The shame of old (travel) blog posts

February 27, 2005: I posted about jetlag and date confusion, about how I can’t keep a calendar straight, how my expat life made that even harder for me to do, and how oh, we’re going skiing and also, I can’t wait to eat noodles later! It is written as though you know all the details of my life, who’s in it, and actually care about those things.

October 31, 2007: I posted a review of a 1966 movie about Hawaii. I managed to cross reference that review with some sharply written references about Hawaiian history and then, I tied all this in to the frustrations and vanities around the sun break guide to Hawaii I was writing at the time. I found a way to complain about writing a guidebook to Hawaii. Imagine.

March 17th, 2009: I posted a link choked name dropping round up of a day I spent at SxSW,the Music, Film and Interactive mega-event that takes place in Austin, Texas, every year. Do I tell you who these people are or why they’re important? No, I do not. Do I tell you why I’m in Austin at all? Nope. I make all kinds of assumptions about what and who you know. I proudly alienate all of my readers who aren’t there at the time. Way to go.

Old (travel) blog posts. They’re there to keep us humble. The shocking typos and editing oversights. The tone-deaf attempts at humor and self deprecation. The utter failure to provide any kind of context for, well, anything. The vain assumptions that these things matter to me, therefore, they must matter to you. I’m talking about my blog, of course, your archives are a library of beautiful syntax, of sensible contextualized advice, and entries that stand alone on their own merit, each one a well formed travel essay or service piece that could live a healthy life outside of the confines of your blog. Right? Right.A punishing little WordPress plug in called Advanced Random Post tortures me every time I refresh my site. It works its nefarious self-esteem busting evil by publishing, in the second slot on my home page, a post pulled at random from the archives of my site. On the one hand, this is a good thing. It pulls up selections from a series of guest posts I ran one April while I was traveling, 30 days or so of well written stories from friends and fellow travelers who kindly sent a story my way to keep my blog from going dark. It reminds me of, oh, that time I took a tour of the shipping terminal on Seattle’s Harbor Island or visited the Ballard Locks when they were full of running salmon. I see these old posts and I think, “Wow, that was a great day out.”

But Advanced Random Post also presents writing from my days as a volunteer for the Kerry/Edwards campaign. Those aren’t about travel! What was I thinking! And oh, no, I didn’t really choose to write about how tired I am after that hike in the Austrian Alps, did I? Not when I could have either posted a simple photo or told you how to do that hike yourself. That would have been useful to my readers. Instead, it’s two paragraphs of whining about fatigue. Why did I think you’d want to read that?

Every time I load a page, I’m confronted with the mistakes (and less often, triumphs) of my past. I can see the trajectory my writing has taken, I can see things change. I’m not the same traveler I was in 2004 when I started my blog in its current incarnation, and I’m certainly not the same writer. Seeing that old work reminds me of places I’ve been, of what’s changed. Sometimes I’m pleased but mostly, I’m just embarrassed. Did I really publish 600 typo choked words about an hour in a tea house? What was I thinking?