This Internet phenomenon with the funny name makes it possible for the average Joe or Josephine to bring personal thoughts, ideas, and information to the World Wide Web.
By Terri Blazell
There are more than 100 million of them all around us, with new ones popping up every day. They are changing the way we communicate, think, and even make decisions. Is it a new virus? Creatures from outer space? A new energy drink? No, it’s a blog!
What’s A Blog? A blog is an abbreviation for the words “Web log.” In a nutshell, a blog is a diary or journal that is posted on the Internet, just like a Web site. It can be restricted to friends and family who are able to access it via password, or it can be open to anyone who may stumble upon it.
Blogs can be about any subject. Some offer useful and reliable information. The writer, or “blogger,” may provide a firsthand experience of a product or destination, or even comment on celebrities or politicians. Most bloggers aren’t paid to offer their perspective, but some blogs and bloggers have gained such a following and reputation that media, public relations firms, and advertisers have started to take notice. There are now “sponsored” blogs that are not much more than infomercials “” and about as reliable. Companies touting their own products also create blog-type Web sites as a form of advertising.
For RVers, blogs can be a great way for friends to share travel information, such as scenic “don’t miss” byways, the best RV parks, RVing tips, or a heads-up on places to avoid. Some act as forums with many people providing input, while others will take you to countries and places you may never get to personally, but can make you feel like you’ve been there.
Blog Searching. If you are new to the whole blog thing, it can be somewhat confusing. On one hand, the sheer volume of blogs on the Internet makes it possible to turn up one on just about any subject you may be interested in. However, the sheer volume of blogs out there also can make it nearly impossible to find the one that’s right for you.
Several blog search engines can help you find blogs on specific subjects. Just keep in mind that most of the search engines turn up “sponsored” blogs as often as personal ones. The biggest and easiest to use, blogsearch.google.com, turned up more than 7 million results for the word “travel.” When I entered “River front RV park” in the search line I received 9,567 results, then it asked me if I meant “Riverfront,” which posted 1,166 results. For comparison, Google’s regular search engine turned up more than 716 million entries for the word “travel” and more than 2 million for “RV Park.”
Technorati.com is another major blog search engine. I entered the word “travel” and 1,696,864 entries popped up. “RV Park” turned up 13,498 entries, while the more specific “River front RV park” showed 1,097 results. “Riverfront,” as one word, narrowed the search down to just 81 results.
Other blog search engines include blogpulse.com, icerocket.com, and feedster.com. These are smaller and turned up a more limited but manageable number of results.
The best advice for using any of these search engines is to be specific about what you are searching for. If you know the name of an RV park or have a particular question regarding troubleshooting your RV, for example, enter as much of its information as you can to narrow your results.
Some Web sites offer blog searches that are strictly related to travel and yield more specific results. Travelblog.org features blogs from travelers all around the world. After clicking on the Search button, you have the option to use either Google or Yahoo for your search. When I tried both, Google turned up 467 results for “RV Park,” while Yahoo produced 1,050. The site appeared to have a number of genuine blogs, although some were advertisements.
Another site, Travellerspoint.com, also caters to worldwide travel. It contains sections devoted to blogs, forums, and photography. A search option turned up results in all three categories, which is a nice feature. “RV Park” showed up 10 times under forum threads, 64 times under blog entries, and 10 times in the photo section. (As you can see, it’s a small site.)
RVtravel.com is a more commercial site with a blog section. Click on “RV travel Blogs” in the blue task bar near the top of the home page. Although there is no way to search the blogs for a specific topic, what I do like about this particular site is that the blogs are separated into special-interest categories such as Women RVers, Casino RV Camping, and Fulltime RVer, to name a few.
MyTripJournal.com and Travelpod.com list bloggers by country. Choose the country you are interested in, and then search through the different blogs until you find one that appeals to you. At MyTripJournal.com, more than 200 blogs were listed for the United States, and quite a few were by RVers. Unfortunately, there is no search function to look up specific topics on this one, either. Travelpod.com has a search button near the top. “RV Park” turned up blogs for theme parks and “River front RV park” revealed any mention of the word “river” or “front.” But by typing in the word “Motorhome,” I was able to find some actual listings from RVing bloggers. Experimenting with the search words to turn up different results may help you find what you are looking for.
Once you find a favorite blogger, add them to your favorites list and check back often for their latest updates. Many of them allow you to “subscribe” to the blog (it’s free), so you’ll automatically be notified when updates have been made. Most welcome feedback, too, so feel free to get in touch. You may make a new friend.
A few of my personal favorites, which show not only a talent for good writing but offer a great deal of insight into the specific places they’ve been and the experiences they’ve had, are listed here.
Former full-timer Bob Giddings’ “Speed Bumps” can be found at www.arcatapet.net/bobgiddings. His journal entries have a poetic, Thoreau-like quality with entries such as “With me, the ideal is peace and quiet back in the woods. Or at the shore. Hard to get to places. With a small footprint and simple tools, breathing air that has not just been exhaled by someone else . . . .” Bob has retired from his full-time RV travels and has suspended adding to his journal, but his five years’ worth of writing, from 2000 to 2005, makes for a great read. By the way, Bob is considering returning to both adventures. We will have to wait and see.
Malia’s Miles (www.maliasmiles.com) and Malia’s RV (www.maliasrv.com) are both insightful journals by Malia Lane. Malia’s RV is a more personal, introspective journal, while Malia’s Miles offers more specifics about places she’s been. As a full-timing, single female RVer, she offers a unique perspective on the lifestyle. Her goal for both sites is to be an inspiration to other women to follow their dreams, whether those include RVing or not. No matter your gender, you’ll likely find that her blogs about places she’s personally visited contain great travel information. Entries are nicely organized by state, making it easy to find.
American Journeys (www.americanjourneys.com) is another site that offers great RV travel information. It is neatly organized and alphabetized by state, so navigating the more than 2,000 pages on the site is easy. Input from other RVers gives a broader perspective to personal experiences of the owner, MaryAnn.
The Adventures of Devin and Maggie (DevinandMaggie.blogspot.com) follows a couple on a one-year full-timing adventure. Their blog is used mainly to keep family and friends updated on their travels. Maggie calls her site a cross between a travelogue and a newsy e-mail.
Another full-timing Web site is Coulsoncastle.ca, which follows the adventures of Susan and Rick, a Canadian couple who are exploring North America. Click on Our Journeys for links to specific locations they’ve visited in both the United States and Canada.
Becoming A Blogger. Since there is a little writer in all of us, perhaps you’re beginning to dream of having your own blog. Blogs can be a great way to write your autobiography, record your family history, or chronicle a specific event. Writing an entire book can feel daunting, but breaking a story up into individual journal entries can turn it into a manageable task. Input from family members or friends can give a broader perspective. Expect to spend some time at it, though. My blogging friends report spending as much as 25 to 30 hours a week on their journals “” mostly evenings “” although the amount of time can vary from week to week.
A number of Web sites can help you set up your own blog for free. Visit several to find the one that best fits you. An online search will turn up plenty. Along with some of the travel blogs listed earlier in this story, Blogger.com is owned by Google and is one of the easiest and fastest to sign up with and start. I was signed up and able to write my first entry in minutes. WordPress.com is another site that made it possible for me to get my blog up and running pretty quickly. Its terms of service were simple to understand, and the large type made it easy to read. Livejournal.com set up okay, but when I finished my profile form I was sent to a page that didn’t have any relation to my blog and I really didn’t know what to do on it. Journalhome.com had terms of service written in technical language that was difficult to understand, and my Gmail (Google’s free e-mail service) address wasn’t allowed.
Several of these sites would not let me start my blog right away. Instead, a security message was sent to my e-mail address that I had to open and acknowledge before I could log back on and write my first blog.
I’ve only scratched the surface here. Many other blogging sites can be found; an online search will turn up plenty.
Another option is to simply create your own Web site and use it as your online journal. There is usually more cost involved in this, but it does allow more creative freedom.
Don’t expect fame and fortune from your blogs. The bloggers I spoke with made very little to nothing for their musings. They write for the love of writing and the joy of sharing their adventures and opinions. Malia Lane is upfront about her journal and sometimes gets free or discounted nights at RV parks for her input. She says that faithfulness to her readers keeps her unbiased by the freebies, and she has reported negative comments about parks she’s stayed in for free. Both Maggie and MaryAnn said they prefer no special treatment and report on their travels with anonymity. Susan of the Coulsoncastle blog, which has ads on its site, receives pennies per click whenever someone links to them. It’s not much, but often helps pay for the site.
Whether you are a writer or a reader, blogs connect you to people who often become friends and can offer firsthand experiences and unusual perspectives. They can transport you to places that you may never get to visit in person, or allow you to be the narrator of your own life’s story. So, go “blogging” and come back with something good.