I’ve started getting to that phase of my travel blogging journey, where I’m beginning to gain a little traction. The universe is beginning to realize I am not just another of those thousands of travel blogs that pop up every day on a whim, only to fizzle out within a few months time.
I’m beginning to see repeat visitors. I’m starting to receive mail and messages from people whose lives I seem to have touched in some major or inconsequential way.
I’m beginning to receive awards and nominations for my work – albeit only user-generated ones, announced by fellow travel bloggers and writers, but it’s only last week, when Lonely Planet tweeted one of my pieces, which picked up some amount of traction, did I realize that I have come a really long way from that obscure day a couple of years ago, when I (we) purchased nomadiclives.com, and launched this tiny speck of dust in the rapidly saturating content space. I know that thus far, this post sounds like a blatant example of obnoxious narcissism, but as you read further, I hope you’ll find it within yourself to forgive this immodest behavior on my part. Trust me, I needed this to have any chance of seeing this piece through at all.
Those who know me will know that I’m HORRIBLE at keeping in touch. I’m perhaps the worst friend in that sense. I NEVER call, I rarely text and I’m almost never the one that makes plans to catch up. I can see you shaking your head in condescension. I know; and I deserve it, but I’ve been working on it. The point is, sometimes, I haven’t spoken with the people in my life for months on end. So when we end up speaking or meeting, I get a LOT of “I’m so jealous of you!”s, “I LOVE your job!”s, “What do you f*ckin do for a living, you lucky prat?”s. Basically, I collect an assorted mix of envy-filled cuss-love. Don’t get me wrong here, I love it. It’s a massive ego boost to know people I like admire my lifestyle and aspire, at least in some capacity to emulate it; but it can get cumbersome. Let me explain!
When I started off writing for Nomadic Lives, I had very little clue where it was going. In fact, I hadn’t even imagined it to head in the travel blogging direction. For a very long time, it sounded like another of the countless hobbies I’ve picked up over the course of my not-so-short-anymore-life, and abandoned far too soon. But two years and many gray hairs later, it’s getting to a point where haphazard effort and not knowing my goal here, isn’t going to cut it anymore. It is difficult to explain just what I do and how it pays, but it’s important for people to know that I’m about as lucky, and my life as envious, as that of your favorite animal in the city zoo.
Why Travel Blogging Isn’t What You See on Social Media?
Not very long ago, my friends, over at How Far From Home did a post about the glamorization of the travel blogging profession which got picked up by Buzzfeed, and (naturally), went viral. I was a little surprised to see that they seemed to pick up a lot of heat from fellow bloggers for saying what they did. In fact, in a lot of comments, and discussion forums, I kept reading stuff like “if they aren’t happy doing it, they should just get a job and go back!” and “I’m a travel blogger too, and I don’t have to scrub toilets to get by! This is a publicity stunt!” Frankly, I was a little alarmed at the mass hysteria, and so I decided to write this piece partly in support of what they say, and partly because I also find it necessary that I disclaim this for myself as well.
The sad part about travel blogging is that we often feel compelled to portray what people want to see. I do one, at best, two major/international holidays a year — sadly, that’s all I have resources for at the moment, and I have to use these 30-40 days of travel as raw material to keep a whole year’s worth of content flowing. What’s worse, when I look at my Instagram and Facebook feeds, I realize a massive dissonance between the life I lead, and the life these feeds portray; but the sad part about this profession is that nobody wants to know about the 40 hours a week you spend holed up in a coffee shop (or in my case, any quiet place that sells beer), trying to pitch projects to clients that want to hire you at rates that are borderline minimum wage. Nobody wants to hear about the anxiety of not knowing where your next paycheck is coming from, or worse, of not knowing if you’ll have money for beer next month. Nobody wants to hear about the 20 hours a week you spend on social media, and in trying to edit the best of your worst pictures, so that the world thinks you’re constantly sitting in an infinity pool, sipping on Long Island Iced Teas, crafted by the hand of God. Nobody wants to read about reputed companies that hire you at a good rate, much to your glee at finally catching a break, only to realize later, they stall payment for months on end, leading to guess what? That’s right, more anxiety! *Alright, that’s it Sanket! They got the point! Rant over*
To summarize, what I’m trying to say here is what you see on our social media and blogs isn’t everything there is to a life of travel blogging. We wish it were, but it really isn’t! Think of it as a prize though; that’s what we get, after doing all sorts of toil, which could range from negotiating the fuck out of miserly content mills, to scrubbing toilets — and before anybody asks, no, there’s nothing shameful about scrubbing toilets, it just isn’t something I thought I’d be doing, to pay my bills with a Business degree and an above-average IQ.
As a travel blogger, in some capacity, I hope to inspire people to choose a life of more travel and exploration, and while I do that, I think it’s only fair that I give you a fair representation of what it entails. Sure, there’s plenty of cocktails in the pool, lots of drunk hostel parties, the one-off sponsored trip, lots of cultural enlightening, and several other perks; but it’s also back-breaking labor and a LOT of rejection, despair and anxiety, particularly when you start out, and more so, if you don’t catch a break early on. Does this mean I regret my choices? Does this mean I’m unhappy? Does this mean I’d rather get off the travel blogging train? No, it doesn’t! I wish it were easier, and I’m constantly trying to make it easier, but I don’t regret it, and I’m not even remotely unhappy.
I don’t think I’m better or worse off than office-dwellers that may or may not dream about my life, because frankly, I just have far too much of my own shit to deal with to have time for this. But I sure as heck want people to know that I don’t have it easy, and it’s almost absurd to associate the word ‘lucky’ with what I do. Sure, we get to see a lot of the world — something every cubicle dwelling minion aspires to do these days, but most of us have made informed choices to get there. Some may call these sacrifices — I don’t. There’s nothing noble in choosing to let go of a fancy lifestyle or a secure income in favor of more travel-time, it’s a personal choice, but it isn’t a choice that makes me better or worse than any other. And here’s more, there’s people out there, that have managed to achieve the ultimate balance — a comfortable lifestyle, AND long-term travel. THOSE are the guys we all look up to and want to be, but not everybody gets there, and even those that do will tell you the journey up there wasn’t all beer and sunshine.
People that know these details about my life, often ask me why I do this, when I could just as well do the same thing with a stable job! After all, “you’re only traveling marginally more than you used to, right?” Well yes, presently! But not for lack of time anymore, but for lack of resources. I’m working towards building a stable freelance income stream, and that doesn’t come overnight. You have to build a reputation, you have to build some street-cred, and this takes time. So that’s what I’m doing, and maybe one day, I will be in a position to flip off those minimum-wage jobs, and spend longer doing what I like — write, and travel.
What My Instagram Feed Looks Like
What My Average Work Day Looks Like
This is exactly the point my South African friends were trying to make, but I think a lot of it got lost amongst the rabble. There’s a reason Buzzfeed sells, and the reason is they are brilliant at gauging public opinion. They know and understand what the masses want better than most, and feed us exactly that, but even they did a fair job of representing the story well with this particular post. Why then, were we so eager to bust open a rare, sincere attempt at honestly representing the travel blogging profession? It’s a question that has been troubling me for a while, and I keep feeling like the answer’s just at the back of my mind, but I can’t quite place it. Can you? On that note, I take your leave for the time being, to go haggle a client into paying money owed for months on end! *sigh!*
Suggested Reading: Ugly Truth About Our Life | Karolina & Patryck
If you are or aspire to be in the travel blogging community or a long-term traveler, I’m eager to know your greatest obstacle. I’m eager to know your thoughts on this piece. I’m eager to I’m eager to connect! Please feel free to drop me a note or just write-in through the comments below.