog or social media with them than do it, no harm, no foul. But if you want to do it daily, vomiting the same dozen quotes onto some stock image with a wanderlusty font? For the love of God, spare us. Everyone and their dog shares those very same quotes, and we are all getting pretty tired of seeing them. They were cool a few years ago, but it's time for something original.
“But they are inspiring!” you say?
Not if you see the same quotes every day. Why not come up with some original ideas that are inspiring, instead? Do something unique. You just find out that you like it.
My friends, I'm a firm believer that travel is a privilege. It would be swell if digital nomads and travel bloggers alike stopped abusing that privilege and started making ethical content worthy of their readers. /endrant
P.S. – Did you know I wrote a book. It's available on Amazon, so check it out!