Travel blogs: A one-way ticket to smugsville?

You’ve finally booked that trip of your dreams and you’re about to embark on an exciting new adventure. How better to let friends and family know you’re safe – as well as making them just a teeny bit jealous – than by sharing your exploits via a travel blog? From the gap-year student who wants to appease her worried parents while she’s backpacking around Vietnam to the enterprising ex-cubicle dweller who uses his money-spinning blog to fund his never-ending globe-trotting, there are thousands of travel blogs to discover online.

Don’t underestimate how demanding a blog can be. Before you leave you should think carefully about whether you really want to make the commitment. If you’re likely to be too busy sampling the local liquor or thrill-seeking then perhaps you’d be better suited to posting photos to Tumblr or updating friends via a Twitter account. But it can be an incredible way to share your trip with people at home as well as forming a precious memento for you, much like keeping a journal. Plus, it can be a great way to pass the time on those long train journeys and you won’t have to bore people with hundreds of photos upon your return – so your friends will thank you, too.

Travel blogs are incredibly easy to set up and there are dozens of blogging templates to choose from. Jamie Lafferty, who has written a number of blogs for his adventures, started out with Google Blogger. “If you’re a total amateur then things like Google Blogger make it really easy for you,” he says. “For a recent trip to Japan I started to use WordPress, which is a bit more professional.”

If you aspire to have a bigger audience than just your relatives, you should consider self-hosting your blog by downloading the correct (free) software. Michael Hodson, of the blog Go, See, Write, says: “If you want to be taken seriously, you need to have a self-hosted blog. The biggest mistake I personally made in travel blogging was not self-hosting for the first two years I was in the industry.”

There are a few guidelines to follow to ensure you keep your readers interested. First, posting photographs on your blog is crucial. “Each post should have at least two attractive pictures,” Hodson says. “People like visuals. Don’t forget to have plenty of photos of you, because in the end you are selling yourself to your readers.” Keep an eye on the length of your entries. “Any post more than 700-800 words is going to generally be too long for most people to pay attention to,” Hodson says. And you should aim to post a minimum of twice a week.

Tread carefully with your subject matter as well. Do people really need to know about that bout of dysentery after you sampled the street kebabs? The same goes with your romantic endeavours. Your mates in the pub might want to know about your night of passion with the Brazilian barmaid but does your mother? “I don’t blog about anything I wouldn’t tell my parents but I also think people should leave their partying and sex life off the internet,” Matt Kepnes, of Nomadic Matt, says. “It doesn’t make for a good perception of you if that is all you talk about. Focus on the stories and pictures.”

And the biggest offence? The smug travel blogger. Yes, you might be in paradise but spare a thought for your poor friends at home, stuck reading about your exploits on their lunch breaks at work. Try to keep the bragging in check. “I met quite a few people who openly admit that their main motivation for their blog was to irritate their friends back home by talking about how much fun they were having,” Lafferty says. “You can fall into that very easily. Being smug was something I actively tried to avoid because I was always very aware that I was lucky to be travelling in the first place.”

Four sites to check out

Uncornered Market

The work of married couple Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott, Uncovered Market features a blog, photo gallery, videos and audiocasts. It also includes a “journey clock” telling readers how long they’ve been on the road.

Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site

Nomadic Matt is one of the most popular travel blogs around. Specialising in long-term travel on a tight budget, Matt Kepnes, 30, funds his travelling from his blog and has even released an eBook, How to Travel the World on $50 USD a Day.

Bacon Is Magic

Ayngelina, a 30-something Canadian, left behind her job, boyfriend and apartment to “find inspiration in Latin America”. As her blog’s title suggests, she is a serious foodie and her photography of the local cuisine is guaranteed to make you hungry.

Grumpy Traveller

David Whitley’s site promises “travelling beyond the gushing hyperbole” and offers sections on petty gripes and etiquette. Often very funny, it’s a blog with a strong editorial voice.

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