Here are some rules of thumb for staying safe while sharing about all the awesome things you’re experiencing.
1. Know where you are
Each country varies greatly in the amount of freedom granted to its internet users. Even within regions, there can be great differences in freedom of speech.
Consult resources like this Reporters Without Borders map, that outline levels of freedom along a number of different measures, in order to know your risks. Notice, for example, how greatly freedom of speech varies in the Caribbean, or Southeast Asia.
2. Talk to locals about your blog ideas
Depending on the kinds of things you see or experience, you may want to write a celebration of cultural diversity, or a scathing diatribe of a city policy.
Pitch your ideas to locals before you publish them, people you can trust. If you’re in Vietnam, for example, and you want to write about resource distribution, talk to locals about it. If they give you a lukewarm response, it probably means you shouldn’t publish it until you leave. And that brings us to our next piece of advice.
3. Use a tor hidden service
Anonymizing your internet presence can make a big impact on other people’s ability to track you down. This may not sound very sexy at first, but if there’s something so serious that you absolutely have to write about it, it might be worthwhile to mask your identity. Even when you’re doing the right thing, you can still be punished or used as a scape-goat.
Tor services, developed by the US Navy, are one of the best ways to anonymize yourself. Read up on how to do it right, and remember to log out of whatever account you’re posting with. Just because you’re on Tor doesn’t mean your Facebook post will not have your profile photo attached to it!
4. Sometimes you just have to wait
You may have a great idea, or a great article, or expose, but if publishing it would put your life or safety in great jeopardy, it’s probably not worth it to publish immediately. As a foreigner, you don’t have the same rights as you would back at home, and you may even have less protection than the locals themselves, certainly not the same depth of personal connections.
Publish your articles, pieces, works of art, when you know you will be safe. Don’t even publish it on your way to the airport if it’s probably sensitive. Wait until your flight touches down at your next destination.
5. Don’t be discouraged!
It may sound like a lot of work to keep up a blog during your gap year, but the rewards can be immense.
Blogs can be an incredible reflection point for you, pushing your thinking and helping you digest all the crazy different things you’re seeing day-to-day. They’re an awesome exercise in public dialogue and written presentation. They may even offer something of value to the local communities in which you find yourself.
And of course, they can pull your friends and family along with you for the ride, helping them share in the same insights you’re having, as they’re happening.
Whatever your reasons, stay safe out there, and keep your head about you when publishing content in another country.