(Caution: This post is on my current grouse about the travel blogging industry. If you don’t want to continue reading it, I’d totally understand :) )
Late last year, I was on a phone conversation with a blogger, who gallantly boasted, ‘I have never paid for any of my travels.’ In my head, I thought, ‘Is that normal?’ My words, however, were, ‘Oh, okay.’
We’ll call her blogger 1.
I recently met another blogger (blogger 2), whose reaction to this was, ‘That is nothing to be proud of!’ Phew, I was relieved and felt lighter. So, I’m absolutely normal.
Coming back to blogger 1, she recently asked me how was my FAM trip to Mauritius and then Goa. Being one of those self-doubting individuals, I questioned myself for her lie. And then it occurred to me that she is one of those people who has never paid for any of her travels.
Everyone who has been following me either on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram knows that neither Mauritius nor Goa was a junket. And blogger 1 especially knew that because she told me that she saw the update on Facebook.
Why I am not disclosing the names of these people is because their personalities are irrelevant. It is an industry problem. Sure, people like blogger 1 influence the industry, since we all are aware of the herd behaviour, I am growing more and more weary of these unprofessional bloggers.
Neither is it a case of bad blood. I am most confident that my travel experiences are self-enriching and have more depth than any of blogger 1’s sponsored trips.
Earlier this year, Abhishek Mande opens one of his articles with, ‘The problem with most Indian travel bloggers, a senior editor at a travel magazine groaned, is that they blog because they want to travel. “Shouldn’t it be the other way around?” she asked.’
Yes. The primary qualification of being a travel blogger is that we travel and secondly, because we can blog (basic writing skills, design, taking a photo, SEO, etc.). Ideally, our blogs should work as a medium to share our travel experiences. Not because any tourism board/brand should pay for our travels and hence, sell the experience on a non-existent or grammatical error-driven blog, as a ‘media outlet’.
And then I came across this post by Manjulika, where she spills the beans on the curious case of FAM trips and the craziness behind it. I love press trips. It is a fantastic way of meeting the people I have only interacted with online, apart from the fact that I get to see an entirely new place. Don’t get me wrong, I have been to a couple of them myself and will not devoid myself of the pleasures (or the rushed commitments) of these trips. But if you asked me whether I would I write a ‘101 Things to do in South Goa’ post because that will get me the traffic, the PR attention and hence the trips; my answer will be ‘no’.
These are my travel stats since October 2014:
12 states in India (17 cities/towns)
3 International countries
Out of these: 2 have been FAM Trips (Indian destinations), 2 blogger collaborations, 2 reviews, 1 contest win.
Do the math yourself and you’ll know how many of them are self-funded. Arunachal Pradesh was the most expensive of them all and yet, you hardly see scribbles from the 20-day travel on my blog. Because when I share my stories from there, I need it to be a whole-hearted effort; not some text I’m supposed to pen under some kind of pressure or influence.
I digress, yet again.
I must admit, I have met travel bloggers who do make a few personal trips every year. And those are the people I enjoy associating with. But this number is so shamefully low, it is disappointing.
Travel blogging isn’t about free trips. It is a lot of hard work, which may or may not reap results for a really long time.
Earlier this year, I was approached by a ‘social media manager’ or whatever, on Twitter to attend a food event at Hyatt, Kolkata, which I refused. I don’t understand food. Of course, if it was a dessert or cocktail review, I would have gladly joined in. He wasn’t the happiest and trolled me for a couple of days.
Don’t ask me for my precious time for these irrelevant ‘free’ experiences. I do not do that, even though my last name is ‘blogger’.
If I can’t get my first name (‘travel’) in place, how do I justify my work and time?
I travel hungrily until I’m broke (quite literally). I get uneasy when I have to sit in a place for too long. May and September have been the only months this year when I have stayed in my current home for an entire 20-day stretch. The condition of itchy feet is true, by the way.
When I met blogger 3, earlier this year, she shared with me how she struggles to make time to travel and manage her blog. While she loves travelling, she told me that given a choice she’d rather travel only with her family and getting everyone together around the same time can be very difficult. She was one of the first people to redefine travel blogging for me and of course, she is a living example of contentment.
Since my meeting with blogger 2, I came across Earl’s this post and found some solace in the fact that it is a popular problem within the industry (and internationally). Out of all the concerns he shares, the closest that comes to my heart is ‘Misleading People Is Not Cool’. As bloggers, when we’re taking all that information we’ve gathered to share it with readers, it is not all right to sell an unsuitable place because it was a fantastic stay for us (thanks to the well-organised junket) or setting an impression that life as a travel blogger is gorgeous.
I’m going to go out of my way and meet more people like blogger 2 because I know she is a traveller. She is the one who has backpacked for 10 months across the country by herself and yet I see little or no signs of it on her blog. Because when I meet her, she shares experiences and asks interesting questions, rather slyly finding out who sponsored my previous trip. Because she knows, travel bloggers are travellers first.
Really, why don’t travel bloggers travel?
Note: This is not a personal attack on anyone. It is a self-reflective rant and a question every travel blogger aspirant should ask themselves.