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Photo by Judy Baxter

Wanting to showcase your travels without a hundred-hour slideshow? Written diaries are often too private and don’t let people keep in regular contact. A travel blog is as simple as these 10 steps.

There are a confusing amount of options for the novice, but in this step-by-step guide the author’s choice of best services are showcased along with their strengths. If you can use email and a word processor, you know more than enough about computers to blog. In fact, you only really need step two…

1. Email

The first thing you’ll need is a way to keep in touch with friends and family while you’re on the road. If your current email provider isn’t going to be good to you while you’re away, I’d recommend switching to Google’s gmail because of its fast searching, large amounts of space and reliability of access. Promote your new email address early, but you can still check your old accounts in gmail! You don’t have to visit several sites to read your mail. Either set up forwarding to your new address in your old email client or use Gmail’s tools for collecting them.

Once you are set up with an account you can have an infinite number of email address by adding “+”. For example, if my email address is “spam@gmail.com” I can also have “spam+blog@gmail.com” without changing any settings. This can help you quickly identify where an email is coming from. You can also set up filters to keep your blog email separate from your primary email address.

Advanced tip: When visiting the site use https://gmail.com or https://mail.google.com. This will encrypt your login details as well as the content of your emails.

2. Blog platform

Now we need somewhere to write. WordPress.com is a free blogging platform that’s easy to use and has a very good set of features. If you ever want to move to another blogging platform it’s easy to export all your posts and comments.

Go to WordPress.com and click “sign up”. Add a username, password and your email address. Choose name of blog, confirm the URL and language ,then decide whether to allow search engines to find and index your blog. You want the URL to be memorable and easy to write down. Keep it simple!

Now, you’re in! The dashboard in front of you has everything you need to start writing. There are three pre-set examples that you’ll want to change: a post, a comment and a page. These examples allow you to see what’s what in your new blog world. You can edit or delete these then start making your own stuff – just click “write”. Easy.

3. Photos

If you have a digital camera you’ll want a place to showcase your photos. There’s none better than flickr.com . Flickr has a great community feel and lots of ways to share your photos. On the technical side, there’s lots of magic which makes it easy to distribute your photos to your blog and other websites.

Flickr is owned by Yahoo, so if you have a Yahoo address you can sign up with that, otherwise click “sign up” and go for it. Assuming you don’t have a laptop with you, you’ll be plugging your digital camera into a PC at an internet cafe. Do that, and then in Flickr, click “upload”. You’ll be able to browse to your camera, select the photos you want to upload, then name them and add other information if you wish.

You can choose to make your photos public or private, with different settings for friends and family. Use the “private” setting for uploading photos of receipts and serial numbers in case they’re needed for insurance claims.

Flickr is free for up to three albums and 100mb of uploaded images a month. Have a play with the free version first — shrink your photos before uploading — then consider whether US$25 a year is a worthwhile investment for a virtually unlimited amount of space.

Tip: If you’re taking a laptop with you, download one of the uploading tools. It’ll make your life a lot easier.

4. Making WordPress and Flickr play together

Now that you have a WordPress and a Flickr account we get to make them play together. If you want to use a photo in your blog post then start with Flickr. Choose a picture, click “download” and choose a size then select the code at the bottom of the page. Copy and paste into your WordPress.com writing panel and you’re away.

You can also show all your photos automatically. Take note of your Flickr RSS feed (in the browser’s address bar or near the bottom of your profile page) then head back to your WordPress.com administration panels. Click “presentation > widgets” then find the box named “Flickr” at the bottom of the page and drag it into the light-blue rectangular box. Click the icon to the right and follow the instructions there.

5. Styling sidebars

Since we’ve started with sidebar widgets let’s press on. Widgets allow you to quickly and easily change the look of your sidebar without using any code at all. Just to make sure we’re all in the same place, open your WordPress.com administration panels and click “presentation > widgets”. See something you like at the bottom of the page? A “search” bar perhaps? Just grab it with the mouse and drag it into the horizontal box. Now, believe me, there’s a search box in your sidebar. Play around with different looks and different tools until you’re happy with it. You can edit a widget’s text by clicking the page icon to the right of the widget’s name. Make sure you hit “save changes” before leaving the administration panel.

6. Styling the page

You have to admit that it’s important to get the look right. In WordPress the look of the site is known as the “theme”, so let’s go choose one. Also under “presentation” you’ll find the “themes” page. You can browse through the dozens of available themes, simply clicking them to completely change the look of your blog! The “edit CSS” tab will allow you to further customise things, but you’d be wise to save a copy of the orginal before making any changes. You might be happy with words and pictures, but if you want to go a step or so further, the next two sections look at how to add video and audio to your new blog.

7. Adding video

Editing video takes a heap of time. Time that, perhaps, could be better spent actually travelling! But when you take the time to do it, you want to share it with everyone. The most popular video sharing site is undoubtably youtube.com but if you don’t want to create yet another username and password you can also use google video to similar effect.

Having got an account with either service, click “upload” and browse to your video. Most video types are acceptable, so you can upload straight off your camera if you like. (Both services use background encoding to change the type of file it stores so, unlike Flickr, you can’t use these services to backup your videos.)

To add a video to your WordPress blog you have to take some code from the video site and put it in your “write” panel. The “embed” option is the one you want. Simply copy and paste the code you’re given. Of course, you can do this for other people’s videos too.

8. Adding audio

Audio, in WordPress.com’s free service at least, is not quite as easy as video. However, there are two very respectable options:

Option one. If you have access to upload mp3 files anywhere — maybe another family member’s site — you can add a player on your page using the following tag:

Option two. If you want to keep everything inside WordPress, then upgrade to one of their “pay” options. This will allow you to upload mp3 files within the system itself.

9. Pushing it Further

RSS is an important emerging medium for distributing your posts. Have a look at your “Options > Reading” panel in WordPress and make sure it looks good to you. I’d recommend “full” feeds with at least 10 posts visible. Although this makes it easier for copyright thieves to take your posts, it means travelers who read posts offline can actually see your post. If most of your readers have constant internet access or copyright theft is a big concern, then shorter feeds are your cup of tea. A useful sevice is feedburner.com which allows you to modify your RSS feed and add all sorts of services — like an automatic email containing each new post. Even if your family don’t understand RSS readers, they probably understand email.

10. Keeping passwords safe

With all these accounts there are heaps of passwords to remember. You did use a different password for each service, right? If not you definitely should go back and change them. All computers are liable to security issues, but internet cafes in some places are especially likely to have nasties on them. A common attack is called “key-logging” which records every button you press on the keyboard. Writing in your password on an infected system is like giving away the keys to your house. And if you have just one key to everything you own…

There are ways to securely store and use different passwords. This is a boon since, in reality, who can remember them all?! Keepass (and KeepassX for Macintosh) is a reliable tool which can also be run from a USB stick. Keepass’s copy and paste eliminates keylogging and deletes the copied item from the computer after a user-set time (set it up for 10 or 15 seconds). Not foolproof, but a step in the right direction.

I told you you only needed step two, but ten steps later and you’re ready to rock and roll in style. Now I guess it’s time to get out of the internet cafe and actually do something worth recording.

This article was updated on 22 January 2008.

Health + Lifestyle

 

About The Author

Craig Martin

Podcaster and writer Craig Martin has been traveling full-time in Europe since leaving Auckland, New Zealand in February 2006. With a degree in Media Studies and English plus a penchant for Coleridge, he's currently homeless in Europe. Craig podcasts at the Indie Travel Podcast and regularly blogs at Our Crazy Travels along with his wife Linda.

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  • sandra

    I’m in the process of trying to post regularly to a wordpress blog and found your tips to be very helpful. Thanks!

  • http://www.indietravelpodcast.com Craig

    Hey Sandra, glad they were of assistance.

    • H1r4

      Hi,
      I’m a new member of your forum and thought you might be able to help me on this.

      I’m planning to create a travel blog platform/portal like travelpod.com for my friends/family/relatives/neighbors etc.

      So, I was wondering if I use WordPress 2.8 would I be able to get the result? Or I should use Joomla or something else?

      Since WordPress is also new to me, will it be too difficult for me to achieve my goal in a short time?

      • http://indietravelpodcast.com Craig

        You need to use WPMU. Any support questions can be raised in their forums.

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    This was very helpful i set up wordpress in minutes and I was ready to blog. thanks

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    Nice post!
    The problem I have is maintaining a balance between the media and (written) content on my site. I’ve finally decided to go with just a minimum number of photos per post. There are some times though, that you wish you could show the world the beauty of a particular place.

    Thanks for the great post!

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    Great idea, have we must post about travel without image or picture to make reader imagine what we write ..

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    I’m just want to share the journey about my trip, maybe you can give me advise

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  • http://indietravelpodcast.com Craig

    Thanks for your comments, everyone. I started blogging my travels at the start of 2005 and love doing it. Balancing media and text is always difficult: good luck with that!

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  • Angi

    Is it possible to maintain a wordpress blog when travelling around and using different computers at internet cafes? I thought you needed to download some software onto your computer to be able to blog?

  • Armand

    Hi Craig, great post,

    I have the same question as Angi… I don’t want to carry a laptop around since I’m going backcountry a lot. Is there any CMS that doesn’t require a pre-installed software? I’m a complete novice…

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    Guys, if you are using wordpress or blogger or any online blog platform, you can access it from any computer in the world with internet access – no software required.

    Great post, I think this is a good guide to setting up a blog in any industry or niche, not just travel. Good job.

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    Thanks for your nice ideas. I will use it on my blog.

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  • http://indietravelpodcast.com Craig

    In terms of software to download, “Tourism North West Australia” was right, there’s no need at all — you can definitely blog in internet cafes. The easiest way is to follow the article through and it’ll work itself out. (Be wary of password thieves — use different passwords for different accounts and change them regularly.)

    If you have some more internet experience and will have the time to maintain your own hosting/wordpress setup I’m willing to help out with installing WP.org on your server (for free, subject to me having the time online) or doing a full customisation for matador readers (costs depending on difficulty). Contact me.

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    Thank you for an interesting post. I didn’t know how to use flickr or co-ordinate it with the widget function. Also that is good that the password info can be erased from site you mentioned as that seems important. Great article.

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    Craig, great overview. The only thing I would say is that if you intend to use your blog for a business I would recommend having your own domain instead of being on wordpress.com.

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    Loved using WP for my travel blog!

    Inkslinging in Africa: http://allonsy.wordpress.com

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    There is obviously a lot to know about this. There are some good points here. :)

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    WordPress is the best blogging platform I ever used with easy interface and fast setup.

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    Nice one! Have been toying with the idea of WordPress for a while and it seems to be easy enough now for even the slightly technophobic.

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    I found these tips very helpful not only in their practicality but also in their optimism-it has made me realise that the minimal amount of time, money and energy invested in setting up a blog pays its dividends. I came across matador through a Google search. Thanks! Petra (Berlin)

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