I've been lying to you.
I've been living under the illusion that I have to be a certain way as a blogger, that I need to fit a formula.
Travel bloggers own floppy hats, I thought. They wear flouncy, floral dresses and talk about how amazing things are all the time. All the while, they drink prosecco daily and don't gain any weight. Their skin is flawless, even without makeup or filters.
They post 3-5 times a day on social media from Bali, Cali, London, you name it. They vlog their every waking moment and share their ups and downs, though they keep the down parts light of course. They have amazing clothes, hair, lashes, perfect manicure and more.
On top of that, their day-jobs are fulfilling, robust, stimulating, rewarding. They are focused, successful, strong. They are centred as shit too! They meditate, do yoga, roll on magical oils and kick ass every damn day.
Does anyone else just want to go back to bed yet? Sounds exhausting, doesn't it?
All of what I have listed, and there is so much MORE, takes a lot of time. It's draining and it quickly feels like a job. You feel like you are racing to keep up, to get to a destination, but it's not clear what that destination is. I don't mean an exotic beach destination in Thailand, I mean an existential one.
I have been trying and failing to do this job well. I've been hiding the ugly details of travelling, being a "blogger", and being part of social media in a way I feel uncomfortable with. I've been lying to you about life as a blogger. So, I'm not going to lie to you anymore.
I Took a Month Off
The big turning point that got me here happened in June.
I took the month off to spend time with family in Canada, taking a break from writing. Taking this time away from social, away from aggressively scheduling and content creation was amazing. I ate carbs, skipped makeup most days, worked on my "real work", and slept like a baby every night.
I also went to a travel blogging conference with my friend Melissa Eapen, of Adventure Deficit Disorder, where we met influencers, photographers, bloggers, authors, etc. Attending the conference gave me a chance to critically examine sponsored travel blogging, paid social media, influencer marketing, affiliate marketing, and so on.
To be clear, by examine, I mean realize I completely loathe it.
There were some other major discoveries that crystalized for me last month.
I Really Hate Social Media
One major takeaway from the conference was that we need to create "learn from me content", not just "look at me content". The look at me content we are all guilty of consuming or creating is often fake, highly edited, and inauthentic. It's BS to put it simply.
Social media, especially the aspirational travel social media movement, is toxic as hell.
This frantic feeling of needing to post, needing to create engaging content all hours of the day, is awful. It's a frenzied feeling of trying to manipulate life's moments into little snaps of useable content.
Let's look at the photo below as an example. This photo is staged, hollow, fake, bland, and I hate what it represents.
It represents that frenzied, anxious feeling of trying to get content out of every moment. Because if you didn't post it on your Instagram did it even really happen?
The fake, relentlessly paced world of social media wasn't a positive outlet for my anxiety. It was making it noticeably worse.
Travel is Not a Magic Pill
Travel is amazing. I keep saying this over and over. It really is, but I think people want me to tell them that it is perfect. It isn't.
While I don't think I have been running around telling everybody how perfect travel life is, I could do a better job being honest about how it really is, day in, day out.
The darker side, the moments of stress, disappointment, struggle, worry, that go along with living a life on the road get tucked away or glossed over in most of my content. I address it, but it zips by before you have a chance to get too close to it.
See the photo below for example. Me, sick, overwhelmed, and completely exhausted in a Beijing hotel. I would never share this photo on my social media in 1000 years. Well, here it is. Unedited.
I also don't share much about the challenges of running a business while travelling full time.
These things can't be glossed over anymore.
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My Academic Brain is Dying
Most of you probably don't know that I was on the academic route for the better part of a decade. Ph.D., post-Doctoral Research, moving to the states and working for MSNBC, that was my dream, boys and girls.
While I only made it to my Master's before burning out, I completely buried the academic side of my life, almost overnight.
Within a few months of not getting into my Ph.D. program of choice, and dealing with some major family trauma, I moved to Toronto, started working in marketing, and have since spent the last few years running a tech start-up with my husband. I even stopped reading, watching the news, or paying any attention to thought leaders in my field of research. I ghosted academia HARD.
My academic brain is withered, weak, and needs to be rehabilitated before I lose it forever.
So, while I am disheartened with the world of travel blogging after my recent round of soul searching, I am more confident than ever that I am a writer at my core. THAT is what I need to be doing. Writing.
Not fluff. Not meaningless promoted posts about face creams I don't even like, but real writing about travel, how much humans are both terrible and awesome.
I'm Anxious About It All
Talking about my anxiety and worries has been an exercise in acceptance over the past year since I started The Hesitant Adventurer.
You guys, my readers, my family, have all been so accepting and supportive as I work through my nervous tendencies and try to live an adventurous life.
It's also been an exercise in self-acceptance and self-love as I work to acknowledge my true self and be authentic. Even though the authenticity has been lacking, I am ready to make a change and be more real with you all and with myself.
So, I am anxious about my usual stuff, but at least I don't have to feel like an imposter anymore.
(Thanks to my friend Gab for sharing this perfectly timed meme with me today.)
Things Have to Change
I have to stop being homogenous and vague in my content. I have to write more clear pieces that touch on real issues. I need to share what is making me anxious, what I think needs to change, and so on. I have to be real.
I still want to share lighthearted content and city guides and be a fun loving Instagrammer, holding my hat, sipping wine, and looking perfect (being perfect) ALL the time, but I can't. I just can't attempt to do it anymore.
I feel confident now that I'm a writer, not a blogger. I guess I thought in this new world order that if I wanted to write I had to behave a certain way online.
So, no more lies! Well, fewer lies at least.
I hope you stick around, read, learn, and grow along with me.