Have you ever read a backpacker’s blog and thought, something’s “missing” with this? Or “this feels so impersonal, did a robot write this?” Maybe it felt as if everything was too perfect. Something was missing. I’ve felt it before too when I’ve read travel blogs. In addition to writing, I also read other traveler blogs occasionally. The human aspect is often missing nowadays, the part that makes us feel connected to the writer. Impersonal articles are seemingly taking over the travel interwebs. It’s annoying as hell.
To me, it feels like travel blogs are now overly designed for “marketing” purposes, rather than providing an honest glimpse into the traveler’s true experience. Maybe the writer left out a level of personal depth that could bring the article to life. Or maybe their pictures don’t have any hints of personality. Everything in those blog articles feel too “perfect”.
Recently I’ve been on the hunt for good travel bloggers. My goal was to find some other travel writers that I could relate to and then have a steady flow of good reading material. You know…an honest look at their travel life, a little glimpse into their personality…to find something most travel bloggers wouldn’t write about, or maybe find a writing style that I could connect with. I like reading other people’s personal travel experiences. As I write this, I’m on Coronavirus lockdown in El Salvador and I would love to read some “real” backpacker stories. But good options are scarce out there.
Many Travel Blogs Are Noticeably Impersonal Now
One possibility is that this is result of business. People are utilizing their blog as a resource that compliments their own online business in some way. Whether it’s to boost online ads, get sponsorship for travel, sell products, or simply to earn the maximum number of followers on Social Media. Everyone wants to get more followers, more website visitors, more likes…more, more, more! It seems like that’s how everyone’s determining if their blog is “successful” or not. More!
Business isn’t bad within itself. However, naturally when business gets involved with anything, people become more careful and conservative in their appearances and messages. After all, writing that blog article about “Getting Drunk In Bocas Del Toro” may result in Twitter followers leaving or sponsors/advertisers questioning if your behavior are fit for their audience.
Another possibility is that everyone’s just too damn worried about criticism from their family members or friends. Someone that’s committed to showing their family that they are a “successful travel blogger” probably doesn’t want their family reading their articles about how they did upside down vodka shots on a river raft with locals in Chiang Mai. I get it. That’s too much. For most people, I wouldn’t suggest writing about wild experiences like that. Although that would certainly make for interesting content.
Fear Of Judgement Has Taken Over
At the core of us all is a fear to be judged. Blogs are public. Social media is public. Writing tends to be personal. Good writing exposes us in a deep way. Therefore, many writers have cut off the “personal” aspect of writing in order to defend from that fear of judgement. We tend to avoid dubious topics and steer away from anything that could lead to even one less twitter follower. And that has resulted in a blogging apocalypse, where everyone is essentially a robot that’s programmatically regurgitating review-like articles that lack a personal and intimate connection with our reader base.
Instead, we write about food we ate, photos we took, hotels we stayed in, etc. It’s like we’re reporters, reporting on the place we visited rather than sharing our personal experiences. And…that makes our blogs feel dry, lifeless and even dirty.
Personally, I don’t like reading reviews. If I want to read a review about something I’ll use YouTube to search for reviews. After all, video’s are better than text and photos for reviews. In fact, I don’t even write reviews anymore because I don’t want to waste space in the already-saturated travel interwebs.
“What Happens Abroad Stays Abroad”
Shenanigans happen in Las Vegas, so it’s easy to understand the infamous phrase “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”. In other words, people don’t like to talk about their wild experiences after the trip is over. It seems that travel bloggers have adopted that same practice to traveling abroad too.
I understand that people have a sense of privacy, and rightfully so. I do too. People should be private…live and let live. But if they’re just writing reviews and hiding their personality, they’re basically just a review robot. And that sucks. Most travelers have an interesting personality on one way or another. They could connect so well through writing their personal experiences in an honest way, at least honest enough that I can feel like readers can “know” them.
Every time that I’ve travelled abroad to go backpacking I always visit beautiful sights, have crazy adventures, eat incredible food and meet awesome people. These are all incredibly valuable parts of my trips. But there’s more. On all of my trips, there’s nearly always some form of shenanigans involved. Here are some examples:
- Nights out drinking with other friendly travelers,
- Dancing with newly met friends,
- Drinking beers and taking tequila shots,
- Eating late night street vendor food,
- Going to music festivals,
- Going bar hopping,
- Skinny dipping with new friends,
- Getting sick or injured,
- Forgetting to plan ahead,
- Making a poor decision and backtracking,
- Anything that’s borderline risky that won’t lead to death.
I don’t have any expectation that other people do these things or write about these things. These are only examples. My point is that sharing personal experiences, beyond the norm, tends to be a better experience for readers. These are things that demonstrate personality. These things permit a connection. It shows the writer is a human, not just a review robot.
The Disconnect Between Real And Online
There is a disconnect between the backpacker community and the online travel community (twitter, facebook, blogs, etc). I love talking to other backpackers. They’re full of stories, full of life and have a positive energy. And when I’m traveling it seems I can’t go anywhere without running into incredible people. They’re everywhere. I love it.
But something strange happens the moment that I go online. In online travel communities there’s a lack of honesty. People present travel in a different light. Writers make it seem like traveling is always a “picture perfect” experience. Then they focus on food, hotels, transportation and everything that everyone else has already written about.
“Real” backpacking experiences are rarely represented online. Additionally, for those that are true backpackers – their “spark” is often missing. You can feel the lack of energy. They don’t write blogs that accurately represent their experiences. They write lifeless “reviews” of places and restaurants. For example, instead of noting the two hour conversation that we had, getting lost, or mentioning the awesome dog that followed us on the trail, they’ll just write a review of the restaurant that we ate at and a review of the view at the top of the volcano. Ugg. So much missed opportunity!
Why is this happening?
Where is the spark of energy? The real experiences? Maybe everyone is so concerned about SEO that they’re losing their soul. I’ve
Personally, when I write, I write to remember my experience and to give my readers some good insight into the interesting events that took place (just to be clear, I don’t have a large following of readers). I love to give a shout out to the good friends I’ve met. I provide details that most people would just overlook. And I do that because I love looking back and remembering the awesome experiences that I had. Even the tiniest of details can put a smile on my face years later.
Coming Full Circle (Writing Personal & Memorable Stories)
People write a lot. But they don’t write about truly personal experiences anymore. Like…real, honest, vulnerable stories of their adventures. Sometimes that’s the kind of stuff that I want to read about in addition to the beautiful scenery and hiking conditions. Those extra pieces add character. It makes people feel human.
It feels like the soul has been ripped out of everyone’s blogs. And that’s sad, and even slightly annoying to me. We’re better than this!
Backpackers, digital nomads, weekend travelers, and vacationers…bring the life back to your writing!
Hopefully someone in the universe takes something positive away from this.
Thanks for reading!