Blog

Make an amazing impact with your blog!

Tools resources guide checklist

Get our free Blogging Abroad Tools & Resources Guide, plus a one-page printable Blog Post Checklist for culture bloggers.

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

15 Nov 5 Things You Should Do to Find Your Voice

There is an overabundance of travel blogs. It’s true. And because readers have a limited amount of time to engage with blogs, there must be something unique about yours to captivate readers. One of the key elements of blogging is to find your own, distinctive writing voice.

An author’s writing voice has many ingredients, such as writing style, tone, syntax and humor.

However, at its heart, writing voice is a reflection of an individual’s singular lens of viewing the world.

The journey to find your blog voice can be a difficult one. I started my blog, Running with Elands, soon after I received all of my Peace Corps clearances. When I sat down to write my first few posts, I felt stymied by my lack of experience blogging. What did people who were reading Peace Corps blogs want to hear about? Was a kitschy title more important or rich cultural detail? I took a break from writing and researched the Peace Corps Blog It Home winners for inspiration. I pored over their topics, stories, blog design and photos for inspiration.

I decided to keep my writing light and somewhat whimsical. My posts were often banal, sugar-coating my Peace Corps South Africa experience. I was too concerned with how my posts might be received to do the hard work of translating my lived reality into words. Sometimes, I began to break out of that habit. I found myself grappling with more serious issues in my village, making my formerly light tone seem inappropriate. I slowed down to blogging once a month. My posts became near novellas and dealt with more somber topics—my identity crisis, the living trauma of apartheid’s after-effects and the struggles for basic necessities.

However, neither end of that spectrum really captured my voice. I had my first real break-through in finding my authentic voice when I wrote my post “Romanticizing Peace Corps,” where I shared my struggles as a volunteer and the Peace Corps experience not living up to my inflated expectations. I initially wrote it as a way to process my emotions without any intention for it to become a blog post, but as I talked with other volunteers, I realized it was an emotional experience that many volunteers could relate to.

I still struggle with my blog voice. It can be easy to let the noise of so many other (sometimes better) travel blogs drown out your ability to write authentically, but it’s worth the struggle for me. I suspect that like most travel, the journey is more important than the destination. As I continue to fight for my own voice, I’ve found the following tips helpful.

Reacquaint yourself with your voice

Read over journal entries, texts, emails, letters, and other writing to close friends and family. Observe your writing style. What is your sense of humor like? Do you tend to aggrandize tales, or are you more factual? Do you prefer to relate events through photos or text? Copy down any key phrases that you use often or would like to use again. Try to develop a list of three key traits you notice about your voice. For example, I love to use puns, alliteration, and references to TV shows/movies; I tend to exaggerate; and I typically focus more on content than on description.

If you still don’t feel you have a clear picture of your voice, try this exercise. Pick a location during a time when other people will be there. Take a mental snapshot of what is going on around you, then translate that snapshot onto the page. What about that moment was important to you? Are you more focused on describing the physical attributes of the world around you? On the actions that are occurring? Do you use many metaphors? Are you
spending more time describing the moment itself or on other moments from your life that it reminds you of?

Build in time to edit your post for authenticity

I’ve discovered that when I give myself a day between the draft and published version, I am able to come back to my post refreshed and energized. I re-read each draft and, where possible, inject more of my voice. It can be helpful to look at the list from the previous tip next to your draft and also to use the next tip, reading your post out loud. Sometimes you may even need to take a break from posting for a while to get back into the rhythm.

Read your post out loud

This process can help to identify where your writing may have become stilted. It can also help to talk through some of your post ideas out loud before you write. Take advantage of the fact that nearly every phone has a voice recording app to capture your uninhibited thoughts. Sometimes, I like to pretend that I’m relating a story to one of my best friends.

Write as though you’re the only one who will read it

Itching to write a blog post about the comings and goings beneath the giant oak tree in your village but holding back because it might be boring to readers? Write it. Want to use an obscure reference? Do it. Focus on what you’re passionate about in your writing, and write the way you want to. Loving what you’re writing will inspire that same love in other people, and it will give you the motivation to continue blogging.

Try exercising your creativity in other mediums

Much like exercising your physical muscles, your creativity often benefits from cross-training. This month, I decided to sign up for NaNoWriMo, a creative writing challenge. Flexing my creative muscles in a different way has given me a renewed sense of love for writing and of the importance of my own unique voice. I also enjoy journaling, coloring, reading and listening to music as ways to stoke the flames of inspiration.

What are tips and tricks that you’ve used to find and encourage your blogging voice? Share them
below in the comments!

Lindsay Kuhn is a Peace Corps volunteer in South Africa, where she works as a Community HIV/Outreach
Project Volunteer and blogs at https://runningwithelands.wordpress.com.

Read More

15 Oct Lessons in Sharing While Living Abroad

It was a Sunday afternoon as I sat outside watching my host brother, Mengela, carve a key chain for me from makalani nut. His schoolmate, Shiluumbu, sat between Mengela and I as we watched him attempt to carve “NAMIBIA” on it.

Shiluumbu, then reached into his front pocket and retrieved a small sweet wrapped in shiny gold paper. The sound of the wrapper crinkling drew all of my and Mengela’s attention away from his carving. Shiluumbu unwrapped the outer gold wrapper next the wax paper, he raised the small, nickel-sized sweet to his lips, bit it in half and offered the remaining half to my host brother.

This small gesture spoke volumes to me.

(more…)

Read More

15 Sep 3 Simple Post Topics to Keep You Going

You’ve been living your life overseas for a while now. You’ve settled into a routine and it seems nothing can surprise you anymore. Not only that, but you feel like you’ve covered all the big cultural difference on your blog already. What else is there to write about now? If you’re struggling to come up with some topics to write about, think about the nouns in your life.

Nouns? You know, the people, places and things that you come across regularly. Here are some ideas to creatively write about some of these everyday parts of your life, and maybe help you to start seeing some things with fresh eyes.

(more…)

Read More

15 May Exploring Blog Platforms to Hit Your Stride

A traveler’s blog is, perhaps first and foremost, a way to inform the world about their experiences and to connect with people near and far. Blogging while abroad can be a productive way to let off creative steam and reflect on all the adventures you’re having and can be the start of a business or a way to showcase your expertise. I’ve used blogging for a combination of these reasons across multiple platforms—Wordpress and Tumblr in particular. Finding the right platform and motivation that work for you is both part of the journey and the ultimate goal.

WordPress

WordPress has quickly risen to be the top choice for bloggers. It’s simple enough that even a total newbie can use it, but it’s complex enough to customize in sophisticated ways for those with the time and know-how. WordPress.com is completely free and has many ready-to-go themes—careful, or you’ll spend your whole day perusing themes.

WordPress.org refers to the WordPress back-end of a self-hosted site. If you started out using a free WordPress.com site, and you want to level up your game by monetizing and gain more creative control for customizing, it’s relatively easy to move your free blog onto a self-hosted site.

WordPress even has a mobile app for both iOS and Android. It can be hooked up with either kind of WordPress site and is very useful for drafting posts from mobile devices and uploading media content from your device into your media library. However, many people complain that it is difficult to get the formatting right for posts while using the mobile app.

If you’re in the blogging game for the long-haul, WordPress is a safe bet.

Medium

Medium has definitely made a splash in the blogging world. It’s an open platform, so you have a profile page, but not a unique blog that’s all yours. The content is the focus without all the bells and whistles. Anyone can post anything, and it’s become a viable way to “go viral”.

Medium is also a good way to guest post for an organization you admire. One major downfall—there’s not much latitude for customization. You can add images and play around a bit with text size and weight, but this is definitely a platform for those who enjoy streamlined reading and writing.

For people with limited electricity and internet when it comes to crafting posts on a computer, Medium also has mobile app for iOS and Android where writing posts is just as easy as it is in a laptop’s browser.

Tumblr

The Tumblr experience feels very relaxed and is a more plug-and-chug system—similar to Medium in that sense, with less room for personalization than a WordPress blog. I started on Tumblr because the themes are very simple and clean and it’s good for no-fuss posting.

Tumblr might also be a better option for people who want to focus on visuals. Many of Tumblr’s users scroll through on their phones and re-blog, or share, heavily visual posts. Since Tumblr is so interactive, many people post multiple times a day, you might get “discovered” if you share widely and tag relevant keywords.

Posting via a mobile device to Tumblr is especially easy on through their app, available on iOS and Android. Once you get the hang of it, it’s easy to create some really compelling posts and build a large following.

Other Options

Most blogging sites now make it really easy to integrate videos, photos, and other media to complement your writing. Or if writing isn’t your strong suit, choose a platform—and/or a theme—that is heavy on the visuals. This way, your writing simply sets the scene and your epic photos or compelling videos can shine.

Sites like Wix, Weebly and Squarespace can even help you take your blog to the next level and go full-on portfolio style. You can have more control over the layout and theme of your blog, which will showcase your personality and programming skills. But even if you don’t have any programming chops, the basic themes on these sites are easy enough for even those who are illiterate in computer science to elevate their portfolio.

 

While text and images enhance each other and both are necessary for a complete post, hone in on your strength. Don’t feel constrained by platforms or writing styles while you’re blogging. Explore, experiment, and get your message out. After all, blogging is about sharing, so as long as you feel good about what you’re putting out in the blogosphere, someone will appreciate your efforts.

Finding the right platform and the style of blogging that connects with you and your readers can bridge the gap from submitting the occasional post to identifying as a “real” blogger. My biggest advice: just dive in and discover what works for you!

Did we miss your favorite platform? Let us know about it in the comments!

 


Ashlee Sang has been documenting her travels for years. She was based in Dakar, Senegal for four years, where she worked in the international development sector. She recently moved to Central Illinois, where she has changed gears and is focusing on local non-profits. She’s a fan of sitcoms, snacks, and social justice. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.

Read More

01 May 3 Simple Steps to Prepare to Blog Abroad

In the world we live in today, where quotes about traveling by any means necessary laid over-top of dreamy pictures make daily appearances in you social media feeds, where you can’t do a Google search about a place without coming across the travel blog with a rundown of travel tips, where announcing your past and future travel plans are met with statements of jealousy, it can be easy for your blog to fall into a cycle and habit of being a bit of a travel diary.

But, your blog can provide so much more. It can act as a bridge of cultural connection, especially in a time when people seems to want to isolate themselves more. Taking the time to seek out cross-cultural experiences and subsequently sharing these observations may take a little more effort than a restaurant review, however, it will enrich your writing and your audience’s experience.

With these three simple steps, you’ll be on your way to writing more meaningful blog posts focused on cross-cultural understanding. They’re perfect for thinking about in between packing, or for reflecting on when you’ve returned. With a bit of foresight, incorporating culture into your travel and increasing your own understanding of the host culture is easy.

(more…)

Read More

04 Mar Feb Photo Challenge Winner: Around the World in 28 Days

WHAT IS THE #BAPHOTOCHALLENGE?

Photo challenge participants get a prompt emailed to them at the beginning of the month, and follow-up emails periodically in the following weeks. They then share their best photos that follow along with the theme that month.
The goal is to share captivating images online, with meaningful captions, in order to promote cross-cultural understanding in a fun, simple way.

FEBRUARY’S PHOTO CHALLENGE:

In February we challenged you to connect with bloggers all around the world. Participants used their own personalized hashtag to travel ‘around the world’ without leaving the comforts of their home. Reaching 18 different countries we were able to follow their journeys around the world. From the shores of Ghana to dancing in Indonesia we were able to see landscapes, people, and cultural exchange from all across the globe. This month was about connecting people across the world who are all passionate about travel and cultural exchange. In the end we had one winner, let’s look at her journey across the world!

Check out her personal cross cultural journey on instagram or on her blog www.movingwrightalong.com

Thank you to all the participants this month! Be sure to join us with the next photo challenge to get an all new prompt on the 1st of the month!

Read More
New Years 2017 Blog Challenge - bridging cultures through blogging

13 Feb 2017 Blog Challenge BONUS Round Up BONUS: Hospitality

Our final prompt of the 2017 New Years challenge has officially passed, however, we did issue a bonus prompt. A few intrepid bloggers took us up on the additional challenge, which we will share with you here.

The Prompt: Hospitality

Peace Corps Week is coming up at the end of February and they’re celebrating with the theme: Highlighting Hospitality. So we took the opportunity to support that effort, as an optional Blog Challenge prompt. Although not everyone in the Blogging Abroad community are Peace Corps Volunteers, this theme applies to anyone with a host community overseas.
PCV or not, this was an opportunity to share traditions of hospitality and inspiring stories of how our host community welcomes us and others.

You’re encouraged to browse the Round Up links listed below for more blog inspiration and interesting cross-cultural topics. You can also find more posts highlighted on our Blog Challenge pinterest board.

 

(more…)

Read More
New Years 2017 Blog Challenge - bridging cultures through blogging

30 Jan New Years 2017 Blog Challenge Round Up #4: HOPE

Welcome to the Week Four Blog Challenge recap!

This is officially our final prompt of the 2017 New Years challenge, however, there is a bonus prompt in the pipeline for those who want to continue their blogging challenge beyond January.

The Prompt: Hope & Change

For many of us, our worlds are going through some major changes and sometimes it’s easy to lose hope. So we’re focusing our blogging efforts on Hope and Change. Where do we draw hope from? And how do we create positive change?

Highlights

This week’s responses were especially encouraging to me. It was clear that many bloggers have been “feeling the weight of the world” and yet, they’re able to find hope, find ways to move forward, and encourage others. It’s not an easy thing to published a balance of positives and negatives, or to keep yourself in check when emotions are running high. Here are just a few examples of great posts from the past week with a cool spin on the theme:

You’re encouraged to browse the Round Up links listed below for more blog inspiration and interesting cross-cultural topics. You can also find more posts highlighted on our Blog Challenge pinterest board.

 

(more…)

Read More
New Years 2017 Blog Challenge - bridging cultures through blogging

23 Jan New Years 2017 Blog Challenge Round Up #3

Welcome to the Week Three Blog Challenge recap!

This January, bloggers living around the world are taking the challenge to start the year off with weekly blog posts on meaningful topics. Over the past week, blog posts on the new prompt have been pouring out into the blogosphere and we’ve rounded them up for you here.

The Prompt: Cultural Differences

The point of this prompt was not really to draw attention to how big the differences are between cultures, but actually to realize how we’re all heavily influenced by the underlying, unspoken “rules” of culture. Understanding why people behave the way they do and empathizing with the values that inform their decisions is an important skill. This week, we used some social science and cultural communication resources, like the 10 variables of culture differences, to inspire our blog posts.

Highlights

It’s not hard to find stand out blog posts among this community of passionate bloggers! Here are just a few examples of great posts from the past week, with a few notes about how you can apply their strategies, too:

  • Here’s a great example of sharing life lessons from abroad with folks who might follow in your footsteps. Also, a good reminder to always link back to your previous blog posts that relate to the new topic! (Liz, Mozambique)
  • This is a fun, photo-centric post from the perspective of a village dog as a way to share cultural differences about pets. (Morgan, South Africa)
  • The focus on one topic and the composition of this post, with super-sized quotes, super-short paragraphs to highlight ideas, bolded headings, plenty of space, etc. make this page really attractive. (Olivia, Madagascar)
  • A “10 Things” tribute list with supporting stories and pictures is a great way to share why you’ll miss your host country. (Mark, Kyrgyzstan)

You’re encouraged to browse the Round Up links listed below for more blog inspiration and interesting cross-cultural topics. You can also find more posts highlighted on our Blog Challenge pinterest board.

 

(more…)

Read More
New Years 2017 Blog Challenge - bridging cultures through blogging

16 Jan New Years 2017 Blog Challenge Responses Round Up #2

Welcome to Week Two of our second annual Blog Challenge!

This January, bloggers living around the world are taking the challenge to start the year off with weekly blog posts on meaningful topics. We now have over 90 folks living in about 30 different countries signed up, with more joining every day! One week ago, participants received the following prompt via e-mail:

The Prompt: The Danger of a Single Story

This week’s prompt is based on a popular TED talk by author Chimamanda Adichie (see below). In it, she warns that if we only hear a single story about a person, country or issue, we risk great misunderstanding.

“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

 

Along with the prompt, Challenge participants also received some blog tips and a number of creative ideas to approach their response. Over the past week, their posts have been pouring out into the blogosphere and we’ve rounded them up for you here.

Highlights

Once again, there was so many impressive, thoughtful posts this week! Our highlights today focus on the note-worthy formats and techniques that certain bloggers have used in their responses:

 

You’re encouraged browse the Round Up links we’ve listed at the bottom of the post for more ideas. You can also find more posts highlighted on our Blog Challenge pinterest board.

 

(more…)

Read More
%d bloggers like this: