Writing a Travel Blog Changed our Journey

How did the blog influence the way we travelled?

One of the most frequently asked questions we got when planning our trip was “Are you going to be writing a travel blog?”  One of the biggest mistakes I made was not starting it before we left.  I was behind from the beginning and when you travel as fast as we sometimes did, there just isn’t time to keep up with recording it all.

Now that we are back in New Zealand I’m still trying to write about France!  After that there is Italy, Switzerland and so much cool stuff that we did in England…

I started writing this blog post while we were still travelling.  I was thinking about how big and time consuming the blog was becoming, how it was influencing our travel and the positives and negatives of that.  It sat in the drafts folder for awhile and now with the benefit of some hindsight I’ve finished it to publish.  For those people who are interested in knowing what it is like to write a travel blog…

Blogging about our journey has without a doubt changed our journey.

 

Seeing destinations differently

Writing for Backpacks and Sunhats encourages us to seek out experiences and interesting places to write about.  It pushes us to try something out of the ordinary, whether that is new activities, crafts, food or cultural sites.  Overall this has been overwhelmingly positive for us.  Researching and creating worldschool content has been a fantastic project for the whole family. It gives our travels a theme and most importantly gives the children’s learning some focus.

Creating a Harry Potter themed post (yet to be published) took us to interesting locations around the North East of England.  Worldschool posts led us to enrol in all sorts of classes and activities.  English Heritage themes saw us try archery and watch knights jousting.

Bike riding on the walls, Lucca, Italy

Writing a travel blog is a big time commitment

Updating the blog can sometimes start to feel like a chore and that is when I know something needs to change.  Either I’m not inspired about the place I’m writing about or I just need to take a break and do something else for a bit.

Blogging takes time but we don’t let it take away from exploring time.  Instead it takes the evening time when I might have been relaxing, watching Netflix or researching new destinations.  It does take time I might spend with my husband but he’s found a great series about Vikings on Netflix so he’s happy!  We’re not exactly short on time together these days. I also blog in the time when the kids are doing their school work, although that is much less productive as they need my attention regularly.

Backpacksandsunhats at Cu Chi Tunnels
Worldschool at the Cu Chi Tunnels

Blogging takes so much time that I am perpetually behind in writing up the places we’ve been.  This sometimes feels a bit stressful, until I realise that I’m only accountable to myself.  As long as I take good notes and keep records and photographs I can easily write about a place a few weeks later.  A nice benefit of this is I get to remember all over again all the amazing things we’ve done and interesting places we’ve been. The kids are always asking me “Where are you up to Mum?  Only Portugal?  Wow you’ve got loads to do!”

Writing for me is the easiest part, formatting the post, editing images and keeping up with social media etc take a lot of time.  It has led to me learning heaps about websites and social media, what works and what doesn’t.  We have to figure out what things we are and are not prepared to do to grow the blog’s audience.

Occasionally I feel a bit guilty when I know we didn’t get the best out of a destination.  If I feel we could have visited more places and developed more content for the blog.  The time we decided to relax and have a swim on a Sunday afternoon instead of exploring Roman ruins in the 36 degree heat.  That’s partly about the blog and partly about us.

Insta perfect!

We’ve learnt to not let the blog take over our trip.  It doesn’t dictate where we go and what we do.  Yes, we want to come up with interesting and inspiring content but only if it is something we want to do.  Yes, I do look for that perfect Instagram shot, but only as part of our day.  I hope you’ll never see us doing ridiculous poses in front of famous landmarks!

Leaning tower of Pisa.jpg
Backpacks and Sunhats at the Leaning Tower of Pisa (is this a silly pose?)

 

Sometimes if we’re going somewhere special like Venice I make sure the kids are looking smart and I put on a dress!  Only because I know we’ll be taking pictures that we might want to hang on our wall one day.  Not because I want to present a perfect Instagram image of my family.  Actually we only joined Instagram a few months ago and I’m not very good at it.  My sister had to tell me how to use #hashtags! Thanks Sam!

So many pictures…

The blog certainly means I take more pictures and when I take them I’m thinking about what I want to feature on the site and how I might write the story.  Paul and the kids help me with this.  The writing of the blog and managing the website is solely my thing, but thinking up post ideas and creating videos and social media is something we all get involved in.  They are incredibly patient with me always stopping to get that perfect picture.  I don’t let them into a hotel room or allow them to mess anything up or eat anything until I’ve taken pictures. They get used to me telling them, ‘get out of my shot’.  Or ‘quick, stand there and smile’.

Worldschool at Hadrian's wall
Worldschool at Hadrian’s wall

Being famous!

Backpacks and Sunhats has also led to us being featured in the New Zealand media and on Lonely Planet’s website.  Paul and I have different comfort levels with this publicity.  He would prefer to be more private but is supportive of my project.  The kids love it! But will they feel the same in a few years?  We use their images but not their full names and they know what goes on the blog.  If they ask me not to use a certain picture or anecdote then I don’t.  I’m not looking to entertain others at my family’s expense.

So why do I write this blog?

For me it is a hobby, a creative outlet, a chance to learn new skills and develop my writing.  It started as a way to share our journey with family and friends but that audience has become much wider now.  This year we’ve had views from over 80 different countries.  I love hearing how someone has planned a trip to a destination that I wrote about, or is visiting a site we recommend.

I especially love the positive impact we can have by writing about social enterprises and charities in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Marrakech.

Amal Cooking Class 3
The Amal Women’s Training Centre Marrakech

What next?

There has been some talk about a book. Quite a few people suggested I should write one, which is a lovely compliment.  It wouldn’t be so much about exactly where we went and what we did. Not a guide book.  More of a narrative of our journey, what we learned and felt through the different phases of the journey and how it feels to come home again.

A part of me wants to shut myself in a room and start writing it now, the other part has 2 children to get to school every day and just 5 1/2 hours between school drop off and pick up in which to fit a part time job and a new house build project.  I would like to do it but the longer we are back the more normal life gets in the way.

Tell me in the comments, do you want to read about the rest of our journey?  Should I write that book?  What has been your favourite part about reading backpacks and sunhats?

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4 Comments

  1. Glenda Braithwaite

    I’ve loved reading your blog and hope you continue with it. It’s given me ideas for our next trip although I think we’ve moved on from camping. Thank you for entertaining us.

    1. backpacksandsunhats

      Thanks Glenda, I’ve always enjoyed receiving your encouraging comments. Where are you thinking of going on your trip?

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