The term ‘travel influencer’ has become a term that would make even the least cynical person roll their eyes. It conjures up images of hand-outs in the form of flights or hotel stays, selfies, photoshopping and a reliance on social media that seems to contradict with the nature of pure travel. These days, it seems like every man and his dog aspires to be a travel influencer (OK, a dog travel influencer would get our follow…)
But perhaps that’s a slightly negative way of looking at things. Instagram can be a great platform for travellers. Social media allows everyone to have a voice, but as with many things, it just takes a bit of sifting through to find what is truly inspirational, informative and inclusive. One of the best things about travel is to experience the sheer diversity of people, cultures and different ways of life. So why would we not expose ourselves to that kind of diversity online?
While we may not be able to travel as we normally would right now due to Covid-19, we can still see the world through many lenses, learn about travel from different perspectives and shine a light on travel topics we may not have considered before. Here are ten of the travel influencers you should be following now.
David Attenborough @davidattenborough
Do you really need a reason to follow this legendary broadcaster, who has inspired generation after generation to tune in to, explore and protect the sheer abundance of beauty this world of ours boasts? Attenborough has been a biology teacher to us all, old and young, and his mission is far from over. With the release of his most recent film A Life on Our Planet, Sir David’s Instagram account shares sneak peeks of his film, a question and answer session, and clips of interviews. Of course you’ll be educated about the natural world and how we can do our bit to nurture and protect the environment, but you’ll also find hope and inspiration by the bucket load.
Eva Zu Beck @evazubeck
Eva manages to do the travel influencer gig with none of the cliches, plenty of heart and actively embraces the places that you won’t often see in mass travel media. She first came on our radar solo-travelling in Pakistan, which pretty much instantly made her a WF kindred spirit. This is what Eva is all about - challenging stereotypes, exploring little-visited corners of the world and eloquently sharing stories of local people, local traditions, alternative ways of travelling and insights into the reality of places away from the picture painted by the news. She approaches life philosophically, never afraid to touch on mental health, histories that aren’t common knowledge, the grittier side of travel and the personal challenges she encounters along the way, in places ranging from Afghanistan to Yemen.
Baderkhan Amer Badran @baderkhanamerbadran
Baderkhan’s mission, according to his Instagram bio, is to destroy the stereotypes surrounding his Iraqi passport and his voluptuous beard. It probably goes without saying that this is a combination that hasn’t always been met with the same enthusiastic smile he himself always seems to be sporting. Baderkhan is all about breaking boundaries and disproving stereotypes while highlighting issues of passport privilege. He has so far travelled to 75 countries. His outlook is infectiously positive and hopeful, that no matter where we’re from, everyone has the right to travel should they wish to. Travel may just be the key to breaking down racism and xenophobia. Even after his unsuccessful attempt at getting into Mexico, being detained for 25 hours before being sent back to Europe, his sense of humour never wavered. Well, if anyone can change peoples minds and hearts, it would be this guy!
Mario Rigby @mariorigby
Mario was born on a small island in the Turks & Caicos and later emigrated to Canada as a young child. Despite the hardships his mother found supporting two young boys in a foreign land, she made it all seem like a grand adventure. Fast forward and that adventurous spirit she nurtured in her son Mario drove him to cross Africa, from Cape Town to Cairo, entirely on foot, a mission that took him two years (and two snake bites along the way!) Mario encapsulates eco-travel at it’s finest, having come from an island, he understands the need for sustainability when it comes to travel. He’s always exploring the great outdoors, connecting with nature and the people he meets along the way, kayaking, bouldering and of course, our favourite, dispelling stereotypes as he goes.
Charlotte Simpson @travelingblackwidow
A retired guidance counsellor from Indianapolis, Charlotte has been an avid traveller throughout the years, clocking up over 100 countries. Her love for travel was something she shared with her late husband and so adapting to travelling solo after 31 years with him was not easy. But she was determined not to let her love for exploring the world diminish. Charlotte’s Instagram photos are vibrant and her captions full of wisdom and whether exploring the wider world or the 50 states she has at her disposal in the US, Charlotte shares travel tips, life advice and travel memories past and present, that ooze with her sense of fun and genuine love for all the beautiful things of the world.
Jessica Nabongo @thecatchmeifyoucan
Jessica is the first black woman to travel to every country in the world! Her adventures take you to places you may never thought you’d see, like the least visited country in the world, Tuvalu. At Wild Frontiers, we organised her trip to Turkmenistan, taking her to the Darvaza gas crater. In some of the countries she visits, they’ve never even seen a black person before, so her perspective is very insightful. Part of her reasons for travelling to every country, other than sheer curiosity and passion, is to normalise blackness in travel, especially when it comes to ‘off-the-beaten-track’ destinations. She also addresses more 'taboo' subjects like female menstruation, embraces her love of fashion and beauty and how safe she has felt travelling as a black woman. She proves that if you have a dream or a goal, you can achieve it simply by being unapologetically and unflinchingly yourself.
Cory Lee @curbfreecorylee
At the age of two, Cory was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy and got his first powered wheelchair at age four. But far from slowing him down, Cory’s thirst for adventure only grew, especially after his first international trip to Barbados. Since then, he’s visited 37 countries and become a leading travel blogger on accessibility, providing a much-needed insight into the world from a wheelchair user's perspective. Cory’s Instagram is always light-hearted and humorous, and there is usually a positive take away even when he highlights some of the difficulties he faces. You’ll come away wishing for a world more accessible to all its inhabitants, and yet discovering basic human kindness abounds almost everywhere. He even released a children's book called Let’s Explore with Cor Cor, whose central character uses a wheelchair and travels to some amazing destinations.
Annette Richmond @fromannettewithlove
Annette is a writer, has worked in the fashion industry for over ten years and has a passion for travel. She’s also the creator of Fat Girls Traveling (@FatGirlsTraveling), an Instagram account that highlights ‘fat’ bodies in travel, a body type that is massively underrepresented in the travel sphere. Annette is a self-proclaimed Fat Girl and advocates for body positivity and recognised that with being plus-sized and wanting to travel, comes certain intimidation around ‘taking up space’ in a world that sometimes makes them feel shame for doing so. If there is any industry where the way you look shouldn’t matter and every type of person should be celebrated and encouraged to indulge their curiosity, it’s travel.
Stefan and Sebastian @nomadicboys
Stefan and Sebastian have racked up quite an extensive list of countries they’ve visited in the ten years they’ve been travelling together as a couple. Nomadic Boys, which started out as a way for friends and family to follow their adventures online, has turned into one of the biggest LGBTQ travel blogs in the world. They provide an insight into the most gay-friendly countries in the world and interview locals to understand what it’s like to grow up gay in different countries (even if you’re an Indian Prince!) While their Instagram is beautifully inspiring and really conveys their deep love and sense of fun, their blog is an important resource that equips the gay community with the confidence and knowledge to have safe, fun and positive travel experiences. And that’s what every person deserves, no matter who they love.
Jonny Bealby @jonnybealby
Of course, our Founder and CEO deserves a mention (and a follow!) Starting out as a rock singer in the late 80’s, Jonny’s life took quite a turn when the travel bug took hold. From a motorbike journey across Africa to travelling the length of the Silk Road, and the subsequent books about his adventures, the idea for Wild Frontiers was born from leading trips to Pakistan. That off-the-beaten-track, get beneath the surface of a destination and meet the locals type of tourism is what drove the business to overcome the fallout of 9/11 and the Arab Spring, with many a piece of ignored FCO advice under our belt. Just last year, Jonny visited his 100th country, the Wild Frontiers Foundations continues to help the people in the countries we explore and despite the difficulties the travel industry has faced thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic, we’re still exploring the little-visited parts of the world (albeit very consciously). Give him a follow to keep abreast of Jonny’s travels, new recces and general travel updates.