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Thursday, January 15, 2009

What makes a travel blog cool

What makes a travel blog cool for you? And why? I'm often baffled by the winners of travel blog awards and why they're there. The results of a recent contest got me thinking about what makes a travel blog cool for me. Here goes:
Personal vision: the blog has to reveal an individual way of seeing the world that's the writer's own, expressed in a focused, compelling and unique way. It must communicate the thoughts, ideas, interests and passions of the author in a creative, well thought-out and highly personal way.
2) Sense of purpose: it must have motivation, direction, a reason to exist, and original stories to tell. It's got to exist for reasons other than to relieve boredom or generate income for the blogger. If it does that on the side, fine, but I'm not interested in blogs where that's the main goal.
3) It must be well-written: I want to read posts that are well-written, have shape, form and focus, and read well. I don't care if they're short or long. I don't go in for this 'optimum blog-post length' debate - they can be 100 words or 1000 words for all I care. Because if the narrative is structured, engaging and holds my attention it doesn't matter.
4) It must be written from experience: I want to read travel blogs written by bloggers who are travelling and experiencing what they're writing about, not simply regurgitating content they've read elsewhere, press releases they've been sent, or compiling posts from other blogs on the web. I want to read posts that provide a new insight into travelling the world, its places and people. I want to learn from what the blogger is learning from their travels.
5) It must 'connect' with its content: if the blogger is writing about other blogs, sites or media content, I want to see a connection. I'm not interested in reading about the same topic on ten different blogs. I want to read about it in a new and revealing way that makes me think about the subject differently or see it through the blogger's way of seeing the world.
It should be easy on the eye: if the blog is designed beautifully then that's a bonus, but at the very least I want something that's cool, clean-looking, and with inspiring images I can enjoy.
So what criteria do you use? Or is what makes a travel blog cool for you something that's not so easily definable?


Prêt à Voyager said...

nice breakdown, lara. i think many of the points are valid for all blogs, not just travel blogs!


Prêt à Voyager said...

nice breakdown, lara. i think many of the points are valid for all blogs, not just travel blogs!


Tamara said...

Hi Lara
Great list. I would also add great photography. Travel is so much about what you see as well as what you experience and well chosen inspiring images can bring blog posts to life.

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

Fab criteria. I find that I avoid many travel blogs b/c they are too dry. Too many travel blogs are just based on searching the web and regurgitating trivia. They are not about the bloggers own experience traveling. I am definitely most interested in the personal and real perspectives on travel.

Wendy said...

Hi Lara,
I think you hit the major bits. I would add that a good travel blog is written by someone you'd likely want to have a drink with if you bumped into them while traveling--this impression of course garnered by what they have written. A blogger's personality and sense of humor should shine through in what they write.

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Anne - I agree with you completely.

Hello Tamara - thanks! Yep, photography is important to me too - I think they're part of the story, aren't they?

Hi Maryam - I'm definitely with you there!

Hello Wendy - thank you. Exactly! And when you read the blogs that make you yawn they're probably written by the people you'd take cover from if you saw them heading in your direction on a street!

Alexander Santillanes said...

I'm really with you on the point about personal vision and originality. I find myself returning to blogs not because of where the writers are going, but because of the way they see where they are. -X

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Xander - you've hit the nail on the head there!

Anonymous said...

Hi Lara,

Reflecting on your post I thought it was coincidental (and amusing) that I read (yet)another list of Top 100 Best Travel Blogs (TravelHacker)and you were on it!

I think it's all down to personal taste, there are so many good travel blogs out there but in reality you choose whichever posts hold your attention. I do agree that if you enjoy reading the blog it doesn't matter how long the post is!

Anonymous said...

You will find that most of the travel blog awards sites are easily gamed, so it is often not the case of the best blog winning, but the best marketer and search engine optimizer winning the awards.

Lara Dunston said...

Hi James - oh, I know! Believe me, I get my fair share of emails in the In Box from bloggers asking me to vote for them. I find the lobbying a bit pathetic to be honest. But then the best films don't always win an Oscar either, do they? Thanks for dropping by!

Anonymous said...

Nicely said. I liken a good travel blog to a 'round-the-water-cooler chat. It's like a convo between friends--or someone you would be friends with if you ever had the chance to actually meet!

You're sharing information of the "did-I-tell-you-about" or "did-you-know" or "the-most-interesting-thing-happened-to-me-in-India" variety. Sometimes that can include newsy items, because if you knew a friend was looking for cheap flights to Istanbul, for example, you'd let him or her know about it if you stumbled across a great deal. But if I feel I'm just reading a rehashed news release, I'm outta there...

Also, I like a focussed blog--I don't just want to read about all your rambles in a general way. I want them to be organized by theme, or country, or newsworthiness--something. Just not a shambly mess of stream-of-consciousness postings, please! I want to feel when I leave a travel blog that I've been given a little gift, a new lens on the world, an unexpected insight, a great package deal--something.

Anonymous said...

Well put. I also have a strong preference for funny (or at least wry) writing. It keeps me coming back.

Anonymous said...

Hey Lara
Good points
I concur
And I see Myriam for the first time outside of her Marrakesh:-) Well done

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Julie - great points! I couldn't agree with you more!

Hello Jamie - yeah, I like a laugh too, but I haven't found that many blogs that are funny... or maybe I'm simply more attracted to the reflective ones.

Hey there Guido - thanks! I'm glad you agree :)

Thanks for dropping by everyone!

Gillian said...

I like to hear a personal voice in a blog. I don't want to just read about what a person did on a day, but about the experience of the day - how it affected them, or changed them or made them think. If I can't get a sense of who a person is then I'm less likely to keep reading.

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Lisa

I somehow missed you up there... that is a coincidence you saw me on that list, isn't it? I totally agree with you. I also find I visit particular blogs at certain points in time, depending on what my interests are.

Hi Gillian

Totally agree with you as well. I definitely prefer the ones where I feel like I know the person, but not so well I know what they had for breakfast or watched on TV!

Thanks for your comments, you two!