Nearly a year ago – on April 4, 2016 – I unveiled “It’s Five O’Clock Here,” my travel and drinks website, to the world. At the time, I had no idea what kind of impact it would have on my life, but I knew that I had to press that “Publish” button or else I’d never know if I could hack it at travel blogging.
What a difference a year makes. I’m currently en route to Boston as I type this, gearing up to visit Amsterdam and Belgium. I won’t be alone: Ashley, the hilarious travel blogger behind My Wanderlusty Life, will be throwing back a pint or two of beer with me. Still, it’s odd to think that a year ago, I had yet to meet her for the first time on a “blogger blind date” in Boston.
But that’s how travel blogging works. It keeps you on your toes, your fingers glued to a coffee mug in one hand and your camera or laptop in the other. You’re always on the hunt for that next topic or idea for a new post.
Despite this, the rewards will come. You will feel more creatively alive than you have in years. You will have complete autonomy of—and accountability for—your work product. Plus, you never know who will enter your life and when; I’ve been astounded by the number of incredible people I’ve met through Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook before we met IRL.
As with everything, though, I’m not always looking through rose-colored glasses. There are days—though thankfully they are fewer now—when I struggle to get work done and toss my computer (OK, my notebook, actually; computers are @#$!ing expensive) at the wall.
So today, let’s pull back the curtain on travel blogging. I’m here to tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly—or, what I’ve learned from one year of blogging.
Joining Travel Blog Success is the number one thing you should do if you’re a travel blogger.
It’s not an understatement to say that this blog wouldn’t be half of what it is without Travel Blog Success, or TBS for short. TBS has a plethora of online courses that are essentially the go-to place for travel blogger professional development. In addition to their general course, I’m a member of their Partnerships course, which has enabled me to write pitch letters to tourism boards, bars, museums, and wineries that are actually getting accepted! They’ve also got great courses on topics ranging from Facebook Marketing to Freelance Writing.
Perhaps the most invaluable part of being a TBS member, however, is the community. You have access to a secret Facebook group where real A-list travel bloggers are dispensing advice (hello Dave and Kate, thanks for answering my questions!). I also met my blogging mentor, Ashley of My Wanderlusty Life, via this group—something that is incredibly helpful to have in the Wild West of Blogging. I could write a whole separate post on how much I’ve learned from her, but suffice it to say that when she introduced me to Czech beer, I knew it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
As a side note, TBS has a killer deal going on for 25% off of their courses. It runs from now until March 31, 2017. Grab it while it’s hot!
You’ll become a Jack (or Jill) of all trades.
We’re not just writers. Nope nope. You’ve got to be a skilled photographer, savvy marketer, killer graphic designer, adept salesperson… you get the picture. I know more about Instagram, cameras, and affiliate marketing now than the French know about wine. (Well, sort of.) I only wish I had as many arms as an octopus so I could boost my work productivity even higher…
You’ll meet amazing, intelligent, passionate people who know their craft.
Finding like-minded individuals who get what you’re going through is key to success. It’s so awesome to grab coffee and chat with Lynn and Justin of Mad Hatters NYC about social media automation, or talk to Marissa at Postcards to Seattle about camera gear, and not have their eyes glaze over. For the most part, I’ve found that people in this sphere are willing to help each other, too. Lia of Practical Wanderlust in particular has been a godsend in helping me to figure out what the @#$! Pinterest is and how to master it. Plus, I’ve met others outside the travel blogging sector via social media as well. I’ve been to a great writing workshop and book club with Nikki from Building Bold, and attended an Italian wine event with Li from The Wining Hour, to name a few. All of these people mentioned here share one thing in common: their entrepreneurial drive and dedication to success. Their passion is contagious!
You’ll compare yourself to top bloggers.
Even though I knew that comparison is the root of unhappiness, I still did it anyway. I clicked through posts by Adventurous Kate, A Dangerous Business, Alex in Wanderland, Valerie & Valise, and others on a daily basis at first, naively wondering why my site wasn’t as successful as theirs. But you know what? These ladies have toiled for years at this. They’re highly skilled, really sharp women who not only put in the time and effort to succeed, but are on the forefront of new trends in the industry. And you know why? Because they treat travel blogging like a bonafide career. It’s their business, their livelihood. Once I realized that, my whole perspective on the blogging changed.
Every once in a while, your friends will get annoyed that you have to snap ten different versions of the same damn cocktail photo.
Sorry, guys; I know you want to drink your drink. But wait—just one more angle and then I’m done? Promise!
People assume they have the right to ask you how you make your money (and what you make!).
If I were a lawyer or a doctor, would you ask me how I made my income? No, you wouldn’t. This is a really personal question that irks me for a number of reasons. For starters, though there are some methods that many bloggers use (like affiliate marketing), no two bloggers’ success strategies are the same. Also, I’m earning income through other avenues as well, like freelance writing and consulting. I get that people can be genuinely curious and want to show interest, but most of the time, I don’t want to talk specifics. I might say “freelancing” or “selling photographs,” but unless you are a client who wants to pay me for my services, I’m not going to freely volunteer my income or my rates. #SorryNotSorry.
Just like other major life events, people will have opinions about your decision to blog, and it won’t always be positive.
I wish I had been better prepared for this. Sometimes, people expressed their disapproval outright. Other times, they gave that fake smile with the raised eyebrow that says, “I feel like I have to support you because I’m your friend, but man, you are making a terrible decision and are batshit crazy. I’m so glad I’m not you.” (C’mon, I know exactly what you’re thinking, dude.)
I’m ashamed to admit that before I embarked on this entrepreneurial adventure of mine, I was also judgmental of freelancers and people who worked for themselves. Now that I’m doing it myself, I can’t tell you how much respect and admiration I have for people who have to hustle. Trust me: it’s NOT just code for unemployed.
People assume that you’re permanently on vacation and don’t have to work.
How many times have I heard people say “Oh, you’re so lucky, you don’t have to work at all anymore?”
Newsflash, people: that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Yes, I’m lucky enough to be at a point where I can get press passes to activities or events, but it’s technically not “free.” I’m writing blog posts, taking high quality photographs, and managing social media posting on multiple platforms for the places I see.
And that’s not even just after the fact. As part of some campaigns, we have to post about it on social media before and during the trip – meaning polished photos and quality content, not just some blurry photo of half of my face and a one-line caption. My time and my labor is real, and it is valuable.
To paraphrase Charles Dickens, this past year has been the best of times and the worst of times. Even so, I’ve learned more about myself in the past year than I have in thirty years. Travel and writing has made me a more thoughtful, creative, flexible, thick-skinned person—and for that, I wouldn’t trade the world.
Also, some of the above are affiliate links. This means I will earn a tiny percentage of the sale if you purchase through them at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting It’s Five O’Clock Here!