Travel blogs and travel talk

marrakech-gare
Marrakech Gare: going places!

Travel blogs: hugely popular for good reason

Travel blogging is a brilliant way to keep a travel diary, manage your trip photos, and keep family and friends up to date with your adventures. Also, you only have to write about each memory once — one post and it’s done — but you can edit at your leisure. You can write into life with this genre.

There’s room for every kind of travel blog: visual, verbal, mundane, philosophical, private, public, chatty, literary, jokey, romantic — it’s all good. A travel blog can quadruple the pleasure of a trip.

Travel conversations are not so easy

These after-the-trip conversations are inevitable. When you return from an exotic place, you are obliged to talk about it. Friends ask about Your Trip (especially in New Zealand, where every country except Australia is a fairly long way away). Or you have an urge to talk about it anyway, bursting to share all your strange and marvellous experiences.

But how? Travel talk can be such a pleasure, but it can also go seriously wrong. Half your audience has already been to the same destination, and the other half has been there in spirit thanks to TripAdvisor and Facebook.

Is there a taxonomy of travel talk? I have been watching how others do it, and I hope to learn from their triumphs and mistakes.

A. Travel talk that I enjoy

  1. Personal experiences combined with insights into broader topics.
  2. A story steeped in joy or excitement or delight or drama or fear: strong frank personal feelings.
  3. People who travel with a specific purpose: how did things pan out?
  4. A story about people.
  5. An amazing fact that I have never heard before.
  6. Stories that grow and grow in response to the listener’s questions.

B. Travel talkers who drive me nuts 

Hello B-team. I’m glad you had an adventure and I wish you all the best, but let’s set a 5 minute limit.

  1. The bore who tells you 1,000 (dubious, random, context-less) “facts” about a place.
  2. The know-it-all who believes that spending 5 minutes in a place gives their every opinion the ring of authority.
  3. The full-time cruise traveller who compares tours, not places.
  4. The super-generaliser.
  5. The person who forgets you used to live there.
  6. Mr and Mrs Cost-a-Lot, Mr and Mrs They-Can’t-Make-Chips, and their friends.

After my next holiday in Kuala Lumpur I’d better prepare an executive summary so that I don’t lapse into category B.

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This blog post is reprinted from Old Lady Laughing, which nobody ever read. My own photo, cc by 2.0

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265 million tips on blogging

A blogger overwhelmed by blogging advice
Overwhelmed by blogging advice

When I become a Highly Successful Blogger with 1,000 followers — oh why be so modest, 10,000 followers — please, please don’t ask me how I did it.

Here’s the hazard: I would be flattered. And I might actually agree to deliver my gems of wisdom, my 10 or 10,000 tips on how to blog stupendously well. And that would be deeply embarrassing.

You see there are already 265 million pages of “blogging tips”, and if you Google “how to blog” you will discover 6,670 million answers. What more is there to say?

Search results for "how to blog": 6,670,000,000 results

A taxonomy of bloggers

Let me crudely categorise the bloggers I follow into types. Each type has completely different needs.

Type A. Professional bloggers. They work hard at every aspect of their blogging day after day after day. Classic example is Darren Rowse of Problogger.com, who is not only blindingly successful but also knowledgeable, balanced, helpful and authentic. If you want your blog to make money, or to advance your business or professional career, go there for advice.

Type B. Personal bloggers. People like me, who started with a vague idea that blogging might be useful professionally but quickly forgot about that angle and now regard their blog rather as an exercise in self-entertainment and exploration.

Both these types are happy in their work. Blimey, what a sweeping generalisation! Maybe I should say they kind of know what they’re doing, or what they are aiming at. Professional bloggers have a vested interest in improving what they do, but personal bloggers don’t. Not really. And they don’t care because they’re having fun.

And within these “types” — who are not really types at all — are infinite variations because we are all utterly different. We have every reason not to follow the herd, because authenticity is the gold standard of blogging. All the bloggers I follow have chosen to walk their own path. Their blogs are all very, very different— in length and tone and topic and attitude and style. I enjoy tiny frivolous posts, deep long demanding reads, photos, fiction, poems, about politics, philosophy, fitness, feminism, aging, everyday life and so much more. I want posts to take me by surprise, not to trot out the same old recipe for “success”.

Type C. Anxious bloggers. They may be fixated on statistics of Likes and Followers and feel inadequate.  They may suspect there’s one magic trick that will make them an instant “success.” Or they may just suffer from generalized anxiety. So they seek advice. Not by Googling, or taking a course, or following a trusted adviser on blogging, but by asking their favourite bloggers. Who then respond with another 10 Tips for Blogging…

OK Personal Blogger, here come my 4 tips (I just can’t help myself)

It’s only one tip, actually. Why would you try to change yourself with the hope that strangers might find you, like you and follow you? That would destroy you. Don’t do it.

Of course, read tips, do a course, get the hang of this blogging thing. I recommend The Daily Post Blogging University, for instance. And then get going. Don’t be scared, just start.

Stop worrying about what hypothetical readers might hypothetically want. Figure out what you want. If it’s instant easy “success” with 10,000 followers by Tuesday, forget it: this is not going to happen, luckily. Blog the way you feel like blogging on the day. Keep on blogging your way, in your time, when you feel like it. Be yourself and let the followers come or not. (They will. And they’re lovely.)

And lighten up! What’s the worst that could happen? You learn with experience? I rest my case.

A systemless system for productive blogging

 

cartoon of woman blogging
See the lady blog. Blog, lady, blog!

Do you have a system for blogging? A schedule? A spreadsheet with topics and times? A goal?

Wish I did. For a while I hoped that the Raewyn Gwilliam system would work for me. Every time she has an idea, she writes it as a sentence, which she saves as a draft title. Because it’s clear, accurate and specific, she remembers the whole idea. When it’s time to write, she opens WordPress, grabs a title that appeals and writes. Bingo!

I did the first part — for a while — but I’ve never used anything from my list of brilliant ideas. I also have truckloads of scribbly notebooks filled with other brilliant ideas.

Here’s what works best for me.

  1. Get an idea
  2. Blog it impulsively
  3. Publish it immediately
  4. Smile!

Life lessons for myself

  • A blog is not a book
  • Trust the moment
  • Write less, publish more
  • Get it done and make it fun.

 

The case of the missing blog posts

I am darned if I write more than 140 characters. Cos my last few blog posts have been kidnapped. This is just a test. Will this link do as instructed or lead you to Badlands 404?

Update on the missing blog posts

Problem solved, for now. Everything back in place. It was the pixies.

Of most concern were some drafts and scheduled posts: not yet published but almost ready to go. Along with the last few blog posts they had apparently vanished from my blog. My friends and followers were receiving the usual automated emails alerting them to a new post. Then they’d click on the link provided and land on a 404 (bad link,no-such-page) page.

No likes, no comments for about a week. Funny, I thought. What I had done to offend you nice people? Because it had to be my fault, right?

Then the phantom posts all reappeared again, and we’re kind of back to normal, I think.

I  haven’t copied or saved anything. I’m going to trust in the mighty community of WordPress developers to carry on doing their magic.

 

The beautiful number: 100 (in this case, followers)

ststephensfgr
The church (my Dad’s office) in the small village of Fairlie, where I was born. Population 100 at the time? Maybe.

A few days ago, this blog gained Follower #100. I am still savouring the moment, even though I can’t swear exactly when that moment was, and I’m even uncertain about exactly which person was the 100th follower.

“Exactly which person” — what a crazy prosopagnosic phrase, as if all readers were a blur of clones. Quite the opposite! The beauty of having only 100 followers is that I’ve looked up every one, seen your face or avatar, read many of your posts, and been delighted to receive your comments on my blog. So I can state without fear of contradiction that you (we) are all fiercely individual.

I mean, look at the avatars of the four most recent followers! Could they be any more different from each other or clearer in their individual goals? I urge you to visit their blogs and see for yourself:

makeitultra

@MakeItUltraPsychology

amysimonoff

@AmySimonoff

minimalistsouls.png

@MinimalistSouls

miagutu.png

@Miagutu

100 is a tiny village

I can celebrate this number with all modesty because it’s not 10,000 or even 1,000. It’s a friendly, human number, the sort we can imagine, a lovely number which is nevertheless within reach.

When I was doing social media stuff for my company I was puffed up with greater numbers. 5,000 email subscribers and 3,000 Twitter followers are now in someone else’s hands. Those numbers are still modest, but far too great for me to recognise as individuals.

100 people is:

  • The population of Fairlie (NZ) when I was born there in 1940 (that’s a creative but liberal estimate) — a place where every person in the village was known to every other
  • A century in cricket (or years or whatever) — caps in the air, yippee, surely that guarantees a win! (Actually not but hey.)
  • As a percentage, couldn’t be better, A+ and surely that means top of the class! (Actually not but hey.)

Thank you for being my WordPress village

My thanks not just to the latest arrivals but everyone who hangs out here now and again. You keep me going. You get me going. Right, that’s the happy 100 done and dusted — back to work, me!

Zq = inquisitive Kiwi

zed

Here I am at the mysterious Zq post, published by me, apparently. Some of you commented when this page was nothing but the headline: Zq.

You were puzzled. So was I. What did Zq mean?

To reveal that Zq was accidentally posted by a fat finger on my iPhone is too simple. Surely everything has a purpose? Or a meaning? Or a metaphorical significance in retrospect?

My initial thoughts seemed rather trivial so I waited for some more deep and meaningful deductions to emerge. And waited. And waited.

Nope. Here are my first thoughts, served cold.

Z & Q are both precious letters in my consciousness.

Hello Z!

I am a New Zealander who lives in New Zealand. We have a superpower: a unique way of scanning every page or screen: the letter Z leaps out and wiggles and woggles and tickles our eyeballs.  (By the way, we say Zed, not Zee.)  Zed is structural: every other word clusters around ultra-visible Zed. No Z can hide. No Z is safe from our nanosecond reconnoitre.

And when our eyes find the Z on a page, we sigh with relief, vindicated and authenticated. (We need that, coming from a country that’s just a few insignificant dots in the south Pacific ocean.) Never mind if the Zed is attached to zebra or fez or zebibyte or Alzheimers — we are home!

Zed wears a yellow safety vest.
Zed is precious. Zed is rare.
Zed is proud. Zed is ours.
Zed is me. Where Zed is lurking
so are we.

And hello Q!

Q is for questioning, questioner, questions frequently asked or not at all. I will cling to this faculty and never let go: the ability, the eagerness to ask questions.

To question is human. Children’s questions build a picture of the world — and also build their brains. To continue questioning into old age is to keep the brain alive and yes, even to keep it growing.

Specific types of brain activities are known to protect our brains from the ravages of Alzheimers. They include learning, choosing novel experiences, and meditation.

How can this be? Learning and complex thinking strengthen connections between nerve cells, building up “cognitive reserve” so that the brain can compensate for damage. (You knew that.) Meditation protects the brain in mysterious ways — and hey, meditation may be something you learn (big tick) and a novel experience (big tick).

Q: How come the brain instantly understood Zq and never wavered?
A. Fast thinking?

Zq is shorthand for inquisitive Kiwi

Maybe I should get a Zq identity tattoo. That would be a novelty.

How about you? What are your special letters and what do they mean?