Grace Lower | Nov 7, 2017
Like heavily filtered Instagram posts and online fundraising, personal travel blogs are a beloved (and slightly cliché) part of the study abroad experience. While some students’ blogs are dutifully updated, others tend to follow an all-too-common trajectory. Student travelers will often kick off their blogs with a bang—posting frequent updates and thoughtful commentary. Then the posts will dwindle and increasingly begin with “sorry I haven’t updated the blog in a while!” Many students will eventually abandon their blogs well before their travels finish. So, what is it about travel blogs that makes them so difficult to maintain?
For most of the student travelers I’ve met, there are two key reasons why their study abroad blogs fizzled out. First, the initial excitement of a host city wears off with time. No matter how exotic the location, the little quirks of life abroad start to become familiar—making it tougher for aspiring bloggers to find inspiration. And then there’s the problem of busyness. While study abroad might look like one big vacation, there’s serious work that goes into balancing academics, travel logistics, and general acclimation. Carving out the time needed to create a quality blog isn’t for the faint of heart.
Despite a few bumps along the way, my decision to blog about my travels was one of the best parts of my semester abroad. Having an audience to write for (even if it was just my family and friends) pushed me to post only pieces I was proud of. My parents appreciated the semi-regular updates, and frankly, I was grateful for an excuse to ramble about the excitement of living overseas. Above all, my study abroad blog helped me articulate the emotions and context that I couldn’t capture in 140 characters. When I revisit my blog, I’m reminded of how it felt to be traveling on my own for the first time, with a dorky-looking backpack and a mediocre command of Spanish. It was a strange time in my life, but a wonderful one. And two years later, I’m still blogging about travel!
So how do you get started with your own blogging endeavors? Below are my tips for creating a study abroad blog that you’ll actually want to update. In my experience, the toughest part of blogging is getting started.
The first step to creating your own travel blog is figuring out what website to use. There are so many ways to share content these days, and while this variety can be inspiring, it’s also totally overwhelming. My advice? Spend an afternoon researching popular blog sites like the ones listed below:
As you weigh your options, make sure to read through reviews, informational articles, and any online tutorials you can find. Thankfully, it’s nearly impossible to make a wrong decision—it’s all a matter of preference. Unless you’re serious about trying to blog professionally, I wouldn’t recommend paying for a premium blog platform. Once you’ve created an account, spend some time exploring the different tools and features. It’s the best way to learn!
If mastering a new website feels overwhelming, there are plenty of familiar services you could use instead. One friend of mine is documenting his semester in Singapore by creating Instagram posts with multi-paragraph captions. Another friend created a newsletter that she sends out to family and friends through her personal Gmail account. As long as you have a way to capture and share your ideas, you’ll be on your way to blogging in no time.
Once you’ve picked a platform, you’re ready to move on to the fun part: making your blog your own. First, you’ll want to pick a blog title that’s brief, unique, and memorable. “Christine’s Semester Exploring Central America” just doesn’t pack the same punch as “The Savvy Backpacker.” Have fun with it, and put those writing skills to the test.
Next, you’ll want to choose a design theme for your blog. From background colors to page formats, most platforms give you the latitude to customize your site to your heart’s content. Designing your blog is a lot like decorating a room: you’re making a blank space feel like your home. Don’t be afraid to get creative. Once you’ve crafted your page to your liking, you’ll be all the more motivated to fill it with your writing.
One of the hardest parts about creating a blog is forcing yourself to sit down and start writing. You might spend an incredible weekend traveling throughout your host city, meeting inspiring people, and getting outside of your comfort zone. But when the time comes to write about your experience, the task feels impossibly daunting. Fight the natural urge to procrastinate by building blogging into your routine. Whether you set aside 20 minutes per day or designate one day a week as your “blogging time,” find a schedule and stick with it. Not only will it help you make a habit out of writing, but your readers will appreciate your consistency.
Although travel is objectively inspirational, sometimes it’s hard to capture an experience in writing. That’s why I’m a huge proponent of pocket-sized journals. As you navigate life abroad—from moments of joyful spontaneity to mundane errands—be observant. Notice the people around you, little acts of kindness or rudeness, and how you feel in different situations. When you have a minute, jot down what’s on your mind. Then, when you’re working on your blog, that notebook will be there to jog your memory. And don’t worry: if you’re not a pen-and-paper kind of person, a phone note works just as well.
With all the prep-work behind you, the last thing you’ll need to do is get ready to share your ideas with the world. Even in our digital age, there’s something genuinely nerve-wracking about voicing your opinions in writing. No matter how
many times you proofread, reword, and tweak your blog posts, there’s a good chance you won’t be 100% satisfied with the results. Fortunately, it’s not perfection you’re striving for, it’s authenticity. You have your own
framework with which you explore the world, and you can bring that perspective to your readers. By making your voice heard, you can better engage with the people around you—whether you’re on the road or just online.
Grace Lower is a recent college graduate with a love for writing and an incurable case of wanderlust. When she's not exploring new places, Grace enjoys teaching English as a Second Language, making terrible puns, and running incredibly long distances at incredibly slow speeds.