I’ve been a travel blogger for over seven years. When meeting someone for the first time, people usually tell me how lucky I am to be getting paid to travel.
I ‘m very fortunate to be doing something that I love to do. But 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.
I get paid to travel the world from a ton of hard work, much of it unpaid in the beginning 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 live in Munich. As much as I love travelling, I also love being at home.
I’m certainly away from home 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 travelling 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 blog trip, it’s not uncommon to have a schedule of activities starting at 8:00 am running through until 10:00 pm.
The days are usually long even when you’re on your own schedule. When I walked the Wicklow Way in Ireland recently, I frequently stopped for photos. Much more so than I would have if I weren’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 get 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.
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 work with me. That took three solid days.
Hundreds of emails followed to plan the trip over the course of two months.
I’ve also spent days developing proposals that resulted in nada. 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 travel bloggers don’t like to talk about. Nobody brags that they spent three 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 success 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 took a productivity course and started tracking how long it 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 two blog posts a week! No wonder why I was stressed and so busy all the time!
After seeing how long it took, I 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.
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 pay.
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 (now discontinued, do social media campaigns, run affiliate campaigns for products like hiking gear. and for tours like the Wicklow Way and I was the co-founder of #AdvTravelChat, which was the largest adventure travel chat on Twitter (now discontinued).
In 2016 I launched my newest venture, becoming a tour operator and offering hiking, cycling and wildlife tours.
When I started out, I also taught online courses for universities in Canada. I also did freelance writing to help pay the bills while I built up my audience.
All the multitasking can make it difficult to focus. If you’re anything like me, you’ll 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. And that still gives you the freedom to see the world.
Confession 7: Being a travel blogger can be 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 six weeks of vacation a year. 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 two weeks. Then I was home for 22 hours, then off to Italy for five 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. You’re likely there for the important stuff more than I am. Friends have been disappointed when I miss important life events.
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.
I truly value the travel blogging community, especially the peeps that I regularly interact with. But 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’m a huge fan of getting to know people outside your industry.
The great thing about meeting entrepreneurs through a course or conference is that you know each participant has a high level of commitment. They take 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: 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 outgoing and could hold a conversation with almost anyone. After working at home alone with my two cats for over seven years and getting paid to do something I love, I feel I’ve become socially awkward.
Especially 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. I.e. world events, hiking, cats, pop culture – especially anything The Bachelor related, etc. But my small talk skills are 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.
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. Most of us don’t look down on anyone with a so-called normal job. We just might be socially awkward from working so much alone.
If I were 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. I’ll try to answer it in a follow-up post.
Note: these are my points of views about travel blogging. These will apply to many, but not all travel bloggers.