How To Make Sure No One Ever Reads Your Travel Blog

Camera and Travel Journal
“If you’ve nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” That’s what mum always taught me. I think bloggers and travel writers could learn a bit from this. More appropriately: “If you don’t have anything good or worthwhile to say, don’t say anything at all.”

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What Not To Do

Our Man in Granada had a curmudgeonly and spot-on post the other day entitled Tired of Reading Travel Crap.

… in line with the ever-increasing travel coverage in blogs and media, there is also a growing amount of crap spouted.

From MSNBC, entitled “Tourist Written All Over You”:

“Clothes make the tourist. White tennis shoes almost always announce an American tourist, just as black socks with shorts identify a British tourist. Sweatshirts with university names…blah blah blah”

The white tennis shoes (as opposed to the white face)? Really? Brits wear black socks and shorts? Really?. Sweatshirts with University names? You don’t say. A name of an American college on your chest suggests you’re an American? No sh*t Sherlock.

Sorry, I guess we are all guilty of it. Becoming link-fueled and RSS driven. Posting for the sake of posting. Filling space, chasing ad revenue, links etc etc. But I’m tired of this no-brainer approach.

I plead guilty. And as I posted in the comments section of OMIG’s post: like any writer, self-respecting bloggers should try to focus on quality over quantity. Don’t post simply because you need to fulfill a self-imposed one-a-day quota. If you’ve nothing relevant or inspiring to say for the moment, skip a day. Or two. Or however many you need to overcome your creative block.

Churning out prose at an inhuman, Stephen King-like pace will only lead to a mountain of diluted, uninspiring blog posts guaranteed to bore your readers. Two of my favorite travel blogs – Killing Batteries and How Conor Is Spending All His Money – write only two posts per month on average. Their writings are much longer than your average three-paragraph blog post, but they’re always funny, clever, and well-written. The key is: they take their time.

One of my many RSS subscriptions includes Guardian Unlimited’s Travel section. There’s nearly a dozen fluffy, easily digested articles posted there daily. Their recent Top 10 tips for travel photography typifies much of their mind-numbingly simplistic prose:

9. Check the horizon.
When photographing landscapes keep horizons straight.

That made the top 10? Ansel Adams, eat your heart out. I’d hate to see the “tips” that didn’t make the cut:

11. Ensure your camera is on.
It’s much easier to snap your photos this way.

12. Take your camera out of your pocket.
It’s harder to focus your camera through pants cloth. Your pictures will come out clearer and more life-like if you first remove the camera from your pocket.

Brilliant! This may explain why all 406 snaps from my Ireland holiday were of lint balls and loose Euro change. If only they’d released this list sooner.

Don’t let your blog be the USA Today or in-flight magazine of the blog world. Be unique. Be inspired. Just say something different!

But How Can I Write More Gooder?

There are a number of websites dedicated to helping bloggers and Kerouac-hopefuls write well:

  • Truly a top-notch resource. An A-list blog to which I subscribe. I highly recommend every one of Brian’s posts.
  • Darren Rowse blogs for a living and turns a damn good coin at it to boot (think six figures), so it’s safe to say he knows what he’s talking about.
  • With the tagline, “Helping Bloggers Succeed”, they do just that. The blog content is targeted mostly at bloggers looking to successfully monetize their blogs, but even if you’re not, the same tips still apply. What generates steady revenue for your blog will keep your readers coming back and vice versa.

One last thing: read your favorite blogs (not necessarily travel) with an eye towards what you like about them. Don’t analyze their content, but rather their character. Forget what they’re saying and focus more on how they’re saying it. What do you like? What don’t you like?

Do they use descriptive imagery and verbose text that leaves nothing to the imagination? Or short, authoritative sentences that cut right to the point?

Do they open up enough about their experience in a way that really connects you to their writing? Or do you feel as if they’re holding back?

Is their enough humor in their writing? Does it detract form the overall experience or is just enough?

Take whatever aspects you like best and put them to work on your own blog. Mixed with a dash of brutal honesty, you’ll find your own unique blogging voice in no time.

Comments are open and I’m eager to hear what everyone else thinks. What blogs do you read for inspiration? What has helped you become a better writer – travel or otherwise?

Founding Editor
  1. I almost didn’t comment on this post. When I read Ourman’s post, and now yours, I cringe. I wonder if people think that when they read Rambling Traveler. Am I contributing to the “mountain of diluted, uninspiring blog posts”?

    I don’t claim to have any great writing skill, and the tagline of my blog is “a journey without a definite route, taken merely for pleasure”, but I worry people think that is a cop out.

    Do I have a place in the blogosphere/travesphere? Is there a place for a light snack among the more meaty, serious

    And since it isn’t all about me…
    “Do they open up enough about their experience in a way that really connects you to their writing? Or do you feel as if they’re holding back?”

    I like that question because it describes perfectly why I sometimes finish reading a post wanting to interview the author, because there are too many unanswered questions.

    You’ve given me a lot to think about!

  2. great post. i think part of the problem is the feeling that to keep a blog going, it must be updated frequently. this is true for some blogs, and not others. for instance, i consider Brave New Traveler more of magazine/newspaper so try and update it once a day. but for my own personal travel blog, it was once a week, if that. the best rule of thumb i’ve found is to ask yourself, is this post new/inspiring/unique or at the very least, personal? or is it recycled advice that we’ve heard a million times before?

  3. Stacy, though I shared Ourman’s frustration, I honestly didn’t intend for this post to come off overly harsh. I meant to piggyback on his post but also try to put a spin on it that might offer bloggers a touch of help in bettering their own blogs.

    To be sure, I don’t think the majority of travel blogs are crap. The tedious travel writing examples above were found on two major publication websites (i.e. MSN and Guardian Unlimited) and not blogs. But I think the same rules for writing inspired, non-dumbed down prose apply.

    Ian took the words right out of my mouth in pointing out the distinction between writing a magazine-style travel blog and writing a personal blog. I think readers have different expectations for each.

    And you’re spot-on, Ian: I like my mag-style blogs (,, BNT, et. al) to be updated more regularly with plenty of juicy travel industry news. While reading personal travel blogs that are updated daily can become a bit tedious.

  4. Oh and, for what it’s worth, Stacy: I subscribe to your blog and read it regularly. So I certainly don’t think RT is “crap”! =P

  5. Thanks, Mike! I didn’t think your post was overly harsh at all, it has some great points and suggestions. People do recycle ideas and write posts just to fill a quota. It’s important to put your own creative spin on things or come up with something new.

    I agree with you about having different expectations for different kinds of blogs. Some are personal travel journals, some are how to/nuts and bolts, and some are a mix of the above.

    It can be frustrating, though, when some blogs are so similar to each other that I can’t remember which one wrote a particular post. I like blogs that have a distinct identity, and I think that comes from your personality showing through your writing.

    My comment above is my fear that people don’t leave room for lighter fare that is just for fun.

  6. Before anyone thinks I am pointing fingers…second only to that cringey MSNBC piece – I was pointing the finger at me.

    I have been blogging for four years which is a lifetime in this media and it has changed a great deal.

    When I first started the power of the blog was defined that it wasn’t commercial it was free – we could say what we like without upsetting advertisers.

    I used to write great big long spiels about whatever I wanted to rant about that day. I remember having an argument with someone who said that research had shown…blah, blah, shorter posts blah blah

    I didn’t get it? Who was I writing for but me? People read books don’t they? We don’t only ever read the snippets in celeb gossip magazines.

    Anyway, now all I seem to read on blogs is how to make money. How to get more hits. How to optimise for search engines etc etc. Everybody links, nobody writes.

    I have thousands of links on my RSS and I trawl through them several times a day.

    Meanwhile I am probably not writing the best stuff because its out there…not on my laptop.

    I do get tired of lists and advice columns. I have a real issue with people who tell me what I have to do or what I can’t do. I was reading a piece recently that told me I shouldn’t take more than 2 t-shirts with me when I travel and long trousers were better than shorts.

    Well, not for me it isn’t. And what makes these people such experts as to be able to tell the world what to pack? It isn’t advice, it arrogance – albeit probably well meaning.

    When I said, I missed long posts and heartfelt pieces. I meant me mostly. I hope I can do that in Granada, but I have a very different set up here to before. As wonderful as it is it is not as immediate as Hanoi.

    As regards advice I like blogs with humility. I like bloggers who recognise how little they know in the grand scheme of things – not bloggers who think they know more than everyone else.

    Okay. Enough. Just wanted people to realise that I wasn’t aiming it at anyone specifically – or at the very least, no one more than myself.

  7. Ourman, I’m with ya. My earliest blog dates back to 2001, before the word “blog” was even a semantic twinkle in the collective internet’s eye. I pine for the good ol’ days where Google AdSense, Text Link Ads, and ad revenue in general weren’t a consideration. People wrote and spoke their minds for no other reason than because they believed something and were passionate about same. Readership be damned.

    I’ve worked as a web designer/developer for almost ten years and I’ve seen the tides change to reflect your point that it seems to be all about ad dollars now. Of my several hundred daily reads (blogs, forums, etc.), maybe a handful *don’t* sell ad space.

    Regarding lists and travel advice … I agree there is a certain level of arrogance from the well-traveled set. (Though I won’t point any fingers [cough]ThorntreeForums[cough]). But no one has all the answers. Because 99% of the time, there is no correct “answer” to how many pairs of jeans to take or whether or not you’ll get kidnapped and assaulted if you travel with your laptop.

    As often as I search forums, etc. for answers, the reality is that everything depends. It depends on you, your habits, your likes, your personality, etc. The only way to find out what works is to just do it. One can only plan so much and leave the rest to chance.

    Just to be clear – my original post here was also directed at me just as much as anyone. I certainly don’t have all the answers. I can only speak from my own experience. “People in glass houses …”, right?

    P.S. I honestly meant “curmudgeonly” in my original post as a compliment.

  8. Funny you should say that – it struck me that curmudgeonly was one of those words that I had been reading all my life but didn’t really know the meaning off.

    Okay …just for laughs I’ll take a stab at it and then look it up.

    For me it means: a kind of avuncular grumpiness

    Ha…just looked it up…

    “a bad-tempered, difficult, cantankerous person”

    Ah well not entirely unreasonable.

    You know the thing about traveling – it’s actually very easy. By a guide book and go. That’s it. It’s not hard to work out you need cotton clothes in hot countries or a sweater for up a mountain.

    You can probably work out to keep you valuables safe.

    A long time ago I worked for a newspaper and one of my jobs was to write horrible commercially driven editorial. For example the advertising department would sell a 16 page supplement on Christmas shopping and I had to write the articles to go with it.

    It was a thankless task, all about advertising. The editorial was secondary. In pre-internet days I remember writing all

  9. I did shopping tips like – make a list first, try getting your shopping done a month earlier so you’re ready and relaxed in time for Christmas.

    In short, utter crap.

    There is too much of that around on the internet. People giving obvious advice and somehow thinking they are qualified to do it.

    If people want to write about search engine optimising on websites then great – because that is technical and skilled stuff. But traveling isn’t hard.

    My first proper trip dumped me in Hanoi as my first stop – five years ago. I floundered for maybe two days and then got the hang of it – people do.

    Anyway, as I said on my blog – my top travel blog/vlog – Fabulous. New ideas, funny and a seemingly genuine regard for the country they are in.

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