For my project Travel Blogging: A Study in Tourism and Identity, I sought to explore how traveling changes (or does not change) a blogger or traveler’s identity and how that is (or is not) reflected through travel blogs. I chose this topic because I love traveling, hearing about the travel experiences of others, and reading travel blogs. I am also interested in how traveling can change the identity of the traveler, and further, how that traveler (or travel blogger) writes about their experiences and/or identity shifts. Specifically, my plan for my project was to analyze two posts from two travel blogs each week through the lens of a scholarly article or outside source, such as a news article. I decided to add in an outside source to deepen my analysis and assist me in, hopefully, learning more about the art of travel blogging in general.
During the first week of the project, I quickly realized that I needed to analyze bloggers’ About pages to learn more about each blogger personally. I couldn’t glean as much information as I wanted from only analyzing two of their posts. Analyzing their About pages as well — the first of which came from The Poor Traveler — enriched my overall analysis and provided much more material for me to apply my scholarly articles to. Through various About pages, I began to see multiple examples of shifts in identity and interesting representations of identity. On The Poor Traveler, Dimen and Carlos discuss how traveling completely changed their lives and the path of their careers. On The Expert Vagabond, Karsten provides readers with the vagabond definition and shows us how he wants to be seen. Wiens creates guides for those who want to eat like a local when they’re traveling on Migrationology. Adalid from I Am Aileen features the “If I can do it, you can do it too!” on her About page. On Local Adventurer, Esther and Jacob tell readers why and how they became involved with travel blogging by moving to a new city each year. Yulia from Miss Tourist uses the same rhetoric as Adalid. On Nomad Revelations, Leitão does the same — he uses phrases such as “the world is out there” to try and inspire readers to travel. Yaya and Lloyd from Hand Luggage Only tell readers a bit about themselves and how they became involved in travel blogging on their About page. Waltner from Swedish Nomad had one of the most detailed and extensive About pages I’d seen — this, in itself, reveals something about his identity as a blogger. Lastly, The Savvy Backpacker’s About page lets readers know that this is not a typical travel blog — James and Susan focus more on preparing travelers. Although examining About pages was not in my initial project proposal, overall, reading and analyzing them added another level of knowledge to my project and made it much more successful.
Another component of my project that was more successful than I expected was the examination of outside sources. My first research article, “The traveler as author: examining self-presentation and discourse in the (self) published travel blog” explored the differences between the terms traveler and tourist and how this can affect perception and representation of identity. Reading this article during the first week of my project completely changed how I thought about those two words and made me think deeply about what it means for travel bloggers to focus on the term traveler rather than tourist. I had this article in the back of my mind through the duration of my project. I also learned about travel bloggers getting perks for travel blogging, self-branding on travel blogs, travel agencies using travel blogs as a marketing strategy, and travel blogging as a helpful tool for the hospitality industry. Interestingly, as I kept researching, it seemed like the next blogs I looked at corresponded to the research for that week fairly well. Or perhaps I was made more aware of certain elements that each blog had after reading previous research on those elements. Either way, it was serendipitous. The research process was about as frustrating as I predicted; I had some difficulty finding accessible articles that had information relevant to my project. Sometimes, I would find an article that had a promising Abstract, but I wasn’t allowed access to the article without paying for a subscription. In this way, finding news articles was a bit easier, but that had its own challenges as well. Predictably, not many journalists are writing about the topic of identity in travel bloggers — some are, but more should be.
Exploring the travel blogs and reading the posts was simultaneously the best and the worst portion of this project. Some of the blogs and posts were well-crafted, interesting, and helpful for the average reader. Some of them had grammatical and spelling errors, unhelpful content, and did not contain much practical information for a traveler needing guidance. Although I was not analyzing their writing skills, it was often hard to look past. I did not, however, let these factors bias my analysis of each blog. Overall, reading the posts certainly gave me the travel bug, which I discussed in one of my weekly reflections. I have added many destinations to my ever-growing bucket list. I also appreciated the variety of methods the bloggers used to travel — some were more traditional, some were backpackers, some drove around in a van, some lived in luxury, some went wherever the food took them, and some lived in and explored one city for a whole year. This variety of methods, combined with the variety of locations, provided me with a multifaceted look at how different each travel blog (and blogger) can be.
What It Means
I think it is obvious — whether we consciously realize it or not — that we all manufacture some sort of an identity online. This occurs on blogs, on wikis, and on all forms of social media. It’s nearly impossible to be your “true self” on an online platform. Travel bloggers manufacture an identity for themselves that can be easily translated and placed onto the average reader. This is where the rhetoric “If I can do this, so can you!” and “Traveling is inspiring and effortless,” comes in. Their manufactured identity is often easy and breezy, but does not always reflect how much work actually goes into traveling, blogging about it, and getting paid for it. This idea is explored further in my post about authenticity and self-branding. We cannot blame travel bloggers for wanting to make money and cultivating a likable online persona, but it is interesting to analyze. Through this project, I’ve learned, on a small scale, that travel blogs are not always completely truthful or inherently helpful. On a large scale, I’ve been reminded that online identities are not completely truthful, either.
As for the future of travel blogging, I hope this project has helped those who have been reading, liking, and commenting on my posts to think twice about what they read, especially when the information they encounter could seriously impact their own actions and decisions. Make sure to check your sources and do your research. However, don’t lose sight of the enjoyment of travel blogging and reading travel blogs. Travel, in itself, is a powerful experience, and it’s great that we have platforms on which we can share those experiences with others. Enjoy getting a bit of a travel bug while you’re reading. Consider booking a trip to that place you’ve always wanted to visit.
Personally, I’ve thought a lot about myself and how my own travels have changed me (for the better). It’s part of my personal philosophy to respect the history, culture, environment, and people of the place I’m visiting, so I appreciated any post or blog that featured information on those subjects. I’m leaving for a week-long trip to Estonia and Latvia in less than a month, so I’m eager to travel with what I’ve learned from this project in the back of my mind. I’ll be dabbling in a bit of travel blogging myself, or perhaps something more like a diary, while I’m there (providing there’s access to WiFi), so stay tuned to this blog for updates. Until then, thank you for reading.