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Travellers' Tales Festival: writing in the 'blogosphere'

This Sunday I am speaking at the Travellers’ Tales Festival, held at the Royal Geographical Society in London. There’s some cool stuff happening there. Find out more here.

I have been asked to participate in “a panel discussion on the impact of the online world in all its aspects – blogs, review sites, UGC, social networks, forums etc. Opportunities, changes, threats, predictions… and the death of print?”

I use the internet in all 3 phases of an expedition – before, during and afterwards.

1. Pre-expedition: planning, research and forums.
Someone will almost certainly have already done what it is that you wish to do. Accept it, embrace it!
2. During the Journey: This is very valuable if spreading the word of what you are doing is important.
3. Afterwards: This is the phase that I manage to eke a living out of thanks to the internet. So I consider it fairly vital.

I will look at these 3 stages in a bit more detail.

1. Pre-expedition: I won’t dwell on this. The most useful resource that travellers have ever had is this one:

2. During the Journey: I began “blogging” in 2001, before the term was invented. I did so for 3 reasons:

– to raise funds and awareness for charity
– to raise awareness of my journey and try to find people who could help me
– because I enjoyed it

There are many questions you should ask yourself before committing seriously to using the internet during a journey:
– Who are you aiming at? Why?
– What’s the point of your project?
– Running a website during a journey means you need to regularly update it. How will you do this?
– How will you concisely and accurately describe what is happening?
– Are you committed enough to keep updating regular, relevant material?
– How will you keep adding value to the follower’s experience?

The reward of all this is, if you do it well, to get yourself a regular column on something like the Guardian Online, or in Wanderlust!

It has become increasingly easy to combine the internet with a journey. Many trips, for example, could be documented beautifully from just a Blackberry or iPhone!

I try to embrace all the new sites and trends that come along, test them out, and drop the ones that don’t work for me. I am not a geek. All these sites are user-friendly, simple, and free. If you are a geek there is potential to do so much more with your web sites. But ask yourself whether it is necessary. Fancy flash-based sites, for example, will not mask tedious content for long.
A list of sites follow this post. I recommend you to have a dabble with all of them. See what works for you.

Afterwards: I use the web to make a living as a speaker. I try to use my website to showcase interesting travel writing, inspiring nuggets, and good photography. I try to get things into print media -newspapers and magazines- but it is ferociously difficult.

I have managed to produce 3 books so far. I love doing this, but -as yet- I make little money from them. I got my foot in the door of book writing by self-publishing my first book after endless rejections from publishers. I am a massive evangelist for self-publishing for people who are not celebrities but who have a decent tale to tell. This holds true for ordinary books and for photography books.

Finally, here is a list of free, simple web materials that can help you get going, or get going further in the online world:

Blogger – easy starter site for blogging
All Google’s free stuff: Docs, Maps, Mail, Picasa, Latitude. All these could be valuable for your journey as they are web-based so you can run them from any internet cafe
Tumblr – classy, simple blogging option
Vimeo – nicer version of YouTube
Tube Mogul – synchronise all your video sites. Actually, a handy thing to do is to get all of these things to synchronise with each other. For example, when I update my blog it is mentioned on Twitter. When I update my photos, blog, Twitter update all these things are mentioned on my Facebook page
Twitter – worth a dabble. I used it well (I think) when I walked home for Christmas last year
Make your own Podcast
Moo – great business Cards

If you are a geek, or you have a geek for a friend, check out WordPress too.

Spire Publishing – who I published my first book with
Blurb – for photo books
Make your own magazine

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  1. Great overview Al – I would add two others that I know you use but hvae missed off here:
    Just Giving: great for charity fundraising
    SnipURL: an easy way to track how many people click links you post and making them short; especially useful for Twitter.

    One other site I’ve just discovered is NetVibes – seems like a very handy way of pulling most of your social media content into your own personalised homepage.

    Good luck to everyone getting started out. My advice: start small; launch; then slowly build your site up with your more fanciful ideas.

  2. Dan, I think that’s a really, really good piece of advice: “start small; launch; then slowly build your site up with your more fanciful ideas.”



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