What I’ve Learned From 2 Years of Travel Blogging
This month marks two years since I started my travel blog and what a crazy ride it has been.
Growing this blog has pushed me in more ways than I could have ever anticipated. It has forced me to confront parts of myself that I’d buried for years. I’ve learned so much about myself and discovered endless possibilities to make money through an online business. And I’m just getting started.
In this post, I’m breaking down 10 of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from two years of travel blogging. Whether you already have a travel blog or want to start one, I hope you’ll take away something that’ll inspire you to take action towards your dreams.
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links.
A recap of my blogging journey
I started my blog back in September 2017 after a few years of working the traditional 9-5. I never felt like I belonged in that world and resented having no control over my time, my tasks, my coworkers and, essentially, my life. A stint as an English teacher in Madrid, Spain was what ultimately pushed me to take the plunge and pursue a life of travel. I decided to combine my love for travel and writing to design a career that fit me 100%.
My first year of blogging was sort of like an unpaid internship. I spent most of the time trying to figure out this new world of plugins, SEO, and media kits. I battled Imposter Syndrome and questioned my sanity many times. Also, I made a ton of mistakes, as expected.
In 2018, I earned $6,500 from my blog. As little as that was, it confirmed to me that I could make money without a job. I just had to figure out how to grow that income so I wouldn’t have to live at my parent’s house and eat my mom’s food at the age of 30 (I’m 27 now).
In 2019, I’ve invested more in my personal development to clear mental blocks and unlock my full potential. I’ve made lots of changes to my daily routine and feel more confident in myself. Although I’m still not where I want to be financially, I’m realizing that this is a journey I can’t rush. I believe in my heart that I will get there and I won’t stop until I do.
Now onto the tough lessons I’ve learned from two years of blogging.
No one will understand what you do
Blogging can be a lonely journey because most people have no idea how you make money or what you do every day. They may see blogging as a fluffy hobby. You may have to explain yourself over and over to friends and family. That’s okay. You know deep down why you chose this path. As long as you have a compelling reason driving you, what others think doesn’t matter. I know it can be disheartening to put your heart and soul into something, and people look at you as if you’re crazy. But that’s the price to pay if you want to deviate from the pack.
Success will probably take longer than you expect
I’ve attended a few travel conferences over the last two years. One observation I’ve made is that the keynote speakers are travel bloggers who have been in the industry for 5+ years. In June, I attended Travel Con, a conference hosted by Nomadic Matt. One of the keynote speakers was The Blonde Abroad, who has built a $1 million travel blog. She’s been blogging for eight years and rebranded three times before she found success.
When you’re just getting started, it can feel like success is so slow. You wonder why you aren’t making much money after a year. Are you doing something wrong? No, you’re not. There’s a lot to learn and implement. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Of course, there are ways to make money faster, which I’ll talk about later. But when you’re still figuring things out, you’re probably not aware of the best way to monetize your blog. Patience is necessary.
You may also like: How To Start a Travel Blog: The Complete Guide for Beginners
You may have to take care of past baggage
Most of us have unconscious baggage that we’ve been carrying since childhood, our teenage years, or some other point in our lives. When you start a business, all that baggage will come creeping up. For me, it was low self-esteem and a negative association with money, both of which date back to my childhood.
The low self-esteem came from mainly from bullies in grade school; the negative association with money came from witnessing massive corruption and embezzlement as a child in Nigeria. I had a hard time selling myself and selling my products because of these disempowering beliefs, which were buried in my subconscious.
Even after investing $20k in the best tools, courses, and coaching back in 2018, I still wasn’t achieving my goals. That’s because I had jumped straight into tactics and strategies without doing the internal work to prepare myself for business. Deep down, I didn’t believe I could succeed so, unsurprisingly, I didn’t succeed.
When 2019 came around, I took a step back and focused on developing myself. I attended the Millionaire Mind Intensive to start the process of overcoming my money blocks. I also went to therapy specifically to deal with my self-esteem issues. I’m sharing this to show you that you can’t ignore the emotional/mental baggage if you want to succeed in business. Identify the things that hold you back and tackle them head-on.
You’ll develop a stomach for rejection
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pitched brand collaborations or partnerships with other bloggers and not heard back. Other times, I received a flat out no. I also launched a coaching program and only one person signed up during the first round. During the next round, that number grew to three. (Don’t give up if things don’t go as planned the first time.)
Entrepreneurship is definitely not for the weak. If you don’t already have a stomach for rejection, you’ll quickly develop it. The fear of failure is one of the biggest factors that prevent people from acting. But after you get rejected 100 times, you become more comfortable with failure. That’s the beauty of rejection.
Shiny object syndrome will delay your progress
I think you definitely you to need to invest in your business and yourself to create something of value. But there’s a difference between investing to fill knowledge gaps and investing in hopes of finding ‘the secret.’ That’s exactly the trap I fell into. I purchased every course I came across, believing that I would eventually find that magic formula to solve all my business problems. Newsflash: the magic doesn’t exist. That’s why business is so challenging. Every business is different. That’s why you have to focus on your unique audience and what their needs are. Don’t know what your readers want? Ask them.
One of the most productive things I did in the beginning was reaching out to female travelers who fit my ideal reader profile and doing 15-20 minute phone calls with each of them. It yielded a ton of useful information and helped me create better content and opt-ins. So don’t get carried away trying to learn everything before you start implementing it. That’s a form of procrastination. Always remember this: clarity comes from engagement, not thought.
Having focus will accelerate your progress
I mentioned earlier that there’s a way to make money faster as a travel blogger. It’s having laser focus. Once you’ve explored the ways to monetize a blog, like affiliate marketing and working with brands, you then need to decide which approach to take and take action. Try one thing at a time. If you want to work with brands, go all in and pitch brands every week. You may decide that working with brands isn’t your cup of tea. That’s fine. You can shift your focus to something else, like ads or sponsored posts. That’s one of the amazing things about working for yourself: the ability to make decisions without asking for permission.
In year one, I jumped from one monetization strategy to another too quickly, never giving myself enough time to truly understand and develop any skill. I purchased Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing and started working through the strategies. Within a few months, I abandoned that and moved on to learning about working with brands. A few weeks later I moved on to coaching. This is the wrong way to do things! Shiny object syndrome got the best of me.
If I could go back to the beginning of 2018, I would have made growing my traffic the main priority for the entire year. I would have also dedicated my efforts 100% to affiliate marketing because it’s the monetization method I was most excited about. No working with brands, no starting a coaching program. They say you should have multiple streams of blogging income, but it doesn’t mean you have to build them up all at the same time. As a solopreneur, you’ll surely get burned out and diminish your results. Focus on one thing at a time.
You’ll have to do things you don’t want to do
I hate selling from the bottom of my heart. But in order to run a business, I have to sell. There’s no way around it. Otherwise, I can go back to a job and make someone else rich. For an embarrassingly long time, I tried to avoid selling. No wonder why my income was so low in 2018. Nowadays, I’m facing my aversion towards selling head-on and trying to find ways to actually enjoy the process.
You have to realize that if you want to be successful, you’re going to have to show up and do some things, whether you like it or not. Keep your eye on the big picture as you go through the less desirable tasks. As you grow, you can outsource the tedious tasks to a virtual assistant or your team.
Trying to please everyone won’t get you far
Many new bloggers, including myself, mistakenly believe that they have to appeal to as many people as possible in order to be successful. That couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s a book called 1,000 True Fans, which argues that you don’t need a massive audience to make money online. If you get 1,000 people who truly believe in your work to pay you $100, then you’ve just made $100,000. That’s a simplification, but the idea is powerful.
In the beginning, I tried to write travel guides that would appeal to men, women, couples, and everyone in between. But something so general and bland doesn’t speak to anyone. By trying to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. The worst reaction you can illicit from people is indifference. You want them to either love you or hate you. Nothing in between. Don’t be afraid to inject your personality into your posts. Share your opinions. Take a stance.
An accountability partner will help you stay sane
A lot of travel bloggers join Facebook groups to connect with other bloggers, get feedback, and share ideas. I think that’s a great idea because blogging can be a lonely journey if you don’t seek out a community. That said, I think it’s even better to have an accountability partner with whom you have a phone call periodically. You can share your goals with each other and follow up to check each other’s progress. Having someone who can relate to your journey and understand your frustrations can be such a huge morale boost when things get tough. When things are going great, it’s also nice to have someone to share your successes with.
I found an accountability partner at an entrepreneurship conference. We connected during the event and I followed up with her. Since then, we’ve been holding 30-minute calls every Monday morning to help each other grow. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made this year.
Persistence wins the game
You have to want to succeed more than you fear failure, what other people think, looking stupid, losing money, or any other potential obstacle. In the last two years, I’ve felt like throwing in the towel so many times. I’ve been it with one disappointment after another. There were successes too, but my brain naturally focused on the disappointments. That’s what brains do.
Every day, I write down my five biggest successes in my journal. I want to reinforce positive developments every single day. Otherwise, I’ll feel like I’m not making progress. Ultimately, what keeps me going is my burning desire to live a life of travel, freedom, and purpose. I want to live a location independent lifestyle centered around my passions and help as many people do the same.
Travel blogging has its ups and downs but I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world. Are you a travel blogger? What have you learned in your journey so far?
One more thing: if you enjoyed this post, please share it!
Congrats on the two years! I’m so impressed by your introspection and candor; it’s so true that you can’t fully reach your goals if you’re not honest with yourself about your hang-ups and issues. Props to you for working through them!
Hi Kelly, Thanks for your comment! I’m glad you appreciated the sincerity of the post. I also try to be honest about my experiences, whether good or bad.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and intimate process on travel blogging! And congratulations on your 2 year mark. 🙂 I imagine you are on year 3 now, so kudos! I really enjoyed your post and definitely am taking away some great pointers.
Hi Vanessa, Thanks for your appreciation. I am glad you learned something valuable from the post.
This was a great, inspiring read. I’m new to travel blogging. I know what I like to write, but not what will attract more readers. I have so much to learn, but because I’m not trying to monetize right now, my focus is on being consistent and remaining passionate. I never want it to feel like a chore.
Hi SyKnese, I wish you Good luck with your new travel blog. Make sure your content is optimized for you and your readers.