Should You Start a Travel Blog? The Dirty Truth

I don’t write a lot about the inner workings of travel blogging, but today I want to talk about the travel blogging “lifestyle,” the facts and the misconceptions and the dirty truth about whether you should start a travel blog. It’s kind of an addendum to July’s post on lessons I’ve learned from travel blogging.

Whether or not to start a travel blog is a very different question from whether or not you should travel. Obviously, I think everyone should travel- that’s why I started this blog. What I’ve found though, is that the unintended effect of writing about my life and travels is that it sometimes falsely portrays travel blogging itself as something to aspire to. While I love my job, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone in terms of hours, work load or salary.

So I thought I would set the record straight about whether you should start a travel blog.

First the bad news:

It’s Not Going to Fund Your Travels

Views of Mountain from a Plane Window - Should You Start a Travel Blog: The Dirty Truth
Very expensive self-funded flight

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me they wanted to start a travel blog to fund their travels… I’d have enough money to fund my own travels. This seems to be a really popular idea, particularly among people I meet in hostels: that you can just plan a trip, construct a blog and watch the cash roll in.

It took me almost a year to make my first dollar- and this was a year when I wasn’t actually traveling at all, I was living off a full-time salary and planning my trip. My second year was funded mostly by the savings from the job. Now, in my third and fourth years, I’m getting by, but it can be tough sometimes- and I’m not even traveling full time right now.

Nobody, absolutely nobody on earth, is getting rich travel blogging. Even those considered success stories in the industry are only getting by (and they also aren’t making their money from blogging: more on this late). This will change I think, it’s still very early in the game, but as things stand now you’d probably make better money waitressing.

It’s A Lot of Work

Mike and I Working in Bed - Should You Start a Travel Blog: The Dirty Truth

The problem with travel blogging is that it’s a crowded industry: there’s essentially no barrier for entry, but to actually become successful is a long hard slow slog. This surprises a lot of people. At first, it seems glamorous to travel while you work, but then you remember it also means you have to work while you travel. Long hours spent inside when you could be at the beach or out sightseeing or partying it up.

It’s about more than just writing too. Administrative junk, design, SEO, ad sales, social media, photo editing, these are all things I deal with that keep me from both travel and writing. Some of it is fun and some of it is dead tedious, but it all requires a lot of commitment on a daily basis.

Success is a Relative Term

Me in Front of a National Geographic Sign - Should You Start a Travel Blog: The Dirty Truth

There are no top bloggers, not really. There are just people who are better at guessing what to do next. None of us really know what we’re doing, how we fit into the industry, or how to best make money. There’s no plateau of success: only a steady upward climb.

Here’s the big secret about most people who make a living travel blogging: they don’t. Almost everyone (okay not all, but the majority) who makes significant money in this industry does more than just blog. They sell e-books or courses, they consult, do public speaking. I personally spend a lot of my time freelancing for other publications that have nothing to do with this blog.

What I’m saying is: don’t go into travel blogging for the money.

It’s not all bad news though. There are a lot of great things about why you should start a travel blog as well.

Most of the Rewards Aren’t Monetary

The Beach in Fiji - Should You Start a Travel Blog: The Dirty Truth
Job Perks

It’s kind of crap pay, but travel blogging has some EXCELLENT job perks. It’s the kind of job where one day you’re sweating in a sweltering hostel dorm and the next you’re drinking cocktails on the top of a ski slope- it’s weird and unpredictable and exciting. There are free trips (not vacations- they usually require more work than being home… but they are often amazing nonetheless). There are cool people (I love the travel blog community so much I’m marrying into it). There’s a real feeling of ecstatic achievement every time you reach a new milestone.

Blogging Puts Things in Perspective

A Baby Koala on Top of Her Mom - Should You Start a Travel Blog: The Dirty Truth
In retrospect, this was pretty neat.

For me, writing is a reward in itself. When I sit down to document a place, it helps me to process and understand my experiences. Every photograph I take and every observation I write down helps make my trip a little more real. It’s gotten to the point I wouldn’t know how to travel without blogging about it. Maybe that’s actually not a great thing…

It’s Challenging- and Fun!

Most of all though, I just really love the challenges and creativity that comes with being self-employed. Sure it means I work harder, for less steady money, and that I’m kind of mean to myself sometimes. But it also means I get to pursue projects that interest me, come up with crazy ideas and put them into action and write all freaking day long (okay sometimes I hate that bit-particularly when I’m up against a deadline, but mostly I love it).

Those are the main reasons I keep pushing on, despite everything else. I love my job- I get excited when I wake up in the mornings. Not everyone can say that, and I know how truly fortunate I am.

I’m not writing all of this to be discouraging.   It really bugs me when successful bloggers try to put off newbies like they are afraid of the competition. I just think people should know what they’re getting into before they head off on “permanent vacation” and start a travel blog.

To sum up: Don’t go into blogging for the money, be patient, work ridiculously hard, enjoy the non-monetary bonuses, and savor each little success. Or: blog because you love it, not for a free ride, because there are a lot easier ways to make a quick buck.

 

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Shailender Kumar
Shailender Kumar

I finished setting up my blog and went live last week, and then I stumbled upon this post. Initially I was beginning to think that have I entered into a wrong territory of blogging, then by the end of the post you summed up very well and once again I got my motivation back. I enjoyed the process of setting up the blog and now I am enjoying the process of writing and building the blog. I understand that this is not an easy process and involves tons of hard work and equal amount of patience. I am ready with… Read more »

antoniocala
antoniocala

Well, I guess there are several things that aren’t as nice as most people think. Travel blogging is very competitive and difficult to be able to make money with. But it’s a big passion for many people and that’s probably the main reason why many of us get involved in it.

Thanks for the article!

Joyce
Joyce

I agree about the rewards! Other bloggers–fashion, diy, lifestyle, mom–receive more compensation and gifts for their work, but our rewards as travel bloggers seem to be that we get to share our passion and to understand our experiences from the trips that we take. I love the community of travel bloggers out there and I definitely love that I have increased my photography and writing skills over the past year I’ve started blogging.

Holly
Holly

hmmm. I think this is an interesting post, but definitely think you should be proud of and thankful for your job. you have the opportunity to contribute to so many others’ successful trips and planning. you get to see the world every day. even though it might not be much, you get paid for telling people like it is – as you see it – in completely your own words. true, maybe the compromise is long hours and low pay, but i work in the advertising industry. i work 15 hour days at a minimum, but i sit at a… Read more »

Irene
Irene

Very interesting post! It is now two years since i started my travel/expat blog and though sometimes I have toyed with the idea of growing it and making monet out of it, the truth is that I like the way it’s stayed small. As you say, writing is a reward in itself and at least you’re doing some kind of corporate blogging, that should be the most valid reason to get you started. Too much hard work to so if you dont put your heart in it!

Leah
Leah

Great post! I set up my travel blog as a way to document my adventures with my family. I don’t anticipate making money from it and expect that I will continue working in my full time job for another 30 odd years. What I do know is that my kids LOVE reading our blog and sharing our adventures with their friends. At the moment that is reward enough.

LilTheTrill
LilTheTrill

I’m SOOO grateful I stumbled on your site. You saved me a headache and an easy way out from a not so ideal MLM business invite. Thank YOU!

Shmruthi
Shmruthi

Love your honest yet inspiring post! I started to write about my travels just a month back with the sole focus of cultivating a regular writing habit. I’m absolutely loving it but I agree it’s more than just hard work, especially when you are not doing it full-time. I’m someone who gets obsessive pretty easily if I like something, so my blog stats are my lifeline now 😉 And it’s getting extremely difficult to maintain the original momentum of visitors to the blog. Your posts are very helpful in facing the initial travel-blogging glitches and all I wish is to… Read more »

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