The Perfect Travel Blog – Somewhere Between Diary Entry and Encyclopedia
What makes the perfect travel blog? Katie Latchford shares her opinion:
One of the biggest challenges to writing a travel blog is finding the balance between the details of your personal experience and the information about the destination.
It’s a very challenging task and very few travel bloggers get it right. Their stories are either too factual so that they have no personality in them or too personal so that they are only interesting to family and friends.
How can you find the right balance in your travel blog? Here are some tips:
Don’t Write a Diary Entry
Some travel blogs read like a diary entry and describe everything that the writer does on a particular day. They usually sound something like this,
“On Tuesday morning we woke up around 10am and enjoyed the hotel breakfast of croissants and jam. We then sat by the pool for an hour and then went shopping and I bought a new pair of shoes. We had some food at a local restaurant and then went for a walk on the beach. I got a little bit sunburnt! We decided to try a different restaurant for dinner and then we listening to some live music. What a lovely day, I love it here!”
I don’t blame you if you got bored and skipped over that paragraph. It is a step by step replay of what sounds like a lovely day, but there is nothing in the paragraph to get the reader interested. There is also very little information about the destination and this paragraph could have been written about any travel destination in the world.
To improve this sort of writing, the trick is to include more details about the location and less about yourself. We don’t need to know everything you did from the moment you woke up, unless it is relevant to the location. For example, we really don’t need to know exactly what sort of cheese you ate for lunch, unless you are going to tell us that the guy at the cheese market in Paris explained to you how his family made the same cheese for four generations. Those kinds of details are not inane; they are interesting details that bring your destination to life.
A travel blog focused entirely on yourself doesn’t offer nearly enough nitty gritty facts and details about the location you are travelling. This means that people can’t imagine themselves there, which is what travel blogs are about.
Try walking around with a notepad and observing as closely as you can. Write down your observations about what the air smells like, what people are wearing, what the food tastes like, what is the dominant form of architecture, whether the streets are paved, what the prices are like, etc. Weave these details into your writing and it will improve your travel blog.
But Don’t Write an Encyclopedia Entry Either
When you begin to include these details in your writing, don’t cram them all in at once or your travel blog will start to swing too far the other way and will start to sound like a Wikipedia page. If you detach yourself and your personality from your blog it will start to become aloof and boring and cold. Your readers will feel like they are in school and they will quickly click away to read something with a little more life to it.
Rather than reeling off facts about your destination with no context, the trick is to integrate them with your personal experience. This is where you find that elusive blend of personal perspective and information which makes travel blog writing so interesting when it is done well.
It comes back to the old writing adage of “show, don’t tell”. If you want to tell us that Bangkok has a lot of delicious and cheap street food, don’t just cite prices, statistics and lists of dishes. Instead, go down to Khao San Road and eat a plate of hot steamy Pad Thai for only a few cents and describe it in detail for us.
Your readers won’t mind you if you talk about yourself in this way, because you are conveying to them relevant and interesting information via your experiences. If you describe the scene well enough with all of the details, they will feel like they are right there with you. This is why people are reading your blog, because they are living vicariously through your experiences, so do your best to make that experience come alive for them when they are reading.
You recognize the right balance when you read it in other travel blogs, so put together a list of your favourite writers and read as much of their work as you can in order to get inspired. When you hit the sweet spot between diary entry and encyclopaedia, you will have a travel blog that effectively conveys the details of your destination as well as reflects your unique personality.
The top travel blogs know that the best balance in travel writing is somewhere between being as personal as a diary entry or being as factual as an encyclopedia.