We’re hobby bloggers, pure and simple. We bought a domain, installed WordPress, and just started to write stories for our friends.
We’ve never considered ourselves as ‘travel writers‘ or journalists. We’re just two people who saw the path ahead and decided to change the course, leaving their careers behind and embarking on a new path of travelling around the world. We wrote pieces for our family to read, choosing to mimic the same type of content that the very same travel bloggers who once inspired us to travel had created before us; but not in an attempt to become what they were, just to provide what we thought our friends and family might like to read about our travels.
We were writing about the subjects that we found interesting, when we felt like it, and without a deadline. Some weeks would see a blur of creativity and three posts would go live in seven days, other weeks only one, maybe none at all.
Two years later and how we look at travel blogging has changed. We now write a minimum of three articles a week, all done to a deadline as apart of a schedule. We spend several hours getting reading and becoming inspired by many new travel blogs that are starting new adventures of their own; not to mention the multitude of hours each week we put into our social media channels striking up conversations with fun and witty people, sharing the great articles that we find – but it wasn’t just ourselves that changed, the travel blogging world has too.
Travel Blogging Today
Travel blogging today is an industry in its infancy. It’s still got its training wheels on, but its heading in a direction that I personally never foresaw coming, with some blogs becoming full professionals and making a living from their personal viewpoint of the world.
Part of the reason that some of the travel blogs you read today even began is because of the financial aspects of travel blogging, that there is money to be made through monetisation, and we’re not exempt from that in the slightest. We’ve added adverts and affiliate links to our site in an effort to put a little money back into our dwindling travel budget, but we’ve never really reaped the kinds of numbers that others see each month; mostly because we’ve never really considered going pro.
Unfortunately, one outcome we’ve seen of this push by some to make their travel blog pay for their gap year or ongoing travels has been the gradual decline of quality content, with detailed stories that grip and engage becoming fewer and far between.
As of late I’ve been interning for another travel blogger and one of my responsibilities was to find and share all of the travel articles that I felt would be engaging for their audience. This would normally come through time spent navigating through travel blogs and links provided by RSS feeds and Twitter, finding a title that piques interest, and reviewing the piece. Unfortunately, on too often an occasion I’ll be presented with one picture and (maybe) two hundred words, all for the sake of a little traffic to boost their monthly views and it’s a shame.
Professionalism And Travel Blogging
At the recent Tbex in Cancun the subject of professionalism and quality content creation was covered in both discussion and in the workshops held by the event holders, but having not attended myself I relied upon post-tbex to write ups like Amelie of The Everyday Journey’s newbie perspective, the entertaining video round-up by vlogger Fun For Louis, and in-depth discussion pieces like TW Anderson’s ‘The Good, The Bad And The Ugly‘ to understand what the message being communicated was.
One piece that really got my attention was that the recording of the final keynote released by Chris Chrisensen for the This Week In Travel podcast he co-hosts along with Jen Leo of JenLeoDeals.com, and Gary Arndt of Everything Everywhere. Within it the subject of the non-professional behaviour of some travel bloggers is covered, but also that of travel writing.
Within the keynote Gary brought up the topic of awards and how few are won by travel bloggers. He posed the question, “why aren’t more travel bloggers winning awards?“, with the discussion that followed again returning to highlight the lack of professionalism and “I’d like freebies for me, my partner, my kids and my grandparents” trend, but also making a point to ask if people are still striving to be the next lead journalist of National Geographic, of winner of any of awards which some travel writers are picking up each year.
I have to wonder, where have our travel writers gone?
Where Have Our Travel Writers Gone?
I can recall reading old copies of National Geographic in my school library when I was still about ten years of age. They were fascinating magazines to flick through for a child with a very limited view of the world, never really understanding that outside of the four walls of home and too many hours in front of the TV, that a world is waiting to be discovered and experienced – but I never thought I’d be writing about it
As mentioned, we write stories about the things that things that happen to us whilst we travel, because they matter to us first of all, and because we feel that there might be at least one or two people out there who feel so entertained by our recalling our day of incredible fortune with locals that they feel compelled to explore the world for themselves, even if that’s just stepping outside their door and exploring the neighbourhood they walk through on the way to work every morning, but never see; but isn’t that good travel writing?
Good travel writing should put you in that place and in their shoes, it should bring out the wanderer inside of you. It’s not just one image and a handful of words, it’s paragraph after paragraph of well edited and constructed paragraphs that conjure images in your head. Paired with the such high quality images that modern technology can not only capture, but improve and deliver to your desktop in a matter of hours; travel writing is more than a clickbaiting title or chance to boost your analytics, it’s a teleportation device to other worlds.
The Grey Line
Shouldn’t we all be trying to change that grey line that has divided travel bloggers and travel writers since the first person started to keep his journal online some time in the Nineties? As Gary discussed in his piece last week, “Why aren’t we winning more Lowell Thomas Awards?“, and I’m totally with him.
Isn’t it time that we put quality first over rather than quantity or manipulation of the system just to direct the traffic to boost numbers, or am I being to naively hopeful? You could of course accuse me of being an hypocrite given that we too publish two pieces over the weekend that feature not much more than a handle of photos and words with our Weekend Photo Theme and Locate Cavey travel mascot series, but those pieces came out of admiration for great photography collections like those captured by In Focus and The Big Picture, and initially what was an attempt by us to take pictures of amazing locations to show our friends without the need for us to be that cuddly photo couple that we tend to avoid ourselves.
As modern times have pushed print media to the back seat behind the online alternative, travel journalism too has had to adapt and change. Perhaps travel blogging is an extension of that? Perhaps travel blogging will be where a future travel writer or journalist will prove their worth and cut their teeth before being picked up by a landmark newspaper or book publisher, just as we’ve begun to see for a small handful of veteran travel bloggers of late.
As hobby bloggers ourselves understand that not everyone is going to be the next Don George, but does that stop us from writing honest and well-researched pieces? Do we ever stop to think, “would I want to read this?” before we hit Publish? Plus, who’s to say that with a little practice, tutorials, and time that you can’t be a great travel writer?
I’ve seen my writing improve over the years but I’m not a travel writer. For great travel writers you’ve really got to take the time to read pieces by brilliant storytellers like Daniel Noll of Uncornered Market and Nate Robert of Yomadic who both inspire me to delve deeper into local life, culture, and the deep into the location to truly experience world travel.
There may never be any awards in my backpack, but why not yours?
Who is your favourite travel blog writer?