How to Sustain a Travel Blog When You Aren’t Traveling
‘Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.’
– Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky
Perhaps Terry Pratchett wasn’t talking about travel blogging when he wrote A Hat Full of Sky, but he vividly captures the feeling of being a wandering story-teller. As travel writers, we know that the journey itself is not enough – we must tell others of our adventures. Whether as a business or just for fun, we tell the tales of our travels and pique the interest of like-minded nomads.
However, for the majority of us, life has something to say about being a full-time wanderer. Travel is expensive. Writing is time-consuming. Does this mean that travel blogging is a passion reserved for the independently wealthy and profoundly prolific? Certainly not. The truth is that the vast majority of travel bloggers don’t travel, or even write, as often as you might think.
So, how do travel bloggers cultivate a following and keep their readers engaged? Let’s journey through a short list of tactics that most travel bloggers employ either sporadically or methodically to sustain a travel blog when they aren’t traveling.
Pace Your Posts
Probably the most important macro-strategy for maintaining a travel blog is to pace your posts so that you always have content that you can work from. Think of your content as your bank balance and your trips as paycheck deposits. When you travel, you fill your account with new stories, pictures, videos, friends and travel advice. You spend this content whenever you post. Always maintain a positive balance of unused content.
Split up Your Stories
Don’t come back from a trip to Mongolia and think ‘OK. Now I’m going to write a story about my trip to Mongolia.’ That single trip can be sliced up a hundred different ways to provide authentic, novel content to your readers. You can write a piece about trans-Pacific flights, currency exchange, language barriers, native food, religion, safety while overseas… you see my point.
Post at a Rate You Can Sustain
Many bloggers don’t post a piece each day. It’s important to set your readers’ expectations and then maintain them. Consider both the amount of content you have to work with and your daily schedule when deciding how often to post. If you work a full-time job and only take four trips a year, perhaps twice a week is a good number of posts. Readers will respond positively if you slowly increase your volume and negatively if you drop-off. Consistency is key.
Save a Stash
To return to my previous metaphor, you don’t want to go bankrupt. Plan out your writing a month at a time and always have a reserve of content, both written and unwritten. Keep in mind that you don’t have to post each piece as you write it. Save some finished pieces for a dry spell.
Expand Your Content
Some bloggers get stuck writing the same type of piece for every submission. Not only is this monotonous, but it also limits the amount of content you can generate, especially when you’re at home. In this section, let’s explore different kinds of content that make a travel blog more dynamic and help writers through a longer period between jaunts.
Some travel bloggers see this sort of writing as a bit pedestrian, but it ranks in the most Googled content on the web. Articles that mention how to save money and travel like a pro can help you provide knowledge and reinforce your credibility. Depending on the content, you may even be able to develop partnerships and obtain affiliate codes that generate money for your blog further down the line.
Topics such as ‘Budget Shopping in Paris ’, ‘Maximize Your Hotel Points‘ or even ‘Best Chase Business Card’ (business travelers and entrepreneurs are great to tips write for) appeal to a variety of readers who are searching for that specific content. Plus, topics like these can help boost your website’s SEO. There are plenty of ways people can save money while traveling. Showing them how can keep your audience engaged.
While great photos can spice up any text-heavy post, many bloggers forget that the photos themselves can be a major appeal. Don’t hesitate to craft entire posts that are photo-essays. These albums can feature groupings of related content instead of forcing you to select only one shot for each topic.
Past Trips & Dream Trips
If you’ve run out of recent excursions for new material, explore posts that draw from these two niches. Revisit a trip that you took before you started blogging, or even during your childhood. Hopefully you can find some old photos, even if you have to scan them. Shots of you as a younger person or a child can be very compelling with your loyal readers. Be honest with this sort of post, and readers will enjoy this nostalgia with you. Periodically, you can even invite your readers to help you daydream about a trip you’re planning. Think of interactive and novel ways to spice up your post like taking a poll or asking your readers for their advice.
Write about Your Home
Just because where you live isn’t a vacation for you doesn’t mean that someone else wouldn’t enjoy traveling there. I’ve personally lived in central Kentucky, Philadelphia, South Jersey, Virginia and Washington, DC – all places that serve as popular destinations. Not only do you already know your home turf better than a traveler, but you also have the opportunity to brainstorm and then make a few quick pit-stops for missing photos, quotes or info.
Expand Your Network
In this last section, let’s discard the notion that you have to be the only writer for your travel blog or the only subject of the articles. Keeping that sort of singular scope limits the variety of your content and the volume of posts that you are able to sustain.
Inviting other authors (fellow travel bloggers or otherwise) to contribute to your blog is an important strategy for increasing your output and a key step in maximizing your appeal. Not only do guest bloggers buy you time to create your own content, but they also diversify your subject matter and bring their own internet following. It is important that you set standards for guest bloggers and carefully screen their submissions. While many bloggers are legitimate writers who want to increase their opportunities for exposure, some are shills with a particular profit-driven agenda. Others are simply bad writers. Always carefully edit guest posts, check their links, and ensure that their content is up to your quality standards. Also, use a tool like Copyscape to check for plagiarized or respun material.
As an alternative to hosting a guest post, you may want to interview a fellow traveler or blogger and post this on your website. Compared to a guest post, this will take more time but may appeal to some subjects who lack either the time or inclination to write full pieces for you. With both guest posts and interviews, it is important to consider the size and quality of your collaborator’s audience – their cache. As your travel blog gains momentum, you should always be looking to partner with more prominent influencers.
Composite Pieces and ‘Blog Carnivals’
Sometimes websites, including travel blogs, post composite pieces: articles that are a combination of content from multiple contributors. You can participate in a composite piece either as the organizer or by offering a submission. Another version of this sort of collaboration is known as a blog carnival. In this scenario, a host sends out a shared topic to other bloggers. These contributors publish pieces on their own sites and then send a link back to the host. The host puts together a summary page for the carnival – allowing the shared travel to benefit all participating websites.
In Closing: Variety is the Spice
If I could sum up this article with one word, it would be: diversify. Just as your wanderings have taken myriad routes and methods of transport, embrace the many forms your writing can appeal to your audience. Always be considering how to tell your story in a new way.
Keep traveling. Keep writing. I’ll see ya out there.