Travel blog birthday

The Working Traveller is Three Years Old – Here’s What We’ve Learnt

On Wednesday, May 15 The Working Traveller turned three. Last year we took some time for reflection on what we had learnt in the first two years of The Working Traveller but the piece got rather long so it was split into two. Rather than place two such introspective pieces close together I thought to run part two close to our third anniversary, this having the added advantage of giving me a day off when this date came around again this year: up there for thinking, down there for dancing, as they say.

With a little editing to reflect the experience of another year, here are some more things we have learnt running this blog.

Writing more often has helped my writing
Whether it is five times or once a week, writing for a blog is a far more regular and persistent endeavour then editing a static website. Static websites tend to involve adding a lot of content initially and then leaving it, returning periodically to keep the information up to date.

The Overseas Job Centre, for instance, is now on its 12th major rewrite or redesign and though new articles are often added they are not done so with the consistent regularity involved with blogging.

Most writers offering advice to those that want to learn to write suggest writing often is the best way to do so. Three years on from beginning this blog I’m much more comfortable writing first hand personal articles and can at times write in a more open and chatty style than I perhaps would have been able.

I’m terrible at small stand-alone tasks like answering emails
Something else I already knew from running static websites is that I am appalling at answering emails and the like. If you have been in touch with me recently (or not so recently) by email: sorry.

…but better at answering tweets
Part of the reason why I’ve always struggled with email is the over importance I attach to answering enquiries. Sometimes I just snap off a reply but generally I think too long about it, put the task off until later and go do something else instead. The next day the process is repeated until trying to answer an email three weeks late is next to impossible.

There is something about the informality of twitter and the restriction in the number of characters that makes answering tweets so much easier.

Even so there’s a while to go before we become social media ninjas
I took to Twitter quite quickly but have avoided it a little lately. I still broadcast most of our own posts at least once and – not wanting to be that guy that does only that – retweet the content of others but increasingly I am using twitter to make quick contact with other travel bloggers.

When I want to use a photograph, rustle up an interviewee or make a guest post suggestion Twitter is usually the first way I make contact, followed by a quick email with more details.

Last year, Facebook was still something at which I was so new at it remained a novelty to me. There are still a lot of things I’m unsure about and need to learn – I rarely connect with other people, for instance – but our Facebook page has become a place for some of the content we would otherwise have made into a post for The Working Traveller.

Little asides such as our JobSpy column that, while useful, need to be padded out a little to be make it as a blog post can now easily and quickly be added to our Facebook page. Whether using Facebook as an alternative publishing platform is the right way to use the medium is something I’m unsure about but I will undoubtedly uncover more of its subtleties the more it gets used.

Overall though I think I am poor at networking and do not possess the social media mentally that perhaps comes naturally to younger travel bloggers.

I’m rubbish at community
We get little in the way of comments. This is probably my fault. Though when I’m out and about I’m happy to talk to anyone once I close the door to my home I can be a little unsociable. Sleeping through the day and working throughout the night (6am is usually an early night – I think my body clock is Australian) doesn’t help.

Most normal people do not appreciate a phone call at 3am. Over time I’ve grown to dislike phones, don’t entirely get social media or answer emails promptly. It’s possible this uncommunicativeness spills over onto the blog.

Perhaps it is also because we are fairly anonymous. Unlike many bloggers there’s no prominent photo displayed on our site. Out of the thousands of pics I’ve taken of our travels we’re in no more than a dozen and most of those are accidental: Deirdre didn’t get out of the shot fast enough.

Another factor is that you, our readers, seem to be real people. Many other travel blogs seem to be read by other travel bloggers who are far more likely to leave comments on other blogs. If this is the reason, then I’m happy with that. While I welcome other travel bloggers over here I don’t want this site to be an echo chamber but part of a group of sites that help people find work and volunteer gigs abroad, and perhaps provide a little entertainment or shine a light onto long term travel too.

We still haven’t fully decided what we want to be
The Working Traveller started as an experiment and a learning process, a learning process which is still on going. We are part personal travel blog, part travel advice and part guide to working abroad and I’m unsure how well all our constituent parts go together. I’m not a huge watcher of our stats but our working and volunteer work articles seem to attract more traffic so I guess this is what you want.

You will start to notice more working abroad articles being phased in but I still will want to mix it up. We regard all our websites and blogs as travel websites with working abroad as the means to that end. As such travel, whether researched information or from our own personal experience, will continue to feature prominently but we do need to balance this with more information on getting a job abroad.

Our ultimate aim is to eventually turn the Overseas Job Centre into a more comprehensive and organised guide to working abroad, over the organically evolved content there now, and use TWT for shorter and more time sensitive pieces on working overseas, linking to our longer pieces elsewhere.

The Working Traveller was a good name and a bad one
Sometimes I wonder if our name was a good idea? The Working Traveller was named after the magazine section of the Overseas Job Centre, and before that a photocopied print magazine I put together at college to make enough money for my own travels. It is a name that had been with me for years but I do not like to give the impression I am The Working Traveller.

I have never volunteered in Peru, au paired in Belgium or studied in Paris (though Deirdre has done all these), taught English in Seoul, worked as a summer camp counsellor in America or been a tour guide in Europe.

Sometimes the name makes me feel a bit of a fraud, to be honest. While I have worked in numerous countries including Laos, Peru, Australia, Argentina, Greece, Thailand, Egypt, Myanmar, Albania, Lebanon, Bolivia, Iraq, Malaysia, New Zealand, Macedonia, Jordan and Indonesia, this has all been on our websites, blogs and newsletter. A part time job at the age of sixteen, six weeks working in a warehouse in the UK, tending bar in Turkey for two hours and running flyers from Bolivia to Peru are the limits of my experience with real jobs.

So there you have it. These are my insights after three years editing our blog. Your experiences may be different and if you are a travel blogger I would love to hear about it. Of course, considering my previous point, I don’t expect any comments and will put improving this aspect of The Working Traveller onto my very long ‘to do’ list.

As always, many thanks to all of our readers over the past three years. I’m off to toast you all with a celebratory Beer Lao.

Image courtesy jfiess

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4 comments to The Working Traveller is Three Years Old – Here’s What We’ve Learnt

  • Maria  says:

    You just have to make a list of everyone who has been silly enough to give their phone number, and divide the list into time zone columns then at 03:00 (where ever you are) you can find someone to call who will actually be awake and alert… maybe even happy to receive such a call. :-)

    In an effort to assist – you don’t have to reply to this comment. *grin*

    • Shane  says:

      Ha ha, I appreciate the help in your not insisting on a reply. In the end I decided to do so but be really tardy about it :)

  • Amy  says:

    Interesting insights, I’m also majorly impressed with how you’ve managed to avoid the drudgery of a ‘real’ job for so long! You’ve just made me realise that Andrew and I have also started using Facebook as an alternative publishing platform since we’ve been on the road. This was never intentional but like you say, it does make it easy to feature pictures and content that probably wouldn’t make an entire blog post on its own. I too need to become better at social media; for me it seems to get in the way of writing, which is what I really want to do.

    • Shane  says:

      While I have since found them to be very useful, if I weren’t into blogging and editing travel websites I doubt I would even have an FB or Twitter account. Social media, and answerng these comments, all cleave significant time away from writing but I prefer this interaction with our readers and other bloggers such as yourselves and Maria to the silence of the years before social media.

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