5 Reasons Why You Really Need To Stop Believing What You Read In Travel Blogs
*Disclaimer: This post is directed at no particular blogger, but rather at the general "falseness of the travel blogging world"*
Lake Sevan, Armenia
I travel often. More than most Singaporeans (who are employed full time) at least.
I also blog a little. And because this blog has probably "influenced" the travel habits of a number of Singaporeans (and overseas readers), I suppose this makes me an "influencer" of some sort.
While I would be considered a travel blogger, the truth is, I'm not a fan of them; travel, lifestyle, or whatever "niche" bloggers like to pander to. With all the hype about "fake news" these days, I thought I'd write a post about "fake blogs" and how misleading "most" bloggers writing about travel actually are.
If there was one thing I could take away from Donald Trump, it would be "tell it like it is", and that's exactly what the 5 points in this article is all about; telling it like it is.
1. Few Experts
Maletsunyane Falls, Lesotho
Travel bloggers (myself included, but I am unashamedly an expert in what I write about) like to position themselves as some kind of "expert" on whatever their blog is focused on. But here's the thing, because you went to Tokyo or Hokkaido a couple of times on a week's vacation doesn't make you an expert on the "Top 10 Things To Do/See In Japan".
At the many of the hostels I've stayed in, I've come across self proclaimed "long term travellers".
These travellers spend weeks in a single city, months in a single country and proclaim they are "Travellers, NOT Tourists". When I say "oh, i'm just going to be in this city for a couple of days", they say "that's such a short time, it's not enough to truly experience the country".
But hello? Getting drunk every night in Bangkok and lazing round the hostel or down by the beach doesn't make you an expert in "experiencing the country".
A good number of travel/lifestyle bloggers have barely traveled anywhere besides Bintan, Bangkok, Paris, and oh, most recently Iceland. So how are these bloggers are experts? Or are you seeking their advice because of "well taken photos" which have probably been taken a 100 times to get the "ideal" photo?
Note: A Girl & A Bald Traveller is a travel blog with a specific focus on "exotic travel destinations in comfort at as low a cost as possible" for people who would like to see the world without giving up their careers to do it. When it comes to this, YES, I would consider myself an expert
2. Lack of Information
Hill of Crosses, Lithuania
To a reader, a travel blog should serve two purposes; FIRST be useful, and thereafter, be inspirational.
A useful blog would share on how exactly to get from place to place, border crossings, bus timings, things to be wary about, what to do/see, and if there were ways to get it done at a lower cost or what might be a better time/month to visit.
Unfortunately, a good many bloggers just keep going on and on about "how enriching it is to quit a full time job and experience the world". Or "if I could do this, so could you". And I think I've read enough of "Not all who wander are lost". (really roll my eyes every single time I see this)
To top it off, some "experiences" bloggers share just don't make sense. It's as though they "heard" about this experience or information from a random traveler they met and tried to pass it off as their own. No fact checking whatsoever.
3. Zero Opinions
Out of every 10 people I meet on my travels, 9 proclaim "this place was aaaamazing". (with an added emphasis on amazing)
This attraction was amazing? How about that one? Oh, it was amazing as well? (another roll eye moment) When I read travel blogs I swear most of the time my eyes just keep rolling as bloggers go on about how lovely this hotel/place/attraction is, how they can't wait to be back someday, and how all of us really must be there to see it for ourselves. (That's one reason why I reject a good many endorsements. I want to write the truth)
Port of Dhaka, Bangaladesh
Lets call a spade a spade. Not every single moment one experiences on vacation is lovely. If the place sucked, it sucked. It isn't good advice and a pretty disappointing experience to read and see edited photos of how amazing this destination supposedly is and all it turns out to be a big lie.
I hated the arrogance of the Arabs I encountered in Kuwait. Of the touristy cities I visited, I enjoyed Lisbon and thought Barcelona sucked. And if you've read this blog long enough you'll know I find Paris a waste of time and Turkey a destination for posers who "think" they are visiting somewhere exotic which actually isn't.
Years ago, travel blogs could even be considered as an alternative to guidebooks like "The Lonely Planet", but nowadays, most bloggers are more caught up with getting "free press trips" and prostituting themselves for freebies of any kind. The result? "a blogger with no genuine opinions, everything was "amazing".
Which brings me to the next point (which is pretty closely related). Walking on eggshells around the truth.
4. Walking On Eggshells Around The Truth
Byblos Port, Lebanon
In Singapore where I come from, travel bloggers (perhaps even bloggers of other genres) seem to have become bogged down by politically correctness. There is this fear of being flamed on the internet. Fear of being judged by the faceless comments on Facebook's media/gossip sites.
Say something less socially acceptable about that country? You could be deemed as a racist or ignorant. Say something typical Singaporeans don't agree with? Be prepared to be flamed and "CSI'ed" by internet vigilantes. Just check out any random travel blog in Singapore and 90% of the content are definitely reviews on how amazing the country or experience that bloggers experience was.
Most bloggers write about what a wonderful time they spent in Paris or Rome, how beautiful the city is. But few warn you about the hordes of pickpockets from Eastern Europe, or the various migrant formed gangs introducing a danger vibe into this "beautiful" city.
I haven't stayed in Paris long enough to know how bad the situation in the city has truly become; but what I do know, is there's no way I'd take a nap in my rental car with the door open, or wear my $40,000 Rolex on a day trip to the Colosseum in Rome.
Aphrodite Rock, Cyprus
I find it really amusing that more and more travel blogs are springing up like mushrooms after the rain; especially when these "bloggers" are fearful of offending the world to even simply give their honest opinion. The way these bloggers write, traveling the world just seems so perfect, never room for improvement. It seems that "not liking" something is a crime. I've had my share of being blasted (and my share of supporters of course) on Facebook for the way I choose to position this travel blog (a girl & a bald traveller).
My writing style has been criticized (by the occasional self righteous Smart Alec) for coming across as "cocky" and using "negative reinforcement" to make a point. And yes, I refuse to apologize for my way of writing. You mean i'm not allowed an opinion? I can't "not like" something? Ever visited an attraction or stayed in an accommodation that received many "thumb ups" or "five star" ratings but when you got there, you were scratching your head, wondering "why the hell did so many people recommend this place?"
Why would people even recommend a place that sucked? Walking on eggshells around the truth that's why.
Lake Bled, Slovenia
I'll tell you that "The Girl" and I got scammed of $100 USD at a false immigration checkpoint while crossing the border from Kenya to Tanzania on our honeymoon. Many people we met said "Tanzanians are really great people". Not from our experience they weren't.
The Tanzanians we encountered were money hungry swindlers, going so far as to build a false immigration checkpoint, the Tanzanian Safari operator "Sandland Tours" who tried to make us top up extra money for sleeping bags when the tour we already paid for was "inclusive of everything". Tanzania is an amazing place for a Safari or beaches in Zanzibar, but our experience with Tanzanians in general was anything but great; in our opinion most were swindlers.
Singaporeans might have a poor opinion of PRC (mainland Chinese) tourists traveling habits. Well I genuinely have a poor opinion of most Singaporeans when it comes to traveling. (save for a small handful). I feel the typical Singaporean tourist has no mind of their own, has barely traveled the world (but think they are well traveled) and are basically sheep who travel to where their friends recognize and where most people go. I don't shy away from saying this, in fact, my opinions are all over my blog, my style of writing instantly recognizable. Why the need to lie and be politically correct?
What kind of travel blogger would you like to follow for advice? The "tell it like it is" blogger? Or the "everything is unicorns and roses" blogger?
5. A False Perception
Lake Ohrid, Macedonia
Making use of clickbait titles on Facebook to get people to read their articles is another misleading move by a good number of travel bloggers. Click on these articles, and there's almost nothing of worth inside. (Some of my titles are clickbait in their own way, but at least, once you start reading, you know you aren't reading just another travel blog. Even if I don't blog about practical information like bus timetables or museum opening schedules, I daresay most of my articles are pretty entertaining and well worth that "clickbait")
Some Singaporean bloggers use misleading gimmicks like "10 Day itinerary for "country X" under $2,000! When you click and start reading, your eyes start rolling, "it's $2,000 pounds/Euros/USD, not Singapore dollars; you've just wasted the last 5 minutes of your life reading something that basically told you nothing. (after factoring in the exchange rate, it's no where near cheap)
Jemaa el-Fnaa, Morocco
Most bloggers I come across usually post beautiful photos on Instagram, their blog or Facebook. The objective? Make everyone jealous of their life. "oh wow, look at so & so, they are always traveling to Milan for shopping. Last month, they were living it up in the Maldives!"
Are they truly? How many photo takes did they have to do to arrive at that "perfect photo"? Living it up in the Maldives? How do you know they haven't got a pile of credit card debt back home waiting for them? And knowing Singaporeans, making strangers "think" they are living the life is more important than "actually" living the life.
While there is no "right way" to run a travel blog, if you're going to be blogging, well, just make it real.
*Disclaimer: There are definitely a good number of genuine travel/ lifestyle bloggers. All I'm saying is, for the most part, take everything with a pinch of salt.*