One of the ironies of being a travel blogger is that the time when it’s hardest to keep up with the blog is when you’re actually, y’know, traveling. When we stay put for awhile, either at home or whatever we call a homebase, we can edit photos, decipher notes, write blog posts, respond to emails, and tweet our little hearts out. When we’re traveling, most of those things are more challenging – if not downright impossible.
If your blog is primarily about travel and you travel on a regular basis, you need to come up with a system for making sure your blog still looks alive even when you’re not checking it every day. And really, even if your blog is only partly about your travels, keeping the blog lively while you’re jetsetting (so your readers don’t go wandering off in search of newer and shinier things) is still a good idea.
Here are four tips to help make sure your blog doesn’t gather cobwebs while you’re on the move.
1. Remember paper?
Take a step back in time with me, kids, to an era when travel blogs were written by hand. With pens. On paper. I know, right? Nevermind that they weren’t actually called blogs then – the point is that the absence of WiFi and electricity doesn’t keep you from writing.
Make sure you always have a small notebook you can carry with you wherever you go (oh HAI, yummy Moleskines) and a pen you genuinely like (seriously, if you don’t like the way it writes, you won’t enjoy using it). Get them out on long bus or train rides, or while you’re sitting in a restaurant or public square. Take notes on what you’re seeing, smelling, eating, doing – on everything. Write down stuff even if you think you’ll remember it later (I promise you won’t). Describe things in detail in your notes as much as you can, and at the very least jot down quick snippets that will trigger memories later on.
Turning those notes into blog posts later will be a (relative) piece of cake compared to what it would be like if you had to recreate everything from your inadequate memory banks.
2. Take. Pictures. Of. Everything.
Of course you want to capture the views you’re seeing and the foods you’re eating with the prowess of a National Geographic photographer, but that’s not the only thing your camera is good for. In fact, I’d argue that for most of us (the ones who are mediocre amateur photographers at best – and who also suffer from a serious case of laziness), the cameras we tote around are more useful as note-taking tools.
The plaque on the side of an historic building in the old town center? Sure, you could get out that Moleskine you’re carrying around and write down details for later reference… Or you could just snap a quick photo of the doggone thing and read it later. I regularly get quick photos of signs declaring entry hours/ticket prices, historic plaques, road signs, etc. If you’re pressed for space on your camera’s memory card, make time later in the day to write down details from those photos and then delete the files.
Again, like point #1 above, this tip helps make the post-writing process much faster when you eventually have time for it, because you don’t have to go hunting down all the information you need.
3. Short Updates > No Updates
This isn’t about the fact that your blog posts don’t need to be novellas (although that’s true, too) – this is about using other non-blog tools to keep your readers engaged during your trip, without you needing to sit down at a keyboard for a half-hour entering something into WordPress. In particular, I’m talking about Twitter.
Posting quick updates to Twitter while you’re actually traveling is an excellent way to let your readers know you’re still alive (hi Mom!), you’re doing/seeing/eating wonderful things, and you’ll have plenty to share with them in greater detail later. Let your readers know ahead of time that you’ll be posting updates to Twitter (but not the blog) during your trip, and invite them to follow along. Make sure your Twitter feed shows up on your blog, so even those who aren’t Twitter-holics can check in when they visit your site. And Twitter has “ShortCodes” for you to send updates via SMS from all over the globe, if you’ve got a local SIM card, so you don’t even need to be at your computer to send updates throughout your trip (here’s the growing list of Twitter’s supported mobile carriers around the world and their ShortCodes).
The same kinds of short updates and photos can be posted to your blog’s Facebook page, too, when you have WiFi. It’s all about letting your readers know you’re still thinking of them – without feeling like you’re a slave to them.
4. Advance Publishing is Your Friend
This is the part where you get to use the awesome notes you’ve been gathering (#1 above) and the images you’ve captured (#2 above) to write a whole bunch of posts. Because you’ve taken good notes and have some of your research taken care of thanks to your photos, you can take advantage of long travel days or even stay-put days with no WiFi to get quite a bit of writing done. And because you don’t want to inundate your readers with seven posts in 24 hours, you also get to take advantage of the advance publishing feature.
Sure, write seven posts during that long train ride if you can – but spread out the publication of those posts over the next week or two. That way your readers get a steady trickle of lengthier updates (combined with the shorter in-the-moment updates from #3 above), but you don’t need to be chained to your laptop in order to deliver them. If your readers are accustomed to getting something new every single day about what you did that very day, you’ll have to learn to let go of that schedule – and as long as you let them know what’s going on, they’ll be fine. The promise of great tales of adventure when you do get back to posting regularly (combined with quick updates via Twitter or Facebook) should keep your readership intact and hungry for more.
Having said all of that…
Here’s the thing. Yes, I’m going to advocate that travel bloggers keep up their blogs (to an extent) when they travel. It’s what we do, after all. It’s why we have blogs. But y’know what? I’m also going to tell you to step away from the computer now and then.
Being able to travel is an incredible privilege, and if you’re presented with the choice between having an actual travel experience or sitting at your laptop travel blogging, I sincerely hope you’ll choose the former. You can always make time later to write about your adventures – but it’s impossible to write about something you haven’t experienced in the first place.
Turn off the laptop, put down the smartphone, and enjoy the moment. Your blog posts, when you get back to them, will be richer for it.
(But don’t forget the Moleskine. Just in case.)