The Reality Behind My Instagram Photos

You’ve probably seen my Instagram. It’s full of photos of my travels, the outdoors, selfies with inspirational captions and personal stuff about my life. It’s like that on purpose– I curate my Instagram carefully, and I want my feed to look the way it does. But I hope you know: my life doesn’t look like that every day.

I never thought that was big news to anyone. I assumed everyone knew that social media usually only broadcasts the best or most interesting parts of people’s lives. I think I was wrong.

Yes, this was stunning. But I also hadn’t showered in six days.

In my case, I use Instagram to show photos of my travels and experiences. I aim to be honest and yes, inspiring. Because I find that people want inspiration. My account is Erin Outdoors, not Erin Sitting in Coffee Shops, Erin Making Smoothies or Erin Decorating Her Apartment. So I generally only post outdoor or travel photos, because that’s what my audience wants to see.

There’s a lot more happening than what you see on my Instagram, and that’s why I try to be honest in captions, and why I have this blog. I try to tell the whole story– one that the photos alone simply could not tell.

The night before this was taken, I was camping by myself in the forest and was terrified of serial killers.

The night before this was taken, I was camping by myself in the forest and was terrified of serial killers.

My life is full of amazing places and people. I have a lot of good stories. And it didn’t go this way just by chance; my life is the way it is because of the choices I have made. Choices I want to empower you to make, if you want to.

You might know that I’m currently wrapping up a solo road trip across the Western US and a bit of Canada. I’ve been on the road for six weeks, and have seen some incredible stuff. I’ve also been scared out of my mind, eaten PB&Js for every meal to keep costs low, and slept in countless Walmart parking lots. I’ve been lonely, I’ve felt lost and questioned everything, I’ve been terrified of my future and my bank account.

Beautiful, but when it's pouring rain on the road, I have no warm house to dry off in.

Beautiful, but when it’s pouring rain on the road, I have no warm house to dry off in.

It’s so easy to romanticize anybody’s life based on what you see on social media, but know they have ups and downs too. Because that’s life.

The message I want to send– the message I think is incredibly important– is that you already have everything you need to create the life you want. You have the power to be the boss of your own life, to decide where it goes and what it looks like.

If you look at my Instagram and say, “Wow, I want my life to look like that,” please know that it can. Go ahead and create a life full of Instagram-worthy views, but know that it will be full of less glamorous moments, too.

I want you to know that my life is so much more than my curated Instagram of beautiful photos and selfies. I try to show you the big picture as much as I can. I show a lot of it on this blog. I try to have a sense of humor about the less-than-amazing moments, because they happen… and they are important.

Gorgeous sunrise after a stressful night trying to find a place to camp.

Thank goodness for a gorgeous sunrise. Took this after a stressful night trying to find a place to camp.

Lately, I’ve been getting lots of questions about how I made my travel lifestyle a reality. How have I seen so many places and done so much? Stay tuned. If you have specific questions about my life, where I’ve been, or anything else, please shoot me an email. I’d love to answer them.

If my Instagram account is “#goals” for you, I’m truly flattered and honored, so thank you. I hope you appreciate the whole story, too. I hope you know that there might be a sleepless night or a broken windshield behind that beautiful photo. And I hope that makes it even better for you. I hope me sharing the whole story gives you the inspiration to create beautiful moments in your own life. Because you can.

What’s stopping you?

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Hal Watson
    November 3, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    This is an incredibly important post, thank you. Even blogs are curated windows into our lives, and anyone participating in social media has to admit that they are writing for an audience. This isn’t a cache of letters I wrote to my sister 20 years ago now rediscovered. This is me “talking” to hundreds, thousands of people. And let’s be honest, just how honest ( ok, complete) can that be? The double edge sword of it is that social media can free us in some ways, but it also limits us in others, as we begin to measure our “worth” in likes (or just start to crave that instant validation). Thanks for the thoughtful post, and good luck on your journey! -HW

    • Erin Sullivan
      Erin Sullivan
      November 8, 2015 at 9:47 am

      Thank you Hal! Totally agree, social media is changing (and has been changing) the way we portray our lives. I love using different platforms to show different parts of my life, and I really enjoy following others who do that too.

  • Reply
    November 3, 2015 at 7:02 pm

    Thanks for the inspiration – safe travels and adventure is never adventurous without hoops to jump through. A important piece of advice my mother told me once is ” the only person that can make you happy is yourself” so do what you are doing and it will take you to the right place in life.

  • Reply
    November 4, 2015 at 10:01 am

    Great post! I wrote a similar blog post called, ‘Genuine Human Connection – The Power of Relationships’ highlighting a little bit of what Hal mentioned above in regards to measuring our worth in likes or follows. Amazing things can happen when a writer is willing to open themselves up and be seen for who they are rather than trying to write to a specific audience about a specific topic in order to increase their popularity. A friend of mine once gave me the best piece of advice there is when it comes to writing; write for yourself and no one else. If a writer can do that they’ll start to realize this is when genuine human connection takes place rather than just another piece on X, Y, or Z to try and boost their likes or follows.

    • Erin Sullivan
      Erin Sullivan
      November 8, 2015 at 9:50 am

      So awesome, Jake! Thanks for the thoughts. 🙂

  • Reply
    November 13, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    I can’t tell you how many messages I get from people telling me they wish I had my life. Granted, I have a very good job as a pharmacist that affords me the ability to travel, but most people don’t realize I put in my 40 hours a week and travel on my off days and my vacation weeks. Every day isn’t spent ascending 5000 vertical feet or skiing out of a helicopter. Even when I tell people that, they still assume otherwise. On the flip side, I appreciate my social media following (since I’ve taken it seriously lately) as brands have been contacting me to collaborate and that helps with things. More and more I get the idea to drop things and travel, but I ACTUALLY know the challenges that go along with it. It’s a constant debate whether or not to do it. Keep the good posts coming Erin!

    • Erin Sullivan
      Erin Sullivan
      November 16, 2015 at 1:41 pm

      Thanks Richard! It’s so important to tell the whole story. Having a full time job doesn’t mean you can’t go do epic stuff, and you’re proving it. Social media only shows the coolest parts, and in a way, that’s why we love looking at it! Hopefully your posts inspire others to explore outside of their jobs as well. 🙂

  • Reply
    November 26, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    Wonderful post. I think that Social media as wonderful as it is, does by nature of constant flow of beautiful places and people, lead to desire, envy, and some unrealistic views. Great reminder that we need to stay grounded.

Leave a Reply