Travel blogging is not that easy.
I opened my blog, My Adventures Across the World, in September 2014. Actually, that’s when I finally bought my own domain. In fact, I first started travel blogging on a free platform in March 2013, after a very eventful trip to Cuba. Back then, I wasn’t focusing on turning my blog into a career. I just wanted to rant about Cuba and perhaps write about my other travels. I had no intentions of abandoning my academic career yet.
Read more about my academic career in my post “How I went from being an academic to a travel blogger.”
I eventually bought my own domain because I had heard from someone that it would be easier to run ads and to get a passive income. Who doesn’t want an effortless, passive income? I surely did! I thought it would be an easy way to earn a little extra money to increase my meager tour leader paycheck and to add to my future travel consultant income.
Well let me tell you – I have been doing it for 5 years. Travel blogging is not nearly as easy as you think it may be. Don’t get me wrong: I love it and wouldn’t do anything else for a living, but this isn’t nearly as easy-peasy as I thought it would be. And there is no such thing as a passive income.
Here are 13 things you should know about travel blogging.
13 Things You Should Know About Travel Blogging
Travel blogging is a real job
Just because you don’t walk into an office every day and you don’t have fixed hours, that doesn’t mean blogging is not a real job. Sure, you are free to work whenever and wherever you want, but for most bloggers (including myself) this translates into anywhere and at any time (and all the time).
I – for example – actually have a strict working routine, where I average 10 hours per day (with peaks of up to 12 hours), sometimes even during weekends. I work much more now than I did in my previous jobs. What’s different now is that I actually really enjoy what I am doing, for as hard as it is.
Travel blogging is much more work than you think
Before starting to blog full time I was under the impression that managing a travel blog would be fairly easy. I thought it was just a matter of writing something, placing some nice photos here and there, and hit the publish button.
I wish it were that easy. I know that a post doesn’t necessarily have to be a masterpiece, but I still like the idea of writing to the best of my abilities. Putting together a post takes time, depending on the topic and on how inspired you are. Once you have an idea in mind, you have to build the post in an appealing way, one that makes people want to read it. The language you use, the phrasing, and even seemingly silly things as the length of a paragraph all make a difference.
Once the post is written, you have to find the right pictures to go with it, edit them at least a little bit (I am no photographer), caption them and place them along the relevant text.
This is why I find it very frustrating when I get contacted by people who ask all sort of questions the answers to which can be easily found on my blog. It is rather annoying when they tell me that they don’t have 10 minutes to read that post that took me a long time to write!
In travel blogging, SEO is a must…
Search Engine Optimization (which bloggers refer to as SEO) is the most efficient way to make sure that traffic is driven to a post and to the blog. When I wrote my first post, I had not even heard of these words. I just thought that because I had written and published something, people would magically find it and read it. How naïve of me!
In travel blogging, you really need to learn the tricks of SEO so that you can optimize your posts and make them stand out in google searches. Using keywords, people may be able to find a post you have written and hopefully if they like it, they will come back for more.
This doesn’t mean that all your posts should be optimized. Indeed, you should still appreciate the act of writing in a more spontaneous way. Readers do too.
…as well as social media
Travel blogging and social media go pretty much hand in hand. Most travel bloggers have accounts across the best known social media. Using social media smartly means showing the world that you are out there, driving traffic to the blog and growing an audience, something which isn’t necessarily easy thanks to the constant changes in the way social media work – posts aren’t necessarily shown to all followers.
You will find it hard to keep on top of everything. You will have to use social media persistently but at times with no real strategy. You post regularly, you try to keep my audience engaged, you reply to comments and hope for the best.
Gone are the days in which you used Facebook to see what friends around the world were doing, and Instagram to post selfies and pictures of your cats.
Even when travel blogging, you still have to deal with people…
… and they are not necessarily nice.
One of the reasons people give up a job is that they have to deal with other people, which isn’t always fun. In my previous working life I have had a number of backstabbing colleagues, who went as far as stealing my research. I’ve also had to work hard to please difficult customers – and often didn’t succeed.
Read more about the kind of people I dealt with as a tour leader on my post “11 persons I have met during a guided tour.”
Travel bloggers may not work in an office building, but that’s about the only difference with the rest of the job market: you still have colleagues (other bloggers) and anybody who requires your services – whether it is for a consultancy, for a writing job, or for a marketing campaign – is a customer.
The job environment isn’t different from any other: there’s gossip, there’s envy, there’s a good dose of competition, there’s some who aren’t nearly as professionals as they try to show and others who act as rockstars. And there is a lot of networking to do.
Some bloggers will become really good friends: they are those you respect, admire and a constant source of inspiration. The others are colleagues with whom you will prefer to keep a strictly professional relationship. And there are some you would rather not deal with.
Finding a travel blogging niche is harder than you can imagine
The process of finding a travel blogging niche and of establishing yourself as an authority in that is actually really hard and requires a lot of trial and effort. It certainly has to be something you enjoy and you are passionate about.
Find out why I think I am an unsuccessful backpacker on my post “How to be an unsuccessful backpacker.”
Travel blogging press trips are hard work…
One of the perks of travel blogging is traveling for free. Or so you may think until you are invited on your first press trip. Trust me, there is not such thing as traveling for free – where by free I mean that you don’t have to do anything in exchange.
Participating in a press trip indeed means being employed to visit places and promote them on my blog and social media.
A typical press trip involves visiting a huge amount of places in a very limited time, as tourism boards generally try to maximize their budget. It means days of up to 16 hours, when you have to be concentrated on what you see all the time and can’t just opt out if you don’t feel like doing something. It implies traveling at an imposed rhythm, where you don’t get to just do what you want and like – you don’t even get to pick where you want to eat, or what you want to eat for that matter.
During press trips, as blogger you have to take notes, take (and edit) pictures and you are expected to post on social media, which means being constantly online. Once back, you must produce a minimum amount of posts within a specific time period. There is a contract, instructions, deadlines.
It is better (and definitely sounds more glamorous) than most jobs, but it is still a job. And a very tiring one too.
…but a lot of fun too
I would lie if I said that travel blogging press trips are boring. They are tiring, they are hard work and whenever you get back home after one you are so exhausted that you swear you never want to do one again. But they are a lot of fun too.
On a recent press trip to the North of Spain, not only did I get to visit some amazing places, but a spirit of camaraderie developed, jokes were thrown all the time, and I feel like I have learned a lot from the other bloggers who took part in the trip.
Read more about the North of Spain on my post “Amazing places to visit in Spain.”
In travel blogging, integrity is everything
As a blogger, you will be constantly thorn between your duty towards your readers and the need to keep the brands and tourism boards you work with happy, and to establish a reputation as a good blogger to work with.
What should you do if you are invited to use some services or to visit a place and your experience isn’t as good as you had hoped for? Should you write about it and be honest to your audience, or should you just omit this information and avoid any confrontation with the sponsors?
In this case, constructive criticism is the way to go.
Read more about my experience on Mount Bromo on my post “Ring of Fire or Circle of Hell?”
Luckily enough, bad experiences are actually not so frequent and more often than not you will find myself writing glowing reviews.
Travel blogging changes the way you travel
Traveling was way more spontaneous and definitely more relaxing before I started blogging. It was about enjoying my time at a destination and telling my friends and family about my experiences.
The “telling friends and family” when travel blogging is done on a different scale, where you actually write posts for the world (ok, perhaps not the world, but you get my point) to read. It makes you look at places in a different way. You will ask more questions to the guides and you will often take notes, as perhaps a good blog post will come from it. You even put much more efforts in taking good pictures – sometimes you will actually feel like you are seeing a place from behind the lenses of a camera.
Before starting a blog and having multiple social media accounts connected to it, I didn’t care so much if I didn’t have internet when I traveled. In fact, it was refreshing to have a break from it. Now, I end up spending at least an hour every day posting on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And although I am not meant to really work, I end up checking my email, just in case some good business opportunity comes through.
There’s no such thing as easy money with travel blogging…
Whoever said that it is easy to make money blogging said a blatant lie, and you’d better realize that quickly. Money takes a while to come – and it takes a lot of effort.
It took me months of hard work to make my first $100 USD through my blog. It will be a rollercoaster – even financially.
…and there is not just one, established way to make money with travel blogging
Different travel bloggers find different ways to make money. Some have established their own tour companies whereas other offer consultancies; some work with sponsors and others make money through a variety of writing jobs.
Most bloggers also place affiliate links on their blogs, something which requires a careful study of the audience’ interests. We call it passive income when in reality there is nothing passive about it.
A blog is generally just a platform, a way to showcase a number of services. It just takes a while to decide which is the most viable way to earn a living through a blog, and this is something completely personal: what works for me, may not work for you.
When travel blogging, it’s good to have haters
I know some (usually female) very successful bloggers who are swamped with hateful comments which are full of disturbing messages, and that can be really hurtful. I was actually happy when I got my first hate comment. I figured hatred comes from envy, and if someone envies me it is because I am slowly becoming more successful. Something to celebrate!
Sure enough, I didn’t expect travel blogging to be such hard work. Yet, I love what I am doing and every day I wake up with a big smile on my face, looking forward to a long day at work.
What are your thoughts on travel blogging?