Being Original in a Sea of Travel Bloggers

I call it the travel blogger syndrome.

I think it probably started with Dame Traveler. Not to knock Dame Traveler AT ALL – I’m a huge fan of Nastasia, have collaborated with her in the past, and am in awe of the inspirational content community she has built of traveling women. Just think about how many other accounts featuring women around the world have been created after her. That is visionary.

But the thing I have an itch about (I won’t call it a problem per se, just a little inkling of annoyance) is that all I see on Instagram are the exact. same. photos.

The scenery is a little different, and the editing style may vary, but the concept is essentially the same:

Girl in a beautiful, flowy dress looking off into the [insert backdrop of sunset, ocean, jungle or desert completely void of other people].

It’s amazing content. Gorgeous photography skills that I will not deny, but it’s not exactly original in theory. It’s staged, and I’m kind of tired of seeing nothing on my feed but the back of girls’ heads.

I mean nearly everyone is doing it, and myself included. I’m not just calling it out, I’m pointing the finger toward me too!

This photo below that I just posted on my Instagram is 100% staged. I am actually walking up the stairs (not fake walking) but I had no reason to go up this (roped off) staircase other than to snap a photo.

Why? Because I drank the kool-aid, I wanted to capture those bloggeresque photos that everyone loves. I caught the syndrome.

And I’m not the only one… I talked with fellow travelers and bloggers alike (via the Girls vs. Globe Facebook group, one of my go-to resources for all things travel) about this repetitive, cookie-cutter content on our feeds and here are some of their thoughts:

“It sometimes (well, most of the time) feels to me like travel blogger Instagram feed is more about the travel blogger trying to look cute in different places, rather than showcasing the places they travel to.” – Janay Readman.

“For me, extremely staged photos are the worst… I find it super ridiculous when people are moving furniture to get the [perfect] shot – those are the biggest turn offs for me. – Anja from Anjenidoma.com. I.e. “Inaccurately representing a place.” – Jessica Kay.

“I think the reason I personally don’t like these kinds of photos (it’s a personal choice) is because to me, it feels like there is a lack of authenticity in finding the perfect shot and what do we travel for if not to experience a place as authentically as we can?” – Amy Poulton of Page Traveller.

“I’m getting bored of those perfect settings, and everyone does the same and goes to the same places. It’s okay if they want to do it, but I loose the excitement. Go and hike the mountains, walk in the jungle, explore something new and show me some emotions, not only everything perfectly made up and prearranged.” – Aga from WorlderingAround.com.

But can we really blame the bloggers? They’re (we’re) just creating the content that the audience/fans/followers admire and appreciate. We eat that shit up. We reshare it, we mimic it, we post it.

“It annoyed me at first, but the moment I started doing more of the back pics, my engagement and following increased. It’s a necessary evil it seems. It bugs me though and I feel so stupid taking them.” – Michelle Curtin Weigold.

“If [bloggers] want to get paid for [their] work, most people want to see photos with people in them. I admit I started doing the back of the head photos as I started seeing it as being a trend and they tend to do very well with engagement.” – Livia of Chamelle Photography.

“This is the IG world we live in currently. I try to find a balance, I love to post good pictures. But no, you’d not find us spending hours over ‘the’ perfect shot because I believe the moment is then lost and flies by you.” – Sheena Benedicta of Miss Travel Junkie.

Another thought: generations and cultures.

“Do some nationalities and/or age groups like being photographed more than others? I’m Irish and a lot of people refuse to be photographed while others would even see you as vain or ‘full of yourself’ for posing at all. I find it fascinating that this is very different in other places around the world.” – Allyson of Travally.net.

Whatever the cause or reasons, what’s my point here? My be-all-end-all.

Some originality. Not staging the shot.

Some variety! Some photos that aren’t just the back of heads on the ocean swing at Gili Beach, running through a sunflower patch, or dipping into the pool at Le Riad Yasmine.

Granted, this begs the question: Will I stop taking photos like this while I travel?

No, probably not. But I will sprinkle in some realer content, a photo of me looking dead-on at the camera, maybe even smiling, laughing, enjoying the moment and not fixating on capturing the perfect shot.

In fact, in a perfect 360, this is exactly what Dame Traveler is encouraging users to do! With two new hashtags that have launched to showcase the faces and stories behind our wonderful female traveler community (#TheFacesofDameTraveler) and the connections we make while traveling (#DameTravelerConnection), Dame Traveler is once again the driving force behind what so many of us want to see on Instagram.



6 thoughts on “Being Original in a Sea of Travel Bloggers”

  • Been having these same thoughts. I started a travel blog 4 years ago and the motivation behind the platform has changed drastically. I wanted to blog to express the life-changing effects of travel and cultural immersion. I also felt like there was an empowering movement happening with womens travel. Now I feel the women’s solo travel movement has become a bit of a joke with all of the tripod self-timer photos and the “Back of the head” shots. ..just a few thoughts I’ve had myself…Thanks for writing this! Enjoyed it.
    Kelsey Glennon recently posted…Dance Talk: How I Combined My Passion for Travel & Dance to Fuel My CareerMy Profile

  • I do agree with you that this is the way the engagement of your account grows. I see lately that mine decreased significantly just because more and more Instagramers are putting themselves in the beautiful landscape in front of them.
    Myself, I don’t do it, the main reason is not because I want to be different necessarily(don’t get me wrong I like to be!) but I don’t feel comfortable in the camera, even with the back, therefore you can see in my feed beautiful places I captured, but that’s it. No human interaction! I think it’s also the wrong approach, we need the humans in the pictures, but I do agree with you that a bit of originality will never kill.

    Great post, well done to open the topic, I also thought about this a lot

  • Love the way you’ve written this! Diplomatic, but also raising a very serious point about how we experience travel in the digital age. Thanks for including my quote – sums up my thoughts exactly. I may never get those 100k followers on Insta, but I’ll always love looking back through my feed and revisiting some amazing memories.
    Amy recently posted…A Tale of Two Earthquakes in Mexico CityMy Profile

  • Absolutely love this and love your honesty! It’s so true that we’re [mostly] all guilty of staged photos! However, I definitely think it inspires and motivates people to get out and see those over-photographed locations for themselves. Will they even get that same view? Most likely not. Will they learn that it’s not easy being a travel blogger/photographer? Hopefully. Instagram is a showcase of creativity and aesthetics, but what’s most important is the information people convey in their blog posts. Throw in your flawless photos but keep in the honesty that readers truly need and respect!

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