A blog about day-to-day life in Medellin was recently nominated as one of the top travel blogs in Latin America. MedellinLiving.com was nominated this January as one of the “Best Latin American Blogs” in the 2010 Web Blog Awards, also known as “The Bloggies.” Voting closed on January 31 and the winners will be announced on February 28 via the Bloggies Twitter stream.
Writer and web entrepreneur David Lee started the site soon after he landed in Colombia in 2009. He had already been traveling for 15 months around the world. He arrived to a cold and rainy Bogota in February and decided to head to warmer Medellin for a week, which turned into two weeks, and eventually into six months. Already an accomplished blogger through his Go Backpacking site, the full-time blogger decided to develop a second blog just about Medellin life. Interestingly, both of these sites are up for Bloggies this year.
Lee says: “I fell in love with Medellin and I didn’t find many travel resources out there on the city. There just wasn’t a lot of stuff out there. I wanted to give the blog a personal voice for what had been known as the world’s most dangerous city.” Lee’s first blog post was in February 9, 2009 and he immediately developed an audience. “I had 2000 visits within the first month,” he continued.
Part of the site’s appeal was that it provided a contrarian view of a city that was more known for its links to drug cartels than for its beauty and charm. “I think it surprised a lot of people to read about an American going into Medellin and saying that it was a cool and sexy place,” said Lee. “It got people thinking about traveling Medellin and Colombia in a way that they hadn’t before. I think it helped awaken their curiosity.”
“Medellin Living is about focusing on living as an expat in Medellin and Colombia. It’s about leting people know that, yes, you can walk down the street and not get shot at. It shows that the city is like any other. You can live a free, interesting life there and be part of the Colombian culture.” In fact, his first few blog posts focused on topics that concern every long-term traveler when arriving at a new city: finding accomodation, getting connected, seeing the sites and lifestyle topics like Medellin’s nightlife and finding a gym.
Visitors to the site range from backpackers to older people considering Medellin or Colombia as a travel or retirement destination. The top questions from retirees deal with the women, accommodation, safety and obtaining visas. The top questions from backpackers deal with the women, the nightlife and tips on salsa dancing.
Keys to Success
With thousands of travel blogs out there, how does a blogger get noticed and achieve international recognition? The blogger credits MedellinLiving.com’s success to three key steps.
- Choosing the right domain name. “You have to pick a name you know people will respond to and is catchy,” Lee said. “That will help you brand the site easily and create recognition for it.”
- Posting content regularly. “I posted to the blog several times a week. Not all posts were long and much of it was personal,” Lee says. “There were other sites already up, but many of them were static and not regularly updated. With regular postings, you can get picked up by the search engines easier.”
- Leveraging his GoBackpacking.com audience. “By the time I reached Colombia in my journey, I already had an audience following my travels,” says the blogger. “I told my audience that if they wanted to follow my day-to-day life, they should do so at MedellinLiving rather than at GoBackpacking. That site become more advisory to travelers rather than about my travels.”
Future Plans for MedellinLiving
In addition to his first two blogs, Lee recently launched TravelBlogSuccess, focused on sharing what he’s learned with other travel bloggers and providing a community for them. Despite his other ventures, he still plans on maintaining MedellinLiving and promoting travel to Colombia. Currently, he has one contributor in Medellin, Holly, who provides regular content to MedellinLiving. Lee is also planning to fashion a site redesign this year.
Author Jeff Jung is a Bogota-based travel writer and blogger and owner of careerbreaksecrets.com