Before we get started, I need you to know that this is not directed at you. At least, not you personally. I love all the blogs and all the stories of all my friends. This is more directed at you, in general. You, the internet. It pains me to say this, although not as much as it pains me to keep clicking on these links. Your trip report is boring and I don’t want to read it.
I get the impulse. A lot of you out there are doing some pretty cool stuff. Some of you are riding motorcycles around the world. Some of you are skiing improbable lines in exotic locales. Pretty much all of you have done something in the last year or so that’s worth sharing a beer over, and you’ve probably heard, “you should keep a trip report blog so we can follow along!”. But if someone’s going to go out of their way to pull up your story and skimread it at a red light or during their morning poop, keep in mind that there’s basically three reasons a person is interested in what you have to say.
- They care deeply about you as a human. This is the aunts. The Godparents. That kid you went on a few dates with like 10 years ago who, unbeknownst to you, wonders every day if you were the one who got away and scours the internet for any hint of what your life is like so they can insert themselves and wonder what might have been as they sit in traffic or drift to sleep at night next to someone else. These people are your fan base. They’ll read anything you put out there, even if it’s awful or doesn’t make any damn sense. That’s great. Cheers to the fans.
- They are interested in doing exactly what you did. These folks are looking for beta. They want to know whether to turn left or go straight when the trail forks at that big cedar with the lightning scar. They are completely uninterested, and starting to get a little annoyed, at long explanations of what you had for breakfast, the color of your shoelaces, and which brands are currently offering you 25% off one order a year. Honestly, a few photos and an annotated map is probably much preferred to any kind of prose.
- They’re interested in the story. And by story, of course, I don’t mean simply what happened, or even necessarily why. I mean the human drama. The nitty gritty. It’s not enough that you had a nice time, or a bad time. It’s not enough that the weather was bad. It’s not enough that you were right; someone else has to be wrong. It’s essential not only that you prevail in righteousness, but also that you quell the haters, which, generally, is composed by everyone else on earth.
When Homer recorded the greatest trip report of all time, The Odyssey, he could very well have said, “Odysseus went for a walk. He got lost. The haters hated. His new caligae really had the arch support he needed to go the extra mile. He came home, he brought the drama. The end.” That’s not a very good story. He didn’t waste time talking about which brand of goatskin flasks the Phaeacians relied on to stay hydrated. And when it stormed? This was no ordinary squall. This was the wrath of deeply, personally offended gods.
Odysseus never got bonked, but his crew was drugged by lotus-eaters and turned into pigs. They were never distracted, per se, but lured toward a cold, violent death by a supernatural Siren Song. Like, 500 people died, or something. And when he got home? Ho man. No shower beer and Netflix for that guy – he got right to killing everyone who even walked on his lawn while he was out.
That’s a trip report I can get behind.
Not every hike is an adventure, not every ski tour is an epic. Almost nothing we do is really all that interesting, if we’re honest. So if we’re going to have a story, tell us a story. We’re not all that interested in exactly what happened.