Why I Walked Away From my Successful Travel Blog

Umm hi.

It’s been awhile, I know. Trust me I know.

I think it’s pretty clear that my head and heart haven’t been here for a while. I didn’t want to admit it, but I’ve shown it in my actions as I’ve let this blog become more and more neglected. in the last couple years I’ve slowly abandoned this place, letting it collect traffic and comments without participating hardly at all. It’s a zombie. Megan still updates sometimes, and those updates are great, but I’ve almost completely quit.

This upcoming August Why Wait/Twenty-Something Travel will be ten years old. TEN YEARS. That’s longer than any romantic relationship I’ve ever had. I owe so much of who I am today, and where I am today to this website. It started my writing career, it helped me meet my husband, and allowed me to visit so many beautiful and amazing parts of the world from Fiji to Sri Lanka to Finland to Milwaukee (look: I really liked Milwaukee).

So why did I walk away?  

I feel like I owe you guys an explanation, or maybe I at least owe one to myself. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. It’s complicated, because it wasn’t one major event or tipping point that drove me away. I was more of a long drawn out easing away from the community I had once embraced.

Here is what I think happened. I hope this doesn’t read as a list of excuses, it’s more like an honest explanation.

I Burned Out

The biggest issue was that after more than half a decade of playing the blogging game I just didn’t. want. To. Do. It. Anymore.

This website started as a labor of love and passion. I was 24 and just burning to see the world and to try to encourage other people to doit too. I religiously updated 2-3 times a week for YEARS (while full time  traveling even) and it never even felt like a chore because I loved telling stories about my travels and writing motivational essays.

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Overtime, the blog morphed from my fun hobby to my major source of income. That was alright for a while, because it was still exciting and interesting. I didn’t even need to make all that much money to live comfortably in places like China, Argentina and Mexico. I got to go on swanky press trips which were so much fun- I mean yes, the party line is they were work, but they really were fun and I kind of miss them.

I felt like I was getting away with something: carving a job out of the marble block of the internet. I got to do the things I loved the most- travel and writing, and I got to feel self-sufficient, glamorous and like a #bossbabe while I did it.

Getting paid to hang out with sled dogs!

Then, slowly, that excitement and enthusiasm waned.

I would say it was some time after we moved to Seattle, but before Marcella was born… Maybe later 2015? The whole thing stopped being fun and started feeling a lot more like work.

Because the job wasn’t ever just about travel and writing. There was SEO, and Google Analytics and an endless Sisyphean struggle to stay afloat on all the different social media channels, all of which seemed equally crucial and inscrutable. There was dealing with the travel blogging community-tons of people whom I love on an individual level but am highly annoyed with collectively.

When I first started blogging there were so many interesting potential ways to make money, but after six or seven years of work it just seemed too difficult to pursue any of them. I didn’t WANT to pitch myself to sponsors- I hate selling myself. I didn’t want to organize blogger campaigns and deal with all the logistical details that entailed. I didn’t want to start a course or write an informational ebook or tediously thread affiliate links through my posts. I didn’t want to do public speaking or run social media contests or write sponsored posts.

Then there were my freelance gigs, which paid OK but mostly were dull as dishwater. 10 Things to Do in Buenos Aires, Budget Tips forEuropean Travel, How to Sleep on an Airplane.  At first I didn’t mind them but over time they started to siphon the air out of my enthusiasm balloon. Not just for freelancing, but for travel writing in general.

I didn’t want to do any of the things you needed to do to run a successful, money-making website. I just wanted to write. Except I didn’t really want to do that anymore either. I was worried about staying on brand, attracting more people in the “Millennial niche” and writing the kind of content that would drive more traffic. It was paralyzing. I was so bogged down in the business side of things that I could no longer see the forest for the trees.

Where I used to ENJOY sitting down at my desk in the mornings, I started to dread the work I had to do.  My website started out as a fun hobby, then become a fun job, and finally just a job. It wasn’t fun anymore. It was just work, and low paying work at that.

I Ran Out of Things to Say

Then, I had a baby, and everything changed.

Ok, I almost didn’t write that last sentence because a part of me fundamentally hates it.  My biggest fear over having children was that becoming a mother would take away the part of me that’s ME, and I would lose my individuality and just become a faceless Mommy.

Thankfully that didn’t happen. What did happen was much more complicated. Having a newborn felt like having an atom bomb go off and just blow your entire existence to smithereens. Nothing felt the same at first- even basic human functions like sleeping and eating were a strange logistical challenge. Sleep deprivation was huge (and long lasting- Marcella didn’t sleep through the night consistently until she was over a year old).

All those pieces eventually started to come back togetherinto a semblance of normalcy. I was relieved to find I was still me, just a methat was head over heels in love with this little girl. That first year though,was a strange time. A time when I was equally likely to be awake at 3 pm or 3am. A time when I was basically a human milk machine, physically tied to mytiny human side kick. A time where hormones, sleep deprivation and new motherhoodmade me feel all over the place, all the time. It wasn’t a bad time, but itdidn’t give me much to blog about.

I had absolutely nothing interesting to say on the subject of travel during this time. I wasn’t going anywhere interesting anyway. We flew across country a couple of times to see the grandparents, and we went to Colombia for a family wedding, but we weren’t doing anything unique or cultural on these trips.  

My inspiration level was zero. I didn’t have a single thingI wanted to say on this website. Which meant that when I did update it was mostly generic posts (the kind I had grown to hate), or guest posts and interviews.

Things have kind of come full circle on that point. My life is now full of travel again. Just a couple weeks ago we went to Vienna and Salzburg to see the Christmas markets, and earlier this year we were in Mexico. Next year we have trips booked already for Morocco, Spain, Germany, and that’s just the first half of the year.  None of this stuff is sponsored, it’s just travel that we plan and pay for. Plus uhh, we live in Italy, which is an adventure in itself.

Even with all that, it’s only in the last few months that my desire to write about travel has come back at all. However, I don’t even know if the stuff I want to write about fits on this site anymore.  Do people even want to hear about traveling with a toddler? I still can’t shake the fear of going “off brand.”

I Needed to Make More Money

Along the way my priorities shifted a bit. Not changed completely, but shifted. I have never ever wanted to give up working for motherhood, but I did realize that if I was going to take that time away from Marcella to work on my career, it had to be for something more than writing generic listicles of budget tips for various cities around the world. They paid ok, but not enough to make up for the time away from my infant.

I was itching to get back into the fray after 4 months of (self-funded)maternity leave. The first thing I did was quit all my mindless freelance gigs.Straight-up walked away. I started applying for other types of assignments, and eventually found a niche working with authors totally outside of the travel writing sphere. I was still able to make a living writing (actually, making more money than before), and it didn’t require me to think about travel blogging at all. I don’t LOVE it, but I like it, and that’s not bad.

The way I started looked at my time also changed significantly post baby. Before having a kid, I could work whenever I wanted, for as long as I wanted. But the most complicated thing about having a baby (at least for me) is that someone needs to be watching them ALL the time. If they aren’t asleep, someone needs to have eyes on them.  The first 15 months of Marcella’s life Mike and I traded childcare and work duties- usually he worked in the mornings and I worked in the afternoon. It worked ok, but it meant much more limited time to work than before.

 I know there are some parents who manage to get a full day’s work in during nap times and after bed, but I am not that kind of person. If my baby is in bed, I am on the couch with a glass of wine watching Riverdale. I can’t just be a mom and work machine, I need downtime too. Sorry, not sorry.

Even now that Marcella is in daycare, I need to very carefully weigh my time. I have five hours between when she walks out the door and when she needs to be picked up, and I need to get everything done in that period. If I’m lucky I might get another hour or two during her afternoon nap. So, my concentration is always on the highest paying work. Everything else kind of falls by the wayside.

This article took me three hours to write one morning, and it felt like an enormous sacrifice of time.

It’s occurred to me recently that this might be slightly shortsighted. It may make sense to invest more time in things that can make me money further down the line, not just what will make me money this week.  I’m still trying to reconcile that with my driving need to keep paying my bills though.

I Gave Up

I tried all sorts of things to keep this blog alive. I hired writers, brought in guest posters, joined up with Megan as my partner. We rebranded. Mike redesigned our site (beautifully too). None of this really managed to renew my interest.  If anything, it did the opposite, moving the site further and further away from the authentic personal blog it started out as.

I really started to dread working on this site, talking about this site, even thinking about this site. My email inbox started to overflow and I just ignored it because it stressed me out so much (it’s 99.5%  junk anyway). The more time passed the worse I felt about the whole situation.

Awhile back Megan and I made the decision to move Why Wait towards more of a resource site and less of a blog. It hasn’t been a personal blog in so long that it hardly matters anymore, but it did feel like the death knell for that chapter of my work life.

I have a pretty wonderful and full life. I live in a beautiful city in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I get to travel frequently, not for work but for fun! My actual work keeps me very busy, and my toddler keeps me even busier (can you believe she is almost two and a half now?).

I made amazing friends when I was travel blogging, and I still get to see a lot of them frequently. In the past two months, we’ve had three separate sets of travel blogger houseguests. This wide network of friends around the world is one of the greatest gifts travel blogging has given me. So many brilliant entrepreneurial friends who are still making this internet thing work. When I talk to them, I start to get inspired all over again.

I love my life, but I do feel like something is missing. That outlet for expression, to share my travels and thoughts. The very reason I started blogging in the first place. 

Can I Come Back?

I don’t know, I’m loathe to make any promises here and break them. Again. I obviously have a lot of complicated feelings, as you can see by the two thousand words I just banged out on the subject.

Here’s what I do know though: I spent almost a decade building this site, and I hate letting it just go to seed. I feel so guilty for letting things fall apart. I feel like I let people down, and that I wasted the potential of a website I spent so long to build. I hate that my major emotion when I think of this space- which was a catalyst for some of the greatest experiences of my entire life- is guilt.

I don’t want this to be the way things end.

A lot of the reasons I walked away are still real issues, and many of the things that attracted me to blogging at 24 are not as appealing anymore at 34.

But that drive to express myself is still there. And there are becoming more and more ways to make money online- like through display ads, that don’t necessarily require me to become more business woman than writer.

So, let’s just see what happens. In the meantime, I’m writing more personal and random musings (and posting lots of kid pictures) at stephanieyoder.com. That space is one that’s just for me.

Watch this space, you never know what might pop up.  And if you’re still reading this after all this time, and all those words, thank you.

Steph

Stephanie Yoder is a girl who can't sit still! She is the co-founder and editor of Why Wait To See the World. Learn more about her here.

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22 thoughts on “Why I Walked Away From my Successful Travel Blog”

  1. Write about traveling with a toddler please! As you change, so does your reader base. Many people who have been following you all along might be going through the same life changes. Plus, this is who you are now… embrace it! Why wait to see the world is still a great title. Why wait when you have a toddler? Why wait until they’re old enough to “appreciate it”? So many ways to incorporate this! Go for it.

  2. Steph! I’ve missed you! And I don’t see any problem with you posting anything you feel like writing on this site – it’s still yours, after all, and the audience who click on your personal posts will still want to know what you’re up to in the present day. I totally understand why you stopped posting but it’s also easy to over-think what you’re ‘allowed’ to do with a platform you once loved. If you want to write about your new way of life with Marcella and Mike and Bologna (and the pup!) then I say go for it!

  3. I agree with Jen (above) that you could definitely write about traveling with an infant, toddler, etc. and still make it work, that your audience might change with that, but that’s ok. The older end of the millennial generation is at the age where many of them are having kids. Plenty of other bloggers have transitioned their blog into something that includes travel with kids, because that’s what they do now. So if that’s something you’re interested in writing about and sharing, I definitely think that’s something you could do here.

    BUT…if you’re just over it, if you need a break (temporary or permanent) from this site, than don’t force it. If you’ve found other ways to make money to keep your life going, bravo! Don’t force something that feels miserable to you.

    I actually don’t enjoy writing. There are a few topics in the travel area that I feel I’m good at writing for my blog, but there are many more things I feel like I “should” write on my blog that I loathe doing. I actually like doing some of the non-writing blog tasks, like fixing up old posts for better SEO. And that’s the thing, if your site gets some good traffic from SEO/search, then it can still keep earning you guys some money from ads and certain affiliates even without you putting effort into producing more content.

    I’m pretty sick of many aspects of blogging too. I’m in a ton of FB groups because there’s some helpful stuff in there, but it’s also overwhelming how many people are now trying to something we’ve been doing for years and years, and it makes the whole space super crowded. Too many people going after the same keywords, too many people chasing the perfect Instagram photo, too many people trying to get everything under the sun comped. More and more, I’m trying to stay away and do my own thing.

    Anyway, after all my babbling, my whole point is basically, you gotta do what’s right for you, and it sounds like you are.

  4. Blogging doesn’t need to be only about travelling, it’s a million little things in life. So you can continue blogging about your life as a mum, your travel with your family and many other things with all of the good and the not-so-good if you have time. I still find your posts enjoyable to read.

  5. I love these comments!! I hate when travel bloggers ask for what their readers want because at the end of the day, WE WANT YOU! We come to blogs for the person behind the writing. And if kids are your thing now, COOL! If living day to day life in a foreign country is your jam, AWESOME! Your audience will find you, even if it might be different then when you started. That is one of the (few) great things about about the internet. Good luck, with whatever direction you take this site! Sounds like a lot of people will still be reading:-).

  6. I see so many parallels to my own blogging life in this it is scary. But since we’ve known each other for more or less those entire 10 years I am not surprised we are on a similar track (okay, fine, I don’t have a child but close enough). I think the thing that has gotten me through the hard parts is only writing about things I’m passionate about and ignoring the rest- even if that means slower growth than what I could have achieved. I feel like that has let me enjoy blogging in the vein of how I got into it a decade ago versus making it feel like just another job. Sure, I do all the extra research to try and optimize myself to earn money, but at the end of the day if I’m not feeling something I’m in a position to just not do it. I think doing it however makes you happiest is the best option- even if that means walking away.

    1. You are someone who I really admire, with you intense drive and focus on improving your websites. You seem to really relish a lot of the business aspects that I just can’t wrap my head around. That’s probably why your new site is doing so well!

      1. Aw, thanks! You know, it is funny but I credit a lot of that drive to our local blog. Its just so much easier to be motivated when I can go out on my schedule (and interest level), get content on one very specific topic, be home in a few hours, and publish the next day if I was so inclined. I think that helps out a lot in keeping my interest in things high, rather than simply doing something because I feel like I have to.

        On my travel blog I think I made my vacations become like “work” so much that it really brought me down and took the fun out of things (heck, I feel like that at media events locally too). I’d come up with all these article ideas while on the road and then get home, lose interest, maybe publish three because I stopped caring. Just something about doing anything on vacation for the blog was the antithesis of why I started travel writing in the first place.

        Now that I’m finally able to do this as my full-time job I feel like things are starting to get more enjoyable because I am embracing the idea of doing what I want rather than what I feel obligated as a “have to do.” I’m still struggling with that since there is obviously work that is a have to, but its getting better as I work on the “when I want to” part. Vacations are starting to be more like vacations and articles may or may not happen. Weekends are returning to being weekends (you gave me that advice, if I recall correctly). I can pick and choose paid work beyond passive income at my discretion, etc.

        But I did really push myself hard to get to that point, too! Kind of a catch-22 cycle for bloggers that is hard to break out of.

        1. Very insightful! We are copping some of your model for our new Bologna website so hopefully that works out a bit better for us as well.

  7. I’ve been following this blog for the last 8 or so years. My life has changed dramatically in that time. What hasn’t changed is how much I enjoy your writing. Its honest and articulate. Your life is different now. Write about travel with a toddler. Or living in Italy. Really write about whatever you want. I’ll read it.

  8. Thanks for writing this open & honest post. I hear you … I ran a pretty successful website from 1997 to around 2007, and the last five years I did absolutely nothing with it and just collected the passive income. In fact, I was so NOT into it, that I never checked my e-mail and I forgot to renew the domain name, so it got taken. (Don’t make that mistake!) Now all of the years later I’m finally feeling the need to create again and starting from scratch. The nice thing is, a lot of your content is timeless and will always be helpful for travelers, and hopefully will continue to bring in passive income, so it’s there when you’re ready to jump back in. But seriously … Don’t forget to renew your domain name! 🙂 Have fun on your future travels.

  9. Oh Stephanie!
    Thank you so much for sharing your feelings and thoughts so honestly with us. I remember the birth of the whol travel blogging industry and all the early forerunners. As a mother of two now, I fully understand and this was exactly why I gave my TBEX keynote speech on transitions and how we as a community need to see them as opportunities – https://www.lolaakinmade.com/latest-news/slides-video-transitions-as-opportunities-tbex-stockholm-keynote/
    Sending you lots of love and season’s greetings!

  10. Thank you so much for sharing this! Yours was the first travel blog I found in 2012 and was absolutely my catalyst for going on my first solo-trip and making travel such a huge part of my life. And all of that inspired me to start my own travel blog (https://teaspoonofadventure.com/) and pursue a life of writing and travel. So THANK YOU! I don’t know if it helps you feel less guilty, but as cliche as it sounds, your blog completely changed my life.

    I think your writing is so good. It is so personal, so engaging and so much fun to read. Your personal essays were always my favourite. I agree, the listicles/guest posts/interviews never seemed as captivating. I don’t think you need to worry about being “on brand.” Your audience is growing up with you. I would love to read about your mommy travels and life abroad – so much great stuff there! And as far as the business side – OUTSOURCE! If you don’t like doing analytics, SEO, social media, etc. than pay someone else to do it so you can focus on the stuff you enjoy!

    Excited to see where this blog goes and I do hope you keep writing. Thank you for everything!

  11. I’ve been reading your blog since I was a grad student, probably for around 6-7 years. I think the internet has changed so much since then, and most of my favorite sites from that time are not around anymore. I hope that you find a way to do more of what brings you joy in the new year. I’ll be following you on your personal blog.

  12. You’re welcome! I can relate too, as 2018 was my 12th year blogging at Go Backpacking. I definitely experienced burnout, and the blog’s traffic and authority slowly declined the last few years as a result.

    It hasn’t been until the last few months that I’ve gotten excited about sitting down to write again (I came to this post while writing about my Ferrari driving experience in Maranello).

    Primarily, it’s out of necessity, and like you, I’m not a fan of everything that goes into running a blog as a business these days, especially trying to keep up on social media. I just want to edit pictures and write! So that’s what I’ve made my priority, and I’m doing my best not to worry about social media as much. It’s an add-on in my book.

    Mediavine has been a game changer for bloggers, and they’ll continue to optimize their tech and ad delivery experience as they grow.

    I’m excited for what you and Mike have started with Bologna Living. Like Jeremy is finding in Pittsburgh, I found it so much easier to focus on writing about a single city (Medellin) versus the entire world.

  13. Brilliant! AND….Amen.
    After 12 years (actually, after something closer to 8 years was when it started) of full-time traveling and travel blogging/freelance writing, I found myself dancing to stay atop the careening snowball that was all the intricacies of making a living as a travel blogger – and I wanted off.
    I did kind of get off the merry-go-round for a while, paring my blogging activities and freelance writing down to a bare minimum while I did shaman-things in the Andes of Peru and Ecuador. But unlike having a baby, this baby didn’t last, and when I resurfaced to take stock of my blog, it was a mess.

    I too, have started to write less about personal musings (which is the part of travel blogging I really enjoy and is why I started), and I write “useful” content. Guess what? That’s what pays the bills. Much as I’d like to think I have throngs of loyal readers who hang on my every word (and much as there is a small group of people who falls into this category), it’s a small part of my web traffic and henceforth my income. So, I play to the crowd. My pursuit of passion has had to evolve to pay the bills. That’s business.

    Can you go back? If you can afford to leave the site be, and once in a while come out with a killer post (like this one) that tugs at heartstrings and gets the sort of interaction and communication you crave, then do it!

    I think you and I got into travel blogging for similar reasons. Then an industry built up around us and it became about a whole lot more than just writing fun articles and posting pictures. Often, when we take something we love and turn it into a job, it’s not as fun. The question is whether the compromises of keeping it going are worthwhile.

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