Take Your Travel Blogging to The Next Level Through These Upskilling Techniques

If you have been in the travel blogging business for a few years, you will agree that old school writing no longer makes the cut in the present times. While good content is still valued, it is very rarely read. Most Millennials are impatient even with the blogs they read and the content they consume. Also, thanks to the boom in online content, it is hard to grab anybody’s attention, to begin with. There is no reason to lose heart, though. There are many ways to revamp your travel blog, and very specifically, your articles. Take some cues from the tips outlined hereunder.

Draw Inspiration From High-Quality Content

Most of my travel writer friends are voracious readers.
(Caught my pal from Nat Geo Traveller busy with her favourite pastime.)

Let’s get one thing straight at the outset: you cannot be a great writer unless you are an eager reader first. Get into a habit of reading well-researched, high-quality and engaging pieces. Understand what draws you to those types of articles. Is it the writing style? The in-depth coverage? Or a concept so novel that you cannot seem to ignore it? Gently try to incorporate the techniques that work best for the most widely read posts. A word of caution here: do not imitate! Try to be original in your writing style while putting all the inspiration to good use.

Make Friends With Grammar Nazis

Take time to reflect on the constructive criticism you receive.
(Deep thinking with my buddies in the hills of Prabalgad, Maharashtra)

If you are a true writer of yore, you’ll most likely be a grammar Nazi yourself. However, if you are a new-generation blogger without much of a flair for writing, you can still cultivate this art. Pay attention to some basics such as spellings and grammar. The only thing that can ruin a really good travel story with stunning photos is a poorly worded article. Not everybody is a gifted writer, but that does not mean one cannot master this skill. Do not be upset when you encounter grammar Nazis who constantly point out spelling mistakes or grammatical corrections that are wanting in your blog posts. Embrace learning even when it comes in the form of criticism.

Improve The Images That Go With The Words

It has taken me years to better my photography & editing skills, and I’m still learning.
(My click from Thimphu, Bhutan)

About a decade ago, an excellently written piece was enough to make a blog post a big hit with the readers. Unfortunately, a lot more is required today. When your post is competing with several other articles waiting to be read, (apart from other tasks lingering on the long laundry-list of the average reader’s schedule), you’ve got to up your game. High-resolution, well-framed and neatly edited photos are almost mandatory if you want to be taken seriously as a blogger, more so if you do travel blogging. Pepper your long posts with beautiful pictures that are relevant to the content. If you struggle with photography, you can always procure images from copywright-free sources.

Consider Taking An English Test Prep Course

Exams have a way of setting you on fire. You learn more when you know you’ll be tested.

Don’t feel shy about taking up courses in the English language (if you blog in English or wish to start eventually). If your trips to English-speaking countries have stoked your wanderlust enough to move or work from there, you will have to take the IELTS. I suggest signing up for the IELTS reading practice test and the  IELTS Writing Practice Test at BestMyTest. With features such as realistic simulations of IELTS tests, personalized study plans, diagnostic reports, instructor assistance and in-depth reviews of all testing sections, especially the subjective ones (Speaking and Writing), BestMyTest sets itself apart from the competition. They will even offer you 10% off all online IELTS preparation plans when you use my referral link with the code 2DEALSPOTIELTS! Your fluency in English is certain to improve when you get serious about it.

Experiment With Different Tones & Writing Formats Until You Find Your Best Fit

I’m busy blogging even as I await my flight out of Russia.

There is no golden formula for a well-written travelogue. While some talented writers focus on the destination and the locals, some others like to assume an introspective tone, sharing mostly about their personal experiences on a trip. Elaborately worded adjective-heavy sentences are a staple of certain bloggers. On the other hand, some prefer to keep their travel accounts simple and crisp. I know of blogs that provide detailed information on a place, while certain others exist only to generate curiosity, barely giving anything away. You can play around with different styles and see what works with your audience and also what you personally like. In the end, your writing should reflect a bit of you, regardless of what you write about.

Are you a travel blogging veteran with more tips to share?

Or are you new to travel writing who needs more guidance?

Let me know through your comments below.

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Sustaining a Career in Travel Writing When COVID-19 Has Disrupted Tourism: Tips on Balancing Work & Mental Health

So much has changed in the world since we took our last trips. Even though some countries and territories are gradually opening up again, COVID-19 has effected some changes that are most likely here to stay. The pandemic that brought tourism worldwide to a grinding halt (even though solo hikes and certain activities were still allowed in a few nations), has had a ripple effect on many allied careers, including travel writing. The disruption seems to have taken a toll on the mental health of many professionals. I write today’s piece not just to reflect on the current situation but to provide some hope and help to my friends and associates who are eagerly waiting for the world to get back to its pre-coronavirus times. While my advice is mainly for travel writers, some tips apply across industries.

Build Trust With Existing Clients

I remind myself how the fishermen in Kerala work together in trust.

If you are fortunate enough to still have some of your travel clients in business, go the extra mile for them. Now is not the time for hard negotiations and highhandedness. Be empathetic towards your business associates who might also have been affected by the change in various laws following the coronavirus spread. If you have fallen on hard times, reconnect with your past clients to check if they would like to work again with you. We often assume that a shut door will never reopen. But experience tells me that most businesses are happy to reconsider working with a valuable freelancer. When a couple of big names (that I used to get regular work from) were badly impacted by the global lockdowns, it was a long-standing old client that sustained me. I count myself lucky to have the rare opportunity to actually grow my savings when I thought I would run short on earnings.

Master Time Management To Balance Writing & Other Chores When You Lose Helping Hands

I sneak in some blogging notes while relaxing with my husband in a forest hideaway in Maharashtra.

One of the unique challenges most of us face in India is a result of our undeserved privilege and skewed social demographics. Before the COVID-led lockdown, many of us (including me) were used to house help who would do our sweeping, mopping and even cooking in certain cases. Now that all our maids are under stay-at-home orders, our days have gotten longer with the extra chores and backbreaking routines. It is how we deal with this added responsibility that will determine our mental peace. We had always been balancing our writing work with constant travel (when you think of the good old times). It’s time to repeat that with blogging deadlines and household chores. Time management is the key to winning this game. Divide your days into writing slots, chore slots and relaxation-with-family slots. Also, take a moment to reflect on how valuable your domestic help are. Try to be more compassionate and generous with their wages and leaves once they’re back.

Bank On Your Remote Working Skill To Scout For Work From Other Geographies

I pose at an almond grove in Chowchilla, California. I’m thankful for all the blogging assignments I get from the USA, among other countries.

As freelance travel writers, we are quite fortunate to have the liberty to work for anyone in any part of the world while residing in any geography. Make use of this advantage by pitching to clients in countries that are offering travel writing work. While the coronavirus numbers tell us one story, reality speaks another. When the UK was peeking its hospital capacity and the outlook seemed grim, I surprisingly got a chance to write for a London-based AirBnB management services company. Do not let all the morose news bring your spirits low. Many countries are opening tourism again. A bunch of European nations, some South-East Asian islands and parts of Africa will soon be launching their travel campaigns. (Now you know where to start pitching. 😉 )

Invest In Products That Relieve Stress

Courtesy: Eden’s Herbals

While a slight shift in perspective and some encouraging words are enough for most of you to get back on track, I understand that the depressive feelings might be too much for some of you to handle. With the lack of doctors and psychological help that you can access in these precarious times, you can fall back on over-the-counter stress-relieving options which are safe. THC-free CBD gummies, oil tinctures and other products by Eden’s Herbals aim to provide significant relief over aches and anxieties. Made in USA and lab-tested, these do not cause a high while helping you get over your worries. They offer free shipping in the USA. Plus, you get 10% off when you checkout using my code OINDRILADE.

Follow A Routine That Puts Your Mental Health Before Your Career

Take time off to relish the little pleasures of life such as afternoon tea and cookies.

Finally, remember that your career is not everything. It does not fully define you, regardless of how much of your identity depends on your work. When your writing career is going through a lean patch, take some time to enjoy the activities you love but are always too busy to do. Cook your favourite dishes, read the books you’ve been neglecting, watch some feel-good movies, or go for a walk if that’s allowed in your city. Also, set aside some time for exercise. A healthy mind dwells in a healthy body. While you’re busy doing this all, the world will soon start to look rosier!

Are you struggling with your career because of the economic slowdown & travel restrictions brought on by the pandemic?

Are you constantly demoralized or have depressive thoughts?

Let me know through your comments below. I will be happy to offer you a listening ear and some help or connect you to somebody who can assist materially.

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7 Gorgeous Pre-Wedding Photoshoot Destinations to Rock Your D-Day Countdown

Does travel have to stop when wedding bells are in the air? Not at all! While marriage brings with it a bix box of changes, there are plenty of moments you can enjoy as you continue to indulge the travel bug in you. If you are planning to do a countdown to your wedding day, celebrate the entire journey through professionally clicked photos in breathtaking locales. Pre-wedding photoshoots are quite “in” these days, and you shouldn’t miss these last fun memories of your bachelorhood. Here are 7 beautiful places that will add some more oomph to the romance brewing between you and your soulmate-to-be:

#1 Northern Ireland

A soon-to-be-couple hide from the thundering Irish clouds under an umbrella.

Few destinations can match the pristine sights of Northern Ireland. Whether it’s the Irish countryside, the charming Tudor castles or the unpredictable weather, this part of the United Kingdom offers stunning backgrounds to add some character to your pre-wedding photos. If you’re planning on staying even longer, the capital city of Belfast makes for a great destination wedding option as well!

#2 Kerala

The forests of Kerala set the perfect tone for a romantic shoot.

If your wedding countdown pictures are to be shot in India, there are choices galore. The enchanting forests and backwaters of Kerala add rich colours to the photographic palette. You don’t always have to stick to the popular areas of Munnar, Periyar or Fort Kochi. Go beyond and explore the riverside of Iritty or the waterfalls of Peechi.

#3 Vietnam

Rural Vietnam provides a charming backdrop for pre-wedding pictures

While Vietnam is traditionally a favourite with backpackers and solo travellers, the Asian gem has special offerings for couples looking to shoot their pre-wedding pics. Skip the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh City and escape to the rock-strewn island of Ha Long Bay to snap some gorgeous photos against clear waters. The country is quite affordable, so the only big expense you’ll have to take care of is that of the photographer.

#4 Rajasthan

The groom-to-be twirls his bride-to-be in a palace in Jaipur, Rajasthan.

How can we forget the Indian state famous for its palaces and regal gardens! Rajasthan’s diverse landscape affords you the lakes of Udaipur, the desert sands of Jaisalmer, the blue-hued houses of Jodhpur, and more. Find top pre wedding photographers in India and create your own royal-themed pre-wedding album with period costumes to match the grandeur of the forts.

#5 New Zealand

Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown makes for a great place to kiss!

There’s so much more to New Zealand than Hobbiton! Live your fairytale dream in Queenstown as you pose before the mighty Southern Alps. Looking to add a local cultural twist to your pre-wedding pictures? Head over to Rotorua to dance with the Maori tribe as your photography team tags along. To lend a formal feel to your pictures, Auckland provides the urban cityscape you might be looking for.

#6 Ladakh

A man proposes to his lady by the Pangong Lake in Ladakh (PC: Saurabh Chatterjee)

The newly formed Union Territory of Ladakh is blessed with magnificent scenery. From the Himalayas of Nubra Valley to the Buddhist monasteries with their giant prayer wheels, there’s a lot to see. Pastel shades of clothing work best with the barren reddish brown and dark grey mountains of this part of Kashmir. Stage a romantic dinner or proposal by the famous Pangong Tso – the lake which attracts travellers from all over the country.

#7 The Maldives

My husband and I share a cosy moment on a private island in The Maldives

This classic honeymoon destination is also a lovely option for a pre-wedding photoshoot. The Maldives has over a thousand islands that make this country so exotic. Book yourself some water villas on a private island, and get ready for the most romantic settings on white-sand beaches, tropical gardens and even beside underwater corals!

Still wondering whether you should organize a pre-wedding photoshoot before you tie the knot? The short trip will certainly be worth your time and money!

Where did you have your pre-wedding photoshoot done?

Getting married? Which photo-destinations are on your mind?

Let me know through your comments below. 🙂

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FlyFree As You Take A Winter Vacation, Thanks To PayTM’s Flight Sale

It is that time of the year again when the nip in the air makes everything rosier than before. There are no monsoon showers to ruin your outdoor plans, nor is there the sweltering summer heat that would burn your skin. Winters are the best time for lovely vacations, whether you wish to head to the mountains, hide away in a forest, or escape to a private island.

Jet Off To A Maldivian Private Island

Our ocean-facing table at the Maldivian restaurant close to our water villa at Paradise Island Resort.

Winter was just settling in when my husband and I took off for The Maldives to celebrate our honeymoon. We knew we had made a great decision to stay on the private Paradise Island. Gentle ocean waves lapping on the white sand shores, lazy walks on our water villa boardwalk, breezy evenings with soft music… there was romance in the air already! You too can book your flights to this tranquil haven on PayTM Travel.

Stay In A Tree House In A Jungle

Our jungle-stay in one of the Wood Cabins of The Machan in Atvan, close to Lonavala.

When I went on my first trip with my hubby after our marriage, I wondered if I would miss solo travel. But the joy of travelling as a couple far outweighed the highs of being on my own. We went to a small village called Atvan, almost 4 hours’ drive away from Mumbai. Our wooden room in the woods was kitted out with all sorts of modern and rustic amenities, from mood lighting to an hourglass.

Fly Free With PayTM Travel

So many of you ask me how to travel now that vacations are so expensive. While you can look for affordable homestays and boutique hotels for your stay, you sure can take advantage of PayTM’s Fly-Free flight sale to book your upcoming trip this winter. The offer is on for Axis Bank credit and debit card holders, and you will receive a surprise discount each time you make a flight booking between 5th and 7th December, 2019. The best part is, every hour, one lucky customer gets her flight entirely free! You can register ahead so you don’t forget about this travel-savings opportunity.

Holiday In The Scottish Highlands

The Stirling Castle in Scotland, just after a steady drizzle.

When your flights are sorted, you can pick a destination you’ve always wanted to visit. Even the Scottish Highlands won’t seem so distant when your airfare is taken care of. Scotland is not just about whisky, there are scores of enchanting castles (such as the Stirling Castle at the border of the Highlands and the Lowlands), cobbled roads, and sprawling meadows that beckon a stroll.

Book A Romantic Escape, Far From The Madding Crowd

I share a quiet moment with my husband in this cocoon swing chair during our honeymoon.

It is no news that winter is the unofficial wedding season. If you happen to be recently married or will soon take the nuptial vows, don’t tarry before booking your honeymoon. Those dreamlike beaches may remain just a dream if you don’t plan your sojourn in time.

Where are you vacationing this winter?

Have you registered for the Fly-Free sale yet?

Let me know through your comments below. 🙂

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Discover Saudi Arabia Beyond Mecca & Medina: Red Sea Reefs, Spice Markets & More

Saudi Arabia is fast becoming a popular destination among leisure travellers (apart from the usual religious tourists who go there to visit Mecca and Medina). Now that this Gulf nation has opened its doors to leisure tourism, there is an excitement among travellers looking to explore newer places with distinct cultures and people. Apart from two of the grandest destinations of Islamic worship (Mecca and Medina), which attract millions of pilgrims every year, Saudi Arabia has a myriad of surprises for other types of visitors: from magnificent shopping destinations to dive sites, Saudi Arabia has something for everybody.

A Glimpse Of Saudi Arabia

Aerial view of Saudi Arabia
Aerial view of Saudi Arabia

Even though Saudi Arabia is a desert country, there are 9,900-foot high mountains of the Asir, enchanting reefs of the Red Sea, interesting streets and spice markets of Jeddah, extensive date palms of Al-Hofuf and lots more. Remember to read the dos and don’ts before travelling to this Middle Eastern country. Dressing ultra-conservatively is mandatory here. Below are a few places that you must visit while in Saudi Arabia.

Jeddah

Scuba diving in the Red Sea of Jeddah

Jeddah is a must-visit if you are planning a vacation in Saudi Arabia. This former capital is also a Red Sea trading port and a melting pot of various cultures. The gateway for Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, Jeddah surprisingly has many beach resorts, scuba diving activities, mesmerizing street markets, open-air cafes, and lots more.

Al Ula

Intriguing rock formations in Al Ula

Scattered with golden rock formations in the northwest part of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Al Ula is a stunning city. It boasts of lush citrus farms and the ruins of many ancient kingdoms, the most famous of which is Medah’in Saleh, containing 2000 years old Nabatean tomb clusters. The site remains partially open from December to March for travellers who wish to attend the winter festival of Tantora that features various musical, entertainment, and cultural events.

Riyadh

Riyadh at night (PC: lawepw)

The capital of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh is a beautiful urban sprawl with many attractions to lure sightseers. From the recently renovated historical site of Diriyah to the bustling traditional market of Souq Al Zal and Taiba, the city offers multiple enchantments. A towering plateau, known as the “Edge of the World”, is a two-hour drive from the city, and a famous hiking destination for visitors and residents. The view from this place is exquisite and the silence is imposing. Rising a whopping 992 feet above the ground, the Kingdom Centre of Riyadh is an iconic symbol of Riyadh that houses everything, from a shopping mall to a residential complex, and even an observatory. The third tallest building in Saudi Arabia offers its visitors both a figurative and literal perspective of Riyadh which is home to 5.2 million people.

Madain Saleh

Mada’in Saleh (PC: Omar A.)

Madain Saleh is a striking combination of outstanding history and gorgeous architecture. The former grandeur and importance of the city are clearly evident in its marvellous ruins of towers, dwellings and walls. An ancient Ottoman railway and the old tombs give visitors a truly ethereal feel. The city dates back to the Nabatean Kingdom, which is similar, both in design and origin, to the recently discovered lost city of Petra.

Asir National Park

Jabal Sawda mountains in Asir National Park (PC: marviikad)

With a relatively cooler climate than the rest of the kingdom, Asir National Park, spread across 4500 sqkm, woos travellers with various picnic spots, campsites and a thriving environment, apart from Hamadryas baboons and splendid birds. The Asir Mountains are also a treat and a must-visit. Jabal Sawdah, the highest mountain in Saudi Arabia, comes under the Asir National Park. Here, you can enjoy many trekking, camping, biking, cablecar rides, and much more.

Saudi Arabia’s Coastline

Tiran Island offers ample snorkelling opportunities in Saudi Arabia (PC: fabian.kron)

Contrary to the popular misconception that Saudi Arabia is a country only with deserts, the Kingdom has a sprawling coastline, both on the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. This makes the country a scuba diving and snorkelling paradise. Not only is the shoreline beautiful, but the famous sites like the Boiler wreck also provide you with much-needed solace from the crowd (since scuba diving is not so popular among the Saudis).

Najran

View of the Najran oasis from Al Aan Palace (PC: Charles Roffey)

Situated close to the border with Yemen, Najran is a vibrant city that shares its Saudi Arabian cuisine with that of neighbouring Yemen, resulting in a warm and tantalizing taste of Arabia. The city offers a bouquet of history, architecture and culture, along with a heartfelt welcome to all its visitors.

Al Habala

Habala Valley near Abha, Saudi Arabia (PC: Wajahatmr)

Built by the Khatani tribe to stay safe from the Ottomans some 370 years ago, the unique and mysterious “hanging village” of Al Habala is a place you must visit if you are in Saudi Arabia. Made from local rocks, Al Habala derives its name from a type of rope ladder known as the Habal which used to be the only way to access this series of sandstone houses that stay perched on a ledge of a steep cliff 400 meters above.

Flying to Saudi Arabia with Nesma Airlines

Nesma Airlines (PC: Björn Strey)

One of the popular airlines flying to Saudi Arabian cities, Nesma Airlines came to the fore in June 2010. This Saudi Arabian airline has grown manifold ever since, and currently operates scheduled flights on domestic and international routes. It is headquartered in Jeddah and has three operational hubs, one in Cairo, Egypt (Cairo International Airport) and the other two in Saudi Arabia (King Abdulaziz International Airport and Hail Airport). With a fleet of 10 aircraft, this airline flies to 16 destinations, including Saudi Arabia. Nesma is growing at a steady rate as passengers prefer it for its affordability, hospitality, best in-flight services, and more. Book your flights on Nesma Airlines via Cleartrip (website or app) to save a significant amount.

Have you been to Saudi Arabia?

Got any interesting stories from the Gulf?

Let me know through your comments below. 🙂

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