A few years ago, after teaching English abroad and before my current job, my main professional focus was travel blogging and social media. When not physically traveling, it took up the majority of my time. I posted frequently, grew a successful Instagram account and got to do a lot of amazing things. While I made some money and got a lot of travel opportunities or products for free, I wasn’t in the big leagues or anything. I had a long way to go, but things were picking up.
Then, almost three years ago I got a job leading tours around the U.S. for 4-7 months at a time. It was a dream job for me, one where I could use all the expertise and take people to amazing destinations first hand. I wasn’t behind a computer screen for 10 hours a day. I wasn’t responding to emails without seeing anyone face-to-face.
When on the job, I was fully emerged in the day-to-day tasks of planning, organizing and leading a successful organized holiday vacation. It was something I was naturally good at, and at the same time, it took up every spare moment of my time. There are no real breaks when you’re on a tour. There’s also never enough sleep.
Gradually with each season, I found myself more and more distant from travel blogging and sharing my life on social media. For one, with the extremely busy schedule I barely had the time. Secondly, I came to realize it just wasn’t for me. It didn’t make me happy. Travel blogging no longer felt special.
I haven’t posted a blog article in months. I took a 4 month break from sharing any photo on my blog social media channels. My followers are constantly dwindling. But I don’t actually care.
Then & Now
When I started this blog many people didn’t know you could make money writing about travel online. It was definitely picking up, but it was nowhere similar to how it is today. I was in Korea, desperately in need of a project to motivate myself again. I didn’t particularly enjoy teaching, and I was trying to get through a job contract I was more than ready to be over. I saw that people were traveling for free and I figured if someone else was doing it, I could too.
After a few months of almost-constantly working on my blog, I had made new friends (that are still some of my best today), was part of and online community and felt like I was actually contributing helpful travel information to the inter-webs. Not to forget, it was also therapeutic. I was never particularly great at English grammar, but I enjoyed the challenge of writing. The reflections on my travels helped me process them, and in turn they seemed to help other people out from time to time, too.
Over the last couple of years, the travel blogging climate has morphed into something totally different. Something I slowly began to feel uncomfortable with, almost to the point of giving it up completely. Also, travel blogging as a whole has become tired, fake & sometimes outright detrimental to the way and reason many people now travel. (For more on that topic specifically, this is a great article).
Why would I want to be part of a culture like that?
Over the past few years there has been a rapid increase in travel blogs and the importance of social media. During that time, as my blog was picking up, so was the competition. Soon, instead of just needing to post helpful or interesting articles frequently, you also had to be a professional at SEO, have a popular Twitter, tons of Instagram followers, a beautiful Pinterest account, share every moment on Snapchat and somehow, at the same time, actually travel. And in order to do each of those successfully, it required huge amounts of time, dedication, camera equipment, style and lonely sedentary hours at your computer or a small army of assistants, just to name a few.
In addition to the pressures, the ease at which bloggers can compare and measure their success is a stressor. How did they get so many followers this month? Why do they receive so many comments? How did they start working for X company?
When you work online, you can see exactly what everyone else is doing, all the time. What you don’t see is how much money or time they are putting into it to make it happen.
I just wanted to travel around (or do my job!) without thinking about the next Instagram. I wanted to explore a place without framing it into a story. I wanted to stop looking at how many followers or possible business prospects I was losing every time I led a tour. I wanted blogging to cease being in the back of my mind, making me feel guilty every time I chose to watch Netflix instead of write an article, or went somewhere beautiful without posting an Instagram. It wasn’t healthy. A discomfort and resentment about the whole industry began to grow inside of me.
Quitting the pressure of social media & email
I abandoned checking my Twitter first. That went years ago. It was my first mental sigh of relief, and a precursor of quitting many other platforms to come. (I really should’ve deleted it by now too, oops.) Later on I stopped dabbling into Pinterest, besides for designing ‘pins’ for new articles I’d write. About 8 months ago I completely deleted Snapchat from my phone. I no longer wanted the temptation and pressure of sharing everything all the time. I also wanted to stop watching and comparing my life to everyone else’s. Most importantly, I could no longer let myself look at the world through my phone, as I continuously see people do in front of the most beautiful national parks or monuments.
Possibly the biggest source of stress for me is a surprising one– the ease at which people could contact me. I’d get messages through Instagram, Snapchat, my blog Facebook page, and my blog email multiple times a day. Eventually I found that the ability at which I was accessible to random people all over the world started to turn my stomach. Sure, I opened myself up to this, but I never expected it to bother me so much.
For some reason when you have a blog, many people think you owe them answers to their travel questions. I’m sorry (not sorry), but I barely have time to call my friends and family when I’m on the road leading tours, why do people think I owe them answers to the questions that can easily be Googled?
I just couldn’t handle it anymore. It frustrated me to see all these different emails, whether spam, travel questions, networking or even job offers piling up in my inbox. Unfortunately, even though I wrote a blog post hoping to reduce emails, I overall chose a very inefficient way of dealing with the messages– I let them pile up and I ignored them. I then would feel guilty for ignoring them. It was, and still is, a vicious circle of frustration and guilt.
It’s still on my to-do list to figure out how to deal with it.
Recently, I also stopped putting so much time and effort into Instagram. While I’m now back from Italy with so many pictures I want to share, I’m posting them leisurely from home. I no longer want it to be such a demanding activity. I won’t post while I’m traveling. I won’t post if I’m busy. Additionally, I’ve deleted Facebook from my phone. I no longer want to mindlessly scroll when I could be more focused on the present.
All of these social media outlets have become detrimental to my mental health and I just can’t cope with the way they are changing our world today. A successful travel day isn’t measured by if you snapped a pretty Instagram photo. Life isn’t about making sure everyone knows what you’re doing all the time.
I’ve put so much time and effort into this virtual space. It’s a travel journal, a way of reflection, a photo album, a resume builder and a way to share what I’m most passionate about with others. I don’t want to just let it disappear. And ironically, just writing this post about how much I don’t like blogging has been pretty enjoyable and even therapeutic.
At the same time, with all my reservations about social media, I feel hypocritical that I’m not telling you I’m quitting all of that cold turkey. It’s pretty confusing.
Still, I love travel photos and I want to share my favorite ones. I want to share interesting tidbits on travel, road trips and life as a guide that I feel the internet is lacking. I just don’t want these things to control my life and the way I look at travel.
What to expect now
As of last month, I’ve officially finished my third tour season on the road and won’t resume until late spring. I’ve got free time, lots of rest and time to pursue other projects. I also just got back from Italy with so many photos I want to share. I also want to write about our road trip through Tuscany and possibly a few other topics, either on U.S. parks, guiding and/or other favorite destinations. So for now, with trepidation, I will by sharing a few articles and favorite photos at leisure. I also may have a few surprising announcements in the mix and a new home base for the winter.
As for keeping up with the Joneses, well, screw them.