I thought for several weeks —or months I should say— about writing this article. But I didn’t want to be harsh. I am not an expert in travel blogs and I don’t pretend to be one. I built this site during a very difficult time when I barely had time to go to the bathroom. However, this year with La Vida Nomade I encounter a very different blogger world compared to the one I used to know.
Long time ago, I had a blog where I wrote about British music and about my favourite band, The Smiths. This website became very popular in that niche. According to the counter —Google Analytics didn’t exist at that time— I was getting between 15,000 and 20,000 visitors per month from all over the world, not too bad for a site from a small country, with no ads at all. However, I never saw it as a business but I began to receive gifts: books from Portugal, music records from Peru and the US, postcards from Mexico, among others. I never gained any money, but I saved a lot of it because I was invited to parties and concerts. After all, I was just a fan of British music doing what she likes best: writing.
I closed the blog for personal reasons. Google Analytics and Adsense made their appearance, and suddenly, blogging became a job. When I was in college, a digital media professor told me “I saw your travel blog and I liked it. Now you have to worry about the SEO”. It’s not enough to write about what you like, now you have to choose keywords, generate traffic, make noise. Generating good quality content seems to be, in many cases, a less important matter. Now you should focus in getting retweets, make it to the highest spots in search engines and gain as much followers as you can, even if they don’t read beyond the title of your articles. “We want your clicks, we are Google’s slaves” seems to be everybody’s motto.
Blogs were born to give a voice to those who are not part of traditional media. There was this amateur, kind of punk and DIY blogging attitude, but not anymore. Now bloggers sell themselves as “editor, photographer, writer, designer,” even when they have blurry pictures and lot of grammar mistakes in their texts —don’t look at me, English is not my first language! But let’s be realistic: launching a blog on a WordPress theme does not make you a web designer nor blogging makes you a professional writer. So what’s the idea behind all this pretension?
Another fact that struck me was the amount of almost identical content that I found in so many blogs. I like traveling and obviously I like to read about travel. Sometimes I enter sites that look promising, with a sexy name, a lot of followers and amazing pictures, but when I read the content I feel cheated.
When I first started in the Twitter world —something I learned to love in less than a year— I found a number of travel blogs and websites giving the same packing tips: they were all writing about that nonsense toothpaste on a straw (really?) or placing bills on a Chapstick tube. This is blogging in the 21st. century? Just copy and paste content? I thought that was a trick of traditional media when they need to fill out their websites. But no. It seems that a blog has to be updated and be shared no matter what, even if the content is a copy of the copy, literally. In addition, many bloggers sell their souls for brands or blogtrips.
Moreover, I found a ridiculous competition and pedantic attitude, at least in the local Chileans blogs, with this “I have more followers than you” approach. Is this a contest or what? With that way of thinking we are not going to get anywhere. Collaboration gentlemen, that’s what we have to do. There are other bloggers out there, and some of them are way better than you and me. However, I think the aspect of community is more deeply embedded among English speakers and also between Spanish, Peruvian and Mexican bloggers.
To cut a story short —OK, maybe it’s too late to say that—, I think it’s okay to professionalize and monetize a travel blog, but I also think we need more collaboration, more original content, but more importantly, we need more spirit and less SEO, we need more travel and less time seating in front of the computer.
By the way, did you read my article in The Huffington Post How Travelling Saved My Life? That’s the reason travel and travel blogging means the world to me 🙂