I’m sure most of the other travel bloggers out there would cite some sort of hunger for adventure or yearning for excitement as essential to the trade. You need to be down for anything on a moment’s notice. That’s bullshit. You can actually be a fantastic travel blogger without those qualities (I would say, in many cases, those characteristics are actually impediments to kickass travel blogging). Instead, the key is to be able to see meaning in everything you do and turn it into a story.
When I walk through my apartment, I don’t see stuff – I see experiences. The painting hanging over my couch? That’s from the $1 auction stunt with artist Nelson Diaz. The Casey’s coffee mug? It kicks off memories of a consulting assignment I had outside Toronto back in 2002 and how we used to play “credit card roulette” to see who would pick up the tab at dinner (Casey’s is a restaurant where we used to have lunch). And each of these stories triggers a hundred more … which is probably why nobody visits my apartment.
Well, the same thing happens with destinations. I couldn’t take three steps in Boston last March without being deluged. There isn’t a street corner in Manhattan that is devoid of meaning and experience for me. This is what makes a great travel blogger: fusing meaning, experience and location.
So, what got me started on this line of thought? When I was in St Barths last month, I sat down next to the top dog at Hotel Christopher, and he mentioned that he stays at On the Ave when he comes to New York. That was my trigger.
From here, there are two routes my mind could have taken: (1) I stayed there when I moved to Manhattan from Boston or (2) I spent four months experiencing the 16th floor terrace, smoking cigars, learning about local takeout and launching my freelance writing career in the middle of the night.
Take a wild guess. Exactly.
I view my stay at that hotel as one of the pivotal moments in my life, which infuses so much meaning in what otherwise would have been a conversation about a hotel. It was part of how I moved to New York. It’s where, from 8 PM to 1 AM and 5 AM to 7 AM, every day, I wrote white papers about database backups and encryption, my early step toward becoming a professional writer. It’s what made me fall in love with the Upper West Side. There are connections. There is meaning.
And it goes on.
When I first became a travel blogger – after Doubledown Media folded and Gadling picked me up – I was interviewed by a major travel columnist about Twitter and travel. I recalled a situation from July the previous year (now two years ago), when Cyan Banister of Zivity needed a hotel room. We tweeted back and forth, and I directed her to … On the Ave. The story continues.
It’s easy to write about the adventurous and exciting: that kind of thing is inherently interesting. A great travel blogger will take the mundane and make it unforgettable. You do that through connecting the dots of experience and meaning – not easy to do, which is why it’s the principal differentiator among travel bloggers.