Anniversary Post - Part 2 | Lessons on travel blogging

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Today, May 1, is the 4th birthday of The Pinoy Explorer!

Four years may be too long, yet this blog is still a speck in the world wide web, but I relish the thought that my family, friends, and colleagues learn about the different beautiful places in the Philippines that are worth visiting, and eventually, become inspired to try it out themselves. The statistics may not be something to be proud of (compared to many blogs), but it gives me, nonetheless, an assurance that I am able to cut the message across.

In this day and age when blogs are dime a dozen, readers want something more than the usual touristy articles. Readers want to have something more than the "how to's", and "how much?" They are aching for something that will feed their mind and soul. People want to be more involved--through social media, they want to share, act and move.

The popularity of the blog is not the sole measure. It is a hard lesson--which I gladly took up on my sleeves. From a simple blog about places, The Pinoy Explorer tried to venture into discussing some burning issues, albeit, superficially--just a nip in the bud with the aim to just tickle the senses. I give my readers a room to think and do something about it in the end. It does not hurt much, I think, that some issues need to be tackled as part of the realities of travel and tourism. Sometimes, the articles are unpopular, and may not augur well for companies hiring you to blog about them, but they hit the mark and touch the senses of the interest groups that happen to share the same advocacy you hold dear in your heart.

Ati Tribe of Boracay

The plight of the Boracay Ati community is the biggest crowd drawer of The Pinoy Explorer. It moves against the tides. For a time I thought that there was a manipulation involved in the web searches. I remember it landed on page one of the search, but it suddenly disappeared. Yet it got noticed and continues to be read and shared by readers.

Before that, my article on the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant did not seem to augur well in a travel blog, but it did get the hits and remained on top before it was overtaken by the article on Boracay. The issue on nuclear energy, combined with the burning issues and discussions on the Fukushima meltdown had helped this blog to surge and continues to be read by some interest groups like students who would like to see the BNPP themselves.

Combining tourism and developmental blogging can also have its positive rewards. My article about Baguio City in condemnation of SM City Baguio's plan to cut the trees around its compound drew a lot of viewers. It does not only discuss the beauty that is Baguio City, but also the fight against the cutting of 168 trees in SM Baguio Compound.

Articles when solidly written coupled with locals raving about and sharing the articles because of sheer delight that their unknown barangay or less popular festival were published gives a boost to the readership. Such is the case with my article on Asin Road, Brgy. Calima and Lang-ay Festival. It offers that wonderful feeling among the locals for their barangay or festival being in the digital map!

Asin Road's nature and man-made wonders

A good series is as good as the quantity and quality of information you give while leaving something for their imagination and chance to experience the destinations themselves. This is the reason why the "how to's" and "how much" topics were almost evaded. Readers must also try the bad experiences as well. (Smile!).   My unending affection for Bohol has also been translated to many shares and views. Needless to say, I am simply happy with that.

Blog networking and carnivals are just as successful as my other successful articles. With this, I am forever grateful to my Pinoy Travel Bloggers (PTB) group for giving me the chance to join the blog carnivals and hosting the Visayas theme! You can also include contributors to your blog entry like what I did for the Visita Iglesia. There can never be more rewarding than having a group of bloggers discussing and blogging and advocating (in a way) about the experience, the places, food, foibles, and what have you.

Culture can never be a passe. It is always the crux of travel blogging. One cannot shy away from the fact that culture is a natural bait for readers. Adventure and nature come in second, I think (at least for this blog). Travel is always about people, their traditions, and a way of life. I think I would score an "A" for the effort in giving it a prime spot in my blog.

Bonok-Bonok Maradjaw Karadjaw Festival

To sum it up, and my way of helping aspiring travel bloggers, these are my unsolicited advice:
  • Blog from your heart. You will always be bogged down by facts and figures. Googling about the places you have been to will only give you a headache. Talk about the experience and you can never go wrong. Before you know it, you would have to shorten or cut your blogs into parts like this.
  • Feed the readers' mind and soul. There are blogs out there who tell the directions and tips. There is nothing wrong with that. They cater to the other market. There is a blog market for those who relish on existential matters. This does not mean, however, to pour out all your thoughts and emotions. Leave something for yourself, too. I cringe at the thought of writing and exposing too personal matters. Writing about it will be difficult at the start, but once you get the cadence and rhythm, every idea and emotion will just pop out and before you know it, you will run out of words to describe it. It will not only give the article that sense of authenticity but it will also give you that "advantage"--when people begin to appreciate you more for what you have experienced and not for where you have gone to.
  • Advocate. Take that developmental approach to writing. The pen is as mighty as the sword. In this day and age when social media is at its prime, take advantage of the opportunity to voice out your convictions. Beware, however, of the limitations. Spell C-Y-B-E-R-C-RI-M-E. Tread this path with utmost care. Choose and plan your battles. You cannot just go haywire on advocating something you cannot discuss well. 
  • Stand your ground. Be consistent.  One cannot write about an experience when you see something was wrong. To this day, I have not blogged about an organic vegetarian restaurant in Baguio City because I observed how the lady owner badly treated her staff.  I simply would not allow her restaurant to have the "air time". Not in my blog! Not even in my Facebook wall.
  • Be a culture vulture. Go to places with the end in mind of learning about the people and their traditions, but do not be a judgmental and high and mighty travel blogger. They are the master of their lives and traditions. Just go with the flow. Immerse. Observe. Learn. 
  • Build and join online communities. No blog is an island. Connect as much as you'd like to explore the world.
  • Be yourself. Do not pretend to be like someone else. You are the master of your experiences. Whether it be trip to the ubiquitous Burnham Park or Luneta, your experience is all but yours to relish and share.
  • Reflect on your motives. Do you want to be popular or celebrity blogger? Do you want to make money out of it? Or simply wanting to express your thoughts and emotions? You are the only one who can answer that. I put it in the last of my list because creativity is lost once these questions muddle up your mind.
With that, I end this discussion for now. I hope to cull out more lessons to share in the future!

Thanks a lot for celebrating the 4th birthday of The Pinoy Explorer--the travel blog. (smile!)

Thank you!

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Aside from my day job, I love photography and storytelling. Going places--be it a cliche destination or the far side of the road--stoke and free my soul. I dig deeper into the people’s psyche, culture and ethnicity, and heritage. I love to observe how they thrive and build social institutions, preserve their culture and traditions.


ronielmacatol said...

I love the lessons. I imagine you giving this talk to an audience of aspiring travel bloggers like me. Plus photography, plus development, plus culture, nature and adventure!

Micole l Philippine Traveler said...

As a newbie on the blogger scene myself, May I express how deep my gratitude is for these wonderful advises. They, for me, make me feel welcomed despite all the work I need to put on. I agree with sir Roniel, imagine you speaking in person, you would touch so many aspiring travelers out there! I bet I'll be there myself!

grasya said...

Thanks for the tips Ding.. ^_^ the pen is mightier than the sword indeed, hope we inspire other people to create more responsible blogs in the future

Admin/Author said...

Thanks, Roniel! Aspiring daw o!Hehe...

Admin/Author said...

MIcole, it's an honor and privilege to share these lessons. Thanks!

Admin/Author said...

Grasya, we in development work need to step in when needed. Thanks!

Albin said...

Coming from someone who is very new to travel blogging these tips are very much appreciated. As some commenters said we have so much work to do and so much to learn from blogging, travel, culture, and people. Thank yo very much sir!

Unknown said...

Kudos Ding! :-D