I regularly follow BBC Travel and read the articles published there. This is a good source of information. They publish beautiful pictures and I generally enjoy reading the articles and posts on their site. But for the last couple of months, among few other themes, BBC Travel has been running a series of articles called ‘How I quit my job to travel’. As an experienced traveler and a travel blogger here are my thoughts on this ‘quitting the rat race’.
How I quit my job to travel
All of the BBC Travel articles I am discussing, basically tell the story of people who decided to quit their job and travel the world. The series presents them as ‘leaders’ of the contemporary world, as ‘trendsetters’ and people whose ideas are not only worth our admiration but that we should also follow their example. The major part of the articles published in this series present the reality in a misleadingly simplistic way. Ordinary life and work is presented as negative, boring and unwanted while traveling is presented as a joyful, fulfilling and harmonious activity.
This is wrong.
To me, it seems like madness to criticize and imply that the majority of the population of the western world ‘waste their time’ working from-nine-to-five. It always surprises me how easy and quickly there is an equal sign between an ordinary job and boredom. When a respected medium like the BBC repeats this month after month, I find it not only naive but also offensive to all workers. I wonder is it really necessary to make people feel bad about their ordinary lives with their routines, roots, and connections with their local community?
Change your life
The stories described in BBC Travel often run like this: a girl or a couple get bored with their job or go through a crisis and as a result, they decide to completely change their life. The leading characters quit their job and for the next months and/or years their main and only activity is traveling. What strikes me is the conclusion that a perfect remedy to everyday hardship is travel.
This idea is only a temporary shortcut. I can easily relate to the need to change your life. I’m all for it! In fact, I strongly believe that regular work on your character, virtues and habits is the best way to become a better person. But why on earth would the only solution to boredom be leaving everything behind and traveling? How about looking at your local community and the needs of your neighbors? Making a difference in a place where you come from rather than having to leave to make a difference? Making new friends just around the corner can be a journey of discovery, why not try it? How about visiting a library? Acting as a guide in your hometown? Doing some sport with the kids in the neighborhood! The list is limited only by you.
There is no need to travel thousands of miles or to quit your job to discover that people are friendly or that they need your help. Disappointingly, I feel that the BBC Travel articles leave no doubt that there is ONLY ONE right solution. That solution is ‘Quitting my job = pure happiness.’ Tha fact is, that the big change described by the leading characters of these articles concerns a career switch from their former job to blogging, rather than a total freedom.
Just another job
The travelers and bloggers presented in the BBC series declare that at the moment their main income comes from writing posts and reviews, visiting the places they get invited, and so on. Whilst blogging is presented as a total freedom by all the travelers featured by on this BBC Travel series, the reality of blogging is rather the opposite. Bloggers have many concerns that can follow them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. In addition to writing, editing, photographing, and maintaining a website, they must be active on multiple social media platforms. Bloggers care about numbers and must cultivate likes, traffic, reach and milestones as well as being responsive their readers’ and customers’ feedback. Bloggers all have deadlines to follow and customers to please; they often don’t just simply pick the places they wish to go; they need to follow the invitations they get. If blogger would like to go to a particular place, the vast majority cannot afford to do so straight out, and must find the relevant contacts and then pitch a proposal. If it is successful, there are negotiations, what writing/photography/video work will be done is contracted, and there are social media sharing targets to meet. I would consider this reality a rather limited version of freedom to the ones presented by ‘I Quit My Job To Travel’.
In their articles, all of the bloggers unanimously praised their recently gained freedom. I think that many of them do realize how difficult and time-consuming this job is, and how limited their real choices are, but for some reason they say very little about it. There is silence about times of being burnt out by traveling, and no mention of times being tired; similar to how they may have felt in nine-to-five jobs. Obviously, it is the fantasy of ‘living the dream’ that sells rather the balanced reality: blogging is work with ups and downs to it like any other. It is true bloggers are not always sitting behind the desk for eight hours a day five days a week, but implying travel bloggers get total freedom for next to no work is far from true.
Here is what I think: blogging is just like any other career and it is unfair to try to convince people it is otherwise.
The good news
The good news is that traveling around the world and blogging about it is just a job like any other job.
Dear Hard Workers, next time you are reading a similar article that is trying to convince you your life sucks and you should quit your job and travel do not pay attention. Fear not! Do your best to make your life joyful and meaningful. There is no need to quit your job to grow, develop spirituality or make a real difference.
BBC, it’s boring!
I would be very happy to read a balanced travel article from time to time. An intelligent summary of these current travel trends and the assumptions behind them, perhaps by a sociologist, would be of great interest. An interview with a travel writer, an experienced journalist or a war correspondent on travels wouldn’t hurt either. I would gladly read a profound analysis of the current travel trends and changes visible in many places of the globe. Anthropologists, ethnologists, and sociologists have so many interesting things to say that can relate to travel!
I look forward to reading something really interesting on BBC Travel soon; please don’t publish more articles about “How I quit my job to travel”! It’s boring.
Disclosure: Special thanks to my dear friend Susan, owner of Vibrant Ireland & Travel, for proofreading services and comments to the draft version of this text.