Our Experience of Starting a Travel Blog

| January 28, 2013 | 76 Comments

We don’t often write about our experience of starting a travel blog as we know that most of our readers are not travel bloggers. However, every now and then we feel the need to dive into the Art of Travel Blogging to discuss a few things we have learnt, and provide tips for new travel bloggers.

If you aren’t interested in reading more then never fear, our regular adventure related travel articles and photos will be back soon. In the meantime here is a pretty picture and you should check out our top 5 most popular travel articles:

Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland

Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland

Our Experience of Starting a Travel Blog

I wanted to take the time to write about our experience of starting a travel blog because we just answered a really interesting survey from a research graduate student exploring the lives of travel bloggers. Specifically she is looking at why we create and maintain travel blogs, and how this relates to our leisure and work lives.

If you are a travel blogger, then hopefully it provides a little insight into how you can avoid letting the travel blog take over your life, and more importantly, your travels. Because if you want to make travel blogging your full time job, you will be in for a big surprise.

It all started of with the generic questions such as, explaining what our travel blog is about and why we started it. It was at this point that I began to realise how far we have come in the last 18 months. Not to mention how our expectations and desires had evolved as well.

It also raised a few questions of my own.

We started this travel blog to keep a record of our own travels around the world. As well as keeping family and friends updated on what we were doing.

Cole and Adela Photos

After about 4 months we realised that other people were actually reading about our adventures.

This led us to research how we could turn this travel blog into a better travel resource for the general public. We realised that we wanted to maintain our travel blog to show travellers, especially couples travelling together, that you could quite easily step outside your comfort zone, in comfort.

By using our on the ground knowledge we could provide trusted and expert travel tips to our travel community, which was growing exponentially. And it wasn’t long before we were getting emails and social media mentions asking for specific travel tips.

As the travel blog continued to evolve it took over our lives. I started working full time on it which gave me the freedom to work independently anywhere in the world. This also gave us more opportunities and freedom to follow our travel and adventure passions.

For the next 6 months we dived into the travel blogging world with everything we had.

Starting a Travel Blog

The next question I answered in the research made me pause:

“Do you consider writing and maintaining your travel blog part of your leisure, your work, neither or both? Why?”

It has been amazing to watch our site evolve over the last 18 months from a hobby into my full time work. But had we gone too far?

Travel blogging had became a full time job.

Her next two questions really made me stop.

How much time and energy do you invest in writing and maintaining your travel blog?

How much time and energy do you invest in other activities (besides writing and maintaining the travel blog) that support your travel blogging?  What are these other activities?

Those were the real eye-opening questions.

I realised that more time was now spent dealing with advertisers, tourism boards, travel companies and DMO’s than actually writing or editing photos. Not to mention all the hours spent on our various social media channels engaging with our very active audience on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram to name a few.

And the icing on the cake?

How important are your travel blogs as part of your leisure and/or work?

How important is it to you to maintain and continue writing your travel blog?  If you had to stop travel blogging how would this impact your life?

Before I realised it, I had already responded that our travel blog had basically become a part of every aspect of my life. Everywhere we go, everything we eat, everything we do, could be a potential story.

It was mind bottling.

Our travel blog had taken over our lives.

It was so obvious to us because I just went through a stage, very recently, where I nearly threw it all away. I absolutely loathed writing because it had become a chore. Our relationship was suffering and travel wasn’t even enjoyable.

It took a full month of not writing or working on the travel blog before I started to feel comfortable again. During that time I took stock of what I wanted in the future.

I realised that the reason I wanted to continue is because I want a couple of things:

  • I want to work remotely and have my own job independence;
  • An outlet to publish my photos and writing; and
  • To continue to inspire others to travel.

The last point was actually a surprise to me. But I realised it after I was asked:

What outcomes or results do you feel you receive from your travel blog (personal, social, professional and or financial)? How important are these outcomes to you? If you no longer received these results / outcomes would you continue travel blogging?

I have great pride in the work that I produce. I love seeing a photo or story that I have shared be “liked” or shared by others on social media. It is addicting. Every time you get a “viral” post it is like a high and you are always searching for the next interaction.

And every time we have an email come in from our travel community asking for specific advice, or thanking us, it is a real buzz knowing that we are making a difference to how someone travels.

While not every post or every picture makes a difference, I know that a lot of people have enjoyed reading our articles. Our most popular posts are visited on a daily basis by people searching for travel tips or information about certain places and experiences. People trust our advice. Even if we are just providing a person with 10 minutes of travel porn everyday to dream about, then I think we make a difference.

I realised that is what I want most from our travel blog. I want to continue to help those people that thank us.

Now I have managed to find a work/life/travel balance and I am back to loving writing. It was close and I was lucky to realise that I needed a break before I totally burnt myself out.

Clark Island, Whangamata Beach, Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand

Whangamata in New Zealand is where I spent a month collecting my thoughts.

And that is the ultimate point I want to make. Too many people start a travel blog for the wrong reasons. They think that it is going to be easy and they will be rolling in the money on a beach somewhere.

While the travel industry is one of the richest industries in the world, it is probably the hardest one to make any money in. And if you find that you are chasing after that fame and fortune, then starting a travel blogging probably isn’t for you.

But what do I know. There is definitely no right or wrong way to starting a travel blog. We get proven wrong everyday in this industry.

The only thing that is consistent, is that there are no rules, and you have to do it your way. 

About the Author ()

Cole is one half of New Zealand's leading adventure travel blogging couple who have been wearing out their jandals around the world since 2009. He loves any adventure activities and anything to do with the water whether it is Surfing, Diving, Swimming, Snorkeling or just lounging nearby on the beach. You can follow Cole on Google+. Or consider following us via RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter.

Comments (76)

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  1. Good thoughts, Cole. I’m sorry to hear of your recent burnout, but I’m glad to hear you’re feeling more encouraged now. It’s definitely exhausting and discouraging work at time, but ultimately, I think we have to do it for us and for the people we’re trying to help or inspire, rather than as a way to make tons of money. One thing I find most frustrating is that I don’t want to always be viewing my travels from the perspective of the blog; I want to just relax and enjoy them. I need to work on finding a better balance in that regard. Best of luck to you both!
    The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen) recently posted..7 places I never thought I’d want to visit in Asia (but I do!)

    • Thanks so much Ellen! We struggle with the separation of our lives and the blog too. But we have just accepted now that our travels are now also our job. Would be nice if it wasn’t but if we get to do the things we love then that is fine 🙂

  2. Hi there

    great article, helps put my own blogging into perspective. I have just started travelgrapevine.com/blog as a precurser to my website being launched, and have received my first interaction which I agree is a great feeling.

    If you have the time, please have a look at the site and if you have any tips (as an experienced blogger) then I would love to here them

    paul curtis recently posted..An Idiot Abroad. China – dont believe in the propaganda

  3. I can second the whole “separation of life and blog” thing. I’ve noticed that in the last 6 months, especially now that we are doing the retreats, I’ve gone from a mere 3-4 hours a day of work to a full on 12-15 hours a day of emails, G+ Hangouts, Skype conversations, social media, blogging, editing, answering more emails, promotion and trying to maintain blogging in there as well.

    Thankfully Cris is quitting her job on the 3rd of February to help me full-time, since the blog has gone beyond what I can realistically manage on my own. And we will also be bringing on at least one intern here locally to help run the retreat in March, April and May…and I’m probably going to end up hiring one of my own graduates as a personal assistant in June just because it’s gotten to the point where if I want to maintain my precious free time, it’s time to start delegating!
    T.W. Anderson @ Marginal Boundaries recently posted..Comment on Breaking The Chains of Minimum Wage by T.W. Anderson

    • We would love to have 2 people working on the blog but until we move somewhere with cheaper living conditions we can’t realistically afford it. Should be in SE Asia by the end of the year though to pursue that dream for a little while 🙂

  4. Jessica says:

    Great post! I recently started a travel blog and sometimes get discouraged when I get no comments/not a lot of views because it truly is a lot of work! I am trying to find a balance between my full time job and blogging. It’s tough! Now I know I am not the only one for sure!
    Jessica recently posted..A Taste of Barbados: The Best of the Best

    • Trust me, every single blogger that doesn’t work on their blog full time struggles! There are never enough hours in the day 🙂 The readers and comments will come as you continue to develop! We had months before anyone started on ours.

  5. Jessica says:

    Great post! (not sure if my comment went though)
    Jessica recently posted..A Taste of Barbados: The Best of the Best

  6. This is a great blog post, and it’s something I think a lot of travellers struggle with. Great to see your efforts though – especially over time like the traffic shows 🙂 Well done!
    Elle Williams recently posted..6 Reasons You Should Love Dubai

  7. EXCELLENT post. I relate to it in a lot of ways, but in my case, what has kept my complete obsession with travel blogging from becoming sour is that I also have a full-time job teaching kids. I find that having a job offline makes it that much more delicious to come back to writing each night.

    Thanks again for being so open with sharing your journey!
    Lillie – @WorldLillie recently posted..Dancing With Street Children in New Delhi, India. Video!

  8. Dana says:

    I enjoy writing about our travels, but I can see how it could kind of take over the travel! I hope you continue to find a wonderful balance!
    Dana recently posted..Visiting L’Orangerie in Paris

  9. Laurence says:

    This is one of your best posts in my mind 🙂 I can very much identify with many of the themes. It’s very important to focus on the why when doing a project of passion like this – because if you look at it in purely monetary terms, it’s going to be a sad story, at least in the first years 😉

    It’s not just travel blogging of course. Many people who follow a passion do it for the love of it rather than the money. I met a girl running a hostel in New Zealand for example, who said that she sat down and worked it out once, and her actual income was around $2 NZD an hour. But for her it wasn’t about the money, it was about the freedom, and the people, and the lifestyle. Travel blogging is much like that in my mind – you have to love it. Money is kind of a bonus 😉
    Laurence recently posted..Doing nothing in Hua Hin at Ploen Terrace

    • Shouldn’t our best posts be about travel? 😀

      Money is a huge bonus to what we do because it allows us to travel further! But the thing that gets me excited, like I said in the post, is getting the comments and recognition from our readers. That is what counts to us!

  10. Alyson says:

    Thanks for sharing this Cole, I’m only 5 months into my travel blogging journey and yes, it is taking over my life. I can’t order a meal in a restaurant without photographing it! But it’s good, the blog is doing OK, I haven’t worked for 5 years, I’m busy with my children, so it’s a nice outlet for me. One day, if I make some money, I’ll be very happy indeed, if it makes enough to help keep us travelling, I’ll be ecstatic. I’m already planning some time off, once we leave on our family travel adventure I’m going to sit on a beach and do nothing for a month, de-stress and learn a new way of being, more in touch with my kids and my newly unemployed husband. Can’t wait!
    Alyson recently posted..Feeding George The Groper

    • You are living the dream Alyson! You sound like you have your head screwed on right, and in this business it makes all the difference 😀 Find that balance then stick to it.
      Thanks for your comment 😀

  11. Jennifer says:

    You’re absolutely right, Cole. There’s no better feeling than to have your posts shared and liked. It’s a validation of your work. And it very addicting indeed.
    Jennifer recently posted..Black Sand Beaches of Vik, Iceland

  12. Sometimes I wonder myself why I continue to pour into my blog, but, it just seems like a natural progression of my life. I, too, just want a place where I can share my experiences and photographs and put the moments of experiences together to look back on.

  13. Thanks for the cautionary tale – we know EXACTLY what you’re talking about!
    Karen @ Trans-Americas Journey recently posted..Superstars and Scene Stealing Students – 2013 Panama Jazz Festival, Panama City, Panama

  14. We hope to get this year to Scotland. Eilean Donan Castle looks amazing. I have to put it on our list.
    Laura @Travelocafe recently posted..Vasa Museum, Stockholm. The Best Museum We’ve Visited in A While

  15. Thanks for being so open with all of us. I think that is what people love to read the most “the real you”. I know I enjoy that. We are only 5 months into our trip and blogging and haven’t been frustrated yet. Not loads of readers and no money or sponsors running our way, but it is us and it is real. We too hope to inspire and break the mindset that fear locks in…. we can have freedom and see the world if we make it a priority. Thanks again for sharing!
    Heidi Wagoner recently posted..My First Spanish Birthday Party

  16. Peter Lee says:

    Good idea Cole. Your post really helps new travel bloggers to improve their writing skills. You really come to know how to explore and write for the reader’s benifit.

  17. Salika Jay says:

    Interesting read, Cole. Enjoyed reading the article as well as the comments 🙂 Travel blog taking over life was an issue at the beginning for me too so guess I’m not alone in that. I think passion for blogging coupled with knowing others read your blog is the real encouragement to keep on going.
    Salika Jay recently posted..Kefalonia: If It’s Good Enough For Captain Corelli

  18. I can 100% relate to this. I found myself burnt out about a year ago, and had to find a balance. I went from posting 5 times a week to three, which helped big time, and I also cut down on the amount of time I just spent wandering the internet and other blogs. If I didn’t have an objective for the computer to be open, then it wasn’t open. Things are much better now and I’m happier pursuing this hobby/dream.

    Keep doing what you’re doing…the travel blogging world is better off with you in it…
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..Things You Only Hear on a Cruise Ship

    • One of the biggest changes I have done is also cut back on writing. Now it is twice a week and I am way more comfortable with that! I also thing my writing has improved because I get to spend more time on each post. Great extra points and tips D.J!

  19. Really interesting read. I have been going less than a year and am mostly on the Algarve, Portugal.

  20. Great job Cole! I think you’re 100% on point. For the first time in 6 months I took 2 days (some people call it a weekend) to step away from the computer. Now, if I can only get Bret to break away for a bit. I’ve never worked so much in my life, however I’ve never been happier. It’s tough because non-travel blogging friends complain about their jobs all the time, but if we complain we seem ungrateful. As far as relationships and blogging. I think it takes a very special mix to make it work (with a dash of crazy).
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..PHOTO GALLERY: Penguins of Antarctica

    • I know exactly how you feel! I just went out for coffee with a friend and tried to explain what it is like for us when we are travelling. He just kept saying nah it isn’t like that! Look at the “free” trips you get! Couldn’t understand the the “free” trips comes from hours of long work to get to where we are now. And not like we can ever slack off. But you are right, we LOVE it 😀

  21. As with anything worth doing, the hard work is worth it!
    wanderingeducators recently posted..What Happens in the Amazon Should Never Stay in the Amazon

  22. I am fast approaching my 2 year blogging anniversary and there are moments that I am in a panic because I don’t have a story for whatever reason – usually because I am not traveling as I work a day job and am a travel/food blogger by night.

    The main reason I started a blog is because I am a newly graduated writer and I wanted to keep myself writing and being creative. I am not interested in permanent travel but traveling as often as I can.
    As soon as it becomes solely about money and exposure it isn’t fun anymore and drains the creativity. I just love to talk and write about culture, art, food and experiences abroad, the occasional blogging conference and other perks are just extra events that I enjoy.

    Great article.
    Murissa @TheWanderfullTraveler recently posted..Winter Blues & Shades of Grey

  23. Larissa says:

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. . . and now I don’t have to 😉

    The combination of full-time blogging and full-time travel can be exhausting! There have been some days we haven’t left our short-term flat, because we were busy blogging/writing/social networking, etc. (and this was in Paris or Buenos Aires!) Then we’d feel guilty that we weren’t out exploring those fantastic cities. We’ve found that we need to take “fire-breaks” in our travel, when we just go somewhere and disconnect.

    We also cut back to 2 posts a week, and found we could offer better quality content without resenting it. Now working on a book about our RTW, and we’ve cut back to 1 post/week while we get that done (only so many hours in a day!) We’re in a fixed location for 2 months (longest since we left 18 months ago), and we’ll be ready to hit the road for sure 🙂
    Larissa recently posted..Free things to do in Florence

    • I think you might have said it better Larissa 😉 Great points and insight into your own travel blogging “journey”. Good luck with the book and totally agree that you need a “fire-break” from travelling. We are touring Eastern Europe this summer then plan to do nothing in Thailand for a few months. Should be a good time to catch up on posts… Just need to schedule some before then haha.

  24. Ali says:

    I definitely put a lot of time and effort into my sites, because I really enjoy it. I’ve had some burn out, but mostly it occurs when something else is stressing me out, like the German class I just finished. Blogging isn’t something I want to turn into a full time career, but it is really important to me. I love encouraging people to travel, showing them places they haven’t seen before, showing them it isn’t as scary as they thought. I love getting emails from readers who have questions about their upcoming trip. You’re right, you definitely have to be in this for the right reasons, and money isn’t one of them.
    Ali recently posted..Is “What If” Stopping You From Traveling?

    • If money is the reason people travel blog, then they are definitely doing it wrong. If I wanted to make money blogging then I would be a fashion blogger! Great point about showing people that travel isn’t scary Ali too 😀 Any time we help someone, then we feel we are doing something right!

  25. I recognise a lot of the emotions here – sometimes I’m full of ideas, the writing just flows and the comments keep coming in, then other times everything else takes over, I feel like I’m falling behind and struggling to keep it going. I wouldn’t be without it though – good and bad!
    Lucy Dodsworth recently posted..Skiing off the beaten path in St Jean D’Aulps

    • Totally agree Lucy! Some days it all gets a bit much. But I have been finding that I can write one post a day easily at the moment which is nice 😀 And with me only publishing twice a week it means I can schedule posts. Hopefully I can keep this momentum going!

  26. What a fabulous post! Travel blogging/writing has always been a dream of mine and this has provided me with so much valuable knowledge and insight in to the industry/community. I can’t thank you enough for sharing!

    Kate xo petite-adventures.blogspot.ca

  27. Arti says:

    Fantastic post, one that every travel blogger should read! Its so much fun to blog and share about your travels.
    Arti recently posted..Heian Jingu Shrine and Garden in Kyoto, Japan

  28. Insightful and inspiring. I started blogging years ago when I moved to Spain, but only recently started getting attention and readers. I decided to monetize and have been enjoying the ride, even with the frustrations, technical work and giving up some of my free time. Best advice? Just keep at it!
    Cat of Sunshine and Siestas recently posted..Applying to to the Auxiliares Program: How to Apply to be a Language Assistant in Spain

  29. John says:

    My blog is only a month old, and one of my main motivations for doing it is so I can become a better traveller. I want to learn more about the places I visit, as opposed to just walking around not knowing what i’m looking at. If I am going to write about it, it’s going to force me to delve deeper. Whatever happens, or doesnt happen with the blog after that, i’m fine with.
    John recently posted..North American Air Travel: Get Creative

  30. I can relate a lot from this. My 3yo travel blog hasn’t taken hold of my life, because I’m always conscious that there are a number of other things I have to prioritize first. As a result, I haven’t made it the best that it can be. But I’m okay with that. 🙂
    Aleah | SolitaryWanderer.com recently posted..Snapshot Sunday—Love Locks in Europe

    • Everyone is completely different with their blogs and that is what I like about this business! Everyone is doing completely different things and it allows us all to be successful, depending on how we measure success of course. Thanks for stopping by and commenting Aleah 😀

  31. Stu says:

    Well said, I can see how easily a travel blog could take over your life and if that happens then it no longer retains the original reason you started it. That said, since we started our blog we now do things we wouldn’t of originally looked for or considered because it is different and would make a good story. That’s not a bad thing because we are breaking away from the mold and trying to find unique experiences.

    I would hate the thought of not enjoying travel because of the blog though and it sounds like you did the right thing. As ever we always enjoy reading your posts so we are glad you never jacked it in 🙂
    Stu recently posted..The Big Buddha

    • Unique experiences are definitely good for not only your readers but yourself too! As we slowly find our niche I think it is good that we are are realising the things we love to do while travelling, and others that we don’t mind missing now.

      And glad you guys are still hanging in there with us 😉

  32. Chris says:

    Cole, thanks for sharing those tips for creating a successful travel blog. You really have a great outlook about travel blogging.

  33. There is a point in every serious writer/blogger’s life where the life/work balance dilemma rears its ugly head, usually more than once. It’s a good sign our lives are out of balance somewhere. Stopping to regroup is a perfect way to regain perspective, become re-inspired, and re-energized. I have other challenges in my life that keep my work pace in check. My followers know I don’t post regularly, but when I can and am able. This pace seems to work for us all, leaving us free to continue enjoying the journey and adventures, what my website is all about–count your blessing and enjoy life where you’re at, in the moment.
    Cat McMahon recently posted..Smoldering Sunset

  34. Thanks for this post guys. We are very new to this community so reading posts like this really helps us to put everything into perspective. Learning from experienced bloggers is great. Travel is our main passion so we must remember to keep it that way and to not lose sight of the big picture. I would hate to burn out now that I have finally found something I LOVE doing. I think I have finally found what I was put on this earth to do; Travel and writing/blogging!

    Thanks for being an inspiration to newbie bloggers like us 🙂
    Suitcase Stories – Nicole recently posted..Broadway, balls and naked cowboys.. It must be Times Sqaure!

    • Thanks Nicole for dropping by the blog 🙂 And glad that we could help put a little perspective into running your own blog! Keep enjoying the travels and the blogging will come easily.

  35. Emily says:

    My sweet hubby and I have been traveling full-time for 6 years and I have been blogging about our experiences and writing articles for print magazines and posting tips for would-be full-time travelers for five of those years.

    I haven’t approached burn-out. Instead, I have been thrilled by the opportunity to share our travels in my written stories and in our photography.

    We were novice photographers when we started and now sell our photos and have had 6 magazine covers with two more in the queue.

    Perhaps the secret to not getting burned out is that our writing and photography is predominantly for our readers and not for commercial purposes. Our blog isn’t hugely successful in a commercial sense. Unlike yours, which is phenomenally successful — and a huge congratulations on your enormous success — it blows me away! — I’m envious! — ours is ranked pretty low and we haven’t courted any commercial vendors.

    I suspect there is a trade-off in this world of travel blogging. If you blog because you love to write and love to tell stories and love to take photographs, then blogging will always be fun and you won’t burn out. If you blog to work with vendors, then it may quickly become a job with the vendors as your bosses. Jobs with bosses aren’t always fun.

    I really appreciate your honesty in this post, and I feel the most incredible awe for what you have achieved with your blog. What an astonishing accomplishment. Congratulations – and I hope you find a balance with your blogging so you don’t feel burned out any longer.
    Emily recently posted..Costalegre: Santiago Bay in Manzanillo – Brilliant sunrises every day!

    • Thanks so much for stopping by to comment Emily 🙂
      Firstly, I don’t no how you can’t claim your blog isn’t a commercial success when you have had 6(!) magazine covers and you are able to sell your photos. I would love to be able to do that! The only reason I consider my blog a commercial success is because I can currently live off the earnings. The problem is that those earnings could change at any time. It would be nice to have a more stable income from our travel blog.
      You are totally right though. Trying to find that balance between writing for the love of it and writing for commercial reasons is tough. I tend to go with the first one 😉
      Thanks again!

  36. Nice blog post from you, Mr. Cole.. Yeah, I think we need a great passion to make great travel blog. We must have consistency.
    Now, I’m starting to make a blog from my experience travelling around Indonesia. Indonesia have a lot of beautiful place to visit. But my blog still in Indonesian. Hope a lot of people want to visiting my blog and visiting Indonesia too..

  37. Hey,

    This is a truly great, thought-provoking post. My wife and I have been travelling now for 6 months and have kept a casual blog to keep friends and family informed. However, we’ve reached that stage of realising there may be potential to make this into a career rather than a career break, and we’ve spent many hours at the computer switching to WordPress, learning SEO, etc. and most of the time it feels like we’re getting nowhere!

    It’s great to see other people are doing well out of this, and sharing their experiences. It’s also refreshing to hear how even you have struggled with certain aspects recently.

    You will continue to be a massive inspiration to us and we will continue to follow you on your travels, whatever happens with our own blog.

    All the best,
    Chris Raybould recently posted..Canada’s Rocky Mountains

  38. Niel says:

    Ever since I had always thought of creating my own and yes i did made one entry but I haven’t updated it like for x no. years. Recently, I stumbled in your blog looking for some Travel tips in Amsterdam and it reminds me again of how great it is to keep a travel journal. Hopefully I would be able to pull it off soon. I had a sort of having difficult time reminiscing my trip in Barcelona last 2012 that i had to resort looking back the pictures.

    Anyways, thanks for the inspiration…
    Keep posting. Im surely following on your travels and adventures. 🙂

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