This is Not a Vacation: How Blogging Changed the Way I Travel


It amuses me when people say things like ‘gee, you sure go on vacation a lot’.  Because in my world, I haven’t been on a vacation in–well, I actually can’t think of the last vacation I actually took.  Perhaps that trip to the beach in 2008.  But that was four years ago–pre-Suitcase Scholar.

As I’ve said over and over, I travel not just to see new places, but to learn new things.  And I want to share those new things with as many people as possible, and a blog is the best way that I know how to do that.  Though it would be nice if, say the New York Times really wanted me to write some travel articles for them.  Just saying.

But if you’ve ever thought of starting your own travel blog–or worse, dreamed of setting out to be a ‘real’ travel writer–there’s something you should know.  Your trips will be forever changed.  Often for the better.  And a little for the worse.

Photos become extremely important

Even small details, like random doorways, become photo worthy.

I have not consumed one single bite of one single meal on any trip I’ve taken in the past three years without first snapping a picture.  Lately, the quality of my iPhone food photos has been bothering me, so I’ve been bringing my dSLR to meals with me.  I take photos of strange things–like street signs and bus stops and the art on restroom walls.  Why?  Because I’ll never know if I’m going to need a photo of something for, say, a post about the restroom wall mural near the bus stop on Constitution Avenue (I made that up–and it was a bad example–but you get the idea).  On my last cruise, I selected shore excursions that involved as little water as possible because I knew I’d need to take my camera.  And I hiked dozens upon dozens of miles last summer from Maine to Nova Scotia and back with my camera bouncing against my belly button.  The camera never stays at home.

Note-taking is required

Imagine my shock and horror when, on a recent Segway tour in Walt Disney World, facts were given to me that I could not write down.  I write everything down when I’m traveling.  On my last trip to DC alone, I took five typed pages of notes–all with my thumbs, all on my iPhone.  I think most people assume I’m that jerk, constantly texting.  Nope–I’m that jerk, writing down everything you say.  And then snapping your photo, too.

Hitting the big name attractions becomes more important

Thinking about visiting San Francisco, as I’ll be doing in just over a week, a visit to Alcatraz was not on my list.  It just didn’t appeal to me.  Why would I want to waste a perfectly nice day wandering around an old prison?  But I’m going to go, because I want to be able to write about it.  Fortunately I found a night tour–so I don’t have to waste a perfectly nice day.  But this is important to note–travel blogging often forces you to do the touristy thing, the typical thing.  But sometimes that’s not a bad thing.  One of my favorite things from my visit to London two summers ago was the London Eye.  Touristy?  Absolutely.  But also quite enjoyable.

Finding off-the-beaten-path activities also becomes more important

Travel blogging makes you do crazy things–like leave the French Quarter to visit…the zoo?

People don’t just want to hear about the old standbys, and to be fair, most old standbys have been blogged to death.  Try this–do a Google search for ‘blog posts about the Louvre’.  There’s one million, two hundred and ten thousand results.  Now, do a Google search for ‘blog posts about the Mussee des Arts et Metiers’.  A mere hundred thousand results.  As a frequent Disney visitor–and a Disney blogger–I can tell you that there are countless articles about Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge; but there are very few about the rather unknown Wanyama Safari Tour that the lodge offers to its guests (at a price, of course.  Nothing is free in Disney World!)  That’s why the third and fourth Google results are–surprise surprise–this blog.

You will sleep less 

Did you notice how I said that you have to do both touristy things and find unique experiences?  And did I mention that you now have to write about them, and edit the photos you took of them, and combine that all together into something that looks pretty and makes sense?  Yeah–that all takes a lot of time.  No matter where I am in the world, at the end of the night I come back to my room or cabin and spend at least an hour on the computer–often more.  And I’m not even writing blog posts.  I’m often just writing down additional notes or uploading photos.  Or replying to comments on previously posted posts.  It’s all very time consuming.  Add to that the fact that, in order to do all of this touristy stuff, and unique stuff, and note-taking and photo shooting, one has to get up pretty early in the morning.  I’ve not woken without an alarm clock while traveling in years.

All that being said, travel blogging is the best hobby I’ve ever had.  I suppose it is much like having a child.  As a childless individual, I often wonder how or why anyone would sign up for at least ten years of sleepless nights and grocery store tantrums.  But in the same way, I know that blog-less individuals see me rushing from attraction to attraction, dutifully taking notes and snapping photos, and think the same thing.  Why would anyone sign up for that, they wonder.  And the answer is the same for me as it is for those exhausted-looking parents.  It’s because I love it.

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