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Happy birthday, Blond Wayfarer!
Aw, my baby turns a year old on Monday! Unbelievable!
It feels like only yesterday I purchased this domain, and created my blog using a basic/free (but pretty) WordPress theme. How time flies!
Wondering how my blogging craziness begin? It officially started when I was laid off from my teaching job in May 2015. This sudden economic change inspired me to create Blond Wayfarer. I needed to pursue my dreams.
From afar, I had always admired travel bloggers and inserted myself into their adventures. My new situation forced me to ignore nagging doubts and create my own website.
And the rest, as they say, is history!
It’s been a trip, for sure. I definitely feel like my voice has gotten so much better, as well as my photography skills and social media presence. As a teacher, I love learning new things even if those new things are WordPress and SEO.
But more importantly: how did I maintain this blog for an entire stinkin’ year?! When have I ever committed to something for that long?!
The answer is “never,” my friends! I’m cannot stick with projects. Heck, I can’t even meet my Goodreads reading goals for the year. So a year is a big milestone for me.
But moving on.
I wanna share a few important lessons I learned during my first year of travel blogging. I’m warning you a lot of these lessons won’t consist of sunshine and rainbows, but there are bright spots, I promise!
1. Blogging takes a ton of time.
If you eventually want to be taken seriously as a travel blogger, then you need to put in the required time. There are absolutely zero short cuts, I’m afraid. Time is a big deal.
I’m lucky I already have an impressive travel resume, because I can discuss previous trips in the comfort of my own home rather than the road. Think about it! Typing in my bed versus typing on a bus or airport terminal? There’s no comparison, hahaha.
However, it’s occasionally a struggle to make myself write entries, update social media, read other blogs, watch vlogs, etc. every single day. But I do it. Not devoting any time to your blog means nothing will get written, and new readers won’t come.
Work, work, work, and work some more.
2. Disappointments happen. A lot. Be Patient.
I try not to look at Google Analytics every day since my numbers don’t particularly impress me. I’m still waiting to crack 10,000 pageviews per month, for example.
The upsides of blogging are amazing. But the downsides? Yikes. I had no idea how bad they were.
Nothing else disappointed me as much as when I realized my GA code was installed twice. The faulty code doubled my pageviews, meaning my readership was only half what I thought it was. I felt defeated. What stung even more was realizing potential PR folks could possibly think I purposely installed GA twice to inflate my views. Some of us are just newbies, okay?!
However, the important lesson is not to let disappointments crush you. I was still accepted on an awesome FAM trip for TBEX Europe, after all! Be patient, work hard, and rewards will come.
3. Be prepared not to make money. If anything, spend money.
No tourism board or brand will give you money or take you on swanky press trips if you don’t have an audience. If you have a new blog, one with only 1000 pageviews a month and zero comments on its front page, then don’t pitch to companies.
I might be stepping on a few toes here, but this reality needs to be shouted from the internet’s rooftops, especially to new bloggers like myself.
Travel boards and companies aren’t taking you on trips because they think you’re cute, but because they think you’re an investment. And you can’t bring business if you have no audience.
Remember what I said about blogging taking time? Well. It’s gonna take time before your audience grows and the first pay check rolls in. I’m still waiting on that first pay check a year later.
Still, I don’t wanna sell out nor do I wanna irritate PR people by emailing a weak media kit. Instead I’d rather spend money to improve my physical blog (the website) and my brand. For example, I spent a few bucks to join BlogHouse and learn more about the industry. I consider the workshop an investment.
4. Your travel style will change.
I’m way more concerned about updating Snapchat and Instagram on trips now than I ever was in the past. I always have my camera ready to go, prepared to take that “perfect photo” for likes. In the back of my mind, I’m musing about whether or not a travel experience will make a good story for my blog and audience.
It’s so hard to “turn off” the blogger brain on trips. Sometimes I miss relaxing. Still, the pros outweigh the cons. I LOVE sharing my passion for travel and inspiring others! I want people – who may be in the same rut I was years ago – to finally grab their suitcases and explore the globe.
Just be prepared to care a lot more about taking photos, is all I’m sayin’.
5. Laziness and writer’s block are a blogger’s worst enemy.
I’m lazy. I admit it. Hey, we all have our flaws, and sloth is mine. I’d rather lounge and do nothing than work. It doesn’t matter if that work is unfinished laundry, lesson plans, or blog posts. I don’t think I’m alone either.
However, laziness isn’t a good trait for a blogger to have. Everyone has the attention span of a gnat on the internet. I’m an example. At the moment, I have seven tabs open in my browser. If you decide not to write for a month because you “can’t be bothered,” then people will forget about you.
But I will say: travel blogging is the best type of work out there.
6. Don’t give into shyness, anxiety, or “I’m not good enough-is.”
You are good enough. Don’t give up.
I’ll be honest: it’s super difficult not to compare myself to more successful bloggers. Sometimes I do feel like I’m not good enough and therefore ought to stop wasting my energy writing posts, because I’ll never catch up to the “best of the best.” Travel blogging is a packed market, so it feels impossible to stand out among a herd of already established and popular writers.
But you know what? 99% of those popular bloggers have been writing and promoting for three times as long as I have. Of course they’re gonna have more followers!
Focus on your voice, your abilities, and anything special you have to offer. Worrying about ~everybody else~ won’t help your site grow into something amazing.
Are you also a travel blogger? How long have you been writing for? What were some lessons you learned in your first year? Share in the comments! And HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO BLOND WAYFARER!
6 thoughts on “Lessons I Learned in my First Year of Travel Blogging”
Congrats on your first year! I am with you on the sloth. I’ve somehow gotten lazier in my late twenties than I ever was in my teens or early twenties. I’m glad you’re able to power through and keep up with regular posts — we appreciate it!
I have totally gotten lazier in my late twenties! I have no idea why! And thanks! I always think of you guys whenever I feel lazy and force myself to power through it! 🙂
Congrats Rachel!! I’m so proud of you!! I can relate to being lazy and kind of distracted at times. However I can tell you catch yourself and you’re always posting such interesting content on social media and your blogs. As for comparing yourself – its human nature and we all do it!! As a musician and artist I find myself comparing myself at times and questioning if I’m good enough. Keep going girl! You have such a unique story and perspective! You gonna go far.
Thanks so much for all your support! It really means a lot. And yes, comparing yourself is very natural behavior, but we have to fight it. I’m sure it’s tough as a musician! I used to do the same thing when I participated in my high school’s choir.
Rachel – I have started a travel blog about a month back and I have read the equivalent of this piece on so many established travel blogs – many of which have been around for 5+ years. But I have been able to relate to your pointers better than all the others even though much of what you have said has been written about by the others. I guess your down-to-earth writing style and the fact that you have walked in my shoes just a short 12 months back made it all very relate-able. Here’s to a super year two for you! Let the great content and stories keep flowing!
Happy Birthday! Congratulations on your hard work and achievements, Rachel! I’m a total newbie (started in December) and I am with you on how much work and time it takes! I still work full- time (also a teacher!) and I spent basically every other minute outside of work on my blog – twitting, pinning, editing photos, writing posts, learning, learning, learning… Half a year ago I had no idea what SEO was! There is just so much to learn! But I LOVE every minute of it 🙂 I just earned $1,01 yesterday, so you know, I’m good 😉
Congrats and happy travels!
Ioanna (A Woman Afoot)