It is 2am in New York City with sleep alluding me. I find myself scrolling through my iPhone to pass the time: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Bloglovin’—I routinely keep a pulse on what other travel bloggers are up to the way a financier might keep one eye always trained on the stock market. I take note of the blog posts that rise to the top of the pile on Bloglovin’, make an effort to comment and like the work of my peers, look at what is working for other bloggers and the brands they are partnering with.
As I scroll through my updates on this particular evening, I am struck by a striking realization–all the travel bloggers are beginning look the same. Every photo seems to be of a fellow twenty-something with sun-kissed skin and ocean-drenched hair, staring off at a sunset with an inspirational quote as the caption. Every blog post appears to be a quick listicle with lifeless tips: buy this, eat that, sleep here, go there.
Is travel blogging starting to lose its soul, its feeling, its story telling? I can turn to guide books for that dry and easy-to-read city guide but if I’m on your website I want to hear your story and travel tips picked up along the way. Tell me about the whirlwind romance you had in Buenos Aires, about the time you got lost and found the best street food in Vietnam. Regale me with stories of solo traveling, of finding yourself across Europe, of feeling lonely in Dubai, of making new friends at a hostel in Istanbul, of getting lost in Morocco and learning about yourself in Colombia. I recently read a piece about a young travel blogger with a degenerative eye disease who is seeing as much of the world as she can before she goes blind. The story was powerful and raw, it was genuine and real; above all it was unique and unlike any other story I’ve read.
In the end, our content overlaps, our photos look interchangeable and the horrifying question arises: are all travel bloggers becoming alike?
My solution has been to find ways to turn The Pin the Map Project into my own domain; to walk that fine line between following that formula to success without losing the aspects of my site that make it unique. Dispatch is my answer to this, my attempt to bring in my love for long form journalism (a dying breed) and to churn out blogposts that can be provocative, hard hitting and even controversial. Similarly, Journal is where my writers and I bare our souls and dare to be real; dare to share a story that is our own.
In my Open Letter to Travel Bloggers—published a few months ago—I shared these same thoughts that we all work hard to look idyllic on social media and end up looking exactly the same as a result. All of us in idyllic locations, with idyllic poses and idyllic quotes.
Cartwheeling across open roads, spinning in front of monuments, looking profoundly into the distant horizon; we’re all guilty of it.
But here’s what I’m thinking; what if we allowed some imperfections to shine through our images and writing? What if we dared to talk about the time we got sick in Africa? Share the story of the time we were lost abroad? Show images of our flaws and travel mistakes? Write blog posts that challenge and question the norm? Wouldn’t that differentiate us, make us more unique by sharing our unique stories and opinions? Wouldn’t it make travel seem more accessible to our readers rather than painting traveling as this unattainable ideal of perfection? I think so.
What do you think? Are travel bloggers starting to look alike? How do you find ways to stand apart from the rest? Share your thoughts, comments and questions below!