I’ve been in a funk lately, and there’s really no denying it. The reasons are complex and, frankly, private but the result is that I haven’t really been in the mood to pour my heart and soul onto the digital page. Part of that is also because I haven’t been doing a very good job in recent weeks of writing anything truly meaningful. Don’t get me wrong, I like most of what I’ve published on LandLopers and the content is solid, but it’s just that, content. I started LandLopers as a personal blog to share my thoughts and experiences, mostly about travel, but also about life, the universe and everything. For a whole host of reasons I’ve somehow gotten away from that and it’s time for a re-centering. I’m not the only one who needs this readjustment though. Scanning through the travel blogosphere, it’s disappointing to see how much it’s changed. When I met my first fellow travel bloggers in person, it was 2010 at the 2nd TBEX conference, which was held in New York City that year. Being in a room with other like-minded individuals was electrifying, and was one of many pokes I needed to make this weird job a full-time career. Some of those folks are still around, others have moved on but one quality we all shared was passion for travel, as well as a passion for sharing our stories with others. I feel that as a community we’ve slowly inched away from that storytelling; I know that I have. The reasons are many, complex and murky but it’s something I want to talk about today, more to get my thoughts out on virtual paper than any other reason. So, bear with me but I hope in the end this process will ultimately result in better blog posts. Will I still have listicles about what to do in XYZ and the best snacks in ABC? Yes, but interspersed will be stronger storytelling with an actual point.
How I strayed
Like anything else, the shift from storytelling to pamphlet writer was gradual. It was so gradual that I never noticed it was happening until it was too late. The problem was in how I shifted my blog into a business. As I worked with more and more destinations and companies, I felt equally obliged to write about them. They had, after all, invited me to visit for a reason. The more work trips I took, the more content I felt obligated to create and so on. It’s a beast that was never satiated, and I always felt behind in my committed content. This left precious little time to tell stories the way I wanted to tell them. Ironically enough, it was for this skill that countries and companies had wanted to work with me in the first place, but I lost sight of that fact. To be clear, no one asked me to write boring blog posts. No, I did that all on my own in an effort to please various stakeholders. What I really should have done, and will try to do more of, is to share more meaningful commentary from my trips that are imbued with a sense of place and personality. I may not be able to name all the restaurants who sponsored a meal, but that’s ok. It’s more important that I share what makes certain spots around the world special instead of pleasing one or two people.
New folks & Instagram
I also think that technology and a new influx of bloggers are part of the problem. Although I was slow to warm up to Instagram, once I did I loved it. It was the perfect platform for the travel experience. It gave me the opportunity to share photos as well as short form narrative in a way I couldn’t do anywhere else. Then Facebook bought it and since then it’s been a steady decline into obsolescence. As more and more people joined the community, that once endearing group of passionate people became diluted to the point of oblivion. People also realized that if they called themselves travel influencers, they could get free stuff. That’s why suddenly, every aspiring model and wanna-be star included “travel influencer” in their online profile. It suddenly became harder and harder for those of us who really are travel professionals to stand out, forcing us to take more dramatic steps. I feel sad whenever I see a longtime travel blogger suddenly try to emulate the new folks instead of just being themselves. The travel story is not told through breakfasts in bed, 6-pack abs or thong bikinis. No, the travel story is told through open minds, honest commentary and a fierce curiosity to learn as much about the world as possible. This does not happen around a resort’s pool.
I realize that I sound like an angry old man yelling at the kids to get off of his yard. But, I am old, I am angry and I do hate it when kids play on my yard, so it’s an apt comparison. It’s a shame that this once exciting, honest and compelling group of people has been reduced to kids taking off their clothes at amazing resorts around the world. But, for the most part, that’s where we are. There are some folks left like me, those who value the travel experience and the lessons we learn from every trip. There are those out there who treasure the opportunities to meet new people, learn their stories and then share them with the world. That’s what we should be rewarding, that’s what we should value and that’s what I will try to do more of moving forward. Yes, I will still have some slightly generic travel posts, sorry about that, but I think it’s all about balance. Not every post can be an award-winning piece, which is also why I plan on changing my publication schedule from daily to something a little more manageable. That will enable me to create posts that are more meaningful, more entertaining and, I hope, more honest. I won’t feel the stress of a crazy publication schedule, which I hope will allow me to recapture my muse and with it, my passion.
I love exploring the world more than anything else, that’s why I do what I do. But if my posts don’t possess that same passion, then I’m doing a disservice to you as well as to myself. Let’s change that and see what happens – what do you think?