BBC Travel, you can do better than this!

BBC Travel, you can do better than this!

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?

Passo Sella, Dolomites, Italy.

Passo Sella, Dolomites, Italy.

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.

Jet-lagged at the Shanghai International Airport.

Jet-lagged at the Shanghai International Airport.

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.

Italian workshop

Italian workshop

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.

About the author

I get easily fascinated with people and places. I am passionately curious. I get often seduced with the beauty of nature. Blue sky, pure water, white snow and endless horizon seams to be enough to make me happy.

View all articles by Agata Mleczko
  • What a wonderful articile really. It’s been almost a year since i started blogging and at no point did I even consider quitting my job. I’d have to drastically cut down my expenses – something that’s increasingly hard the older you get. Of course at 20 something you can’t expect to earn millions – so traveling the world seems aluring. But backpacking Chiang Mai certainly is everything but traveling the world.

    I recently wrote something about packing light guides and how they anoy me. Truth be told.. there is just so much crap out there in the blogging sphere and pictures of girls jumping in front of the Eifel Tower is the least of them (tho probably the most anoying one).

    • Thanks for sharing your point of view! Let’s travel wisely, shall we?

  • I back you up on that! I prefer to work and have a holiday now and then than just travel-work all the time. I think the real problem is that people can’t really appreciate what they have in life – as they say: the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

    • Thank you so much for this comment! It means a lot!

  • Megan Claire

    Thansk for writing this Agata – it does need to be said, and I think there needs to be much more of a balance with these artucles which come out. Because on the one hand, I think it is important to inspire others and make them realize that if this is something they want to do, to quit their job and travel, then it’s absolutely possible to follow that dream and achieve it. Though on the other hand there does need to be a balance because this kind of lifestyle is not for everyone, and i feel too that it is often far too glamorized from the actual reality of what the lifestyle is.

    So while I like these articles for the ispiration they provide with the message that any dream is possible, I do agree that they need more of a reality dose to accompany the piece.

    • Thanks Megan. Well said! The inspiration is something we all need. What I find difficult to believe that making people feel bad about their 9-5 job would inspire them to travel. I know that not all blogs and not all articles promote this sort of thinking and this is the reason why the BBC series was such a disappointment to me. Anyway, I surely find your adventures inspiring!
      ;-)

  • Patti

    Good article, Agata. I agree with much of what you said, especially pointing out that people can change their lives in their own backyard. It would be interesting to know the authentic statistics of how many people quit their job to travel thinking they can survive writing a blog and actually make it – and how many more don’t. I’ve been blogging for 3 years and I still have SO much to learn. We retired a little over a year ago and if I allowed it to, my blog could easily be a full-time job. And, when you’re out there traveling, sometimes the last thing you want to do is write and update social media. We walked the Camino de Santiago and most nights I just collapsed at the end of the day knowing that I really needed to get online. Of course I’m incredibly grateful that we have a recorded journal of our walk, but just like having a 9-5 cubicle, there are two sides to every story, right? :)

    • Hi Patti, thank you for your comment. I do believe that we all need to work on ourselves, rather than just escape and enjoy ourselves elsewhere. Mostly because this does not work this way and I found that many of the long time travellers struggle with the same problems they had at home. And this is normal. But some people find it hard to accept.

      I can easily imagine how hard the Camino was cause I walked it last autumn. Every evening warm bed was the only thing I could think of ;-) Well done, though! I think that the retirement is such a wonderful moment for an adventure!

  • Jennifer Dombrowski

    I wrote a similar article and titled it ‘I Quit My Job to Travel’, but in it I explain that in reality I was actually quitting my job as a social media strategist in higher education to build my own business in the travel publishing industry.

    What you say in your post is true. It’s not simply quitting a job to travel! Most of these stories on the BBC are about people I personally know and I know that each of them works harder now than they did in the careers they left behind for this life of travel. The difference is that now they are doing something they truly love and going to work each day is a pleasure.

    It definitely does not mean everyone should sell it all and go travel the world. The message needs to focus more on finding a career that brings you joy because it is where the majority of our time is spent.

    • Thanks for this comment Jennifer. I appreciate your point of view. I totally agree with what you said about hard working in blogging business and I wouldn’t mind if the articles written by bloggers would discuss it. But what I do mind is making the majority of the population feeling bad about their job. I think this is unfair and far beyond the line.

      There was an article published October the 2nd 2015 on BBC Travel, section Adventure, that I found particularly misleading.

  • Sophie’s World

    Interesting to watch these trends. What’s dangerous, of course, is when people take them (too) seriously. Lately, I’ve noticed a new trend: articles entitled ‘why you shouldn’t quit your job to travel’.

    • There you go Sophie! I read a series of articles written by people whose stories were far from glamorous living out of their blog. They were probably, as you said, unrealistic and experienced a devastating failure, finding themselves in a situation with no money and no job. I would say that the blogging bubble stating this is the best alternative to 9-5 career is gone.

  • Jody Robbins

    You make some valid points. There’s a big difference between travelling and taking a vacation. I think those who fantasize about quitting their job envision endless cocktail hours on the beach vs the reality of waiting at a bus stop for 4 hours before taking a bumpy overnighter across Asia.

    • So true! Some of the blogs I am familiar with feed this sort of unreal expectations. I wish we were more honest about how our reality looks like.

  • It’d also be interesting to see some statistics on how many people who quit their jobs continue traveling 3, 4, 5+ years down the road. It’s really not enough to just quit your job to travel. Like everything else, you have to have a plan, you can’t just run off willy nilly. Good points, Agata!

    • Exactly! Plus how many of them got broke along the way. My guess would be: quite a few.

  • hikebiketravel

    I think you make a lot of interesting points Agata. For whatever reason the minute you say you’re a travel blogger, it’s assumed you lead this incredible life. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. In fact it’s far more competitive than anything else I’ve done, lonely at times – glamorous on occasions only. Mostly I love it – but I find I’ve had to develop a thick skin as anonymous people are happy to cut you down. I rarely get a full day off from work – even on a vacation so I’d like the other side of the story to be more realistically presented.

    • That’s it Leigh! I share your point of view. It is sometimes a tough one! It is interesting what you said about the competition. I think it is true but nobody addressed it seriously.

  • Miranda P

    Here here! I think leading a happy life full of travel and adventure is also about balance. I have to work full time while I juggle my freelance career because I’m taking baby steps to one day being freelance full time. I’m going to have to check these articles out – but yes, agreed, travel blogging is work not just a permanent vacay.

    • Good thinking Miranda! It is also true that the reality of blogging keep changing every couple of months. Sometimes things that were easy a year ago are not that simple anymore. We all struggle to keep updated about the google, FB, Twitter and Instagram changes!