I’ve never been someone that’s been affected by the way people look in the media. You often hear it ‘young girls worrying about body image etc because of what they see in magazines and on TV’…nope, never been me. I’ve always been happy with myself. Until recently. Instagram really started getting me down and making me think that I wasn’t good enough and that you have to be and do things a certain way to be ‘successful’. Even then it’s still not a looks thing. I don’t want to be the person in the photos because that’s not me, but it was almost like my life isn’t ‘good enough’. But for the most part I like my life, I LOVE my travels so why should I be feeling like I’m doing it wrong?
I think a big problem with the blogging industry is that people are always trying to find ways to make money. Courses can be a big money maker, the mindset of ‘I have X amount of followers, I’ll tell other people how they can replicate it’. It can be frustrating if you see no growth in your own channels. These courses are a bit like moths to a light bulb, people are constantly searching ways to crack algorithms and want to know how to make their voices heard.
But then this is the problem. Part of what they preach is that you should be looking a certain way, your ‘theme’ should look like THIS, you should be posting these types of pictures, you should wear outfits that contrast with the background (who even thinks about that when they pack?!?! Especially when I travel hand luggage only, black tank tops and shorts will have to cut it!!!).
It works for them because that’s WHO they are. When people like me watch and are told that’s the way to get engagement, I’m left sitting here thinking I’m not good enough because that’s not me so does the mass audience not find me inspiring? Plus I’m kinda getting bored of posed/staged/staring off into the distance photos. Where’s the originality? But if that’s what they like to do and that’s what’s working for them, then that’s great, as long as they are happy too. On the other hand I’m not sure that all of them ARE happy. I recently read an article about a travel fashion blogger who was up to her eyeballs in debt because she feels she can’t wear the same outfit more than once, so has to keep buying new outfits. In a way I’m glad I’m not Instagram famous to the point where I feel pressured in that way!
I was happy with my Instagram but then I saw a drop like a lot of other people who track stats. I questioned if my photography just wasn’t cutting it anymore. Did people want to see the heavily edited photos? Does every photo have to be magazine quality? But then I saw people with BLURRY photos that still had hundreds of likes! It just didn’t make sense to me!
(This is an example of a photo that had poor engagement…)
That’s when I started watching ‘free’ webinars because what did I have to lose?! Apart from by the end of them I’d feel like even more of a failure and annoyed that they in fact offered nothing for free and just spent hours building up to ‘if you really want to succeed buy this course for $200!’.
I tried to implement the free advice…posting pictures that were all the same colour (such as blue)… nothing, try 30 hashtags, try 10 hashtags, arrange my photos in a theme… nothing, use the same filter on every picture… still nothing.
So I thought SOD IT. I’d had enough. I’ve had a couple of people in the past tell me that I’d thrown my whole life away because I hadn’t gone to university… and what did I do? I didn’t listen. It wasn’t their place to tell me I couldn’t achieve my dreams. And I’m treating Instagram the same way. I’m not going to listen to the people telling me the types of photos I need to be posting. I love my travels. I know I’ve helped and inspired people from the things I’ve done.
(This picture is part of my new ME Instagram, keeping it real! The only windows in our hotel were in the roof…and I’m standing on a desk…the likes and engagement were a million times better than the swimming pool photo!)
I’ve COMPLETELY changed the way I post now and I’m already feeling more relaxed and I’m not letting the pressures get to me. All the pictures I previously thought were never good enough for a ‘travel blogger on Instagram’ are exactly the ones I’m posting. All my travel selfies (back in 2008 before ‘selfies’ was even a word and I called them ‘head shots’), the candid pictures, the unposed ‘taken in the moment’ pictures, the ones of me grinning with my thumbs up. Because you know what they are REAL life. They are ME. These pictures show the true joy in my face, the joy that travel gives me and I think that alone is worth something. It’s not staged, it’s captured me in that moment, I’m not staring thoughtfully into the distance.
The support that I’ve got from my Instagram and Twitter friends has been AMAZING. It turns out I’m not alone and I’ve even gained new followers that love the way I’m ‘keeping it real’! Other people are getting joy from seeing how I’m embracing life and that is a win right there.
(This was the photo that started it all…a dirty ole beach, I’m covered in mud and horse poo, thumbs up posing and yet it’s been one of my best photos for AGES)
My travels aren’t crazy over the top expensive. I’m not rolling in money, certainly not now I’m in America (putting this into perspective, I earn $10,000 less compared to the job I had in the UK and I also have medical insurance bills for $350 a month that I never had back home). I set a budget and prioritise to make them happen. I’ve NEVER been in debt because of travelling. I’m just enjoying my life and the opportunities that I’ve been able to experience through my travels and I hope my pictures encourage others that being yourself is 100% OK and people WILL respect you for it! You will find your tribe of awkward travellers and together you’ll rule the world! At the end of the day even if you’ve inspired just one person surely that makes it all worth it!?
To follow along with me ‘Keeping It Real’ on Instagram, you can find me at @englandandiowa or by clicking on this link to my Instagram account! Drop your usernames below and lets share some love!