Tag: Blogging

A Travel Blog From the Netscape Era

Travel writer Jason Cochran looks back on his first travel blog:

It was 1998. People were still paying for Netscape. Few of us used the Web regularly, and all of us had dialup, but I was determined to try it: I documented my journey online as I went. I’m ashamed to admit I began by using Courier.

Everyone logs their trips online now, but no one was doing it then. I was a pioneer. It took real effort. Flashpacking didn’t exist. I had to seek out Internet cafés and without WordPress or Blogspot to rely upon, I had to hand-code everything in basic HTML, and I was forced to seek out crude FTP programs (Fetch!) to get my writing online.

I didn’t put my travels online for Web fame or to garner a following, the way so many backpackers do now. There were no affiliates or appeals for free lodging, and I was years away from collecting my first paycheck for travel writing. Then, it was simply so my family and friends could follow along and know I wasn’t lying dead in some South African ditch.

It’s amazing to think about how much has changed in the years since. Cochran’s blog is still live, in all its retro glory.

How Does Travel Blogging Fit Into the Travelogue Tradition?

Iain Manley offers his perspective:

Travelogues progressed along a more or less linear path in the twentieth century. Although aeroplanes brought a new kind of fragmentation and the size of the travel industry ballooned, great writers continued travelling and, in magazines, a new, glossy format for descriptions and photographs from a journey was found. The twenty first century has been far more disruptive. The first blogs led quickly to the first travel blogs, instead of the first online travelogues. It was a new medium and perhaps it made sense to use a new name, but instead of marking an upward progression, the phrase travel blog is associated with a feeble form of one of the world’s oldest narrative traditions.

This prejudice is, in the majority of cases, completely justified. Too many travel blogs are facile when they are not fatuous. Blogs that function like letters to friends and family should, perhaps, be excused - even if some of the most readable travelogues of the past two centuries started life as a series of letters - but there are now well over a thousand travel blogs that actively seek an audience, and most of them are depressingly poor. They describe interactions with the travel industry instead of the larger world and are, as a result, like reading badly edited, first person Lonely Planet guides. They are self-reductive, confining their narratives to keywords popular on Google, like solo, solo female, family travel, eco-travel and round the world, which is aptly abbreviated to RTW, because most of these whistle stop gallivants are themselves extremely abbreviated. They are light on history, politics and context in general, but heavy on technically proficient but clichéd photography and vacuous best-of lists. The worst are self-congratulatory and patronising, written with enough gall to inform readers that they too can travel, usually along the same dismal beaten track as the blogger. Most of all - and most of the time - travel blogs are badly written. To capture an audience that browses instead of reading, blog posts must be short, easy to consume and frequent. As a result, there are both good and bad writers with insipid and tedious travel blogs.

TBEX 2011: Travel Bloggers Take Vancouver

TBEX 2011: Travel Bloggers Take Vancouver Photo of the Vancouver Convention Center by kennymatic via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo of the Vancouver Convention Center by kennymatic via Flickr (Creative Commons)

This past weekend saw the third installment of the annual Travel Blog Exchange, or TBEX, a travel-focused blogging conference. The 2011 edition took place in Vancouver, B.C., and Jim, Michael and I were all there.

It was my first time at TBEX and I was impressed, first off, by the sheer scale of the event: More than 500 travel bloggers descended on the Vancouver Convention Center for the weekend. Panels and workshops covered everything from SEO and blog monetization to (our favorite) improving your narrative story-telling skills, and each day ended with an after-party or two. It was a busy three days.

Reactions are already pouring in from the bloggers who attended. Michael from Go, See, Write noted the irony of TBEX panelists encouraging bloggers to be more professional—because, he felt, the conference itself was disorganized and unprofessional. Akila of The Road Forks felt that TBEX “lacked purpose and focus,” and she offered some constructive suggestions to tighten things up in future, while Katie at BootsnAll offered a similarly constructive roundup of highlights and lowlights.

Meanwhile, Corbin from I Backpack Canada had a more positive take-away: “There is a future for independent travel writers, there is a future for online blogs, there is a future for a small niche website dedicated to the budget travel & outdoor adventure in Canada.”

For my part, in future conferences I might like to see workshops become a little more tightly focused—maybe with beginner and advanced streams in each discipline to help the panelists zero in on the needs of attendees—but overall, TBEX left me feeling satisfied. Blogging can be an isolating pursuit, and spending three days putting faces and voices to familiar Twitter handles and online personas was a powerful thing.

TBEX 2012 will take place in Keystone, Colorado.

‘There’s Something Romantic About City Bloggers’

That’s how Benji Lanyado kicks off his guide to the best in home-grown city blogs in the Guardian. He goes on: “Even in the world’s most media-saturated cities—where there are thousands of pages of listings, tips and reviews—there are hundreds of bedroom bloggers doing it for themselves. Often nobody is telling them what to write or paying them for their time, which makes for some of the most original content online.”

Logging On

Internet access is available almost everywhere. But is that ruining travelers' experiences overseas? Jim Benning reflects on the rise of internet cafes around the globe.

See the full audio slideshow: »

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