I Don’t Really Want You to Start a Travel Blog
I love blogging as a career. It has literally changed my life in many ways. I met my husband through blogging and Twitter. It allows me to work from almost anywhere in the world, as well as at home in my pajamas. Earning a full income from blogging means I don’t have to work in a soul-crushing insurance job anymore. But I have a hard time encouraging others to pursue this path. Often I find myself thinking, you really shouldn’t start a travel blog.
You’re not looking at the big picture
Making money from blogging isn’t an easy thing to do. It takes more time and effort than you can imagine when you’re just starting off. And it isn’t something everyone understands yet. Almost everyone I talk to gives me a confused look and asks, “You make money from a blog? How does that work?” when I tell them what I do for a living.
So when new bloggers think all it takes is having a site and getting Instagram followers, it’s extremely frustrating. I’ve seen bloggers talk about having 1,000 pageviews a month and going after sponsored trips and complimentary hotels/tours/gear. I see other bloggers encouraging those bloggers because “it’s never too early to try to get a free stay.”
Yes, sometimes it IS too early to go after a free stay.
If you don’t have many readers, you’re not providing any value to the company you’re working with. A tour company wants your readers to be inspired to take their tour. A hotel wants your readers to book a room. But if the only people who read your post reviewing the tour/hotel are your mom and 10 other bloggers in a sharing thread, the company isn’t getting anything out of it.
Always think about the value you are providing. If you can’t provide any value to a company or tourism board, wait until you can to go after free trips. Or acknowledge that they aren’t a good fit. If you write about traveling on a shoestring budget, don’t go after a free stay at a luxury 5 star resort.
You’re ruining it for the rest of us
Another blogger once posted on Facebook about being at a winery and seeing a girl frolicking in the vineyards. The field was clearly marked with signs saying not to go in, but she did it anyway. When the owners yelled at her to get out, she responded, “it’s for a blog!”
Seriously? You think saying it’s for a blog makes it ok to disrespect property and ignore rules? This girl is making professional bloggers look bad. It only takes one person doing something stupid to turn a company off of working with bloggers. It only takes one person to make them think bloggers are all immature and selfish.
I’ve heard way too many stories of companies who won’t work with bloggers anymore because they gave a blogger a free stay or a free tour, and the blogger never followed through with their end of the deal. Bloggers are being seen as freeloaders instead of people who can help a company or tourism board promote a good experience.
Don’t ruin it for the rest of us. Don’t go after free stuff just to get free stuff. Remember that you have to hold up your end of the deal. Please don’t be disrespectful, and don’t think that you have more rights or privileges because you have a blog.
Instagram is killing travel
This goes hand-in-hand with the section above, but I feel like Instagram in particular is killing the travel world.
I used to be a bit embarrassed at not having an Instagram account. It seems almost everyone has one, and as a travel blogger, it’s touted as such a necessity that I used to feel like I must be missing out on traffic and opportunities by skipping this vital social media platform. And in fact, I have missed out on a few blogging press trips for not having one, years ago when I was still interested in doing these kinds of trips.
These days, I’m actually kind of proud of skipping out on Instagram. I can’t stand the number of photos I’ve seen of bloggers in ridiculous flowy dresses in destinations or situations where a normal person wouldn’t wear them, all for the ‘gram. I’ve read stories of bloggers who have spent literally all day doing crazy things to stage one photo so they could post it to Instagram and get more likes and follows.
And all of this Instagram nonsense is making travel more and more about the perfectly crafted photo instead of being about the experiences and beauty of the place.
Bloggers keep perpetuating it by going to the same places over and over again, and taking the same selfies at the same places as all the bloggers who got there before them. And then non-bloggers go and do the same thing as their favorite travel bloggers on Instagram.
You’re promoting false images and fairy tales
More and more people these days are becoming digital nomads, and I totally get it. The lure of traveling to exotic places is hard to resist. Plus, you generally get to be your own boss. I could be a digital nomad, if I didn’t crave more stability than the typical nomad, but believe me, the whole working-for-yourself thing isn’t always rainbows and unicorns.
I get so sick of the “quit your job and travel!” ideal that gets pushed by so many bloggers. Life is not one huge fairy tale just because you now work for yourself and you can work from Bali or Thailand or Mexico, or all three within a month.
Pushing these ideas can be really irresponsible when they don’t come with a healthy dose of reality. Those readers you’re encouraging to quit their job need to know the good and the bad. They need to know practical things like establishing a way to make money BEFORE quitting their job. They need to know what it’s really like, even the ugly stuff, so they can make an informed decision.
And for the love of god, please stop posting pictures of working from a beach or a hammock. That does not work!
Aside from the “quit your job and travel” stuff, too many bloggers only show the good side of travel and gloss over the bad stuff. Travel isn’t always wonderful, so stop trying to convince everyone that it is. It’s ok to not like a place. It’s ok to get stressed out or be miserable on a particular trip. It’s ok to show the reality of a location instead of just the carefully crafted, photo-shopped, isn’t-this-so-dreamy images.
Not everything needs to be or should be sugar coated.
Why I don’t blog about blogging anymore
For the longtime readers out there, you probably noticed I wrote about blogging a couple years ago, for about 8 months, and then stopped. When I started, I really wanted to show people that making money from blogging is possible, and I wanted to encourage existing bloggers to treat their site like a business so they could earn money from it.
But then I realized, I didn’t actually like blogging about blogging. I also felt uncomfortable putting my income numbers out there as my income continued to grow. So even though I’m really proud of what I’ve turned my business into, I decided the blogging topic wasn’t something I wanted to pursue as an income source.
I also started feeling like, if I continued to blog about blogging, I might be contributing to the exact thing I just spent 1000 words ranting about in this post.
So please, don’t start a travel blog because you want free stuff. If you already have a blog, don’t promote false images of travel or encourage people to travel just for that perfect selfie. Don’t be disrespectful or dishonest. Don’t think that being a blogger should give you special privileges, or that anyone should even care that you’re a blogger.
And please stop ruining it for everyone else.
You might also enjoy:
- How I Make Money Online and Travel Up to 4 Months a Year
- On Living a Non-Traditional Life
- Solo Travel Sucks. Do It Anyway.
- Knowing When to Cut Your Losses
June 18, 2019 @ 10:05 AM
Instagram has absolutely destroyed the joy of travel—for me and I’m sure for many others, but also for our beautiful world. I’ve been blogging a long time, too, and have seen all these problems – I know we’ve spoken about it before! It’s frustrating and disappointing, but hopefully the industry will catch up and learn.
June 18, 2019 @ 11:13 AM
Definitely agree. I’m now actively seeking ways to enjoy travel more again. Expect more rant-y posts like this from me!
July 27, 2020 @ 9:36 PM
I have not commented on a blogpost in years, since I used to be an avid reader back in the mid 2000’s, but thank you.
I have been living and working overseas for several years now, and I have visited 30? plus more. But I actually stopped writing on my blog as travel blogging got more popular, and it’s taken me about three years to be able to write again without having self loathing at what I am doing. I prefer storytelling in a blog post, not just FIVE BEST WAYS TO X,Y,Z, connecting, slow travel, getting to know the culture, and it seems like now it’s just go somewhere for a picture on Instagram/post the list and move on. I even stopped taking my camera out when I travel, or limiting myself to only taking 10 pictures, to really think about being in the moment.
It’s so hard to explain to people these things when you yourself are also living and working overseas, but thank you for putting it into words.
July 29, 2020 @ 12:54 PM
Thanks! It’s tough because blogging is now my full time job (not this site though) so I do sometimes find myself writing posts that I find boring. But I try to really stick to the topics my readers are interested in and asking about. I mostly keep up this blog as an outlet for my own experiences and memories, and I don’t worry about the fact that I don’t make much money from this site. Helps me balance the more business-like approach I have to take with my other site. And OMG Instagram…I’m still resisting it. I am not a fan. And when I see posts about “Best Instagram Worthy Places” or whatever, I run the other direction. Travel is not about the perfect picture, and I feel strongly that that’s how too many places are getting overrun and ruined. Hopefully we’re getting a nice reset right now, and when travel picks up again, hopefully it will be with a better approach.
June 25, 2019 @ 6:34 PM
This kind of post is always fascinating to me, because I like to understand *why* people blog. The entire time I was in Germany and traveling more, I forgot I *had* an instagram account.
It was never about that for me- I travel because I want to see EVERYTHING, and my posts are more about what I think is interesting in any given destination than anything else. But then, I’m not trying to make a business out of it- my blog started as a line of communication to family and friends when I moved abroad, and it sort of accidentally morphed into a mostly-travel blog because that’s what I was doing with my spare time.
And I fully agree- people who spend ridiculous amounts of time for the “perfect shot” are super annoying for me. When I’m wandering and I spot someone who is obviously doing photos for a blog or an insta or a schpadoinkle or whatever the newest social media is, I can’t help but to roll my eyes. I’ve always respected the pragmatic way you approach your blogging.
You make it look easy, Ali. 😀
June 26, 2019 @ 12:33 PM
Thank you Steven! I really appreciate that! This is one of the reasons I keep Ali’s Adventures as more of a personal blog and Travel Made Simple as my more professional one…though even saying that feels weird sometimes. I don’t spend tons of time staging the perfect shot. I might take a few photos for the blog that I wouldn’t take normally, but I always try to enjoy the travel as my first priority. And I certainly don’t want to fake or stage something to make it look better for social media or the site. It’s tough because the other site really is my fulltime income, so I have to make sure I’m working on it properly, but I’m constantly making decisions that work for me and feel right for me that go against what a lot of other bloggers do, and in the end it makes me happier and I feel better about what I’m doing and what I’m putting out there.