Traveling & Influencers

Stacia Betley, MBA student in Sustainability

I have a passion for traveling. Not traveling to escape or relax, but to challenge myself. I travel to learn from other cultures, meet new people, and gain a global perspective. I spent the past 12 months working, volunteering, and traveling in Asia (Mongolia, China, Japan, Nepal, India, and SE Asia). I loved taking photos of the food I ate, beautiful landscapes, but mostly the people. I wrote a travel blog that documented my journey and discussed the larger challenges faced by that society. However, the majority of my  Instagram posts looked like this:

Only after talking to my close friend did I realize the disconnect between my photos and my experience. Traveling for a year was one of the hardest things I had done, however, my social media made it look like I was living a #NatGeoLife. I realized that I left out an important message and important photos.

I left out that what had made my travels so powerful was the constant ebb and flow of challenges and triumphs. I had an incredible experience, however, it was not all rainbows and butterflies. It was about learning from the places I traveled and the people I met. It was about having respect and an open mind. My long-term travels were far from glamorous, but with enough planning and budgeting, it was possible. For me, it was a balance, from all of the wonderful aspects to penny counting, arguing with my partner over our budget, and sitting out on “expensive” activities. I got giardia, hand-foot-mouth disease, and was discriminated and physically assaulted because of my gender. My experience was about growing as an individual and learning to adapt.

This challenge is the same challenge that many influencers face. It was important to me that I stay authentic to my friends and family, however, I didn’t even realize the life I portrayed living. This made me wonder, how do influencers with thousands, if not millions, of followers stay true to themselves? We all follow influencers, to see photos of shared passions or because we identify with them as individuals. However, are they obligated to discuss social and environmental issues? I set out to ask some important questions and Influencer Rachel Pohl answered them. Rachel is more than an artist, she is an adventurer, humanitarian, and environmentalist addressing the challenges that we all face. Although the majority of her social media consists of photos of her paintings, she uses it as a way to communicate larger issues. Click here to read the full interview.

I want people to realize that having a few or many thousand followers on IG does not mean anything about you as a person, and that life never stops being hard, no matter how high you climb up the social or social media ladder. We really are in this together, and I want to be known for doing good and inspiring people to love life and pursue their passions, not for having really cool outfits or having great hair in a pretty landscape.” – Rachel Pohl


Instagram: @asiastacia

Twitter: @staciabetley





Website: Rachel Pohl Art

This Article Has 9 Comments
  1. Emily Vanacore says:

    Wow, Stacia. You’re encouraging authenticity and reality in a world filled with embellishments and exaggerations in media. This article, these photos, your experience and writing- Amazing.

  2. Steve Karandy says:

    Super impressive. And with an additional interview post on top of that (not to mention the cool travel blog)! When does being an Influencer slide from being a side benefit to a job, and how does it affect your view of the world and how you communicate it, seems to be a growing issue for many.

    Having said that, I would totally live the #NatGeoLife.

  3. Sierra Goodman says:

    Stacia, it is super interesting that you unintentionally didn’t show the hard side of your travels and the not-so-pleasant side of the countries you stayed in. We know a lot of influencers intentionally do this but I wonder how many have a similar story to yours. It seems people start to believe the story they craft through their social media. I think that’s really awesome you recognized that and began to show both sides for both yourself and your followers.

  4. Kayla Henderson-Wood says:

    I love the juxtaposition that you presented when sharing your travel experiences. It is extremely easy when consuming media to begin blurring the lines between reality & fiction and truly believing most of life is good lighting and aesthetic views. This article offered a great insight to the everyday ups & downs people may experience!

  5. Alli Utti says:

    Stacia, your experiences and writing is inspiring. The question you pose about an influencer’s ability to stay true to themselves is so relevant to how social media is used today. Some people on social platforms portray their lives to be something that it just isn’t and I’m excited to read your interview with an influencer who seems to stay true to herself and her beliefs.

  6. Georgia Orgain says:

    WOW. I loved how you showed the images from your Instagram compared with the actual realities of it. I’m moving into a tiny home in Hawaii and when thinking about posting on my own social media platforms I think it will be challenging to show the hard parts of it. Partial just due to the fact that complaining about traveling or living in a tiny home in paradise could be hard it or unfair to many peoples living situations would probably get a lot of backlashes so that’s why most people don’t. Great post!

  7. Jeanne Schneider says:

    Stacia, great post! I think one of the most interesting things I’m getting out of this class is considering how each of us is creating a personal brand on all social media platforms – some of which aren’t always completely true to our life experiences. I urge you to share more of the “real” experiences you had during your travels. I think it’s important for people to understand that traveling for a year, to slightly undeveloped countries, sounds glamorous but it takes a lot of work too.

  8. Marisa Biggins says:

    You hit it on the head Stacia! We (influencers and the audience) get so caught up of the right images to show in building a perception of having a great personal brand. I only recently started traveling outside the U.S. and when I do, it’s for a combination of relaxation as well as, to learn from other cultures, meet new people, and gain a global perspective – like you. The bloggers I follow only show the luxurious side and probably because they have partnerships with brands, which is cool for them. I do wish there were more influencers out there that would share a more authentic way to see the world in a way to empower our generation. Yes, one can learn about global perspective in a book but the more individuals we have like you will open the door to challenge their peers to do something bigger than themselves. Kudos to you!

  9. Ani Clifford says:

    This post was very insightful and definitely made me think about my own Instagram feed! I love how it emphasizes the importance of authenticity. The story of your travel experience was inspirational. I enjoyed how truthful it was and it didn’t hide anything. This post will definitely have me looking more critically at Instagram feeds. I loved the quote from Rachel Pohl at the end because it definitely is so easy to get caught up with the popularity aspect of it all and get too focused on how many likes and followers you have. The quote makes you see the bigger picture and encourages you to not get hung up on the little things.

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