Last Updated on February 26, 2020 by Maggie McKneely
I’m a Travel Blogger?
When I first started my blog back in February, I did it with no inclination of actually becoming a “travel blogger.” I had the impression that travel bloggers were people who didn’t want/couldn’t get a “real job.” And I had no interest in being one of those people. My website was supposed to just be a place where I could house miscellaneous articles that I wrote about my (mis)adventures from around the globe. Besides, I already have other hobbies; I really didn’t mean to get into another one.
But it hasn’t worked out that way. Here I am, working to put up at least one new article a week and spending entirely too much time advertising on social media. The majority of what I read are other travel articles, and when I’m not reading those I’m planning my next trip – partly because I love to travel, partly because I’m looking forward to having more to write about.
I still have a full-time, 9-5 job that I enjoy, but I’ve quite accidentally fallen into the travel blogging world, and it looks like I’m here to stay for the time being. So before I forget what I thought about this strange world before I got into it, I thought I’d share my impressions as a newbie travel blogger – misconceptions that I’ve learned aren’t true, critiques I have of the community, and other random thoughts I’ve had about it!
Thoughts about Travel Blogging
1) Travel blogging vs. Travel-writing
Travel-writing is what I wish I had more time to pursue. Think Bill Bryson, David Farley, National Geographic. Exceptionally well-written books and articles that actually transport the reader to an exotic, unreachable location, without you having to purchase a single plane ticket. These pieces take you on a journey using only the incredible power of words.
The difficulty with getting into travel writing is the time needed to find publications and pitch them ideas, make connections with editors, and actually dedicate a fair amount of time to, well, writing a good article. I try to make sure my blogs are readable, but they are a long way from my best writing samples. I can write a blog in a short amount of time; a real article takes a lot more work. That’s why there is such an abundance of travel bloggers, but very few true travel writers.
The only thing a travel blogger needs to get started is a computer and some mild interest in travelling. They don’t need to find someone to publish their work; they don’t even need to be competent writers (not to say that there aren’t great writers who blog, just saying it’s not a requirement). It’s the path of less resistance, but that also means it’s the path of less reward. But for those who simply don’t have a lot of extra time, travel blogging is a great option.
2) That doesn’t mean travel blogging is easy
It sounds stress-free and kind of romantic – travelling the world full time, writing about exotic vacations, getting free stays in hotels and private press trips. But travel blogging is a heck of a lot of work. I work a 9-5 job, and it’s a struggle to get one post up per week. But there are a lot of people who do this full-time, and I’m here to pop the myth that this is a leisurely job.
For many, a blog is their own small business. No other small business gets mistaken as a way to not have to work a “real job.” I think travel blogging gets viewed as an easy way out (by me included, as of a few months ago), but it really shouldn’t be. It’s a lifestyle that many prefer, but it still involves a lot of work.Travel blogging also involves making sure you can take semi-decent pictures
A travel blogger must be their own website-building expert. Building a website sounds kind of exciting, but in reality, a website is like a small, obstinate child. A small child who just really wants to touch the hot stove. You look at said child, say “don’t even think about touching it,” but then the child does it anyway. That’s my relationship with my website.
A travel blogger must also do all of their own marketing across social media and constantly work to broaden their audience, especially if they rely on their blog for income. And in a field highly saturated with a lot of other websites doing, more-or-less, the exact same thing, that’s a lot of tweeting, pinning, stumbling, and instagramming.
Speaking of instagram, travel bloggers have to take good photos. At least, not completely crappy photos. Some travel bloggers spend a lot more time on their photo-editing skills than on their writing, but in a day and age when people care more about the visual, it works for them. I’m no photographer; I’m just really glad that free photo editing software exists for amateurs like me.
Then there’s the matter of actually writing blogs. Every article takes some chunk of time to put together – you have to write it, edit it, add your pictures, code it, etc. etc. And if you want your blog to be picked up by Google searches, there’s an added level of work to make sure it’s “search engine optimized.” Yeah, definitely didn’t know that SEO was a thing back in February. Good bloggers can’t actually write whatever they feel like writing about, and that makes things more difficult.
Some bloggers also write ebooks, pitch to hotels and cities for free trips, and spend time planning trips.
I only do a fraction of all of this, and as my friends will tell you, the amount of free-time I have is at an all-time low.
3) There are a lot of “Digital Nomads”
First, I’ll answer “what is a digital nomad?” I tend to associate nomads with being off the grid, riding camels through the desert, eating raw plants and living off the land. Certainly nothing to do with anything digital.
But a “digital nomad” is someone who does actually have a full-time job; however, their job can be done remotely from their laptop anywhere in the world. And their job isn’t travel blogging; it’s graphic designing or consulting or running PR firms. The diversity among digital nomads, as far as their real jobs go, is amazing.
I just assumed that being a full-time world traveler was something a lot of people dreamed of doing, but very few ever take the plunge. But I was wrong! There are actually a lot of people out there making this lifestyle work for them. It’s a growing trend, and as someone who finds trying to focus for 8 hours a day while sitting behind a desk a herculean task, I completely understand the appeal.
Fortunately, I don’t have to do that, as I spend a lot of my time running around on Capitol Hill for my job. But if that ever changes – full-time world traveler, here I come 😉
4) Travel bloggers are not always completely honest
Granted, I could just say “people are not always completely honest,” but I’m addressing the travel blogging industry specifically here.
I tend to be fairly blunt and opinionated, and am quick to offer criticism (in the spirit of wanting to help) when it isn’t always wanted. Sometimes I wish I would keep my mouth shut more often than I do, but that’s just how I’m wired. But I know much of the world doesn’t operate that way. And I get frustrated when I read glowing review after sparkling recommendation of hotels, restaurants, and cities without an iota of criticism.
I get it. Many travel bloggers write reviews in exchange for free stuff; it’s how they get to go to the places they do and afford certain excursions. Hotel X offers a free three-night stay if the blogger writes a review about said hotel. Is that blogger really going to write a negative post about that hotel? Yeah, probably not. But it doesn’t have to be “everything about our stay was perfect and fabulous and absolutely NOTHING was wrong with our vacation!”
And it isn’t just hotels. Cities also get stunning recommendations without any mention of their flaws. I’ve even read posts that write off entire countries as being perfect! HOW can you say an entire country has absolutely no pitfalls?!
I’m sure I’m guilty of this, so I write this as a self-conscious critique. And there are many bloggers who don’t do this, and I appreciate their articles tremendously. But if the goal is to help fellow travelers, wouldn’t it be right to include the good, the bad, and the ugly of every destination? For example, I would have loved to have read a post about Venice that mentions the fact that it floods in March on a regular basis. That way, it would not have been such a shock when my mom and I found ourselves standing in several feet of water in St. Mark’s Square. I think it’s better to go into your vacation with eyes wide open, than to be completely ignorant of the downsides of wherever you’re going to. Just because a place isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it isn’t worth visiting!
There are ways to write good reviews while including a dose of honesty. And I wish those types of articles were more prevalent in the travel blogging world.
5) Travel Bloggers are a supportive bunch
The travel blogging community is incredibly supportive, especially for new bloggers. It doesn’t matter that one more blog on the web is added competition; most bloggers are always ready to help share your articles or answer questions or provide helpful criticism. I could not have learned as much as I have without the help of those who’ve been doing this for longer than I have, or without their willingness to share my articles on their platforms. And I am extremely grateful for that!
6) Joys of Travel Blogging
It’s a complete time-suck, but travel blogging allows me to indulge my passions that I don’t get to with my real job. It forces me to write on a regular basis about topics that I love and I get to help people plan their owns trips. I get to make sure my family’s travel stories are written down in a concrete way so that we don’t forget about them. And I am constantly learning about web and travel related things that there is no way I would have learned about otherwise.
Are you a fellow travel blogger? What do you think about this crazy hobby of ours?!
Interested in starting your own travel blog? Check out these articles first:
How to Start a Travel Blog: Expert Vagabond
6 Things to Know Before You Start a Travel Blog
Like it? Pin it!
Being a travel blogger is definitely an interesting way of life! There’s so much more to a successful blog than just pumping out good posts! I hope you continue to enjoy the journey 🙂
Absolutely!! I went into it expecting it to be mostly about writing, but there’s so much more involved!! It’s been a great learning experience so far 🙂
It was great to read your thoughts on your experience as a blogger. On a personal note, I think it is very difficult to generalize what is what in the industry. A lot of people use the terms blogger, digital nomad, content creator and influencer as synonyms when those things can be completely different. So, I guess with so many flavors, you have to be clear on what you want to do and be. In my case, I saw the necessity to take my blog to the business level. Started as a hobby but had to justify spending all that time in front of the computer. I am far from making full-time income (at least for California standards) but the what I am earning keeps me engaged and positive. Best wishes!
That’s a good point! There are SO many different terms people use that I was unfamiliar with, and it’s difficult to clarify them when everyone has a somewhat different definition of them. That’s so awesome that you’ve monetized your blog! I haven’t gotten there yet, but I hope to eventually. Like you said, it would be good to be able to have more justification for all of the screen time haha.
I agree with many points that you discussed. I saw special sandals with a foot high platform to walk around Venice during a flood in one of Venice’s museums. But I did not know that floods usually happen in March. Sometimes, people don’t write about negatives because they want to stay positive and reflect it in their blog. Others are just the opposite. They see only negatives like my friend’s 82 year old father who likes to go on a cruise and then criticizes and complains. By the way, my employers got intrigued when they saw in my resume that I was a travel writer. I am a blogger now and most of all I enjoy the creativity that I can express, to preserve my husband’s and my precious memories of being together and sharing a good story. Thank you for your thoughts and ideas!
Oh my gosh!! Special sandals?! When we were there, there were a lot of locals who wrapped their feet in plastic covers. The vendors were selling them too; they were quite interesting looking haha. I think you’re right though, about why people focus on just the positives or negatives. Finding that balance between the two can be difficult, but I think it’s necessary. That’s so cool about your resume! I’ll have to keep that in mind the next time I give out my resume. Blogging does give a lot of flexibility for creativity, which is wonderful! Thanks for taking the time to read the article 🙂
Glad you are sticking with it, I really enjoy reading your writing. Can’t wait to see what adventures you will be up to the rest of your first year. I started my blog way back when as way to stay practiced writing and remain accountable with my writing, I’m still shocked where it has going from there. I’l also happy that there are other travel bloggers that still have 9-5 jobs.
You’ve reminded me that I should always include the good and the bad of a destination. More often then not I write about best places for this or that or just my own experience doing an activity. I enjoyed reading about your own personal experience. Blogging certainly is a ton of work.
I totally agree! I started off last year without having a clear direction of where I wanted to go with my blog, with a vague intention of maybe someday making an income from it, and kind of found my vibe along the way. It’s been a great way to document my path, and I’m glad that I have it all written down and in one place, even if it’s just for myself. I recently wrote a piece about Chicago and had to include that while this place is the greatest city on earth in the summer, do not for the love of god come here in January, so I totally feel you on the honesty point too!
I agree that it’s a crazy business and I don’t know how you manage it with a full-time job. I free-lance part-time, and find it difficult to manage the blog with that. I take your point that pitching stories as a “travel writer” is time consuming, but I think that some of the very best travel bloggers out there are also very good writers. And yes, I struggle with the “good story” versus the SEO post too!
I started at about the same time as you, and I’ve learned a lot too – YES, I feel I spend too much time on social media, and honestly I’m not sure where this will take me. You’re right. Above all, it’s an amazing outlet for me to share my thoughts and stories!
I really enjoyed reading your views as a new travel blogger. I’m a newbie too and though I know it’s a crazy business, I’d someday like to transition to the digital nomad lifestyle. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.
This is an interesting read . I agree to the point that travel blogging is not easy.. takes alot of effort to think and put your heart and mind into the blog. Very well written post. thanks for sharing.
When I started travel blogging, I had no idea how much work it would be. I think a lot of people outside the blogging world don’t realise how much knowledge and skill goes into running your own site. I try to find a balance between writing, which is my favourite part, and the necessary business of blogging, but writing and joy always takes priority.
Travel blogging is not easy – you are right about that. What I find interesting is the constant mountain of things there are to learn and the time it takes to do it all. Keep up the learning and enjoy the ride.
It’s a job, really, just often an unpaid one :))) We both enjoy writing AND traveling so it’s really hard for us not to write about the adventures of seeing the world and living overseas. I also hope that our kids will be grateful for us writing things down one day.
I am a fellow travel blogger and I couldn’t agree more with you, Maggie. Travel blogging isn’t always easy but it’s incredibly rewarding. What makes me really happy that we all really support each other!
Interesting thoughts, I started blogging actually as a university project and it evolved from there. It’s been a steep learning curve and in many ways was a great way to ease in and learn. It is hard work though once you commit to doing it full time and as a job but once you do start making money it’s an incredible feeling of freedom.
This is such an awesome post. I started in February too! I really like what you said about travel blogging vs. travel writing. I think we all admire the greats (Bryson is my favorite) but often ponder the fact that most travel blogs have nothing in common with those authors we all love! I post travel stories from time to time, without including tips or recommendations, and I always try to be truthful (you’re so right about it being necessary to include the bad and the ugly along with the good). Maybe my mom will be the only one who reads them, but I enjoy writing them and think I’ll keep doing it! I’m really glad I found this post. I’m definitely going to Pin it and explore your blog further! Thanks Maggie 🙂