I have been doing a spot of digital housekeeping to ring in the new year. I used TwitCleaner to clear out some of the junk that has ended up in my Twitter stream. I’ve locked down the privacy settings for my new Facebook Timeline on my personal account (I invite blog fans to ‘like’ my Facebook page rather than sending a friend request). And I’ve been clearing out my RSS reader, removing blogs that are no longer active or that I never seem to read and adding new ones. With the 2012 Bloggies now open for nominations, I thought it would be a good time to share some of my favourite travel blogs.
If you like what I do at Roaming Tales, a great way to say thank you is to nominate me for the Bloggies. I imagine I would have the best chance in the best travel blog or best Australian blog categories, though I am eligible for best food blog or best writing on a blog as well. Please note, I won’t be nominating myself – that’s for you, my readers, to do if you feel sufficiently moved. I will be paying it forward and nominating other blogs I enjoy.
If there is a common element to the blogs I like to read it is that they all have personality. I am not interested in blogs that are trying to be encyclopaedic or compete with guidebooks. I’m interested in following interesting people and their experiences, whether they be travellers, cooks, parents, writers, or all or none of the above. Note, this is not the same thing as the writer or blogger having a ‘brand’, which I think is about limitation. It’s about authenticity of voice, which is more about the whole person. The blogs I follow might have a topic focus but there is no off-topic.
Christine Gilbert doesn’t need me to spruik her blog Almost Fearless – she has already built up an enormous online following and now she has parlayed that into a book deal. I met Christine briefly in New York at TBEX in 2010 and cuddled baby Cole. Christine warned me that babies were contagious for women our age and funnily enough, I later found out that I was already pregnant with my twins at the time. (I wondered why I was so extraordinarily hungry and had very little appetite for alcohol the whole time I was in New York!) But it is through reading her blog that I really feel like I’ve gotten to know Christine, her husband Drew and little Cole, who is now a bonafide toddler. The family is on an extended trip around the world, first making a documentary, then settling in Chiang Mai in Thailand for a spell, and now moving to Beijing in the depths of winter to learn Mandarin. The blog is always a pleasure to read, brimming with fun and personality, and the photography is great too.
Camels and Chocolate
Kristin Luna is another writer with an enormously popular blog, Camels and Chocolate. It won best travel blog at the Bloggies for the last three years in a row – which I think means that she is ineligible this year. Kristin and I hung out a few times in San Francisco and now I’ve moved home to Sydney and she’s moved to Nashville in her home state of Tennessee. She’s promised to be my tour guide if I ever make it to the South of the US – though I’ll have to time it for one of the four or five months of the year that she is actually home as this girl seems to be almost permanently on the move for her work as a busy travel writer. Professional travel writing is a lot of hard work but you wouldn’t know it from reading Kristin’s blog – her absolute love for what she does shines through and you can tell from the photos and her words that she has a lot of fun even while working itineraries that would make a camel collapse from exhaustion. This is a blog that lets you live vicariously.
I can’t believe I wasn’t reading Jodi Ettenberg’s wonderful blog Legal Nomads regularly before now. I met Jodi at TBEX as well – this is her in the final picture of my post on the Context Travel tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art - and I’m sure I looked at her site but then I got busy and didn’t go back for a while. What a shame because it looks like I missed some fantastic stuff! Like me, Jodi writes about food as well as travel. Check out this wonderful post on Jodi’s evolving relationship with spice.
Nerd’s Eye View
Pam Mandel is passionate about good writing and story telling and she has been working hard on improving her craft for a few years now. It’s really starting to pay off. We had a conversation last year – in the comments section of this post on why she is not a full-time travel writer – where I told her that I thought she was on the verge of breaking into some big markets. She replied that her lack of success was not for wont of trying. I don’t know if she remembers this conversation … but by the end of 2011, she had landed a piece in Afar – one of the bestest, glossiest travel magazines out there – and a regular paid blogging spot on Conde Nast Traveler Daily Traveler blog. Pam’s blog is full of travel narrative but I also really enjoy her occasional rants and opinions on travel blogging and travel writing.
Hole in the Donut
Barbara Weibel’s Hole in the Donut is another travel blog I only switched onto recently, despite knowing that Barbara had set off on her journey a couple of years ago. She does quite a few photo-only posts but I really like it when she does narrative, such as this post on travel by bus in Ecuador at holiday time.
Gran Tourismo is the blog by husband-and-wife, photographer-and-writer duo Terry Carter and Lara Dunston. It started life with sponsorship from apartment rental company HomeAway and they are continuing it under their own steam. It’s beautiful, professional content – almost like an online magazine with recent articles on restaurants in Bangkok and Christmas entertaining tips from Australian chefs. However, my favourite posts are the personal ones – such as this great story about Terry playing along with street musicians in Marrakech on an instrument he had never played before!
Eat Like a Girl
Niamh Shields is an Irish woman living in London. Her blog Eat Like a Girl started as a London food blog – cooking and restaurants – but it now has a hefty travel focus as well, with recent trips to places like Newfoundland and Argentina. She still is mainly a cook and she has recently published a cookbook Comfort & Spice, which I’d love to be able to recommend except that the Amazon order I placed over a month ago is yet to arrive! I followed a lot of London food blogs when I lived there but Niamh’s is the only one that I still check now that I live on the other side of the world. I just enjoy her writing and her take on the world.
I’ve listed a lot of women but I do read men as well! If you don’t already follow Mike Sowden of Fevered Mutterings, I urge you to click over and take a look IMMEDIATELY. I’ll wait… I love this guy – he’s so funny and seems like such a nice bloke. He’s also a good writer and getting better at his craft all the time.
Christopher Elliott is a US-based consumer advocate, specialising in mediating disputes between travellers and travel companies. Chris is moderate and sensible and fair but be warned if you read the comments – he has some pretty hardcore readers! I find reading the different problems and how they turn out and what people have to say about it curiously addictive. Check him out at www.elliott.org.
It’s a bit of an exception to the trend of following individual bloggers with personality since this is a group-authored blog with corporate backing … but I am really enjoying the new Daily Traveler blog at Conde Nast Traveler.
Too many travel blogs are bland because writers are scared to have opinions in case they offend someone. David Whitley of Grumpy Traveller doesn’t have that problem. He certainly ruffled feathers with this recent spoof of travel bloggers in Jordan. He is also quite entertaining when he writes about things like why he doesn’t send postcards.
Jeremy Head doesn’t have the problem of lack of opinions either! His blog is not so much about travel but more about the travel industry and travel writing. It’s all a bit meta if you just want to read about destinations and journeys, but it’s right up my alley. This recent post on trip sponsorship launched a big debate.
Photo credit: Owen W. Brown, Flickr, Creative Commons.