Having The World At Your FingertipsPosted on Jan 16, 2012 | 34 comments
Last week I wrote a post asking people for their suggestions on where we should travel when we head down to Mexico and Central America. Within 5 minutes of publishing the post I received suggestions on 18 destinations in 4 different countries. Within 4 hours I had received over 100 suggestions and numerous people had offered to host us, play travel guide, or just chat by phone or Skype to help us get whatever information we needed. Truly unbelievable! Big time thanks to everyone out there.
Over the past year the world as I know it has changed. It's become closer, friendlier, and more accessible. Things I only dreamed about doing before seem not only probable, but easy! As my friend Emiel says, the travel game has changed. I don't need guidebooks or TripAdvisor to tell me where to go anymore. I have the world helping me out - and you can have it too!
The more I get connected with the real world, the less I feel reliant on the reviews and opinions of mass-marketed guidebooks and sponsored websites. A guidebook doesn't know me, and I don't know who is writing these guidebooks. Who's to say our "best places" are held to the same criteria? We would surely ask for the opinion of someone we know before we ask the opinion of some stranger, right?
Having a blog has given me the opportunity to get to know so many travelers and for them to get to know me. We can share opinions on people and places and gain a much greater sense of trust than we would with any guidebook.
Now I know many of you have no interest in having a blog, but are totally buzzing over the idea of getting free and trustworthy travel advice from around the world at the click of a button. So I have some suggestions for you. I do all these things. I do them even when I'm not planning on traveling. I'm constantly building a network so I can help others and they can help me. It's a win/win - all you have to do is get connected.
5 Tips For Becoming A Connected Traveler
1) Find, Follow, and Comment On Blogs
If you find a blogger or a post you like, then you should be leaving comments. I don't know why people seem to shy away from this. The majority of people who leave comments on blogs are other bloggers, but there is no reason commenting should be limited to a network of bloggers.
It is said that 1 out of 100 visitors leave a comment. I just think that defeats the whole purpose of having a blog. Blogs are for engaging, not just providing information. Of course some blogs are better than others, but 1 out of 100?
I leave about 10-15 comments on blogs every day. I try to engage with what I like and that helps me get to know people and build a network. It's simple and it works!
Try leaving a few comments and engaging a bit more and you'll quickly start to see how your travel knowledge and network are able to grow.
2) Get On Social Media
April 1, 2011 was the first day I ever used social media in my life. That's like only 9 months ago. I just always saw social media as a bunch of gossip and noise, but I was soooo wrong. Beyond the gossip and noise is information. Fast information. Really Fast Information.
. . . being able to shout your latest travel question out your window, only to find a crowd of your favorite travel experts, local guides, expats and fellow travelers responding from your front lawn.
My friend Tracey Pedersen is leaving for her RTW trip with her family in 4 days! I met Tracey about 6 months ago on Twitter as I was walking to my car after breakfast. She tweeted that she was thinking about going around the world and I responded. We chatted online, Tracey put together a blog called Life Changing Year, and next week she will be bouncing around SouthEast Asia. She'll also be visiting us in Boston and getting free guided tours and local passes from me! And I know she we will be meeting up with many more people as well.
Now all of this would have happened for Tracey despite her blog. Just putting herself out there and interacting with people benefited her immensely as a traveler.
3) Use Stumble Upon
If you aren't using Stumble Upon, the you're missing out. I'll keep this short and sweet. You know how you will often see a link to an article on Facebook and wonder: Where do people find stuff like this?
Answer: Stumble Upon. Use it. It's simple and you will find stuff in the world you had no idea existed.
4) Smile! And Get A Gravatar
You know how sometimes you see pictures of people when they leave comments? Well, the people who have pictures or logos attached to their comments have Gravatars. It's a free and simple way to make an instant connection with people online. All you have to do is go to Gravatar.com, enter your email, and pop in a photo. When you start leaving comments on a blog people will get to know you twice as fast as if there is an image to remind them of who and what you are.
Everyone should have a Gravatar.
5) Ask Questions and Offer Help
At this point, I get an email pretty much every day from someone asking me for some advice on planning to travel the world, or offering me some advice on planning to travel the world. I love these emails. That is what I hoped for all along. I started this blog writing emails to people asking for help and I am still writing them today. I wrote Nancy Sathre-Vogel of Family on Bikes an email when we first started and since she has offered many times to map us a route through Mexico and Central America, as well as offering me a guest post a few weeks ago on her blog. And just this week I wrote the Iain Mallory of Mallory on Travel and Erin McNeaney of Never Ending Voyage to help me out with some advice on travel photography and they responded immediately. And I learned very quickly that I know nothing about photography.
Most blogs have a contact form or an email - and you should use it. Don't hesitate to ask. Travel bloggers go nuts over the world and what they find in it. They want to share. They want to make travel easier. They want you to discover all the secret far off places the world has to offer.
It's all at your fingertips. All you have to do is reach out a bit and grab it.
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Photo by Wilmack