When I started my travel blog some seven years ago, I’m quite sure I wrote as I thought a “travel blogger” should.
Ironically, in the process of trying to be something I wasn’t, I was nullifying my own actual writing ability, which is what people ended up actually responding to.
I was 19, and I learned right there and then that it was time to drop the exaggerated, flowery adjectives and write like me. It’s not easy to find your voice (especially in a sea of other voices) but it’s vitally important, and, honestly, quite empowering.
I remember in the beginning, back in 2010, I made so many assumptions about what people wanted to hear that it was hard to even focus on what I wanted to say, and why I had even started the blog in the first place. There are some tips that I wish I had known when I had started off, and that’s where this article comes in — I’m writing this for those people, but also for all novice travel writers, as I think some of what I’ll say applies to the human experience at large.
I’m going to make a bold statement now – nothing, and I mean nothing, is more important than “finding your voice.” No one will come to you, until they know who “you” is.
And, let’s be blunt, with the market in travel writing as saturated as it is, you need to find a voice, or you need to find a new career.
Be Unique (but be True)
You need to be different, but you also need to be who you are. Unless you’re Stephen Colbert, you won’t be able to effectively play a character for years on end. Luckily, due to good old human nature, everyone is unique, so there’s no need to fret.
Think about a few things that you make you unique, and then focus on allowing those things to shine through your writing. What makes you unique can also be a matter of circumstance. I remember in 2011-2012 I worked with the Korean Government as a “World Korea Blogger,” and so, for that year, what made me unique was the access and information I had to the country of Korea. It was important for me to recognize that, and capitalize upon it.
Part of being unique is also being honest and vulnerable with your readership. People who read your writing want to be able rejoice in your success and feel your struggle, and for that to happen you need to share who you are. You can’t be unique if you don’t allow people to see that you’re not just a “travel writer,” but rather a real person who happened to became a travel writer.
Be Confident (but not Cocky)
It’s a fine line as a travel blogger or writer, it really is. But the most important thing is this – readers want to imagine themselves doing what you’re doing, not feel demoralized by all you’re doing, that they couldn’t.
And that’s really where confidence vs. cockiness comes into play. Before I start writing, I often play out a pretend conversation in my head with a person who might have seen me post a photo about the destination, but now might want to replicate the trip. I definitely channeled that on a recent post entitled “The Ultimate Daytrip (Sintra, Portugal).” Now, I didn’t say, “here are the buses you could take,” though some do. Rather I tried to organze my post with clear headlines and ample photos, so someone could draw up a list of how they could tackle Sintra quickly and effectively, if they liked my itinerary. Most importantly, I didn’t communicate the notion that I did something they couldn’t – in fact, quite the contrary.
People need to feel as if “your voice” is worth listening to, so it’s crucial to be confident. In truth, much of this confidence comes across from doing your proper research. When you actually know what you’re talking about, it comes across in spades. Moreover, If you’re able to teach your readers something new, they’ll understand that you might be able to continue to teach them something new, and they’ll keep coming back. And that, my friends, is called readership.
Confidence keeps people coming back for more, and cockiness kindly invites readers to find another blogger who might just be a touch more relatable.
Be Consistent (but not Dull)
So you’re confident and you’re yourself – what’s next?
Well the trick is that you always need to be asking yourself that question. It’s not like your voice is a smoke-alarm which needs to be changed every so often. No, rather it’s more like a fire that started as an ember and continues to gain momentum. Don’t be scared to add to your voice, but don’t abandon what made you successful either.
For me, the methodology to this is just to continue to ensure that I’m not describing different sights in the same ways, and being careful not to revert back to some basic variation of how “moved” I was by a particular experience. It could be true that 10 different places I wrote about had me feeling “awe-struck,” but if I describe them all like that…well, let’s just say no readers will be there to count all ten. Personally, I try to read a book a week, just to combat my potential tendency to cherry-pick certain adjectives, or accidentally get into a sort of writer’s tunnel vision.
You want the reader to know they’re reading the same writer as last time, but not to get deja-vu when you start to paint a picture of the landscape or setting.
So, it’s simple. Be unique, confident, and consistent. This will help you find your voice, and it’ll also help you develop it.
A simple trick I like to use is to randomly go back to a post from a while back every so often. What I should see is the seeds of my most recent post, but it shouldn’t look like the same plant.
So go now, fair reader (and, I suppose, writer), and put that voice to action – your future readers are waiting and can almost hear it already.
How did you find your ‘voice’? Share your experience!