I don’t know when or how it started but while I used to love Instagram as a medium it has stopped inspiring me. All I see are beautiful images of beautiful people in beautiful destinations showing off their hand with a beautiful watch (why do watch companies love travel bloggers so much? I don’t know a single one who actually wears one…).
While beautiful pictures may inspire me to go places, to improve my photography and editing skills, seeing the same type of beautiful people doesn’t. In fact, it is starting to make me feel incredibly self-conscious. While I am white and able-bodied I am not in my twenties anymore, skinny or model-looking. Neither do I wear or take pretty dresses to photograph them on a mountaintop after an exhausting hike or have breakfast in a pool with my Zoolander-esque boyfriend. And before you object – I get it! Instagram has become a business and just with any other photoshoot the model needs to be styled and put in the right light when you have a client who is paying for it.
And yes, part of me is envious. Of the model-looking young girls, their beaus, their ability to climb palm trees, and the business that comes with showing this lifestyle off on Instagram.
After writing about this predicament a few months ago some people knowingly or not, chided me and others for complaining. What is so wrong with a girl wanting to look pretty? And why so petty to complain and not leave it alone? And aren’t we all real women, skinny or chubby, old or young? And aren’t we all self-conscious to a certain extent regardless of how we beautiful the world may perceive us?
All of these objections have a very valid point, but here is the thing: a part of me is simply craving to relate to someone when I look at Instagram and travel blogs. Same goes for the advertising or fashion world. The travel industry with all those shiny pictures is a business and that business doesn’t care if my ass is a size 4 or 14 as long as I buy flights, hotels and plenty of happy hour drinks (and maybe that watch so I know when happy hour is over!). To make that happen I want to see images that I admire – yes, to aspire – definitely, but also to simply relate. These images need more variety so I can feel like that I could be this person’s shoes and one day leave the same footsteps on a deserted beach.
And I know I am not the only woman who feels this way.
One of the travel bloggers I truly admire, Oneika the Traveler, has been asking for more diversity in travel blogging for years as sadly people of color are still hugely underrepresented when it comes to the travel blogging world and the money to be made. I know I am already hugely privileged by the fact that I am white and from a country that currently holds the best passport in the world, giving me easy access to 176 countries. But I too miss diversity. As it is there seems very little inspiration and representation for anybody who is – and I don’t even like to use this term – different.
Look on Instagram and there is an obvious lack of super successful accounts by Black, Asian or Hispanic women. You will have a hard time finding women who are big or chubby yet still strutting along a Maldivian beach in a bikini (I know it took me a whole bottle of wine before I dared to show my bumpy bum in the picture above), almost no women who climb these figurative goddamn mountains even though they might not be physically able to climb, and where the heck are women over 40, over 50?
There are so many accounts that feature girls doing cool stuff but there are all so similar and picture perfect. I know that I personally like beautiful photography and a well-curated account but others want to see more reality, the sweat, the grit that comes with traveling. Regardless of what inspires people, everybody wants to somehow relate and to find themselves in a picture.
So I reached out to a whole lot of them in different Facebook groups and asked to hit me with their favorite IG account that was different. (First I was told off for being judgemental towards pretty, skinny, white girls and they are probably right. I know the term #realwomentravel is inadequate as we are all real women as is the word “different” when putting together such a heterogeneous group but I really can’t think of a better way. If you have a better term, I am all ears.) As it was, the response was overwhelming, to say the least. I got so many replies that it took me the one rainy Sunday in Cape Town to sort through everything.
People are probably going to be upset for not being included or for the fact that I am forgetting someone incredibly awesome which I probably did but I had to start somewhere and so the below is just a very small excerpt to show – yes, they are out there those other women.
The list is completely subjective and my only criterium was to show accounts that had at least a few images of the women running them, selfie, self-timer or Instagram-husband didn’t matter to me. As you can see, the list is extensive which is why I limited each account to one picture – phew, an almost impossible task. So go ahead, check those ladies out and show them some Insta-love if you like what they do or simply enjoy a different kind of travel inspiration.
Without further ado, I give you #realwomentravel
When someone sells themselves with the words:
“I’m a curvy mixed race girl with a triple chin on a good day!”
You know someone is funny when you find a headline like this:
When you try and get a photo of yourself holding the sun but instead you look like you are holding up a person ??• #fail
I personally don’t think every account needs to be ‘real’. I absolutely love some Instagrammers who have developed a certain aestetic and stick to it throughout their travels. As long is it not same same but different…