There’s a German word that’s come to mind a few times recently. It’s Schadenfreude – ie. the pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. And in every case it’s come up because of the latest article about the misfortunes of full-time travellers. Who doesn’t love to bash on full-time travellers, those over-privileged or stupidly naive who decide to break with conventional wisdom? “Serves them right” says the frustrated couch potato surfing the net between shifts at McDonalds.
‘Media’ (and I use the term lightly) love to publish these stories because it sells. It brings out the haters. The usual suspects: Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Yahoo News and….CNN Travel. Yup, even CNN is getting in on the game. I’ll cite some specific examples below. But first I want to make another point.
Much of the Schadenfreude aimed at full-time travellers is a by-product of the “full-time travel lifestyle” sold by many travel bloggers. You know the ones. They’ll tell you that you can quit your job and travel the world, living on the cheap and making money along the way through travel blogging, free-lance writing or teaching English overseas. They’ll sell you books on the subject and they’ve become successful selling “the” dream. Most of it is bullshit. It is in my opinion both misleading and irresponsible. My friend Kemkem wrote an excellent article on that a few months back that I 100% agree with. In my opinion, if there’s glee out there by haters it’s often because they see confirmation of what they’ve long suspected as being a sham. Many of these stories just feed on that, making the victims (full-time travellers) look like idiots, frauds and failures while allowing the haters to bask in the knowledge that they haven’t missed out on anything. That’s the basis for Schadenfreude.
But what has set me off in recent months has been stories in the Media written by bloggers on their own misfortunes. I promised specific examples. I’m not linking them and I encourage you not to google them. Here are the titles (which say pretty much everything) and a quick recap:
I Quit My Job To Be A Travel Writer, And Now I’m Broke And Unemployed (Huffington Post)
Quick summary: Single young female, persuaded to quit her job by exactly the type of bloggers promoting the “quit your job and travel lifestyle” that I referred to up above. Her blog became more popular but she never pulled a cent. Anxiety set in as her bank account plummeted. She had to come home and start looking for a job. Her message? “From one idealist to another, the next time you read another one of those articles, just remember that not all of us made it”.
This Couple Quit Their Jobs To Travel And Now Scrub Toilets To Get By (Buzzfeed)
Quick summary: A post on a couple of South African bloggers who discovered that the full-time travel lifestyle has taken a physical and mental toll, that they’re not getting enough sleep, eating unhealthily, and feeling the stress of lugging baggage and finding accommodation. The author says the couple realized that the social media posts about their trip was not telling the full story. “But the couple wants their readers to know, when they aren’t doing yoga on a beach in Greece, they are scrubbing out toilets and scrounging for cash” (written in typical Buzzfeed fashion).
Jaded, numb, bickering: Travel blogging couple reveal pain behind perfect photos (CNN Travel)
Quick summary: Australian bloggers who’s “unhealthy lifestyle that saw them both gain weight and struggle to cope without day-to-day contact with close friends and family”. They found themselves fighting, losing the appetite for travel, and neglecting their relationship. They’ve temporarily split up to have some time apart. Their message? “We just wanted to show the world that long term travel isn’t one big holiday. There’s a lot more to our lives than just sunsets and pretty landscapes, which doesn’t get shown on social media. Our goal with this piece was to dispel any myths that we are ‘living the dream,’ rather than just ‘living.‘”
Why have these bloggers written or contributed these stories? It doesn’t shine a good light on any of them, in all cases the bloggers are made to look naïve, foolish or deceiving. Even the titles ridicule. Maybe they contributed based on the theory that ‘no publicity is bad publicity’? They all relate in their accounts that behind their smiling faces, candy-coated stories, and glamourous photos (striking yoga poses on white sand beaches) they’ve been miserable, broke, and fighting among themselves. The life of travel was not what it was made out to be. And now they want the world to know. I guess there’s no shame in being fodder for Schadenfreude. That’s my issue.
There’s truth to every article above. Full-time travel is not a vacation (which I wrote about here) and you have to learn and adjust. If you can. Being together with someone 24/7 is also not the easiest thing and you can have times where you find yourself fighting more than you used to. It’s not the legitimacy of these personal experiences that I have an issue with or even the recounting of their problems on their own personal blogs. My issue is what I consider the “selling out” of these stories to tabloid journalism where they’ve been ‘spun’ and sensationalized and where the subjects end up at the butt end of ridicule. I’ve seen more and more of these posts recently, it seems to be a growing trend. In a society where full-time travel is outside the norm and where people are just waiting for you to fail so that they can point a finger at you and say “see, you should have known better!” it seems to me that some bloggers are just too willing to be the meat that feeds the wolves. That’s why I say ‘we” bring Schadenfreude on ourselves.
Am I being overly critical? Let me know what you think when you read these type of stories.
Credit for photo at the top of post: Yogatrail.com
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