An Australian travel blogger who has built up a following of more than half a million from sharing glamorous travel snaps has revealed what was really going on behind her envy-inducing photos – from deep loneliness to being dumped on Christmas Day.
Brooke Saward, 28, from Tasmania, said that after nearly a decade of travelling the world and uploading beautiful photos, she wanted to share what was really going on behind her snaps – and explain that Instagram is not a reflection of real life.
The result – which unearths her innermost thoughts, feelings and impressions from each destination – reads like a snapshot into Brooke’s diary, as she recalls the emotions of heartbreak, loneliness and the resulting freedom that comes with any breakup.
An Australian travel blogger who has built up a following of more than half a million from sharing glamorous travel snaps has revealed what was really going on behind her envy-inducing photos (Brooke Saward pictured in Barcelona)
Brooke Saward, 28, from Tasmania, said that after nearly a decade of travelling the world and uploading beautiful photos, she wanted to share what was really going on behind her snaps (Brooke pictured one month after Christmas Day)
‘When the world went into lockdown, I saw a lot of influencers posting their old travel photos with brief captions like “can’t wait to be able to travel again”,’ Brooke told FEMAIL.
‘I just thought to myself surely I can’t just start posting the same content with the same destinations telling people how much I miss my glamorous (and quite frankly unattainable) lifestyle? I wanted to do something more.’
And so, beginning at the end of March, Brooke started sharing the real stories from her travels to the South of France, LA, New Zealand, Bali, London, Barcelona and Vienna.
‘We all know Instagram is a lie. It sells a version of our lives, especially for influencers,’ Brooke said.
‘I wanted to pick apart this lie and tell people: “Hey everyone, when I shared this beautiful photo of myself solo in Provence, what I didn’t tell you is that I was the loneliest I have ever been in my life, quietly mourning the breakup of a three-year relationship with the man I thought I would marry”.
‘As soon as I started, it was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders as I shared the real and raw moments of my life, my followers started to realise that there was this entire narrative of my life running in the background.’
The beginning of Brooke’s so-called ‘Stories’ – which have been divided into different parts depending on which photo you look at – starts in France (pictured), where she said ‘on the surface’ it looked as though she had ‘everything figured out’
Following a breakup with her boyfriend from home, Brooke revealed how she boarded a flight to New Zealand (left), rented a van to live in and dragged along a friend called Sophie for the ride. She later ended up in London for a period (right)
The beginning of Brooke’s so-called ‘Stories’ – which have been divided into different parts depending on which photo you look at – starts in France, where she said ‘on the surface’ it looked as though she had ‘everything figured out’.
‘I had a job that let me travel the world, ambassador deals and endless invites to exotic locations,’ Brooke wrote alongside the photo of her looking into the distance over cobblestone homes.
‘It was a career that didn’t exist in the humble beginnings of my travel blog – an online journal I created to document my adventures.’
While Brooke said she ‘fell into a world’ of luxury hotel stays, year-long contracts and networking, she also said that her desire to travel and her ‘restless feet’ meant it was difficult for her to hold down a boyfriend at home and travel the world.
‘When this photo was taken (by my drone, by the way) I was quietly mourning what I knew was the end of my relationship,’ Brooke admitted.
‘It took me six weeks abroad to come to terms with ending what was long lost. Once I had finally accepted our fate, I flew home only to be broken up with on the ride home from the airport. We both knew – we just didn’t know how to face it. The distance that had driven a wedge between us was our final undoing.’
Brooke shares the story of meeting the man who would dump her on Christmas Day
The only guy I ever fell for in Los Angeles was an award-winning producer of documentary films. At least, that’s how his LinkedIn profile reads.
Brooke recalled living in Los Angeles (pictured) and meeting a man she fell for who would later break up with her on Christmas Day
Let’s start with the Saturday we met on Sunset Boulevard. It sounds cliché because it was. Doing this story justice feels like a hefty task – plagued by my own bias, naturally. But when your story ends in a foreign country alone on Christmas Day having been left in the middle of the night, you earn the right to tell the tale. And tell it I did – to every air hostess who would listen on that 30 hour flight path back to Australia on 26 December 2018.
This may take a while (you’ve been warned). I had decided I would only date older men – a phase? Perhaps. Convinced age must have been the downfall to my previous failed relationships, I swore on a 30s or 40s kind of guy. Statistics show 60 per cent of men prefer dating younger, so if nothing else, the stats were on my side.
I was introduced to Simon (names have been changed) at an inconvenient time. There are cute foods to be eating when you meet a man and then there are acai bowls. My teeth covered in a layer of purple soup, I smiled and introduced myself. I was with a friend and her beau – used here as an adjective because in LA a ‘boyfriend’ is as good as a lifetime sentence. He happened to walk by and, caught by surprise, noticed his work colleague was sitting with us. ‘Hey Brian, fancy seeing you here’. Later that evening I was the 4th wheel in a double date to an emo band playing at a venue in Highland Park. In a haze of vodka sodas and white wine, we stumbled into the Uber and darted across town. Uninterested at first, my eyes darted around the room to a sea of eligible bachelors. It could have been the white wine or it could have been the laser beam lights that framed his face, but I caught myself lock eyes with his and for a split second, I really noticed him. ‘He’s into you’ Brian announced. After a series of first dates that apparently weren’t into me, my ego got the better of me.
We want to believe Brian is a good guy. He has that grew-up-on-emo-bands edge and bounces from one house party to the next as the friend who will never say no to a good time. But he’s also the kind of guy who changes his Instagram bio twice weekly, says yes but means no and more importantly, he treated my friend like absolute garbage. More on that later.
Before Brian introduced me to Simon, he invited his other friend, his better friend, Jason to meet me first. ‘Better’ on account of they are closer in friendship. But also ‘better’ in light of my retrospective guidance that he was closer to earth. A Southern guy working in finance, somewhat unscathed by the glamour of his newfound Hollywood life.
I liked Jason. He was a nice guy. But what is it they say – nice guys finish last?
A group of us decided on a Tuesday night in August that we’d make our way over to Glendale for a nostalgic revival of our childhood. We arrived at Moonlight Rollerway, an old school roller rink that opened back in ’56.
Jason, a Bradley Cooper look a like, was along for the ride. He had been stood up by a date in Santa Monica and moped his way across town to join the festivities. ‘He’s so cute’ my friend commented in a way that posed itself as a question to me. ‘Don’t you think?’ she finished. ‘He’s damaged’ said my other friend. ‘Don’t go there’ she warned. I contemplated for a second the word damaged and how easily it is thrown around to describe a person who has had their heart broken. Does this mean I am also damaged in need of repair?⠀
We spent our night getting high on sugary soft drinks and popcorn laced with MSG. How long could this innocence last? ‘We have a problem’ my friend declared the next day. ‘They’re both into you’ she finished. ‘Oh and they live together’ she added. I waited a few seconds to see if there was any more fuel for the fire and finally responded. ‘That’s fine ‘cos I’m not into either of them.’ When I got home that night, I consulted my therapist. ‘How long should you wait before you start dating again?’ I typed into Google.
Source: World of Wanderlust
Speaking to Daily Mail Australia about how her stories have been received online, Brooke explained that it has been huge – with thousands of women replying to her posts and saying ‘this happened to me’ (pictured in the Joshua Tree National Park and in Vienna)
Brooke (pictured in LA) detailed setting up in LA for three months, joining celebrity dating apps and realising that at age 26, she is ‘considered an infant in a town full of men who don’t want to marry and women who won’t realise until it’s too late’
Following this first post, Brooke revealed how she boarded a flight to New Zealand, rented a van to live in and dragged along a friend called Sophie for the ride with her.
What was supposed to be a week-long trip turned into ‘two weeks of self discovery’ and the pair bonding, before Brooke returned home to Tasmania to deal with the heartache of friends from when she was in a couple ignoring her.
She then detailed setting up in LA for three months, joining celebrity dating apps and realising that at age 26, she is ‘considered an infant in a town full of men who don’t want to marry and women who won’t realise until it’s too late’.
‘Alas, I embark on a series of dating quests to mark my territory on the city and before I know it, I’ve racked up a bill of Uber rides across town,’ Brooke said.
‘I stop wondering if he’ll text me for a second date and become numb to the fact that it might take a week and four days to hear back. All of a sudden “He’s Just Not That Into You” starts to make sense and the haze of Hollywood films I grew up on all seem too real.’
The diary entries or ‘stories’ continue in this fashion, through ‘kissing frogs’ and going through ‘rich Swiss guy, leather jacket guy, a few guys on said celebrity dating app and the guy I had a crush on since Instagram began’ all the way up to finding a prince only to get dumped on Christmas Day.
Many of the entries read like excerpts from Elizabeth Gilbert’s novel Eat, Pray, Love, they are so honest and revealing.
Brooke shares the story of how her relationship went wrong at Christmas
Being dumped on Christmas Day is a pretty good dinner conversation topic. It is also a great way to make friends on airplanes (mostly stewardesses) and mostly after a few too many wines at altitude.
Brooke shared the story of how her relationship broke down on Christmas Day (pictured in Newport, Rhode Island)
I had four planes worth of stories to tell as I travelled from Vienna – Paris. Paris – Singapore. Singapore – Melbourne. Melbourne – home.
The day after Christmas as I sit at one end of the dining table in my rented Viennese apartment, a stack of €100 bills sat at the other. Instead of leaving a note, Simon left euros. He left at 3:55am in the morning and the only reason I know this is because I glanced at my iPhone screen when I heard the door click shut, not because he bothered to say goodbye – or – say anything.
What happened in the lead up to Christmas Day is a series of unfortunate events. Much like a Lemony Snicket’s tale, our Christmas holiday went from bad to worse in the 72-hour lead up to his disappearance.
I arrived in Vienna a few days before him and filled my days with coffee houses, Christmas shopping and organic wine sourcing. I visited three organic wine stores across town, making it a personal mission to fill the house with everything he loved.
I bought a Polaroid camera for his Christmas present, one that he would later leave behind and one that I still have in my possession to this day. Simon was a non-social media guy (he’d be the first to tell you that), so I figured he could use the vintage camera to photograph our trip and take a memory of us home. From our dates in Los Angeles to our rendezvous in London, we never took a single photo to suggest that we ever existed – or he ever existed.
Sometimes I don’t think he ever did, but I still see his face in my dreams sometimes and I’m reminded he was real. Just, what we had was not.
In German countries, Christmas Eve is the main event. I know this now because the supermarkets were closed by the time he landed and we quickly realised there would be no way to fill the fridge for the Christmas feast I had planned. ‘Oh well’ he reasoned as we stood outside the third Billa Supermarket in search of food. ‘I guess we’ll go out for Christmas lunch’ he concluded.
The next day, which also happened to be Christmas Day, Simon phoned six restaurants to book us a table for Christmas lunch. Everywhere was fully booked (no shocker there) so we settled on the dinner reservation I had already made at a traditional Viennese restaurant in the inner stadt.
With the supermarkets closed since the 24th of December, my backup plan was to venture out for a big breakfast, skip lunch, and celebrate Christmas with a schnitzel and apple strudel.
But my plan was floored. My counterpart hit the snooze button on his alarm no fewer than seven times. And while I’d normally make an exception for someone sleeping in ’til noon… this was Christmas?
I bounced out of bed, danced around the living room to Ariana Grande’s Christmas tunes and drank all the coffee in the house to keep my hunger at bay. Meanwhile Simon slept.
A crucial point in this story is that I’m not much fun to be around if I skip a meal. I’m the kind of person who snacks on six small meals a day and I’m also the kind of person to eat before a workout. In other words, I really like food. A lot.
So there we were on my favourite day of the year, phoning around to see if anyone could seat us for lunch. After six consecutive ‘Neins’, he finally gave up. Now he was hungry. It was going from bad to worse.
As soon as we left the apartment, the rain started. We didn’t have an umbrella so we went back inside to layer up and continue our quest to be fed.
Anywhere that was open was booked out. It wasn’t surprising, but it was still disappointing nonetheless. As we aimlessly wandered through the heart of Vienna and the rain picked up pace, I spotted a movie theatre sign up a small alleyway. ‘That’s it!’ I proclaimed. ‘We can go see a movie!’ He wasn’t nearly as pleased.
As we sat through the two hours and ten minutes of chim-chimeny and spoonfuls of sugar, we stuffed ourselves on popcorn and zero sugar coke. By the end of the film, I fell out of love with my favourite childhood classic. I fell out of love with Christmas.
This was me a month after I was dumped on Christmas Day. After the shock had worn off and my mum went from consoling me to bothering me (lol sorry mum), I did what any responsible girl in her late twenties would do when she has her heart broken: I ran away.
First I ran to New Zealand, then I ran to Bali. Both were only a few hours from Australia and January is a pretty cheap time to fly, so I listened to my friends advice to ‘catch flights, not feelings’. There are a few details I overlooked from that Christmas dinner, most of which you’ll find here.
1. Somewhere between starters and the main course I had made the seemingly absurd request to put a label on our romance. I asked in the same kind of way a teenager would ask for permission to stay at a friends house, knowing the answer was probably no.
2. His response was loud, unapologetic and caused the entire restaurant to turn their heads.
3. I was p**sed off, so I did what any girl p**sed off does in an argument with a six-foot-two man-child. I stayed silent.
4. We walked home, a miserable 2.1 kilometres in the cold December air. A city that had seemed so magical just one day prior suddenly felt cold and not just in a literal sense.
5. When we arrived back at the apartment some forty minutes later, he wasted no time creating a makeshift office on the far end of the dining table. I didn’t know it then, but he was booking a flight home.
6. Simon left at 3:55am the following morning. The euros were a nice gesture, all things considered. On the 26th of December we were due to collect a rental car, drive 3 hours West to a cabin I had booked for a staggering €500 a night. I booked three nights, non-refundable. The euros were to pay for the rental car which was booked in his name, as I was paying the accommodation and he was covering transport.
7. Also non-refundable was the hotel in Salzburg and Paris on New Years Eve. Add that to my $5,236.12 flight home and yeah, you get the idea.
8. I wanted to stay and be the ‘strong, independent, solo travel gal’ I marketed myself as. But this broke me in a way I didn’t think anything or anyone could. Maybe I always was…?
Source: Brooke Saward
‘Those beautiful photos you see when you scroll through Instagram are just that – beautiful photos,’ she said. ‘They don’t share all the mishaps and mischief, the times you get ripped off or the times you miss a flight and get stuck at an airport for 24 hours. Those stories are what make the travel experience’ (Brooke pictured in LA)
Speaking to Daily Mail Australia about how her stories have been received online, Brooke explained that it has been huge – with thousands of women replying to her posts and saying ‘this happened to me’.
‘I think a lot of women travel to run away from a breakup or a job they need to escape,’ Brooke told FEMAIL.
‘The response has been phenomenal and it has been a great way to connect on a more human level, especially during this time of isolation.’
Brooke’s stories have been so successful she has even been contacted by a publisher in Australia, as well as a talent agency who want to discuss buying the rights to a book deal and a TV or film adaptation.
‘It’s all started to move very quickly!’ Brooke admitted.
Brooke has been approached by book publicists and people who want to buy the rights to her story (pictured in LA)
‘But I’m happy with what I’m doing. I think it’s important for anyone with a large audience to think about the message they are sharing.
‘Do I think everyone can afford the luxury hotels I stay in? No! So I started to share less of the beautiful hotels and focus more on the cities I was visiting. I don’t wear designer outfits and handbags because I simply couldn’t afford those things before I started my blog, so why should I share that now?
‘For the record, I shop at H&M, Zara and Mango. Plus I have an obsession with thrift shopping in cities I visit.’
The 28-year-old added: ‘Travel has become completely glamorised.
‘Those beautiful photos you see when you scroll through Instagram are just that – beautiful photos.
‘They don’t share all the mishaps and mischief, the times you get ripped off or the times you miss a flight and get stuck at an airport for 24 hours. Those stories are what make the travel experience.’
To read more from Brooke and the real stories behind the Instagram photos, you can visit her profile here.