Living the Dream in Tahiti

Thoughts on Travel Blogging, Suicide & Living The Dream

 

Although we had 103 friends in common, were members of the same travel blogging group on Facebook, and had commented on each other’s posts in the past, I didn’t know Anita Mac personally. But still I was shocked and saddened yesterday when our mutual friend Robert Schrader revealed that the blogger behind Travel Destination Bucket List had taken her own life at the age of 43.

 

Anita seemed like a lot of our travel blogging friends– outgoing, adventurous, and happy. Her Facebook page was filled with enthusiastic posts about weekend plans and gorgeous photos of food, friends and fun on the road. As Robert said, her mission was “to inspire and empower people to live their dreams.” On the surface, she seemed to be succeeding. But, as “What do you do with a broken heart?” (her final post, on August 22) revealed, Anita struggled with private pain that ultimately tore her life apart.

 

I’ve been struggling to come to grips with her passing for 24 hours now, trying to figure out why the suicide of a person I barely knew upset me so much. Her death led me to re-examine this industry we’ve become a part of, questioning why we blog about our travels and wondering about “the dream” we, as a community, encourage our readers to live.

Travel As An Escape

Why We Blog

There are as many personal reasons for getting into writing about travel as there are bloggers in the sphere. Some just want to document their “gap year” getaway or round the world trip for their friends and family. Others simply want to find a way to fund their travels.

 

But one of the recurring themes you’ll notice after a while is people launching a blog as a reaction to something. For many, it begins with frustration with the 9 to 5 world– a rebellion against the notion that the Rat Race is the “normal” existence we’re supposed to endure. For others, life on the road begins after a crisis, whether it’s a personal health issue or the death of a loved one. Many travel bloggers seem to be trying to fix something that’s broken, whether it’s their relationship, their financial situation, or their own spirit.

 

Mary and I are no different: We started GGT at the end of a tumultuous year that included the death of my beloved grandmother, the finalization of Mary’s divorce, a tree falling on her house, and the loss of a job she’d had for 10 years. I was also growing increasingly frustrated with the fluctuations of the freelance writing market. In building our own business, we hoped we could take control of our financial destiny, and hopefully see the world in the process.

 

The point is that, for many of the professional bloggers we know, travel began as an escape from a reality that they chose not to accept, and the pursuit of something better.

 

Keep Calm and Keep Living the Dream

Living The Dream

So let’s talk about this new, better reality we create for ourselves. We travel the world, getting to see amazing sights, go on grand adventures, and explore exotic cultures that 99% of humanity will never get to experience in their lifetime. Some bloggers travel on a budget, some are fortunate enough to travel in exchange for coverage, and a lucky few actually get paid for doing so. They’re truly “living the dream,” right?

 

But what we bloggers rarely reveal to our readers is what goes on behind the curtains of this Technicolor Oz of global travel we’ve created for ourselves.

 

We don’t talk about all the obstacles we encounter along the way– the frustrations, the sacrifices, and the emotional toll the pursuit of the dream takes on you over time. We don’t talk about the 14-hour workdays, the stress of building our business, the financial strain of balancing travel and work, and the constant battle with burnout. We don’t talk about how “living the dream” creates walls of disconnection between you and your friends/family, some of whom simply can’t relate to your life of adventure, and others who resent you because they can’t come along for the ride. We don’t talk about how hard it is to hear people describe us as “lucky,” unable to convey our personal struggles for fear that we’ll be seen as ungrateful for our many blessings. We don’t talk about the loneliness, or the sense of isolation.

 

Oz

Image by Amazon Hippy, via Creative Commons

 

But what’s worse are the walls of disconnection dividing bloggers themselves– the petty jealousies that arise from humble-bragging about our good fortunes, the feelings of inadequacy that arise from the sense that we’re not keeping up with the Joneses, and the unspoken boundaries separating veterans from newbies and “popular” kids from outcasts. Revealing that our relentless pursuit of the dream is anything less than an optimistic yellow brick road to Emerald City shows weakness and vulnerability, so we simply don’t talk about it.

 

Instead, we talk about our latest adventures, and where we’re going next, and where we dream of going. And, whether consciously or subconsciously, we sell this message of inspiration that “living the dream” is easy if only you’re willing to “throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, and catch the trade winds in your sails.”

 

But the truth is that happiness– REAL happiness– is much more complex than that.

 

Mark Twain Quote

 

Honesty, Such A Lonely Word

Looking back on Anita’s tragic death, it’s clear that none of her friends in the blogging world had a clue about the private pain she was struggling with. My heart aches, both for her family and the friends who spent so much time with her at the TBEX conference in Toronto, some of whom have expressed regret, wondering if there’s something they could’ve said or done that would’ve made a difference in her life.

 

But the truth is, if we don’t share our struggles– if we don’t find some sort of personal safe harbor in which to convey the depth of our most heartfelt emotions– then we are truly lost at sea.

 

“Living the dream” isn’t just about getting away from the life we don’t want, but about constructing the life we DO want. And Anita, like so many other people we know both inside and outside of the travel blogging sphere, was clearly struggling to find that balance in her own life. It pains me to know that she left this mortal coil so desperate, so alone that she felt she had no other options.

 

The pursuit of happiness

 

Despite what some may say, travel is not a miracle salve that heals all wounds. Like any other distraction in life, we can use it to escape our problems for a while. But ultimately we’ll find that either those same problems are still there when we return, or we’ll find new problems that pop up along the way. So, while travel and adventure can inarguably enhance our lives and expand our worldview, I think it’s time we stop selling it as some utopian cure-all.

 

Buddhist doctrine suggests life, by its very nature, is flawed and difficult, with pain, disease, aging and death all inherent in the process. So maybe we should focus on learning how to be happy in spite of all, finding a balance between home, travel, family, friends, work, play, adventure and routine. Instead of pushing ourselves relentlessly in pursuit of a dream that may or may not ultimately prove to be all that we imagine, perhaps we should click our heels together three times and take a good, hard look at the blessings we already have.

 

It may not be as sexy as a RTW adventure, and it may not help sell as many airline tickets, hotel bookings or tours. But if we, as bloggers, can learn to be open and honest about our struggles, and to accept them as an integral part of our growth and evolution, both in business and as people, maybe we can find a way to be happy whether we’re traveling abroad, or just enjoying some downtime at home.

 

To me, that’s the truest possible definition of “living the dream.”  –Bret Love

 

 

If you enjoyed reading our thoughts on Living the Dream, you might also like: 

To Write Love On Her Arms- Helps Those Struggling With Depression, Self-Injury & Suicide

How To Be Happier: 5 Secrets To Improvising Your Life

Our Happy Place- A Celebration of Stay-cations

Learning The Perils Of A “Work Hard, Play Harder” Life

The Secret I’m Ashamed To Tell You

Family Traveling & the Bonds we Make (or Break)

96 Responses to Thoughts On Travel Blogging, Suicide and Living The Dream

  • I had an interview with someone the other day and they asked me what ‘living the dream’ meant to me – I decided that it should be called living YOUR dream. Take the ‘the’ outta there, because just because I want to travel the world and that’s my dream, doesn’t mean that it’s someone elses!

    I can see your point about not selling travel as a cure for everything. Personally, it is my only cure that I’ve found so far for the struggles I’ve had, the only thing that has truly helped me to get through the darkest of times. But that’s just me, it won’t necessarily cure everyone’s problems!

    I’d never met Anita either, but the news shocked me as well. I the regardless of having never met her, it’s a blow to our community that none of us expected to effect us.

    • Talon says:

      I like how you worded that. I totally agree. I don’t try to live THE dream, I like MY dream. I don’t want people to live my dream or anyone else’s. I want them to live their own dream, to make their dream their reality. Perhaps that what makes a big difference for me. I don’t feel like I’m competing with anyone else or that I don’t compare with someone else. I’m interested in pursuing my own factors for a quality life which makes things a lot less stressful.

  • lola says:

    Hi Brett,

    What a lovely post and so very much rings true here. I like to think I was a relatively good, albeit new friend to Anita. Sadly, I did know much of the struggles she was going through but I didn’t know her history of depression and how desperate she was feeling. Suicide isn’t a foreign concept to me personally, and sadly, there isn’t any saving someone except for that someone themselves. It is so heartbreaking.

    I love traveling because it has afforded me to see different slices of life through my eyes and the eyes of others. I have met some of the most amazing people through my travels, including Anita, and that will keep me traveling onward for the rest of my life.

    I agree with how this “lifestyle” is misunderstood…I personally struggle with a lack of acceptance from many. And, in my experience, they don’t even have the interest to understand. Their minds have been made up. I truly wish they would go travel and open up their eyes to “it takes all kinds”.

    Anyway, glad you wrote this. I’m sure many many are 🙂

    LOLA

  • This post brought tears to my eyes. Although I did not know Anita, your words really touched a nerve. It’s one thing to talk to friends about struggles in your career, but quite another to broadcast to anyone who happens upon your blog {and who might just be the sponsor you are trying to work with}. I agree with every thing you have said, but am not sure in reality I could be so honest and vulnerable about the struggles we face to all of my readers. It’s certainly given me food for thought and I thank you for putting it out here for everyone to think about.

  • Wow, this is news to me, so tragic indeed. I tried on many occasions to engage with Anita but for some reason never got any responses so I just chauked it up as self promotion. In any case always looking on the rosy side is what most try to sell.

    For me its really just looking at the positives and the amazing parts of the world that are so unique and worth visiting some day, if not just on the web for a short visit. It is true there is a lot of the hidden and not discussed but it depends if your blog is more personal or travel narrative in nature.

  • jill says:

    I’ve been struggling with this myself. I had the pleasure of traveling for a few days with Anita in Canada in July and I knew her as a bubbly and energetic spirit. It’s hard to come to grips with suicide… especially if it’s done by someone you’ve met and you never saw see it coming. Hopefully she found the peace she sought after, where ever she is.

  • Jennifer says:

    Very good post, Brett. Like you, we had some friends in common, followed each other on Twitter, and commented on a blog post here and there. But I didn’t personally know Anita. Yet when I heard the news yesterday, it saddened me.

    We’re part of an overseas military community and a few months ago a pilot was lost in a plane crash. My husband and I didn’t know him personally and really couldn’t understand why others that didn’t either were posting messages about it on their Facebook.

    I guess I get it a bit now. While the military community doesn’t directly affect me and isn’t something I honestly care about, the blogging community on the other hand is. So I felt sad and understood how Anita could be so positive on her social channels but lonely in life. I think we all feel that at least from time to time, but the “outside” world only sees the fun parts.

  • Ah I hate typos, I meant in general not nature for the last word(sorry). I also find it ironic that our links following our comment are all so dreamy and sweet….

  • Angie Away says:

    Great post, Bret. You found a way to put what I think many of us feel into very eloquent and simple terms.
    Travel is not a cure-all, and we do ourselves and our readers a disservice by touting it as such. Traveling the world is a fantasy, but life doesn’t cease to be just as tough just because it’s happening in a different time zone. It’s not easy to explain, especially when all our photos look like every day is red letter, but I’m pretty sure there’s no one in our industry who hasn’t struggled with similar issues as Anita at some point. Thanks for writing this!

  • Bret, thank you so much for this. I did not know Anita either, and just found out about this tragic event through you.
    But I have many of the same feelings as you.
    I dont think that this “disconnect” is unique to travel bloggers, or even travel in general. You have really hit the nail on the head here with a lot of your observations – but it’s the same for many things in life. Particular things (either that we buy or that we do) will not make us happy, inherently in and of themselves. Traveling won’t magically make us happy. Buying a bigger house or fancier car won’t make us happy. Quitting our jobs to become a yoga instructor or artist or professional skateboarder or any of a zillion other “fantasies” won’t make us happy.
    Yes, living a life that is more authentic to our own personal, inner passions certainly will bring more joy, fulfillment and opportunities for a satisfied life to most of us. Depression and unhappiness often comes from living a life that seems false to us, or that is based on other people’s expectations or what society deems we “should” be doing.
    But true happiness is internal. Nothing – no amount of travel or the “right” job or more money or better stuff – is going to MAKE us happy.
    We do need to be aware that the reality of life is reality for all of us, no matter what our lifestyle or how we seem to the outside. We all have struggles, problems, heartaches and sadness. I think sharing that with others is what binds us and helps us not feel so alone.
    Thank you again for sharing.

  • I didn’t know Anita at all but I followed her Twitter feeds and read her blog occasionally. Her suicide left me feeling so sad and wishing I could find a way to give her a “do over” and prevent her from making the decision she did. I’ve struggled with depression too but it’s well managed and has never brought me to the edge as it must have with Anita. What you wrote is so true. Who would want to read about our worries? I’m moving from Boston to Florida to cut my cost of living and have more time with my sister but I’m worried that I won’t like it there. But I write humorous blogposts so will probably find the humor in that to help me express my concerns and put them in perspective. I don’t personally know anyone who has committed suicide but I doubt that anyone could have prevented this tragedy except Anita herself. Only if someone was literally present when she harmed herself is it realistic that she could have been helped. But it is hard to find people who understand or are even interested in our travel passions and that can be a little isolating. Fellow bloggers and bloggerettes all need to be kind to one another and realize we’re in this because we love it – not to “beat” other people but to spread our love of travel. RIP Anita.

  • Lilian says:

    I didn’t know Anita, but when I realised that she was on the same Tbex tour as me, I wished I had even just said hello as she seemed like such as lovely person. As Lola said, I’m glad you wrote this. There’s no one perfect fit for everyone. To be honest, lately I’ve been questioning why I started a blog, I felt like I was being pulled in different directions as to what was the “right way” to be a travel blogger and should I be selling some sort of ideal life.
    With this sad news, I’ve realised that there is no right way or wrong way and that trying to live up to someone else’s idea of a dream life is pointless and will just lead to feeling unfulfilled. I completely agree that finding happiness in what ever you do will lead to a more fulfilling life than chasing dreams.

  • Well, said. Even thought I didn’t know Anita really well, her passing saddens me. The first thing I thought when I found out a few days ago was how I just talked to her, we joked around about guys, and I would have never guessed she wasn’t happy. That’s the thing, no matter what you see on the outside, you never know what’s really going on with someone unless they share it with you.

    Your article correctly touches on the dark side of the travel writing community and how hard it can be to break into. The amount of rejection, being looked down on, and backstabbing that can be found with in this community is hard to stomach at times. Luckily, there’s a bright side to it, too.

    If it wasn’t for all of the good, those willing to teach, and those who don’t care what your numbers are in order to be friends and work with you, I think most would give up much quicker. Us “newbies” are lucky to have more established members of this community, like you and Mary, who offer both a hand in learning and friendship. I thank both of you for that.

    It’s sad that it takes something like the loss of another to open our eyes to the truth. I hope everyone can learn something from this. RIP, Anita.

  • Jenna says:

    I’m glad you wrote about this topic since it’s been on the minds of many of us lately (I’d never met Anita but was affected by her death as a fellow human being). One thing I would add to the discussion is that there is no dream to pursue. Life is not easy. As you mentioned, building the life you want (wherever and however is appropriate for you!) is important, but there will still be struggles, and we must be aware of that so we can try to be prepared to meet them when they come.

  • Wow Bret, thanks for sharing your words…I totally agree. SOmetimes I’ve found myself thinking if I’ve been sharing more than I should on my personal travel blog…but then I realize after reading you that it is simply life, and it is what it is. We all got circumstances beyond travel and we are all allowed to have them of course. I feel so sorry for Anita…this is very painful to learn. Thanks again for sharing, Bret!

  • Great post, Brett. I love how open and honest you are. Anita and I became friends through blogging just under a year ago, and we traveled together as recently as a few weeks ago in Montreal. I knew a lot was going on in her life, but that weekend, the weekend of her birthday, she didn’t strike me as someone who was on the verge of suicide. I knew the coming weeks would be tough, and we all offered our help and support. She put on a happy face and talked about her plans for travel in the coming weeks – we even were planning a few trips together. Maybe coming off the high of that weekend, and what feels so good and right about travel, was even harder for Anita knowing what she was dealing with at home. I think, in general, Anita was used to putting the happiness of others first, and she just reached a breaking point after dealing with so much sadness of her own. This doesn’t make it any easier to comprehend, but it makes sense. I have never seen the sad side of Anita – only the bright, cheery, adventurous side – but I’m sure it was there.

    Yes, travel and travel writing involve many hardships, and yes, we do need to share when we are struggling, but I think sometimes it’s deeper than that and more difficult to do. Sometimes we hid it from ourselves and wear a mask of happiness when around others, so that we don’t realize how dark things really are. Anita had people to reach out to, and what I believe was a great support system, but I think her sadness was just too much to bear, which make the situation even more difficult.

    Still, even with the hardships of travel and blogging – the petty problems within it included, I think it’s important to find a small group of people you can trust and relate to. People who bring you up, people you can share your struggles with, even if it’s not done on-line on our blogs for all the world to see. I’ve been lucky enough to find a group of friends and I’m so grateful that travel and writing about it has brought me to this. Still, even with these short meetings and support systems, if you aren’t in someone’s daily life, it’s almost hard to see what they are really living with on a day-to-day basis, making it hard to offer a helping hand. I’m sure the cheery persona Anita showed on her blog and to those she met was what got her through a lot of what she had going on.

  • I never met Anita, but I respected her as a blogger immensely. The travel blogging world will be a much sadder place without her. Thinking of you, Anita.

  • Anita was one of my biggest supporters in the travel blogging community. We got to know each other through Twitter chats and she eventually reached out to me to welcome me to a small Facebook networking community. I had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with her in Toronto at TBEX. She always gave me so much advice and support. I knew her father’s health was in decline, and so when I received a message about Anita on Saturday I thought it was about her father. When I read the lines of her passing my heart sank. As far as your message, I do think everyone is chasing some sort of dream. Some find it, others don’t. I read her last post and was one of the first to comment on it. I should have reached out, but didn’t.

  • Davide says:

    Like many others I didn’t know Anita personally but we followed each other on Twitter and interacted a few times. I was shocked to learn of her death yesterday; life can get difficult at times and having a support network is very important. As a newcomer in the travel blogging community I am glad to have met (some virtually and some in real life) wonderful people on a journey (excuse the pun) like me, with their own story to share who have become friends. Unfortunately we can never predict what people will do if we are not aware of what is going on “behind the scene” and I really wish Anita had found the strength to ask for help before it was too late. R.I.P. Anita.

  • Erica says:

    I think that when I do share my struggles, I get backlash, trolls, and people telling me not to complain. I’m sure that there are many reasons that many of us do it.

    I do agree though, more honesty would be great (but I’m jaded and don’t think it will happen). It would make neurotic people like me feel better with the motions we’re going through. We’re stuck at home, in debt, unable to make money off the blog, got royally SCREWED by some blogging politics, and I’m coming out of a VERY dark hole that I’m sure Anita got pulled into deeper than me. Some of us just make it out not the same in the end.

    The travel blogging industry can be a facade. Wading through it to find the truth is hard.

  • Eileen says:

    This is a wonderful, thoughtful post, something I haven’t really seen out there. I’m fairly new to blogging, been travel writing for a while, but get what you’re saying here. I hope this type of awful tragedy will bring those in the industry closer together – check in on each other, for real. If I ever see another post like Anita’s last again, I won’t hesitate to reach out with a phone call if it’s welcome, even if we are strangers. This has made me see things in a new light when it comes to solo travel – I hope to connect deeper with others from now on and look out for those who might need someone to empathize with on the road.

  • Indeed. A thoughtful and timely piece. This is such a sad, sad story… and I agree, there needs to be more “under the hood” communication between travelers, and those in the travel blogging community… it has worried me for some time that we are all so concerned with our “brands” that we cease to be humans and vulnerable with each other. Thanks for this.

    • Melissa says:

      Amen… I think there’s a lot of “worry” about branding that causes people to present a less-than-accurate portrait of themselves online.

      Bret, this is a great post. Here, here, to honesty AND looking at the blessings we already have!

  • Pretty great stuff, Bret. I have always been careful not to do any sort of “selling the dream” because I knew deep down that it wouldn’t be real. That in reality, my life was pretty close to just about every other average person/American. We have a real job, a mortgage, pets, etc., but yes MJ and I get to do some pretty awesome things thanks to the blog. But I’ve never been a “you can do this too” kind of guy, and I never will be.

    I agree, our community should be stronger and more close knit than it is. More should take pride in seeing Bret Love’s name in the Airtran inflight magazine (as I did this weekend) than being jealous of that accomplishment and others like it. Then, maybe those who share the burdens of this “dream” can express their troubles, etc. and find support from others in their shoes. Like you say…that is a dream…

  • Ryan says:

    Wow. I hadn’t heard about this until I went on your blog today. I never met her in person, but that is so heart breaking to read.

    I too have struggled with the feeling of inadequacy, the feeling of failure, of desperate moments, of dispair, and ultimately I have even contemplated suicide before.

    And this is exactly the reason why I speak out so much about my own parents deaths, about my shattered childhood, and also about the darkness that followed me. That still follows me. I have battled with alcoholism for years, not believing such a creature existed in me like it did in my father.

    One thing I realized about leaving for a year in New Zealand is that even though I wasn’t running away like before when I moved across the United States, I was still just avoiding the life I didn’t want. But I wasn’t fixing myself, or making myself better, or making myself feel worthy. And that makes the crash from a high even more drastic.

    For the first time in my life, through writing and surprisingly in person with other people, I am revealing what pains me deep inside, how I am afraid to cry, how desperately I want to succeed because others said I won’t.

    Because revealing what haunts me, brings it out like a raw wound, and then I can see the damage and try and fix myself. I can try to begin to live this dream for myself and not just to show up others.

    I think it is EXTREMELY important that if you are going to take on the endeavor of a life of a traveler, you must take it on as just that, an endeavor. You must do it for yourself and nobody else, and you must be honest and open with yourself, and then you will be to others. And then it won’t be just a sugarcoat.

    It pains me to see her take her life, I know how much it hurt me when my mother committed suicide, and I wish her family the strongest of hearts.

  • As a newbie blogger, I had the opportunity to connect with Anita through posting on each others’ blogs but never met her. I too have been touched by her death and had a moment of regret, wishing I had read her last post sooner and could have offered some words of hope. However, in my former profession, I worked as a mental health therapist and dealt with suicide risk regularly. From this experience, I can tell you that once someone is at the point of writing a suicide note (which I think her last post was) that person has no intention of seeking other solutions and nothing, save dragging her to a hospital and forcing her to be admitted (which might work but also might only delay the inevitable), will stop the person from acting on the only solution that is making sense in that state of hopelessness. Anita’s post was written in a manner that would offer some explanation for her decision to those left behind but only in hindsight can anyone (even those closest to her) decipher that she was actively suicidal from the way she chose her words. I’m writing this based on my experience with suicidal people (sometimes interventions were successful, sometimes not) so, for those who knew her, please take what might be useful about this in Anita Mac’s situation and disregard what isn’t. I’m not in a position to speak about her personal struggles, mental health history or her specific mindset at the time. I’m writing this only to help others understand how the mind works when it settles on a solution such as suicide as the only solution.
    This post above speaks volumes about both blogging and social media in general and its ability to connect us genuinely but also superficially. Yes, we make genuine connections with others but they are often superficial in their scope. A study recently suggested that facebook can cause depression because it becomes the ultimate record of “keeping up with the Joneses” – everyone writes about their successes publicly but very few people ever post about their failures or their insecurities. I think the idea that travel blogging sells this “living the dream” message is very true – if we have to always pretend that we’ve got it all together and we’re happily living the dream, then there’s no place to express ourselves when it all falls apart. As a mental health professional, I am keenly aware of this — we’re supposed to experts on mental health so who do we turn to when depression or anxiety strikes? Honest portrayals of what life is really like on the road and honest discussion when things aren’t about the next great adventures or exotic location but rather about missing home or lost relationships need to happen somewhere – whether on the blog or elsewhere. Might we lose readership if we write a negative post? Maybe but we also might make greater connections, if we reveal that we’re human! And isn’t that why we love to travel?? RIP, Anita.

  • Michele says:

    I am saddened to hear about the death of Annie although I do not know her. My thoughts are with her family and friends.
    I think you are right about blogging and being honest. I am an avid blog reader preparing for our travels from Feb. There seems nothing negative out there at all, we have travelled a fair bit and know the things that can happen and yet in all our past blogs we never talk about them. The annoyance of not being able to find your hotel, the impact the weather has, the frustrations of trying to find a hotel/hostel when you are overwhelmed by choice….we always put only the positive into the blog never talking about these things and maybe we need to do that so people know it is not all sunshine and roses.

  • RIP Anita, we had just met for the first time this passed summer. She seemed so outgoing and full of life. No one could have known how much pain she was feeling.
    I think one of the problems with travel blogging and facebook is that it’s a smoke and mirror trick. People need to get more real, life isn’t all rainbows, sunsets and happy quotes, it’s hard a lot of the time and sometimes it down right sucks. But when you’re in the game you have to keep up, otherwise you might not get invited on that coveted press trip or get that awesome page rank. Let’s make an effort to bring more realness to social media and blogging so people can feel that they can approach us and talk to someone when they need it the most.

  • Lanora says:

    Bret,

    Thank you for your wise words. I had heard of Anita’s passing this morning but only suspected the cause of death after reading her last Tweet.

    As Nat says, our social media and blog personae are too often a product of smoke and mirrors. This is a wake-up call. It’s time to get real.

    Lanora

  • OMG. I had no idea. I just happened to see your G+ update with this post. Anita was such a great supporter of our blog and always commented on our posts. I am so shocked and deeply saddened. I never picked up anything. She was always so upbeat and positive. I always enjoyed and appreciated our conversations.

    I make a conscious effort all the time to share on our blog the reality of living the life you love and the challenges that come and how to overcome them. She always responded so well to them. I am devastated, I never picked up anything. I wish I had of.

    Thank you for writing this Bret. I am so so shocked

  • Talon says:

    I don’t try to live anyone else’s dream but my own. I also can’t really identify with some of the things said about bloggers and blogging. I readily shares my challenges, let-downs, etc., because I believe in living an authentic life. I don’t want people to think my life is 100% sunshine and rainbows. To do so would be a disservice to them. I also don’t sell my life as the way to go. It’s what’s right for me, and I try to encourage people to pursue their own dreams and wishes and turn them into reality, even if friends and family disagree. For some that’s returning to college in their 50s, for others starting a business. A surefire way to be unhappy is to try to live your life to someone else’s standards.

    While I value the message, perhaps using the global “we” isn’t appropriate. None of our experiences represents ALL of the blogging community.

    I didn’t know Anita and wondered about her death since she seemed fairly young in the photos people were sharing. I’m incredibly saddened to discover it was by suicide. I’ve had my own dealing with attempting suicide, and I’ve had the unfortunate experience of losing friends and loved ones to suicide. It adds a level of tragedy that some people can’t really comprehend. It breaks my hurt to know someone was in that much pain. So incredibly sad.

  • Anita and I were very close friends. We lived near each other in Ottawa, and had seen each other just one week before she passed. Up until a few hours before she took her life we were trading jokes back and forth about gardening, brownies, and silly, girly stuff. I look back on her Twitter and FB feeds and see that some of her last comments were responses to me and they seemed like her usual, bubbly self.

    I’ve seen a lot of people say that they wished they could have reached out, that they should have said or done something after seeing her last blog post, but the truth is that Anita always felt the love and encouragement of the blogging community. I’ve never met anyone who knew more bloggers by name, who commented on more sites, who was more enthusiastic about the travel blogging community. I think the travel blogging community was the greatest source of joy, fun, encouragement, and support in her life and I think our community had already carried her through many difficult passages in her life. Behind the scenes, in her “real” life here in Ottawa, she was experiencing many difficult situations and I think there were many contributing factors to her death beyond what is evident in her final blog post.

    Many years ago, I trained in a certified suicide prevention program and I’ve been spending a lot of time lately reflecting on signs I missed, clues I should have picked up on. But all I can remember is how much we laughed as we devised strategies to steal nachos at last week’s party, and how we were always snapping pics of everything we ate and drank. I read her last post and it didn’t feel at all like a suicide note to me (although it’s clear I’m not the best judge of these matters) – to me it read like someone who was coming to terms about the kind of life she wanted to lead, someone who was working out difficult circumstances but never losing sight of her desire to travel. We had spoken so much lately about her many upcoming travel plans that I always felt she was looking forward, past the current strife, to a successful and exciting future. I’m still not sure I understand what happened and I am trying to understand who Anita was.

    On another note, if we are serious about making travel blogging our careers and if we want travel blogging to be accepted as a respected occupation, we have to get a little bit bureaucratic on ourselves and – like any other vocation community – establish resources for ourselves. In what other profession are you expected to be your own publicist, editor, lawyer, accountant, business manager, IT help, graphic designer, virtual assistant, and occasionally even doctor without the benefit of an office, an income, and a malarial-free blood stream? If we want to succeed and thrive and, most of all, BE HAPPY, we need to build bridges instead of burning them. We need to focus on community, not competition.

    I’ve often said that being a travel writer is akin to being an astronaut – they really must be the two biggest dream jobs in the world (galaxy?) You walk into a room and everyone wants your life, but no one understands it, no one wants to hear about the incredible hard work behind the scenes. I want our readers to keep believing in the dream, but I also want to make sure I’m living it too.

    Maybe an easy first step would be for the Professional Travel Blogger’s Association to establish lists of professionals (councilors, therapists, psychologists, legal advisers, editors, accountants) who have experience in the blogging/travel world and those lists can be posted on their website for bloggers who are in need. We have distinct needs and we need to know who can meet those needs.

    Travel bloggers can’t keep weekly office appointments, can’t always afford the standard 60 or 90 minute appointments, and need people who understand things like culture shock, ptsd, homesickness, the struggles of being an entrepreneur, the pressure of social media, and so on. While I’m sure most “regular” therapists are professional, competent, and have the best of intentions but it doesn’t mean that a “regular” therapist is the best fit for most bloggers. I’m sure, however, that there are flexible, knowledgeable therapists who would be more receptive to our needs -but who are they? Where are they? And how do we find them when you’re crying in Nepal, hyperventilating in Munich, feeling absolutely empty in Lima, or feel like screaming and dying in your own hometown.

    Anita couldn’t handle coffee but loved chai lattes. She overpacked like crazy but never complained about the weight of her camera bag. She had no qualms about holding up 6 lanes of traffic to get the perfect shot. She cycled solo across Canada and Australia but loved nothing more than a lazy afternoon. I wish you could have known her.

    • I feel for you, Vanessa. I communicated with Anita online and I’m so shaken by her passing but it must be especially difficult for you, given your close relationship with her. Thank you for shedding light on who she was and honoring her with this comment.

  • Such terrible news – I am again one of the ones who never met Anita but am still sorry to hear of her passing. This post perfectly talks about what really occurs behind the scenes, but for each individual online, we’re never going to know what’s going on until they say so.
    I hope Anita found the peace she was looking for.

  • Very well written post, You really hit the nail on the head on so many points. I never knew Anita on a personal level but am deeply saddened by her passing and am wishing her family and friends deepest sympathies

    I totally agree about sharing the struggles we face. I try to endeavor to post all of the bad stuff as well as the good. I think it’s important that people see that travel and living a nomadic travel lifestyle isnt is bright and sunny as people think it is.

  • Jill says:

    I’m so glad that you wrote this article! As a new blogger, I’ve already noticed exactly what you’re talking about. There’s an “in” crowd, people are mixing and mingling to gain subscribers, it seems to be all about who has the biggest following. As great as it is to mingle and share, it doesn’t seem authentic. I’ve read lots of amazing articles on places people have been and things they have done, but I have read nothing about the downside of travel, the stress of it all. As a traveller myself, I know all too well that this glorified idea of travel that everyone is selling, is not how it really is. Travel is stressful, it’s isolating and can be scary at times.

    I feel saddened that a travel blogger has taken her life, saddened that she felt she needed to sell a reality that didn’t exist for her.

    My husband and I will continue with our travel dreams, however, we may have given up on the idea of a successful travel blog simply because we are doing this for ourselves, we are doing this to be free of work and since travel blogging is work, travel blogging in the “successful” sense may not be right for us. We will use it as a way to document our travels and our stuggles.

    Thank you for sharing this article!

  • Great post, Bret. I’m very sorry to hear about Anita’s passing. I think your thoughts here relate not just to the blogging community, but just to everyone as we’ve entered the point of no return on a digital world. We now have the ability to control people’s perception of us in ways we never have in the past. We can spend time with “friends” without really spending time with them … we can engage in the conversations we want to engage in without having to worry if something awkward or dull comes up at the dinner table … we control what images people see of our lives and our selves, and which ones they don’t. It doesn’t mean this isn’t who we are, but it is only a piece of who we are. I don’t struggle so much with not wanting to be honest about my struggles, but more so with finding the appropriate forum to do so.

    I’m not one to want to complain openly on my facebook page or vent through my blog. For a lot of bloggers, doing so would really stray from the message they’re trying to convey through their brand. So where is there for me to be truly authentic? I think more importantly than being authentic and vulnerable with one another in the digital world, we need to practice being so in real life. And I’m sure that’s a challenge for all of us on some level. It’s hard to admit we have faults, to admit we have hurts. It’s hard to admit our lives are not perfect.

    I think you really hit the nail on the head when you said that travel is not some utopian cure-all. Part of the problem with travel blogs, I think, is that they make travel seem so glamorous. Don’t want the corporate life? You don’t have to have it — travel the world! And for a lot of people, this lifestyle does work for them … but it’s not a life without problems. It’s not a life without pain. And it’s not a life that will ultimately satisfy every need you have. I don’t think any of us starts out by trying to portray such a message, but nonetheless, we only tell a piece of the story and that piece is usually the highlight reel, not the bloopers.

    This is by far the most well-written piece you’ve posted on this site. Thanks for sharing about Anita, and again, to those who knew her, I’m very sorry for your loss.

  • I didn’t know Anita and this is very sad to read about. Blogger or no Blogger the key is to keep your communication lines open and honest. Bloggers are in the “public eye”, so it is difficult as the magnifying glass on you. Our feelings, thoughts and struggles are not different than in a non blogger life. Once we type it in and publish, it becomes a permanent record and that may be what can hold some people back from sharing A permanent record for others to analyze, criticize, support or comment on. My thoughts go out to her family and friends. Thanks for the post Bret.

  • Vera says:

    A good post, Brett, and good comments, too.

  • Well said. People forget that for full time travel writers, which I am not, it is a full time job. Yes you are in a beautiful location seeing things others dream of but a lot of work goes in to running a business.

  • Turner says:

    Nice post with some great perspective. I think this is highlights one of the shortcomings of blogging – if you are nomadic anyway – is that constantly being on the go makes it more challenging to have a physical sense of community and support. Having people just “there”. I know we all have a community online, and we meet up at conferences or trips occasionally, but sometimes I feel like I need more than that. Yes, we are way more connected than many people who have traditional jobs or live in physical communities together in some ways (any facebook message, or twitter reply response time would reveal as much), but seeing the same faces and having familiarity around on a more regular basis wouldn’t be such a bad thing. I know I could use it.

    I didn’t know Anita, but my heart sinks hearing this. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Arianwen says:

    This is such tragic news and my heart goes out to her friends and family. I really liked your paragraph about the side to blogging that people rarely contemplate. It was only a couple of hours ago that a friend commented on how ‘lucky’ I am and I replied ‘It ain’t luck. It’s hard work and initiative.’ We’re all makers of our own destinies, but I think the most important thing is to actually realise what makes us, as individuals, happiest and to pursue those dreams.

  • Bret, I did not know this woman, but I did enjoy her blog. I’m sorry to hear of anyone who feels that much pain.
    I still consider myself new to the travel blogging world, but all of the points you make hit home. I personally don’t try to “sell” anyone on where to go, only to show what I have seen or what I think is interesting. But, I read other blogs and get caught up in the feelings of “I’m missing out,” often enough.
    Thanks for this thoughtful and heartfelt post. Helps put things in perspective.

  • So well written. You hit so many points. What people may not realize as well is how much travel effects you. I mean we expose ourselves to so much. We learn about things that we never knew existed. For those who are continuously travelling and don’t give themselves time to actually sit back and absorb what they have been through can lead to this confusing feeling of depression… At least that’s what happened to me. After a 10 month trip around the world and experiencing things I could have NEVER expected, I returned to Toronto thinking that I would be fine. I mean, I had travelling for extended periods of time before.. I was an “expert.” Little did I know that the next year and a half would be the most difficult time of my life. I got so depressed at times… It was so unbelievably strong. It kept happening to the point that I said I can’t do this anymore. I need to know why I feel this way.. Cus I can’t keep doing this. After I actually realized that I had just had the most life changing trip of my life and reflected on all I went through and excepted the way I was feeling was due to it and I was okay with it, I never felt that depression again. Travel is transformational. It does something to you that you can never expect… Sometimes it can just be so overwhelming we can’t handle it or don’t allow ourselves to REALLY reflect and say wow I just was part of something so drastic and intense, no wonder why I feel this way and now that I understand… It’s okay. I except. RIP Anita

  • This is so, so sad. I think your words really hit the nail on the head — travel is not a panacea. I’ve met a lot of people that were traveling long term because they were trying to escape their life, job, relationship, or some other problem. Interestingly, those who I met who were coming to the end of their travels were no closer to figuring out their problems than they were at the beginning of their trip.

    Moreover, travel and travel blogging is not all roses and rainbows. It’s long hours, hard work, and stress like any other job. Plus, there’s the isolation of working alone, the confusion associated with working in an emerging industry where so much is yet to be figured out, and the feelings of frustration when other people don’t understand what you do all day. I sometimes feel like being a travel blogger is like being a ballet dancer — it’s our job to make everything look beautiful and effortless on stage, but in reality, we put in hours and hours of work behind the scenes. But at least ballet dancers are honest with each other about the broken toes and pain…

  • Eva Gold says:

    Very nice post – thanks for the exchange on ideas. I didn’t know Anita either but I was very saddened to hear the news. It’s true that you never quite know the depths of someone’s life and struggles. What seems exciting on the surface may be completely different once you dive in. It reminds me that we should learn to cherish each other more often. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle”. I pray that her close family & friends can find closure in this dreadful time.

  • I agree. It’s hard to admit that despite how much I love my life, work and travels, it’s pretty f-ing hard sometimes. Between juggling writing deadlines to spending a lot of time alone while on the road, it’s not always easy. But I also realize how fortunate I am.

  • I heard the news yesterday and although I never met Anita it was heartbreaking. Your post puts into words how I often feel with the travel blogging world and travel in general. Thanks so much for writing such a beautiful thought provoking post. It reminds us all that behind the glamour of traveling the globe life is still life. It is full of many ups and downs and simply traveling cannot resolve everything. 🙂 I also think despite the online friendships we make and the support we give each other it is also critical I have offline support too.

  • hi Bret and everyone,

    Thank you Bret for generously sharing your thoughts…and giving all of us a common platform for reflection.

    I did not know Anita, but i am feeling as moved as all of you…

    After almost 2 decades of living around the world with my husband, I feel that although our lifestyle may be extraordinary, still, we experience the same myriad of emotions as any human beings… and I also believe that ultimately, our inner journey really depends on each of us individually, on the choices we make for our own evolution and self-realization… this, no matter if one traveled the world or never ever traveled… (I’ve met some of the most spirited people who never left their village, and also met some world travelers who haven’t really change from how they were back home)

    As humans, we all have that tendency either towards Positive (glass half full), or tendency towards negative (glass half empty). We can probably say that in general, those who chose our lifestyle, have that tendency towards the positive, so in a natural way, what we share is mostly positive… But that doesn’t automaticaly mean that we never experience the negative, simply because we are ‘humans’.

    Each of us have our own blogging style, and we are the ones deciding up to which level we are willing to share… Some may be serious, some others more idealist, artistic, poetic, or even humorist … But for those who are willing to share more of their intimacy, there is definitely something appealing and even potentially inspiring when the other side of the journey is revealed… as fascinating as biographies and real life stories movies can be…

    Anita, in the end, revealed those both sides… sadly to the point of that fatal decision. But let’s remember her making history by bringing travel blogging to another level of consciousness…

    (we’re thinking of going to TBEX event in Dublin, so hoping to meet lots of you there)

    warmly

    Carou LLou

  • Kirsten says:

    Some of my best friends in this world, have come to me by way of my having a travel blog and being a part of the travel writing world. So I hesitate to knock the environment that can result. Yet, some of my darkest days have also come at the times this feels more akin to high school all over again — as opposed to a legitimate career. So, I can relate to where Anita must have been at and I grieve so deeply for her.

    Thank you, Bret, for writing such a transparent, frank and ultimately hopeful post about the realities of what we all do. We are very blessed but it is also so true that nothing about what we do is only composed of sunshine and rainbows. Oh the valleys we traverse!

    Anita, I hope your wandering soul has come to rest now.

  • Thoughtful post, Bret, off the back of a real tragedy. We’ve never embraced or knowingly furthered the flawed concept of “living the dream” and we bristle and object whenever anyone accuses us of doing so. Like you we work, struggle, scrape and try, try try as we “build our new reality” through travel. But we all take our own problems, issues and hurdles on the road with us. Those of us on the road full time as our business and our lives also deal with daily mundane struggles that don’t look all that different from what our friends and family face at home. The only difference is that we’ve chosen this life and these struggles. Your post and Anita’s untimely death serve to remind us that travel is not a cure all, there is no such thing as a perfect or struggle-free life (even one blessed with ample travel) and, after all, the Wizard of Oz was just a normal man hiding behind a shiny, impressive machine.

  • I didn’t know her in person, too, but as a fellow solo traveler, I can relate so much with the issues she shared in her last blog post. Suicide is so final. My thoughts go to her loved ones 🙁

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  • She came across as such a lovely and happy lady and her suicide was such a shock. I only knew Anita through our comments on each others blogs and such. I too was surprised at how hard it hit me. I really didn’t want to believe it and its not easy to tell someone else your upset about someones death who you’ve never even met.
    I can’t begin to imagine how her family and close friends must feel but I do hope they can find some comfort in knowing how loved and respected she was in the travel blogging community even though many of those people had never met her.

  • Lily says:

    Thanks for writing about this important issue and sharing your thoughts on this tragic loss, Brett. I think it’s so important to discuss. I didn’t know Anita, but like many, her passing shocked and troubled me a great deal. I do think the fear of “being alone forever” due to a love for travel is an issue that particularly hits solo female travelers hard, particularly past a certain age, but it’s very rarely addressed because it’s so personal in nature and also I believe, because many fear the stigma they might face. My heart goes out to her family and friends, and I hope that we bloggers/writers and travelers all learn from this tragedy — to not only share our successes but also our hardships, and to always offer a lending ear.

  • This breaks my heart. I went on my RTW as a reaction to the loss of someone close to me and extended my travels as a response to my mother’s death from pancreatic cancer. It’s true that tragedy or life changes is often a catalyst to start traveling.

    I talk about my grief/depression here and there but it’s not always easy. I’ve been judged for it by others and I often feel like the sad clown. Though I may look happy and my travel photos look fantastic, travel was my therapy. It was something that I still was interested in when I started losing interest in everything I was previously passionate about. I went through counseling and joined support groups as well as having a lot of supportive people in my life. I have not been touched closely by suicide but met many others in my support group who have.

    Even though I didn’t know Anita, I did come across her blog and on social media. I am sure we tweeted to each other. Sending condolences to all who were close to her and virtual hugs to everyone in the travel blogging community.

    RIP Anita

  • This really struck me hard, but this is also a wake-up call to people who make travel as an escape. Yes, at first, it can be that way. But if a life of travel means a life of escape for the person, then the things you are escaping from is bound to catch up with you.

    Thank you for your insights and honesty, Bret.

  • Such a tragic ending for someone who once inspired people to live their dreams. RIP Anita 🙁

  • Our hearts go out to Anita’s friends and family. She will be missed in the travel community. This is a nice tribute to her.
    Hopefully Anita is still traveling the world and has found peace. 🙂

  • Good post, Brett. Living your dream comes with costs that non-travelers don’t see- it’s the same as any dream. For me, I wouldn’t necessarily call travel an escape- I wasn’t trying to run away from my life but run deeper into it… become myself without the baggage of societal masks and interfacing with peoples’ titles/ CVs. I wanted to find a deeper meaning to things.

    But sustaining that dream is hard, especially if you’re trying to do it in part through travel blogging. Like you said– a lot of stress and sadly, petty jealousies and it’s hard not to let something like “dwingling traffic” or “lack of Likes or shares” get to you. Sometimes, I question if it’s all of this is worth it. Am I really contributing anything to mankind or is it all just ego….I have my dark thoughts and moments.

    But that’s all part of the price of attempting to live our dreams. That’s the gamble and risk. It’s the same price as me trying to forge a career as an actress on the side or a cameraperson. In many ways, if I were “just a traveler”, I might be happier, because I’d just focus on being a better human being. Ironically, travel blogging just sometimes, brings me back to the little person that I originally used travel to grow away from. 😉

  • Dawn Jorgensen says:

    Your words resonate so deeply within me and I thank you for putting thought to script for Anita and the many of us who ‘seem to be trying to fix something that’s broken’. There are many reasons to travel and blog, mostly wondrous, but important to not use ‘Travel is not a miracle salve that heals all wounds.’ Thank you for this.

  • Franca says:

    It is a very tragic news which I’ve just learnt about, it would have been the same for any other person though, no matter if part or not of the blogging community. You are perfectly right, not often we tent to talk about the ‘not-dreamy’ part of our traveling and blogging which in a way is a real shame, people should know about the goods and bads. As you said traveling isn’t the cure to our problems but a lifestyle we choose because it’s what we love doing!
    Very nice and honest post Bret, thanks!

  • Mellisa Turner says:

    Great Post! I guess every travel blogger would very well connect with your pain and agony that has been highlighted in this post. It is not easy to create a niche for yourself in this highly competitive industry. Each one of us goes through emotional and financial struggles. The person who learns to cope with them emerges as the true winner.

  • I don’t know her but so sad to hear about Anita. Your post is an eye opener to the travel blogging community. I also think that everyone should have a big faith in God and call Him more often, it’s a strong support especially in times of emotional stress.

  • I am so very sad to hear this news. Your honesty here is to be commended. While I love to hear the fantastical stories of everyone’s adventures, I also greatly appreciate the posts that share the life struggles that we all endure. Thank you for your emotional words.

  • Although I didn’t know her, that’s extremely tragic about Anita and I wish the best for her friends and family during this dark hour. Thank you for writing this awesome post. I can totally relate, as many of us can. My wife and I moved countries for adventure and to pursue her career in research. Unfortunately, my career got de-railed in the process and I have really struggled to cope at times and am trying to re-build. I’m American and have been living in Europe for 5 and 1/2 years now and find myself in a weird place ideologically…

    I’ve had fall outs with family and friends because on the surface our life looks awesome and people are resentful, and it’s easy for many to shrug off any issues you raise. It’s not easy for a foreign couple to survive with little social support structure, but we have. This is a wonderful post that many in the community can relate to. RIP Anita…

  • Katie says:

    I struggled while reading this post – I first clicked on it thinking that you wrote it as someone who was friends with Anita and knew her well. So I was surprised to learn that you didn’t. I didn’t know Anita at all and learned of her passing on Twitter as others I followed started sharing about it. I was incredibly saddened by it but I also feel that it’s a bit insensitive to turn around and write a post about it, putting the focus on you instead and making assumptions about her life in the process. I would not have been surprised to see a post by a blogger who knew her well sharing their grief or offering a tribute to her, but this just unnerved me a bit.

    • First off, Katie, I appreciate the respectful tone of your comment.

      We are members of a small, close-knit group of supportive bloggers on Facebook, of which Anita was one. Though we only had limited interaction with Anita directly, several of our friends were among her closest friends.

      We know from these friends, and others, the struggles that many, many bloggers go through, balancing a love of travel with the sometimes harsh realities of trying to build a business. We know the pain they’ve expressed behind the scenes, both about Anita’s passing and about the toll their blogging struggles have had on their personal lives.

      To clarify, this post is not about us (except for that one paragraph), and it’s not specifically about any one blogger. It’s about our community, about the difference between reality vs. perception, about emotional support for people who are struggling to find balance in their lives.

      The people who knew Anita well, some of whom have commented here, have expressed support and appreciation for the post. That’s good enough for us.

  • Mocha Bell says:

    This was such a lovely and heartfelt post. I’m new to the travel blogging community and this really touched my heart. I recently lost my little brother to suicide so I know this type of pain very well. There were no outward signs to us that he had so much pain, and we seen him all of the time so it’s not surprising many people didn’t know or understand her pain. The pain is hardly as obviuos then what we think it should be. All you can do is learn from her life, and remember all the great and wonderful things she brought to this world.

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  • This may seem obvious, but what struck me upon learning the sad news of Anita — a blogger I didn’t know but whose work I read — is the deeply personal nature of blogging. My background is print journalism, and my earliest training in newspapers was to talk about the story, not me or my reactions to it. My print travel stories have always been first person but never as deeply revelatory as blogs are, in part because blogs are continuing chronicles. In short, the new paradigm connects us in ways that never happened in the past, when I knew the work of other journalists but didn’t know about the writers in the way blogs reveal. For better or worse, it’s personal out there.

  • Courtney says:

    Beautiful post and so timely. I found out a week ago that a friend’s daughter had passed. She was one of the frequent teens hanging out at the Youth Center in Rota, Spain. Being part of the military community, we are each others family when living overseas. I remembered her laugh, all the teens being full of life and vibrancy for life, etc. It was a happy little bubble. I was crushed to hear of her untimely passing (few days before her 21st birthday) and the cause is still unknown.

    I am glad you shed light on the topic. I am routinely hearing that I’m “living the dream” but in a different situation, living overseas with the military for the past 8+ years in Europe and Asia. Yes, it’s awesome and there’s lots of great experiences. I try to focus on the positive and that’s what people see. They don’t see that I routinely have to not attend friends and family’s weddings due to ticket costs stateside. They don’t know how I long to be able to just go to a BBQ with college buddies to socialize and catch up (and to meet some toddlers that were born since I was last stateside). The isolation of living in a culture not your own. It’s bittersweet and you’re right, maybe it’s time to sell that story a bit different.

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  • Stacey says:

    I did not know Anita Mac personally, but I had definitely read through her site. It pains me to read her last post. Her words that she has “written about solo travel – but what about solo life?….. Or as a traveler, am I destined to be alone?” are really unnerving to me. New to the travel blogging community myself, this kind of life is my greatest fear, but what the hell are we supposed to do when no one else in our lives seems to understand our yearning need for travel? Really makes me think.

  • I read this post the other day and, wanting it to sink in and read her last post myself, didn’t know quite how to react. For as much as I’d love to be location independent and blog full-time, the thin line between success and failure has always scared me. I hate being alone, I hate feeling like I haven’t done my 100%, and having a family tragedy potentially happen terrifies me. I pray that Anita has found peace and that other bloggers will learn from this tragedy.

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  • Dale says:

    The news of Anita’s passing has brought me to tears this week and I’m not normally one for crying all that often. The reason being that in some ways this sad story has connected with my own problems with depression and how I’ve dealt with it. Travel was my answer, but it’s not the perfect answer.

    I think sometimes people worry about being too honest on their sites because they worry that they might come across as too negative and a bore for people to read, maybe even leading to them stop reading. They shouldn’t.

    Being honest, truthful and open is what connects me to you and makes me want to visit your blog more, reading reviews for this and that aren’t always going to connect on that personal level.

    I think this week lots of people will have many questions for which there might not be the perfect answer, but it makes us thing which is good. It’s such a shame that it’s all come at such a sad expense.

  • Nellie says:

    I still cannot believe Anita took her own life! We met at TBEX Toronto and we had an instant connection. She was so full of zest and passion. I’m really distraught to hear of her passing. May she rest in peace.

  • Amanda says:

    Beautifully put, Bret. It’s always hard to read about something like this happening in our community – because it IS a community.

    You are so right though – we can’t hope to help each other if we don’t share the bad along with the good. I’m making a point of sharing everything these days. Because the good AND bad characterize my travels, and my life.

  • Eric says:

    Thank you for a well written article that made me think about the false image I sometimes put out there about my adventures. I think sometimes I want so badly for my life to appear like this image and dream I have created in my mind that I bend reality slightly while talking with others. The hardships and bad times do not come to the surface and when I discuss my trips it is all roses and sunshine when the reality is that some days it is anything but.

  • Molly says:

    I came across this by accident today in getting some online tasks done, and am incredibly sad also that such a young, beautiful person decided to give up – and was very impressed by the sensitivity and skill in how it was written about here. I only wish her joy and healing on her continued journey, and that her friends and families get the love and support they deserve in dealing with their loss.

  • Travelogged says:

    I first learned of Anita’s death through this post when it was posted on Facebook. And I still feel very shaken up by it. We were StumbleUpon buddies for a few years, always sharing back and forth. I just feel very sad to know that she must have been in unbearable pain in the final days leading up to her suicide. He blog showed that she lived a beautiful life and I hope that is a source of comfort for her friends and family.

  • Agness says:

    Many people used to try to discourage me to travel but you know what? They never succeed! Love your attitude and these travel quotes of yours are so inspiring and keep me going 🙂

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  • jenny says:

    I found this thread only recently. I started my blog in August. One of my first interactions on travel on twitter was #girlstravel. That first week it was absolutely full of the story of Anita Mac, a blogger I didn’t know and whose blog I had never read, being wholly new to travel. What came across so powerfully at the time was the shock and impact on the community within #girlstravel, so much so that the subject of that week’s chat was Bucket Lists. I felt compelled to write one, even though I didn’t know her and didn’t know any of the other hosts or participants such as the strength of emotion that came through.

    Three months later looking back, I have learned quite a bit more about the travel blogging community, although still think of myself as an outsider. As that, and as an observer, what I would say is that the pressures of travel blogging aren’t necessarily unique, but remind me very much of the pressures all entrepreneurs or SMEs’/startups go through. In particular, the need to build your brand voice in a consistently upbeat industry versus the loneliness of running your own business. I think it is especially true of sole traders, which is perhaps why there are so many couples as professional bloggers – everyone needs a little support. These are pressures which really have to be dealt with separately if you are to acquire sponsors, partners, promotional support from brands etc. I think it would be really hard to run a brand-funded blog sharing such personal trauma, but please correct me if I am wrong. Having worked with brands for 30 years, even in such a different age and time, they still want ‘bang for their buck’.

    Somebody some posts back suggested a professional support community for bloggers of lawyers, analysts etc which seems to me like a very good idea if it could be achieved. Many investors in SMEs/startups offer all these support services to young entrepreneurs with a good idea because older, wider, more experienced heads know the challenges that are coming, both financial and emotional.

    Perhaps even simple gestures could help. I have noticed often that bloggers who run chats are always keen for new people to participate but rarely follow them in return for their participation. It’s a simple thing, but its a relatively small gesture and ‘de rigeur’ in many other business spheres, particularly on Twitter. Perhaps it would be a small way to offer a feeling of ‘inclusion’ to those who feel excluded or new kids on the block. I am sure more experienced people could suggest others.

    Even though I came late to this post, it has taken me back to August, to the shock I felt emanating from my twitter feed, and I hope that in sharing feelings on this post, many people have been helped to come to terms with what was unquestionably a sad and shocking event.

    Great post.

  • Jean says:

    I am a cyclist but not a consummate traveller: it costs money!!! And no one is going to fund my retirement so I have to work.

    Let me know if you ever find her obituary.

    I’ve always wondered about travel bloggers who do travel widely to get away and for some it is real escape. For others it’s just a respite and temporary.

    Anita and I commented on each other’s blogs.

    Thanks for your thoughtful post.

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  • Louisa says:

    This is a very moving post. I was only thinking today that while it looked like I was off having a ball out in the world, my friends and family probably didn’t realise how isolating this is. That moving from city to city is very interesting and personally very rewarding, but hasn’t allowed me to make the kind of deep connections that I have with those back home. And that while I’m away, I still care about the day-to-day things that happen at home, and I love hearing about the silly little things, not just the major events. There are sacrifices that come with this lifestyle, for sure.
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  • rebecca says:

    fantastic post! very well written. Truly the grass is never greener… sometimes you just have to learn to be happy no matter the shade of green the grass is
    rebecca recently posted..I’m totally ready for a debate!! Football or SoccerMy Profile

  • rebecca says:

    I just read Anita’s last post.. heartbreaking! Thanks for writing about this and being so honest
    rebecca recently posted..I’m totally ready for a debate!! Football or SoccerMy Profile

  • Çağrı says:

    I wish there was a tiny light of hope Anita. I thought Hemingway… This life is not so bad… Rest in peace Anita. Yours was more interesting than most of our lives.

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