Blogging feels like one big interconnected community and, as well as being a weekly blogger myself, I enjoy following other bloggers, reading their words and understanding their issues and journey.
Not all of the blogs I follow are travel blogs, but many of them are and each has their own unique ‘voice’ and take on what they are seeing and experiencing.
Over the next few months or so I will introduce you to some of my favourite blogs and share some of their blogging wisdom…
Introducing: The Travel Architect
Blog: The Travel Architect – One Woman’s Travel Planning Obsession
Blog theme/topic: She describes her many adventures with her husband on foot, on bike and with pets, and also muses on blogging and random things like National Donut Day.
No. of Followers: 521 as @ 22 September 2019
No. of hits: not shown on site
Started blogging in: 2018
How Often They Post: approximately once per week
The Burning Questions
- Way back when you started your blog, what was your motivation or inspiration?
For many years my only real writing outlet was my annual Christmas letter (aside from the occasional strongly worded letter to a business that had displeased me in some way 😊). I loved writing it – still do – and spent all year long working on it here and there.
I had received lots of compliments on my letter (It’s rather tongue-in-cheek and I try not to make it a brag rag!), but one year, a recipient suggested I write a blog. I was flattered, but I didn’t know what to do with that idea, so for a long time I did nothing. It popped into my mind from time to time, and my husband brought it up and encouraged me now and then, but I always thought, “What would I write about?”
Then years later, after a glorious day of travel planning, my husband and I went out for a belated anniversary dinner. I was going on and on about the travel planning and he pointed out that I should start a blog with a travel focus. It was like a ton of bricks hit me. Of course!
Travel and travel planning are two of my favourite things on earth – topics I can talk about for hours.
- Over time, has that changed?
For the most part, no, but on occasion I’m motivated to write about something that has nothing to do with travel. That’s why I have a “Random Musings” category. I’ve written about National Donut Day, mice/snake encounters, my half-hearted attempt to become a fan of English football, and other random stuff that pops into my head and must find a way out through my fingertips.
There’s a song by Anna Nalick called “Breathe” that has some lyrics that have always spoken to me:
“Two a.m. and I’m still awake, writing a song
If I get it all down on paper it’s no longer inside of me
Threatening the life it belongs to.”
Writing is the one creative outlet that makes me feel that way.
- In your opinion, what are the most enjoyable/best things about blogging?
First, I’d say having an audience for my writing changes everything for me. I could never get into journaling. I do it when traveling – but just the minimum so I don’t forget what I did on a given day – but I think I dislike it so much because there’s no audience. It feels like a chore, whereas blogging feels like a performance.
Second, I’d say the ability to interact with other bloggers, both about my writing and experiences and about theirs. It gives the writing experience an added dimension that I think is probably lacking in other forms of writing.
Third, I’d say the amazing tech aspect. By that I mean the ability to link to previous blog posts, to other bloggers’ sites, to external sites, to add pictures (and, now that I have a paid site, video… though I don’t want to overly rely on video). Oh! And to go back and change things – words and phrases here and there – even after I’ve published. You can’t do that once you’ve submitted a piece of writing on paper!
But most of all, what I enjoy best about blogging/writing is that mildly tense feeling I have when I’m searching for a just-right word or turn of phrase. It’s very satisfying when I finally nail it. That grappling with the language is very rewarding. I have a poster in my classroom that says, “It’s a good feeling when you know you’ve written something well.” Totally.
- What do you find the most challenging?
Finding the time, especially during those super busy times of the year, especially the beginning and end of the school year and the holiday season between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I like long, lingering, unhurried sessions at the computer, and sometimes life doesn’t want to give me those.
Also, for some blog posts, especially ones in which I have very few pictures and I have to weave the tale with just words, getting started can be difficult. As a travel blogger, a lot of my posts have copious photographs to help tell the story. That doesn’t mean my writing can be sloppy because pictures take up the slack. I always aim for good writing, but I think that the fewer pictures you have, the tighter your writing has to be. My post called “A Travel Running Run-In” is one such post. It’s the tale of the less-than-pleasant encounters (with dogs and people) I’ve had while running on my travels. There doesn’t exist any photographic evidence of those encounters, so I have to create images with my words. In the case of that particular post, I think it turned out well. In fact, it’s one of my favourite posts, but I sometimes feel an invisible barrier when trying to get started on that type of post.
- Why do you think people follow your blog? What do they get out of it? How do they respond?
Hmmm, I think my writing style appeals to certain people. I’m trying less to give people factual information about a given destination (I figure that stuff is easy enough to look up online) and more to convey my personal experiences. Sometimes that provides useful details that travellers are looking for, and other times it just gives them a (hopefully entertaining) tale to read.
I’m pretty honest about the good and the bad that happens on our travels (or whatever it is I’m writing about), and I think people appreciate that it’s not all sugar-coated.
Some people respond with comments – sometimes just giving me a compliment about my post, and other times relating a similar experience they had. Some of my commenters are actually quite hilarious.
- What bloggers do you admire? And why?
One of the great things about upgrading to a paid site is that I now have the ability to acknowledge some of my favourite bloggers in a sidebar on my home page. I’ll mention just a few of them here:
- Jen Seriously: an aspiring novelist, she blogs about various topics and she’s really open. She speaks her mind unapologetically. I admire that.
- Josh Hewitt’s Wanderlust Travel & Photo Blog: if I need useful and extremely thorough travel information with gorgeous photos and detailed maps, this is my go-to guy. He’s also a great blog buddy, meaning he’s someone I interact with a lot in the blogosphere.
- Michael Andrew Just’s dawn2dawn photography blog: stunning photography, often of the southwest United States – one of my favourite places.
- Planet Bell by Jeff Bell and Monkey’s Tale by Maggie & Richard: both of these blogs have amazing photography and tell equally amazing stories. These guys have had some awe-inspiring travel adventures and been to some remote places!
- Paul Dance (I know him as “Liveandletthai,” which was his original blog name) has a humorously informative blog about his experiences as a British expat living in Thailand (Paul Dance – Writer), and a hilarious blog of fiction called The Life & Times of Henri H. Henry. He’s also a great blog buddy of mine.
- Has blogging opened up any doors or provided any unusual opportunities for you?
Well, I’ve never been asked to do an interview before, so this is a first! 😊
The blog also gave birth to The Travel Architect Podcast that I do with my husband. He had some podcasting experience, but his partners couldn’t commit on a regular basis, so his first podcasts kind of dwindled.
Our podcast exists as a complement to the blog. When he first suggested it (at the dinner where my blog was born), I balked. He’s an extrovert and I’m an introvert. I wasn’t going to do a podcast. But over time he wore me down and to be honest, it’s quite fun.
Our relationship is quite tease-y/banter-y, and I think that works well on a podcast. We try to do one weekly, but sometimes life gets in the way. Like my blog, it’s less nuts-and-bolts travel advice and more narrative in feel.
I haven’t pursued any monetary opportunities with my blog. I used to belong to a female travel bloggers group (now defunct) on Facebook. Boy, did I learn a lot – like how much work it is to try to make money from a travel blog. Not only is the market saturated, I just don’t have time. I work full-time, own a home, have a pet, chores, and other hobbies besides blogging, and just don’t want to spend the time needed to try to make money from my blog.
I mean, if someone approached me, I would definitely consider a money-making venture, but I don’t want to spend my precious free time pursuing those avenues. Maybe in retirement though…
- What do you think is the recipe for a good blog post?
No matter what the topic is, it starts and ends with good writing: good grammar, well-thought out sentence construction, coherence, conciseness, organization… all the stuff they teach you in school.
It doesn’t have to be perfect – we all make mistakes, but it should be obvious that the writer has done some editing. If I read a post on say, travel, which I love, but the writer doesn’t capitalize I’s and basic words are misspelled (totally excepting people writing in a second language – I really admire that… I am an ESL teacher, after all), then that’s just sloppy writing. It’s irritating to try to read, and I probably won’t follow that blogger.
I also really enjoy posts that have that elusive concept of “voice.” The way I try to teach voice to my students is this: if you submitted a piece of writing without your name on it, I’d read it and be able to tell instantly that you are the author. It’s infused with your own unique style and personality.
Finally, humor isn’t required for a post to be good, but I always appreciate a good laugh.
- What has been your favourite trip or blog topic?
Oh, wow, I don’t think I could single out a single trip as a favourite. They’re all such different and wonderful experiences.
On the other hand, I’ve made no secret of the fact that Colorado is my favourite US state. I adore the mountains. In fact, the entire US Southwest is definitely a favourite region. On the other hand, we’re heading to Asia for the first time this winter, so maybe that’ll become a favourite.
Lately, though, I’ve had fantasies of returning to our favourite couples-only resort in Jamaica. That’s less of a “travel experience” and more of a vacation… an immersion into total relaxation. Beach, pool, reading, exercise, eating, and zero stress – this is why I go there.
As for blog topics, I’ve really enjoyed writing the posts in my When Bad Things Happen to Good Travelers category. Those bad travel experiences stink when you’re in the midst of them, but boy do them make for fun story-telling, especially when the pain is just a memory and you’re no longer fuming (or crying) over whatever it was that went wrong.
- If you started all over again, what would you do differently? Any advice for the beginners?
- Honestly, there’s not much I’d do differently.
- We have business cards for the blog/podcast now. Maybe I’d get those sooner.
- I will say that when I started, I had an idea for a format for my posts that never really materialized. So, I guess I’d advise new bloggers not to get too hung up on forcing posts to fit a certain preconceived schema. Your writing may take a path you didn’t intend, but that’s OK. A blog is like a marriage – it grows and changes over time. Embrace those changes and welcome the growth.
- If the tech side is causing you to pull your hair out, just stick with it. I’m the biggest technophobe you’ll ever meet, and it did take hours and hours, but I finally figured out how to make, for example, drop-down menus. Just take your time and breathe.
- As for building followers, I’d say, “Engage!” Interact with other bloggers – those comment boxes are there for a reason. It makes the whole blogging experience more fun, and you’ll discover you have friends around the world (blog buddies) you just haven’t met yet.
- Finally, I’d caution people against following bloggers just to get followed back. It’s disingenuous and follower numbers are just… numbers. It doesn’t mean people are reading and appreciating your writing. It’s better to have a smaller number of followers who genuinely want to read what you took the time and effort to write, than a huge number who never read your posts, and that goes both ways. OK – preaching finished. 😉
- Thank you, Mel, for giving me the opportunity to answer your thought-provoking questions and be featured on your blog. I’m truly honoured. I may be introverted, but who doesn’t jump at the chance to talk about themselves?! I’m glad to call you one of my blog buddies.
My Thoughts/Comments on this Blog:
- I have no idea how I stumbled across The Travel Architect’s blog. When you read one blog it is easy to click on another link, another link and another link and down the rabbit hole you go. I am so pleased that I did stumble across this site though as her perspective on travel, and the World in general, is fresh and amusing.
- She has a keen eye, a warm and friendly voice, and is not afraid to poke fun at herself or anyone else who may be in the vicinity.
- Her style is more ‘commentary’ than ‘how to’ or ‘how not to’ and her power of observation means that she captures what she is experiencing in clear, and often, humorous detail.
- Read this blog for a quirky view of the World’s highlights and hiccups.