Secrets to Running a Travel Blog When You Aren’t Traveling

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I have a secret to tell you.

Okay, well maybe not a secret, perse… but still perhaps something you don't know about me: I'm not actually traveling right now.

In fact, in comparison to a lot of other bloggers out there, I don't really travel much at all.

This is home.

I'm quite the anomaly when it comes to travel blogging. While I run a frequently-updated travel blog, I don't actually travel very frequently. Sure, I went to Hawaii for a week at the beginning of February. But, before that, I was more or less grounded since June 2010. And, with the exception of perhaps a weekend trip to Chicago, I don't have plans to travel again until June of this year. That's a long time to go without a lot of travel.

So how, then, do I maintain my travel blog?

I by no means have all the answers, or know all the secrets. But I do know what has worked for me, and, therefore, what could potentially work for others stuck in my same predicament.

Many times, people start travel blogs before a big trip — maybe a study abroad stint, an elaborate vacation, or even a long-term round-the-world trip. But what happens with many of these blogs is that they only last as long as the travel itself does. Once all the stories are told and photos are shared, the travel blog then dies a slow and silent death.

But guess what? It doesn't have to be this way.

You can, in fact, maintain a travel blog even when you aren't traveling. I'm living proof that it can work, as long as you have some solid experiences to build on, a lot of determination, and a bit of creativity.

How to run a travel blog when you're not traveling

Save content for a rainy day

It's been nearly 2 and a half years since I returned from my semester abroad in New Zealand. And yet I'm still writing about my adventures there quite regularly. Yes, it's true that I only started A Dangerous Business last year, but I've held back some content here and there in order to be able to keep things fresh on my blog, even during dry spells when I'm not traveling. You can do this, too. Instead of sharing everything all at once either during or right after your trip, save a few things that might come in handy later. I've learned from experience that having too much of “the same” at once or in a row will turn readers off. Variety is the key.

Whitianga, Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand

Spread out your posts

If you don't have the content to post 5 times a week, then don't post 5 times a week. Simple as that. You do want to post on a somewhat consistent schedule so that your readers have an idea of when to check in, but you have the power to set that schedule. If you know you won't be traveling a lot, perhaps limit your posts to 1 or 2 per week so that you don't run out of material too quickly. It's never fun to be scraping the bottom of the barrel for content.

Add in weekly features

When I was considering moving my blog over to being self-hosted, I decided I wanted to post at least 5 times per week — more, if possible. But I knew I didn't have the content. So I decided to come up with fresh content that wasn't actually about me at all. I started up some new features — my Thursday Traveler interviews, which shine the spotlight on fellow travelers; my Best Blogs of the Week/Month posts, which round up some good reads; and my guest post series, which gives other bloggers the opportunity to share their writing on A Dangerous Business. All of these segments have gotten really positive responses, and they break up the week nicely and add some variety to my site. And the best part? They're pretty easy to do.

Photo essays

Chances are, if you travel a lot, you also take a lot of pictures. While posting nothing but photos all the time can get boring, putting together a collection of pictures on a theme every now and then can be a great way to put some of those many photos to use, and also give you some fresh content. I've had a lot of fun with some of my photo essays, and, if your photos are really good, you'll definitely get some attention with them, too.

Oriental Bay, Wellington, New Zealand

Tell stories, even if you think they're dumb

People love stories. They love YOUR stories. If you're stumped for a post idea, think back to something that you've done or saw in your travels that you often find yourself telling people about. Maybe it was something stupid you did, something amazing you saw, or even something offensive you heard. It can be the simplest story, or the most detailed one. Now, have you written about this on your blog? If not, do it. Even if you think it's dumb, just give it a try. You might be surprised at how readers respond when you share something personal.

Give tips on seemingly mundane things

Even if you think everyone knows how to survive a long-haul flight, tell their parents they want to travel, or pack light, it doesn't mean they actually do. In fact, some of the travel tips posts I've written that I was sure would be duds turned out to be really popular. Just because it seems mundane to you doesn't mean someone else won't find it helpful. It never hurts to give things a try.

Have other bloggers contribute to a post

Sometimes, I have other bloggers do the work for me. The travel blogging community is vast, and, usually, if you ask for some help, you'll find it. I did some posts around the holidays asking other travelers to share their stories and photos of Christmases and New Years' spent abroad. I also appealed to my fans on Facebook to share some of their tips on saving money for travel, which I then turned into a popular how-to post. Bloggers like to be featured on other blogs, so putting together a post like this often only requires an e-mail, tweet or Facebook message.

Or, you can scare them into it like this.

Read other blogs to get ideas

Reading other travel blogs will not only give you the opportunity to build relationships with other bloggers, but it might actually give you some inspiration, too. Maybe you'll come across a post you really love, or one that reminds you of somewhere you've been or something you experienced. Maybe you'll come across another blogger's post that you really hate that will inspire you to write a rebuttal. Or maybe you'll come across another blogger doing something creative that you never even thought about before. I'm not saying to copy others, of course, but it's okay to see what's out there in order to decide what might work for your own blog.

Explore locally

If you're really feeling the bite of the travel bug but can't actually travel, consider exploring your local surroundings through the eyes of someone who's never been there before. Is there a really great restaurant that's only found in your town? Does your city have any interesting/unique museums? Can you go hiking or camping or fishing in your backyard? We often fail to notice the things about our surroundings that might be interesting to others, so it's good sometimes to step back and consider “home” from a new perspective. I have a whole section of my site dedicated to Ohio, and have had a lot of fun doing “normal” things from a travel blogger's perspective, like going to an amusement park or the county fair. Your hometown might just surprise you, too.

Write about places you've been

This is a given — to write what you know. But you don't need to only write about places you've been recently. I'm still writing about places I went years ago. And I could probably go back even further still and write about places I went with my family when I was younger. With time often comes new perspectives. So it might actually be a good thing to wait 5 or 10 years to write about that horrific family vacation or the time you got lost in a foreign country. And, writing about past travels can also be a good way to reminisce, allowing you to “relive” your adventures through your own words.

Write about places you want to go

Maybe there's someplace you've been dreaming of visiting since you were 8. Maybe there's somewhere you never used to think you'd want to go, but now you're drawn to it. Write about it. Not only will it feel good to get the desire out there, but others who HAVE been to these places will often weigh in on them, too. Whether it is taking a short city break to New York or a weeklong excursion to London, write about where you want to go.

Plan a trip

Whether it's a real trip or imaginary one, trip planning can actually be really fun to blog about. Especially if it's a real trip your planning — no matter how far in the future — people will get excited about it, tell you all about their own trip to such-and-such-a-place, and give you tips on visiting it yourself. My post about my plans for a summer road trip, for example, has turned into one of my most popular posts. You may also find that the way you plan trips — whether you're an “every last detail” or “no details at all” kind of travel planner — may resonate with others, and give them ideas for their next adventure.

The main thing to focus on, I think, is variety. Try new things. Have fun with your blog. Some things will work; others won't. But finding out what works on your blog and for your audience is half the fun. And, while you're doing all this work on your blog, maybe you won't even notice that you're not traveling.

And you know what? I bet no one else will notice, either.

So what are some of your tips? How do you keep your travel blog going, even when you aren't traveling?

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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174 Comments on “Secrets to Running a Travel Blog When You Aren’t Traveling

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  1. Excellent post. I know where you are coming from. I have tons of material from my trip that I haven’t written about yet. And am sitting here dreaming of getting away in a couple weeks. Perhaps I should do a post having readers pick where I should go….

      Thanks, Michael! I felt like people were getting tired of Hawaii content, so I decided to try something a bit different – something I definitely know a thing or two about!

      And I think a post having readers pick where you should go is a brilliant idea.

    I’ve had real good luck with the photo essays. At the beginning of my blog I put up every picture of a place in a big pile. Now I have learned to make smaller sections and write more around the pictures. It not only helps with spreading out content and with increasing index strength in search engines for having a number of pages; but also with attention spans. Even I can’t sit down and look at ALL of my Venice Pictures at once.

    Slowly getting more interested people in writing for me, but i would like to increase this. These are some good tips to look at, as although I travel more than the average American on vacation; i am not by nature a nomad traveler. So the blog is in the travel niche, but without me traveling.

      Photo essays can definitely be a good way to showcase both photos and stories, without overloading on one or the other. And, StumbleUpon seems to love photo essasy… I’m glad you’ve had some success with them, too!

      Thanks for reading, and hopefully you got at least one new idea from this post.

    This is great – lots of good tips! I’m in a similar position right now – my last trip was a 3-day trip to London in June 2010. I don’t have anything big planned until later this summer, so continuing to come up with new content has been a struggle and I’m not posting as regularly as I’d like (aiming for once a week, but I just went 3 weeks without something new!).

      It can be really tough to be a travel blogger who’s not traveling! Believe me, I know! But, I think if you’re really committed to it, you’ll find ways to make it work for you.

    Wonderful post. Definitely identify in that “travel bloggers without a bucket list of having actually traveled” – category. Yea, I find that there are so many travel topics to blog about, I can’t seem to find how others feel there isn’t enough material to post about. I feel like it’s endless opportunities. Anyways, I super love this post a lot because I’m with you on it 🙂

      Thanks so much, Harrison. I’m glad you agree! And you’re right – there are so many travel topics to post about, that the opportunities are endless.

    These are all great tips, and when added together, a travel enthusiast should have no trouble writing regularly!

      Thanks, Dave! And I couldn’t agree more. Even just thinking the tiniest bit outside of the box can go a long way!

    Really good tips. I have a travel blog and I’m not traveling (yet) but I’ve also found that there is so much content to write about around traveling: following your dreams, saving money, etc. that I could write much more than I do now and still not run out of things to talk about!

      Yes, even if you’re just planning for travel, there are still plenty of topics to cover on a travel blog. Often people just focus on the “travel” part itself, but, like you said, there’s so much more that goes into it than that, such as writing about how you’re saving money, where you want to go, what is inspiring you to travel, etc. Those are all things people enjoy reading about, too!

    Great tips here. Right now we are in travel limbo. Waiting to sell our house before our family embarks on an open-ended trip through Asia. I’ve had a hard time lately being inspired to write anything because, well, its a dreary Canadian winter out there and I’ve felt that I just don’t have much to say. I’m going to explore some of these ideas to keep my blog fresh. Thanks!

      I know what you mean about dreary weather sapping all blogging motivation… I’ve been feeling the same way recently here in Ohio! But I’m doing my best to push through it, and still be creative on my blog. I hope some of these tips work for you! Good luck!

    I recently decided to revive my dormant travel blog to feature concerts. It seemed coherent to me since much of my road trip revolved around music.
    I haven’t had much time to post but have added a couple of new posts this week.
    One problem I haven’t solved is adding live links, I thought I did before so have to take another look at this.

      Sounds like a great plan! I’m sure you’d still have plenty to write about from that road trip, and the focus on music would be sure to appeal to others, too.

      I don’t know much about adding links on Blogger, so I’m sorry that I can’t help you out there! I’m sure there’s an option to add hyperlinks, though.

    We’re in the same kinda boat – although we’re planning for long-term travels, there’s only so many planning posts you can write before people start to get bored.

    We’ve tried mixing things up a bit – writing stories from our previous travels (still plenty more content there we can draw from), running series like our #rtwsoon travelers feature or an entire month dedicated to saving money for travel and incorporating input from our readers and other bloggers. We keep on growing, so we must be doing something right! 🙂

      I think you guys are definitely doing something right!! The variety you’re adding to your site is bound to keep people interested. I know a lot of bloggers focus on just one area or aspect of travel… but I really like having the freedom and ability to write about a wide range of things. I feel like my posts are much more likely to find an audience if they’re not all about the same topic.

    Great post! I’m hoarding some of my favourite posts for when my travels are over so I’ll still have something to share! I often find that some of the best travel blogs actually come from the people who aren’t travelling! Theres so much more time to do things properly and keep in touch with all your readers.

    I’ll be coming back to this post when my travels are over. Great tips, thanks!

      Thank you, Monica! You know, you have a point about non-travelers actually having more time to devote to blogging. I never considered that, but it’s probably true! I know when I’m actually traveling, I like to focus more on the travel, and less on the blogging (though I’m constantly keeping a running list in my head of possible post topics…).

      Happy travels! And hopefully this post will come in handy for you in the future.

    It’s really nice to know I’m not the only person trying to blog about travelling while at home. I just went self-hosted, and I’ve been a bit worried about what I’m going to try to post every week. I really these tips, especially when you said that you don’t have to write about your most recent trip. I now realize there’s a lot of things I can write about, so I’m not nearly as anxious as I was. I’m definitely going to bookmark this for when I seem to be out of ideas.

      First of all, congrats on going self-hosted! It’s amazing how much of a difference it makes. But I know what you mean about the added pressure that comes with it, especially if you’re not actually traveling. I’ve totally been there!

      I’m so glad you are taking these tips to heart, though! That makes me really happy, because, in the end, I’m writing these sorts of posts to help others out. So thanks!

    This pretty describes how I’ve operated for the 2-1/2 I’ve been blogging. I picked a niche I was really familiar with (the Midwest) and I can easily get 3 or 4 posts out of an overnight or short weekend trip–heck, I’ve been known to get multiple posts out of a visit to one museum 🙂
    I mix destinations around by holding back posts–often posting something at a time/season when it might make more sense that when I actually went. I do a monthly “Link love” post of Midwest travel stories. I’ll do an occasional list post (Midwest lighthouses, Midwest authors, etc.) that might incorporate bits and pieces from previous posts. I often do “Where I live” posts that spotlight events/people in my local area. I do a lot of “Photo Friday” posts. I’ll occasionally do something more generally bloggy like How to take photos for your blog”.
    I stick to a general schedule of Tuesday and Thursday posts with Photo Fridays and/or Where I Live Wednesdays when I have something extra.
    I bet there are more of us who blog when we’re not traveling than we think 😉

      It’s sounds like you’ve got a really good system going, Dominique! You are clearly proof that you don’t have to be constnatly on-the-go to be a travel blogger. I would think it would actually be even harder to come up with relevant content with such a defined niche. But it seems like you apply a lot of the same tips and tricks I do to supplement your content!

      And yes, you’re probably right – I’ll bet a lot of travel bloggers are, like us, sitting at home on the couch most of the time!

    Hahaha, in the exact same boat. Fortunately I’m really the only one writing travel content for Newfoundland. Whew.

      You’re lucky to be in a spot that many people don’t travel to, but that they still think is really cool! Ohio doesn’t quite have the same appeal, I’m afraid…

    all good advice! I’m really struggling now with how often I should update, but I know i need to quickly find some schedule, whatever it may be and stick to it, thanks for the reminder and the kick in the butt!

      I’ll gladly give you a kick in the butt anytime, Scott! Lol. But yes, no matter how often you decide to post, you really should come up with some sort of schedule and do your best to stick to it! It really helps.

    All good info, even for someone who is traveling. I’m traveling now and I struggle with consistent writing. I like the two points – Tell stories, even if you think their dumb and Give tips on seemingly mundane things. Brilliant but simple ideas.

      I haven’t done much serious travel since I started my blog, but the issue I ran into in Hawaii recently wasn’t lack of content – it was lack of time! I’ll really have to learn some balance the next time I leave home for more than a few days. I’m glad you enjoyed my tips! Sometimes it’s the simple stuff we completely forget about.

    Like several other commentators, we’re in the planning stage for a big rtw trip. We have some previous travel experience under our belt, not a lot, and have mostly been writing howto planning posts. Content frequency has been a big challenge for us, we are hovering somewhere around 1 post a week.

    I like your ideas on starting a weekly feature, and involving other bloggers. Both seem like solid ideas.

      I can imagine it might get tough to be consistent when you’re planning a big trip that’s so far in the future. But yes, starting weekly features and getting other bloggers involved here and there are great (and easy!) things to give a try. Not saying the tactics will work on every single blog, but they’re definitely worth a try if you’re hard-up for content.

    I know this sounds silly but in a lot of ways I envy people who don’t travel as much because you can plan your blog and figure out where you want to take it rather than reacting to what’s happening in your life.

    Either way you have a great travel blog, keep it coming.

      You have a point, Ayngelina. I definitely have more time to devote to my blog than someone who is traveling full-time. However, I still just play things day by day! I have trouble with the whole focus thing, so I’ve decided to just say screw it, and do what I want. If it works, it works. But I think, for right now at least, it’s working. Thanks for the compliment!

    I think most of these comments are especially good for generally just keeping traffic number up to your website – diversifying content gives your followers new reasons to keep checking your blog. I’d also say, if you’re not traveling, don’t feel like you have to post 3, 4, or 5 times a day – just make sure when you do post, it’s good.

      Thanks for the input, Matt. I, too, feel like diversifying content gives people a reason to keep coming back. If I was constantly posting about the same topic all the time, I feel like most people would probably get bored after a while.

      And I also agree on the posting schedule – everyone is different, and can handle different amounts of posting. Quality should be key. I know I post frequently here on A Dangerous Business, but I really do feel like everything I put up represents me and my best work. I don’t ever do “throw-away” posts just to get something up on the site. And I like to think the quality of my content is reflected in the amount of awesome feedback I get from people like you!

    I started my blog just after I’d finished travelling (I have a separate more personal blog that I keep as a bit of a letter to my family and friends), so for me I’ve been focussing a lot on setting up a new home, and finding weird and wonderful things about my adopted home of Toronto and Canada – I’m not planning too much travel out of Canada. Plus I’ve got plenty of material from the last six months of travel that I don’t think I’ll run out in a hurry.

    I think sometimes the musings about travel in general can be more interesting than a travelogue, and I love looking at photographs and photo essays.

      I like the musings about travel, too, Claire. And, in fact, some of my most popular posts haven’t been about destinations at all! It just goes to show that you should try all sorts of different things; throw a bunch of stuff at the wall, and see what sticks.

      And I’m a sucker for a good photo essay, too. 😉

    Perhaps the most inspring thing I heard on this subject was from Ant at Positive World Travel who I met at a tweetup in NYC. He said something along the lines of “I can look at any picture and tell a story about it.” And isn’t that true? Now stop and think how many pictures you have… Thousands, I’m sure…

      That’s great advice! And yes, so, so true. It’s actually giving me a bit of an idea for a collaborative post… hmmm.

    Great advice Amanda! I’m sort of struggling with this right now myself. I only post once a week b/c I’m not traveling but I’ve been bouncing some ideas around in my head & your ideas are really helpful. Thanks for sharing!

      Thanks, Ali! Hopefully something I mentioned here will get the wheels turning for you.

    Great article. It’s so easy to abandon a blog when you return home from a trip because you slip back into everyday life, but people forget that like you said above, blogs are fun and interesting even when they document things from your normal routine or home town. You needn’t put pressure on yourself to only write when you’re in an exotic place.

      I agree, Julia! Blogging can indeed be fun if you really enjoy writing and sharing your stories. And, like you said, you don’t have to be writing from some far-off, exotic place for people to be interested in what you have to say. In fact, who knows? Maybe someone will think your hometown is exotic and want to read about it!

    It is so true that many people could easily write about the very place they live or even surrounding areas without the need for longhaul travel. That take it for granted and probably assume that it is boring and nobody would be interesting whereas someone will always been heading to where you and may like to know more about that place.

      I never used to think anybody traveled to Ohio. But, as I’ve written posts here and there about my home state, I realize that people ARE actually interested in reading about it. I can’t even imagine the doors that would open up if I lived in a big foreign city! You should never take where you come from for granted. Just because you know it well and at times find it boring, doesn’t mean that others will, too.

    Great Post, lots of great tips. I added podcasts to my blog and will be starting a radio station soon. If you are stuck, there is always the good old top 10!

      Thanks, Si! Podcasts are really not something I’ve ever considered, but I know a handful of bloggers that have had a lot of success with them. Good luck with yours!

    God I love StumbleUpon! I would have never come across this particular post. I am a lot like you — I’ve travelled a lot, but am currently tied to a cublice. Although my job has sent me to some amazing places before (Philippines, El Salvador, Guatemala), the next stop is Thunder Bay, Ontario. Not high on my bucket lis (actually, it’s not on there at all) but looking in the mouth of a gift-horse is just plain bad manners.

    I have lots of half-written posts about previous travels, but then I get that self-deprecating feeling of “who’s onna wanna read this old drivel anyway?” Thanks for this post. It’s inspired me to sham-wow those old adventures and pretty ’em up for posting.

      Yay StumbleUpon! And yay even more that you found this post useful and inspiring! That’s so great to hear; that’s why I write this sort of stuff, after all!

      And, I think you’d be surprised as who would want to read that “old drivel.” 😉 You’ll never know unless you give it a shot. And, who knows? Maybe working on some of those posts about older adventures will remind you of others things you haven’t written about yet!

    […] (like Matt Kepnes of NomadicMatt).  Amanda Williams at Dangerous Business has talked about how to run a travel blog when she isn’t traveling.  Lauren at The Mad To Live talks about the traveler who isn’t traveling.Whether it’s […]

    These are all great tips! Also you can enjoy others travel experiences and share yours.
    Congrats !!

      Thanks! And yes, reading about others’ travels is always great, too. Though, it usually just makes me jealous!

    Great ideas! I’m not traveling at the moment either, so these things do help. It sucks to not be traveling.. but it’s nice to reminisce via blogging :]

      Blogging for me is a great way to pass the time between trips. And reading other blogs definitely helps keep me sane, and excited about travel!

    Amanda, I’ve just come across your post via the GBN page on Facebook and I love it! Such great ideas.

    It’s quite intimidating when you’ve got the big-name bloggers always on the road and you don’t know when even your next weekend away is going to be 🙂 So thanks for sharing!