I am not usually someone who responds to Facebook posts. Actually, I’m the Michael Jackson eating popcorn GIF – scrolling through reading the opinions of others with that frozen laugh look on my face that makes my husband think I’m a little nuts. But the other day I came across a post that I just had to respond to. It was one that I believe had good intentions, a post that was aimed at empowering women to feel comfortable looking messy and sweaty in travel pics.

However, the OP also called out the women who take “perfect” looking photos – you know the ones she’s talking about. She made remarks like these women wouldn’t last a day in her type of travel. Not cool. And she’s not the first either; I’ve seen many posts on blogs and larger publications calling out this style of travel photography and deeming it inauthentic. And every post seems to target and criticise female travellers. If that wasn’t bad enough, it’s usually women who are putting down other women.

It’s 2017 people, when are we going to FINALLY let women just BE? We can’t, as a gender, move forward and close the gap or change unconscious bias towards women if we are the same people dictating what women should look like when they’re doing X, Y or Z. When are we going to stop being so critical about every. little. thing? And since when did a certain “travel look” determine the “authenticity” of travel? Since I am someone with way too many opinions (and too much time to spare), I couldn’t resist the urge to break it down and give you 4 reasons why people need to stop hating on those perfect travel photos we see on Instagram.

1. Instagram is a Business

The way I used social media before travel blogging was completely different to how I use it now. Something a lot of people forget or don’t realise is that Instagram is a business. My personal Instagram account is personal – I post about my friends, weddings, birthdays and other silly things. But I also get to set it to private and only allow my family and friends to see.

My business Instagram account is the complete opposite of this. My followers are following me for high quality, adventure and landscape photography (well, I hope so anyway), so no, I don’t post photos of my best friend’s baby and how cute he is (and trust me, he’s ridiculously cute). I also have hundreds of food pics and yes, I’d love to post them all and relive the delicious culinary adventure but unfortunately my blog isn’t about food.

It took me a while to figure out that I couldn’t just post anything as much as I wanted to. It had to fit my niche and my business otherwise it just wouldn’t work. Imagine if your favourite #CatsofInstagram account started posting photos of frogs. I’m pretty sure you’d unfollow. Anyway, my point is – there are tonnes of different travel accounts out there – that’s the beauty of social media.

Travel blogging is a business and these women you see on Instagram are working. Some people love seeing “perfect” travel photos – perhaps they don’t get to travel themselves and this is their escape. They want to see dream locations and imagine themselves there. Vicarious travel at its finest. Others like accounts that tell stories of the raw side of travelling- the not-so glamorous, the blisters, aching muscles and stolen wallets. People get to choose between following the glamorous travel blogger who can hike 10 hours and look like a doll in a beautiful dress at the top of the mountain or the no-frills and no makeup chick with has had too many kisses from the sun and is bright red, sweaty and is proud to show it off. No single style is “better,” they are simply different. Let’s just enjoy the fact that we get to see people’s travel experiences no matter what form they come in.

2. Sometimes a picture isn’t worth 1,000 words and makeup and nice clothes don’t determine hard work

I am actually laughing to myself as I write this because I still cannot believe that to this day, we have a problem with how women look when they are doing different things in life. I remember when Alicia Keys decided she wanted to go makeup free to some awards show. She made headlines everywhere – some critics praised her and others attacked her for launching “an agenda” and being so scandalous as to not wear makeup at such an event.

I’m seeing the exact same thing in travel – like how dare this girl wear makeup during a hike. Or how dare she bring a change of clothes to take photos. Sometimes I’ll see a photo of a bad-ass woman, outfit and makeup on fleek after a hike and think “damn I look good.” I’m kidding, relax, we’re just having some fun here. But for real, I see these girls and I get a little jelly inside – I wish I could look that good too. Never in a million years does my mind go to a place to think that they haven’t worked hard, can’t rock climb or slum it out the way I do. I recognise the fact that a photo is just that, a photo. Social media is a highlight reel, so some people who cool with posting messy photos of themselves and others aren’t. And sure, while the “perfect” Instagram photos may not paint the entire aspect of travel and the hard work it takes to do many things, it is still AN aspect of travelling to someone. Refer back to point one. It’s business. So, if you don’t like what you’re seeing, scroll along.

3. What does ‘real travel’ even bloody mean?

Unless you are:

a) photoshopping yourself into various destinations, or

b) travelling via virtual reality,

you’re probably travelling if you are, well, travelling. Sounds confusing right? Let’s break it down. Somewhere along the way, someone decided that unless you have $2 in your dirty ripped pockets to last a month, a broken backpack and worn out shoes, you’re not travelling. Apparently, if you stay in nicer hotels, you’re not “really travelling.” Here’s the thing- everyone has their own travel style and that is p.e.r.f.e.c.t.l.y fine. I am a backpacker who has shamelessly slept on the floors of airports, hitchhiked in the one of the most dangerous countries in the world; I am simply just an adventure-seeking adrenaline junkie. I am a frugal, cheap, hard-ass bargain machine and I love doing things like jumping off bridges, zip-lining, and diving.

That is not everyone’s idea of travelling. Just because this is my style and most of the time, Daniel and I are broke, it does not give me the right to sit on a high horse and be judgy mc judgy towards someone else who doesn’t do what I do. The elitist attitude towards a particular style of travel (or the traveller vs tourist debate) is unnecessary and doesn’t encourage people to travel in whatever way they want. Let’s just embrace travel in all of its forms and just let people explore, travel and be free!!!

4. It’s a little ironic that no one is judging the dudes on Instagram

I’ve never seen post or article complaining about men:

a) taking glamorous travel photos,

b) being in the “perfect” travel photos with women, or

c) being shirtless in photos.

And I’m not saying that we should judge them at all. I’m just wondering why women cop it so badly when men are out there doing the same thing? What makes it worse for me is that most of the time, it’s women that are bashing on other women.

Say what?! If there’s one thing that travelling has taught me, it’s to love and embrace myself in all aspects – particularly the physical. For the majority of my life, I have always been extremely self-critical, worried about my weight, and self-conscious about my body. Travelling opened up eyes to realise that none of my value or worth is placed in my physical appearance – being happy and healthy are way more important than having awesome abs (which I still wouldn’t mind). I have started becoming more comfortable with my body and damn, if I want to post a photo of myself in a bikini on a beach, I’m going to bloody well do that. So to all my travelling ladies, no matter what your style, no matter what your look – whether it’s frizzy hair, sunburnt skin or the damn wide brim hat that everyone seems to hate on – YOU. DO. YOU.

Live and let live! Let’s travel.