Why I Didn’t Instagram My Way Around Bristol

houses on redcliffe

Unless you watched my video, where I showed you what I’d packed, you might have been unaware that I  spent a couple of days in Bristol.

My parents had been telling me how nice Bristol is since they visited in their caravan (see where I get my love of road trips from?) and they did a lot of cycling in the area so I decided to book myself a night away from London and see what all the fuss was about.

Minus the bike.  I don’t have a bike.

What I do have, however, is a knack for booking ridiculously early trains without taking into account the fact that I don’t, in fact, live next to the train station. And that’s why I was at Paddington station at 7:30am on a Sunday, downing a coffee with an extra shot of coffee, waiting for my train to Bristol.

The early morning wake-up call wasn’t great, especially on a Sunday.  Who arrives ANYWHERE at 7:30am on a Sunday?? But what it did mean was that, because I could only really afford one night in a hotel instead of two, I had two pretty-much full days in Bristol.

High five, self!


I love using Instagram.  It’s fast becoming my favourite social network.  Not because it sends a huge amount of traffic to my blog because it doesn’t, it can’t really, but because the travel-lovers I follow fill my feed with the kind of photos that make me want to explore every corner of the globe, the bookworms I follow give me a never-ending list of books I want to read , and the fashion-forward ladies I follow encourage me to think about maybe wearing something a bit fancier than jeans and a t-shirt once in a while.

Insta feed = instant inspiration.

So normally I’d relish the chance to Instagram my way around a new city. I did it in York, and Leeds, and more recently, Porto.  I’ve Instagrammed my way around Basilicata, Amsterdam, Auckland, Seattle, and even when I’m home in London, I’m constantly finding new street art or pretty streets or quirky coffee shops to photograph.

But as soon as I got to my hotel in Bristol, put my bag down, and sunk into the comfy armchair  I realised how relieved I felt to just be…away.

Bristol Hotel

Sidenote: I really want one of these chairs for my flat.

I hadn’t gotten my hotel comped, like I sometimes do, so I had no obligations to promote where I was staying.  Sometimes, as a travel blogger, a city break can feel less like a break and more like a stamina-test.  You’re taking photos constantly, you’re writing notes, you’re walking miles, racing between one attraction and the next, uploading photos to your social channels, AND attempting to be present.  To actually see this new place with your eyes, rather than through a screen.

It can be too much.

Sometimes, even on a city break where there’s often so much to see, so much cool stuff you WANT to share with your followers, keeping it to yourself, resisting the urge to document your every thought on social media, is good for the soul.

And it’s exactly what I needed.

Olive Shed Bristol

I needed to wander without purpose, take photos without automatically thinking up an Instagram caption, eat in a restaurant without ‘checking in’.  Visiting a new city is supposed to be fun, relaxing even, but so often I spend my city breaks wearing myself out trying to cover every aspect of the place I’m visiting, replying to comments, checking to see how many people have liked my photos.  Trying to be a ‘good blogger’.

Not this time.

And I’ll let you into a little secret: it was brilliant.

bristol grain barge

I walked miles around Bristol with my camera in my hand, not my iPhone.

I went out for an early dinner and came back to my hotel,  made myself a cup of tea and watched an entire film.

I had a bath, something I’d never normally do because I’d feel guilty about taking that time out for myself when I could’ve been out taking photographs and finding cool things to write about.

I had breakfast next to the harbour with the sun sparkling on the water and didn’t share it with anyone, despite it bringing a smile to my face.

I visited the pretty suburb of Clifton and walked across its huge suspension bridge.  I sat in a cafe with my Kindle, not my iPhone, for company.

bath bristol hotel

And it turns out that when you take a step back, when your mind is free to wander without constantly having to come up with Instagram one liners, the ideas just come to you.

Just for the sake of clarity; I’m not one of those people with their head constantly bowed towards their phone.  You won’t find me out for dinner with my friends attempting to hold a conversation with them in person and someone else online. I’m not so attached to social media that I can’t take a break from it sometimes.

But as a blogger, and a travel blogger especially, it can feel like you’re not doing your ‘job’ properly if you’re not sharing amazing pictures of the places you’re travelling.  And that’s why most of the time, when I travel, you’ll find me using Instagram a lot.  It’s fun to inspire other people to travel and as a solo traveller it’s rewarding to be able to tag my Instagram photos with a few hashtags in the hope that some girl, somewhere, sees those photos and the photos that all the other awesome solo travellers upload, and finds the courage to travel on her own.

redcliffe parade east

But on this trip I needed to just…be.  To take advantage of having a hotel room that felt like the size of the three-bedroom apartment I share in London.  To take a bath when I NEVER take a bath at my flat for fear of hogging the bathroom when someone else needs it.

I needed to just walk and think of nothing but walking.  To eat and think of nothing but eating. To breath and to accept that I don’t always have to be sharing my life.  Sometimes it can just be for me.


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  1. says

    Great post! I had the same thing last week! I went away with my best friend to the beach here in China and my phone ran out of battery. We went to the coolest cafes etc but there was no need to take pictures etc. We just sat there for hours without technology talking and enjoying each other’s company. And it was wonderful.

  2. says

    Amen! I’ve been spending a lot of my weekends this summer up in Ontario’s Cottage Country (the Muskoka’s) and I haven’t been sharing nearly as many photos of my time up there. Mostly because days consist of me sitting on the dock with my kindle. My iPhone is usually nearby, and I have lately been instagramming older travel photos. But it’s been really nice to kind of have ME time… where I’m not worried about sharing the surrounding areas immediately.

    Sometimes we need to remember to take time for ourselves. :)
    Melissa @ The Mellyboo Project recently posted..10 Things I Learned as a Travel AgentMy Profile

    • says

      ME time is AMAZING. I loved doing that in Bristol! I felt guilty at first and then I was, like, nahh this is way too enjoyable to feel bad about it! :)

  3. says

    Even as a travel blogger, I still feel it is important to take time out on trips. I am not going to write well if I don’t enjoy the experience because I am exhausted. On my most recent trip to Italy, I decided not to blog while away and several nights I was in the hotel drinking a glass of wine while reading a book. It’s the first trip I haven’t come back from in awhile completely exhausted.
    Tiffany recently posted..Driving in ItalyMy Profile

    • says

      Urgh I never blog when I’m away – too busy and I like to be able to enjoy actually being somewhere instead of coming home early of an evening to write about my day.

  4. says

    Good on ya! Not enough people allow themselves quality ‘me’ time! Did you enjoy the city though? I’ve lived near Bristol for a good 5 or so years and still have so much to explore. Clifton is one of my favourite areas though.

    And what hotel was that – I love that chair! lol
    Keri recently posted..Island hopping in the PhilippinesMy Profile