I’ve been a travel blogger for almost six years. When meeting someone for the first time, people usually tell me how lucky I am to be getting paid to travel.
While I am very fortunate to be doing something that I love to do, luck hasn’t had much to do with it. I’m able to get paid to travel the world from a ton of hard work and perseverance. Travel blogging is not always as glamorous as it first sounds.
Confessions of a Travel Blogger:
Confession 1: Most of us don’t actually travel all the time.
Nor do we all want to. I’m based in Munich with my husband and two cats. As much as I love travelling, I also love being at home. I certainly travel more than the average person with a so-called normal job, but for the first six months of 2016, I’ve travelled ~6 weeks out of 26, or 23% of the time. This is in-line with my goal of traveling 1 week out of every month. While some travel bloggers are nomadic, many aren’t.
Lesson to You: Facebook posts of travel blogger friends only tell a small part of the whole story.
Confession 2: When we do travel, it’s hard work.
I don’t say this to get sympathy, but the days are much longer than most people realize. If you’re on a blogger trip, it’s not uncommon to have a solid schedule of activities starting at 8:00 am running through until 10:00 pm.
If you’re on your own schedule the days are usually still long. When I walked the Wicklow Way in Ireland recently, I stopped frequently for photos, much more so than I would have if I wasn’t planning to post it on social media or write about it. After walking up to 25km some days, I’d take a quick shower then start to work on editing photos, crafting social media posts, interacting with followers and answering emails. This is pretty typical when a travel blogger travels and we may have additional work to do on top of it. I rarely go to bed before midnight when I’m travelling for work. I truly love it, but I do come home exhausted!
Lesson to You: You may have to pay for your vacation, but you also get the freedom to enjoy it so take advantage of it.
Confession 3: It Can Take Hours of Unpaid Work Even Getting a Trip to Happen…If It Even Happens
Last year, I was fortunate enough to cycle the Iron Curtain Trail across Finland. It was an 18-day 1350 km long trip! It was truly the trip of a lifetime, but making it happen took several months.
I already had a good relationship with Visit Finland that I’d developed over several years by working with them on smaller projects. Then, I developed a 7-page proposal of the project outlining the benefits they would receive by agreeing to the project – that took 3 solid days. That was followed by hundreds of emails planning the trip over a course of two months.
I’ve also spent days developing proposals that were rejected. In fact, far more proposals get rejected than get accepted in my experience. That means hours spent researching and brainstorming campaign ideas without pay in the hope of making a trip happen. It’s the nature of the business, but one that you rarely hear about. Nobody brags that they spent 3 solid days developing a campaign only to have it rejected, but it happens….a lot!
Lesson to You: In any business there is so much behind the scenes stuff you never see. Nothing is rarely as easy as it appears to be. An overnight successes is ten years in the making. Tom Clancy, author
Confession 4: Blog Posts Take a Really Really Long Time to Write
I had never calculated how long it took for me to write a blog post until I started the 90 Day Year , a Proven System (for entrepreneurs) for Turning Your Biggest Goals Into Inevitable Outcomes. One of the exercises in the program is to estimate how long you think a specific task will take, then actually time it and see how long it actually takes.
I had estimated that by the time I edited the photos, uploaded them, done keyword research, came up with a catchy title, conducted research, consulted my notes, wrote the post and promoted it on social media that it would take me about 3 hours. I was wrong. Very wrong. From start to finish, an average blog post takes me about 10 hours! That’s 20 hours a week to write 2 blog posts a week! No wonder why I was stressed and so busy all the time! I took what I learned in the 90 Day Year and outsourced what I could. I.e. my VA now uploads the photos and adds text to the photos that I’ll share on Pinterest. I set time limits for each of the other tasks that I try to adhere to. That’s freed up time to work on other areas of my business that generate more revenue. It’s worth checking out the video series of the 90 Day Year , even if you have no intention of doing the course.
Lesson to You: Really track your time and see if you’re spending it in a way that makes sense. For a business context, you should be spending more of your time working on your business, not working in your business, which many entrepreneurs do. In your personal life, track how much time you spend on chores, cleaning, watching TV. It may surprise you at how much time you spend on tasks that could be outsourced, like cleaning. Or perhaps you don’t have time for your hobbies because you didn’t realize just how many hours of TV you were watching.
Confessions 5 & 6: Travel blogging is a misnomer, most travel bloggers do additional work to pay the bills.
The actual blogging is just a small part of what most travel bloggers do. Yes, it does take & considerable time, as you’ve seen from above. While bloggers may get paid to write some blog posts as part of a campaign, like the #inLombardia365 one that I did recently, many posts will be without payment. As a blogger, it’s important to produce content on a regular basis to maintain and grow your audience, even if you’re not being paid to write it. I also think it goes a long way to building trust with an audience since people can see that you’re writing about a topic that you believe in, and not just because you were paid to do it.
In addition to the actual blogging, many travel bloggers do additional work to pay the bills. This may include accepting paid guest posts, social media campaigns, writing for other publications, or taking on freelance work in an area that they’re skilled at, such as graphic design. Personally, I am the #BBCLocalite for Munich for BBC Travel, do social media campaigns, run affiliate campaigns for products like hiking gear and for tours like the Wicklow Way and am the co-founder of #AdvTravelChat, the largest adventure travel chat on Twitter. I also have a new initiative that is launching soon, which I’m very excited to share – stay tuned! When I started out, I also taught online course for universities in Canada and did freelance writing to help pay the bills while I built up my audience. All the multi-tasking can make it difficult to focus. If you find it difficult to focus, you will find this very helpful: Are You Focusing On The Right Thing at The Right Time?
So instead of saying travel blogger, in most cases it would be more accurate to say travel blogger/photographer/social media specialist/digital influencer/freelance writer/…. you get the idea!
Lesson to You: If you really want to travel more, you may be better off finding a better paying profession that you can do remotely. There are a million easier ways to make money than from travel blogging that will still give you the freedom to travel.
Confession 7: Being a travel blogger can be really hard on relationships.
Nobody talks about this much, but if you travel without your significant other, as I often do, it can be tricky to find a balance. My husband gets 6 weeks of vacation a year, but much of that we spend in Canada each summer. As a result, I often go without him. While I aim to be away for no longer than a week at a time, it doesn’t always work out that way. In May, I was in Ireland for over 2 weeks, home for 22 hours, then off to Italy for 5 days. It often feels like a tug-a-war between spending time with your spouse or travelling. My irregular schedule can also make it difficult to maintain friendships. Friends often complain, but you’re never here. I don’t have all the answers, but try my best to balance travel with relationships. Both of which are important to me.
Lesson to You: Everything has a trade-off. Yes I may travel more often than most people, but you probably make it to more friend’s birthdays and are there for the important stuff more than I am. My husband was less than impressed when I missed his birthday last year to present at a travel conference in Turkey.
Confession 8: Many travel bloggers only talk business with other travel bloggers.
I think this is a huge mistake and one that I made early on as well. It’s inevitable that if you get a few travel bloggers together, we’ll quickly end up talking about the business of travel blogging. I.e. new projects/campaigns/income generation, etc. While I truly value the travel blogging community, especially the peeps that I interact regularly with, it’s a mistake to only stay inside the travel blogging bubble.
Entrepreneurs outside of the travel industry provide a new perspective. They may also be willing to share more information since they won’t perceive you as competition. I met some fabulous women from the 90 Day Year conference that I I attended in Las Vegas, as part of the course earlier this year.
The great thing about meeting entrepreneurs through a course or conference is that you know each participant has a high level of commitment and takes their business seriously enough to invest time and money into it. Several of us connected so much in person, that we’ve created a Mastermind group to keep our business momentum going. We hold regular meetings online every two weeks to discuss our business challenges and give each other feedback. This has enormous value and has taken my business to new levels. They know when to push me, when to support me, and we all exchange our best advice as we’re each in different non-competing industries! As Todd Herman, the founder of the 90 Day Year says, business happens at the speed of relationships.
Lesson to You: Regardless of what industry that you work in, ensure that you take the time to build your network not only in your industry, but also outside of it. The advice and perspective you get from people outside your industry is invaluable.
Confession 9: We Have a Hard Time Relating to People Who Don’t Travel
I used to be an extrovert. I was really outgoing and could hold a conversation with almost anyone. After working at home alone with my two cats for almost six years and getting paid to do something I love, I feel I’ve become socially awkward when I meet people that don’t travel, nor have the desire to do so. Not don’t get me wrong, I can talk about other things besides travel, like world events, hiking, cats, pop culture, etc, but my small talk skills are definitely diminishing.
I remember one such conversation vividly with an acquaintance I bumped into when I was back in Canada visiting friends. He flat out told me that he thought travel was frivolous and that his interest was on his family and not in seeing the world. Fair enough. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and while I respect that, I didn’t have a response. An awkward silence filled the air until our mutual friend returned.
Lesson to You: If you talk to us and we appear aloof, we’re probably not trying to be a travel snob who looks down on anyone with a normal job, we just might be socially awkward from working so much alone.
If I was Catholic, I’d be feeling pretty darn righteous after all these confessions :). Let me know what else you want to know about the world of travel blogging and I’ll try to answer it in a follow-up post.
Note: these are my personal points of views about travel blogging. These will apply to many, but not all travel bloggers.
The link for the 90 Day Year is an affiliate link, meaning I will receive a commission if you purchase the course at no extra cost to you. As an added incentive, I’m throwing in 3 1:1 sessions if you buy the course where we will focus on what you need to do to grow your business.