Let me start by saying I never wanted a blog. I’ve been against non-famous people, not-news, personal blogs about as much as I am against myself procreating, missionaries and Christmas cards with My-Year-In-Review letters. I thought they were written by people that felt that they had a lot to say about themselves. And they had opinions that they felt were far too important to be kept quiet, despite the fact they were usually uninspired and mundane.
And then I started planning this trip to Indonesia. I use “planning” pretty flexibly. This place is a little behind the times. Their airlines don’t use internet booking technology, and warnings on trek guides sites say things like “We will not be held responsible if you die.” After working at a place where travel planning was pinned to an exact science due to high maintenance “co-workers”, if you will, I needed a little more confidence than that so I knew what I was getting myself, and my fledgling-traveler boyfriend, into.
The only place I could find any information on Sumatra was on blogs or forums. Direct websites to companies/guides/accommodation will tell you anything to get you in the door, and were few and far between, and I find it hard to completely trust sites like Trip Advisor given that people only feel motivated to write on them if they have excessively strong feelings about an experience, or are paid/friends of the subject. Not to mention you know nothing about these people commenting and what their expectations may be. Combining the forces of all these options, however, the procedure I ended up following was searching out people that were providing services that I wanted to participate in, checking them out on Trip Advisor to see if there were 50 messages all of which saying “This place cost me a million dollars and I left with Ebola”, and then seeing if anyone in blog-land had experience with them.
Blogs are great for a number of reasons. First of all, most people are writing very blase’ because they are writing friends and family. They will say things like “We went here, and it was shitty, so we managed to secure *insert obscure local transport which was an adventure* and found plan B where the owner made us fresh spaghetti and talked to us till 2 am! I love *small town Italy*” What did I learn? Place A blows, I know how to get around the city, and I know somewhere else to stay where I can talk to a local!
Another upside to blogs is learning a little bit about the person making the comments. For example, for the Sumatra portion of the trip we’re planning a pretty intense trek through the rain forest. If I read one blog and it says “Jesus! This was the hardest thing ever, the guides were not prepared and had only sparse food for us to eat, I thought I was going to die.” means one thing coming from 90210Candy who likes 5 star resorts and spas, but a completely different thing from amazonfreak who was in the Peace Corps and climbed Everest last year. Right?
To be honest, the best part of the blog thing is the pictures. People love pictures, and its a window into what you’ll be seeing (and taking pictures of!) when you’re there. You read about their personal experiences about what they saw and why it was unique. You find yourself daydreaming and walking in their shoes. I, too, want to say I have eaten lunch at a restaurant in Ubud and had the last available suckling pig of the day and it made Ben vomit but I survived because I’m the tougher sex! This sort of thing. Builds up that excitement of the trip, which shouldn’t be taken lightly.
The moral of this story is that I think for a traveller blogs are a priceless asset that provide a wealth of information. They’re well on their way to sending me on an unforgettable trip. So this is going to be my gift back to travellers on the world wide web. Essentially a travel blog on what I did when I went where, how I planned/booked it, things I didn’t think of, things that didn’t work, things that did work, etc etc etc. And then someone else down the line can follow my footsteps or realize a choice I made was awful/not for them and not waste time or money. Hopefully I don’t come off as pretentious.
I also promise to keep this a bit shorter next time. At the bottom I’m going to leave a link to the Lonely Planet forums, which is a great place to ask questions about technicalities of anywhere you’re going.
“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.” – Paul Theroux