The first time I heard of body editing within the travel world, I was on a press trip in the Caribbean. I was speaking with a fellow traveler who had recently come across a blogger she learned was editing her body in photos. The blogger (who will be left anonymous) had gotten into the controversial habit of trimming inches off her waist before posting to Instagram. Whether she did this from societal pressure, insecurities or something else entirely; I found it heart breaking that a woman would feel the need to distort her image so dramatically (and unnecessarily, I might add).
I had figured this was an isolated event; an unfortunate reality of one specific blogger; then months later I came across another blogger doing the same. She too would trim her waist in photos, cut her thighs and distort her body for the sake of Instagram likes.
It was at this moment I realized body editing is not an isolated event but—horror of all horrors—might be a trend.
In recent years, body editing has bubbled to the surface of the fashion world. Reports of what editors cut from photos have shocked and angered thousands of readers. Wrinkles are expunged. Belly fat is trimmed. Imperfections are eliminated, leaving the public with an impossible standard of beauty. Lush, voluminous hair. An unattainable waist-to-breast ratio. A pink-kissed complexion that most of us haven’t seen since our baby years. Within the world of fashion—an industry heavily focused on outward appearance—it is somewhat expected that body editing would occur but within the world of travel blogging?
I wondered why travel bloggers in an industry focused on destinations were choosing to alter their bodies for photos.
Admittedly, I am as guilty of editing my photos as the next person. I toy around with saturation. I up the contrast. I distort exposure to turn an otherwise lackluster photo into something brilliant. Yet in the four years that I’ve been travel blogging, it hasn’t even occurred to me to alter my body in a photo. Not to say that there aren’t things that could stand to be altered. My skin is prone to breakouts. I’m short at 5’4. I can be as self conscious in a bikini as the next woman. In other words, I am a real person. Why would I bother with body editing, though? I am a travel writer. My stories are about travel. What matters most to me are my words not my looks.
I spoke about this one day with one of my favorite travel bloggers, Amelia of xameliax.com, who made a fantastic video about the ease of digital photo editing. In her video, Amelia uses an app to edit a bikini shot in under two minutes. A tuck here, lift there and suddenly Amelia’s bikini shot looked entirely different. The point of Amelia’s video is to both shine light on the ease with which people can edit their bodies and to show the reality behind social media. Her final message is to embrace who you are! As Amelia puts it, “if we were all the same, it would be pretty damn boring.”
Body editing within the travel space seems to be a symptom of a larger problem, which is the need to appear perfect in every photo. What once began as a narrative about discovering cultures has somehow morphed into a look-based endeavor; one where what a travel blogger is wearing is somehow more important than where they are. Recently, I wrote an article about anti-travel bloggers, an empowering new wave of bloggers that are breaking barriers and prioritizing honesty. My hope is that as more honesty is injected into travel blogging; the pressure to twirl, pose and distort bodies for likes will diminish.
I was drawn to travel blogging because of how beautiful, transformative and inspiring soul searching in exotic locales can be. While backpacking in Europe, solo traveling in Argentina, practicing meditation in Bali or camel trekking in Morocco; my looks didn’t matter to me. Which isn’t to say, I walked around in potato sacks and took no care of my personal appearance; but rather what I felt mattered more than how I looked. What worries me about body editing is that it alienates readers should their own bodies not match the ideals that bloggers can create. While traveling in Laos, I met a lovely, older travel blogger who would take care to hide her body in photos. Being slightly heavy set, the woman felt insecure about taking full body photos and sharing them on social media.
That’s the truth about body editing, it can create a sense of unattainability and foster insecurity. It can shame fellow bloggers and readers from taking their own photos, for fear it won’t look as “good” as the ones they’ve seen.
At the end of the day, I hope this body editing trend stops right here. That the people who feel the need to photoshop their waists will realize their decision impacts more than just them, but sets unrealistic standards for everyone. Body editing within travel blogging ultimately cheapens the industry and shifts focus from inspiration, discovery and cultural beauty to something else entirely.
What do you think about body editing within travel blogging? Share your comments below!