DIY Travel Blogging
5. While exploring, do you jot notes for future blog posts, do you blog on the spot, or do you blog from memory later on?
While we each maintain a personal journal, we mostly construct blogs from memory (our own and each others) and use the photos we've taken as a reference. For us, it's more important to construct a well thought-out entry (and wait until we have access to a high speed internet connection), so our postings are often a couple weeks behind our "real time" journey.
6. What are some of the oddest places you've blogged from?
Kiminini, Kenya: During our volunteer experience on a farm in rural West Kenya we went without running water, consistent electricity and of course, internet. As we'd craft our blogs inside concrete huts, eight and six-legged guests would creep up and the down the walls and the local schoolkids would barge inside, jump on the bed and try to distract us by "plaiting" our hair or commandeering the computer to watch the DVD cartoons we'd brought. Blogging took a lot longer than usual, and once we'd wrapped for the day, we'd have to cram ourselves into an already overstuffed matatu (a 14-seater van packed with two dozen riders) to take our entries into town and upload them on ancient, 1980's style computers. An adventure, to be sure!
Machu Picchu: After a grueling four-day, three night hike along the Inca Trail, we'd finally made it to The Lost City of the Incas--and the last thing on our minds was updating The Lost Girls blog. But once we'd revived with ice-cream and our first shower in almost a week, we realized that we couldn't head back to modern civilization without waxing poetic about the ancient one right before our eyes.
Yangon, Myanmar: It's hard to render us speechless, but when we learned that several websites (including our blogging program) were banned by the local government, our jaws hit the dusty floor. How would we go without posting for so long? Our shock turned to intrigue once we learned from other travelers that the truly savvy could get unrestricted access to the web--if they visited the "speakeasy" style internet cafes hidden down shadowy alleys off the main drag. "Psst..hey man--you got Blogger? You got Gmail?" we inquired in hushed tones, hoping we'd get the hook up without actually knowing the password. It took a couple days of hunting, but we found what we were looking for--and managed to sneak in a blog or two before the guys in uniform caught on.
7. What do you think makes a good travel blog post?
People definitely love photos and video. They're most interested in hearing about the real, unvarnished, down-and-dirty experiences about our lives in a particular country (what the bathrooms were like, cockroach infested train cars, a humorous encounter with a local). We try to skip poetic descriptions of landscapes and zero in on the little, Seinfeld-like moments that make traveling abroad so fascinating. Friends and readers write and tell us they're reading the blog from their desks in the middle of the workday with a blizzard raging outside their windows. The want to read something funny, out of the ordinary, something that takes them away from their own day-to-day routine.
8. Which posts tend to generate the most feedback?
The posts that generate the most responses are the ones where we invite readers to respond to a particular travel-related question or dilemma (Why are young American men so scarce on the road? Which Lost Girl should have to sleep closest to big hairy spider?). We've been surprised by the strong responses to more humorous posts, such as "Interviews with Each Other." Some readers were turned off that we "rated" the Peruvian men, which they felt was too judgmental. Readers also like more service-oriented posts (ie, finding travel shots on the cheap, how to stay safe on the road, etc) that help them plan their own trips.
9. What role do photographs play? And what should you keep in mind when snapping photos for a blog?
When blogging, you're building a story as much with photos and video as you are with your words. I'd say in some cases, pictures are even more important than the commentary (they're worth a 1000 words after all!). We try to snap photos that will help to construct a great visual tale--the punctured bike tire, the humorously misspelled sign, the 14-seater van carrying 28 passengers--rather than just photos of ourselves posed in front of monuments and scenery. Since we're not always in a place where we can take notes, we also snap images that will help us to remember details later.
10. How does blogging about a trip change the way that you experience it?
While blogging doesn't inhibit us from living in the moment, we've occasionally felt the need to compromise our spontaneity in order to schedule in some blogging time. Sometimes posting a simple entry can take half a day, which can be frustrating when you only have a few days to tour a city. On the upside, blogging can make you more optimistic....when something goes south on the road, we tend to cheer ourselves up by saying, "Well, at least this will make a great story for the blog!" We also find that we're more inspired to pursue cool experiences, to take out the camera and start snapping interesting scenes so we can post them later. The simple process of articulating a personal travel moment and sharing it with strangers all over the online world can make you more appreciative and grateful for the opportunity you had to take the trip in the first place.