Today we have the dashing Rob Schrader of the phenomenally successful Leave Your Daily Hell blog. Rob makes us woozy with his eloquent travel writing voice (Will: and sexy camel kissing photos) and offers up advice on what makes a confident and authoritative writer. We love this guy (well, I know that Will certainly does)
1. Could you briefly introduce yourself, your site and your why you wanted to write a travel blog?
Certainly! My name is Robert Schrader and I’m the editor of Leave Your Daily Hell, which is today a comprehensive source of destination information, practical advice and inspiration for more than 20,000 travelers. When I launched the website in 2010, however, it was little more than a personal travelogue of my experiences living and working in China.
2. Who were/are your major influences when decided to create your own blog?
Initially, nobody! I started my blog for completely self-indulgent reasons, the fact that a few people (mostly older men who wanted to have sex with me) followed it religiously notwithstanding. It was only after being selected as a finalist for a big blogging contest in Thailand in 2010 that I decided to pursue travel blogging as a profession, that I felt like I might have “what it takes.”
3. How would you describe your voice? How does your style differ?
Most people who know me in real life and then read my blog remark that I write exactly how I speak. And I won’t lie: I speak more articulately than most people do. Indeed, I’ve found the secret to developing a writing voice that others want to read is first acquiring an enjoyable speaking voice, then writing as close to how you speak as possible.
4. What do you think constitutes a great travel writing voice?
People read travel blogs because they want to travel more. If you want to be someone’s source of advice or even inspiration, you have to write with authority. Although my natural writing style is long, flowy and pretentious, I’ve found that writing short, snappy, information-rich sentences — with, of course, some sass and, occasionally, sex sprinkled in — is the best way to go for blogging purposes. Also, have impeccable grammar, diction and sentence structure. If you claim to be a writer and don’t write well, who’s going to trust what you have to say?
5. What time of day do you find best to write? Do you have any particular styles of getting your ideas down? Do you have a notepad or is everything digital?
Early, early morning — I usually wake up a 5 or 6 a.m. and write at least one article before doing anything, including eating breakfast. As far as ideas, my method is simple, if a bit formulaic. A couple times per year, I make a long list of potential topics and turn them into catchy titles or at least, phrases I think will be the post titles. I then schedule them out, to the tune of five per week, at least a few months in advance in iCal. Typically, a single phrase or idea is the only seed I need to write a fully-formed article — I’m lucky like that.
6. What things do you focus on in your blog posts? What makes great reading?
The focus of a particular post always relates to its title; how I illustrate that focus is what’s different. I always use a combination of hard facts and personal anecdote, but the ratio varies. If I’m writing a more info-based post (Transport Options in Colombia, as an example), facts outnumber anecdote. For editorial and opinion-based posts, on the other hand, facts are merely the foundation; my personal experiences illustrate and justify the position I’m taking. Ultimately, people want to read what will help them make a good decision, and providing what my readers want is always my top priority.
7. What are your thoughts on travel literature? What books have inspired you/what other works of art?
To be honest, I try not to read a lot of proper travel literature, although I am a big fan of Henry Miller’s accounts of his early-century sexcapades. I find that most travel writing simply makes me question my own path and as a result, is not very beneficial to me. I instead prefer to read books that tangentially relate to traveling Herman Hesse’s “Siddhartha” and Jamaica Kincaid’s “A Small Place,” for example. More than that, however, I’m inspired by music. Tori Amos’ “Scarlet’s Walk” is my perennial favorite.
8. How do you build your audience?
Social media is big. I post about 50 times per day to Twitter and several times per day to Facebook, where I also run ads to promote my fan page. I respond to every single re-tweet I get, every Facebook comment and every blog comment. I communicate directly and as extensively as possible with readers who write in to email. I guest post for blogs. I’m also kind of an SEO master: A good chunk of my articles rank on the top page of Google for their respective keywords.
9. Tell us about your most popular post.
Funnily enough, it’s a post called Casual Sex in Brazil which uses my experiences whoring around in Brazil to illustrate the larger trend of gratuitous sex in the country. It ranks very highly in Google and gets over 5,000 unique views per month all on its own. Unfortunately, I think most of those viewers are actually looking for porn, so it doesn’t convert very well. More wholesome — and higher-converting — posts are “How To Travel Young and Middle Class,” “10 Reasons To Travel Now” and “Travel the World for Less Than $50 Per Day.”
10. And lastly, what would be your top 3 tips to a new blogger trying to find their voice?
1. Get in the habit of speaking more eloquently
2. Write as closely to how you speak as possible
3. Read your writing aloud and re-write anything that sounds awkward
Sweet interview! Thanks Rob!
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