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Best of Instagram – #realwomentravel

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.

Read More: America’s Next Blog Model?

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.

Why are travel blogging and travel media STILL so WHITE?

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


A post shared by Mariellen Ward (@breathedreamgo) on


A post shared by Monique (@anunstoppablejourney) on


A post shared by Amanda Mouttaki (@marocmama) on


A post shared by Rosie (@thebeachbell) on

When someone sells themselves with the words:
“I’m a curvy mixed race girl with a triple chin on a good day!”


A post shared by Sherry Ott (@ottsworld) on


A post shared by Shivya Nath (@shivya) on


A post shared by Namita Kulkarni (@namita_nefarious) on

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 


A post shared by BRITTANY ROSE (@_brittaanyrose_) on


A post shared by SimplyCyn (@simplycyn) on


A post shared by ferina (@ferina.wa) on

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…


A post shared by Lizzy Gadd (@elizabethgadd) on


A post shared by Yagazie Emezi (@yagazieemezi) on


A post shared by Alexandra Esina (@miss.sjo) on


A post shared by Corinne Rice (@_nomadicmom) on


A post shared by Gemala Hanafiah (@g_hanafiah) on


A post shared by Pragya Shukla (@pragyashukla) on


A post shared by Yulia (@fayontheway) on

Who are the traveling women you admire? Shall we start a #realwomentravel Instagram revolution?
Join here and tag #realwomentravel to be featured.

Read More: The (sometimes funny) Truth behind your picture-perfect Instagram.

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Collage of square images of female travelers with text overlay - #realwomentravel

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  1. First of all, great writing! Second of all, I totally agree. I’ll admit, I’m guilty of feeling envious of the perfect-looking girls and their ‘likes’ and paid opportunities, and of perhaps trying to recreate it to an extent. But, I get so much more out of sharing and seeing real photos of ‘real’ women on Instagram. Wobbly bits and all, I want to know about the person behind the image and their travel experience, not their fitness regime for how to be able to model a new bikini in a tropical location.

  2. LOVED this! It articulates something I’ve been feeling better than I could have put it. I, too, have recently found that I have to scroll longer and longer to find something that JUMPS OUT and inspires (I love full-on long essay length captions too). What I like most about your post, however, is that it offers a solution. You clearly put work into finding great accounts and the rest of us thank you! Happy & safe travels!

    1. Thank you so much, Larissa. Yes, I tried rather hard not to make it negative and to diss the accounts out there but rather show that there are more options available if you are seeking some other inspiration.

  3. Hahah! ‘Their ability to climb palm trees’ made me lol! I always wonder how anyone can climb a palm tree and still look glamorous balancing on a thin tree trunk! Great post, I need to make an effort to be more real in my Insta posts. I feel I’m guilty of all the above, because that’s what the commercial world tells us we have to aspire to! Time to change!

  4. Oh gosh! There are so many new accounts for me to follow here. I feel the same about most travel blog Instagram accounts, looking at them makes me feel so inferior that I simply don’t take photographs of myself anymore. Yes, I admit that I envy girls with slim figures and flowing glossy hair – I have never had that, and never will. I think their accounts look lovely, but Instagram is so saturated with girls that look like models, there really is not much out there for those of us who don’t. I will most definitely be following some of these gorgeous ladies.

  5. Love this post so much! Followed a whole bunch of people. Thanks for introducing me to them 🙂

    1. That makes me so happy, Sarah – happy to do the introduction 😉

  6. I have been inspired before by those pretty women wearing pretty dresses on their travels. But as the time goes by, a lot has been popping out with the same feeds. And in some ways I saw how it affected negatively in others. They tried to imitate these pretty women and forgot to be their ownselves.

    1. Good point – there is nothing wrong with me inspired or even wanting to be pretty but to me beauty comes is so many more different shapes than the one often portrayed. And yes, easy to forget yourself amongst them.

  7. Thank you for sharing these accounts, all these pictures are beautiful and refreshing. I’ve been looking for new and different accounts, so I’ll definitely check these out.

  8. This is an awesome post! I feel the same… I used to love taking photos of myself all sweaty faced at the top of mountains as it was a way to celebrate an awesome experience. But then I started to see that insta was flooded with amazing human beings who looked fabulous in the same scenario (instead of red faced, puffy and dripping with sweat). I haven’t had the courage to post any since. I have a huge amount of respect for those that can look so amazing while travelling, but like you I wish there was more coverage for those of us who look a little more average. Love this collection of accounts.

  9. Thank you thank you THANK YOU for this wonderful list of inspiration!! I needed these women in my life!
    It’s hard to focus on being just me, staying 100% real, when it seems the way to be successful is to simply pose for everything…. i’m so happy I found this article to bring me back to Earth
    Happy Travels x

    1. Oh I am glad, Mikayla! I agree that it is so hard to stay real and not compare. And – I still don’t mind the occasional pose but with that more different women would strike one 😉

  10. These women all look both real and beautiful to me, imcluding my fellow Boomer Travel Blogger friends

    1. Right?! I completely agree 🙂

  11. Wonderful – lately when I’ve gone to the discover page on Insta, I’ve found myself scrolling, saying, ‘same, same, same’ – thank you for bringing together some interesting, lively accounts to mix up my feed!

    1. Thanks, Sara! Yes, I felt the same and that’s how this list came about.

  12. Love this thank you. Waving the over 40 flag but never put my picture on there! I’m also in denial about how over 40 as I still act like a small child!

  13. Annika, I am so happy someone gave me a link to this.
    Talk about true inspiration for worldview! Thank you thank you thank you.

    1. My absolute pleasure 🙂

  14. Brilliant & Refreshing !!!
    So happy to stumble upon this article & elated to see that someone echoes my thoughts .
    Thank you for sharing these accounts , shall go through each in detail.

  15. Thank you so much for this! I’ve been looking for more accounts like this so it’s great to have a solid list i can go through. Btw I stumbled across an IG account called Chinventures and fell in love. The girl is the absolute opposite of the popular travel women photos you always see. It’s absolutely perfect!

    1. Yes, I loved Chinventures! Such a fun idea and brave – as someone who has a doublechin too I greatly admire how she turned something that I perceive to be a flaw into a motto.

  16. Oh (wo)man, these are so refreshing!

    1. love that: oh (wo)man 😉

  17. I’m so glad I came across this post Annika! These and so many more questions keep bubbling in my head as I strive to find my footing in this saturated world of travel blogging/instagramming. I say saturated because just like you I also feel there are soooo many of the same kind. Thank you for sharing some great travel based profiles. Thank you for putting down your thoughts here. Thank you for articulating my thoughts so well!

    Parul | https://girlinchief.com

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Parul! It makes me very happy to hear that my thoughts resonated with you, it’s truly a wonderful feeling.

  18. Hi Annika! I absolutely adore this post. As a newbie to the travel blogging world, I’ve been shocked at how uniform the “most popular” travel instagram pics are. It always feels like the same fluttering dress in front of the same mountain with the same preset. And I just keep thinking – how is that even possible?! It’s so hard to hike up to that spot. LOL.

    As a Latina with curls and curves it’s even made me a bit nervous about immersing myself into this whole space. (Though I’m going to persist anyway!) I’m so looking forward to following these girls and shouting loud and proud for #realwomentravel


    1. Join the revolution on IG: http://www.instagram.com/realwomentravel 😉

      And yes, we need to work on more variety of all sorts, fluttering dresses or not, so go on and persist!

  19. I LOVE the idea, Annika! That’s exactly what I have been needing in my Insta feed for quite a while. I have always enjoyed aesthetics and beautiful pictures, but exactly as you said: It’s just getting a bit too much. Sometimes I don’t even know if one girl was just posting 10 pictures at once or if it’s pictures from different girls haha 😀
    Happy me, I’m off this afternoon, so I’m going to look through all the extraordinary accounts now! 🙂

    1. Thank you, Kathi! Glad we agree – there is space for everyone but we just need some more that are not same same but really different.

  20. WOW what a brilliant list – and such a great way to display it too! I’m trying hard to diversity my IG feed, and need to make sure IG knows that I also really want to follow these ladies so it shows me their photos!! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks Kathi! Yes, to be honest there are many great accounts out there but the top tiers still seem to be very same old same old. But I guess it is up to us to change that too 🙂

    2. I loved your IG story of your Instagram cleanse after this post 😉