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.
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?