After publishing more than 1,000 entries on this travelogue as I have traveled through more than 40 countries, I have fallen into a standard operating procedure for blogging. Part of this SOP is that I have been observing the different types of travelogue entries that I publish, have started to evaluated their various merits, as well as ways to weave them into a continuous yarn of a man traveling the world.
Different types of travel blog entries that I have readily identified are listed below:
1. The Travel Narrative- These entries tell a story, very often used when describing the immediate process of traveling from one place to another. “I was here, experienced this, and then moved here in this fashion, and observed that.
These types of travelogue entries are essential because they connect the dots of the journey — you cannot write of your travels without laying down how you got from point A to point B — and allows readers to follow our journey step by step.
Many travel blogs are only the narrative records of the journey, and this is alright. In this way, a narrative based travel blog can take on the feel and application of a personal journal or diary that other travelers can read with interest or otherwise learn from. I have found that the instruction of “how to travel” is often much better told through a story than through route directives. Writing narrative blog entries is one way to subtlety inform readers about the process of traveling.
2. Instructional- These travelogue entries often run like an instruction manual: do this, and then this, and then you will end up with that. These posts are good for people who are looking for straight up travel information without having to sift through a long narrative.
Travel tips are one form of instructional travel blog post, another are entries which explain the rudiments of how to travel from a certain place to a certain place, or how to function and travel in a given country or culture.
3. Status Reports- These are often quick entries that tell readers how you are doing as a human being: I am low on funds, or I sold ad space so I have enough money to get to Kathmandu, I am not doing so well, please make a donation, or I just did my first radio interview. I like reading these entries because they give a fuller picture of where the story is coming from, and allows me to view the blogger as a real human, rather than merely a word ticking chuck of media equipment.
4. Place Descriptions- These type of travelogue entries tend to be the hallmark of tourist blogs: “You can get hot spicy, funny looking, expensive, tourist food here,” or “They have hula dances all day long and you can sit in the fading light of a pristine sunset as you take in the authentic atmosphere.” Garbage, I often find myself saying after reading a piece that describes some tourist invasion site as though it were a place of adventure.
I try my best not to write direct place descriptions, as, if I meet my goal in writing a good narrative, the place will come out through the experience.
It is my impression that pieces which focus on place descriptions have the tendency of feeling as if the writer wrote them with a gun to their head:
“Write something now! I don’t care if you are looking at a bunch of boring, fat white asses dining in a make believe touristy setting, take a picture of the sunset over the beach, use the words “exotic,” “authentic,” and “local” to excess, and publish. Just write something!!!”
“I know I want to blog about something, but what?”
Though sometimes you come upon places in travel that absolutely demand a straight up description. These are perhaps the most difficult of all travelogue entries to write, as you generally only have your passive senses to guide you. Writing good place or scene descriptions are good ways to hone your skills as a writer, for if you can write a place description well, you can write anything well.
5. Independent News- These are travel blog entries that state simply, “I am standing right here, right now, and this is what I observe.”
A travel blog is a good medium for getting these sorts of pieces out into the world. They simply record a first person account of what is going on in a certain place on earth.They can be as extensive as covering an “on the ground” perspective of a news story of international importance or can be as simple as writing about what someone, somewhere, does to make money to eat.
It is my impression that this type of entry should be at the heart of any travelogue: as they lay down a record — both written and photographic– of the world as you move through it. Plain and simple. This is important for posterity, as the world is always changing fast, and much of this change is recorded through the eyes of organizations with ulterior motives, such as NGOs and governments, or through the lens of the mainstream media: which must play to the status quo of its readership.
This is not to say that bloggers do not have biases — to the contrary, I feel as if they should — but they have the freedom of expression to show their biases cleanly. Few people are going to take a travelogue as being an objective source of news, as they are generally not meant for this purpose, but they can be taken as a first person account of the world through the eyes of a writer who you can get to know.
These thoughts and impressions can then be tossed into the public record of a world that is always in a constant state of flux.
It is my impression that a travelogue writer can interact with people more on their own terms than a professional news reporter and can and, in the end, write a far less matter of fact, far more human story.
Newspapers are constantly hamstrung by the concurrent forces of the status quo (you can’t write that, our readers don’t agree with that!), the commercialization of media (you can’t attack our sponsors!), and the ever present threat of libel (You can’t write that because we may get sued!). Whereas a travel blogger has none of this to worry about, as we can generally publish whatever we want, when we want to. We are lone wolves in a field that is otherwise populated by domesticate dogs attached to very short leashes.
A travelogue writer has the free reign to write as a human being, rather than as a part of a machine, and therefore has the opportunity of writing a much deeper account of events as they unfold, as well as showing clearly where they stand in the tides of action.
The institutionalized media is going ever more online, and the pages of a travel blog have free reign to compete with — or compliment — the internet pages of the conventional media. If you work hard enough at establishing your travelogue, you could find yourself with a very powerful media outlet.
To put it without much articulation: take advantage of your advantages.
6. Philosophical/ Opinion- I have found that readers tend to react more to opinion oriented travelogue entries than to any other type. Opinion pieces are enjoyable to write — as you can really air out your dirty laundry and test out your otherwise dormant ideas — as well as give readers something to ponder and the impetus to throw back their own opinions at you.
An opinion piece is an invitation for reader participation, as you are essentially asking readers to agree or disagree with you, and to contribute their own opinions as to why.
This sort of reader participation is the centerpiece of blogging. Without it, you are just writing articles.
A blog is essentially a conversation between writers and their readers, between commenters and the broader audience. Opinion pieces often have the potential of taking on a much deeper significance than the writer initially intended.These conversations, that are carried on through comments and reactions on other blogs, often have the effect of pushing ideas far further than the original pieces.
It is often more difficult to respond to good comments than it is to write initial pieces. I know that my most difficult task as a travel blogger is responded to a good comment. For it is one thing to excavate a story or an opinion and publish it, it is quite another thing to take these opinions deeper.
This often has the potential to change the way I see the topic of my original piece.
Philosophical travel blog entries often pull the discussion down into a tapered down abyss, where each response to a comment pushes the conversation deeper and deeper, eventually to the point of minute refinement through which everyone in the discussion could potentially benefit.
You don’t get anywhere by standing right where you are. It is my impression that it is good to have your view of the world constantly challenged. I have found that writing this travelogue has pushed me to see the world through a slightly different lens.
7. The Anecdote- This is by far my favorite type of travelogue entry, both in writing and in reading, and it is also the type that I find most difficult to pin down and describe.
An anecdotal entry is essentially a travelogue piece that aims to show an aspect of a culture or a place through the lens of a microcosm — through a short conversation, a quick observation, or a brief experience. They are usually self contained and often end cyclically, in the same place that they began.
An anecdote is sort of like shinning a flashlight into a dark room full of antiques. You shine the light around for a while and only see what falls into the small circumference of the illumination. You start to make inferences, and begin forming weak spined opinions on room based on the few items that fall within the scope of the light . . . and then, all of a sudden, someone comes up from behind you and finds the light switch.
“Aha!” you can now see what is in the room: you have now been given a view into a culture from a seemingly small interaction — a microcosm within which a small finger points at a big whole.
An anecdote is perhaps the process of arriving at impressions — how you come to have the opinions about a place and a people that you find yourself carrying.
If done properly, blogging is a two way exchange of information. The blogger writes their experiences and opinions, and readers respond with their own. In this way, a travelogue can quickly become packed with quality information and defacto impressions of the world we all live in.
When I publish this travelogue, I try to include and rotate most of the above types of travel blog entries in even succession. If I find myself writing a lot of narrative, I try to reinterpret the stories into direct instruction; if I find myself writing a lot of instructional pieces, I try to mix it up with an opinion; if I muddle these pages up with my opinions, I try to find a news story to record what I am observing as it happens; after writing a few news pieces, I aim for an anecdote, which shows the process by which I arrive at my opinions, and on and on and on.
I cannot determine how well I do at this, I cannot say the degree to which this advice should be taken, but through writing pieces like this, I can better analyze my own blogging process, and, with a touch of hope, publish a better travelogue tomorrow than I did today.
Blogging is an endless exercise in writing that is often for the education of the blogger, himself.
Vagabond Journey on blogging
- The joys of travel blogging
- Runaway Travelogue