Travelblogging didn’t start yesterday. Expats and wanderers have been chronicling their travels online for at least a decade – Lonely Planet and BootsNAll have provided online spaces for travel stories and advice for longer. What is new is the rise of travelbloggers as a recognizable entity and community.
In 2008 I co-hosted Travelblogging for Beginners at SxSW with Sheila Scarborough – it’s the first time I’d seen travelblogging on a conference agenda. The following year saw the launch of TBEX, the Travelblog Exchange, which attracted an audience of 300 travelbloggers in 2010. This year is also the second year of a travelblogging track at Blog World Expo. We are popping up on panels at PR conferences, in Best Of lists, and on daytime TV . We are even scoring book deals. We have arrived.
For a few years, I had a freelance gig for BlogHer. I’d read the travelblogs twice a week. Sometimes I searched for topic specific information – for example, after the flooding in Peru, I wanted to see what travelers were saying about the Machu Picchu region. Other times, I’d click through new blogs looking for inspiration. After four years of this twice weekly browse-fest, I can catalog a post or an entire blog in a few clicks.
Here is the gap year adventurer. Next, a mom dealing with the tribulations of small children and the TSA. Now , another round the world couple living out of their backpacks. Yawn. Yes, I have become jaded and a hard critic in the classic sense of that word. And under that jaded sensibility is a challenge for travelbloggers. As we grow and become easier to pigeon hole, how are we going to stand out? I think there’s a way. And while this is targeted towards travelbloggers, most of this translates to bloggers of any stripe.
Be transparent: I’ve followed with great interest travelbloggers who exposed exactly how much money they were saving prior to their adventures or exactly how much things cost. I stumbled across a blog that had an attached spreadsheet capturing every single dime spent per country with an average for each category and country. I’ve also followed bloggers who report not only how much they earn, but exactly how they earn it and on which domains. This kind of honestly in finance is not only inspirational but provides a much needed reality check to those planning their travels and those with aspirations to make money travelblogging.
Transparency doesn’t just apply to finances, though. Use it for press trips, anything that’s sponsored, giveaways, reviews: disclosure isn’t just a legal consideration, it builds trust.
Share your expertise: Be it a specific destination or a style of travel, targeting your expertise to your audience – parents traveling with children of a certain age, or Honduras or Hawaii or Hanoi — digging deep into your topic ties you to both the curious and the enthusiastic. And you’re helping! You’re offering up useful, concrete, actionable information about traveling with a wheelchair or finding the best gelato. Those you help are your advocates; they’ll help you stand out in return for sharing your knowledge.
Have a presence: Ah, it’s so lovely to dream of the day when all I’ll do is write posts for my own blog. Ideally, this is accompanied by lucrative speaking gigs (backed with a luscious per diem and all expenses paid.). Never mind all that. Showing up elsewhere is good for your reach. This might be a blogging gig for a network site, but it can be many other things – engaging on Twitter and Facebook, hosting meetups , thoughtfully placed guest posts, or sharing your platform with good causes. No meetups near you? Start something, even if it’s just coffee with a travelblogger across town.
Tell it like it is: Lose your luggage in the airport and your lunch over the rail on the boat? Fall in love with the surf shack boys even though your adoring husband is right behind you on the sand? Fear for your life on that taxi ride to Monteverde? Bring all that emotion with you to your blog – travel or otherwise. There are servers chock full of sanitized for your protection travel “content”, there’s no need for more of it. Bring your sincerity and wonder, your fear and aggravation, this is your story. Make it live for others and they will love you for it.
Pam Mandel is a freelance writer and the blogger behind Nerd’s Eye View . She’s a cofounder the travel social gathering, SCOOT (Seattle Consortium of Online Travel) and Passports with Purpose, the annual travelbloggers fundraiser.
Photo Credit: Photo by road trip buddy @pwcarey