I am not usually someone who responds to Facebook posts. Actually, I’m the Michael Jackson eating popcorn GIF – scrolling through reading the opinions of others with that frozen laugh look on my face that makes my husband think I’m a little nuts. But the other day I came across a post that I just had to respond to. It was one that I believe had good intentions, a post that was aimed at empowering women to feel comfortable looking messy and sweaty in travel pics.

However, the OP also called out the women who take “perfect” looking photos – you know the ones she’s talking about. She made remarks like these women wouldn’t last a day in her type of travel. Not cool. And she’s not the first either; I’ve seen many posts on blogs and larger publications calling out this style of travel photography and deeming it inauthentic. And every post seems to target and criticise female travellers. If that wasn’t bad enough, it’s usually women who are putting down other women.

It’s 2017 people, when are we going to FINALLY let women just BE? We can’t, as a gender, move forward and close the gap or change unconscious bias towards women if we are the same people dictating what women should look like when they’re doing X, Y or Z. When are we going to stop being so critical about every. little. thing? And since when did a certain “travel look” determine the “authenticity” of travel? Since I am someone with way too many opinions (and too much time to spare), I couldn’t resist the urge to break it down and give you 4 reasons why people need to stop hating on those perfect travel photos we see on Instagram.

1. Instagram is a Business

The way I used social media before travel blogging was completely different to how I use it now. Something a lot of people forget or don’t realise is that Instagram is a business. My personal Instagram account is personal – I post about my friends, weddings, birthdays and other silly things. But I also get to set it to private and only allow my family and friends to see.

My business Instagram account is the complete opposite of this. My followers are following me for high quality, adventure and landscape photography (well, I hope so anyway), so no, I don’t post photos of my best friend’s baby and how cute he is (and trust me, he’s ridiculously cute). I also have hundreds of food pics and yes, I’d love to post them all and relive the delicious culinary adventure but unfortunately my blog isn’t about food.

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It took me a while to figure out that I couldn’t just post anything as much as I wanted to. It had to fit my niche and my business otherwise it just wouldn’t work. Imagine if your favourite #CatsofInstagram account started posting photos of frogs. I’m pretty sure you’d unfollow. Anyway, my point is – there are tonnes of different travel accounts out there – that’s the beauty of social media.

Travel blogging is a business and these women you see on Instagram are working. Some people love seeing “perfect” travel photos – perhaps they don’t get to travel themselves and this is their escape. They want to see dream locations and imagine themselves there. Vicarious travel at its finest. Others like accounts that tell stories of the raw side of travelling- the not-so glamorous, the blisters, aching muscles and stolen wallets. People get to choose between following the glamorous travel blogger who can hike 10 hours and look like a doll in a beautiful dress at the top of the mountain or the no-frills and no makeup chick with has had too many kisses from the sun and is bright red, sweaty and is proud to show it off. No single style is “better,” they are simply different. Let’s just enjoy the fact that we get to see people’s travel experiences no matter what form they come in.

2. Sometimes a picture isn’t worth 1,000 words and makeup and nice clothes don’t determine hard work

I am actually laughing to myself as I write this because I still cannot believe that to this day, we have a problem with how women look when they are doing different things in life. I remember when Alicia Keys decided she wanted to go makeup free to some awards show. She made headlines everywhere – some critics praised her and others attacked her for launching “an agenda” and being so scandalous as to not wear makeup at such an event.

I’m seeing the exact same thing in travel – like how dare this girl wear makeup during a hike. Or how dare she bring a change of clothes to take photos. Sometimes I’ll see a photo of a bad-ass woman, outfit and makeup on fleek after a hike and think “damn I look good.” I’m kidding, relax, we’re just having some fun here. But for real, I see these girls and I get a little jelly inside – I wish I could look that good too. Never in a million years does my mind go to a place to think that they haven’t worked hard, can’t rock climb or slum it out the way I do. I recognise the fact that a photo is just that, a photo. Social media is a highlight reel, so some people who cool with posting messy photos of themselves and others aren’t. And sure, while the “perfect” Instagram photos may not paint the entire aspect of travel and the hard work it takes to do many things, it is still AN aspect of travelling to someone. Refer back to point one. It’s business. So, if you don’t like what you’re seeing, scroll along.

3. What does ‘real travel’ even bloody mean?

Unless you are:

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a) photoshopping yourself into various destinations, or

b) travelling via virtual reality,

you’re probably travelling if you are, well, travelling. Sounds confusing right? Let’s break it down. Somewhere along the way, someone decided that unless you have $2 in your dirty ripped pockets to last a month, a broken backpack and worn out shoes, you’re not travelling. Apparently, if you stay in nicer hotels, you’re not “really travelling.” Here’s the thing- everyone has their own travel style and that is p.e.r.f.e.c.t.l.y fine. I am a backpacker who has shamelessly slept on the floors of airports, hitchhiked in the one of the most dangerous countries in the world; I am simply just an adventure-seeking adrenaline junkie. I am a frugal, cheap, hard-ass bargain machine and I love doing things like jumping off bridges, zip-lining, and diving.

That is not everyone’s idea of travelling. Just because this is my style and most of the time, Daniel and I are broke, it does not give me the right to sit on a high horse and be judgy mc judgy towards someone else who doesn’t do what I do. The elitist attitude towards a particular style of travel (or the traveller vs tourist debate) is unnecessary and doesn’t encourage people to travel in whatever way they want. Let’s just embrace travel in all of its forms and just let people explore, travel and be free!!!

4. It’s a little ironic that no one is judging the dudes on Instagram

I’ve never seen post or article complaining about men:

a) taking glamorous travel photos,

b) being in the “perfect” travel photos with women, or

c) being shirtless in photos.

And I’m not saying that we should judge them at all. I’m just wondering why women cop it so badly when men are out there doing the same thing? What makes it worse for me is that most of the time, it’s women that are bashing on other women.

Say what?! If there’s one thing that travelling has taught me, it’s to love and embrace myself in all aspects – particularly the physical. For the majority of my life, I have always been extremely self-critical, worried about my weight, and self-conscious about my body. Travelling opened up eyes to realise that none of my value or worth is placed in my physical appearance – being happy and healthy are way more important than having awesome abs (which I still wouldn’t mind). I have started becoming more comfortable with my body and damn, if I want to post a photo of myself in a bikini on a beach, I’m going to bloody well do that. So to all my travelling ladies, no matter what your style, no matter what your look – whether it’s frizzy hair, sunburnt skin or the damn wide brim hat that everyone seems to hate on – YOU. DO. YOU.

Live and let live! Let’s travel.


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20 thoughts on “Why We All Need To Stop Hating On Perfect Travel Photos

  1. jenellewitty says:

    Instagram is very aspirational in nature for the masses I think, or at least that is how I have experienced it. For me it is a business. Though there is pressure to have those perfect shots, I have to be real in that I am not a young woman with a naturally stunning bikini body, I workout to keep myself toned. But I do that for myself, and I say that knowing that if you google me I come up as, among other things, “A bikini blogger”. Wonder if they realise I am 34 soon not 18?
    I’ve done backpacking and as I got older I prefer smaller art hotels or airbnb stays, and my travels generally reflect that. We tend to stay in cities or small towns and then talk about what young couples can do as activities in or around that. If people aren’t into it, I don’t expect them to follow me or, as you say, just keep scrolling. I do love reading about all sorts of travel experiences though, ’cause it’s a passion of mine. I love that I can see the world through so many people’s eyes and stories. We are pretty lucky that way!
    I loved this post, so happy to have read it.
    xx Jenelle

  2. Lucy says:

    Great article; thanks for the reminder to quieten down my inner demon who gets horribly jealous when I see all the glamorous girls on Instagram! As Alicia Keyes said, you do you!

  3. Jackie Taylor says:

    I agree with many of your points here! I don’t get why some people spend energy on bringing others down.. I definitely agree that we should all just support each other and be positive! Great article 🙂

  4. Christie says:

    OMG, AMEN TO THIS, seriously! It particularly irks me when people assume that because you took a cute photo in a pretty dress that you spent hours getting ready and hours taking photos to get the “perfect shot” when rarely is that the case. I totally agree that we should all be supporting each other instead of being judgmental. If you don’t like the concept of taking photos like that then just don’t…. Ugh!

  5. Global Girl Travels says:

    Thank you for writing this post. While I haven’t encountered the same comments yet, I can get the context as to the whole conversation that brought this up. I did notice those ‘perfect’ travel photos and while I do not resonate to them, it’s not okay to hate. To each his own, as the saying goes. If you don’t like it or prefer a different kind of travel style, why not pursue what you love instead of bashing others. Pursue your own advocacy rather than shoving other people’s idea of travel and claiming that yours is most authentic! Again, I appreciate how you support other women!!

  6. Sophie says:

    I really loved this article and it’s so true: why ARE so many people judging/ hating on women for the way they dress, travel, what they wear? I especially dislike it when other women bash other women for the way they dress/ travel. It’s like that quote from Mean Girls where Tina Fey explains that hating on other women normalises it for other women and men. No one is harming anyone and creating those beautiful images is entertainment (plus, those images are a business for a lot of us- we spend hours creating them and yes, I’m one of those girls posting pictures in pretty dresses and wearing bikinis haha). I love that you also touched on the ‘real’ travel argument. All these things are just so annoying, like, we’re lucky to even be able to travel, why are some people hating on others for the ‘way’ they travel? Or even complaining -_-

  7. Alina from Reverie Chaser says:

    So much YES on the point about $2 and not real travel! Rather than minding their own business people want to count how much did you spend on a room (and tell you it was too much!), or ask you how do you launder money that you can afford that…

  8. rhiydwi says:

    I love everything about this!
    Personally I take my hats off to the ladies who’ve built their following on bikini shots & looking absolutely perfect on top of mountains, but in equal measure I take my hats off to the ladies who’ve built their following in other ways. As women it’s important we support each other no matter how we go about our lives (obviously as long as we’re not stamping on kittens or anything) and leave the jealousy and resentment behind.

  9. Chiera says:

    PREACH! I hate seeing stuff like this because it is just dragging other women down! Dude if I could hike a mountain in a full face of makeup and still look fresh at the top I’d post thise pictures everywhere! Let everyone do their own thing, I just dont get hate for the sake of it. This is (sadly) the first post Ive read with this Viewpoint so YES! Thank you for this!

  10. Raymond Carroll says:

    Good read. Women in most societies definitely get a rough ride in comparison to men. The key – I believe, to living a happy, stress-less life is to stop caring too much about what other people think. In regards to travel pictures and writing where we put ourselves out there – our bodies, our thoughts and feelings, our opinions etc. – in my case, I couldn’t give a hoot whether or not people like my stuff, or loathe it. I try to try my best with most things in life and if some people don’t like my efforts, then who cares – not me, that’s for sure! People are strange – jealousy, intolerance, close-mindedness, ignorant judgements, racism, sexism… the list is endless – these people are all out there and they’re not going away. Although it is right for you (and brave) to stand up and be counted if you see injustices in the world. I am 46 years old and stopped caring what people think a few years ago. Good luck and safe travels. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Only By Land says:

    This is an interesting post, I agree with it completely. I agree that Instagram is not a place for holiday photos with people smiling at the camera (or cute babies), these belong on facebook. Instagram is a business and posing for the photo like the first picture gets likes. Likes is what can make money, for example if she does this pose in a hotel somewhere.

    • La Vida Viva Travel says:

      I think Instagram can be used for whatever people want to use it for. It’s just most of the time, the hate is towards accounts that are clearly businesses which is why I used this as an example.

  12. Alison Vosbergen says:

    This is an important and interesting observation about our society. It says more about the person doing the put-down, than the actual “criminal” photographer who dared to style a photo to suit their niche audience. Jealousy can be very ugly indeed.

  13. Traveling Bytes says:

    Ironically, you touched a profoundly global issue. This division into two camps is present seemingly everywhere. From relatively harmless things like travel photos to lifestyle to religion, it looks like understanding and tolerance are forgotten virtues for disturbingly large groups of people. The saddest thing is that any reasonable discussion gets drowned under loud and often baseless accusations. Why humans just can’t get along?

  14. Brooke says:

    Thanks for writing this! I remember once sharing an Uber with a lady in Bali we had a great conversation about development in Kenya (where I’d volunteered and she’d worked for a nonprofit). We exchanged contacts and when I visited her Instagram account…it was all beach/bikini shots! Goes to show social media is NOT an accurate representation of a person.

    “Perfect” travel photos are a challenge to shoot and though I wouldn’t haul all that extra stuff around on a hike just to look good in photos, I respect other people’s choices to do so. Of course, if their good-looking shots are complimented by informative/engaging content, I’d like it even more 🙂

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