We tend to think of the blog as a medium for wordsmiths. But nothing lights…
Top Travel Bloggers Share Advice & Tips for Blogging
Travel blogs come in all shapes and sizes. Some focus on offering tips and hacks for globetrotting on a shoestring budget. Some offer stories of personal journeys of discovery. Others concentrate on stunning photos of wildlife and wildernesses, culture and craft. We spoke with top travel bloggers in various niches — like budget travel and luxury travel — to provide you with insight into what makes for a successful venture.
1. Destination Guide Bloggers
But one of the most enduring categories of travel blogging is the destination guide. Travel guides in printed form have, of course, long been essential reading for tourists and overseas explorers, providing the lowdown on what to see, where to stay, what to eat and so on for any given location.
Blogging has breathed new life into the travel guide. Written by locals, travelers and enthusiasts with genuine insider knowledge, they are able to break through the formulaic confines of the traditional guide to offer something more personal and genuine. In addition, travel guide blogs have opened the genre up beyond a focus on specific destinations. You can find blogs offering guides to the best culinary and cultural destinations, natural wonders and eco-tourism.
To find out more about travel guide blogging, we caught up with four prominent writers and asked them to, er, guide us through what they do.
Charting A Course: Starting a Travel Blog
Dawn Jorgensen already had a career in the travel industry when she decided to branch out and combine her love of traveling with her passion for conservation and environmental issues. Dawn told us:
After more than a decade of professionally designing dream holidays, as well as taking many myself, I founded The Incidental Tourist in 2010 with the express purpose of sharing my love for travel and encouraging others to see more of the world.
The Incidental Tourist is an extension of myself and has been from the start. It’s also not a hobby, but my full-time profession. With that in mind, I focus my energy on building relationships, uncovering the essence of the destinations that I visit and sharing the stories from the people I meet, being ever present and appreciative of the privilege of travel.
My passion for eco-tourism and environmental issues has also brought me some loyal readers and I do my best to evolve and stay relevant in a bid to keep their following.
Talking about uncovering the essence of a destination, there can be few better examples than the India travel guide blog IndiTales. Creator Anuradha Goyal has spent almost a decade and a half chronicling her vast and diverse home country, traveling its length and breadth and sharing her experiences so others may follow.
Focus on commercialization . . . travel deep and write passionately. ~ Anuradha Goyal, inditales.com
“I started out of curiosity — what is blogging?” said Anuradha. “I have been blogging since the nascent days of blogging. I am passionate about traveling. IndiTales is blessed to have readers who further enrich my travel experiences. Travel and readers keep me motivated and inspired.”
Hugo and Cristina are a husband and wife team who specialize in writing guides to places of natural and cultural interest, on their blog Breathe With Us as well as for other publications. “I wanted to share my travel adventures with a broader audience,” Hugo told us, “including my family and friends.”
“In my head, I always had the idea that I was visiting interesting places around the world, and that it could be useful to others. It also helps me keep my memories alive.”
Destination: Travel Blog Success
Hugo admits, however, that making a success of a travel blog is far from easy. “Blogging is hard work. Really hard work. It takes a lot of time and effort to keep going after a few years. But despite being frustrating at times, it’s also very rewarding when you get great feedback from your readers.
If you want to monetize, you need a strategy. ~ Maria Haase, MariaAbroad.com
“The secret for us has been traveling to destinations that people are curious about and not just your average popular destination. Photography has also been a key component.”
Maria Haase is an experienced professional travel writer who blogs at MariaAbroad, and is also the editor-in-chief of online destination guide Europe Up Close. Explaining her journey to where she is today, she told us:
I was living abroad in China and I started a blog to share stories and photos about my adventures with friends and family.
The secret for how I have got to where I am today is for me the helpful community of other travel bloggers. They have taught me so much and no matter what the problem is, someone always takes the time to answer a question or help you out.
Dawn recognizes that her professional experience prior to launching The Incidental Tourist has been key to her own success.
I have a background in tourism, having run my own tour operating company for over ten years before starting my blog, which gave me an excellent understanding of the travel industry. That, a handful of incredible opportunities that came my way in the early days and a ridiculous amount of hard work and dedication.
Asked what advice she would give to up-and-coming bloggers looking to make an impression in the travel guide sector, Anuradha gives this advice:
Focus on commercialization. I started focusing on monetizing the blog very late. Having said that — no regrets. When I started out there were no precedents so it has been an experimental journey all the way through. IndiTales has seen generations of evolution in technology, multi-media, and social media.
Apart from that, travel deep and write passionately – never do anything that breaks the trust of readers. Have clarity on why you want to blog – for passion or for money? Once you know, have a long-term focus.
Maria agrees that a clear focus on your goals is essential.
If you want to monetize, you need a strategy. You need content that focuses on conversion and is still enjoyable to read for your audience. Implementing SEO from the beginning to ensure a steady stream of web traffic is vital.
Don’t wait until everything is perfect. I have revised my best blog posts 50+ times over the years, trying new things and testing them. Publish, learn, and then revise.
Dawn believes the most important thing is “to be professional and ethical, gracious and respectful — and to always say thank you. Also, write as often as possible and engage with your audience.
“You can’t please everyone, neither should you try,” she adds.
Summing up, Hugo warns would-be travel bloggers to be prepared for plenty of work. “I knew it would require a lot of dedication but I wasn’t expecting it to become a full-time hobby!” he said.
“If you want to be a travel blogger, you have to travel. And you don’t even need to be traveling full-time. Building a portfolio of destinations is your biggest asset.”
2. Budget Travel/Backpacking Bloggers
Ever dreamed of visiting a far-flung corner of the world still untouched by mass tourism? Ever wanted a holiday to be more like an adventure, a step into the unknown, full of the thrill of discovery?
Ever felt like you don’t know where to begin making this dream become a reality?
Thousands have. Fortunately, many of those who have acted on their thirst for adventure nowadays choose to blog about it, these types are amongst the most popular.
Whether it is advice on traveling on a shoestring, where to find the biggest adventures or tips for organizing trips off the beaten path, travel advice blogs attract a huge following. From professional backpackers to a mother and daughter travel team, we caught up with the adventurous spirits behind four leading examples to ask them their views on becoming travel blogging gurus.
Footsteps to follow
Carissa and Renee King are a mother and daughter duo from Atlanta, Georgia. Their travel blog A View To A Thrill carries the following tagline: “Traveling leaves you speechless. Then turns you into a storyteller.”
Expanding on that, Renee says she is inspired by a desire to help people follow in her footsteps.
Initially, I just wanted to chronicle my travel adventures. I enjoy writing, so it was more or less an online diary that my family and friends could access to learn about my travels.
Over time, I realized that the majority of my audience didn’t travel unless they had to. Most had been convinced that they wouldn’t be able to travel for leisure; they were sure that they couldn’t afford it. I decided to start offering advice on how they could begin to travel the world just like me.
Bruno B started his blog The Geeky Explorer not just to tell stories, but to explain how to become a ‘smart traveler’ – again, how to travel when you might not feel you have the ways and means. “I used to get random travel questions from friends and family so I thought a blog was a good way to gather all that.
“Writing about the logistics of traveling is something I really enjoy. For me, every new destination is a giant complex puzzle waiting to be hacked: how to go from A to B, how to plan a day’s visit is challenging.”
For Dutch explorer Victor Eekhof, the initial drive to blog was a twin passion for unusual destinations and environmental issues. “I wrote a bunch of articles on green initiatives in the USA as part of my charity trip from Alaska to Antarctica, but I didn’t have a platform to host them. So I started Victor’s Travels and my journey into travel blogging began.”
Piritta Paija, one half of the traveling pair behind The Bizarre Globe Hopper, picks up a similar theme:
I wanted to tell inspiring travel stories especially about a bit more adventurous and unusual destinations to encourage people to see more of the world,” she said. “I also wanted to give actionable travel tips to help people achieve their travel goals.
“During the last few years, animal conservation has also become really important to me. I’ve always been a huge animal lover and through my blog and my audience I can contribute to the conservation issues and try to support these very important causes as much as I can.”
Fuelling the Adventure
So the path to starting a travel advice blog may be paved with good intentions, but what has kept our panel going long enough to become a success? And what do they believe the biggest factors in their success have been?
The best fuel I have is the feedback I get from my readers. Every day I receive emails from people thanking me because I really helped them have a great travel experience. Knowing that I contributed to someone having a good time – this is what keeps me going.
I have a rule: every time I write a post, I want it to be the best piece of advice about the topic out there. I don’t settle for only ‘sharing my experience.’ I want it to be memorable, useful and a page that goes straight into your bookmarks.”
Piritta agrees about the role readers play in spurring you on as a blogger.
My audience is what keeps me going, their support is very important to me and being able to help others to reach their travel dreams is motivating.
I think [the secret to success] has been our detailed and engaging style to tell our stories, great photography, and our practical ‘hands-on’ guideposts. Also, consistency is the key. If you want to succeed, you can’t quit even if you sometimes feel desperate. You just have to keep going and believe in yourself and in what you do.
Our unconventional and authentic destinations have also played a big role. We tell stories about places and subjects that a few people know about and even less have written about before.
“I’m not going to lie,” says Renee, “it can be challenging to come up with topics that will be inspiring, appealing and interesting to readers. There’s a lot of competition these days and honestly, it can begin to take a toll on you creatively to continue to come up with concepts that will engage and encourage people who have never traveled before to take that first leap.”
I think in another life, I would have been a teacher. I think one of the hallmarks of my blog is my newbie guides. I know that there are some people who are reticent to admit that there are aspects of traveling that they do not understand. My guides give insight to those things that the readers can discover via the privacy of their own reading devices. I enjoy sharing little-known tips, tricks and advice with readers that will help to make their experience all the more special and meaningful.
Tips for Budget/Backpacking Travel Bloggers
As for translating the advice gathered from other bloggers into success for yourself, Victor believes the golden rule is to stick to your own interests and make your personality shine through:
If you write about your passions and interests, it’s easy to keep going as it doesn’t feel like work but more a part of how you present yourself to the world.
I wish I knew at the start how important it was to create lots of comprehensive, media-rich content. It should be quality over quantity, but to do well in Google having many well-crafted, keyword-targeted posts and pages definitely helps! Learning more about SEO and content marketing has been a big factor for me. I have a technical background, so, naturally, I was investing too much time on the parts of my blog that nobody saw.
By learning more about the content side of things, I forced myself to focus more on writing new articles, shaping up older ones and posting on social media. This helped get a much bigger reach and a bigger audience.
Overall, don’t try to take on too big of a subject to blog about. For instance, blogging about “travel” has been done countless times before. Try to find a niche subject in which you are unique – this can even be a combination of two or more hobbies/passions.
Bruno agrees that blogging has its own unique set of skills which you need to master to make a success of it, and believes the only way to do this is to take a professional approach and treat blogging as a job.
I saw blogging as a way of learning new online skills: social media, content marketing, SEO, etc. I knew I had to treat it as a part-time job to be successful. I wish someone told me it would be a second full-time job for me. It is much more time-consuming and challenging than I was expecting.
If you want to have a hobby, go ahead and have fun with it. Blogging can be real fun. But if you want to be serious about your blog, face it as your new job. Not only because everyone and their mother has a travel blog now and you really need to step up, but also because it involves so many daily maintenance tasks, from answering emails to solving issues with your code and your server hosting.
Work hard, be thorough and provide value every time you write something. Success will then come naturally.
I wish that I had spent more time building my audience from the very beginning. There’s also a lot of technical stuff that one needs to familiarize themselves with in running a website. I probably would have hired that out in the beginning so that I could focus more on the creative.
Over time, I have begun to care less about the god, Google, and just write. If nothing else, it has taken pressure off of me and has allowed me to push through another year. If your focus is just to monetize or leverage your blog for freebies out the gate, you probably won’t last long. At the end of the day, your ultimate goal should be to serve your reader.
Summing up, Piritta agrees that the workloads and technical aspects of blogging, like SEO, can be daunting, which is why you have to really believe in what you are doing to make a success of it:
“I wish I had known more about SEO and about the importance of gathering your own email subscriber list,” she said. “I also didn’t know how much work and effort it really takes to maintain a blog in the long run.”
“But I’ve had so many amazing experiences and opportunities because of my blog and all the hard work I have put in it, that I wouldn’t change a day. Be authentic, consistent, and don’t quit. Believe in what you do and be genuinely helpful. Make a long-term blogging plan and stick to it. It takes hard work to succeed, but it will be worth it if you just try hard enough.”
3. Top Family Travel Bloggers
One assumption about world travel is that it is a young person’s game, and certainly something you do before you have kids. Because let’s face it, who would be brave enough to go globe-trotting for weeks on end with a couple of youngsters in tow?
Well, a surprising number of people, actually. For some, the urge to explore is just too strong to give up even after they have started a family. Some are passionate enough about family travel that they choose to blog about it. They offer tips and advice on how to do it, as well as sharing uplifting tales of the wonderful adventures they have had together.
We caught up with five family travel bloggers not just to talk about the ins and outs of traveling with young children, but how they have managed to craft their passion into a successful blog.
Getting into family travel blogging
So first things first – how exactly do you start out blogging about traveling with your kids?
For Rob and Tracy Morris, their blog The Blonde Nomads grew out of sharing updates of their travels around Australia with friends and family. “My wife Tracy and I love to travel and started sharing our travel adventures, with our young children in tow, on social media,” said Rob.
“To our surprise, we gained a generous following and with this following came a lot of interest and questions, especially on how we traveled with kids so young. So we started our blog as a platform to share our adventures in more detail, along with travel tips and videos.”
Fellow Australians the Benders also have their own family travel blog, Travel With Bender. In their case, dad Josh was already a committed wanderer and blogger long before he decided to pack his family along to experience his previous nomadic lifestyle.
“I started blogging after embarking on an open-ended nomadic journey around the world,” said Josh. “Friends and family were curious about what was going on and wanted to check I was still alive. So it seemed more sensible to write in one spot and keep multiple people up to date.”
For Corinne McDermott, the inspiration to start her blog Have Baby Will Travel was struggling to find advice on how to cope with taking a young baby along for the ride. “When my husband and I were planning our first family vacation with our then-infant daughter, I turned to the internet looking for tips and advice about traveling with a baby,” she said.
“There wasn’t much. The few articles I found were either negative, repurposed press releases with no useful information, or written by parents whose children were no longer babies. As a first-time mom, I wanted to read about real, first-hand experiences written by actual parents of babies and toddlers–the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
Sheer joy of traveling as a family unit
Anyone who has ever tried to travel with infants, or keep a blog going for any length of time, knows that both are hard work. So how do our family bloggers find the motivation to keep both going with double the workload?
Like the Benders, Canadian couple Charles and Micki Kosman started blogging about their wanderlust at The Barefoot Nomad long before they had children, and simply never felt the need to give up after they became parents.
“We first started blogging to keep family and friends updated on our travels,” said Charles. “We love to write, and we love to travel, so it’s a labor of love, really. It may sound really simple, but we just kept writing, and The Barefoot Nomad slowly grew to the size it is today. The truth is, we’re not always motivated or inspired, but we keep writing anyway.”
For full-time mom, Dominique Lessard, owner of easyplanettravel.com, the main motivation was to leave a career in finance behind and turn her passion for travel into a business. Spotting what she saw as a niche in the family travel market, she set herself up as a travel coach for young families, as well as blogging about her own worldwide adventures with husband Clinton and daughter Emma-Kate.
“My passion to travel is my main motivation,” she said. “I love traveling, and I wanted to build a business out of it. So why not blog about it? I have no secret. I get discouraged probably every other week. But traveling and blogging are my passions, so I can’t quit! That’s what makes me happy.”
The sheer joy of traveling as a family unit is a recurring theme across all of our bloggers. “Our main motivation is to travel and when we travel we like to share where we have been,” said Rob. “Our goal is to inspire other families to travel with their little ones and to step away from the ‘normal 9 to 5 work day’ so you can do more things as a family before the kids grow up.”
Travel Blogging as a Business
For most of our panel, the key to being able to travel as a family has been turning their blog into a business that provides the income to fund their nomadic lifestyles. With the stakes so high, how have they managed to succeed?
“I already had many years of experience in web design, programming, and online marketing, so all these skills were thrown towards my blog as a creative outlet,” said Josh. “Taking a risk in the early days, I invested a good amount of money into paid promotions which paid themselves off within a few weeks. Having years of experience in copywriting and marketing have helped, so they’re not quite silver bullets, but understanding (and continuing to learn) SEO has been a major factor in my blog’s success.”
Corinne admits turning her blog into a successful business has been a steep learning curve:
I hadn’t a clue what I was doing initially, and things change so fast that I’m always learning or catching up. About four years in, I took a business course, and one of the first steps in building a business plan is creating your mission statement. Here’s mine: To inspire, motivate and help families travel with babies, toddlers, and young children.
I think [I’ve succeeded] because my focus has always been on helping people, rather than money. Which is probably a good thing considering it didn’t really make any for the first four years! And although most of my content is written by me, about my family, it is not a personal blog, and now that my kids aren’t babies anymore (sob!) I can still maintain and curate the information and resource sections, and I commission first-hand stories from new families who are going on their first trips with babies and toddlers.
Rob believes the combination of advice, personal stories, and quality imagery has been key to making The Blonde Nomads a success:
Tracy is a professional photographer and I am an avid GoPro user so we love to take photos above and below the water. A lot of destinations, publications, and social accounts need content and we can create this for them, especially with two little blondie kids – it is something a little different and inspiring.
We are also lucky to work alongside tourism boards, brands and travel destinations, and resorts which help us in our travels.
Advice for Family Travel Bloggers
So what advice would our family bloggers give to other parents looking to turn a passion for travel into an online business?
Dominique says it is essential to listen to any advice you are given:
I shouldn’t have tried to do it my way,” she said. “I should have followed the advice I received and I would be so much more successful right now! Like, picking a niche. And networking.
Pick a niche you’ll be so passionate about you’ll wake up at night just to think about it. Learn new skills and follow other people’s advice so you won’t have to make too many mistakes.
Rob advises would-be bloggers to pick their hosting platform carefully:
We started our blog on a templated website platform – a simple drag and drop creation. As The Blonde Nomads grew, we realized we needed our site to be a lot more professional without limitations for functionality and design, so we made a painful migration of our website over to WordPress.
If we started out in WordPress it would have saved a lot of time and money. Learning SEO is something we value too and are yet to fully master. Overall, create something unique, be yourself and add something valuable to the online world… and make sure you enjoy it!
Corinne says that while passion and determination are important, you need to take the business side seriously if you want to make money from your blog:
If you are hoping your blog will be a business, take business courses. I wish I’d known how difficult it would be to make a go of it as a business. Although had I known, I likely wouldn’t have bothered so maybe that’s a bad example.
Josh agrees that business acumen is crucial if you aim to make a living from your blog:
Ignore the gurus who tell you ‘content is king’… I’ve seen plenty of bloggers who aren’t the best writers or best photographers, yet they’re able to make more money.
The size of the audience is not the most important factor in turning a profit, it’s understanding marketing principles and business management. The value of friends, connections, and acquaintances in the industry is priceless. A lot of bloggers are friendly and more than willing to help you out if you’re willing to show good faith and help them.
Charles added: “There are a lot of travel blogs out there. Find something that makes you stand out. We write detailed, in-depth articles because it’s really all about helping our readers the best way we can.”
4. Top Luxury Travel Bloggers
We all know the stereotypes associated with the modern globetrotter – the unkempt Gap Year student, their worldly possessions crammed inside a grimy backpack, wearing the dust and sweat of their adventures to distant climes like a badge of honor.
But it wasn’t always that way. Once upon a time, travel for leisure was the preserve of the monied classes. Far from a life of youth hostels, economy flights and backpacks, traversing the world was all about five-star hotels, first-class cabins, fine dining and porters to carry one’s luggage.
Away from the stereotypes, there are still plenty of passionate travelers who have no interest in leaving their creature comforts behind when they set off on their adventures. For them, travel is all about enjoying the finer things in life, the best sites, culture, cuisine, and hospitality the world has to offer.
Some have also stumbled upon a neat trick. If you blog about your love of luxury travel and do it well enough, you can even earn an income to keep you in the lifestyle you have become accustomed to.
To get some insider tips on how to turn a taste for the finer side of travel into a blog that pays the bills, we caught up with five first-class travel bloggers to ask them their secrets.
Sharing the Passion for Travel and Adventure
First of all, it comes as no surprise that the motivation and inspiration to start a travel blog is no different whether you like roughing it on the backpacker trail or have slightly more refined tastes – it all stems from a love of traveling.
Heather Cowper’s lifelong love affair with travel started as a child when her parents took her on camping trips around Europe. She first got the idea to focus that passion in a blog a decade ago. “My blog was born nearly 10 years ago after an inspirational trip through Ecuador, traveling in a dug-out canoe through the Amazon basin,” said Heather. “On my return, I wanted to share some of my travel tales beyond the circle of family and friends and started my blog at Heatheronhertravels.com.
“It’s the passion for travel that’s kept me going as well as the feeling of being part of a wider travel blogging community and making friends with other bloggers who are just as excited by travel.”
Carmen Edelson only started traveling in earnest in her 40s. But once she caught the bug, there was no turning back, and she soon left her career in credit management to fashion herself as a luxury and family travel writer and influencer. Her blog Carmen’s Luxury Travel is the result.
“I started my blog as a journal to document my travel adventures and pictures for my friends and family,” Carmen said. “I really enjoy sharing all our experiences and travel tips on all the places we’ve traveled too. That’s the origin of how I started my travel blog.
“When people that I didn’t know started reading and commenting on my blog, I was hooked and have been trying to improve it ever since.”
The Travel Hack is a website featuring the work of seven writers dedicated to “stylish adventure.” It was founded by Monica Stott, who started her journey as a backpacking graduate and now enjoys life as a traveling, not to mention stylish, mum of two.
“I started blogging in 2009 when I left the UK to go traveling for two years,” Monica explained. “I was traveling around Asia and Australia and had some incredible adventures to share. At the time, I wanted to be a journalist and my blog was featured on the website of my local newspaper. I was so excited to have someone other than my mum reading my blog and I was hooked on blogging instantly!
“Quite simply, I just love traveling and sharing my stories and photos with the world. It was pure passion for the first five to six years simply because I enjoyed doing it. Of course, it is more motivating when more and more people start to read your blog but I think the secret to long-term blogging is sharing things you love and feel so passionate about, that you’d do it even if no one actually read your blog.”
Laura Goyer offers a slightly different take on hunting out the finer things available on your travels. A committed traveler and foodie, her curiosity for finding out the best places to eat wherever she went led her to create The Culinary Travel Guide. As the name suggests, it is a travel blog dedicated to the best cuisine any given destination has to offer.
“I went to Paris to take cooking classes at Le Cordon Bleu and I wanted to share the experience with family and friends,” said Laura. “I’m really passionate about food-focused travel and every time I travel, I’m inspired all over again.”
“Eating our way around the globe”
Amber and Eric Hoffman share Laura’s passion for travel and fine cuisine. Amber, who describes herself as “a recovering tax attorney”, launched With Husband In Tow to document their bid to, in her words, “eat our way around the globe”. Documenting all the great food and wine they find on their way has grown from a way to keep friends and family posted on what they are up to into a full-time job as professional eaters.
But how have they managed it? “Our previous experiences from our former professional lives have taught us to keep focused,” says Amber. Admitting she only ever went into corporate law because she heard it paid well, it took her a decade to realize she would rather be doing something she loved than earning top bucks. As it happens, using her past experiences as a spur to keep blogging has helped Amber make a living from her passion.
Carmen believes taking a professional approach is vital to making a success of blogging. “I took the initiative to treat it as a job, and not just a hobby,” she said. “By becoming an expert in my niche, brands and tourism boards took me seriously and we created better collaborations.
“I also invested my money and time wisely in order to maintain consistency and timely content. Above all, I’m passionate about it and that is what drives people to read it and follow me.”
For Monica, the road to success came via a time-honored route — learning her industry through work, and plenty of networking:
When I first moved to London I was a student and I was interning at a travel website. I was paid minimum wage and, as any Londoners know, minimum wage doesn’t get you far in London!
I had no money and no friends (get your tiny violin out!) so I started going to networking events, simply because I had nothing else to do. I’d go to two or three events every week and this was the turning point for The Travel Hack. Meeting PRs, brands and other bloggers really helped me with my blogging career. As they say, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
Heather added: “It’s hard work and perseverance that pays off in the end, as well as finding your unique voice and audience and consistently putting out the best work you can.”
The Luxury of Experience
So, given all they have learned about travel blogging, what advice would our professionals give to someone just starting out?
Heather offered: “If I’d known the amount of work involved I might not have started, but then there have also been a lot of wonderful experiences along the way. Do it for the love of it, rather than in any hope of making money — if you have some great experiences and eventually manage to make a living from your travels that’s a bonus.”
As important as loving what you do is, Monica, says that understanding the money-making side properly is essential if you have dreams of blogging for a living.
I feel like I’ve learned a lot through every mistake I’ve made but I guess I wish I’d focused on affiliate marketing sooner. I’ve only recently started to focus on this and it’s making a huge difference to my income.
I wish I’d figured out my monetization strategy earlier. Now that I have a unique product that appeals to my audience, decisions about content, partnerships and sponsorships are a snap. Look at what everyone else is doing, then don’t do that. You’ve got to figure out how to be different. It’s a crowded space and you need to find a way to stand out.
For Carmen also, creating something unique so you stand out is the key:
Define your niche, whether it’s restaurant reviews, travel, fashion, or beauty, and establish yourself an expert in that industry.
Be consistent with your writing. Give readers new things to read and inspire them to come back for more. Your blog is an extension of you. You should write about things you are truly passionate about. And you should always let your personality come through in your writing style.
Summing up, Amber also urges would-be bloggers to “pick a niche early and run with it.” She added:
Don’t ask for things, from brands or tourism boards, before you’ve proven yourself,” she adds. “All too often new bloggers expect to be given opportunities and experiences without having the resume to demonstrate their value.
Blogging is like sales, you need to prove yourself in terms of quality and professionalism before asking for the business from the brands and tourism boards. My other tiny piece of advice is that’s it’s ok to say no. We’ve turned down opportunities from high-end luxury brands because it wasn’t what our niche was. Too many new bloggers say yes just to say yes without thinking how this affects their brand.
Ready to Turn Your Travel Passion into a Career?
Nowadays it is hardly news that you can make money from blogging. Plenty of people, through advertising, through sponsorship, through affiliate links, are able to earn a decent income from writing about something they love. A good number earn enough to do it full time.
For some, blogging opens up even greater career opportunities. By establishing themselves as an influential voice in any given sector, they are able to branch out into the wider media, as journalists, commentators, and brand specialists. They might embrace the trend for video blogging (vlogging) and YouTube channels, or create a wider business around their initial blog.
Of all topics to blog about, traveling is ripe for these sort of broader career opportunities. With consumer demand for honest, homespun travel reviews, advice and tales of adventure sky high, many writers find success in blogging opens the doors to much, much more.
To find out more, we asked three successful travel entrepreneurs to share their stories for how blogging set them up for their dream career.
From Enthusiast to Professional
There is no single route for going from an enthusiastic hobbyist to a professional full-time blogger. Each of our professionals has their own unique story — but they don’t come any more unique than the story of Dave Levart, founder of Dave’s Travel Corner.
In Dave’s words:
The starting point for me was an epic trip to Nepal which on the surface should have turned me off from travel for good. After becoming extremely sick from food poisoning combined with altitude sickness, I needed to be physically carried down the mountains by several tough individuals. Rather than put me off, this trip turned me onto the beauty of mountains, different cultures, and unique experiences.
Dave’s Travel Corner was founded in 1996. Part blog, part travel marketing business, Dave uses his website as a vehicle to promote what he calls ‘experiential travel’, working with brands and operators which provide travel opportunities to off-the-beaten-track destinations typically not covered by mainstream tourist operations.
Asked what has kept him going for two decades, Dave says: “The ability to avoid a ‘real job’ over the years and being blessed with a persistent personality, which has allowed me to continue to devote time and energy into building my travel site and community. That and still craving travel and unique experiences after all these years.”
For Mary Chong, founder of online travel magazine The Calculated Traveller, her blogging journey started around an altogether different topic — scrapbooking. “In 2006, I was teaching scrapbooking at a local crafts store and started a blog for my students with product reviews, instructions and designs,” said Mary
“Whenever I went on vacation, I would share stories about my trip in amongst the artwork on that website. Eventually, I stopped teaching and I was blogging more about travel than scrapbooking. It just made sense at that point to start a separate website, CalculatedTraveller.com, and focus entirely on the travel writing.”
Mary believes the switch was crucial to eventually be able to turn blogging into a profession. Writing about the thing she was most passionate in life fuelled her to keep going no matter what. “I think the secret to staying motivated with a blog is that you have to have something to say and you have to want to say it whether you have one reader or one thousand readers,” she said.
Another travel blogging Dave, David Hoffman, runs an award-winning travel videography business and blogs at David’s Been Here. “I first started blogging in 2010, a few years after I started producing video content,” he said. “It’s a little backwards I know, but now we have a very strong blog with tons destination guides and travel tips.
“My blog is oftentimes the first introduction I have with my audience so it’s important to me to keep it consistent and fresh. I try to write about destinations I have been to and also products that make traveling easier.
“The feedback I get from real travelers who have used my guides or watched my videos to plan their trips is what keeps me motivated. They write me to thank me for helping them decide where to stay, eat and what to see. I also get a lot of questions from my readers, which I always try to answer honestly. If I don’t have an answer I’ll often refer them to another blogger’s site that does.”
How to Go Pro
Most people would agree that forging a full-blown professional career or launching a successful business, on the back of a blog is pretty impressive. So how did they do it, and what advice would they give fellow travel lovers who would like to follow in their footsteps?
Mary Chong believes that CalculatedTraveller.com has been successful because it combines inspirational stories with practical advice:
I feel that the articles on CalculatedTraveller.com are unique in that they include an actionable tip or piece of advice in each post. I learn something new on each and every journey I make whether it’s a new destination or a return trip. Why not share what I found out with my readers?
Everyone loves reading rambling poetic travel tales about the beauty of a destination, but how do you get there? What should you wear? Is there a good coffee shop in the neighborhood?
Dave believes he benefited from the timing of Dave’s Travel Corner:
I was creating a personal travel site before thousands of others came along. Sticking with it over the years has also been important — continuing to add content, improve the look and feel of the site and build up social media to help promote the content.
I wish I’d known how to better turn this lifestyle into a financial success. It has been a lot of trial and error over the years, failures — but I continue to learn and try to build the brand as a business.
David (of David’s Been Here) says that, for his video business, getting the opportunity to create that first batch of content opened all sorts of other doors:
My first press trip was to Jordan, which really opened up other opportunities for visiting more destinations. Once I had the content for Jordan as an example, other tourism boards began hiring me for video, article and social media campaigns.
That trip took place in January 2011. I don’t go on unpaid press trips any longer, but that experience was invaluable. Like in most industries, you need to “beef up” your portfolio to be able to book paying jobs.
As for tips to wannabe bloggers, Dave says: “Network with others in the industry. If you are serious about turning this into a business, try to fast track your knowledge and networking community. Take classes on how to turn your passion into a business.”
David says there is lots of advice he could offer after years at the sharp end of running a digital travel media business — much of it from things he wishes he’d done differently:
Set up a simple and easy to use website, learn as much as you can about SEO and how to monetize once you have traffic. If you can build an email list from the beginning, that’s always a plus!
I wish I would have known a little more about the importance of SEO and how to properly use affiliate links to monetize my blog. For years I never used keywords or made a meta-data description so I wasn’t getting the traffic. Thankfully we figured things out and we’ve been doing great with it since 2013.
Always remember that the most important part of having a successful blog is how original and applicable your content is in real life, so keep things honest and stick to what you know. If it’s not going to add value to a reader’s life, it will be overlooked.
Mary (CalculatedTraveller.com) underscored the need for basic digital literacy:
Learn the technology. I know that most people just want to focus on the blogging, but if you don’t familiarise yourself with some basic technical skills, you could be setting yourself up for trouble in the future.
Sure, there are WordPress/Blogger themes you can use and IT people you can hire, but you still need to know how to upload an image, optimal image size, minimum word count, and general terminology. There are lots of free online courses and books in the library that will teach you the basics so that you set up your blog foundation correctly.
Once you are up and running, post articles consistently using a schedule. The worst thing, in my opinion, is to post every day of the week. Your audience begins to expect content from you but when life starts to get busy (and it always does) you won’t be able to maintain the pace.
It’s an excellent idea to write every day, but don’t publish daily. My preference is to have at least one month of articles scheduled ahead of time. This strategy gives me the freedom to take a break from writing and not feel pressured that I have an article due. Write ahead of the calendar and schedule blog posts once or twice per week. Your audience will be happy and will stay with you throughout your journey.
5. Lifestyle Bloggers: Blogging Your Way Out Of the Rat Race
Given the choice, many of us would gladly swap the nine to five in favor of packing a bag, jumping on the next plane and seeing where fate takes us.
If only, I hear you cry. And yet it is possible. While ideas of escape to exotic and distant climes remain for most of us mere pipe dreams, some people are out there walking the walk. And we know because they blog about it, letting the rest of us share in their tales of making dreams come true.
Escapism is a powerful reason why travel blogs are so popular. So powerful, in fact, that some would-be wandering stars even start blogging about their hunger to be location independent even before they quite manage to leave it all behind. And very successful they are at it, too.
We caught up with some full-time travel bloggers, and a couple who hope their passion for travel will one day become their day to day, to ask them to share their stories and some insider tips on what makes a great travel blog.
Getting Away From it All
For Natasha Amar, the drive to create her Boho Chica blog was to show people what was possible if your desire to travel was strong enough. “I started blogging to share stories from my travels so that people would know about the amazing life experiences that travel offers,” she said.
I also wanted people to know that it was possible for someone who did not fit the expected profile of ‘traveler’- a brown girl who hadn’t grown up traveling didn’t have a lot of money or someone to go with – to go travel the world all by herself.
Once I had a small community of readers who appreciated my stories, that was enough to keep me going. It was never my aim to be famous or a social media star or celebrity, which is probably why I’m not even close to that kind of famous. It has always been about wanting to tell good stories.
Another young woman who has turned youthful wanderlust into an online career is Sabrina Iovino. She explained how the idea to start her blog, Just One Way Ticket, only came after she had already been traveling for some time.
“I was traveling around the world for a couple of years before I started my blog,” said Sabrina. “My mind was filled with so many precious memories and I wanted a space where I could share my experiences and inspire others to travel as well. So I started the blog.
“Maybe I was lucky, my blog quickly went viral, I guess that helped me to stay motivated and keep going. There is no secret. Write useful stuff. Stuff that is helpful, makes people smile or moves them emotionally. The kind of stuff that makes people feel good when they share it on Facebook.”
Perhaps the quintessential story of using travel to transform your life belongs to Barbara Weibel. Having forged a successful career in marketing and advertising, at one point running her own PR firm, it took a bout of serious illness for Barbara to realize she was not living the life she wanted. When she recovered, she packed her bags, set off around the world on her own, and started Hole in the Donut.
“I’d spent 36 years in a variety of corporate jobs, hating every minute,” she said. “I finally decided to walk away from the rat race in late 2006 to pursue my true passions of travel, photography, and writing.
“As you can imagine, most of my family and friends thought I was nuts to leave a successful career to travel the world. Some were downright alarmed and convinced I’d be hurt or even killed traveling solo around the world (silly them!) I launched my blog solely as a means for them to know where I was, and to feel comfortable that I was safe. At the time, I had no idea that my stories would launch me into a new career as one of the top travel bloggers in the world.”
Finding the Balance Between Travel and Home Life
Natalie Vereen-Davis admits that she would love nothing more than to travel more or less constantly. But with a young family and a husband who works in banking, she has had to find a careful balance between her love of travel and home life. The result is her blog, Cosmos Mariners.
I’ve always loved writing and have kept a handwritten journal since I was 12. When I was in college, I started my first blog on Xanga and was immediately hooked: I loved the way that I could easily integrate photos and text in my blog posts in a way I couldn’t do in handwritten journals.
I started my current blog, Cosmos Mariners, back in 2010 as a way to keep my friends and family updated on my newly married self. Since then, it’s morphed into the travel and lifestyle blog that it is today. I love sharing my adventures at home and abroad with my followers!
Lavina DeSouza tells a similar tale of balancing life as a full-time analyst with a passion for travel. For her, starting Continent Hop was a way to keep fuelling her interest between trips as she planned for her next adventure. “I traveled the best I could when I was in Mumbai,” she said. “When I moved to the UK, the social scene was different to how it was back home.
“After I got back home from work, evenings were spent watching Netflix and planning where to go next. That’s when I realized I could finally make good use of my time and put my love of writing and travel together in my blog.”
No Short Cuts for Commitment
Whether you are blogging as a newly liberated full-time traveler or writing as a vehicle to express your dreams as you manage a career and family, keeping up a blog for any length of time is far from easy. To reach the very top in a crowded category like travel takes something approaching superhuman commitment and resourcefulness. So how have our bloggers managed it?
“Blogging long term can be difficult, especially when you’re a one-person operation,” admits Natalie. “If I don’t do something on the blog or my social media channels, it just doesn’t get done. It’s really easy to burn out on the daily grind of blogging, particularly in the beginning when you aren’t seeing much interaction or monetary return.”
What does Natalie credit the success of Cosmos Mariners to?
I can credit two things to my slow but steady growth on Cosmos Mariners: consistency in posting and building my social media following. Life can get in the way, but I do my best to post at regular intervals each week. Some bloggers post every day, while others only post once a week: you have to find what works for your blog.
I’ve stayed motivated by focusing on where I want the blog to be in a year – not where it is right now. I’ve also learned to take breaks when I get too stressed; I always come back from these breaks refreshed and ready to create new content.
Barbara agrees it is easy to get burnt out, especially if your aim is to make a living from blogging, and you need determination and luck in equal parts. “This is not an easy way to earn a living,” she said, “and if I’m perfectly honest, there have been times when I absolutely hit a wall. I thought seriously about giving up.
But…I’ve never been a quitter. And it seemed like each time I came close to quitting, something happened that kept me going. A major television station or magazine featured me, or I was invited to partner with a major player in the travel industry, etc. But more than that, I think my beliefs and hopes have kept me going.
I have always believed that people the world over are more alike than they are different. From the beginning, I have tried through my blog stories and photos to make people understand that we are just one human family and that there is nothing to fear. I truly believe that the better we get to know one another, the less likely we will want to kill one another. And that, more than anything else, is what keeps me going.
Lavina is a firm believer that you have to remember why you are blogging in the first place – for your own pleasure. “It’s so easy to get distracted with how the world is progressing but there’s no single recipe that works for all,” she said. “So that’s what I do, I write when I feel inspired and when it best works for me. I ensure I document as best as possible and then put things together when I feel it’s time.”
Setting Coordinates for Success
So given the challenges involved, what secrets do our bloggers have to share to explain their own success?
“I’ve never compromised on the quality of my content, whether I was creating for an audience of 10 or 10,000,” said Natasha. “Anything I hit publish on has to be of the highest quality.”
Natasha shared more:
I wish in the beginning I had known how important it is to network. It’s not only about getting your name out there, it’s also about getting the right advice and tips from people who’ve been doing this longer than you have. And it’s about finding your tribe in a world where geographical distances can easily be crossed online.
So my advice is, find a few bloggers you hold in high regard and figure out what it is you like about them. Then try to bring in those qualities in your own work. Find a mentor, invest in your craft, and create content that not only speaks to an audience but also holds true to who you are. Don’t chase the money or you’ll burn out.
Lavina is very clear about where the secret of great blogging lies. “Pictures and narratives,” she insists. “There’s, of course, lots of data to help you plan your next trip, but it’s the stories that connect me to my readers….and for ones with a short attention span, they hang around for the pictures!
“Start off slow and steady, trying to find your voice and competing only with yourself. Only then will you produce consistent and amazing content time and again.”
Barbara agrees that quality of content is essential. “Learn how to write quality content that provides something new that the reader can’t easily find elsewhere. And by quality, I mean correct spelling, grammar, and construction, as well as content that is not ‘thin’ or ‘shallow by Google standards. That means not scraping the content of other sites to create yet another ubiquitous, useless ‘top ten’ or ‘best of’ post about places you’ve never visited.”
On the other hand, Barbara agrees how important understanding the mechanics of SEO can be. “I wish I’d known more about SEO from the beginning. You can have the best quality writing in the world, but if Google doesn’t rank your content high, your blog will be practically invisible. Good SEO practices are a necessary evil.”
Nathalie (Cosmos Mariners) agrees. “I wish I had optimized my blog for SEO and affiliates at the beginning. I’ve been blogging for almost 7 years but just started focusing on SEO and affiliate partnerships about a year ago. Going back and reworking all of those older posts has been a major challenge.”
Natalie also discussed social media and community with us.
I also owe so much to my social media following: Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are my largest traffic referrers, so the time that I spend building those channels has given me direct results. It can be a very slow process finding and connecting with followers, but it is essential to quality blog growth.
The message is, find your community! The Facebook blogging support groups I’ve joined have been essential in reaching a wider audience and learning everything about the ins-and-outs of daily blogging. These groups can be phenomenal resources when you have questions, and you’re sure to find plenty of inspiration from the other bloggers in them.
Sabrina sums up her tips for success concisely. “For me, the key was writing about something that I was passionate about – travel. Be unique. And outsource the things you’re not good at!”
Ready to Launch Your Travel Blog?
And there you have it: a compendium of hard-won knowledge, wisdom, and advice from a fascinating crew of seasoned pro travel bloggers. They dared to act on their dream. We’re betting you will too.
But don’t forget about us! Come back and share your adventures, your trials, and your wins.
We’ll be here, waiting to write your success story. And I’ll be rooting for you all the way.