If a travel blogger finds happiness in a forest, but has no way to document it, did the moment ever happen?
Ok. It’s time. I’m whistle-blowing on all these perfect travellers. Because if I see ONE more photo showing a stunning model in a bikini on a beach with the headline: GET PAID TO TRAVEL! HOW TO BUILD A BLOG IN 30 DAYS!
Well. I think I’m just going to have to rant about it.
Because travelling is not picture-perfect. It’s messy. It’s emotional. It goes wrong most of the time. Some days you’re scared shitless – you’ve no idea what you’re doing or where you’re going, you just have to listen to your gut instinct, and sometimes your gut takes a timeout.
And yet, every day, I am bombarded with these beautiful images of travel bloggers, nomads and freelancing gurus who are claiming to be paid the big bucks to live their luxury lifestyle. Yup. That’s right. Paid to live luxuriously.
Something feels off, right?
Keep scrolling, and you’ll spot these living models of the ‘adventurous’ lifestyle. “Quit your 9 – 5 and make 6 figure salaries whilst living in Bali”, they say, winking from an infinity pool in a rainforest. “Life’s too short. Challenge yourself and travel.” Another says, this one spinning in a red dress and sunhat, with a gorgeous guy for extra arm candy.
Gosh, I think. I’ve been doing it wrong. My idea of arm candy is a bottle of fly repellent and facewipes. As for my clothes, if I’m not wearing my trusty fleece, walking trousers or muddied boots, I’m practically naked. So how on earth do they fit colour-coordinating bikinis, sun hats and matching accessories into their rucksacks?
And what’s more, they all seem rather skilled in capturing the precise moment they feel pure happiness or serenity, using whatever tech is lying around, say a Go Pro, a drone or a cluster of iPhones. (I think back to a few moments where I have been truly happy whilst travelling. I’d hardly ever remember to grab a camera. Maybe I’ve just got slow reflexes.)
I keep waiting for the realities of ‘the digital nomad’ and ‘freelancers’ to be talked about. Whilst they all look like they’re ‘living the dream’, I can’t help but wonder what they’re really thinking. Who knows how much pressure they might be under to get over 10,000 likes on a promotional image. Whether they’d had to break up with their partner due to the time apart, or were desperately trying to do long distance. How they might be watching their bank balance, a yo-yo-ing number that rules the tomorrow, deciding whether to find more freelance work. How they might be missing out on paradise, too busy firing off snapchats, Instagram stories, Facebook live videos and blogs to meet a deadline. Living the dream is very different to dreaming the dream.
I’m afraid these travellers are becoming brands, each a model to social media’s catwalk of the best lifestyles. Fair play to them, they have travelled, grown a following, and brands have paid attention and realised they are the best billboards to advertise with.
But it can be damaging. There is a scarily blurred line between marketing and reality. Before, an advert was an advert. We knew what we were looking at. Now, it’s harder to tell what is genuine and what is product placement. My role models, these top travellers whose words are followed by thousands, don’t seem to be representing themselves anymore, they are representatives to a hidden bidder.
So here’s the truth. Living and working whilst travelling is not picture perfect. Whatever lifestyle you choose, there are mishaps, instability, heartbreaks, loneliness and fear, and travelling is just the same, no matter how great the highlights are. I guess the reality just isn’t as photogenic.