By Greg Rodgers
How to improve a travel blog?
No, I’m not talking about the best times to post on social media or creating clickbait bullshit. I’m talking about how to actually make readers want to read what you write.
Anyone who has kept a travel blog knows how difficult staying motivated about making updates can be, especially while on the road. When you finally manage to plop yourself down in front of a laptop on slow Wi-Fi, it seems like half the things you wanted to write about have vanished. You end up staring at the screen with a dysfunctional brain until you cave in and go play on social media.
Where the hell did all those mental notes from earlier go? With a whole new world waiting just outside the door, throwing in the towel with a lame Facebook post rather than blog post can be all too tempting.
The free travel blog that I began in 2005 just before I left to go vagabonding somehow mysteriously blossomed into a source of interest for readers all over the world. I had an average of 500-1,000 return readers a day, and felt a strange sense of responsibility to keep them entertained with new content. Many of these people were stuck at home, sitting in offices and cubicles, and I offered them the fantasy of escape.
Now days, my blog gets updated once a month at best. I once made weekly or bi-weekly posts, so what happened? Success. Suddenly, I cared a little too much about those updates. They started feeling like unpaid work rather than a joy.
A big part of the problem is the ability to recall those tiny details that transport a reader to the place. No one cares that you ate pad thai for lunch. They want to taste it for themselves. You must construct words into an experience for your readers. Hours or days later, digging those little gems out of their cranial hiding places isn’t easy. It hurts.
The Best Way to Improve Your Travel Blog
I have since learned my lesson. Moments get lost, so they must be captured immediately, on the fly. Recording updates on a smartphone (or a tiny voice recorder if you don’t carry a phone) seems to be the solution. And what about recording the exciting sounds of a frantic market, a street performer’s traditional instrument, or someone pronouncing words for you in a foreign language? All those things come in handy later.
Who cares if it looks goofy. It does. Don’t make voice entries on a date. And don’t make them more official than Captain Kirk making a captain’s log entry that begins with “star date.” Simply say what you see, smell, taste, hear, and feel. These words won’t be used in your blog post later, they’ll be used to help you relive the moment so that you can reconstruct it later.
Improve Your Blog With the Senses
Everyone wants to escape something. Give it to them. The only way to transport a reader somewhere is to tickle every sense. Try to include all of them in a post. Thing beyond the usual senses:
- Pulse rate / heart rhythm
- Temperature on skin
- Condition of stomach / nausea
- Condition of throat
- Condition of feet
- Eyes and pupils
Break yourself apart biologically and record how each part of your body feels
As a blogger and not a journalist, you have the freedom to describe a place filtered through your personality and opinions. When I write, the main two goals are to transport a person from the white walls of their living room or office to the place, and to tell them how to get there themselves one day.
As you take your notes, don’t do as many bloggers do and focus only on what you see or how it makes you feel inside — your readers are human and possess many other ways to feel something. Stimulate them. Do you taste exhaust or wet leaves? Is the oil cooking in a wok burning your eyes? Can you feel the thick incense burning in a temple? Is the sun making your eyes squint?
When you get back to a computer, life will be so much easier with your audio notes taken over the last few days.