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WRITERS' COMP WINNER - “It’s Time We Called Out Travel-Shaming”

Alex Sizer was awarded the winner of Mamamia Women’s Network and HarperCollins Publisher Writing Competition with this entry in the ‘LifeStuff’ category. Over to Alex and her post about travel-shaming. 

Mummy-shaming, body-shaming, shame-shaming. You name it and social media is full of people telling you you’re not good enough at it. On the whole we’ve identified this and started to push back. Except when it comes to travel.

The sphere of travel seems to have escaped everyone’s bullshit-filter, leaving people truly thinking it’s all cocktails-in-hammocks-on-a-secluded-tropical-beach. Those savvy travel bloggers and social media doyens have managed to all but erase the hairy legs, crowded hostels, budget-conscious pasta dinners, and terrible local beer.

I’m all up for bragging on social media – I think we all, either consciously or subconsciously, do it – but when it crosses that line into making people feel inferior it becomes a problem. And, whilst we all know not to let a holier-than-thou parenting post rile us up, we all still get the sinking feeling in the pit of our stomach when we see an ex-colleague post a picture of themselves, arms punching the air Rocky-style, on top of a just-conquered mountain.

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The sphere of travel seems to have escaped everyone’s bullshit-filter, leaving people truly thinking it’s all cocktails-in-hammocks-on-a-secluded-tropical-beach.

These pictures (including those vomit-inducing memes with inspirational words scrawled in italics over a stunning landscape) aren’t as innocent as they seem. The insidious message behind them is that the poster is more experienced, brave, bold, inspired, and ever so much deeper than you.

Unless you’re finding yourself/growing as a person/ following your wanderlust, you’re not doing travel right. And if you’re sitting at home paying rent and working at desk job 5 days a week? Even worse. Pity on you.

Every twenty-something graduate who is abroad, avoiding adulthood and the realities of actually finding a job (full disclosure: I fit this category) is running a mediocre blog that invariably has a title that includes the words ‘wander’ or ‘explore’ or ‘nomad’. Somehow being a ‘travel blogger’ has become something that everyone on the road aspires to be. Oh, and to be recognised for it, no point otherwise, is there?

The way to achieve this much longed for acknowledgement is to create an inspiring, heart-warming narrative, create pages for your blog on every imaginable social media platform and shamelessly promote yourself. Honesty is out.

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Somehow being a ‘travel blogger’ has become something that everyone on the road aspires to be.

What we end up with is what we’ve got now: article upon article about how travel will change your life and is the absolute only way to find ‘the real you’, and listicles about ‘the top 20 things to do in Rome’. I once met a couple whose blog consisted entirely of articles such as ’10 Things to Jump Off While Travelling’ and who didn’t know the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’, and yet they’ve been published on Elite Daily and the French Buzzfeed. Because their message was all light and love and rainbows without a single living-out-of-a-suitcase-can-be-a-drag whinge.

The problem I have with these articles isn’t that they’re necessarily inaccurate – on the whole they have some valid points – it’s that they paint “travel” exclusively as something that is always momentous and moving and only for people on a quest to become enlightened. Which is bullshit.

If you have the money and the physical ability to get on a plane or train or car, you can travel. Whether it’s down the road to a caravan park, or taking selfies with the sphinx in Egypt, it’s all valid. These bloggers are doing people a disservice by suggesting otherwise.

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Whether it’s down the road to a caravan park, or taking selfies with the sphinx in Egypt, it’s all valid.
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I AM travelling. I am doing what they are talking about RIGHT NOW. And I still read these articles and feel inadequate. I know that the girl doing yoga in Thailand probably hasn’t had a wax in over a month, I know that the couple travelling indefinitely on their honeymoon probably haven’t had sex in ages because they’re staying in bunk beds in dorms with 8 other people, and if I’m still struggling to filter the spin, what hope do those employed people of fixed address back at home have?

Who are we as unemployed itinerants to make people at home feel shit about not travelling? Especially when the images we’re posting aren’t telling anywhere near the full story.

Whether you’re with a tour group treading the well-worn gringo trail in South America, taking your family to the Murray River once a year to go skiing, or trekking through unknown corners of Uzbekistan, you’re doing it right. Or even if – shock horror! – you’re not travelling at all.

The current trend in travel blogging is turning a universal and timeless tradition into a competition that’s making everyone feel unworthy.

There’s mummy-shaming and body-shaming and now there’s travel-shaming. No one’s safe. Just remember that the same rules apply: turn your bullshit-filter on and keep doing your own thing.

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Alex Sizer is known by my friends as ‘Sizzle’, and considers herself average in pretty much every way. And she’s totally ok with that. Alex is in her mid-twenties and hates her career as a radiographer. Instead of repaying her HELP debt or biting the bullet and changing career path, she has just stepped out of adulthood and responsibility and gone travelling instead.

Co-writing a blog with her boyfriend about our movements (www.lookwhatwedone.com) has opened her eyes to the overly glossy and fake world of travel blogging. She tries to keep her writing authentic to provide an honest antidote.

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