A timely question, and one I’m not sure I have the answer to…
I traveled for a long time before I started a blog. I didn’t want to be a ‘blogger’. I didn’t want to be one of those people who watched a sunrise through their camera lens. I didn’t see the need in divulging what I ate for breakfast (until I ate here) to my friends at home who genuinely couldn’t care less. I wanted to live in the moment, I wanted to spend my nights in a new city at a weird bar or a concert, rather than in front of my computer at a hostel.
I’m pleased to report this is no longer the definition I hold of the humble blogger.
Realistically, if I’d started blogging some six or so years ago, when I first started traveling, I’d be ahead of the curve right now. I’d probably be an established presence on the interwebs, one which people actually consulted before they went traveling (that’s the whole point, right?!). Now I just seem to be playing catch up, using the few days I had being laid up with a serious, debilitating injury (minor slipped disc) to retrospectively record all the things I did on the road in my rambunctious youth. It wasn’t the fact that I really needed people to know I once hitchhiked with a madman in Italy, or that I got stranded at a border crossing at midnight in torrential rain in Croatia, or that time with the cocaine bar in La Paz, or even what I had for breakfast (but really, you should definitely check out these freshly-baked muffins). I don’t have anything that properly sets me apart from the next blogger – I’m a thrifty human who travels (read: I’m tight as hell and I have to be to travel), and I’m not attractive or bendy enough to take inspirational pics shaped like a pretzel on a dangerous-looking rock.
But it’s more than the unremarkableness that prevented me from writing for so long. It’s also the fear of self-entitledness. If you’ve traveled abroad for a few weeks and trekked across a few countries, writing up your hour-by-hour movements, can you really call yourself a blogger? Do you have to have 5,000 Instagram followers to be a blogger? Wtf is a blog, and wtf is a blogger?
For me, I’ve always felt that a blog needs to bring something to the table, to contribute something to the world. And most do. But where I draw the line is letting thin, attractive, non-expert people dictate my life for me. There are influencers in the world, and then there are ‘influencers’. The former are the likes of Nomadic Matt, Travels of Adam, and Our Awesome Planet – all veritable geniuses in their own right on subjects within their areas of expertise, sharing their knowledge to help others. The thing that’s slowly eroding the blogging concept for me, is the thin, beautiful people who are all of a sudden schooling me on how to travel right and how to take pictures, and how to eat, sleep and bathroom. And before the tanned and taut reach for their pitchforks, I really don’t mean to make a sweeping generalisation. Some of you are exceptionally fantastic writers who have unparalleled knowledge and excellent things to offer the world (and great abs); but some are truly not. I take umbrage with the former PR executive-cum lifestyle blogger flogging non-stop free things on social media. I don’t care for their I’m-oblivious-to-the-camera-up-my-nose-really pictures in the great wild outdoors, and when they’re telling us to eat for breakfast (though I really suggest you should eat this. In Sri Lanka). But at the end of the day, that seems to be what people want to see. These are the people with thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of followers. They must be doing something bloody right.
I think this is the part where I should make it abundantly clear that I pay for all my travels out of my own back pocket (I feel like the evidence speaks for itself…). I did have one trip to Perth once that was a media junket, and then actually one to the Philippines. However, two in seven years ain’t anything to write home about (or blog about, in fact), and it’s basically just the media industry bribing you to put up with terrible hours and pay.
Then there’s the rest of the world who are telling us the blogging craze is over, that it’s a passing faze that is dying out. While I’m not sure about the veracity of this debate, it is clear that it’s an over-saturated market. I don’t know how to get people to read my blog – I don’t even know if people will want to. At the moment, as soon as I have a random thought in my head, I’m just spewing it out onto the internet. I’m not sure that’s healthy, but it’s working for me for now.
So why bother exactly? That’s precisely the question I’m asking myself now as I spent the last 16 paragraphs talking myself out of ever putting fingers to keyboard again, and wondering why I wasted the last several hundred hours of my life writing a blog. So, where was I…
The answer is that this ‘blog’ is for me as much as anyone else. One day, when I’m languishing in my rest home – barely able to remember what I had for breakfast, let alone how I spent breakfasts in my heyday – I want to be able to remember that once upon a time, I could travel further than the hallway between my bed and the toilet. I want to remember that one time that I hitchhiked over three country borders just for a free lunch. I want to remember when I spent three weeks in a Bolivian rainforest, without social media, when my best friend got attacked by a monkey. I want to remember that once upon a time I was brave (read: stupid, naive, and plain idiotic) enough to put my faith in complete strangers to get myself where I wanted to go, before all this random violence causes the world to implode.
So why not just keep a diary, you ask?
Well you never know who might need guidance on hitching for lunch, Bolivian monkey bite treatments and random bouts of hitchhiking. And breakfast.