You just arrived at the train station from your overnight train, but did you even sleep? No, because who can get a good night’s sleep when you’re sleeping at 90 degree angle without a neck pillow?
You buy breakfast – but you can’t just buy breakfast and call it a day. You should buy something you can blog about; something different, unique, representative of the country. You debate between the millefeuille and the réligieuse – arguing with yourself about which one will pop more in your blog, which one you can write something witty about, or which one will photograph better. You pay. You make a scene at the cash register asking what the cashier would eat – maybe they’ll say something funny you can refer to in your writing, maybe they’ll be a dud. You try to pay. They don’t accept card and you don’t have the local currency. You make another scene by leaving and going to withdraw cash. Boom. $5 ATM fee from your bank plus a bank fee here, plus the risk of carrying around loads of money – as if your gigantic backpacker’s backpack isn’t already a clear-cut sign you have everything that’s meaningful to your life in there. You snap photos of the pastries.
You have to pee, but oh wait, you’re in Europe; You have to pay to use public restrooms. You decide not to pee to show your indignation of a system that makes humans pay to pee. This could be a blog you think. You withdrew money, but nobody wants to break a $20 so you can use the bathroom for $0.90, and the bathrooms don’t give back change, so now what do you do? Maybe $0.90 isn’t so bad after all? But no. That’s not the point. This is such a good blog topic, you confirm – something people need to know.
You get a subway map. Do you even need a day pass or is the city walkable? Will you be using the buses, trams, and metros or will that sabotage you seeing the city? You’re expected to have the low-down, so you figure it out. Taking a taxi would teach you nothing (and if we’re being real real, by being a travel blogger, you’re not making enough money to just throw on avoidable expenses).
You make your way through the morning commute with not one, not two, but three bags.
You have to make a pit stop in a McDonalds because you need WiFi to see if you’re near your hostel. You think of how if anyone saw you, a travel blogger, in a McDonalds abroad your reputation as an authentic travel blogger would be shot. Then you counter that by thinking you should write a blog about how McDonalds menu items vary by country…or maybe how currency exchange rates can be compared via the Big Mac Index. It doesn’t matter; the WiFi’s down.
You stop someone who doesn’t look creepy to ask where your street is, fully aware that by doing so you’re giving away your address to a complete stranger for the next few days. You remind yourself that if you were that paranoid, you wouldn’t have even traveled outside the country in the first place. The stranger helps you out because either you’ve learned the foreign language, you know how to say “where is” in the language, or you just speak in English.
Your back aches from the three bags which are carrying your entire life. You take a pit stop. Man, this city is beautiful. Can you believe I made it? In fact, can I believe I made it? Wow. Look at that old man sipping an espresso reading the newspaper at that café. Look at that castle perched on top of the hill with the perfect amount of morning sun hitting it. Moment’s over. You need to capture this for your blog. You take out your camera.
You feel gross and in desperate need of a shower and clean clothes.
You arrive at the hostel. Somehow you don’t have a reservation. They end up finding it in the backlogs of the system – their mistake. They show you to your 12-bed dorm. You shower, brush your teeth, do your hair, you even contemplate taking a nap, but then you realize you only have one day to explore the city. One day to satisfy not only your travel quench, but your travel blog’s audience’s as well. You lay your head down for five minutes, telling your mom, dad, and grandparents you’ve arrived and your boyfriend/girlfriend you won’t have WiFi but can talk later tonight. They’re upset and feel like you never have time for them. You check your blog comments, blog analytics, and if your next post is ready to be published. How many tweets were sent? Did you edit all those photos you took, emailed them to yourself, to then be posted on Instagram in a few hours when everyone back in the USA is awake? Remember the time difference? Back to social media: what’s today’s Snapchat story? Will where you’re going today be interesting enough for a Periscope? When was the last time you posted on your YouTube channel? Are people engaging with your Facebook page? You realize that if you don’t keep up, people won’t either. You kind of freak out.
Time to check email. Are your clients happy? Do you have any clients? Are they awake or is a nighttime for them? You contemplate when you should send your email – in the morning when they’re overwhelmed with everyone else’s emails? No. You choose late morning when they’re getting bored. If this travel gig is done, what else is lined up afterwards? Internet cuts out because you’re in a hostel sharing the WiFi with 100 other people all trying to communicate with friends and family back home. You look at the clock. 11:00am? Already? Omg.
You pack your day bag filled with your phone in case you come across WiFi (your laptop is way too heavy), sunscreen, a map, your DSLR camera, an extra camera battery, a camera charger, and a notebook and pen to jot down blog ideas, blog notes, and blog entries.
You leave the hostel. Crap, you didn’t even Google the top things to do here, read travel blogs to see what people are saying, or look at the city hashtags on Twitter to get in the know. You walk back upstairs and ask the hostel front desk: “What do you do when you’re not working?” They recommend the same touristy things everyone recommends. How predictable. Maybe they’re worth seeing after all? Some are. You contemplate blog ideas, Why You Shouldn’t Just Ignore The Touristy Things, What Makes a Tourist Attraction ‘Touristy’, When Touristy is Better – eh, nah, something more catchy.
You find the city center and head to the main tourist attractions to see what you’re working with. Hmm, €12 entrance fee. Is that price worth a few lines in your blog post? Maybe. Last minute solution: you walk up to the info desk and explain you’re a blogger and could help promote their services in exchange for a pass. Obviously, they want to see your blog’s media kit, rate card, or pitch deck. You know you should have done this beforehand, but you were in a different city doing all of this for that city yesterday, and have had WiFi troubles. You cut your losses and find something else.
Lunch. You could either save money and craft your own lunch in a grocery store, or invest in a local delicacy or well-known meal. You do the latter, regarding it as a “business expense.” It is, right? The food arrives, and despite the fact that you’re starving at this point, you know you’re on the road to do a job. You pull out your camera and awkwardly stand up because you know you have to “get the shot.” You conduct a mini food photo shoot, dodging the stares of your fellow diners, and wondering how many camera clicks are too many before the manager comes over and questions what you’re doing. Most times they think you’re part of the health department.
Ok really – what blog are you creating? It’s already bad enough that you didn’t post yesterday. Should it be a city guide? Something that happened? Tips? In any case, you need photos – maybe you’ll take photos and then decide what the blog should be. Or maybe, more realistically you’ll take photos of everything and they’ll just take up space on your hard drive. Yeah, that’s probably what will happen. Maybe you should take photos with your iPhone instead – sometimes they come out even better…probably because you’re not so great at photography, despite owning a travel blog.
You sit in a coffee shop to blog, but your mind thinks too fast for your fingers to type. You forget all the funny punchlines, charisma, and wit. Your computer is dying and because coffee shops have become known as WiFi heaven, the coffee shop you’re in either has a WiFi limit, or they have it set up sneakily with no plugs so that your laptop will die and you’ll have to go home. Either way, you feel guilty for sitting for two hours and only buying one coffee, and on top of that, you notice the quirky barista is giving you side glances like “OK, how much longer do you think you can stay here without buying another drink?” Oh well, you know your way around that game. You buy a small, and go back an hour later to get a refill.
This is probably your fourth lap in the main square and fourth pass by the touristy souvenir shop. You think of your family and how they would probably appreciate a gift from each country, but then reality sets in: if you were to buy a souvenir from every place you visit for every person you care about, not only would you have zero money left, but you’d also have zero space in your luggage (and pay an excess baggage fee on top of all of that). But at this point, your family gets it and doesn’t expect anything. Still, the thought is always there. You settle on handwritten post cards – always a classic choice. Because you’ve written so many post cards, and well, so many post cards that were never delivered, you know to snap a quick photo to send to the recipient that you really did think to write them a post card!
Enough is enough. Your blog post is weak and it’s time to make something happen. It’s time to walk straight up in a local’s face and ask them WTF they even do here. They either respond that they “don’t like their city cuz there’s nothing to do” or that “they sit at home watching Netflix.” That’s not going to work for a travel blog, so you politely say “Great!” and walk away, looking for your next victim.
You run into someone from your hostel and ask them what they’ve been doing all day. They recommend a thing or two, which makes you realize a good point: sometimes travelers know a city better than a local. Now that has got to go into a blog.
You head to the night market they recommend and it turns out to be one of those places where 70% are locals and 30% are people like you who have found out about the goods. It’s cool as an experience, but 1) how are you going to make this market stand out from the other thousands of markets and 2) how are you going to do that without buying anything. You opt for the kitschy table with mismatched knick-knacks and “vintage” clothing. Markets, much like parks and churches, no matter what country they’re in, all start blending. It’s not like they’re a unique experience like hiking Machu Piccu or catching a show at the Palais Garnier. You walk around taking notes of all the bizarre details so it’s not one of those blogs you try to write, but have already forgotten what happened.
Aside from the crappy blog content thus far, let’s face it: being a travel blogger is more than just your travel blog; it’s your online persona. Everyone back in the US is awake now, with the time difference and all, making this the perfect time to tweet. Let’s look through all the photos you snapped on your phone. Ew, that one’s ugly. What was I thinking? Better angles, next time, better angles. Hmm, how about this picture of the rooftops? Yeah, but that’s more Instagram-y. What about this selfie? Is that too narcissistic? How about another, yes another, pic of those dirty Converse from all the miles you’ve walked? Yeah, that’s symbolic and not too cheesy. Ok, that’s so cheesy, but let’s go with that.
You’re back at the hostel ready to talk your boyfriend/girlfriend, but the time difference is off. They’re at work, with friends, or asleep…and when they’re free, you’re at work, with friends, or asleep. You try to explain to them that this is a great job to have, but you totally understand how they feel that you’re constantly away too. Maybe the blog post should be from their point of view, something like “What It’s Like to Date a Travel Blogger” – yeah, okay, maybe if you want your entire travel blog audience to turn on you when they realize how unstable relationships are with travelers. You film a video on your iPhone telling them how much you miss them and how you’ll see them soon.
The hostel pub crawl is raging with loud tourists playing drinking games and tour leaders yelling that it’s time to go. You’re in the corner trying to focus on your blog. You think of how fun it probably would be to go out with everyone from different countries, but then when will your work get done? You realize you wouldn’t be on the road traveling if you didn’t have this blog, and by not finding time to blog, you’re not doing your job. On the other hand, your blog wouldn’t be an interesting blog unless you went on the pub crawl and experienced it. You feel conflicted.
You’re exhausted. You lie in your 12-bed dorm with your eyes awake. You think of how people back home just think you’re on vacation.