Influencers Tell Us Hidden Stories About Traveling For Content

“You know, we travel a lot, but we don't vacation that much.”
Koh Ewe
Travel influencers That Couple Who Travels, Beixin Lee and Robin Lam, and The Blonde Abroad, share what it's like to be content creators.
Influencers tell us what it’s really like to travel for content. Collage: VICE / Images: (L) Courtesy of Martina and Leslie Johnson, (R)Courtesy of Beixin Lee and Robin Lam

From waking up at odd hours to lugging heavy equipment around foreign cities, Martina and Leslie Johnson described their overseas trips as one big “go go go.”

“You know, we travel a lot, but we don't vacation that much,” Martina told VICE. Also known as That Couple Who Travels, the content creators would regularly jet off to faraway places and document their trips to over 30,000 Instagram followers, pre-pandemic. 


But the Johnsons said their trips were often riddled with packed schedules and work anxiety. 

“Your goal is to travel everywhere,” Leslie said. “So when you’re there, you want to make sure you capture everything.” 

Travel influencers are often associated with aspirational lifestyles, but the picture-perfect Instagram feeds are not always what they seem. It comes with nice perks, of course, but it’s not the dream job most imagine it to be. 

Like other marketing professionals, many are pressured to keep clients happy. Even when trips aren’t sponsored, the never-ending social media grind means many influencers are living realities where content comes first. 

For the Johnsons, the extensive travel photoshoots are a habit that comes with being longtime content creators. But because they’ve kept their day jobs, they’re not financially dependent on their social media activity. 

It’s even harder to step back when your livelihood is involved, as one Singaporean couple learned.

“We know it seems so much like a dream, but what you see on social media is really a fraction of what actually goes on in our jobs,” Beixin Lee and Robin Lam, Singapore-based travel photographers and videographers, told VICE in an email. The couple is known for their breathtaking shots of nature and tourist attractions, and used to work with tourism boards, hotels, and airlines to create international travel content.


While planning trips, they need to make sure that they catch the best light on specific hours of the day, depending on the location, just to get the best shot. Once, they woke up at 2 a.m. to climb Roys Peak in New Zealand, just so they could capture the scenery with good lighting and fewer people.

“Sometimes you almost feel like you’re not living in the moment because you’re so focused on capturing the best photos [or] videos possible, that you’re not really putting down your equipment to take it all in and enjoy yourself,” they said.

Then, the pandemic happened, and many travel influencers found themselves unable to do what they are paid to do. Lee and Lam’s travel-related partnership offers dried up almost overnight, and concerns about their livelihood took root.

“We’d be lying if we said we didn’t struggle for quite a while,” they said. “There was the pressure to accept other kinds of work to put food on the table since all our travel jobs were canceled.”

The couple pivoted to exploring local places while still keeping their focus on nature. This isn’t the easiest type of content to make in the concrete jungle that is Singapore, which lacks the abundance of nature and sprawling backdrops that characterized their content.

But they try to make it work. 

From forest bathing to staycations and nature hikes, Lee and Lam show their followers the green spaces Singapore has to offer. “It took us a while to adjust, and learn to be patient and be more comfortable with the slower pace of life the pandemic brings,” they said. 


The public profiles of travel influencers and the nature of the job make them vulnerable to certain scams. And even without the financial challenges brought about by the pandemic, studies have found that a career in content creation could be bad for mental health. Kiki Rich, also known as The Blonde Abroad, is a content creator who shares tips for women traveling solo. However, she initially grappled with how her work required her to market her personality as well.

“I’m a curious person and have been traveling for a really long time, and my intention is to inspire people, provide insights and guides, and help them travel. So it’s really more of an educational resource,” said Rich, who has been blogging about her travels for about 10 years. “But the pressures of social media and what works well have kind of forced you to be an entertainer.”

“But the pressures of social media and what works well have kind of forced you to be an entertainer.”

As Rich found out over a decade of traveling, the lifestyle can be incredibly draining, both physically and emotionally. Rich said that early in her career, she struggled to maintain relationships and stick to a healthy diet and workout routine because she was traveling constantly.

“Living out of a suitcase is not glamorous, no matter what they say,” she said. 

But despite shedding light on the less sexy side of travel blogging, Rich said she’ll likely stick to it. After all, it’s what she loves and is good at. It’s also a job that allows her to explore her creativity through photography in a way that staying in one place can’t. 

“I think people are excited to travel more than ever, so I’ll likely be going back into travel full force,” she said. “I don’t think that will ever change, even if there are ebbs and flows of the style of travel.”

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