A bold title for a controversial post. I’ve been writing about travelling, and more, on Paper Sounds for over 2 years now, have been travelling for close to 20 and I’ve been following the travel blogging community for the past year, which means reading the blogs of numerous travel bloggers.
I understand the needs to rank well on Google, to optimize articles for SEO and to talk about what is popular, not just what we want to talk about. I do my own researches and do optimize for all this too. It’s not this what I want to talk about now nor is a problem if done in good faith.
What is the topic of this article instead is that many travel bloggers, not all of them obviously, have a few annoying ways to write about their travels that I find either irritating, useless or downright deceptive. Personally all my articles on PaperSounds strive to be true and not to hide any aspect of my travels, good or bad it might be. If you have been reading the blog for a while you know I am not shy of saying “don’t go there” or “this is overrated” or “I don’t like that” in my articles. If you want to read only about the positive places and experiences you may have on a trip, you can buy a normal guide. Here I want to give my personal, and I stress the personal, impressions on my trips, other than possibly warn readers about pitfalls and waste of time.
Clearly not all travel blogs are like Paper Sounds. Not all strive to be 100% true and honest or to write the full experience of travelling. That tends to create a few specific categories of blog posts, and that’s what I dislike about them.
Travel bloggers that aren’t original
If a travel blogger goes to Paris and writes only about how pretty is the city, to go up the Tour Eiffel, to stroll through Montmartre and visit the Louvre, I skip the article. It is common knowledge and easily found in thousands of other places. I’m not asking each travel blogger to give a personal touch to each article, I often don’t myself, but if you are talking about a destination and giving only general knowledge, your article is useless. I can go to Lonely Planet, Tripadvisor and similar and find the same in a matter of seconds. Why should I read your article instead? Give me a reason please.
Same is valid for generic articles. If you suggest me to check flight prices on Skyscanner and Kayak, it is nothing original. I understand that they are probably the best search engines for flights but exactly because they are the best they are known by anybody who ever booked a flight on his/her own. Your “tip” about “finding the best flight prices” is known by a few tens of millions of people all around the world. Tell me something I don’t know instead. Be original.
Telling only the positives
This is the one that irritates me the most. I know, you have been to NYC or London or St. Petersburg or Shangai and liked it a lot. Good. But, have not been any problems? Anything that you didn’t like? Anything that you didn’t expect and was a delusion? Anything at all that could be useful to other fellow travellers so they can avoid it?
I don’t try to write only the good parts of a trip. It is useless. It is like advertising, which some travel bloggers do but there should be a disclaimer in the article then, informing me it is meant to be an ad. Otherwise, it is not possible that there is no advice you can give in your article other than you liked it all and everybody should go to place x and visit attraction y. Let’s be honest.
Articles like these where all is positive are a waste of bytes. Cool, Paris and Istanbul are pretty and we all should go there. So what? I knew it already before reading your article. Tell me what you didn’t like, what I should avoid and what is overrated also, so I can have a more accurate idea of the location and decide if it should be higher or lower in my bucket list. That would be informative.
Being too much personal
This may be just me, I noticed most travellers like a trip report that is very personal. Fair.
I like when an article is a bit personal, letting me know the reasons you took such a trip and your reasoning on visiting an attraction instead of another. But not so far as in telling me what you wore, why you liked an octopus salad, why that bus trip reminded you of your home, why that mountain you climbed was a similar experience to climbing a tree in kindergarten and how much your partner loved that wine and why the music a bar was playing energized you.
Those things are better left for a personal diary or to tell your family/friends. I don’t know you personally, I cannot make a connection with your memories or previous experiences without knowing you or the places you were brought up in. I’m going to skip thus these bits of your personal life and read only the parts of the article that actually deal with the trip.
I do want to know your personality. I like when it shows in your articles. But one thing is putting it in what you write about and another is telling the whole internet about your personal memories and experiences. That is too much for me.
Being full of history
Look, if I wanted to read about the history of a place, I’d buy a book. Or read its article on Wikipedia. When reading a travel blog I want to read your experience, advices and impressions. If most of the article is about dates, names and a series of historical facts, most often copied from Wikipedia, then no thanks, I’m not interested.
Luckily not many travel bloggers write like that.
Pictures and more pictures
I like pictures as much as anybody. Yet if I go to a blog I would like to read about your travels, not only seeing your pretty pictures. I’ve seen travel bloggers writing 3-400 words and then having a gallery of 50 pictures taken during the trip.
This won’t do. Pictures should complement what you write, not the other way around. If you have that many good pictures that you want to show off, Instagram, Flickr, 500px and so on are available to host them. A link to the galleries there and/or posting a handful of the best ones will suffice. Let me read what you have experienced on the trip, not just show off your photographic skills. After all anybody can find thousands of photos with a tap on their Instagram app, why would I go to your blog instead?
Boasting experience you don’t have
There are travel bloggers who travelled across one hundred countries or more; and there are travel bloggers who travelled only to 20-30 countries, or even less. Both are fine, of course. Not everybody has the same time, money and chances to travel. Just don’t claim experience you don’t have. If you have been travelling only in the last 2 years and barely got outside of your continent/culture, don’t tell me you are an “experienced traveller” with “an extensive knowledge of travelling around the world”. I actually read those phrases, yes. Be honest with your readers.
There are travellers who have travelled more than you and have explored the five continents already at your age. That’s fine, different lives and opportunities. Just don’t claim you are better than you actually are.
Especially with the kind of trips you take. If the hardest trip you ever took was taking a train in the Balkans, your longest flight was 6 hours and your worst experience was somebody who tried to sell you fake Cuban cigars, then good for you that all your trips went smoothly but you aren’t an “adventure traveller” or such. Don’t claim what you aren’t, again.
I’ve personally been on four continents but there are large swaths of Earth that I know nothing about. I’ve never been in the Far East, nor India, nor subsaharian Africa, nor know much of the USA outside of New York. Writing about those places or places that I have spent like 2 days and mostly at the hotel would be claiming knowledge and experience that I truly don’t have. One of my biggest turn off of a blog is reading about 1 day long trips or where the traveller made no contact with the local population. There are countries with history and cultures spanning nearly 10000 years, how could you extensively write about those places when you barely spent a weekend there? Good that not many travel bloggers travel like this because it is not how you should, at all.
Again, be honest with yourself before writing an article. I know Google presses us in keeping our blogs regularly updated but don’t share knowledge you barely have nor boast what you are not.
It’s all about being honest in the end. That includes also not telling everything you noticed, the bad and the good, on your trips, something I already wrote about. Honesty trumps good, “seo-friendly”, content, always.