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30 Things I've Learned after 3 Years of Travel Blogging

30 Things I've Learned after 3 Years of Travel Blogging | CosmosMariners.com

Unlike many bloggers, I don't have a hard and fast blog birthday. I've been blogging (sometimes seriously, sometimes not so much) since September 2010, I rebranded in December 2013, and refocused in May 2014. Given those options, I usually pick May 2014 as the moment that everything changed for me since that's when I went on my first press trip, fell in love with the world of travel blogging, and decided to focus solely on travel.

Since then, I've had plenty of ups and more than my fair share of downs. I've walked away from the blog twice (once for more than 4 months). I've stressed myself out instead of focusing on the positive. I've compared myself to other travel bloggers and felt this small when I didn't measure up.

Three years into this journey, I still learn a little more every day. Yet, I have gained some valuable lessons in the process: here are the 30 things I've learned after 3 years of being a travel blogger.

1. If you blog, the people won't necessarily come. The field of travel blogging can feel saturated as so many people are sharing their stories these days. Back in 2008, you could probably hit "publish" and get some attention on your online travel diary, but that's just not possible these days.

2. Social media is essential. Seriously, you cannot build a blog without it.

3. Growing a blog is like watching paint dry. When I first full-on committed to my travel blog back in 2014, I figured that I'd be getting 100,000 pageviews within a year if I posted consistently and had good content. Let's all laugh together. Unless you're working insane hours, you've got some serious start up capital and can purchase a gazillion ads, and/or you're just straight up buying followers, you're not going to see that kind of growth in 5 years, much less 1.

There's so much trial and error--and competition!--in blogging these days that your success will take time. But it will come.

4. When you get your first confirmed press trip or comped hotel stay, you will do a happy dance around your living room. This is totally okay and fully encouraged.

5. Find a few Facebook support groups. Not only are these fantastic for getting to know other bloggers in your field, but they're a great way to get your content in front of more eyes. I've learned a ridiculous amount about travel blogging just from being a part of travel blogging groups!

6. When you've committed 100% to the travel blogging thing, your traveling will start to feel more like work and less like the vacation it once was. I both love and hate this about travel blogging on a big scale.

7. When you're brainstorming posts, make sure to think large-scale (giant, road trip itineraries) and small-scale (a review of your hotel). It allows you to mix things up and keep your content fresh.

8. Pinterest is a never ending source of traffic. It took a little while for me to build a community large enough to start clicking through my pins, but that effort was worth it as Pinterest now sends me 80% of my traffic on average.

9. Everyone in the travel blogging community has an opinion on everything from whether you should do sponsored posts and comped travel to the difference between travelers and tourists. Find what you're personally comfortable with, draw that line in the sand, and don't feel like you have to change your approach just be more "authentic" (whatever that means!) or conform to what someone might think a travel blogger should be.

10. Life will get in the way of your travel blogging at some point. You might run out of money to travel. You might have to return to your career after a break. Your parents might get sick and you need to go home. Or, in my case, you might have kids (who, BTW, are a huge time commitment and really don't give a flying fart about your blogging goals). It's okay to slow down or step away for a little while to get that balance in order.

30 Things I've Learned after 3 Years of Travel Blogging | CosmosMariners.com
Thumbs up for family travel!

11. Building relationships with other bloggers is key to getting your blog out there. I've met so many talented and well-traveled bloggers just by taking the time to read and comment on their posts. Try to read at least 5 new posts each week from your fellow bloggers.

12. I still haven't figured out the whole newsletter thing. Every single "build your blog" post that you read talks ad nauseum about building a newsletter/ email audience, but I just haven't seen much return from my efforts there. Maybe one day I will have the time to figure that out, but I'm trucking along and growing on all of my other ventures, so I'm not too invested at the moment.

13. No one understands why Google+ is still a thing. Why won't it die already?!

14. You're going to have to make a million decisions over the course of your blog. Disqus or FB comment plugin? Blogger or Wordpress? Sponsored content or no sponsored content? Despite the number of comments from fellow bloggers that you might get on any one of these topics, there's no right answer--only what actually works for you.

15. Have a clearly defined brand. That means having recognizable colors, a consistent logo across all of your social media channel profiles, and the same fonts on your Pinterest pins and social media header posts.

16. Travel bloggers aren't all the same. At first glance, you might think that all travel bloggers are 20-something backpackers who are ridiculously good-looking with an incredible wardrobe. Even though at 32, I sometimes feel as if I am a geezer in the travel blogging world, there are a growing number of travel bloggers in their 40s, 50s, and beyond! Don't let age--or a lack of a magazine-worthy wardrobe--stop you from chasing after your dreams.

And this is as close as I get to posed glamour shots on the beach.

17. Keep a running list of blog post ideas. That way, when you're having writer's block, and it's 11 PM on a Sunday, and you wanted to post by Monday morning, you've got plenty of options to choose from.

18. There's always going to be someone who's been to more places that you have and who has a larger audience that you do. This in no way makes your thoughts and travels less worthy.

19. A niche within travel blogging is important. That being said, that niche doesn't have to be as rigid as you might think. Aim for a 75/25 split between super niche stuff and not so niche stuff. So, if you're in the budget backpacking genre, 75% of your posts should be directly about this: inexpensive ways to eat in Paris, the best cheap hostels in Thailand, and your favorite backpacks for beginners. The other 25% can be about adventure tours, your favorite recipes from your travels, or whatever else strikes your fancy.

20. You don't have to sink a lot of money into your blog to grow it. What you need more than anything is time (and lots of it). If you do feel that you need something paid to make your blogging happen (like a paid Pinterest scheduler or a self-hosted Wordpress site), make sure that it is money well spent. I've spent very little money on my blog, and I don't think it's suffered for it (correct me if I'm wrong): I've only done a few paid Facebook ads, I've never boosted a pin, and I don't use Pinterest schedulers. Find the amount that you're willing to invest and focus on that until you've made that back.

21. Your blog is never too small to start thinking about working with brands, and you're never too big to be rejected.


22. When you start to get a nasty comment here and there about what you're writing, that's when you know that you've made it from Tier 1 Newbie Blogger to Tier 2 I'm-on-my-way-up Blogger. People really will find something to complain about no matter the topic!

23. You can work as much as you want with a blog. There is always something to do and the work is never ending. Blogging has a way of sneaking into every free moment that you have, and you have to decide if you're going to allow it to do so. I could work 80 hours a week and still not accomplish everything that I wanted to do.

My junior blogging associate working for a few minutes before we head out to explore Denver
24. And, hand in hand with #23: when you commit to a blog, it's easy to let it take over your life. If you're not traveling, you're thinking about traveling, or you're blogging about traveling.

25. Making money with a travel blog is possible, even if it's not easy. Most major sponsored post platforms (Social Fabric, Influence Central, Activate, Clever, Izea, etc.) tend to focus on parenting, lifestyle, product review, and food items; there are occasionally opportunities to do travel-related stuff through them, but you'd be able to make a lot more money through them if you had a parenting or recipe blog. Some networks (like Cooperatize) do more travel-themed sponsored stuff, but it seems as if the competition is more brutal since I've never gotten a single campaign that I've applied to through them.

26. Also, on that note, I've learned that diversifying my earnings portfolio is key to making money from my blog. I do some sponsored posts through the above networks, and I do the occasional sponsored post from PR and ad people who email me directly, but I also work the affiliate angle (like through Bluehost and Booking.com), have an Etsy shop, and sell my own e-course. My monthly income still isn't where I want it to be, but having lots of income streams does help.

27. If you want to make travel blogging your career, treat it like one. It's easy to throw together some narratives and pretty pictures and call it an online travel diary. Breaking into the bigger world of paid travel blogging is another thing all together. Post consistently. Write coherently. Have non-blurry images (at minimum--blogging is a really visual medium!). Make your blog look fantastic with a professional theme and/or self-hosting. Get business cards. Network. Write thank you notes when you work with a brand, hotel, or CVB.

28. It is possible to get too obsessed with Google Analytics. I cannot tell you the number of times over the last 3 years that I've had mini-freak outs because my numbers have dropped for one reason or another (and sometimes for no reason at all). Yes, numbers are important in the blogging world, especially if you're thinking about pitching brands or CVBs, but they shouldn't hold you captive.

29. Ignore all of the "20 best bloggers to watch in the new year!" and "46 coolest travel blogs to follow!" posts. They mean nothing. I've never made a single one, and I'm really, really okay with that. Not only do most of these posts revolve around the most gorgeous young people in travel blogging, they usually feel like a popularity contest that benefits no one. Most of my favorite travel bloggers never make those lists, either!

30. And, on that same note, you do you always. You might have a big blog or might love your hobby online travel diary. No matter what your blog ends up doing, you should always be happy with what you're putting out there. If you are, the rest of it doesn't matter. [Note: I'm still struggling with this!!]

This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no additional charge to you. 

30 Things I've Learned after 3 Years of Travel Blogging | CosmosMariners.com


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