At a recent network meeting I was asked what I did and replied, “I’m a travel … well, a blogger… I mean, I write travel posts – I’ve got a website I blog on … I’ve had some articles published in magazines …” and ran out of steam. You probably know about those business networking organisations where you have to give a 30 second ‘elevator pitch’ to sum up what you do; well, the descent from the new Burj Tower in Dubai wouldn’t have been be long enough. The main issue I had was saying I was a travel BLOGGER – it didn’t feel right.
If you Google the phrase ‘travel writer v travel blogger’ there are over 40,000 pages; read Gary Arndt’s article Travel Blogging vs Travel Writing for a thoughtful take on the subject. Gary offers a number of different criteria including writers as those who “write for someone else, either on staff or on a freelance basis, and bloggers “work for themselves and they are responsible for their own income.’ I fit both definitions depending on the situation. My reticence in using phrase ‘Travel Blogger’ seemed to be based on something else …
I realised it came from my own perception of what constituted GOOD writing. I grew up consuming all kinds of travel books for breakfast, lunch and dinner. My heroes included the usual names; Paul Theroux, Laurens Van Der Post, William Dalrymple, Laurie Lee, Dervla Murphy and my absolute favourite, Jan Morris. Novels set in foreign lands have always interested me, some have even caused me to move there – ‘My Family & Other Animals‘ by Gerald Durrell inspired a love-affair with Greece that lasts to this day. Guide books are a must on every trip and I can’t wait for next month’s copy of Lonely Planet mag. You’ll note that all of these fit the traditional, printed paper format. However, my main definition of a good ‘travel writer’ is simply that their writing must engage me and take me on a journey via the words and images they create.
Travel bloggers use technology to facilitate ease of access to the written word. Bloggers can freely ‘publish’ their words to world at the click of a mouse. Using the definition above there are some truly brilliant travel writers amongst the blogging community and there are some lousy ones. And that’s the point – anyone with basic IT skills can be a blogger. Using social media, PR, networking and other means will enure the blogger potential readers. Whether or not they are ‘good’ travel writers – well, that’s another issue entirely.
Yes, I’ve had a number of paid articles published. Yes, I’ve had The Quirky Traveller Travel Notes published and I am working on a travel book, but my writing is mainly in blog format here and for other travel blog sites. So, the next time anyone asks me what I do, I am going to say, “I’m a travel blogger” and see how it feels. It’s up to the reader to decide if I’m any good!
Zoe Dawes runs Travel Writing Workshops sharing tips on how to write, blog and share the journey.
You raise some interesting points. I would have described you as a travel writer who uses blogging as your main outlet. But it is what you feel comfortable calling yourself that counts. And, as blogging is still a realitively new genre, I guess using the title Travel Blogger will turn more heads than Travel Writer. So wear your blogger with pride!
Excellent article Zoe:-)
Thanks Lynne – I’d been pondering on my reluctance to use the term ‘blogger’ and now I’m quite delighted to use it!
Thanks for discussing the issue with honesty, Zoe. I always say I’m a travel writer first and blogger second — because that’s where my ambitions lie. But it’s also because I want to be taken seriously and to set myself apart from the non-professionals.
However, I am starting to change my mind, and starting to feel it’s time to proudly proclaim I am a Professional Travel Blogger!
aka Breathedreamgo, the travel blogger 🙂
I would add that in travel blogging writing is only really 1/2 of the work, the rest remains in SEO optimizing, building traffic, working on site related issues etc etc.
When I talk to people in the industries I say travel blogger because I run my own business. But with others I just say travel writer because some people still don’t know what blogs are.
Julia Cameron’s famous book, The Right To Write, makes the point that all writing is equally valid so long as you care about the words. People who write IT manuals are writers as much as novelists. I agree – it’s the caring about the words, the thinking how they sound and the effect they have (I’m doing it now) that’s importnat.
My blog has morphed into a ‘nature and landscape ‘ theme – the same genre as the book I’m writing. But I regard each medium as valid as the other. Some things that work in essays for example aren’t right on the blog and vice versa. (Little side comments, like this, being a good example)
So my view is clear: you’re a travel writer, it just so happens that your medium is a blog.
I’m firmly convinced we bloggers are writers! It is the medium that is different and (remembering the sixties) yes, the medium is part of the message. But essentially blogging is a published form of communication that includes our writing.
Having read your great pieces, for me you are very clearly a travel writer!
What I’m not sure about yet is whether we are journalists! But that is another debate.
Barry – I love your summary of the newness of Travel Blogging being new therefore turning heads … it chimes with the challenges and opportunities we face in the world of blogging. I am certainly going to embrace the term.
Your comments Ayngelina about SEO highlights one of the issues I have with blogging. I’ve just been reading some comments on the Global Bloggers Unite page about how much SEO bloggers need to do to get their articles higher visibility. I do relatively little and don’t propose to do too much in future; I know that means I may never reach the giddy heights of some bloggers whose page ranking is high, whose site clicks over at a rate of knots and who get approached all the time for blog trips, advertising and guest posts. And that’s OK with me.
You’re so right about some people still not knowing what ‘blogging’ is … but it will come. (I was there at the start of Coaching in this country 10 years ago and more, and now it’s everywhere. Bring on the Blogging!
Mariellen – thanks for your comment. It’s definitely where I want to be – to take pride in saying “I’m a Travel Blogger”, and I love your use of the word ‘professional’. Someone once said that you can’t expect others to take you seriously until you do so yourself. Ditto re professionalism.
Your comments are really appreciated Wendy, especially from such a talented writer like yourself 🙂 I definitely don’t see myself as a journalist; I have not training in that area, am definitely not very good at the research aspect that good journalism requires and, although I’ve had articles published in magazines and newspapers it’s not an area I aim for regularly. As you say, that’s for another debate!
Mark, I hadn’t heard of Julia Cameron’s book ‘The Right to Write’ but will certainly look for it. However, ‘The Artist’s Way’ played a great part in my starting to pursue the creative journey I’m now on. Your point about the medium is so pertinent and I look forward to hearing more about your book sometime.
To be honest, I’m afraid to call myself a “travel writer”. Instead, I like to just think of myself as a blogger. I like the comment above from Mark, where he says as long as you care about the words, you’re a writer. And while I definitely care, I’m hesitant to give myself too much credit.
I was like you Adam but maybe we can rethink our definition of ‘writer’. I’ve been told I am a writer but to that I should be happy about being a blogger cos it is cool and of the moment! I guess we can let others give us credit and call us what they will 😉
I’ve had a dilemma over a similar issue too. Do I say this is my “travel blog” or do I say this is my “travel website”? I hesitate at saying its a “travel blog” because it seems very “informal”. If I say I share my travel stories on my “travel website”, that seems to make it sound more professional. Would calling our site as a “blog” make it less professional?
It took a while of getting used to introducing ourselves as “travel bloggers” who “blog” on our “travel blog”, but I think we’re starting to get used to it.
It’s kind of psychological isn’t it Shirlene? I went on a blog trip to Sweden recently this summer with FourBGB http://www.fourcommunications.com/four-bgb a really good PR company who really seem to ‘get’ what blogging is all about and for the first time I didn;t feel the need to apologize for being a blogger. I guess the more we get used to it, the more others will too!
I struggle with this old chestnut a bit too. I’m extremely wary of calling myself a ‘travel writer’, since in my mind this category applies to the type of people you ref above, who’ve had numerous narrative travel books published, but that’s probably an old fashioned view, I dunno. I’m not really a travel blogger either, since my definition of this entails people like Ayngelina who are travelling and blogging about it almost constantly and have been for a number of years, but both are useful shorthand and often perception and ‘positioning’ (horrible marketing word, but it has its uses!) are the better part of the battle.
Fascinating isn’t it Jools how we have ways of determining ‘what’ someone does and how important the labels are to so many, often including ourselves, against our better judgement. Having seen your writing I know it is definitely ‘travel writing’ ergo you must be a travel writer. It’s often on a blog, ergo you are a travel blogger AND you have a journalistic background and are publsihed in papers and mags – ergo you are a travel journalist. Bloody multi-talented whatever label you pin upon it!
For my work I prefer the term travel blogger as I’d like to emphasize that I am using social media channels for telling my stories. Whereas a travel writer don’t have to use the internet a travel blogger can’t work without the internet. For me this is the key difference.
Really relevant point about the necessity of the internet, Andreas, which predefines a blogger.
Thanks for sharing this post with me Zoe, I can relate to every word. I always find myself stumbling over that sentence, ‘I’m a travel…blogger?’
While I’m no where near the category where I can call myself a travel writer, I began my blog because I like to write and that’s where my passion will always lie. I’ve heard a lot of people say that to be a successful blogger you don’t need to be able to write well and I think it’s people saying things like this that make blogging seem less professional.
I’m glad that more and more people are coming out of the closet as travel bloggers and are showing that travel bloggers can write well and juggle a load of other skills too!
Two years down the line the world of blogging is very different in some ways from what it was in 2011. People are much more familiar with the term ‘blogger’ and blogging is on its way to becoming a recognised ‘skill’ which involves a lot more than simply writing an article. use the word ‘simply’ in a loose term – I never find it especially simple to write though in blogging it is as much about the links, photos, video etc and promotion of the post that makes it a success as it is about writing a good piece.
Be interested to hear what others think …