One of my favorite quotes is from a commencement speech by Jim Carrey, who said: “You can fail at what you don’t want. So you might as well take chance on doing what you love.” Having failed several times at things I didn’t particularly want to begin with, I decided to throw myself into something I knew I would love doing. And thus, GnomeTrotting was born. I’ve been on this blogging grind for exactly three years this month. Over 500 posts later, these are the things I’ve learned from my efforts.
Travel blogging doesn’t pay
The internet is saturated with people who write about their vacations. It’s as simple as that. Sure, there are very successful and even wealthy bloggers that have been around for over a decade. But chances are, you’re not going to be one of them. If money is the reason you want to get into travel blogging, I don’t recommend it. 2018 was the first year that my blog made a (negligible) profit after the costs of keeping it running. Of course, that doesn’t account for the hours of unpaid work I put into it every week.
Travel blogging makes you travel more
I used to think I should get into travel blogging because I traveled so much. Now I travel so much because I’m a travel blogger. When it’s been a month or two since I’ve gone somewhere, the fact that I don’t have anything to write about starts to nag at me. As a result, I’m more likely to want to take a trip, even when I might have been perfectly content staying home and relaxing. I definitely didn’t need another reason to want to travel more, but here we are.
Travel blogging introduces you to new cultures and experiences
Maybe the most rewarding thing about travel blogging is that it forces you out of your comfort zone. I go to places I may not have otherwise visited. Because there are 60,000 blogs about Paris, but if I’m writing about Macedonia, I get a bigger slice of the digital pie. There are less voices to compete with about that particular place. Similarly, I’m more likely to do things I wouldn’t otherwise care to do, because it might make an interesting blog post. It’s like doing it for the ‘gram, but for the blog.
You don’t have to go very far to become a travel blogger
People who want to start a travel blog might feel hindered by the fact that they don’t have the budget or time to travel to faraway places. I’ve been to 44 countries, but the places I write about most are the ones where I live. Those are consequently also the most helpful articles for readers and the most popular. So even if your life consists of exploring your own city, you can blog about it. It might be home to you, but it’s travel to someone.
Travel blogging makes you seem more interesting
My life isn’t nearly as exciting as my blog makes it seem. In a way, a travel blog is like a portfolio of all your highlights as a person. It’s like all your best first date topics of conversation in one place. So sometimes it gets you a lot of attention – romantic, platonic, stranger danger – the whole gamut. Even my girlfriend, who once rejected me after a couple of dates, didn’t think I was worth her time until she stumbled onto GnomeTrotting years later. (The joke’s on her; I’m super fucking boring).
People don’t always want to read what you want to write
You might be surprised to find what draws people to your website when you analyze your site traffic. Some of the most helpful guides and insightful pieces I’ve written go into the abyss never to be read again. You have to be okay with that. And if you want to grow, you have to give the people what they want. Find the things that have been really popular in the past – that keep people coming to your site – and write more of that.
There’s a lot more to becoming a popular travel blogger than just writing
A travel blog is not just a collection of essays. It’s photos, it’s code, it’s search engine optimization, it’s research, it’s ad placement, collaborations, social networking. The one positive thing is that when you blog regularly, you learn a lot of skills you may not have had otherwise like photo editing and SEO optimization. For me, the most daunting part about the travel blogging culture as whole is the social networking. But without people reading and linking and sharing, your writing wouldn’t get seen by anyone. Good content is simply not enough to make a blog seen. You have to connect with other bloggers.
Travel blogging is a lot of work
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shared a hotel room with someone who is fast asleep after a long day while I’m uploading photos, editing them, researching information, writing, posting, and sharing my writing. And God forbid my servers are down or I’m locked out of WordPress, because then I have to get on the phone with my hosting company and pray that I didn’t just lose the last three years of my life because of a glitch.
Travel blogging is not how I make a living, but I’ve changed the way I make my living to make it possible. On a semi-regular basis, I have around 8 different jobs. But consistently, this blog is what takes up most of my time and also what pays me the least. But I don’t even mind. I do it because I’m passionate about it. I can’t imagine justifying the effort any other way. To be a travel blogger, you really have to love it.