We all know the image – a writer on a beach; a sunburnt nose; a cocktail in hand; fingers languidly crafting a story on a laptop.
In reality, travel bloggers’ lives are far less glamorous. In that unlikely scenario, you’d get sand in your keyboard and the kids playing in the ocean would interrupt your train of thought. You’d feel frustrated and need another margarita – make it a double. Then you’d accidentally get drunk and never finish that piece.
Variations of this scenario were a constant for me as I spent six months in South America, aggressively pursuing the travelling and writing/blogging lifestyle. As you might have guessed, I never got to the point where I could write off the need to eventually find another form of employment, and I’ve since hung up my “Full-time Blogger” badge for a new full time job that involves an office and a lunch break. Now that I’m juggling my blog with a 9-6 employment, I’m able to apply the balancing act I learned on the road to my new schedule.
While traveling, I learned that the unfortunate reality of travel blogging is that travel often interrupts blogging and vice versa — it can be extremely difficult to make time for both.
When you’re on the road, there’s always a risk of focusing so much on the responsibilities of a travel blogger, like responding to comments, tweeting fellow bloggers and readers, editing photos, and promoting your writing on every social media avenue out there, that you lose focus on the act of traveling. You can find yourself lost in the back alleys of Facebook, rather than the lively streets of the location you’re supposed to be experiencing. And that can be a scary thing.
In order to solve this conundrum of the career you’re working so hard to create, one must focus on balance, and never lose sight of a travel blogger’s primary responsibility – experiencing places to share with readers.
Here are five ways to deal with balancing your blogging with your travels, in hopes of seeing more of the world and less of the various screens that we’re all guilty of obsessing over.
1.) Make a schedule.
The beauty of freelancing and self-employment is the ability to set your own schedule and answer to no one but yourself.
The downside to this freedom? Having no structure imposed on your days – unless of course you make one.
Decide how many hours a day you want to work and make yourself wake up in time to get those work hours done before you miss out on your whole day. It’s so easy to view an open schedule as an excuse to lounge about – working for five minutes, surfing the internet for ten, work five, surf ten, and on and on until the sun is setting and the owner of the internet café is shooting you dirty looks because you haven’t purchased anything in four hours.
There are a million responsibilities to own as a blogger and most likely, you’ll devote more hours to your blog than the average nine to fiver. Not to mention, your work time is especially precious when you’re choosing between an extra day exploring Angkor Wat or spending that time staring at a computer screen. It’s crucial to make the time for both. So make use of that Excel spreadsheet for once and map out the hours of your day. Stick to it as much as possible, but if a charming French gentleman wants to take you to the top of the Eifel Tower when you’re supposed to be answering e-mails – you know what to do.
2.) Chill with the Tweeting and Facebooking and Stumbling and Pinning.
Most bloggers could seriously cut down on their use of social media to more productively focus their time. Create a list of your daily social media tasks and the amount of time you want to spend on each, i.e. Tweet three times a day, post something on Facebook twice a day, and spend twenty minutes crafting your Pinterest board. As useful as social media can be for the new media writer, it can also be a huge time suck. Delegating a specific commitment to each of these sites will help you avoid meandering from your site’s Facebook page to your high school ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend’s sister in what can only result in that shameful moment of Facebook blackout – as in… Oh No. Oh God. How did I get here?!
Knowing how much to devote to these platforms and not exceeding that amount will allow you to get away from your computer faster and feel sunshine on your skin instead of the heat radiating off your overworked keyboard.
2.) Walk away.
We’ve all dealt with debilitating periods of writer’s block and sometimes, it’s all you can manage to not hurl your laptop at a wall. The best and most obvious remedy to this reality is to just walk away. Luckily for travel bloggers, walking away can often be more productive than writing. Look at these periods as a sign that it’s time to switch from blogging to traveling for the day. Who knows what unusual, hilarious, exciting adventure awaits you, just by taking a trip to the grocery store in Chiang Mai, or a stroll down a cobblestone side street in Amsterdam. Travel bloggers require stories and experiences to create content. They need to taste, feel, breathe, and live the moments that give places the personalities that we’re trying to share. You can’t write about writing, so if your mind has run dry, go DO something worth writing about. Just don’t forget your notebook.
4.) Connect with people in person.
Travel bloggers are a funny bunch. On the one hand, they’re writers, and have a tendency to enjoy solitude and independence. On the other hand, they’re travelers with inherently curious and adventurous spirits. The travel blogging community, as alluded to in #1, has a rambunctious Twitter community of networks, friendships, and useful connections. But if you aren’t getting out in the world and meeting people in person, your readers are going to get pretty sick of the single character narratives and/or “@mybestfriend said” mentions. So get out there and shake hands! Pat backs! High some fives!
Not only do you need to meet the people you’re networking with, you need to meet and socialize with the locals of wherever you happen to be. When I moved to NYC, I joined Meetup.com – a great resource for connecting with people who have common interests in person. If you’re living abroad, hop on the Internet (briefly) and find some expat groups to join.
Also, don’t be afraid to chat up the people you encounter everyday – the guy who serves you coffee, the student reading next to you on a park bench – whoever! You’re a foreigner and therefore have the best excuse to chat up strangers – ask them questions! That is, assuming you have a common language. If not, make weird hand gestures and at least get a smile out of them.
5.) Take a vacation.
When travel is part of your job description, you can forget what it’s like to actually vacation. Yes, we travel bloggers tend to be a bit snobbish when it comes to travel, sticking our noses up at popular destinations and itineraries of any kind –
but don’t be afraid to give yourself a completely self indulgent escape. It doesn’t matter where you are or where you go, really. Just be sure to leave the laptop at home. Let your mind stop noting prices and routes and recommendations and just enjoy yourself on occasion. If something truly groundbreaking happens that you just MUST write about, you’ll probably remember all the details that really mattered and you’ll likely have a story that you wouldn’t have had if your mind was stuck in work mode.