I was reading through the latest batch of new blog posts recently when I came across The Longest Way Home’s article on Google vs. Lonely Planet. He discusses the merits and faults of using smartphones and guidebooks while away on extended travels. His thought-provoking (and useful!) analysis lead me to think about how travel blogs fit into the traveler’s toolbox. As a new travel blogger myself, and one who isn’t currently traveling, I’ve found the process of identifying topics that are useful to blog-readers at large both interesting and challenging. If deep sources of information are so easily accessible through tools such as Google Maps, BootsNAll, and other thriving internet travel communities, what can the fledgling travel writer hope to contribute without being redundantly sub-par? Was I done writing before I’d really begun?
I’d had this same feeling several years ago when my wife and I contemplated researching a travel guidebook while on vacation for six weeks. We spent countless nights trying to find a winning niche that hadn’t been overrun with content or one that would benefit from our unique take. It’s very possible that we came up with some ideas that were right on the money, but we ultimately decided not to do the guidebook. We wanted to “enjoy” our vacation instead. In the course of our brainstorming, there were countless times we said “well Rough Guides does that better” or “it’s tough to beat Rick Steves with that angle.” It was frustrating. Looking back on it now I think we put too little stock in our one fundamentally unchangeable trait: the lens of our experience.
It dawned on me that in the age of instantly accessible data, what grabs readers is the new voice–the new slant–on the same old places. What effect will your voice have on the way readers think about a destination? Some of you might be thinking, “duh,” but it’s a hugely buoying and hopeful thought for new writers trying to find their writer-legs. They’ll love you or they won’t. Cut off that stress and just be you. I don’t want to oversimplify the prospect of doing well as a travel writer since there are strategic decisions that need to be made. I’m advocating that writers turn off that nit-picky voice in their heads and just write. Don’t worry that someone else just wrote about the same city you’re covering in a future post. Travel. Write. Share your insight.
The world isn’t getting any bigger, but the constellations of events that create experiences and compose memories are infinite. And that should make all travel writers happy. It means we’ll never be done writing.
Are readers more interested in the blogger or the topic? I’m eager to hear your thoughts!
Original photo by Karen Eliot via Flickr