Blogging on trains: tips for aspiring travel writers
A guest post by Frankie Wallace.
So you want to be the next Paul Theroux? Maybe you fancy yourself as an online Colin Thubron.
There’s only one thing all travel writers absolutely need to do to make your dream come true: start writing.
Getting started is the hardest part of travel writing. Your first post or two won’t be perfect. They may even make your cringe.
Fortunately, the only thing standing in the way of you getting better isn’t a big break or a fat bank account. It’s the amount of work you’re willing to put in.
Writing is a skill, and you can build it. Are you dreaming of blogging from a train through Europe? Read these tips for aspiring travel writers before you pack your bags.
All travel writers need a business plan
The best adventures are spontaneous events no one could have ever predicted. That much is true. The best (and most lucrative) blogs, however, aren’t spontaneous. They enjoy the benefit of a business plan.
Every entrepreneur needs a business plan, and if you hope to write a blog which one day becomes your full-time job, then you need one, too.
A business plan isn’t a formality but an opportunity to nail down a strategy which will not only make it easier to monetise your blog, but give you a structure to help you write it in the first place.
What needs to go into it? Every business plan for travel writers should outline:
- Your mission (your ‘why’, if you will)
- Your goals
- Your value proposition (what makes you unique)
- Your personality
- Your target audience
- Your strategy
- Your competitors
- Your product (i.e., your blog posts)
Your blogging business plan will give you a chance to approach your blog as a business from the beginning, rather than trying to re-tool your existing content later, which is going to be a lot more work.
Learn how to craft a narrative before you post
There are two popular types of travel blogs. First there are those viral listicles that are just long lists of places to go, things to eat and activities to do.
Then there are those that integrate the narrative form into the post: they tell a story that grips and informs the reader and brings the two of you closer.
Guess what type is more compelling (and more lucrative)?
Narrative writing makes you as a travel writer seem real and helps your story stand off the page. But crafting a good story isn’t just about pouring out your heart and soul.
There are elements to every good story which make it stand out, not because of how wild and adventurous it is, but because of how you tell it.
Remember to keep it personal
Using imagery, keeping it personal, and focusing on the human element are just three of those.
Here’s an example: you score your Russian visa and you’re about to document your trip on the Trans Siberian railway. You could start by saying you got on the train in Moscow and off in Ekaterinburg, but that’s an itinerary — not a story.
Instead, consider starting with how you felt getting on the train. What did you see? Were you nervous? What was your first impression?
Your readers already know they need to catch the train from Moscow, but they want to know they’re not alone in being nervous about their adventure.
They want to know what to expect. And your story can build their excitement while documenting your experience. That’s far more valuable than any how-to guide.
Come up with unique ideas for posts (along with popular posts)
Audiences are a fickle thing: they want to know what to expect but they also love to be surprised.
To become one of those travel writers as a full-time job, you need enough of the popular posts to bring traffic, but you don’t need to provide the same old guide to the best sites in Rome. It’s been done, and your new site won’t rank for it (at least initially).
Start by thinking of posts which are inherently clickable. What would you see on a site and know you had to read? Is it meteorite hunting in Siberia? Conservation in the Galapagos? Kitesurfing off the coast of Zanzibar?
Ultimately, the best tip anyone can give an aspiring travel blogger is this: Try to avoid falling into the trap of believing you need to become the next Bear Grylls to be a travel blogger. Think of things that you love to do when you travel and share them with a good story. You’ll find your audience in no time.
About the author
Frankie Wallace regularly contributes to a wide variety of blogs and enjoys writing about health tips and politics. Wallace currently resides in Boise, Idaho and is a recent graduate from the University of Montana.