DIY Travel Blogging
1. What are some easy-to-use websites for starting your own travel blog?
Newbie travel bloggers will probably want to get started by using a site that offers a basic posting template, rather than creating their own. Look for one that offers a space for text, pictures, comments and a map showing the countries you'll be visiting. Ones we love: WorldNomads.com, PlanetRanger.com and TravelBlog.org, which all provide free set-up and maintenance as well as a built-in community of travelers writing about their own adventures.
More tech-savvy travelers searching for greater flexibility, better design features and the ability to use HTML code to personalize their site might want to sign up on Blogger.com, or pay to purchase a popular a blogging program called Word Press. You'll have the ability to load slide shows of your images, sort your entries by subject and add a handy "search" feature for your readers.
2. What steps are typically involved in setting up the blog?
If you select the pre-formatted sites listed above, all you need to do is provide sign-up information, enter the country or region you'll be visiting, choose a name for your adventure and send out an email alerting friends and family about your new URL (or address where your blog lives online). If you're using Blogger or Word Press, you can set up the basics, then use HTML codes to change the look and formatting of your blog.
Before you leave, post a few test blogs and report any glitches to the site's technical support staff. It's a lot easier to fix problems while you're still at home, rather than from an internet cafe overseas!
3. What do you know now about blogging that you wish you'd known when you started?
In the beginning, our audience consisted primarily of family and friends whom we'd personally emailed about the blog. It wasn't until a few months into the trip that we learned how bloggers can increase the number of people who view their site. By registering our URL on various traffic exchange sites ( i.e. blogexplosion.com) and blogging community forums (i.e. bloggerchicks.com), we gained hundreds of new readers who would post comments and offer us great advice about the places where we were headed.
4. What equipment do you take with you and how easy is it to access and update your blog while on the go?
We took a Panasonic Toughbook computer, one of the lightest and strongest notebooks available (just over two pounds). And because it's so slim, we can easily slip it into a purse and take it out again to blog on those long, overnight train and bus rides. We have two Olympus cameras--the 720SW (that's shock and waterproof) and the SP500 which has a10X optical zoom for really crisp portraits of locals and wildlife. Both cameras also take video, which allowed us to leave our camcorder at home and still capture spontaneous moments that can't be confined to a still image.
How does all of this come together to create a blog? Well, we'd be completely stuck without our three USB flash drives (one per girl). Wireless internet is still hard to access outside of major cities and prohibitively expensive on this kind of trip. We type our text, edit our videos and select our photos directly on the Panasonic, moving the nearly-finished entry onto the flash drive. From there, we hit the internet cafe and pay between 50 cents and $3 an hour to upload the entries into our blogging program.
Thanks to hosting programs like Slide.com, Flickr.com and YouTube.com we're able to upgrade what could be a text-only entry into a colorful, interactive experience for our friends, family and readers. Sure internet can be painfully slow (sometimes, we're talking 20 minutes to load a single picture) but even the tiniest towns in the farthest reaches of the planet have computers and some sort of web connection. Even travelers heading "off the map" can still post blogs once they get there.