Long, long ago, people returning from holiday would frequently invite their friends, family and neighbours round to their house for a slide show in order to share their holiday experiences and show them the places they had travelled to.
The advent of the internet has seen sales of slide projectors plummet now that travellers record and review their foreign adventures through travel blogs. The worldwide web has meant that any traveller with a computer and a holiday tale can try to emulate Bill Bryson. However, there is a knack to travel blogging – here are six tips to ensure that your blog influences the travel community rather than just getting lost in cyberspace.
1. Write about what you know
It is essential that you travel to the place you’re writing about – if this is not possible then at least speak to people who have. Speaking to someone who actually lives in the destination you’re focussing on is also a good idea as it means you can have ‘an insider’s guide’.
Whenever possible, make sure that you stress in your blog that you have been to the place you are writing about by using the personal pronoun. Sentences such as “when I stepped into the ruins of the Roman amphitheatre I could not help but marvel at the scale of the ancient building” reassure readers that you aren’t just cribbing your descriptions from a Lonely Planet guide!
2. Prioritise photos
Use photos – preferably ones taken by yourself. It’s a good idea to decide which photos you are going to use before you write the article. Remember: it’s no good using a photo of a place that isn’t mentioned in your article.
Try not to be too vain with your choice of photo – people want to see pictures of the great monuments and landscapes you have visited; they don’t want to see a picture of you in a Kiss-me-quick hat clutching a straw donkey while standing in front of these sights.
Choosing a good photo will save you a lot of time. For instance, instead of struggling for ten minutes to find adjectives to describe the way the sun glints off the Golden Temple of Amritsar, why not just post a picture of said temple and let the image speak for itself?
If you struggle to find suitable images then a quick trawl through Flickr’s Creative Commons online photo library normally comes up trumps – the photos in this archive are free to use. Don’t forget to put a caption underneath your photo and give credit to the person who took the photo!
3. Take an angle
Before you start your travel blog, it’s a good idea to decide on an angle. If you’re writing about a well-known tourist destination then try to think about approaching the subject from a direction other writers are unlikely to have taken before. Don’t set yourself impossible tasks such as ‘pushing an oven around Greece on a budget holiday’; instead think about ideas like:
- How many different pyramids is it possible to visit in one day?
- What does Glastonbury have to offer when the festival isn’t on?
- Great places to visit in Frank Sinatra’s New York in the ‘Wee Small Hours’ of the morning
Google your ideas first to see if anyone has got there first!
4. Self-censor ruthlessly
Always ask yourself whether what you are writing about will be of interest and of use to readers following in your footsteps. It might well be that your friends are fascinated by the story of how your flight to Barbados was ruined by the behaviour of an unruly passenger. However, will readers, ones who are anxious to learn about the cultural delights of Barbados, really want to know about this?
Picking a word count for your article and breaking the article up so that there are lots of sub-headings will give your blog post a sense of purpose and stop you getting too far off the beaten path.
5. Keep it topical
Making your blog post topical can ensure that you attract a wider readership. For instance, posting an article about ‘Great places to visit along the Tour de France route’ is likely to catch people’s eye before, during and just after the Tour de France.
6. Have a clear conclusion
There is a film critic currently employed by a Sunday newspaper who never makes it clear whether he enjoyed or disliked the film he has reviewed. Don’t let your travel blogs be the same – let the reader know whether you would recommend the place you have just visited.
Would you be happy to go there again? Did the place meet or exceed your expectations? What would you do differently if you visited the place again? Such questions will be on the readers’ minds when they read your travel blog so try and address as many of these issues as possible.
So, to conclude: travel blogging can be an immensely rewarding experience as it offers the chance to share experiences with like-minded travellers. And, even if no one reads your travel blog, at least it gives you a lasting online record of what you did on your travels. It sure beats sending a postcard