Just like every traveler is different, every is every travel influencer is different too. So it stands to reason that every travel flex would be just as unique, right?
As we already covered in an earlier article, travel flexing is showing off your lifestyle as a travel influencer. Flexing isn't bad or good, but it can begin to feel a bit inauthentic when you notice the patterns--especially in the age of influencers recycling old content while promising they're as authentic as can be. So I started thinking: What are the common niches travel influencers fall under and how do they differ when it comes time to showing off?
As a boho traveler, travel flexing describes how worldly and culturally literate you are. You know when to pour the drinks and with which hand and the history behind how that particular drink came into the land--and that's a wonderful thing! You took the time to learn about the culture of the place you're traveling to. Further, you probably learned the language.
If someone says something that "sounds like a travel thing" and you say it in an airy, wispy voice and it sounds better, a Boho traveler probably has it trademarked.
When flexing, a boho traveler is likely to create content where everything comes off as so “exotic.” To varying degrees they’ll show how well they fit into the culture or how competent they are at navigating it. They'll also probably talk down about the "uncultured swine" types of travelers and tourists.
But since flexing is about playing up what you do well while downplaying the sucky parts, what would they not show the audience? They probably won’t show the homesickness (unless it’s sure to get that sympathy coin) or the isolation they face at obstacles like not completely being able to assimilate or not speaking the language. Also things that feel too "common" and don't tell the story of a "whole other world" won't make the cut either.
Probable day jobs: Digital nomad, freelancer, gap year student, English teacher, barista, permanent temp worker, voluntarily-starving artist.
Travel flexing for the business traveler is a bit different. Self-made entrepreneur or on a corporate dime, they flex by bragging about how much they made, how amazing their hotel/Airbnb/purchased home is, and how you can do it too if you just sign up for a course that they’re dropping the price for this week only (for the third week in a row).
They're their own metaphor.
Their flex revolves around money and material things and status: Their high-end purchases, how much they've saved, how much they get because of exchange rates which lead back to their high-end purchases, etc. Of all the traveler's they're the most likely to hold a stack of money to their ear for Instagram.
Things they'll try to downplay probably have to do with the reality of the situation: Many times, they're not actually rich, and so fall prey to the fact that while they can insulate themselves from some challenges of living abroad, they can't do it for everything. For example, they might not tell you that while the place they’ve purchased is amazing, they don’t go outside at night because they purchased their spot in a dubious area and it's the only "nice" place for a mile in any direction.
Jobs: Entrepreneur, remote corporate worker, international sales associate, import/export agent, hypebeast.
I almost feel weird for including the luxury traveler but at the same time I don’t for exactly the same reason: They invented the travel flex and it’s literally their job to flex on us and make us break our necks to look up at them.
They are the human personification of Vogue and Elle having a merger with Runway and Mode and it's all OK because Condé Nast said so.
They are the first ones to set the trends--think Infinity pools, “hidden gems” like Bali, five-star resorts, those weird pictures with the disembodied hand being held by the influencer on the beach. Their flex is literally the entire experience--they do the same stuff you see in luxury travel magazines.
They also have a certain amount of leeway when it comes to their camera's relationship with reality. With the most polished/airbrushed content and keeping in tradition with the way travel has always been marketed, they aren’t even expected to acknowledge the hard work necessary to create their content. Essentially, they tacitly ask us to suspend our belief that everything is as easy-breezy as they portray it and we're happy to do it if it gets us that sweet, sweet #travelgoals content.
Jobs: Model, brand ambassador, ,sugar baby, tycoon toddler, monopoly heiress.
Travel flexing for backpackers is the same as for luxury travelers, but in a different direction. While flex is measured in opulence for the luxury traveler, backpackers’ travel flex is measured in ruggedness and adventure.
If she hasn't almost died at least 4 times between waking up and lunch, the journey (and it's always a "journey", never a "trip") is a failure.
They’ll show off the breathtaking untouched wilderness of some far-flung island off a remote archipelago, or vlog about their wild whirlwind journey between cities on 0.2 hours of sleep and a cap-full of coffee brewed over an open fire on a desolate beach. If they're civilization backpackers, it's all hostels and airbnb's. If they're wilderness backpackers, you best believe at some point in the vlog there's gonna be a snake in someone's boot.
While most influencers want to downplay the difficulty of their trips, backpackers are most likely to hide if they flew first class to their destination. It's better that you believe they paid for their trek across continents with 2 Canadian half-dollars, some used toothpicks, and a broken rum bottle. Or that while they did set up camp in the grass, it was in the back of the fenced-in property of a local Marriott.
Jobs: Tour guide, gap year student, Peace Corps member, Eco-tourguide, paper-pusher gone rogue, disgruntled heir.
Travel Couple/Travel Family
The travel couple, like the luxury traveler, is marketing gold. Combining #RelationshipGoals and #TravelGoals, their travel flex hits every level of Maslow’s pyramid and beyond because of the aspirational implications: Enough money to book tickets for two frequently, romantic dates in every country of the world, jobs good enough that you can take so much time off, and they're probably self-actualized AF.
Already starting at the finish line, they get double points if they’re attractive and they hit a home run if they have kids that photograph as well as their Mumzy and dah'dee. If their niche is luxury travel and you don't plan on maxing out your credit cards, don't worry: You'll never be able to afford what they're showing off and their advice isn't for you. If they're the travel couple that wants to share the savings, don't scoff when they tell you to swipe up to be added to their list!
The travel couple are likely to downplay any friction between them or anything that shows their family being unable to cope with the pressure of constant country-hopping. Likewise, if it looks like he's forcing a smile and she's barely holding it together, they probably broke up a year ago and have to keep it up for one last Black Card brand partnership.
Jobs: Real estate moguls, hospital owners, professional landed gentry, executive, lottery winners, Kardashians.
Which of these travel flexes are you guilty of? Also, what other types of travelers did I forget? Shoot me a note below!