I’ve been blogging about travel for almost 8 years, which is generational in the digital world. I’ve seen lots of changes over those years, both positive and negative. In general, I try to ignore what other online writers and photographers are doing and instead concentrate on my own work. Lately though I’ve seen so much digital refuse that I’ve very nearly at my boiling point. But, instead of shouting at the sky, I’ve decided instead to be constructive. I want to highlight some errors that I think people make either in doling out travel advice or in the travel experience itself and offer thoughts on what I think is the right course of action. Don’t worry though, I have a feeling that a very ranty post is imminent.
Hotels are crucial
There’s a reason why I’m a luxury traveler and it’s not because I like to be surrounded by nice things, although that never hurts. No, I err on the side of experiential luxury travel because of how much it transforms my trips into life moments I know I’ll never forget. There are many moving parts and actors in creating the perfect travel experience, but one that I don’t think gets enough attention is where we as travelers choose to spend the night. Too many travelers ignore the importance of hotels, choosing instead inexpensive options falsely believing that where they sleep doesn’t matter. But the hotels are also at fault. I don’t believe they do a good enough job at marketing their true strengths. They’re excellent at sharing photos of models in their pools or people eating breakfast in bed, but that’s not why people decide to stay with them. It’s for their inherent value in the travel experience and hotels would be smart to remember that. A great hotel will provide us with an amazing location from which to explore the area, but the hospitality is what matters most. How we as guests are welcomed and then shown local communities matters a great deal and, thanks to a new understanding of this inherent power, more and more people are finally understanding its value. Simply said, great hospitality has the power to transform adventures into exceptional experiences and hotels are at the center of that.
Travel is more than Instagram
I think a lot about Instagram and lately those thoughts have centered on many of the more popular travel accounts out there and how unrealistic they really are. There are exceptions, there is to every rule, but a significant percentage of travel-related Instagram influencers are actually doing a disservice not only to their fans and followers, but the broader travel community. Instagram has been an incredible force for good and many experts now believe that it is at least in part responsible for the incredible percentage of Millennials who travel the world. And that’s great. Well, it’s great until their hopes and dreams are shattered once they actually visit that so-called idyllic spot. No, not everyone is a model, not everyone eats breakfast in fancy hotel beds and there’s a lot more to the travel experience than hanging out at resort pools. Many of the stories I’ve seen shared on Instagram are empty and soulless. They miss the entire point of the travel experience which, in turn, trains would-be travelers that it’s the trappings that matter and not the experiences. I’d love to see this change, but I’m not entirely optimistic that it will.
Frequency or distance doesn’t matter
Travel marketing is aspirational. It’s bringing those calendars come to life; it’s about making the would-be traveler WANT to travel around the world. And that is great; it’s a concept I wholeheartedly support. But since I first started this web site I have been concerned that it makes many people feel that if they can’t spend a week in the Maldives, then travel isn’t a worthwhile experience. Nothing could be further from the truth, in fact, even short trips close to home are crucial because travel always – always – has an effect upon us. So don’t worry if you can’t gallivant around the world, travel as often as you can and go to the places you want to see. You’ll realize the same benefits and will enjoy the experiences in ways I bet you can’t even imagine now.
Good travel blogs can be useful
I’ve written very long posts on this subject in the past and have a lot to say on the topic even now, but I’ll try to be succinct for the purposes of this post. Independent travel blogs are not guidebooks or magazines, they are personal interpretations of how an individual (or individuals for multi-author blogs) travels and perceives the world. Personal is the key word here. They should be all about the individual writing them, they should be biased and they should not be comprehensive guides to any given place. That’s how and why blogs became popular in the first place, and yet so many bloggers seem to have forgotten that basic tenet in recent years.
A good travel blog should not be a travel guide. If you see a post listing everything to see and do in Paris, don’t read it. What’s the point? Now, if that same author wrote about the 10 things they personally love to see and do in Paris, then that would have some value. It would reflect their personality and would be interesting. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the value of a good travel blog.
That being said, there is a fine line one must negotiate as a blogger between providing information that is personalized and information that is simply egotistical. I’ve seen a recent, and sad, phenomenon of young men and women who seem to be all about fluff instead of substance. They purport to have a blog, they write (albeit poorly) but really it’s a platform in which to showcase themselves. I’m not sure how or why this weird trend of models turned travel writers occurred, but it’s not good for the overall profession. They cheapen it and they take away from what’s important all in the vain attempt to increase their own notoriety and probably score some free trips in the process. No, a good travel blog should be about the individual writing it, but it’s also the responsibility of that writer to address the needs and concerns of his or her audience. It’s tough, no doubt there, which is why the most successful travel bloggers are also fiercely intelligent and driven people. Most of the successful travel bloggers are in their second or third careers in life and of the ones I know they come from industries as impressive as medicine, law, banking, politics and more. These aren’t the stereotypical young 20-somethings on a gap year; they are smart professionals who simply have an unconventional job. That’s also why they’ve succeeded, because they have the mental acuity to walk that tightrope and deliver content that is honest and engaging, without being braggadocious or self-aggrandizing. Keep that in mind when looking at travel blogs, are they using you or are they serving you?
Travel is fun, at least it should be, and working in the travel world is a dream come true for me. But it’s a job I take very seriously because I know how many folks look to people like me for advice and help when planning their own vacations. There is no barrier to entry though in creating online content, so it really is up to the reader to decide for themselves what is and what isn’t useful but I hope posts like this one help them navigate that uncertain terrain with a little more ease.