“Nothing good ever happens after 2 a.m.” Do you remember this line from How I Met Your Mother? If it’s after 2 a.m., go to sleep. (don’t Google)
One night of insomnia led to binge-watching the first season of “How to get away with murder” on Netflix. When that entertainment option was over, I turned to Google. Maybe I shouldn’t have (or maybe I should have, otherwise, things had not developed from here).
To give you a bit of context, I had experienced a very, very mild anxiety attack that afternoon and my mind was still processing the whole thing – I usually don’t think of them as “anxiety attacks” but as too many stimuli for a creative mind (I’m always thinking about something so I often go into overload mode).
It was a sunny Saturday and Lisbon was swarming with tourists from the cruise ships that had just docked. Chiado was, of course, unbearable but we had things to take care of in the area so I sucked it up for a while.
Absent minded foreigners kept halting in the middle of the street, talking to one another while pointing at the city map, trying to figure out if turning left was faster than turning right as if no one else was around. I, a blogger who is supposedly responsible for this by advertising Lisbon in a misleading positive way (more on this in a future post; stick around, it will be fun), said under my clenched teeth “are you f*cking kidding me? Get off my city”.
In a normal day, I’m as easy as Sunday morning, cheerful and happy to help (heck, I wrote two travel guides about Lisbon didn’t I?). But that day I was fuming at the sight of the crowded streets, the “oh so typical” tuk-tuk rides, the hoard of independent travelers who parade around wearing their rugged backpacks while propagandizing their backpacking travel style but who never venture inside the old Moorish quarter beyond the Tram 28 stop.
I was, of course, overreacting to something else (again, in a couple of weeks folks) and snapping for no reason at the wrong things. (By the way, the absent-minded foreigner didn’t hear my slightly xenophobic lash out; it’s not like I blurted it out like “this is Spartaaaaa”).
Eventually, I found refuge in a ’round-the-corner cafe in Mouraria, away from the crowds, overhearing the cheerful gossiping of two regular clients about the arguable decisions of a family member. A few minutes later, an old couple accompanied by a tour guide sat for an espresso next to us. In a perfect English, despite the thick Portuguese accent, the man explained the History of their next stop, Intendente, highlighting the quarter’s offbeat nature, without resorting to words like “ultimate”, “bucket list” or “off the beaten path” (the traveling lingo used for SEO purposes by a gazillion of publishers). I was finally able to breathe.
Did that last sentence sound bitter? I was processing… stuff. The kind of stuff that makes my stomach churn and that makes my husband tell me not to worry about things I can’t control. “It’s a waste of energy”, he tells me. (I know he’s right)
Rewind to that moment of insomnia and Netflix binge-watching that led me to Google. Again, if it’s after 2 a.m. (and it was), go to sleep. I, badly, wanted to know how much did the world hate travel bloggers after all. Were we all just a bunch of pretentious talentless freeloaders who started blogs to get freebies, and are so focused on monetizing that we trump everything else in the process? So I typed something ambiguous enough in the search box – “hate travel bloggers” – to see what came up.
I am aware that Google shows results based on user’s web surfing habits, so your top ten might be different than mine. But here’s what made my stomach churn and made me take time off blogging for a while — my top results were posts written by other travel bloggers, supposedly my colleagues. I don’t want to build that fire by naming names (you are free to do your own search if you’re curious about the results, of course).
Then I realized I was letting the idea people have of travel bloggers define me – whether they’re bloggers themselves or not. I couldn’t let others define me. I also realized I had been on that side of the pointless-discussion-by-the-water-cooler as a travel blogger before, not entirely bashing fellow writers, but somehow condemning publicly their professional conduct and business model. Here’s something I started doing after walking away from those discussions: if you’re not pissing on my turf (and therefore not attacking me, personally, in any way), then I have better things to worry about.
The upside of being a freelancer is that if you find yourself surrounded by negative vibes from your colleagues, you can choose to back away and take some time off. You can actually choose your community, and shut off everyone else.
Between mourning the death of our 14-year-old cat Mia (bearing in mind, as consolation, that she lived a full and happy life, was loved by us all, and had the most humane ending any living being could wish for) and researching and writing for my freelance clients, a month passed.
I wrote a lot but didn’t publish much. I was very active on social media, but 97% of the times published from the heart and not from my social media calendar. I struggled with the eternal question “so what do I want to do next”, but without forcing me to have a foolproof plan right from the first second (it helps when you have a steady stream of income that gives you the opportunity to actually follow your passion without the weight of bills to pay).
I educated myself in a variety of topics, out of interest, not out of necessity — Why We Post: The Anthropology of Social Media, Building a Personal Brand by Gary Vaynerchuk, and Travel: A Literary History* by Peter Whitfield.
I decided my debut book “Lisbon Travel Guide for Urban Explorers” was priced too cheap for the work I had done (the traveling back and forth, the researching, the actual writing, the formatting, the decision-making of what to leave out) so I re-launched it with a new price tag of $14.99 – part of me still thinks I’m being pompous to assume what I wrote is actually worth that much.
In the end, I decided to keep writing on my own terms. Mostly, because of this quote:
Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.
What is your opinion about travel bloggers? This is an open space, so I won’t judge your opinion, as long as you refrain from bashing fellow writers. Critique away but with class.