Travel and Adventure

I Started Out Blogging, But I Ended Up Writing: A Reflection on Trip Reporting

How I got my wires crossed when it came to Blogging.

Blogging and Writing. 

For me, the distinction between the two is both outstandingly obvious and somehow wickedly complicated to rationalize alongside my motivation for writing in the first place.

I always viewed blogging as a sort of circus of self aggrandizement. A pool of humanity all desperate for attention that they couldn’t get in the real world. It was a dank and cynical outlook on what is clearly a thriving community, all from an outsider’s perspective.

The driving factors behind blogging always seemed all wrong – misplaced. The aim is to write regularly to an audience that, at least initially, doesn’t exist. So, if you value your time, the objective is to grow this audience, and is propped up and encouraged by metrics like ‘shares’, ‘likes’ and ‘views’. Blogging was therefore in the same cringe-worthy vein as our base desire for fame and celebrity.

Safe to say setting up a blog was uncomfortable for me. A travel blog no less – with all the connotations of privileged “gap-yahr” millennials I’d surely have to shake off before anyone took me seriously. Besides, I’m a nobody – why would people want to read about my trip?

In the early days of Badventuring I’d post a reasonably succinct and hopefully funny anecdote from the week before and throw a handful of photos in at the end. I’m chaotic enough in disposition that these funny misadventures were reasonably common and the blog posts felt good, even if a little like bullet point lists. I published them on facebook and sent links back to my family, so everyone could (obviously if they had nothing better to do) have a look at what I’d been up to.

As time went by, I noticed my writing style evolve. With enough time to reflect on the trip, life and everything I poured a little more of myself into each post. The accounts melted from objective to subjective and each short story was crafted and mulled over, trying to find the best way to convey all the colour, character and emotion in just a few black letters on a blank page. I began thinking immersively and creatively, seeking not just to tell people about my trip, but allowing them to view it with me, through a little window somewhere between my head and my heart. There was a joy in it that I hadn’t felt while merely punching out posts and watching how many views I’d racked up. I was delighting in writing.

Therein lies the irony. The more of myself I put into those posts, the more effort to create something worth reading, the more I found myself needing people to read them. I wanted to know what people liked, didn’t like, what rankled them or what held them captivated, if only for a moment. I needed this to grow – to become a better writer.

The only thing was, the audience wasn’t there.

I’d essentially been writing a book, broken down into chapters and posted sequentially throughout my trip. Typically books require editors, publishers, promoters and marketers. They’re forced in front of critics and newspaper columnists to review. The readership is created.

I was posting my book on my blog, where no-one was going to help me reach an audience, irrespective of how much of how much effort I was putting in. I’d got my channels all mixed up.

You see, it’s only now that I realize one of the biggest distinctions between my blogging and writing.

Blogging is for conversation. Writing is to tell a story.

In lieu of a publisher, writing needs a conversation around it to reach more people. Nothing is worse than curating a post you’re really proud of, only to release it into the abyss – zero views. But there’s nothing to keep people engaging with you if your conversation (i.e. stories) are just a one way street. Engagement requires involvement, questions, feedback and regularity. It requires you, yourself to be engaged with reading posts from other authors, commenting and learning from each other. It isn’t unilateral. 

Good writing has already led me to some great opportunities. I won Bike magazines adventure writing competition a couple of years ago and was sent on an all expenses paid trip to Peru with Adventure Peru Motorcycling. As a condition, I had to provide a write up and photographs to cover nine pages of the next magazine – prime reading real estate.

I’ve had a taste of success – of a career I’d long believed to be the reserve of those with rich parents – travel journalism. Even so, I’m self conscious. I keep lapsing into the mindset that I, Tom Hartland, could never be a travel writer. Opportunities such as these simply don’t happen to people like me. But then why not? Why not create these opportunities for myself? Why not be justifiably confident in my writing?

I’ll need to grow as a writer, sure, and one of the best ways to do that is to grow as a blogger and conversationalist.  The only thing that’s been holding me back, has been me…

As always – it would be great to hear what you think and any shares are much appreciated 🙂 

14 comments on “I Started Out Blogging, But I Ended Up Writing: A Reflection on Trip Reporting

  1. Dave O'Leary

    I have read them all. Keeps me (mostly) sane at work for the 5 weeks at a time. Always liked the style. It being a bike (b)adventure helped of course!

    Good luck in India!

    • Cheers Dave! Plenty more misadventures to be had I’m sure. If you do get a week or two, come see me in India or SE Asia 😀

  2. I started to blog b/c it was therapeutic and rewarding. There is something about expending effort and having some sort of a tangible work product. The real key for me is the enjoyment I feel in the process of writing. The fun part is not reading the final product, its time spent putting the story together. I don’t feel I will ever make a living through my scribbles but the passion lies in the stories and philosophies that we share. Keep riding and share your stories in hope that others may enjoy them from afar. As long as you enjoyed writing them then you cant go wrong. I look forward to keeping up with your blog. Cheers.

    • Good thoughts. I haven’t quite figured out exactly why I write yet, I suppose. I definitely enjoy the writing (or at least looking back on what I’ve written, a little different to yourself), but I’d love it to go further and create more opportunities too. Sense of progression I guess is important to me.
      Thanks for comment – means a lot!


  3. Like twotiretirade I have no illusions of being a writer. For me my blog started as a way of cataloging my trips in one place rather than having ride reports scattered over various forums. Was I motivated by likes and comments. No, not initially. Over the years however I have enjoyed the interaction and comments from other like minded people from all over the world. And have enjoyed their unsanitised real stories of travels.

    Thanks for you thoughts.

    • Interestingly, this is the first time I’ve posted regularly and dedicated time to read through similar blogs. I’m getting more comments and feel much more involved in a discussion, compared to when I was ad-hoc releasing trip reports. For me, that’s what blogging is all about, but I hadn’t been getting anything back no matter how long I spent on the posts.This target of writing something every five days until departure is an experiment, but has definitely bought me closer to an engaged writing community that I simply hadn’t seen before.

      Thanks for commenting again!

  4. Anonymous

    for someone who has read from you since crazytomdrop..I’m very proud of u 🙂 keep it up! looking forward to read about your Indian ventures..

  5. One of the things I have always enjoyed about your writing is that it stirs me into opening the dictionary (please note that I have read all Shakespeare plays in English, all of them). Keep up the good work. Mix it up.

    • Haha, amazing. Thanks Albi – and good to hear from you! I shall continue with my unorthodox approach to writing. Hope you’re well.


  6. For me personally, I just treat my blogging as a ‘diary’ with just a couple of purposes. 1). To let my friends / family know what I’m up to and that I’m still alive and 2). As something to go back and read from time to time – a reminder of the good (and bad) times. It’s a bit dull and I put little effort into it, doing everything from my mobile phone. Enjoy your writing Tom, some great humour and reflections in your tales – but it’s the ‘content’ I enjoy most. The places you have seen, the experiences that you’ve had, the people that you’ve met. Your piss-poor planning on your European trip just goes to show how much is possible and that adventure is a mind-set rather than a specific place or bike or route or fancy bit of kit. Keep it up – I’m sure that quite a few people enjoy your tales.

    • Thanks for the comment and kind words Andy – good to see your back home. Like your approach, with one blog site per trip. Also impressed it’s all from your phone, and posts have made me laugh a few times. Good to see someone who appreciates a bike trip is also about drinking lots of beer.

      There’s clearly no right or wrong way to approach blogging or writing, so long as you’re aware of what it means to you personally I don’t think you can go far wrong. By my very nature I’ll continue to get into stupid avoidable situations or trouble – might as well share them as I go!


  7. Blogging for me has always been, and still is, a way to re-live my moto trips and bring a smile to my face. If others find my writings interesting, that is wonderful, but is not the centerpiece of why I put word to page. I find the process enjoyable, without expecting a certain result. Good luck and enjoy yourself in India!

    • Hi Bob – thanks for the comment and cheers for the well wishes! Always fascinated to hear about other’s experiences with blogging. I started out exactly the same, it was only after entering the competition that I started to get my wires crossed! Nowadays I quite like crafting a story I know will entertain others, it gives me a little more creative freedom and challenges me to find ways to improve (more than if I was recording a log for myself).

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