Top least awful travel Twitter personalities in recorded history (so far)

Oh, look! Another voter-driven, who-to-follow travel Twitter list!

So, here’s the fundamental problem with these voter-driven lists: they’re far more reflective of existing popularity and the willingness to campaign by the contenders than appreciable talent. Sure, voter-driven Top Whatever lists serve a vaguely useful purpose, even if that purpose is often a distant third to page views and link bait. And in this instance, credit where credit is due, several people from the original list of contenders are performing much better on Twitter these days, in my opinion, than the last time I checked in on/unfollowed them, so there’s something to be said for that welcome revelation which I probably wouldn’t have otherwise experienced.

That said, when/if a who-to-follow travel Twitter list is at all necessary, I feel that readers are far better served by a list that’s been carefully cultivated by someone with highly selective, exacting taste, along with a few words explaining why those travel Twitter personalities merit following.

(Who, me? OK, I’ll do it.)

For the sake of disclosure, the attributes I most appreciate (and personally aspire to) in travel twittering are: a pleasing balance between informational, evocative, entertaining and reasonable self-promotional tweets, dispensed, when space allows, with style and wit.

Here’s the problem, or perhaps it’s just my problem… Lots of people do a couple of these things admirably well, but surprisingly few manage to consistently deliver the entire package. Far too many people burden their followers with an overabundance of tedious, off-topic tweets, wearying self-promotion and/or operate as if Twitter is an instant messaging application. A little of this is fine and expected when one engages on Twitter, but there’s a threshold and, frustratingly, too many people have no idea when they’ve galloped through that threshold on their non-stop, express trip to Suckville. These failings, and my daily struggle to manage distractions, are why I have been and continue to be so fastidious with my Twitter feed management.

With that in mind, and in no particular order, the following are some of the travel people who, when I’m hurriedly skimming Twitter, I always stop and read due to the high probability that they’ve tweeted something great. Of course, this isn’t remotely comprehensive, so anyone that wants to point me toward similar feeds, please leave a comment.

David Whitley: The Grumpy Traveller’s Twitter feed is chock full of travel wisdom, frank opinions and hilarity, with an endearing self-effacing touch. The man is a veritable tornado of freelancing activity, so there’s rarely a moment when he isn’t on a trip, planning a trip or just grumpily returning from a trip. Though he’s recently threatened a direction change, I’ve long been a loyal fan of his blog for its insightfulness and, usually deserved, lambasting of various travel industry shortcomings that every writer, PR person and traveler should absorb.

Ryan Ver Berkmoes: Though Ryan mostly ignored Twitter in the beginning, over the past year or so he’s been active and totally nailing it. He managed the difficult trick of cultivating strong Twitter content without the usual newbie mistakes and now his careful link selection, reliable one-liners and the fact that he’s seemingly on the road for 300 days a year for Lonely Planet, make his feed uniformly exceptional.

Grant Martin: Grant has forgotten more about flying and flight booking than most of us can ever (honestly) claim in our bios. He somehow serves as the editor-in-chief at Gadling while still holding down a fulltime, frequent traveling job requiring him to look at stuff in giant microscopes. He’s also not afraid to publicly call people out on concerns/infractions when necessary, which, of course, I love.

Annemarie Dooling: In a sign of how I’m sometimes alarmingly closed off from great people on Twitter, I only started following Annemarie about six months ago. Holding down what seems to be five or six different blogging jobs is probably why she always seems to have a finger on (and tweets from) the pulse of digital and print travel media.

Mike Barish: More “character” than “personality,” Mike’s feed is eclectic and fun, though his affection for SkyMall products is cause for mild concern. Mike’s showmanship, wit and gift for quippy commentary were seemingly made for Twitter, often out-shining whatever link he happens to be tweeting.

Jamie Pearson: My interest in the mommy blogging genre is just a whisker below my interest in kitty fashion shows and just above my interest in NASCAR. So that I find Jamie’s feed to be consistently smart and entertaining is a testament to her personality and tweet selection, even when they are mommy tweets.

Jodi Ettenberg: I’ve spent some time with Jodi and know this isn’t (literally) true, but based on her Twitter engagement, I like to imagine her Blackberry is Velcroed to her forearm, runner style. Her relentless, yet engaging feed, documenting her ongoing vagabonding and peppered with reliably clickable links on a large variety of topics, many of them #longreads, is endlessly impressive and fascinating.

Paul Clammer: Lonely Planet author, NGO worker and baffling appreciator of what I call “unleisure travel.” Paul’s guidebooks include Sudan, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Dominican Republic and Haiti, where he’s currently living, volunteering and firing off evocative tweets.

Zora O’Neill: Yet another seemingly in perma-transit Lonely Planet colleague, with a particular talent for sharing factoids, clever insights and food tweets wherever she washes up.

David Farley: In addition to being an extremely talented travel writer, Farley is the author of one of history’s most bizarre pieces of travel narrative nonfiction, “An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church’s Strangest Relic in Italy’s Oddest Town.” He’s also one of the most (sometimes) brutally honest people I follow on Twitter, which can be both gratifying and sometimes scary.