Like a true type-A child of first-generation immigrants slash overachieving Bay Area Millennial Asian (SHE’S ASIAN?!), the second Peter and I decided to Do This Thing, I did my Favorite Thing:
I dove mouth-first into hours of obsessive travel bloggers’ research.
We had a thousand questions —
How does a functional human budget for a year of travel?
Do they sell tampons in Jakarta?
Which pancreas do people typically sell to fund an Australian work visa?
Thankfully, the internet did what it always does — meets you right where you’re at. We knew the online travel industry was long-time poppin’, but this was our first time combing through what’s actually out there.
At first, it was a damn party!
Deliciously clickbaity articles!
Comment fights over what Osprey Backpack gang you claim!
I was opening tabs on tabs, foaming at the mouth with joy; my poor browser was like:
But after a few weeks of feverish link-gobbling, I noticed something strange. And by strange, I mean frustrating, obvious and extremely familiar.
It seems like only one specific type of person is invited to today’s top travel blogger/vlogger party.
Yyyya guessed it.
Every travel blogger recommended to me, every link shared on my Facebook page, every “Friend Who Did Exactly What You’re Doing, Dude, You Should Follow Them”:
Also usually, dry as hell and boring AF.
Now, of course, I’m making incredibly sweeping generalizations; not everyone, not everyone, not everyone.
But if I were to imagine being in a room with every travel blogger I’ve come across in my research, I’d be swimming in a sea of That Guy: A White Dude who took travel, his drone forest photography and his clickbaity article titles v v v v seriously. (Not unlike so many real-life rooms I’ve been in, but thas’ a whole other blog.)
Let me not knock it for those who find That Guy interesting — in general, Do You, Boo Boo. But as a brown girl, how am I supposed to feel surrounded by forty thousand of the same face, doing the exact same thing in the exact same voice with the exact same brand deals and the exact same fake-scruff goatee?!
I was DONE with this relentless echo of travel clones who neither looked nor sounded relatable to me. But, thankfully, my continuous digging brought forth a few actually-interesting travel voices that I shall use as my north star in this coming year.
The following folks are any mix of the below:
- A badass woman
- A badass person of color
- A badass writer with a funny voice who convinced me that some travel bloggers have lol’d once in their life, maybe, for god sakes
- A badass writer with an honest voice who lays out the realness of the travel blogger industry / isn’t trying to convince me that their “genuine” “community” “clout” wasn’t begged, borrowed or bartered on the influencer black market.
Booboo, I work at Instagram.
I know alla y’alls games.
Here are three voices I actively respect
in the Travel Blog game so far:
Gloria Atanmo from The Blog Abroad
My eyes were starting to water at all the dusty, colorless language used in so many travel blogs — until by blessed Google search, I stumbled upon Gloria’s 10 Things I Wished I Knew Before Traveling. This is a topic that every friggin’ travel writer covers, and I’d already read a thousand like this, but Gloria’s laidback humor made me blink. Woke me up. I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW I WAS DEAD INSIDE UNTIL SHE GAVE ME LIFE.
Each of her articles were like a gulp of Mama Chia when I didn’t even know I was dehydrated, dragging myself through a desert of dry, musty-crusty, flavorless travel voices. Cue the hallelujahs, because finally, she’s all I was looking for: A woman, a person of color, a healthy sense of mother effing humor. Her industry-standard “laughing in front of a World Wonder” pictures don’t seem forced, because I know homegirl can actually crack a creative joke. It’s nice.
Jema from Half the Clothes
I had this sneaking suspicion while reading through of the folks who’ve made a living off of travel blogging and vlogging. It begs the same question we should all have in regards to online personas: Foreal? Is your life really that cute? You’re telling me you had a goddamn blastyblast while teaching yourself SEO in a bottom hostel bunk in rural Thailand? What kind of dark, frustrating shit did you have to do to get to this place, and why isn’t anyone talking about it?
Enter Jema. I came for her no-bullshit packing list; I stayed for her honest-ass piece elegantly dragging the pro-travel-blogger life, entitled Why I’m Quitting The Internet. All I needed was one no-frills voice above the fluffy bullcrap to say, “Y’all, here’s the nasty underbelly. I’m tired. Don’t lose sight of why you’re traveling in the first place.” Into it. (Thankfully for the rest of us, Jema did return to Teh Internetz.)
Damon and Jo from Shut Up & Go
Again, I work for a social media app — so the inside of my work-brain is wallpapered with young, happy, shiny faces performin’ somethin’ to sell somethin’. When I discovered Damon & Jo, I was like, oh, aight, Youtubers; I know it well. A breed I’m familiar with whose peppiness sometimes makes me pound my volume-down button and squint a lot.
What I love, though, is that not only do they bring incredible energy into — again — a dry-ass, serious-ass sea of voices, but they are using it to prove a great point: Learning a new language is dope. Learning a new language is hilarious. Learning a new language can unlock entire new worlds of fun, fun shit. They’re not just here to dazzle me with their cool, seemingly unattainable life. They’re trying to teach. My. Stationary ass. Some shit. (Also, one time for the brown girl, white boy situation. HERE, HERE.)
And now, a simple request from Britney, Bitch.
Give us more!
Do you know any other honest, funny, not-a-skraight-white-dude travel folks we should follow?