“The trouble with my line of work,” a clergyman once told me, “is that every little thing that happens during your day makes you think, ‘Is this material for a sermon?’” Being a travel blogger has much the same effect. At home or abroad, even the smallest stuff – a sleeping cabby, an old lady selling snails, someone wandering the streets in pajamas – can spark an idea for a post. Even when I’m trying to describe a magnificent setting, it’s usually the small, personal details – an impossible "fact," a goofy mistake, someone's snarky remark – that make the story come alive. Being a blogger motivates me to pay closer attention to my surroundings and the astonishing things people do and say. It keeps me on my mental toes.
You might want to launch your own blog for all sorts of reasons. Maybe you want a better way to share vacation photos and anecdotes with family and friends, especially if you have something special in mind this year. You could have a message you want to share, such as the importance of travel for mental and spiritual growth. It may be time to explore a career as a travel writer, and you want to start building an audience so you can attract sponsors and paid assignments. Whatever you may have in mind, here are a few pointers to get you started.
Study successful travel bloggers. Check out the 50 most popular travel blogs of 2014; Matador Network’s roundup of slightly edgier stories; and my personal faves. Read articles such as the Huffington Post’s How to Blog Like an Expert: Tips from the 10 Best Travel Blogs. If you’re serious about going pro, consider joining Travel Blog Success for online support and ideas.
Then throw out the rulebook. “If I were to listen to all of the advice out there about how to blog correctly, I probably wouldn’t still be blogging today,” says the phenomenally popular Wandering Earl. “ I remember trying to figure out ‘how to blog’ when I first started and I also remember getting a headache after every research session . . . If you don’t do this your blog will explode, if you don’t do that you’ll never, ever, ever, ever have any readers.” His advice? “Be yourself, not just another travel blogger.”
Hone your writing skills. Leave out the boring bits! Cut to the chase! Make the experience come alive for your readers! Put a little “ouch” in your stories; people love to read about overcoming obstacles. Spend time studying your craft. Develop your own voice. And proofread! Tripping over typos and awkward phrasing is painful for your readers, and mistakes undermine your work’s credibility.
Give your travel photos zing. Take your camera everywhere; the best way to improve is to snap photos constantly. Make friends with your computer’s photo editing program; I use iPhoto to crop, boost, and enhance photos until they go from “uh” to “ahhh!” Study high-end pros such as National Geographic for inspiration and ordinary bloggers for down-to-earth tips.
Learn the technology. (It’s not that hard. Really!) Adventurous Kate’s How to Start a Travel Blog is a great, step-by-step introduction. She uses WordPress as her publishing platform (you’ll learn what this is in her article), where I prefer Weebly; both are great, and there are plenty of others out there.
Finding that online map got me thinking about the technology of blogging – which led to this post. And in checking my facts, I learned that every 7.4 seconds a new blog goes online; there are more than eight million out there already, with nearly three million articles being posted every day. So why should you add one more? Because it’s great fun, and every new blog brings a fresh voice into the worldwide conversation. If you’re thinking of starting a blog, or have one that’s been up and running a while, I’d love to hear your thoughts and advice for others in the blogosphere.
All blogs, websites, products, and services referred to in this post are included solely because I believe you might find them interesting and useful in planning your own blogging adventures. Unlike some of my better-organized and more practical blogger friends, I do not accept sponsorships of any kind.
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I'm an American travel writer based in Spain and currently living in California.
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