A Twitter Road Trip Twitique: What Worked, What Didn’t

Travel Blog  •  Sophia Dembling  •  05.08.09 | 9:48 AM ET

Photo by Sophia Dembling

My husband Tom and I recently drove a loop south from Albuquerque. (Here’s an annotated map of our route, in case you want to follow in our tire tracks.) This was the first time I’ve Twittered from the road. Interestingly, the great to-Twitter-or-not-to-Twitter debate started up while I was Twittering my trip and triggered a little metacognition about the process. Is it the right thing to do, and what makes a good travel Tweet?

Off the plane. In the car. On the hwy. Out of ABQ. Road trip!
I started composing this Tweet in my head before we were on the highway but refrained from posting it until it was true. I still like it. Its rhythm pleases me and it captures my glee and sets the scene.

Breaking into the gummi bears now.
Another important scene setter, since anyone who road trips knows how integral snacks are to the experience and we all have our favorites. (What are yours?)

The @blackstonehs is lovely. We’ll end our day with a soak.
Fail! This Tweet would have worked if I had provided a link. Without a link, it’s just a dull sentence—and incomprehensible unless you click through to @blackstonehs to figure out what it is. (Blackstone Hotsprings, a hotel.)

$30 of bliss—the Rio tub at the River Bend Hot Springs http://tinyurl.com/dbzpmg.
Not exactly lyrical but at least there’s a link. Note, too, that I posted this after our soak and did not distract myself from this trip highlight—an outdoor tub overlooking the river under a full moon. This kind of activity deserves 100-percent presence. No composing Tweets in your head, even. If you become more about the Tweeting than the traveling, then you’re doing it wrong.

My belly is happy after breakfast at the Happy Belly Deli.

Goofing around a small town. Nothing better.

Laughed ‘til we cried over vintage knitting pattern books in a TorC thrift store. Bought five of them.

Tweeting the small moments in my day was fun ... it’s a moment to pause and review what gives me pleasure in 140 syllables or less. Some Tweets are stronger as a group and these three collectively describe an experience. It’s travel writing pointillism. (By the way, here’s a sample of what made us laugh.)

http://twitpic.com/326v8-The eagle has landed. NM Museum of Space, Alamogordo.
Goofy snapshots are a vacation staple. I like this one.

I have a room with a view—is it really so wrong to sit around and relax?

A couple of hours in the hotel lounge, sipping drinks and playing gin rummy. If that’s wrong, then I don’t wanna be right.

While just idle Tweets, these spurred some philosophical Twittering with @TravelWIthJulie about momentum vs. inertia during a trip. (We concluded that both in moderation are fine.) Nice to know someone was listening, too.

What time is it? Unplugged the clock radio cube when the alarm went off in the middle of the night. Turning it off was rocket science.
Are Tweets like this just Twitter clutter? That is a Twitter philosophical debate. Must all Tweets be useful? I like Tweets that just make me smile and assume anyone who travels has experienced the incomprehensible clock radio problem. I vote “yes” for this one.

So, what would I do differently? First of all, I forgot the hashtag that could have linked the trip Tweets. I remedied that on my next trip. Second, sometimes it’s best to hold a Tweet until you can do it justice with a link or pic or whatever will make it either more fun or more useful. Third, sometimes I Twitter just for me, because making up little word snapshots is fun. Judge me if you must, but I say there’s nothing wrong with that.

Sophia Dembling

Dallas-based writer Sophia Dembling is co-author of the Flyover America blog and author of "The Yankee Chick's Survival Guide to Texas." She would love to hear your tales of America, so drop her an email.

9 Comments for A Twitter Road Trip Twitique: What Worked, What Didn’t

Phil 05.08.09 | 10:04 AM ET

I’d also suggest hashing the zip code when you can, especially when you discover points of interest and roadside attractions. This way others can discover your tweets by searching the zip for areas they plan to travel.

What makes a great travel tweet? Speaking as a stranger, must-sees + a reference such as your Blackstone Hot Springs are great. Also great would be must-avoids such as “any motel that is pink or has the name of a Disney character in Santa Cruz, CA”

Now for the big question…how to tweet when you’re in the back country?

Sophia Dembling 05.08.09 | 10:46 AM ET

Interesting idea, re: ZIP code. But do we risk so many hashes that we don’t have room to say anything? I don’t care for Tweets that are so full of abbreviations and @ and RT and # that they look like hieroglyphics. Discuss.

The corollary question to yours is—- SHOULD you tweet in the back country? Or is that a time when you should simply be?

Jenna Schnuer 05.08.09 | 10:51 AM ET

Yeah, a mix of post types sounds good to me. I get sort of bored when people are one note about their travel posts—when it’s all links or all tiny details and so on. I want some big picture, some small moments. I also don’t want too much. There’s no need to post every second of every experience—that’s what diaries or blogs are about. OK, I don’t even want that much detail on blogs. Put it in your diary.

My favorite post from your trip was about the knitting patterns. It offered some fun, local color, and a glimpse of your personality. Snapshot indeed—no twitpic necessary.

Phil—As for back country posting, yeah, now you can: http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2009/05/verizon-mifi-personal-wi-fi-coming-this-month/ (The should you or shouldn’t you is up to you.) And good idea about zip code hashtags. I like it.

Travel-Writers-Exchange.com 05.08.09 | 12:34 PM ET

Interesting article about Twitter.  I often wonder how many Tweets is too many?  Are people really interested in every move you make while you travel?  Could they suffer from Twitter overkill? 

I do agree that it’s sometimes best to hold off on Tweets.  You never know when you can “enhance” a Tweet or just totally change it.

Sophia Dembling 05.08.09 | 12:39 PM ET

Oh heck, yes, there’s such thing as too many Tweets! I unfollowed someone who would report such news as “Going back to the hotel now.” and “Drinking a beer.”

(Interestingly, my Captcha for this comment includes the word “succinct.”)

Ms Traveling Pants 05.08.09 | 2:13 PM ET

I last week did a road trip from Fort Lauderdale, FL to the Hudson River Valley in New York.  I tweeted the entire way with a count of Cracker Barrels.  For those of you that care, there were a total of 41 Cracker Barrels. 

Additionally, I posted day 1,2, and 3 when on the road as well as the return flight. 

Check out my recent post of 7 days and 11 states at http://www.mstravelingpants.travel

Linda 05.10.09 | 1:21 AM ET

I agree with Jenna, a mix of post types is important. I love the little glimpses into a trip, and don’t always want a link - I just like the view into what’s happening. I don’t think tweeting a lot is a bad thing, as long as they are not all at once - I don’t like to be flooded with details - but they also need to be interesting and well-crafted. Looks like you’ve got it down!

In answer to your snack question, we always had barley sugar sweets when I was a kid, but now I love hard jubes and fresh fruit from roadside stands (mmm mandarins).

Ling 05.10.09 | 10:01 AM ET

I figure if it’s a tweet about mundane stuff, then least you can do is make sure it’s understandable and there’s no need for a link. It irritates me when the tweet makes no sense and then to have to click through to an external link and find taht it was no big deal.

Sophia Dembling 05.10.09 | 11:11 AM ET

Barley sugar sweets—guess your mom didn’t mind having the kids stuck to the seats!

BTW, if you like gummi bears, as I do, I advise you not to a bag in the glove compartment in Death Valley. By the end of the day, they melded had into a large, psychedelic blob that I couldn’t fit into my mouth.

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