Because this article will later become quite detailed, here’s the super-quick version of how easy it is to start a brand new travel blog:
- Visit WordPress.com.
- Enter your new site address, click Create Website, and follow the simple on-screen instructions.
- You’re in! Create a new Page, title it ‘About Me’, write a short introduction to yourself, upload a selfie and hit Publish.
- Create a new Post. Say hello, write a paragraph about why you’ve started the blog, and then another paragraph about the topics you’re going to be blogging about. Hit Publish.
- Post a link to your new blog to your Facebook friends and Twitter followers, and send an email to everyone you know asking them to check it out.
Ta-da! In 5 steps and as many minutes, you are now a travel blogger.
(I know some ‘professional’ travel bloggers who are charging money you to tell you this.)
How To Start A Travel Blog Today (The Detailed Version)
Blogging is something every traveller can easily do. Thanks to modern technology, sharing your travel stories online is simple, secure and instantaneous, costs little or nothing, and can be a great way to share your experiences – if you know the basic elements of success.
This tutorial will teach you how to set up your own travel blog in just a few minutes, and then how to make it effective and engaging. But first, allow me to gently persuade you why it’s worth your time to blog about your travels:
1. You’ll build a second-to-none record of your experiences.
If, like me, you’re too lazy to write a diary at the end of each day on the road, and you harangue yourself constantly for not doing so, you might well find that the impetus provided by serving a growing readership works wonders for your efforts to record your thoughts, impressions and experiences.
Not only that, but you’ll be able to edit and refine your articles, as well as combine words with photos — and then, when the time is right, use one of many free web services to convert your blog into a book that you can have printed and bound as the physical record to match the digital one.
2. You’ll be able to share this record easily with friends and family.
One of the biggest reasons for starting a travel blog is to keep friends and family in the loop about where you are (perfect for placating worried parents!) and to share your experiences with them.
By bearing a few key things in mind, however, you’ll find that it’s possible to go further than this circle of contacts, reaching readers who’ve never met you in person, and eventually entertaining, educating and inspiring a growing audience of newcomers and regular readers through your adventures.
3. You’ve an audience pool the size of the planet.
With over a third of the world now online, your potential reach as a self-publishing blogger is only going to keep growing. This is one of the beautiful things about working in a democratised medium such as the internet.
This doesn’t mean you should expect or aim for a readership of 3.9 billion people, of course. What it means is that there’s a vast and growing pool of people within which to find those few souls who’ll engage and resonate with your unique voice and story and become your core audience. You need not worry about competing with the world’s most popular travel blogs for readers; worry only about finding those on the same wavelength as you and who’ll appreciate your content most, however specialised it might be. Pressure off!
4. You’ve an outlet for submerged creativity
Most of us have our creativity kicked out of us at school through red pens and corrections and the encouragement of competitiveness between pupils to improve exam results and meet government targets. None of this is particularly helpful when you’re an adult trying something new.
Particularly when you’re just starting out, a blog provides a blank slate upon which to experiment, and travel provides unlimited raw material in the form of new experiences and changing landscapes from which to draw inspiration.
So write, edit and delete to your heart’s content, getting instant feedback from your readers if you want it, or do your experimentation in private and then publish the best of the resulting output — it’s entirely up to you.
5. It’s easy to change direction once you’ve started.
One of the biggest advantages of working in the digital age is that everything you create can be moved, edited, reorganised and adapted to your heart’s content. Decided on a new domain name? Want to re-style your website? Move to another platform or hosting provider? Change the message of your site and recategorise all your content? No problem.
You can do all of this without losing any of your hard-earned followers or search-engine rankings. It’s just a case of knowing what’s possible, how to do it, and how to avoid a couple of the most common pitfalls bloggers encounter when making a change of direction. Simply put, though, things are very, very fluid.
6. Got bigger future projects in mind? Starting a blog now is the single best move you can make.
If you’ve designs on a book, a film, a storytelling tour, or any other future project related to your travels that will rely on public involvement to make it a success, you’ll find that a loyal audience of regular readers is utterly invaluable.
These followers will, over time, have come to know you as a storyteller and publisher, and 99% of them will support your project without hesitation — as well as being the best evangelists you could wish for when it comes to publicising what you’re doing. Why? Because, by the time you’re ready to launch your project, you’ll have been providing these people with months’ (if not years’) worth of dependable, valuable content. In short, you’ll have established a reputation as someone whose work is worth supporting.
7. Your blog might even pay your way — if you want it to.
Yes, blogging is now a career option. Google any generic travel-related question and the first page of results will turn up pages from the websites of several A-list travel bloggers who make a respectable income from travelling the world and running their blogs full-time. This is no co-incidence. They have designed their blogs to bring in new readers searching for answers to generic travel-related questions. This is an integral part of the travel blogging business model.
Note that I said ‘running their blogs full-time’. While it’s possible to do this, it really is only an option if you don’t mind your travelling experience and your work life being permanently and inextricably combined. It is not a golden ticket to a life of unabated pleasure, adventure and freedom (though some of the aforementioned bloggers will promise you it is while selling you their e-books on the topic). But it is possible to do it — if you’re not afraid of hard work, failure, and a very steep learning curve.
8. Be the change you want to see.
Travel blogging doesn’t stop at tales of adventure. Eventually you’ll have learned enough from your experiences and refined the underlying message of all that you publish that you’ll be able to start thinking of ways to use your blog and the community surrounding it to achieve greater ends.
Put your creative energy and passion into educating and inspiring your readers, into encouraging and empowering people to change their behaviour, and you might just nudge the world towards the kind of future you’d like to see.
* * *
Convinced? Let’s get started…
What Is Travel Blogging, Anyway?
Travel blogging is the act of regularly updating a blog, such as the one you are reading now, while you’re travelling – whether from your own smartphone, tablet or laptop, or through an internet cafe or hostel computer.
The word ‘blog’, by the way, originates from ‘web log’, which hints at the main distinguishing quality of a blog: it is always up-to-date, always current. Like other logs, it is a record of how things were before and how they are now. Logs (and blogs) are, of course, sequenced chronologically; the newest entry is the first thing you’ll see. And they are ongoing, new entries added regularly on a subject that has the potential to grow or change over time.
So now you know.
What Are The Best Free Travel Blogging Platforms?
The most popular blogging platform is WordPress, which comes in two flavours (hosted and self-hosted – this blog is self-hosted), depending on whether you know what a domain name and web hosting are. If you don’t, you’ll be starting out on the hosted version.
WordPress allows you to use a secure interface to post your blogs, upload images and other media, and change pretty much anything about how your blog looks (including adding your own logo).
(If you decide to go down the self-hosted route and buy a web-hosting package, I recommend Vidahost* in the UK. Use the voucher code TOMSBIKETRIP for 10% off. You’re welcome.)
Most hosting companies will enable you to install WordPress with a couple of clicks through the included ‘control panel’ for your account.
Setting up your blog is quite self-explanatory from there on, and if you want a flavour of just how easy it is, try reading about WordPress’s Famous 5-Minute Install.
If you have no idea what I am talking about, visit WordPress.com and sign up. They’ll do everything for you, for free, except for buying you a domain name, which is usually offered as a paid-for upgrade.
What Gadgets/Equipment/Apps Do You Need For Travel Blogging?
Write blogs using the app. Take photos with the built-in camera and add them to your articles. Charge it in petrol stations, cafes, public toilets. Today’s smartphone cameras and are incredible. Even my old piece-of-crap phone was used to take one of my favourite photos. Job done.
If you want to be fancy, use the smartphone with a data package as a hotspot for your laptop. I started blogging this way in 2009 using an old Sony Ericsson W850i, which can be found now for about £1 on eBay, and an Asus netbook I got on the cheap in Dubai.
Scavenge free WiFi connections on your way through towns – coffee shops are a good bet, and McDonalds’ is a guaranteed connection (plus you can sit on the pavement outside and use it without buying anything).
Alternatively, Instagram your trip, then paste the URLs of your photos into WordPress and it’ll embed the images automatically. Clever stuff.
If you’re in the jungle or desert or out on the Arctic sea-ice and want to be really fancy, you’ll be using your full-size laptop, solar power system and BGAN connection. You, your attractive assistant and your support team already know how to use it, and you don’t need this guide.
But How Do I Write Stuff People Will Read?
All of the technical kit is irrelevant when it comes to the art of writing. It’s content that counts, and a smartphone-blog will trash the most high-tech comms setup if you pay attention to the quality of what you’re publishing.
A daily write-up of your itinerary and how many calories you consumed, together with photos of the wear on your shoe-soles and the texture of the soil, is likely to bore even the most nerdish armchair traveller within a few days. But these kinds of blog are all-too-common.
Successful travel writing depends on painting pictures with words; taking the reader there and imparting something of the emotions you may have felt and lessons you might have learned through your experience. So use anecdotes and dialogue to show your meaning, rather than just telling it in retrospect.
Indeed, show don’t tell is a cornerstone of all creative writing.
Successful travel blogging depends on keeping that reader with you; getting them to the end of each piece and coming back for the next one.
Regularity can really help, as long as the material remains fresh. This might mean once a day, once a week or once a month – the key is consistency.
Keep it varied. There is no need to stick to a formula. Maybe focus on a particular theme, or a particular observation, train of thought or encounter. A broad spread of impressions can make for far more interesting and entertaining reading than trying to convey the full chronology of events.
How Do I Get Traffic To My Travel Blog (Besides My Mum)?
The final piece of the puzzle is letting the world (and your loved ones, of course) know about your blog, and when you publish new material – in short, publicity.
If you’re using WordPress with the Jetpack plugin, you’ll find a Sharing page in the settings where you can connect your blog to all of your social media accounts. It’ll magically post links to your new articles when they’re published, leaving you to scroll undisturbed through endless photos of people you never really liked at school getting drunk.
To give your new blog a big kickstart, compile a list of email addresses of everyone you know and write them a short message explaining your new travel blog, inviting them to check it out, and encouraging them to share your blog on their own social media networks.
(Important: you must already have published something worth reading before you do this.)
(Doubly important: when you send the big group email, paste the addresses into the BCC: box, not the To: box. Nobody likes having their email address shared with a few hundred strangers.)
For bonus points, sign up for a free account with a mailing list provider such as Mailchimp and put a signup form on your blog. Collecting email addresses from regular readers can pay dividends in the long run, especially if you want to launch other projects off the back of your blog.
These are the building blocks of travel blogging. We’ve covered the technical side of setting it up, the gadgetry you’ll need to do so, what to publish and when, and how to get people reading. Now it’s up to you.
Remember: start simply, build a following with consistent, high quality content, and use social media to engage a following. Above all, enjoy the opportunity to experiment with sharing your travel tales. Do it because you want to. Who knows where it’ll lead?