I don’t call my blog a “travel blog” for several reasons:
My blog is not only about travel, but about politics, history, books and about other serious, silly and random stuff. Some of it you find interesting, some of it you find curious, some of it makes you hate me and unsubscribe. Because my blog is like me, a person with many different interests. I am not a brand or a product or a company, I am a human being.
I don’t want to be grouped together with most other travel bloggers who are going from sight to sight, from beach to beach, take a photo of a sunset here and a cup of coffee there. Seriously, what’s so special about coffee mugs that people fly halfway around the world to bring back photos of them? Probably, they never leave the hotel or resort, don’t meet anyone interesting, let alone experience any real adventures.
You know these kind of bloggers: Everything is “the greatest”, “the most adventurous”, “the most beautiful”, “perfect”, “breathtaking”, “amazing”, bla, bla, and everything “needs to be on your bucket list”. By the way, a bucket list is for people who are about to die or for people who don’t know how to enjoy life. Lists are for going to the supermarket, not for leading your life.
These bloggers travel to wherever they get invited by hotels or tourism associations, and of course they have to write positively. I, on the other hand, I go where I want to go, and I am interested in looking behind the glamour of travel. I don’t shy away from conflicts, tensions, poverty, lies, environmental destruction and the complexity of life. And I write about that. If it offends some people – as it often has – I don’t mind, because I am not a paid PR blogger.
I have to throw up (my hands in despair) when I read the umpteenth blog which praises the old cars and the music of Cuba, the beaches in Dubai, or the pyramids and camels in Egypt, without mentioning that these countries are authoritarian, oppressive or even dictatorships where people get imprisoned, and sometimes executed, for trying to exercise basic human rights.
When I read praise about Thailand, for example,
I can’t help but point out:
Having lived in Malta or Sicily, I can’t help but write about the thousands of refugees being washed ashore, dead and alive. Living in Romania, I can’t help but write about the discrimination/segregation of the Roma. Traveling through Eastern Europe, I can’t ignore the falsification of history that is prevalent in many people’s minds.
While it is sad that most travel bloggers know nothing about history and politics and probably aren’t interested, as long as they get paid for swimming in a pool and taking photos of their drinks, the most shocking surprise is their lack of geographical knowledge. Or how else would you explain that they constantly “discover” “surprising” “hidden spots” and “secret destinations”, when every 8-year old knows these places from school or the documentary channel?
I don’t even know which examples to pick because the internet is full with this most annoying fad. The “10 wonderfully secret tourist destinations” include Tasmania (it’s one of Australia’s states!) and the Pyrénées (a 500-km long mountain chain between France and Spain, you can see them from space or from Barcelona, that’s how secret they are). These “19 secret travel destinations you never knew existed” include Machu Picchu (!!). If you are the only person in the world who doesn’t know Machu Picchu, go on Facebook and check your friends’ profile images. Yes, the ruins in the hilly jungle.
Isn’t it insulting to readers if an author refers to places like these as ones “you never knew existed”? The people who put together “Europe’s best hidden gems” don’t ever seem to have read a book about Europe either, let alone been there. Lugano, Cinque Terre, Trieste, Santorini and Kotor as “unknown destinations”? Hm, I wonder how all the cruise ships with thousands of tourists find some of these places, then. Every day.
Because I currently live in Eastern Europe, I don’t want you to miss the “20 hidden gems in Eastern Europe”. The list includes capital cities like Bucharest, Tallinn, Riga and Budapest. My Romanian readers will be surprised that Brasov “has numerous Black Sea resorts”.
I couldn’t help but comment:
This “secret”, “hidden” and “unknown” mania is getting so out of hand that I bet you can find New York, Paris and Berlin on some of these lists. If you want to read about a genuinely hidden spot, check this out. But that requires a ride on a boat and a bit of walking, for you can’t even fly to that island.
I have now come across someone who seriously claimed Sevilla as an “undiscovered gem” and “one of the most underrated destinations” in Andalusia. I had to point it out to him:
Please, please don’t ever lump me together with people who write terrible stuff like that!
So, if you have been wondering why my blog never appears in some “Top 50 Travel Blogs” list, why I never get invited to anywhere, why I can’t even return to some places where I have already been arrested, why my blog is banned in some countries, you now know why.
If you have been wondering why I don’t write very often, why my articles are sometimes years behind my travels, it’s because I need time to prepare my journeys, to read, to think, to write, to research. Keep in mind that I don’t travel to show off or to tell others about it. I travel to satisfy my intellectual curiosity, to experience other places, to get confronted with new ideas. Some of these ideas I will share on my blog, mainly to motivate you to explore the world yourself. But most of the time, I prefer to simply live my life instead of writing about living it.
Lastly, if you have been wondering why I don’t have many friends, you may understand that a bit better now. – No, I cannot be silent when people spread bullshit.
In the interest of
naming and shaming proper sourcing, if you click on any of the photos in this article, you will get to the original website/blog.
Now that I have ranted a bit, I am asking you, my esteemed readers, to nominate your favorite travel blogs in the comments below and to tell me why you like them. I am thinking of putting together a list (oh, the irony) of the best travel blogs and – this will cause lots of enemies – of the worst travel blogs. Obviously, don’t nominate me. You are free to nominate yourself, but please add an explanation. What I am looking for is original, thoughtful or thought-provoking writing by people who care about people in other countries and who regard travel as an intellectual journey, not as a list to tick off. I won’t consider the quality of the photos or the design, only the text. – Thank you for your comments!
You speak the truth.
Thank you, Ma’am!
I actually haven’t heard of some places on the 20 Eastern European hidden jems list, and I’ve done a decent amount of traveling myself. Of course, I’ve started doubting the quality of the list from #1, Riga, which according to author, is awesome because it has sunlight and trees.
The arguments for the others cities ain’t any better.
But “haven’t heard of” is something different from being “hidden”. I am sure there are people who haven’t heard of Jakarta or Seattle. Somewhere.
karpaten willi.com/foto.htm,….like it because i lived for 15 years in braila an der donau but “must”read about mountains…
That guy is a true hiker and explorer and has a wealth of information and inspiration! With so much beautiful nature in Romania, it’s really hard for me to leave in October.
Hilarious. I like the ranting and raving, but also: Outrageous. Seriously?! Just colour everyone with the same brush. Someone once said “you will come across people in your life who will say all the right words at the right times. But what really counts in the end is the action, you should judge them by. their actions, not words”
you just can’t judge people to define your own strengths/courage….I’m not allowed to jugde either
Indeed your blog is very different and that’s the essence of it. Taking picture after picture (I love pictures), ticking off activities/spots from a list, showing off etc. shouldn’t be the purpose of travelling. I agree that background knowledge leads to a better understanding of people and countries, but it is also an emotional journey to get to know other cultures, to enrich heart and soul, That’s why I believe travelling can make you a better person…….
I don’t really like the standard traveler, even run away from them, pretend to be local, hide my nationality etc….and it’s hard for me NOT to talk to people, even if I regret it sometimes because 75% might be as described above and some travel bloggers are really young plus prostitute themselves for the “all inclusive paid holiday” but not all of them are stupid, uneducated and not aware of the political historical religious background of a country…..but they might not have the courage to write about it, I wouldn’t. especially in some asian countries you better shut up. For my part I don’t wanna be beaten, raped or imprisoned and just being a bit too loud when speaking out about “government, education, freedom” while the policeman was sneaking behind me (here), luckily he didn’t understand what I said just sneaking around for other reasons. Same for SIN you can’t talk about it….
(propaganda, brainwashing, education, control, bribary…………) They cut off the connection to my transcription program (proofreading commands on Windows Speech recognition Apps). Besides that you can’t speak about racism…..Also foreigners have NO rights at all and most of them don’t care about you….but not everyone is the same.
anyway I assume I just ranted now and should be quiet, especially with a temporary misanthropic attitude, but at least I give people kind of the chance ….even if it’s just for 20 min. :)
Oh, I am not painting everyone with the same brush. There are some marvelous travel blogs and I will soon introduce some of them. My point was that a large number of them are useless crap that people compile from browsing the internet and putting together lists.
And while I understand some fear of speaking out while being in the country, nothing stops anyone from writing after they have left the country. These would be the interesting articles, not the one about the visit to another Starbucks café.
I agree and that’s why I didn’t put effort into mine. In the beginning I just wanted to write about educational matters in different countries while working there as a teacher /social worker etc. but then I figured out I can’t do that, so I ended up writing one for friends and use it as photo upload platform. When I left SG I thought I am gonna say everything I have to say, then I realized, if I do that I will be banned like someone I met on my travels, he spoke out against racism and different “representatives” of countries are after him to make sure he shuts up. Really scary, but yes it is the interesting stuff to write about and takes courage and in a really wealthy country (don’t name it) someone wanted to put me on charge after I said she discriminates kids with another skin colour…….also if you write about things like that you might not be permitted to enter the country again.
Not being permitted to enter a country again is what I consider a very small price for telling the truth.
There are around 200 other countries, after all. Also, regimes change, so no travel-ban will last forever.
Compared to other sacrifices it is a small price. But not everyone is like you and I don’t know my rights and can’t defend myself like you could. Also I am not sure about that, but I thought it will be on my crime history check – which means: no teaching anymore.That’s kind of a sacrifice for me – others might say it’s a relief.
“Knowing your rights” is really irrelevant in autocracies or dictatorships. The rule of law is not one of the principles by which their state organs operate. When I was in prison in Iran for example, my interrogators told me every day “Yes, of course you have the right to have your embassy contacted. There is no doubt you have that right.” Of course the Intelligence Service did not contact the German embassy. In fact, when contacted by the embassy, the Iranian Foreign Office denied that they ever heard of me.
There is no international exchange of this kind of data (and being banned from a country is not a criminal conviction anyway), so you have nothing to fear.
You probably noticed that when you apply for a new teaching job, you are asked to provide the criminal background check from one or two countries, not from every country in the world.
Lastly, many people with criminal backgrounds are teachers because only certain crimes disqualify one from that job (in particular crimes of a sexual nature).
I know that you don’t have any rights in autocracies or dictatorships and they definitely won’t let you talk to an embassy and let you go, the only way to get out might be to pay money, that’s the case here, but yeah still, like I said you are a men and you also have more courage to speak/write about it. But thanks for your advise in terms of criminal background check. They ask me for crime checks of all the countries I’ve lived. And by the way your last sentence is very irritating. But I assume a few of my Ex-Collegues are criminals, at least psychological terrorists and one day I will take my Ex-mentor to court, when I have time for it.
I wouldn’t label everyone who has some conviction as “a criminal”. Stuff happens, and if you once paid no taxes or committed embezzlement or fraud or lied on a visa application, harbored a fugitive or took part in an authorized protest, that doesn’t make you unfit to teach. Quite the contrary, people with such life experience might be very good teachers.
In my opinion everyone who wants to teach should learn to stand up for things (bullying, racism) and they should travel. I think I was one of a few who really stood up and told parents that I don’t accept ANY racist statements in my classes, everyone was shocked that I dare to that. But like my dad always said (nobody in my family is a teacher) “If you will become a teacher, promise me that you’ll have a backbone and personality” Always right.
Thumbs up and respect!
Or you mean the part about why I don’t have friends?
ESPECIALLY the part about why you don’t have friends :))
But people could learn so much from me by listening to my rants.
Of course they could. :)
I like this blog http://littlehirosima.livejournal.com/. It is not strictly travel blog either. Unfortunately, it is in Russian
Some of my most favorite travel blogs are in languages I don’t understand.
And this one looks like the personal, original, varied, non-commercial, non-advertising, non-superficial kind of blog that I like.
Oh man Andreas you are going to be so unpopular 😉
I love your honesty and I agree that so many travel bloggers make vacuous comments about the places they visit. Also how can you judge a place or write a guide book after only a short few day visit 😕, unconvinced about authenticity there.
I live and blog in Sicily and I have concerns whether I should sell my soul and do more touristy posts or continue to be honest about both sides to the story. I tell you Italians hate it when you are honest about real life in their the bell’ paese.
If you have something to say, I would never refrain from saying it just because somebody won’t like it. That would make the world one bland, homogeneous place where everyone would only say nice things about everything (at least in public). In effect, it would be a world full of lies.
When you use the term “sell my soul”, I think you already answer your question. Don’t do it! There are enough people who post photos of the beach, of granita and of arancini every day, nobody needs the 117th blog to do so. But nobody else can write about your stories, your experience, your thoughts.
I like to combine serious articles with some nice photos in between. It’s sad when I see that almost nobody reads the longer articles, but a photo of a church in Palermo or of Mount Etna brings more “likes”, but then I have to understand that people don’t have time. And honestly, I don’t like to read long articles online either. For that, I get books or a newspaper.
Lastly, almost anything about Sicily will promote it in a touristic way as long as you include photos because it is beautiful. But I would never turn my writing in a marketing bla bla.
On the issue of “secret places”, there was someone who claimed that Taormina was “hidden”.
Well done Sir – “Lastly, if you have been wondering why I don’t have many friends, you may understand that a bit better now. – No, I cannot be silent when people spread bullshit.” – I know what that is like. #respect
Thank you very much, Sir! At least people know where we stand, what we think and we aren’t boring, bland people.
As I see, not many travel blogs were nominated.
I like this one: http://teleleu.eu/ . It’s not an actual travel blog, it concentrates on social issues, portraits, communities, stories, long-term photo-documentation projects. But they live in a camper and traveling is part of their life, so let’s put their blog in the travel box.
Oh yes, this one is very good!
Next time you are in Brasov, make sure to do a little adventurous day trip to Bran, where there is a secret hidden castle which is amazingly breathtaking.
“I will have to put that on my bucket list.”
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“What I am looking for is original, thoughtful or thought-provoking writing by people who care about people in other countries and who regard travel as an intellectual journey, not as a list to tick off.”
I accept your definition of your blog as not a travel blog, for the reasons you have so cogently articulated.
But it is, inter alia, about travel – in the pure sense of the word, and also about intellectual journeys. I have no option but to nominate you. Your blog represents all that other “travel” blogs should aspire to.
Andres. Unfortunately, most bloggers have neither your intellect, sense of humour, knowledge, curiosity, boldness nor writing skills (remembering with awe that often you are writing, with great skill, in a language which is not your native tongue, far better than many naive speakers can ever hope to express themselves).
Yours is head and shoulders above most of the rest: no comparison. Imo trying to find any (worthy) competitor is, imo, useless. You’re simply without peer.
Oh, thank you very, very much! That’s very motivating indeed.
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It is a blog that travels…
That’s a good way to describe it, actually.
I think you should install grammarly. Your English grammar is good, but you make subtle mistakes.
I would rather be corrected by a human being than by a machine.
Oh, come on Nicholas! Is this all you have to write after reading this text?
I use Grammarly even as a native English speaker. The basic version is free. It saves me so much time when writing papers.
I actually appreciate it when people correct me, I don’t mind it at all. But I wouldn’t trust no machine with it, who is trying to get us all unemployed.
It’s not machines trying to make you unemployed. It’s big tech companies and the machine learning engineers they hire like me 😉😂. Don’t worry though, machines can’t be creative like humans can, there won’t be any worthwhile computer generated blog posts anytime soon.
With some of the examples cited in this article, they might as well have been computer-generated.
Nicholas – as a native English speaker, how good is your written German?
I – whose native tongue is also English – have two degrees in English, and rarely find any errors at all in the superlative text Andreas writes. He writes a great deal better English than that of many a native speaker. And what he writes is interesting.
My parents are native German speakers and I can hardly write a word (although my understanding is generally quite good). So I think it’s a fabulous achievement that Andreas writes such fluent and colloquial English. And such interesting articles.
Where are yours in a foreign language? Or even your own? Do please provide a link.
Thank you for the recommendation!
That’s a really interesting blog. I hope there will be more articles in English again.
I don’t think so, her last journey was in 2015 … if I remember well. I wrote about her journeys on my blog: http://www.autostopmagellan.ro/timotei-rad-tery/
You welcome! Happily
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