I was very excited to be part of a travel blogging group.
In my mind, I saw myself entering a big brown door and meeting old-time bloggers in person, shaking their hands, introducing myself. I imagined having long conversations and being privy to industry gossip and secrets. I imagined finally having people to talk to about blogging (aside from my friend Andrew, who often says he wants to start a blog but hasn’t done yet).
I already have a draft of questions as conversation starters, in fact.
- How has writing been to you so far? Have you had writer’s block and what did you do to get past that?
- Have you ever grown tired of constantly blogging about all the places you go to?
- Do you have some place you frequent but don’t blog about? Where, why?
- Do you answer all readers’ messages? How about “lazy” questions?
- Have you experienced getting bashed for something you wrote?
- Other things.
I thought about going on trips with bloggers such as myself and know how different (or similar) it is from the usual trip with friends. I wanted to become part of a community.
Barging in through the world of blogging
The first few local bloggers I talked with online were okay, I guess, but you can feel the heat of competition. This wasn’t what I expected. Some would engage in casual banter, but dodge answering questions on how to get invited to fam trips (familiarization trips are usually free trips provided by tour companies or tourism boards for bloggers to help with promotion). The funny thing is I wasn’t even seriously considering pitching at that time, I was just making small talk. There’s also this one dude who was very friendly, until he learned we were planning to go to a place same as his group. Did he think we’d compete with the “scoop”?
In our first year of blogging, one of my first goals was to get accepted to this local blogging group in the Philippines. I was just disappointed. I realized that most members have been in the industry for years that they already have their groups and, to be frank, a lot of them are snobs.
I guess this shouldn’t have been surprising, but it still caught me off-guard.
I made lame attempts to be invited in casual meetups (like coffee talks), which were in naught. Over time, I got acquainted online with a few local bloggers that I actually like. Still, there’s this feeling that blogging isn’t really a community experience as I thought it was.
Finding groups online
Inasmuch as it’s more poetic to write about being a lone wolf , I actually found groups that are constantly providing support and encourage growth in the international arena. My favorite would be Female Travel Bloggers, a group of lovely ladies traveling in different parts of the world.
FTB has regular threads for collaboration efforts and it’s open for various discussions, which range from the technical side of blogging to what-to-do’s in different situations (e.g., experiencing burnout or fatigue from constantly blogging). We can talk about small and huge successes and frustrations, and there is always, always people who would listen and respond.
Take this situation, for instance. A few weeks ago, a tourism board grabbed one of our photos, removed the watermark and replaced it with their own before posting it in its Facebook page. The page admin ignored my messages requesting for them to take down the photograph (hello Catanduanes Tourism Board, yes I am referring to you). I was in a conundrum because although I want to uphold our copyright, I also didn’t want to offend or burn bridges.
I posted about this online. Whereas in the local group I got a single reply, I received much more support in FTB. At least two bloggers even posted in the tourism board’s page to protest or get its attention, and before the day ended an official finally replied to one of my messages.
Aside from this active support system, I also benefited from guest posting and link exchanges. I was able to raise our blog’s domain authority enough to rank high in Google in my posts this year. In fact, our stats have more than doubled compared to that from the last quarter of last year.
Have I found my tribe?
I don’t know, to be honest. I guess I don’t want to assume because it would seriously hurt if somehow I get kicked out. This happened before — I inadvertently broke a group rule, got no warning whatsoever and was banned. Anyway, I’m thankful that I don’t feel alone, and I can even write a mushy letter of gratitude to all the international bloggers who helped or supported us in one way or another.
I think a part of me still wants to have an online barkada of local bloggers, but maybe it doesn’t have to be the same crowd I looked up to before I started.
Maybe I’ll find my people in my generation. Maybe they’ll find me.
Maybe it’ll just happen.
Right now I appreciate what I have.