If you follow me on Instagram then you likely know (and if you don’t – you’ve definitely got me muted!) that I spent the last week in Bali at the most glorious resort courtesy of TUI. It was truly wonderful – as good as it looks in photographs and everything more – and was the physical and mental space from my day to day life in London that I didn’t even know I needed. It gave me a chance to reflect on many different things and as the end of the week neared I realised that I hadn’t once felt stressed about Instagram. Yes, I was technically there for work. Yes, I had a contracted amount of content to post. Not for one moment did any of it feel like work and I didn’t adapt my day in the slightest to accommodate it either.
Before I launch head first into how I didn’t let Instagram ruin (or even impact) my holiday, I want to make a few distinctions. There is a difference between a press trip, a sponsored holiday and a holiday, just as there is a difference between someone who uses their social media for a living or enjoys it as a hobby. Bare with. On a press trip an itinerary is likely planned out; other bloggers are with you alongside members of a brand and/or PR team and whilst they are generally brilliant it does feel a lot more like work. You’ve got your professional face on, you’re not in control of your day and are expected to participate in a number of activities, organised meals etc which might be fantastic, or you might secretly wish you could slope off, read a book and not talk to anyone. A sponsored holiday (as I experienced in Bali) is usually all-expenses-paid by the brand, the distinction between that and a press trip being that you (and usually a plus one) are simply being sent away to enjoy as you see fit. Of course there are still going to be contracts and content requirements, but how you choose to spend your time is entirely up to you. Finally, a holiday is a holiday. You’ve booked it, paid for it and you are under no obligation to say a word about it.
I recently saw a blog post that was along the lines of ‘why I could never be a travel blogger‘ and it largely focused around the need to a) wear make up all the time b) dress fashionably and c) get up at the crack of dawn to take photos. Spoiler: I didn’t do a single one of those things. I think it largely comes down to priorities. I’ve heard of and even seen girls crying in the streets of beautiful places before because they’re stressed about getting content and at risk of causing offence, I think it’s a bit ridiculous. Usually, the requirements that cause such anguish (to look beautiful in ‘it’ locations with nobody else in the image) are entirely self-imposed and as such, if we’re getting upset outside KYND in Bali, then it’s entirely our own fault and I think it’s time to add a side serving of reality check to your smoothie bowl order.
Recently I stopped featuring myself in all of my posts, and god was it a relief. I’d fallen into the trap that so many of us fall into of feeling the need to actually be in every single photo, mainly because these are generally the ones that ‘perform’ best in terms of engagement (likes and comments). My epiphany came from realising that I don’t actually enjoy following accounts that look like this. My favourite by far have variety, gorgeous photography and don’t look a bit like a catalogue for ASOS new in. I really enjoyed taking photos whilst I was away and let’s face it, Bali is far more exciting to look at than I am! I appreciate that if you do have the kind of account where you’re in each and every image then there’s definitely an added level of pressure to be taking enough photos that you can still post once or twice daily. Part and parcel of that choice might then be that you want to be wearing make up in the images in order to feel good, and you want the images to feature a variety of outfits and locations. Suddenly I can see how a week in Bali might be spent running around in thirty degree sunshine, sweating mascara down your neck and desperately fumbling with the buttons of a playsuit down an alley way and nope, that does indeed not sound like a holiday to me. My sympathy however, wears a little thin because it’s definitely a choice.
I’ve always tried hard not to do things purely for the benefit of social media, and the photos I took on holiday were no exception. I didn’t wear fashionable clothes; I wore swimwear (not even particularly pretty swimwear because I’m all about minimising tan lines!), shorts and vests because that’s what the weather demanded. The most make up I ever applied was bronzer – which basically acts as face powder when I have a tan – mascara and once, lipstick. I spent most of my time slathered in oily suncream. The hair tongs I packed never once got plugged in and whilst sometimes I rocked happy-accident beach bum waves, other times I looked distinctly like I’d taken inspiration from Miss Trunchbull. One day I needed to shoot an image for a paid campaign I was posting whilst out there; rather than bothering to put make up on, I had my back to the camera.
You will never catch me setting an alarm to take a photo at the crack of dawn or to post at the ‘right’ hour in my home time zone simply because that’s just not me. I couldn’t think of anything much worse; I struggle enough to get up in a timely fashion at home! In addition, I actually quite like having other people in my shots sometimes. These are busy tourist destinations and portraying them as completely empty just doesn’t sit comfortably with me.
I don’t by any means deserve a medal because I didn’t pander to the insta-perfect pressure and perhaps I’m lucky that I’m not too plagued by my own appearance that I am happy to post bare-faced in 3 year old shorts that may or may not look like they’ve been chewed by a cat. What I am trying to impress is that you don’t have to alter your itinerary or your usual holiday habits purely to post on Instagram. If waking up at 4am to do your hair and make up and race to the Duomo di Milano before even the pigeons have had time to open their bleary eyes is your thing, then you do you! If, like me, you can’t think of anything that sounds less like a holiday than early starts, back-packs full of outfit changes and foundation melting off like candle wax then that’s okay too! You are not failing as an Instagrammer or as a travel blogger and you’ll probably just appeal to a slightly different audience who are more attuned to realism.