16 Things Nobody Tells You About Being a Travel Blogger: No Bullshit Rundown
So you want to be a travel blogger? You’re not the only one. Our inbox is currently flooded with people reaching out asking for tips on how to start a travel blog.
It sounds dreamy, right? Traveling the world, sharing your experiences, and getting paid to do it.
Travel Blogging is truly my dream job, and I truly love doing what I do. Most mornings, I wake up and pinch myself that this is my life.
BUT there are so many things I wish I would have know when we first started out. There are so many misconceptions out there about blogging, and I bet there’s a lot you don’t know about this industry.
Being a Travel Blogger doesn’t mean all your days are spent lounging in the sun on a pineapple floaty, like the image above would have you believe… Disappointing, I know.
Today we’re pulling back the curtain.
We’re wiping away the glamorous facade of free hotel stays and unlimited freedom, and we’re giving you an inside look at what it’s really like being a travel blogger. The ugly parts nobody talks about. The daily struggles only us bloggers know. And the beautiful parts too, because there are many.
A Word of Warning: Before you read this, I want to tell you that some of this might not be what you want to hear (especially if you’re thinking of starting a travel blog). It might sting a little and get your spirits down, but I promise that if you are serious about blogging and want to be successful at it, you need to hear this before you buy your domain and start designing a logo.
Alright, are you ready for this is a raw and real, no bullshit rundown of what it’s actually like being a travel blogger?!
I sure wish someone had sat me down, gave me a mug of tea and calmly told me what I’m about to tell you…
1. Being a full-time blogger is hard f*%$ing work.
There are still quite a few people out there that think blogging is a “cute hobby” where people write down their feelings online instead of in a physical diary. While that might have been widely true in the days of Xanga (remember that?!), today is a whole different story.
We have had so many conversations with people over the years — strangers, friends, and even family members — where it’s clear they just don’t understand the amount of work we pour into our blog.
Blogging is a business, and successful bloggers work hard – often more than 40 hours a week (doing much more than just writing an online journal).
Which brings me to my next point…
2. If you want to be a successful blogger, you must treat it like a business.
Essentially, there are 2 types of blogs:
Hobby Blog: Blogs that don’t earn much money (or any at all!). The purpose of this type of blog is that it brings the author joy, and it is fun!
Blogging Business: Blogs that earn the owner a living. This might be their full income, or it might be a supplemental income in addition to their full-time job. But it is a significant amount of money. (Hint: Check out our income report to see how much money travel bloggers can make.)
If it is your goal to have the latter, you need to treat your blog as a business: You need to set deadlines. You need to operate professionally. You need to dedicate time (lots of time!) to your blog. You need to have a plan. You need to learn from people who have been blogging for a while. You need to invest in your business, with time or money (or better yet: both).
It’s easy to skim through this and nod along, but it’s an entirely different thing to put it all into action. At your core, you have to be incredibly self-disciplined and committed to making your blog succeed. Because if you’re not, you might as well just stick with hobby blogging.
Let me just take a moment to say, there’s nothing wrong with aspiring to be a hobby blogger. We live in an age where it seems everyone is trying to turn their hobby into a side hustle: Selling knit hats on Etsy or (gasp!) getting paid to write about travel. But it’s totally fine if you just want to blog for fun.
3. Blogging isn’t just about good writing and pretty photos.
A lot of people email us saying, “People always say I’m a great writer and that I should start a blog.” But here’s something most people don’t consider: Just because you love to write doesn’t mean you’ll love blogging.
Wouldn’t it be nice if all you had to do was write a killer article and add photos and BOOM: People would come to your site, like mosquitoes to exposed ankles.
That would be a dream come true for me because I went to university for journalism, graphic design, and photography. Basically a “Blogging Degree”, right?
Umm, not exactly. Those things are just a fraction of travel blogging. I’m not so great at many other aspects. [Enter Ben: Former engineer and MBA who has the analytical and data-driven brain I’ve been missing my entire life!]
Simply typing articles and pressing “publish” is going to bring in zero dollars. ZERO. So it’s important you understand what else is involved with blogging. Keep reading, because we’re about to spill…
4. There are aspects of blogging that aren’t fun.
Coding, optimizing SEO, keyword research, building backlinks, affiliate marketing strategizing, comparing analytics, creating captivating email funnels…
These are just a few of the things I don’t love about blogging. There’s a hell of a lot more, but I don’t want to bore you (too much).
Did you know about all these bits of the business? If so, great; you’re coming into this with a lot more knowledge than we did.
But if some of these terms are making you scratch your head, there’s likely still a lot you’ll need to learn. And in order to be successful, you’re going to have to be okay rolling up your sleeves and doing the boring stuff.
5. The image of a laptop by the beach (or a pool) is a lie.
If your idea of being a travel blogger involves a lot of hammocks and mojitos, I am about to shatter your illusion…
There are days like that. But sometimes it seems like they are rare.
The image of working on your laptop from the beach is a beautiful one. And the whole “digital nomad” movement seems to be based off the idea that having a remote job means your days aren’t spent in an office, but rather at a pool with a daiquiri in hand. It’s easy to sell that image, but it’s not exactly true.
Blogging, just like most remote jobs, give you lots of freedom, but it also requires hard work. More often than not in a cafe or co-working space rather than on the beach. Trust me, sand and laptops don’t mix well. And neither does sun glare.
As a travel blogger, you will have a mix of excitement-filled days where you wander around new cities and go on epic adventures; but there are normal days too, where you spend the majority of your time behind a laptop.
6. Blogging is NOT a way to get rich fast.
In fact, when you’re first starting out, you’re going to need to work for free. Yes, for FREE.
You’ll also need to invest your own money for your domain and hosting. And that’s just the minimum. Some people choose to hire designers or take courses to accelerate their growth.
Even if you monetize quickly, there will be times in the beginning where you’ll spend hours upon hours working, and see a big fat zero in your bank account.
Here’s my advice: DO NOT start a blog (travel or otherwise) if you are simply looking for an “easy way to earn money while traveling”. There are plenty of easier, quicker ways to earn a living while still giving you the flexibility to be remote.
Take a look at these remote jobs that will give you the flexibility to work wherever you want, but have a quicker path to a decent income.
7. You’ll likely need to have a second job for a while.
Unless you have a nice chunk of change saved up (or have a partner with a great income), you’ll likely be working another job while you start your blog.
We now generate our full income from this travel blog, but it didn’t come easily (or quickly!). Throughout most of this journey, we’ve held other jobs — we taught English in Korea and worked at a ski resort in Washington state. And we’ve held a few different location-independent jobs that helped us earn money while traipsing around the world: Ben taught English online through VIPKID. I did freelance graphic design, copywriting, email marketing, and even managed social media accounts.
It wasn’t until just recently — 5 years in — that we let go of our parachutes (aka other jobs) and decided to free fall with this blog as our only source of income. Maybe that’s a bad analogy…
I’m not saying it will take you as long as it took us to make a decent living. We made a ton of mistakes along the way, and could have had a much faster path to success. But sometimes it takes even longer than 5 years… And some bloggers never quit their other jobs because they just don’t want to lose the steady (and reliable) income. Either way, there’s a good chance you’ll have to spend some time balancing blogging with other work.
8. The market is SUPER saturated, but…
I hate to break it to you, but the travel blogging market is super saturated, and getting more and more saturated by the day.
But wipe that sweat off your brow, because here’s the good news: Just because the market is a crowded one, doesn’t mean it’s a death sentence to a new blog.
It was pretty saturated when we started, too. You can carve your way into the high rankings in Google, but it takes time, patience, and (lots of) hard work.
And being that there are so many travel blogs out there, it makes it all that more important to create quality content and have a personality that stands out from the pack.
Be yourself. Get vulnerable. Hone in your voice. Don’t be afraid to be controversial. Or goofy. Share the ups AND the downs. Stand up for what you believe. Share your stories.
Make your audience feel like they know the real you.
9. Blogging and Instagramming are 2 different jobs.
You know the whole “a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not a square” saying that was pounded into you during elementary geometry?
Well, it’s kind of the same thing with Blogs and Instagram: Bloggers usually have an Instagram account, and Instagrammers typically have a blog. But they are 2 different jobs:
Bloggers focus on writing content and monetizing through a website (affiliate marketing, advertising, etc.) and growing traffic. Posting on Instagram builds brand awareness and community. Income is derived from website traffic.
Instagram Influencers focus on creating content for a social media platform (like Instagram) and growing this following. And their monetization strategy often focuses on sponsored content on this platform. A blog is their secondary focus and serves as more or less a landing page and a way to collect audience emails or sell a product, like Lightroom presets. Income is derived from social media following.
Bloggers and Social Media Influencers are often lumped into the same category. But if you want to be successful in the industry, it’s important to understand the differences.
Determine which medium you want to monetize. There can (and should!) be overlap. But these are two completely separate jobs with different purposes. Prioritizing one will give you focus and will help aid in your success.
10. Blogging is an industry that’s constantly changing. And you’ve gotta keep up.
What it took to be a successful blogger 10 years ago was vastly different than today. Even when we started back in 2014, blogging was a whole different world. We ranked for articles that Google would never notice today.
Blogging in 2019 is going to look different from 2020. And you better believe that 5 years from now, things will be much different still. This is an industry where you can’t just put in the time learning now, then coast by and expect to earn a completely passive income.
In order to keep up, you need to stay up to date with trends, algorithms and technology. As a blogger, you will need to commit yourself to constant learning.
11. Blogging while traveling is hard to balance.
Real Talk: Traveling and Blogging at the same time is downright exhausting.
Travel blogging requires a delicate balance that we have very, very slowly learned how to manage. It definitely didn’t come naturally. And we’re still far from perfect.
Any time we talk with other travel bloggers, we all eventually start talking about how difficult it is to travel AND blog at the same time.
Planning things to do, booking hotels and transportation, going out and doing stuff, meeting other travelers…. Add to that writing articles, optimizing SEO, posting on social media, replying to emails, pitching to companies, sticking to partnership deadlines, creating newsletters and email funnels. Whew! My heart is racing just typing that sentence.
We’ve done long-term trips while trying to produce content, and it ultimately leads us to become stressed and worn out. We actually have found that we produce our best work and grow our blog the quickest when we’re not traveling at all.
Which brings me to my next point…
12. You don’t have to ALWAYS be traveling.
People often ask us how we will continue to be travel bloggers if we someday “settle down” and buy a house. Ben and I usually give each other a smirk, and just say, oh we’ll figure it out. But the truth is having a real home base is going to make this job SO much easier.
Whenever we are settled in one spot we absolutely crush our goals and are far better bloggers than when we’re actually traveling. (This is why we’ve been basing ourselves in Chiang Mai and Bali during the last year and a half.)
And trust me, there’s no way we’ll run out of content. I have somewhere around 75 articles saved as drafts right now that mayyyybe I’ll have time to get to when we’re “settled down”.
Oh, and can we also talk about the fact that even when we do have a home, that doesn’t mean we’re not going to just STOP traveling. I mean, traveling is a passion of ours — one that we intend to continue pursuing even if we do have a picket fence someday. And it’s also our job, so like, we have to keep doing it, ya know…
Learn this lesson from us: You DO NOT need to travel full time to be a travel blogger. And actually, long-term travel can make growing your blog hard.
13. Free Travel isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be.
I know what you’re thinking: Did she really just use the words “free” and “travel” in the same sentence and say it’s not all that great?
Bear with me for a minute…
A lot of new bloggers (ourselves included!) get all starry-eyed at the prospect of free travel.
Getting a complimentary hotel stay or whale-watching trip or backpack sounds awesome — and most of the time it is — but it is also a lot of work. With a rise in the number of influencers, companies often expect quite a bit of value in exchange for a free experience or product.
In the past, we’ve spent countless hours editing photos, creating videos, and typing up thoughtful articles for no monetary compensation. And you know what we’ve realized? It’s just not worth it (in most cases). I don’t know about you, but our student loans can’t be paid in Mariott credit or in packing cubes.
When you’re just starting out as a blogger, it can be a great way to build your portfolio and gain exposure. We’ve been able to have a lot of wonderful experiences this way, and you can too. But if you want this to be your full-time job, free travel shouldn’t be the core reason you start a travel blog.
14. Blogging is a job you’ll constantly have to explain (and sometimes defend).
Blogging is still a very new profession – one the general public knows very little about it. So if you intend to make blogging your full-time job, be prepared to explain. And defend.
I recently went down the foxhole of a forum on one of the blogging Facebook groups we’re part of. In one particular thread, someone asked this:
There were 54 comments replying to this question. And roughly 90% of the bloggers who replied explained they don’t refer to themselves as “bloggers” at all.
Instead, people used terms like “website owner”, “content creator”, “digital publisher”, “travel writer”… the list goes on. This illustrates how many people in the industry have had their fair share of Doubting Debbies, and feel like people take them more seriously when they call themselves something other than a “blogger”.
While we still proudly call ourselves Bloggers (in most situations), it can be downright exhausting explaining what we do. And we often feel like we have to defend it as being a “real job”.
Most of the time people are simply curious how, in fact, you’re able to make money online. But sometimes it feels as if they expect you to divulge exactly how you earn your money in a concise 1-minute explanation over drinks, whereas asking the same questions to an accountant or an engineer would be seen as straight up rude.
So if you plan to become a full-time blogger, get ready to answer all sorts of Facebook messages from people you haven’t spoken with since high school asking, “How do you afford to travel so much when you don’t have a job?”.
Get ready to defend your job when that guy at a networking event uses air quotes when he says, “Ah, you’re a “travel blogger”… but what do you really do?”
And get ready to tell your neighbor’s cousin that, yes, you do have a job.
15. There will be moments where you want to quit.
Trust me when I say there will come points where you wonder if you should just stop. Throw in the towel. Hold up the white flag. Or whatever they say.
Over the years, we have had so many of these moments. There have been tears and fights. Self-doubt and frustration. We’ve been close (really close) to quitting more times than I’d like to admit.
But each time when we step back, we realize that blogging has become a part of us. It is something we love. It is our passion, and that’s why it affects us so much.
There will be ups and downs. Good days and bad days. So it is essential that you actually love what you’re blogging about. If you don’t, those voices that tell you, “quitting would be so much easier” will eventually get the best of you.
But if your blog truly is your passion, you can tell those voices to “back the eff off”, put your head down and get back to work.
Now that you’ve stuck with me through the scary stuff, here’s the good news:
16. Blogging can be Ahhhmazing.
It can be a way to create the life of your dreams. Blogging can bring freedom. It can lead to opportunities you never imagined.
If you stick with it, blogging can make you money. Good money. Money that isn’t capped when you reach a certain point.
Blogging can teach you more skills than you learned in university. It can open doors and it can connect you with others you might never meet in real life.
It can be the opportunity to share your voice. Your story. Blogging can be your platform to start a business. To make a difference in this world.
Blogging can CHANGE YOUR LIFE. It certainly has changed ours.
[ENTER Beyoncé GIF…]
So the big question is this: Is blogging the right fit for YOU?
Ask yourself these questions (and be honest):
Am I okay with working for free (in the beginning)?
Am I on board with more than just the writing part? Will I want to put the time into learning SEO strategies, constantly networking on social media, and maybe even coding?
Is blogging something I can see myself being passionate about?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, then I’d tell you to proceed with caution. Maybe blogging as a hobby is going to be the best angle for you. See if it’s something you enjoy and can commit to before diving in.
But if you honestly and wholeheartedly answered “yes” to all of the questions above, then I would tell you to absolutely GO FOR IT. And go all in.
The fun part
Now it’s my time to take away your mug of tea, replace it with a glass of wine and make a toast…
Congratulations for sticking with me through all the scary stuff. Because just like any job that’s worthwhile, it is hard work and it’s not always pretty. You’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and do some things that are boring and things that you really hate doing (like coding, ughhhh). But if it’s something you’re passionate about, it will 100% be worth it.
One of my favorite things in life is connecting with people and sharing our journeys. I would love to hear more about you and your blogging goals and see how we can work with each other.
So if I haven’t scared you away and you still want to be a travel blogger after getting this deep in the article, keep reading...
Your next steps
We are literally just days away from publishing an article that is going to walk you through the exact steps you need to take to create a blog that is successful. This is going to be much more in depth and valuable than most of the “how to start a blog articles” you’ll find on the Internet. Promise.
And we’re not stopping there.
We are about to release a FREE 1-week Blogging Mini Course that is absolutely PACKED with practical and actionable information.
We value your time, so trust me when I say this course will be well worthwhile. Plus, it’s totally free, so go ahead and click the image below to get on our waitlist.
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