In the world of blogs & social media: How do you stay true to yourself?

Authenticity in social media and travel blogging

You can treat this as a confession of sorts.

In December of last year, we’d published this blog. Just after 2 months, I’d started doing some serious reflection on where we should be heading. Basically, I wanted this blog to be ours — I want it to showcase our travels and thoughts about it, about life in general, about being together.

What happened is that it turned into a typical travel blog, with detailed travel guides and itineraries.

Although I love the look and feel of it, I think essentially what I want is to give it a little more soul.

This is me, the one you don’t know about

This part is where I’ll talk a little bit about myself.

Personally, it’s challenging for me to put myself out there because (1) I’m a private person, (2) I’d always been guarded even with people close to me, (3) I’m weird like Phoebe-in-Friends weird.

If I add a personal detail, I’ll have to ask myself, “Am I revealing too much of myself?” and then step back. If you’re one of my selected friends in Facebook, you’ll notice that I rarely upload photos or publish any personal stories.

To prove this point, let me tell you that I’d re-written this article about 100x already. It’s been sitting in my drafts folder for months.

In the Internet, it’s even more difficult to be yourself. People are judged based on certain standards, and it’s risky being different or at least having a different set of beliefs.

Authenticity and travel blogging
“You’re not supposed to fit in, you’re supposed to be yourself.” – Victor Oddo

For travel bloggers, I believe the pressure is even bigger. Travel bloggers have an impeccable image to keep. I really don’t know why, but travel blogging nowadays is synonymous to glamour. You always have to look like you’re having the time of your life, wearing gorgeous summer dresses or OOTDs and so on.

Nobody imposed this to anyone, it’s just the way you’ll find life to be once you step into the stage.

This is why I write, why we keep a blog

One of the misconceptions people have is that we travel to blog. I’m always surprised when people tell me this. We travel because it’s something Hali and I both genuinely enjoy. In fact, there are trips I don’t write about. More often than not, I also purposely delay writing so we’ll have ample time to appreciate our trips before publishing them online.

I write about our trips because it’s what I do. I like writing — especially if it’s done as leisure. I like tinkering our website’s design — I’d applied a theme of course but most UI revisions were done by me. See those cute brown boxes in the side bar? I did that. It’s the same for Hali. He likes taking candid shots of people and travel photography. In fact, he’s been doing that way before we met.

Each of us have different reasons for starting out a travel blog.

To be honest though, there is also a narcissistic, egoistic side to it. At one point we are all driven by it. It’s the same reason travel blogs churn out the same headlines: listicles and clickbaits. I can’t explain it better than Gaspar, who wrote about it in his blog I Left Home:

You see, when it comes to travel blogging: It’s all about popularity, it’s all about numbers.

Sure we like sharing our adventures, our pictures and our genuine vision of the world. Sure we do that because we’re motivated by passion and an unshakeable will to help fellow travelers but, honestly — and mainly — we’re doing it for the likes, the pins, the retweets, the shares…

Oh and that elusive dream of getting money out of it.

It is personally a challenge to go beyond this narcissistic tendency and stick to what I really want. That’s what I’m doing now.

This is where we’re heading

So, you can probably guess where this is going. Basically, I want to add a little more personality, more space for personal experiences and viewpoints, more freedom to be honest and at times critical.

I want to write more thoughtful articles. What’s it like to be an introvert on joiner tours, what’s it like to backpack with your boyfriend — the good, the bad and the awesome, what I think about hugot memes and why we don’t post it in our Facebook page and so on. I’d like to write more on Filipino culture, its inherent spirituality and mindfulness. I’d like to expound more on some of Hali and I’s advocacy — responsible travel, support for local tourism, learning how to immerse in cultures rather than just passing by, even voluntourism.

I want to inspire, not merely inform.

I hope we get to inspire you guys not just to travel and to take a deeper look of how we go through life, in general. Also to have a more loving, optimistic view in life through appreciation of nature, people and culture, friendships and romantic journeys.

(Because come on if white-sand beaches and locals living happily in their small communities don’t make you feel hopeful, I don’t know what will.)

I will, of course, retain the travel guides. It isn’t much effort to write them. I do research prior to trips, even when we’re joining packaged tours, so I already have information and contact numbers. Practically speaking, the guides are also useful especially since most of the destinations we visit are on off-the-beaten tracks. I know this from the tons of messages we receive. And let’s be honest, they also do bring good traffic and may be good for us in terms of sponsorship.

Let me end this article with this quote:

No one is ever going to ask you to do the thing you really want to do. So think about what you’d like to do, then start doing it. – Jordan Bach

Happy travel and reading, you guys. 🙂

19 Comments

  1. I really loved reading your blog post. It was so thoughtful, genuine and heartfelt I truly get where you’re coming from because I feel the same way. Sometimes it’s not all about the stats but storytelling in the hope that you will and can connect with people on a deeper level. That your travels or even “blogging” will inspire others. Keep doing what you’re doing! Good luck

  2. Now and then, especially when I’m stuck trying to create content, I step back and think about why I’m keeping up with my travel blog too. The opposite is true of me: I try not to do travel guides, for many reasons. So oh yeah I totally understand your intention to give a more narrative voice to your blog and I’m sure you’re well equipped for that! I can see it in you just from reading this post! Stay true to your creative endeavours, I believe we’ll all make progress no matter our chosen paths. 🙂

    1. A heart-felt thanks to that encouragement, Kristine! I think you’re brave for sticking to what you really want. I used to have these what-ifs and fear about going the other way. 🙂

  3. Yes, always stay close to who you are. It’s so important. I blog for myself and as a hobby, not for the numbers. However I like it when people read my blog. I think if you’re close to who you are, then people will love that about your blog. It doesn’t matter if that’s a travel or fashion blog or whatever. 🙂 Great point here!

  4. Good thing that you’re pointing this out! People only see a part of your life. And there’s a lot of pressure. It’s a good thing you travel because you enjoy it! And not just to write a blog. I love the personal aspect in blogs. It’s what makes a blog unique! Personal experiences are great to hear.

  5. I am just a new blogger. I started it last July 2016. My boyfriend who have noticed that I love to write encourage me to do what I want. My blog is a part-time travel and part-time academics and inspirations in life. Earning through blogging is a good thing but I think it will take years for me to earn an income from my blog. At the moment, I just love to immortalize all those travel and life experiences. I just want to inspire other people who have same dreams as me.

  6. My gosh I feel the same way about so much of what you put here. I love your openness and honesty, confession if you will, LOL. I am also very private and in my mind go over a lot if the same issues you expressed. I blog about motivation and inspiration as well as travel, not because I want to be a “travel blogger”, but because traveling happens to be a big part of my life. Loved this post!

    1. Sheri, I love your inspirational posts. I’d love to add a section for that too in our blog. 🙂 Traveling can be superficial, attitude and inner values are more important.

  7. This is really interesting because I’m going through the same thing with my blog. It is difficult to know how much to reveal about oneself on a blog. However, I agree with your views, it makes the blog more interesting if you divulge your own opinions and perspective of life. Then your wisdom will permeate throughout your posts and make the writing more interesting for the reader. This is the way I’ve decided to go anyway. Good luck!

  8. I created a travel blog for the purpose of a repository blog of my past travels so I don’t feel any pressure while blogging. I don’t care if I can’t post for several months because I had no intention of making money out of it. Although few months ago I decided for a self-hosting as a project of designing the blog, the freedom.

    My ultimate goal of creating a travel blog is to share my travel experiences, tips and other travel hacks. I am glad to be of help.

  9. I love the honesty of the post. It also helped me reflect and revisit my own reasons why I blog. It’s very on point and would as well stir what a fellow blogger’s purpose. I can relate to the first reason that you want to write that’s why you started blogging. 🙂

  10. Not a travel blogger but I feel you here! There’s totally no shame in blogging for the likes/shares/tweets/money, I guess deep inside we’re all looking validation, it just happened that the internet makes is somewhat quantifiable that we start obsessing over the numbers haha. I don’t think it’s narcicisstic as long as you use these numbers to improve yourself and not bloat your head. 😀

    On the issue of wanting to add more personality to your blog, I know it’s hard esp if you’re writing something too objective like guides and itineraries, but your style will always prevail! I love reading personal blogs! Maybe you could try to do something like a Life Lately or a Sunday Currently. Overshare all you want, it’s what the internet is for! Hehe

    1. Good point! 🙂 I appreciate it when a post gets many likes and shares and friends tell me that they like what I wrote (or Hali’s photos). There shouldn’t be any guilt there. Perhaps the challenge there is to accept compliments but knowing that you’re doing what you do because it’s what you want, not because you’re merely after external validation. Validation should first and foremost come from yourself.

      Thanks for the suggestions, not familiar with those formats but I’ll look that up. 🙂

  11. I relate to everything you have wrote here as I am a private person too and writing a blog was a big step for me. I think it took about a year to actually post a photo with me and feel comfortable about it. But it was a great way or learning and interacting with new people. I have taken some big steps in my life and that’s when I opened my blog – moving to a new country, without friends, without a clear plan of what was going to happen, with struggles… i never wrote about them on my blog, as the pressure to maintain a good image is big but there are times when I would think what if I would write a personal post too?

    1. Joanna, I will be interested to read something like that – the struggles of moving to another country and what you did to overcome those. 🙂 I’m planning to move abroad next year or the year after that, and already I’m nervous just thinking about it.

      As for me, our trips aren’t always all that happy and sometimes even the mere weather dampens my mood, but yes you can’t see that from our articles. Sometimes I think some places are just overhyped but I don’t put it like that because Filipinos are easily butthurt and there can be serious backlash even from local tourism boards.

  12. I love this blog post! It gives me a chance to reflect on myself as an aspiring travel blogger. Sometimes, I get so frustrated with my views and engagement but in the end of the day I keep reminding myself to just enjoy this blogging world. I love this “I want to inspire, not merely inform” part. I know that hopeful feeling you get everything you see a new place. <3

  13. I agree… I am into this because of my passion of traveling and I love to share about my trips etc… and well, freebies and sponsorships are also great if and when they come about as I am not rich and cannot afford everything.. and yes, I also agree there are some who are there just because of sheer greediness, and this is sad…

  14. Think of it this way: at least you’re paying for your own travels, which lends an air of authenticity. 😉

    Most “travel bloggers” nowadays have sold out, with their trips being paid for by corporate sponsors. In turn, they are obligated by “utang na loob” to churn out a positive review.

    1. Good point. Sponsorship and free tours/accommodations are a complex discussion, I think. I probably wouldn’t say no to one if we get an offer — as long as it’s a brand that I can recommend and I retain control over editorial content. I understand that it’s difficult to post a critical review especially about something that’s been paid for because it might compromise your reputation among other corporate brands that you could work with in the future. We haven’t been in this position, so these are just purely hypothetical. I want to stick to my standards without judging others. 🙂

      What I noticed is that there are bloggers – and not just in travel niche – who seem desperate for freebies and sponsorship. This is something that I don’t understand. I’ve even talked to a few who seemed unfriendly and too competitive because of this.

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