In the News

Travel blogs keep wanderers in touch

Scott Petersen, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Saturday, April 01, 2006

When Luc Levesque started up a website to post snippets about his travels nine years ago, he had no idea what he was getting into.

It was designed as a makeshift way to keep in touch with family and friends back home in Canada as he backpacked his way through Europe. It`s become a communications portal for thousands of travellers around the globe — a time-consuming leap.

“The web was really young and on my first trip, I just threw a couple of scripts together,” said Levesque, a senior technical architect with Bell Canada in Ottawa. “It was more of an experiment to be honest. I didn`t know what to expect.”

His site, Travelpod.com, has grown from its makeshift roots into a leader in the world of travel blogs. Instead of long distance phone calls, postcards or mass e-mails from countries around the world, blogging sites have become an easy way to keep in touch with a lot of people, quickly and cheaply.

Posters create an account where they can post pictures, video clips, stories and information from the road, then e-mail the link to their list of friends and family at the click of a button. Clicking on the link brings them directly to the traveller`s latest entry and offers an option for them to post little notes in return.

“My family will never travel, so this is a way for them to do it through me,” said Carmella Lesiuk, a native of Edmonton who used Travelpod.com extensively during her three years travelling the world. “It`s a diary, it`s a journal, it`s to share with my family and all the people who`ve stumbled upon it.”

The unending growth of the Internet, popularity of web logs, known as blogs, affordability of digital cameras, and the travel industry`s increasing use of the Internet have all contributed to a competitive market for travel blog companies. Travelpod.com, now looking for a second round of investors, faces competition from other companies like Travelblog.org, and MyTripJournal.com.

But Levesque believes his company`s free service and inventive technology separate it from the pack and are what keep media like USA Today and The Wall Street Journal calling. He`s added options for travellers to receive donations, find other travellers in their area they might be interested in meeting, put pins on a virtual map showing where they are and where they`ve been, and soon, be able to print their final travel blog into a book delivered to their door.

The site now pulls in over 250,000 unique visitors a month and has more than 30,000 registered members, according to Levesque. It also has a strong online community that frequents it to study for future travels, ask questions and compare notes with others.

“There`s a huge focus on community,” said Levesque, just before leaving on a six-month trip through South America with his fiancee. “It certainly built itself and grew organically over time through word of mouth.

“We realized a while back that the community was one of our biggest assets. You can`t build one up overnight.”

He`s managed to draw revenue from the site through advertisements, donations and commissions for travel bookings, but the company only recently devised a long-term business plan to make it profitable.

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