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Sharing Your Travel Photos and Experiences

How to share your travel memories -- without boring your friends!

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wish you were here beachIn a previous column, I wrote about dancing man Matt Harding, and it occurred to me afterward that part of Matt's success is due to his 21st-century updating of the age-old -- and dead-tired -- tradition of sharing photos from your travels.

Gone is the faded suburban parlor tradition of boring your friends to somnambulance with an endless slideshow of your family standing in front of statues, fountains and landmarks. These days the technology has changed, and the 21st-century equivalent of the long, tedious slideshow is the long, tedious travel blog in which you write about every minute of every day, or the long, tedious online photo gallery that your friends have to click through for hours to find interesting images.

So how can you capture the spirit of your trip without weighing your audience down in minutiae? As the saying goes, presentation is everything, and a hook or gimmick can help bring both interest and organization to your travel memories. Take Matt's example: doing exactly the same thing in very different places, and then collecting all his video clips into a short greatest hits compilation. (Matt discards plenty of material along the way -- you can see some of his outtakes here.) You can take a similar strategy with photos if you prefer, but the important thing is to tap into the power of repetition, and provide a touchstone for your audience again and again -- one familiar thing in many very strange places.

You should also consider maintaining some level of mystery -- tell some of the story, but not the whole boring story. Here are my suggestions for finding the right balance of the familiar and the novel, the straightforward and the mysterious, the serious and the fun -- a perfect description of the best travel experiences.

The Travel Blog
This is probably the most conventional approach, but in my estimation the least likely to thrill and enthrall. If you have ever read back over your notes from the road, you know not everything is a keeper -- and if you have a few bad days in a row, your audience could turn you off like the 11 o'clock news.

However, if you have the self-control and wherewithal to take a "less is more" approach and stick to it, a travel blog can be a great way to go. Some suggestions:

  • Post one snippet of overheard local conversation every day, and nothing more.

  • Post the top headline of the day from the local newspaper.

  • Wait until the next morning before posting, and write about the one thing from the day before that most made an impression and stuck with you overnight.

  • Post the misunderstanding of the day. For example, here in Beijing, an Iraqi athlete who had trouble getting funding for his trip to Beijing was thought to have said "I could not afford the bus fare," when in fact he said "we could not afford to get there." (This is the "Excuse me while I kiss this guy" tactic.)

    Photo Journals
    taking photoPhoto journals are far less demanding of the reader, and can sometimes even do a better job of conveying the extreme variety you can encounter in a day's travels. A prose recounting of where you went and what you did tells your audience what to think; a picture lets them see and think for themselves.

    But a gimmick, whether thematic or organizational, still serves an essential function here. Some possible approaches:

  • The "photo a day" blog is somewhat overdone at this point, but there's a reason for that; it's easy to do and easy to follow, and doesn't ask too much of anyone involved. Post only one photo per day, without exception. This forces you to pick the best and most essential photo from each day, and spares your audience from having to be your virtual sidekick.

  • Post a photo at the same time each day, whether it be at breakfast, sundown, high noon, midnight, etc. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, take and post the photo without exception.

  • Post photos with no explanation. Pick a photo that provides just enough information to make your readers wonder what you were doing that day, but not so little that they can't figure it out at all.

  • The Mobile Gnome: Many people have opted for variations on Web-based gnome projects. Take a gnome from your neighbor's lawn, and post or send them pictures of it from all the attractions and cities you visit.

  • Take a single, distinctive hat -- maybe a Vancouver Canucks hat or a Phillies cap -- and wear it in every photo you post or share.

  • Post a photo of the entry ticket for whatever attraction you visited that day -- and nothing more.

    The possibilities are endless, so long as you follow the cardinal rule: Don't bore anyone!

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