The other day a reader, a blogger actually, left a comment commenting that she didn’t like a restaurant recommendation I had made. To be honest, I don’t get a lot of complaints and so it made me pause. Had I made a mistake, was I wrong, was I sending people to the wrong place? Then I re-read the post, read her comments and realized that no, the fault was not mine. There was no fault actually, instead what happened was a fundamental lack of understanding about what a good travel blog should be.
Blogs are now commonplace, although I remember a day when I had to look up what the term meant. The trend started slowly and eventually blew up into the phenomenon that it is today. But throughout its evolution, one fact remained – a good travel blog is meant to be a personal reflection. Personal, about the individual, biased – these are all synonyms for a good blog. But in recent years we’ve gotten away from that, or at least folks entering the industry both on the corporate and blog side don’t really get what a good travel blog should be.
Not a travel guide
It sounds odd at first, but it’s true. A good travel blog should not be a digitized version of Frommer’s. This is the initial point where people get confused. They confuse a travel web site with a travel blog. The two are not the same and we shouldn’t expect them to be. If John Doe wants to start a web site with recommendations on what to do and see in various places around the world that’s fine, but don’t call it a blog. It’s a travel web site. No, a good travel blog is all about the personality, it’s about following an individual with whom you can either relate or understand their unique voice and so you read their work. It all has to start with the person or in some cases multiple authors.
That doesn’t mean practical and useful travel advice can’t be imparted in a blog, it can. But it absolutely should be biased. I usually explain it this way: People don’t visit blogs to find the Top Ten Things To Do In London. That’s been done a million times and probably better than any new blogger will manage. No, instead, people visit travel blogs to read more about how a certain individual experienced London. What they saw and did, and what their individual takeaways were. Why? Because they like that person, they’ve developed an affinity for their writing and they can relate to the ways in which they travel. That’s ultimately why people visit travel blogs and we would all do well to remember that.
Not a complete travel resource
Sorry fellow bloggers to break it to you, but we don’t know everything. I feel bad when people email me asking somewhat complex questions about a place I spent 4 days in – this actually happens all the time. Travel bloggers and writers may travel more than the average person, but we don’t know what we don’t know. We aren’t travel agents, instead the value of our advice comes directly from our own personal experiences. That means then that if I don’t write about it, I probably don’t know about it. Someone recently asked me for a list of hikes in Iceland. I spent 4 days in Iceland two-years ago and completed zero hikes. In order to answer this question I’d have to Google it, which is probably what that individual should have done in the first place. I think though that all too often we try to be everything to everyone, which is of course impossible. We travel in ways that are similar to the average person, which is why people read us in the first place I think. Personally, I spend 1-2 weeks maximum in a new place, making it impossible for me to know everything about it. That’s not to say I don’t learn a lot during my trips, I do. But I can’t recommend things that I don’t know about.
That’s ultimately why I decided not to over-worry about the complaint I received. Why? Because it’s not the job of my web site to offer comprehensive options of hotels and restaurants in any given city. Instead, my site shares what I actually see and do and what I thought about it. So when I recommend a restaurant, might there be something better out there? Sure, probably, but I can only write from personal experience and I can only write as a travel blogger and not a travel guide writer. There’s a sharp difference between the two and we need to make sure to remember that if we want to continue providing great content to readers old and new.
What do you think? What are your favorite features of a good travel blog?