I am currently sitting at the Las Vegas airport having just completed a multi-day press trip though the back country of California. The trip was one of those perfectly planned, beautiful adventures that leaves you nostalgic for places you never even knew existed. For the past few days I’ve had sand in my shoes, dirt on my legs and wind in my hair as I ventured across the Sierra Nevada mountains and made my way down to the desert of Death Valley.
Like most travel bloggers, I shared my trip along the way (when limited wifi would allow) and am equally guilty of posting wanderlust-inducing images on my social media. You know the ones—the faraway look into the distance as you sit perched on a cliff over a lake, the back-to-the-camera pose as sand dunes roll out in front of you, the inspirational quote paired seamlessly with a photo. We are all curators of the imagination when it comes to travel but the fact is that travel is not always as idyllic as we paint it to be.
I am wiling to bet that you have found yourself sick abroad looking like the crypt keeper. I, myself, fell ill in Morocco after some questionable chicken and found myself…well, let’s just say frequenting the bathroom. I am willing to wager that you have spent way too much time repeating a photo until you have the exact pose in the exact location that you want. I imagine you have set up your tripod and took 20 photos of you “naturally” looking at the sunset just to realize you’ve spent more time fiddling with your camera than enjoying the moment. I would stake my reputation on the chance that you’ve sat at airports in hoodies and askew glasses with cheap snacks at your feet looking anything but glamorous; yet you’ll share a photo that makes it seem like you’re a fashionista with a knack for looking impossibly fresh after transatlantic flights.
Why do we do this? Why do we insist on skipping over the details of travel that are less than flattering but ultimately endearing? Yes, I understand the allure of posing in front of the Eiffel Tower and of spinning in your pretty dress in front of the Swiss Alps; but isn’t it your experiences that differentiate you and ultimately make you stand out? I’ve been thinking a lot about travel blogging, have spent way too much time building my instagram account just to come to this one conclusion:
We all look the same.
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? Wouldn’t that differentiate us, make us more unique by sharing our unique stories? Wouldn’t it make travel seem more accessible to our readers rather than painting traveling as this unattainable ideal of perfection? I think so.
I’m no different from you, dear travel blogger, I’ve followed the classic formula that all travel bloggers do: easy-to-read posts + perfect images + inspirational quotes = a following. But if I go back to basics, back to why I started blogging in the first place it is because I wanted the adventure and thrill of travel, to embrace the unknown—flaws and all—and do what it takes to put myself in the way of unimaginable beauty. I wanted to inspire my readers to travel, to show them that it doesn’t take waiting for retirement to fly out on that dream trip or see the world, that travel is attainable and can be affordable.
So, here I am at the Las Vegas airport and I look like a mess. I just devoured a bag of Cheez-Its that I had to embarrassingly shake out of my shirt afterward. I am wearing a blue hoodie (compliments of my press trip) and glasses because my contacts have officially thrown in the towel after the sand dunes yesterday. I am exhausted and ready to go home but I have about 9 hours of travel ahead of me and 7 stories to write both for my blog and my editors over at Matador Network; but I’m happy and positively brimming with gratitude for all I’ve seen, for all I’ve yet to see and for my home—no matter how far away it is. This is travel writing to me and while I may still share idyllic snapshots, I will do my best to also share the good, the bad and the reality of travel blogging.