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may 29

Blogging is better than writing big emails home

I must admit that if we were still relying on postcards my parents would probably have forgotten I existed by now.

When I first traveled, I was delighted to see Internet cafes everywhere, and I tried to email as often as I could.

I had two email groups. One was virtually everybody I had every met and the other was just family. That email home was also my journal -- it was dutifully printed out and filed by my father.

I think my family was just happy to know I was safe but, as far as friends were concerned, the reactions were mixed. On my return one person told me my email was the highlight of their week -- a treat saved for a quiet coffee break.

Others, I realized, hadn't read a word. I may as well have been telling them I was from the Bank of Nigeria and I had a million dollars just for them. I was spam.

As any experienced traveler will tell you -- your tales are interesting for 15 minutes when you get home. Much the same goes for volunteering.

"How was it?"

"Where did you go again?"

"Were the toilets really horrible?"

"Were there cockroaches?"

"Whose turn is it to get the beers in?"

And that is pretty much it. You may have had the most incredible life changing experience but in the meantime, entirely understandably, your friends have been getting on with their own lives.

So when I volunteered in Hanoi I promised myself no more big emails. Instead my weekly update would be via a blog. At the start it was written for family and friends but I loved it when visitors increased and people left comments.

Unlike friends back home, these new commenters were people who a direct interest in traveling or volunteering or Vietnam. Those were the ones I started to write for.

I'd like to turn that blog into a book one day. I have had a couple of sniffs but no one is yet to bite. For two and a half years everything went in there. The ups and the downs.

As it turned out friends did read it, maybe they'd only check in once every couple of months, but they still wanted to know how my life was going.

Blogging worked out a lot better than those nasty spam-like group messages. They're impersonal and no one likes them. Send personalized messages instead and keep a blog for everyone else to read -- if they want to.

In fact, I reckon everyone traveling, volunteering, or finding themselves in exotic places for whatever the reason, should consider keeping a blog.

I've read that 99 percent of all film pitches are about a "fish out of water." With that in mind, what better fish to write about than you?

Even now I re-read my old Vietnam blog. It has so many memories and there are already little details that I had forgotten. Some stir up old memories.

Some still move me to tears just as the events they documented did.

I hope you enjoy the following links. These are my blogging Top Ten Moments. [These links may inspire you to blog your next trip -- or to seek out the many excellent travel blogs that others write.]

1. Hearing the good news (on my old Space Hardware blog)

2. Just Arrived

3. My first experience of the effects of Agent Orange

4. Christmas Miracles

5. Getting carried away, here and here.

6. The memories of this still move me to tears every time I read it

7. My adopted football team Hoa Phat Hanoi win the cup

8. The most incredible trip ever

9. I say goodbye to KOTO

10. I get that old, familiar feeling, this time in Nicaragua

Finally it should be noted that I was in Vietnam to help fundraise for a charity restaurant. It was one of the greatest days of my life when it finally opened. Details here.

Now I have the same job to do at CafeChavlos in Nicaragua. We need all the help we can get.

Hope you enjoy the links and my time as guest blogger. I hope to see you all again at my current blog at www.ourmaningranada.com.

Thanks to Budget Travel Online for the opportunity.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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