A couple of months ago I was asked, for the second time, to take an interview for a Hostel Booking Website in Europe, which I originally ignored as I hardly fit the hostel niche and backpacker brand. But their persistence seemed genuine, and their invite was less generic than most, so I thought I would use the opportunity to hopefully highlight the diversity of travellers. The interview would be translated into both Italian and Spanish as well, so it was a worthwhile opportunity in the blogger world. I therefore completed the interview, which in total had around 46 questions, and waited in anticipation for the day it would be published. But, on the day of publishing, I found I had been replaced by some other travel blogger. So I emailed to find out why, and they promised I would be on in a maximum of 3 weeks, as they now needed to respect a calendar. So I waited the three weeks before logging in, to find, again, that I had been replaced. And I now just felt shunned and ostracised, although from the beginning I had expected it. This was more of a way for me to debunk a few travel myths, a social experiment of sorts, set to highlight the diversity, or lack of it, within travellers and the travel community. As we don’t all have to follow the stereotype? But now I’m just not certain where I lost it.
Channelling my Inner Dork
This interview came at the perfect time as we had just completed our travels in Japan where I caught Farfetche’d, the region locked Asia-Pacific Pokemon, on the way back from the Sapporo snow festival. And, before that, I caught a wild Snorlax from our hotel room on the top floors of Japan’s tallest building. I’m not lying. A wild Snorlax from the top of Japan’s tallest building. In Pokemoning terms this is little more than epic. But, up until now, gaming and travelling have been pretty much incompatible, complete opposites even, where gamers would lock themselves in bedrooms away from the world, while backpackers embraced the world to live the so-called dream. So it only made sense to make the two worlds collide. So I go on to talk about a local Pokecrew I joined in Bangkok’s Ramkhamhaeng area, and how the village kids in rural Thailand would shout Pokemon at me every time I cycled past. Which to me seemed like great examples of local integration and immersion, when, in reality, I was expected to be sat in some generic backpacker café, sharing the same old backpacker tales. I even put my “bucket-list wish” as catching every region locked Pokemon across the globe, yet felt I should be saying something like “swimming with dolphins” or “kissing in the rain”. So much for trying to be current and awesome.
My Loosely Veiled Sarcasm?
Something I realised early in blogging is that sarcasm is very hard to put across. People really don’t pick it up in writing, and, even if it was, I’m British, so sarcasm is somewhat expected. But these interviews are hardly hard-hitting journalism to begin with, so some light-hearted whimsy in answers should hopefully work well. For instance, I was asked to choose between “hamburger or pizza”, and I decided to go with a hamburger pizza. Which, for me, was the only correct answer. Because these choices are rarely definitive, as sometimes I’d like a hamburger, and sometimes I’d want a pizza. But given the choice of a hamburger pizza…. I would probably choose it always. Because us humans are renownedly fickle beings, and our choices, tastes and decisions change all the time. So why expect a proper answer in the first place. And if you ask crap questions, you can only expect crap answers in return. But I felt like none of my answers fit throughout the interview, like when asked what musical group I’d like to see live? and I answered “The original Jackson Five”. I don’t really feel this is a wrong answer, yet I still felt I should apologize for not answering Bruno Mraz or getting schwifty at the next Burning Man. Although I did maybe go overboard when I included Chad as one of my top retirement destinations, or maybe saying I’d spend lottery winnings on cheese, whisky and gummy bears. Yet, at the same time, why can a grown man not have an obscene need for gummy bears?
My Disdain Toward my own Profession?
There was an emphasis in this interview on blogging itself, as well as success in blogging, which these days focuses more on marketing, social media and networking, which are all swear words to me. And this interview is no different in itself, as it’s used to leverage links and exposure, so my disinterest was probably highlighted in my rather flippant approach to an otherwise rather lucrative opportunity in blogger exposure. I also pointed out, when asked about the common mistakes of bloggers, that the main problems these days are in the “focus on monetization, link building, and networking, while blogging itself is either forgotten about, or done half-assed”. Which is about right. I also pointed out that I really don’t enjoy travel and, if teleportation was a reality, I would likely never travel again. So a dislike in travel would probably not go down well in an interview aiming to promote it. But I do point out, on various occasions, that I really do like trains, as I really do like trains. But maybe the real problem was in me labelling myself as a serial tourist, rather than a backpacker, traveller, nomad or vagabond, as my own interests are more in destinations and experiencing contrasting cultures. Travel itself is just the nuisance in between. Or maybe it was when asked why readers should follow my online adventures, where I struggled to find a reason, and admitted that I’m not great at selling myself. Given I spend most my life avoiding people, the last thing I want is people to follow me. I’m happy with just Google doing that. Oh, and I blatantly boasted about all the perks and free travel we get as travel bloggers, sounding like a total douchy egomaniac, in a way to fit the persona that was expected of me.
Who did they want me to be?
To understand this, I only had to look at those who replaced me. So I skimmed through the two interviewees to find a recurring theme throughout the articles. The most recent interviewee had posted 8 images with 8 of them posing on beaches. Then, going back to the first replacement, I found that 4 out of 6 images were her posing on beaches. I guess this interviewer really likes beaches. So, looking at my own photos, I find that the only one of me on a beach matched the question “what’s your favourite beach?” in which I answered “I really don’t like beaches, so I’ll go with any on Langkawi, because it’s a duty-free island”. Where I not only highlight my dislike for beaches, but also my own infatuation with booze. Otherwise my photos, which are included above and below in this article, were set to my answers in an interview which outlined a more personal side of my travels. This included my close relationship with my family, the love of my wife, my functional alcoholism, and of course my fondness for trains, as I really do like trains. I’m not going to lie otherwise. But maybe I was too truthful, and too personal, rather than following the clichés of every other generic travel inspiration I’ve come across.
So what did I learn?
I didn’t really learn anything to be honest, as all was expected. I played the fine line between being accepted, and having a comical interview published in three languages, against being shunned for being an oddball. I was happy with either. So while I may feel shunned, ostracized, and somewhat cancerous… I am also proud of my interview. Because I was so unlikable that I was not only replaced by other bloggers, but there were two empty interview slots between them. I was more or less replaced by no-one, as they would rather share the adventures of no-one, than me. So I am more or less an embarrassment to the travel community, I shouldn’t be promoting these alternative interests and lifestyles, and this only speaks volume for the brands that these interviews are set-up to promote. Am I, and people like me, not welcome in their hostels? Is backpacking really just a big exclusive club of like-minded hip travel folk, who have no time or want for us less ordinary people of the world? I thought travel communities were all about freedom of expression, and acceptance of everyone, from anywhere. But backpacking seems to be, as it is always has, about social travel, where introverts are excluded, and augmented pocket monsters are now a big no-no. But I won’t give up so easy. I plan to email monthly, asking for updates, until us Pokedorks are finally accepted as a viable niche in the travel community.