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How to keep your blog alive in countries where the Internet is slow, unreliable, or nearly non-existent.

The Internet connection is so slow that you have time to twiddle your thumbs while pages load. That’s if you can find a connection. But no matter how frustrating, you’re determined to blog while traveling through developing regions of the world. You’ve got stories to tell!

Some advice to keep your blog healthy even when your connection isn’t:

1. Bring your own computer.

It sounds like it’d be too heavy for a backpacking trip. But computers are getting smaller and smaller every year, which makes them increasingly easy to carry. Bring a laptop so you can blog anytime you find a wireless connection – instead of waiting until you find an Internet café. When you find a café, connect using your laptop, which probably works faster and better than their computers.

While backpacking through Africa in 2008, I used an Asus Eee PC. I’d recommend it, and it won’t break your bank. By now, of course, there are probably even better mini-laptops on the market.

2. Visit expensive hotels.

Don’t stay there – what backpacker can afford that? But nobody ever said you can’t drink a soda at the hotel bar or hang out in the lounge – and take advantage of their free wireless at the same time. This is why you brought your laptop. The fastest connections aren’t in Internet cafes; they’re in fancy hotels where you need your own computer to access them.

3. Always look for a WiFi signal.

Even when you check into a scummy two-dollar-a-night hostel or find a bed in a remote town, pull out your computer to check for a wireless signal. Sometimes the family who lives across the street or the hotel down the road has one you can access. As the Internet becomes more popular around the world, it’s reaching more remote areas. You might find a connection in places you don’t expect.

4. Draft posts in longhand.

Before visiting an Internet café or finding a wired hotel, draft your blog post in your notebook. This will improve your content because you’ll revise the post when you transcribe it onto your blog. It will also help you blog faster, saving money and time – which means you’ll be more likely to publish the post before the Internet connection cuts out.

Prepare photos ahead of time, too. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to upload a handful of photos – after all, photographs are one of the best parts of a travel blog! But just in case the connection is slow, decide ahead of time which photo you’ll use if you’re only able to upload one.

5. Adjust your comment settings.

When it takes a minute for each page to load, you won’t have the time or the patience to approve every comment. Besides, if you can’t find an Internet connection for several days, you don’t want comments waiting for you when they could be on your blog.

Fix your settings to automatically approve comments. If you’re worried about spam, at least adjust the settings so readers who have commented before are automatically approved, and you can approve new visitors’ comments when you have the chance.

6. Depend on an editor.

Don’t hire one. Ask a writer friend at home to serve as an informal editor, one who looks over your posts for typos or other errors, then e-mails you when there’s a problem. You can even give that person access to your account so she can log in and fix the mistakes. When you’re blogging quickly on foreign keyboards and thinking in foreign languages, it’s easy to make errors.

7. Create a Google map.

Set it up before you leave on your trip, and link it to your blog so readers can follow your route. But have a friend at home maintain it – the maps take too long to load with a slow connection.

8. Carry an extra battery.

It will add weight to your pack, but when there’s no outlet to plug into or you haven’t charged your primary battery, it’ll be worth it.

Photo: Aine D

9. Use a discreet carrying case.

Tote your computer in something that does not look like a computer bag – it’s less likely to get stolen. (Same for your camera.) If you’re using a mini laptop, protect it with a sleeve, and then a small messenger bag does the trick.

10. Link Twitter to your blog.

Use a widget that shows your feed in the sidebar. If the connection is too slow to update your blog, you may at least be able to tweet a line or two that will then show up on your site. Even a micro update helps readers feel like you’re bringing them along for the ride.

What did I miss? Do you have other ideas for blogging from developing countries?

Blogging Tips

 

About The Author

Alexis Grant

Alexis Grant is a journalist writing her first book, a travel memoir about her solo journey through Africa. It’s based on her travel blog, Inkslinging in Africa.

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  • Meagan

    Great advice! It can get so frustrating waiting for an internet connection, when the time could be better spent on writing.

    Here’s what I do. If I don’t want to lug my laptop around town, I’ll write my blog in Word at the hostel. I’ll take my trust USB key to an internet cafe, then copy and paste. Badda boom badda bing!

    Personally I’m trying to force myself to write longhand more often. I think through the tips of my fingers sadly from years and years of typing out my stories. Your writing changes when you manually write it down…and it usually makes your writing better!

  • http://juliekraut.com Julie

    Great post. I used to write in Word and then just upload a bunch of posts at once whenever I got to the internet.

  • http://www.yelkaye.net Caitlin

    Another good tip:

    Write several posts in advance when you don’t have internet access / wireless signal. When you can access the internet, use the “schedule” function on WordPress so that they will be published at scheduled times over the next week. (Don’t know if that would work on other blogging systems but it might.)

  • http://alexisgrant.wordpress.com Alexis Grant

    Such a good idea about typing out posts before going to a cafe! And about carrying a thumb drive instead of a laptop. Be careful with Word though — it includes code that sometimes makes posts format strangely, at least for me in WordPress. Notepad seems to be code-free.

  • http://milesofabbie.com Abbie

    Great tips! Thanks Alexis :)

  • http://everythingisdirty.com ross lee tabak

    USB key + internet cafe is a great tip. I’ve also found wireless modems to be a godsend, slow as they might be.

    I was trying to blog from various places in India the past two months, and not only did the internet suck everywhere but the power would sometimes go out for an entire day. I picked up a cheap wireless USB modem from a mobile phone company and it turned out to be the only thing that allowed me to keep my sanity. For something like US$18 a month you can get unlimited internet access, anywhere in the country, and it’ll work even if the power is out as long as your laptop battery is charged.

    It ran at approximately the same speed as the dial-up modems I was using when I was eleven, but hell, I’ll take it.

  • http://ishouldlogoff.com Jillian

    Great post and comments! We’re currently traveling through Africa and have had to tackle these challenges. It’s definitely frustrating blogging from a developing country, sometimes I feel like I spend more than half the day at an internet cafe doing what would take me 15 minutes at home. Life’s full of trade off’s though.

    We work mostly offline and save all our blogpost URLs in a spreadsheet so we can cross post and link to them quickly when we’re actually online instead of having to wait for an old post to load. That’s saved a lot of time.

    The biggest challenge for us has been to get pictures uploaded. Often we just try to get whatever is absolutely necessary for a blog post (1 or 2 pics) uploaded to flickr and then link to the url instead of uploading the photo to our server. That’s helped speed up our posting when we’re on slow connections. Our blog has thumbnail photos so before we arrived in Africa we uploaded several “stock” thumbnails to the server, saved the links, and just copy and paste them into wordpress when we’re online.

    Love to see some other suggestions!

  • http://www.expatheather.com Heather Carreiro

    Great suggestions Alexis! Like some of the other commenters, I also used to type up several posts and save them to a thumb drive for easy upload.

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  • http://jessiecarty.com Jessie Carty

    Terrific tips in the article and in the comments!

  • HyderabadChick

    Not sure if I can put this coherently, but here goes:

    Sometimes – cultures die because they’re too expensive to maintain. Or they have too much competition from cheaper sources.

    In India – any given group of people will lift up their voices and sing.

    In the US, singing is viewed as something to be done by those who know how. There’s a strong feelint that the rest would do better by keeping quiet.

    COnsider the differences: In the US so many households have TV/ Radio/ and now acccess to the web – that this kind of entertainment is widely available.

    But in poorer places – the local community provides it for themselves. In the place of TV and radio, they still tell stories out loud, perform skits and sing at home.

    It’s a dream and a seeming luxury in the US to have a artisanal career. In America some view the tailor, baker and candlestick maker with near awe.

    Right now those skills continue to be almost mundane in 3rd world countries.Will those skills be priced out of existence as the demand and buying power in places like Brazil, China and India increases? Factories are faster even if the quality’s not as good. The artisan will therefore be able to demand a higher price for handmade traditional goods but how many will survive to do so?

    Hispanic families who come to the US tend to hold on to their language longer than other language speakers. Haitian creole on the other hand can be lost in one or two generations of living in another country.

    There’s little to no money in it and HC’s not looked on with the same fascination by the new population as for example, Spanish is.

    Chinese and Arabic speaking families may send their youngsters to school to maintain familiarity with the culture and the language. Many haven’t the funds nor the structures to do the same.

    If the goal is to “save cultures”, museums and festivals are the only ideas I have. I don’t complain as much as some people about the commoditization of culture because I have a feeling that connecting culture to money might extend the life of some.

  • HyderabadChick

    Sorry, the above post actually belongs with a totally different article!

  • Joel

    Hi Travellers
    Great tips indeed:
    I live and work in Malawi,where these tips are most help full to business travelles

    Have Joel as your travel partner in Malawi to help you in all travel need &culture joel.1warmheart@ymail.com
    Good luck to Alex and the team

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  • http://www.schnurlosestelefon.com Telefon Schnurlos

    the precious information you presented do help our team’s research for our corporation, thanks.

  • Ashley Fleck

    I never would have considered bringing my laptop backpacking but now that I have a blog it is a necessity. It would be such a pain to upload photos onto someone else’s computer, and spend hours writing and posting. Great tips!

  • Elizabeth Becker

    I have already recruited my twin sis to help me edit everything (including e-mails) before I send them out to the world. When I leave for Africa in a couple weeks, she’ll be taking over during times I don’t have Internet access or am traveling. I think having a partner you can rely on makes all the difference.

  • Andrea Rees

    Great tips! Thanks.

  • Andrea Rees

    Great tips! Thanks.

  • Andrea Rees

    Great tips! Thanks.

  • Andrea Rees

    Great tips! Thanks.

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