Why Travel Blogs May Be Doing More Harm Than Good

According to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie the single story is dangerous.

A single story depicts a person’s life based on information from outside sources.  For example: The Celebrity.

What story comes to mind when you think of a celebrity?

Rich; extravagant; children with weird names; always in the news; maybe tax trouble?

My single story of the celebrity contains images that I’ve seen countless times and assume are the norm for celebrities.  Do you come up with a different story?

Large View of Travel Blogs
The Single Story Traveler

 What story comes to mind when you think of a traveler?

The Single Traveler Story is full of people like James Asquith, the 24 year old who traveled to every country and Gary Ardnt of Everything Everywhere, a savior among  armchair travelers.  Popularity of these types of travelers has fueled the blogosphere boom of traveler clones who:

  • quit or strive to quit their jobs to travel,
  • have constantly amazing fun (or awful times like having a cold in Maui – boo hoo), and
  • have cracked the code of infinite travel – “There’s no secret to frequent travel.  Eat oatmeal for breakfast, lunch and dinner to save your money.  Then travel!”

These blogs are the stories of, “I came, I saw, I conquered and you should too!”  From time to time, a rebel goes off the beaten path, but only after seeing the main tourist attractions.

The travel blog is harmful because it shows a recurring, false story that newbie travelers think they must live up to.

They put off traveling because they can’t take a month off work to backpack across Asia.  They become lazy and follow top ten lists without doing their own research.  Or worse, they assume that bloggers have an inheritance to travel so much and newbies decide they’ll wait until retirement to travel.

Destroying The Single Traveler Story

While at a University, a student told Chimamanda that it was a shame that Nigerian men were abusers like the father character in Chimamanda’s novel.  In reply, Chimamanda said that she’d read a novel called American Psycho and that is was a shame that young Americans were serial murderers!

The point is that a few stories (or blog posts) can’t tell the full story of a person or group of people.

While major news networks didn’t cover the suicide of popular travel blogger Anita Mac, it shook the travel community.  Bloggers put away the fun and games to participate in a dialogue of the unspoken “real” lives and the recurring woes of the frequent traveler.

The travel blogger lifestyle is an illusion.

Not that we set off to create fantastical versions of our lives to trick others.  In conversing with other bloggers, sharing experiences emerged as a popular reason we started blogging.  In our quest to find a niche – it’s recommended by experts to increase reader satisfaction and attract paying advertisers – we leave out anything that doesn’t fit a happy traveler image, including:

  • how much we hate our day jobs (only 1/4 of us use blogs as our only source of income),
  • the fights with our significant others and families about why, how often and where we travel,
  • the negative and boring details like how much of our vacation we spent in taxis or standing in line and
  • how lonely it can be if we don’t have a tribe of like minded people who understand our love for travel.

Instead, readers see:

  • the glam and glitz and top ten lists,
  • endless images of appealing destinations and smiles,
  • comments, retweets and likes showing that others consider us important, and
  • a single story traveler who’s living the good life.

Fight the urge to put travel bloggers into a single story because you run the risk of writing yourself out of the story.

Although bloggers travel to the same places (it’s inevitable considering the world grows smaller each day), we are all very different.  Regardless of what you see on travel blogs, our stories resemble regular life more often than not.

Once we log off our computers, we live in the same world as you.  

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  • fozz47

    As much as I am sorry that Anita Mac took her own life, both for the loss of her and the pain that it has caused those she left behind, I don’t think you can blame travel blogging or use it as a case that travel (or other) blogging is an inherently bad thing. Guess way, pretty much all blogging, reporting and writing puts the good parts up front and the bad parts either in the back ground or hidden altogether. On the other end of the spectrum, have you read a blog that emphasizes the bad part of a person’s life? They are depressing and almost unreadable. I read a lot of financial blogs and articles, and if I believed them I would think that I’m the only one who has ever lost money in the stock market. But writing about your lossess is not complelling, and won’t bring readers back.
    It may sound harsh, but there are plenty of people who aren’t professional travellers who have taken their own lives. Rock stars, actors, rich, poor, no one type of person is immune.

    • You make a great point! Many bloggers understand the need for feel good stories to keep readers coming back.

      I think that bloggers must have the skill to tell what sucks and use humor, a good attitude or a lesson learned to soften the harshness of reality for readers.

      Sure, the majority of the posts should be feel good type posts. I also think readers deserve to have the full story.

      If more people are willing to open up and share their struggles – as well as a silver lining – it may be the bit of inspiration a person needs to step away from the edge. And, I know that I may be hopelessly optimistic about that!

  • handicapped travel

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    • Thanks! I’m happy that you find the posts useful.