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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58 thoughts on “Should You Start a Travel Blog? The Dirty Truth”

  1. starting a travel blog is really hard, but i love to share about my travel story 😀 so, it does’nt matter for me, at least for now 😀 also I am not yet a full time traveler, I do travel blogging just for hobby and fun ^^

  2. Starting to understand all about how much work it is. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always looked at it as hard work, not just fun and games, and that’s why we’re starting our blog a year or so before we head off, but it’s like Coldplay said.. no one ever said it would be this hard 🙂

    We’re serious about it though, and even if we’re not making any money off of it we’re looking forward to the travels regardless, and to the way blogging changes the experience. In the meantime we’re loving life in the Dominican Republic and Blogging all about it, one post at a time.

    Thanks for the post 🙂

  3. Really good post! I just stepped in to the travel blogging world because I love to write. I’ve started about 2 months ago writing my stories. Really slowly I can see an increase in visitor numbers but I already guessed it would be a long long road. It takes a lot of effort and time!

    Thnx for sharing! I’ll keep following your blog!

  4. A nice healthy dose of realism is always nice to hear, especially for the hopeful aspirants who have no details on what this entails. Though I like the list of perks, as well, which is why I think travel blogging is something every traveler would enjoy.

  5. Great post! Funny, I keep coming across these blogging posts. I should start sending our readers over here who ask us how to make money with a travel blog! I usually tell them close to the same thing. Don’t start a travel blog for the goal of making a living unless you really enjoy being an entrepreneur and the uncertainty of not knowing where your next dollar will come from.

    It seems the general consensus is that all you have to do is start a blog and you will start getting free trips and advertising money. I probably spend more time emailing and networking these days than anything else, but I love that part of owning a business. To me, all of it is exciting because I know I’ve worked my butt off to get here.

  6. Great advice. I think with a blog, you really need to put things into perspective once in a while. The moment you get caught up in the number of hits, comments, views etc. is the moment the blog becomes a job rather than a hobby. For me, occasionally writing a post feels like a chore. When that happens, I need to tell myself that it’s okay to put it off till later, that there are no deadlines and I’m doing this for fun.

    Enjoy the time while you’re there and don’t spend it in an internet cafe furiously pounding a post away. Remember, it’s travel blogging, not traveling to blog.

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