My Beef With Travel/Lifestyle Bloggers

Me in my winter clothes: Mongolian boots, Russian hat, Swedish coat, Korean gloves, and French bag.I’ve noticed a trend lately within the travel blogger/lifestyle blogger arena: everyone seems to be heading towards an increasingly single vision.

It seems that just about every travel blogger and lifestyle blogger out there started out in the corporate world and then “came to their senses” and shifted over to their current, non-traditional lifestyle. They use the money they had from their previous job, plus money they make selling the stuff they have, in order to fund the beginning of their new life.

That’s all well and good, and very admirable, but what about those of us who saw through the corporate charade from the beginning and never joined corporate America or the Cult of Stuff in the first place? I honestly find very, very little advice out there for those of us who chose not to have a desk job, who chose not to acquire stuff, who chose to follow their dreams from the very beginning.

I was raised by two artists. Both of my parents have never had a desk job, and have always been the type to value experiences over “stuff”. These values were passed down to me from day one, and it has been great. I’ve never had trouble with choosing my own happiness over what the rest of the world seems to think I should be choosing.  I spent a year living on the road, and a year living abroad.  Sounds great, right?  It is, but…

…nobody I talk to seems to be able to give me advice on how to start traveling again. Everybody’s immediate advice on blogs is the same old “quit your corporate job, use the money you saved through it, sell all the crap you acquired, and go!” adage that is becoming an increasingly single-path message on travel blogs. There’s a problem with applying this advice to me.

For starters, I don’t have a corporate job. I value my time over money (as most lifestyle designers do), and thus I work part time as a dog walker and I do writing, web design, photography, and other odd digital jobs on a freelance basis. I make about $1000 a month, which is pretty much just enough to pay for my part of our bills, and for me to pay my own bills. Sure, I could be earning more if I took a second job, or worked in an office environment, but…it seems silly to me to take on a job I would hate just so that I can “escape” it again a few months later.

As for the “stuff” part of the equation…I don’t have it. I donated about 70% of my belongings before I left for Korea, and I haven’t really acquired much since then. All of the belongings I have with me (meaning everything but the stuff from my childhood that is at my parents’ house) can fit into approximately 5 large plastic bins. Most of that is reenacting clothes (which I won’t ever get rid of, as it’s my main hobby), and the rest is a small closet’s worth of clothes, some books, a few toiletries, my digital supplies, and a few knickknacks. I don’t really buy much of anything these days unless it has a long-term use. All of our furniture is my boyfriend’s, since he is the one who prefers to have a home base. Most of what I own these days is not anything I really care to part with in a long term sense. So, the whole “raise money by selling stuff” advice doesn’t work for me because frankly, I have nothing to sell.

I’ll be honest: I sometimes almost feel like I have been punished for following my dreams from day one, rather than having an epiphany further down the road. When I talk to other travel/lifestyle bloggers about my life, I first get praise for my “understanding of the world”, but then I often get a confused or blank look when I ask them what I could be doing to further improve.

You can’t really expect people to provide advice on areas they have no experience with, but I feel that it’s a major failing of the travel blogging world that all the advice seems to be geared toward folks in a certain life situation, without providing much, if any, help for a wider range of potential travelers. This isn’t meant to be a “wah wah nobody helps me” post, it’s meant to be, hopefully, a wake-up call for those folks who are all writing the same material, and who don’t really have much to say to the world other than “do what I did”.

If you’re a travel blogger or lifestyle blogger, take a good, long look at your blog, and think critically about how wide of an audience your advice can actually help. How is your story different from the hundreds of other travel bloggers out there in the world, and how can those differences help a different niche of people? What are the limitations or strengths of your advice? Think about your message and how many people it can actually apply to. If your message is simply “do what I did”, then you might want to think about challenging yourself a bit as a blogger by thinking outside your own nomad box and writing about folks who may be in a different situation than you were once in.

Just some thoughts. Let me know how you feel about them.


64 Comments


  1. P.S. You ARE being punished for following your dreams though! HA HA HA… My ongoing metaphor for my path is this- for some, God drew a straight line & said- “Just don’t fall of it & you’ll be fine”; for others (like myself), he drew a dot & said “Now find your way from there!”

  2. @GRRRL TRAVELER: “My Korea EFL teaching choice puts me in my 1st “9-5 employee/non-gig situation” in… well, I think it’s actually my “1st” & that idea alone inspires stress for me.”

    I was in the same situation in Korea – though I had worked before it was the first job I had that in any way resembled a traditional 9-5.

    “Cubicle workers cutting loose to travel always seemed to have a nice financial cushion & digital nomads just seemed to fall into the category yr already struggling w/ as a freelancer… Who to look for for advice or ideas?”

    Exactly. I don’t have a cushion to work with because I’ve never had a normal job, but the other group, the nomadic designers, often already had a client base and portfolio to pull new gigs from before they left on their nomadic journeys. Maybe I’m just asking for too much, but I’m just trying to practice what everyone seems to have been preaching. One of the reasons I am so into encouraging bloggers to look at situations other than their own is that I think many bloggers don’t realize the privilege their previous situation afforded them. Everyone has some sort of travel privilege, be it a financial cushion from a previous job, skills that are not location dependent, hell, even previous experience with traveling or a supportive family (those last two are mine). It’s good to recognize it, because if you’re not careful, it can become a weakness.

    “Artists/travelers are more rare than cubicle lifestyle dwellers & we don’t always blog bc we’ve got our own art focus. Hence, why there seems to be many ex-corporate bloggers suddenly finding their creative expression & why as an artist yr always going to feel like a marginally touched upon category. “IT ALWAYS WAS…” You made yr pact w/ yr devil early off- life will be a $$$downslide in exchange for the pursuit of passion… self-reflection was/is always.”

    I do often feel that there seems to be a dearth of bloggers out there who were artists or writers from the very beginning. I know that a lot of bloggers discover writing or photography in the course of their journey, and that’s great…but it also ends up marginalizing those of us who were there from the beginning, to a certain extent. I’ve had an SLR camera since I was 4 years old and was raised by two professional photographers. I’ve been shooting my entire life. But, unfortunately, my work often gets pushed out of the way by less skilled folks who have a more interesting “cubicle break/personal discovery” story. I find it kind of annoying, as an artist.

    “We’ve always created our “own” rule/designers of an individual path but we do seek inspiration and role models at times. “

    I think this is a key point you’ve hit on. The lifestyle design category of blogging has my response being “duh” to many, many entries. I appreciate the fact that the blogger is introducing these concepts to people who are unfamiliar with them, and I hope they help folks, but I just often wonder how these things aren’t common sense to most people. I think you’re right, though, in that as artists we’re already used to going our own way and creating our own path, so much of the information that is out there is of limited use.

    “God drew a straight line & said – “Just don’t fall of it & you’ll be fine”; for others (like myself), he drew a dot & said “Now find your way from there!””

    What a great metaphor! I’ll have to remember that one.

  3. This, plus comments… a great read.

    Here’s one for you, I’m the inverse. Like you, I was on experiences, not things, and to follow my heart. The thing is, my heart is nerdy and studious and that meant a couple of really good degrees. For me the “quit your job/sell your stuff” model is hard to swallow because, although I love travel, I also really enjoy my Corporate Job. I don’t really know if a hiatus may close the opportunity to come back because the environment I work in doesn’t understand my wanderlust. I’ve tried to conceptualize how to take work with me, but it’s not really possible to do in a meaningful way without rebuilding somewhere. I WISH there was a road map.

    Right now the decisive factor pushing me over the line is that my partner is foreign and at a critical life stage and I want to be with him across a couple of oceans.

    When I read a lot of “sell your stuff/quit your job/buy these kevlar shorts and go” blogs, sometimes I see someone looking for validation that they’ve made the right choice. Or someone looking to replace the grind they left with a new project that makes them feel, well, important. Noticed. Participatory. A lot of people out there who are doing it without the model du jour don’t seem to need to tell anyone about it, outside of people they meet who ask (I’ve met some! They’re awesome! And inspiring!). Just a thought.

    • @JC: “A lot of people out there who are doing it without the model du jour don’t seem to need to tell anyone about it, outside of people they meet who ask (I’ve met some! They’re awesome! And inspiring!).”

      Yes! Exactly! I did wicked cool stuff throughout most of my life, but I never really wrote about it because, well, I was 1. too busy doing cool stuff and 2. I didn’t want to sound like I was full of myself. When I tell people nowadays that I used to be a professional tall ship sailor and have sailed across the Atlantic twice, that I have flown a small plane from Texas to above the Arctic Circle, that I took my first solo trip when I was TWELVE, etc, they tend to freak out and think it’s awesome and ask me why I don’t publicize that stuff more. Well, I recognize that it’s all neat and unique stuff, but at the time I was doing it, I was just doing it because I wanted to, not because I wanted any sort of recognition for it. As recently as two years ago I spent a year living nomadically out of my truck, traveling up and down the east coast, but I never really blogged about it because I didn’t see it as extraordinary. I just saw it as “what I do”. I agree with you that sometimes travel blogs tend to have a sort of “look at me! I’m doing cool stuff!” smell to them, and while I do want to attract readers, I also don’t want to have that scent attached to my blog.

  4. I agree with you on this one- I’m proud of those people who have had that epiphany, who’ve got up and left.

    At the same time, I have to deal with the childish urge to jump up and down in front of their faces and scream “I told you all of this YEARS ago!!” When that happens, I have to just sit down and breathe. Meditate a little. Reign in the ego and just be happy for them.

    Sometimes it’s difficult to compare the cublicle-fleeing to the artist’s mentality. I remember how I had so little support when I made the decision to drop out of school years ago, when even my professors in my theatre/creative writing classes sat me down and told me that a degree was a waste of my time. Not because I wasn’t talented, but because the piece of paper would simply mean debt I couldn’t climb out of. Even if I paid everything through grants, and paid my way through school like I was doing- I simply would not be able to “survive”. They told me to become a teacher, become a journalist. Anything that PAID. Get a 9 to 5, it was the only way I would afford to live. Suck it up, they said, the world was going to spit me back out and I should learn to accept it early on.

    So instead of listening, I dropped out. I went and moved to Mexico. I came back, I traveled. I found other artists who were doing the same thing along the way, ranging from four to forty years older than myself. We started an unofficial Collective, keeping in touch often, wherever we ended up.

    We’re human- we need to hear that we can do it. Sometimes we need to be reassured that we’re not making the worst decision, we need to see that it will be okay. Because the overwhelming crush of society telling us we can’t, it sits like a weight, and some days we just want to curl up in a ball in the back of our closets, and have a Pity Party- and we need guidance, and mentors, no matter how long we’ve been helping people do the same thing.

    We need our personal cheerleading squad in the corner too. And as great as it is to hear of all the cubicle-fleeing, as happy as I am that people are getting out into the world at their own pace- yes. There are moments when I want to say “I told you so. Now apologize, profusely, for all those years you looked at me in horror when I said ‘get out. Quit your job. You’ll be fine.’”
    Because really, the world has a way of working itself out when you really want something.

    • I have to deal with the childish urge to jump up and down in front of their faces and scream “I told you all of this YEARS ago!!”

      I hear you, and I have the same reaction, a lot of the time. Whenever I read “lifestyle design” blogs I want to scream at the screen, saying “It’s not fair that I’ve been telling people the same crap my entire life and yet this bozo is making oodles of money saying the same thing!”. It’s…frustrating.

      Because really, the world has a way of working itself out when you really want something.

      This is something I’ve been trying to explain to people for years, and some day I really should write a blog entry about it. I firmly, vehemently, believe that if you want something bad enough, you will figure out how to make it happen. You may have to give up your life as you know it, but you can make pretty much anything happen if you’re willing to do anything for it.

  5. Hello!
    I really appreciated this post, notably because I just applied for a blogging/paid ‘vacationing’ position for the first time. I haven’t had the corporate job you speak of either, and have had hoards of people comment with respect to my life decisions and ‘freedom’. What many people don’t realize, is that this is a life choice too – and it has it’s ups and downs. It’s ridiculous to me that people regard my life as ‘lucky’ and theirs as ‘responsible’ or something to that effect. I stumbled on this blog by happenstance, and I’m really happy I did. You lead an interesting life, and I will heed your advice to bring something new to the table. I would like to have a section on traveler’s etiquette – not just for the country one is visiting, but *between* travelers. Poor manners and people not keeping to their words, as just two things I’d like to illuminate for people! :-) Keep writing!

  6. Furthermore,

    I would like to address everyone on this site for accurate and thorough use of the English language! :0) It is *so* refreshing to see things spelled correctly, while also reading intelligent comments and responses.

    - Shawna

  7. I have also felt frustrated by the lack of travel stories from women who did not emerge from a seemingly perfect, prefabricated life. I grew up as a girl from a backwater town in mid-Ohio, just about as far away from a corporate career as anyone could get, but I still wanted to travel, so I’ve just had to make my own path. (Interestingly, like you, I’ve chosen living and working in Korea as part of my journey.) Anyways, there was a travel blog I admired, “Lost Girls World,” but they kept featuring women who seemed a bit too perfect for me to identify with, so I countered by writing my own profile for their website. I’m just including the link so I don’t write out the entire story again in your comment box. ^^ I think that if you’re “out-of-the-mold” then financing your travels will be harder, but the payoffs will ultimately be greater.
    http://www.lostgirlsworld.com/2010/10/lost-girl-of-the-week-melanie-ehler/

  8. Hey this is an excellent write-up. Can I use some of it on my fitness and weight-loss weblog? I would obviously backlink to your web blog so folks can see the complete post if they wished to. Kudos either way.

  9. Kudos to you for following your dreams from day one!! xoxo

  10. I have an issue that relates directly to your blog entry:

    I was traveling Asia and fell in love with the lifestyle. So I came back to N.-America so I could get my B.A. and teach in Japan and Korea.

    Now I’m 25 and this lifestyle is killing me. I want out. I want to “get back out there”. But if I leave now I’ll only have my high school degree. I’ve met other backpackers/travelers who are in that situation and they’re doing fine — except when they get old, I wonder what’s going to happen to them.

    So what’s your take on this? Is a high school degree good enough for the nomadic lifestyle? What about long-term concerns, such as “retirement”??

    (by the way, if I leave school now I’ll still be debt-free, since it’s cheaper in Canada)

Trackbacks

  1. uberVU - social comments
  2. Most Tweeted Articles by Travel Experts

Leave a Reply