Why You Should Never Start a Travel Blog
If you are reading this now, then it’s quite possible that you are thinking about starting a travel blog.
Perhaps you think that all you have to do is start up a blog and then you can travel the world forever by living off the free flights, free accommodation, and free safari tours that running a travel blog will inevitably bag you?
Yeah, I get it. That was my thought pattern too once upon a time too. But then, I went and started a travel blog and realized that it isn’t actually quite that simple…
You may well have begun today’s Google search with the question;
“How do I start a travel blog?”
Just like 210 people in the UK do every single week.
But, I’m not going to tell you how to start a travel blog. Instead, I am going to tell you why you should in fact, never ever start a travel blog.
Let’s get started.
It Is Very Hard Work
Writing comes easily to me. I enjoy doing it and I’m relatively good at it. I can fire out adequately engaging blog posts remarkably fast. Even when I feel I have nothing to say, I somehow manage to fill an empty page with 1000 words in under 1 hour.
Because I love writing and find it easy, I thought that starting a blog would also be fun and pretty easy too.
But it isn’t. It’s real drudgery.
What I didn’t realize is that writing is actually less than 20% of what travel blogging really is. The rest of a bloggers time, energy (and often money…) goes on dicking around with web design, image sourcing, keyword research, link building and endless, endless SEO. If none of that last sentence made any sense to you, then God bless you. It’s blogging jargon. Get out now and it need never ever make any sense to you.
It can also be thankless hard work. All of those long hours spent working on page optimization and link strategy, still don’t actually guarantee you any success whatsoever.
I must make this very clear. I am not lazy and not adverse to hard work. However, there are just much smarter and more productive ways you channel your abundant energies than travel blogging.
You Don’t Get Stuff For Free
If you ran a hotel and somebody turned up saying, “Hey I run a blog!” would you simply give them a free room? Or even a free bed? No me neither.
In order for a tour operator to offer something to a blogger, they quite naturally expect something in return – promotion. That means the blogger firstly needs to have a large, engaged following in place. The ones who do, usually make enough money from it not to need the “Free Stuff” anyway.
It’s actually quite rare for a blogger to be offered a trip, accommodation or a flight and most bloggers pay their way like anybody else. Furthermore, the amount of work & man hours involved often makes these “freebies” far more hassle than they are actually worth.
It Will Ruin Travel
When I first set off backpacking, I was wide-eyed and full of wonderment. I traveled light, with no expectation and was completely and utterly free. Because of my sheer exuberance, I fell into some amazing adventures which made great stories that just had to be written down. That is how I ended pop starting a travel blog in the first place.
The next time I traveled though, it was different.
Firstly, I had to take my laptop everywhere and was in almost constant need of Wi-Fi in order to deal with clients.
I found myself sitting at a hostel table surrounded by cool people but utterly unable to engage with them as I was doing a workday consisting of sales pitches and data analysis. My body may have been in Manali’s Rasta Cafe, but my spirit was in any given pod in any corporate office anywhere but where I was.
Perhaps worse than this, I ended up seeing the world jadedly. Yes, the Taj Mahal is indeed splendid but its been blogged to death so what’s the point of it even been there?! I even found myself secretly longing for the kind of near-death mishaps I had in South America just so I would have something worth blogging about.
Eventually, you realize that all anybody wants from a blogger is lists of museums and restaurants and so you start providing them. And once you’ve been forced to reduce an entire city to a “Best Things To Do in X” style blog post, you consequently never want to return to that city ever again even if it used to be your favorite.
Nobody Will Read It
Maybe I should have mentioned this one earlier?
Unless you become incredibly good at the 80% of blogging that isn’t blogging, nobody will ever read your content. They simply won’t ever come across it in the endless void that is cyberspace.
It is truly disheartening to write a piece of inspired, heartfelt content that you put so real effort into, only for nobody to read it. Ever.
Even your Mom stops reading your blog after the first few months or so. I actually wish mine had stopped reading much sooner and had been spared my account of my racy exploits in Venezuela.
I can almost guarantee that nobody is reading this. Not even you.
You Will Offend Absolutely Everybody
The only thing worse than having people not read your blog is having people actually read your blog. This is because having readers is the first step towards offending absolutely everybody over absolutely anything.
The internet has given a voice to the perpetually angry, vitriolic and hateful and by starting a blog, you invite these people into your personal space.
Over the course of my blogging life, I’ve received countless email and comments lambasting me as the worst human being to ever live, for all manner of apparent blogging crimes.
One reader told me I was evil for saying nice things about Venezuela. One told me I had blood on hands for going to Israel and another told me to die because I mentioned that Hezbollah has a visible presence in Lebanon.
You don’t even have to write anything remotely controversial to elicit this and sometimes, you can even offend people by what you have NOT said. For example, I once made a bullshit click-bait post about the “Ten Best Thai beaches” and earned a short, explicit comment on the post from an offended reader purely because I had not included his particular personal favorite beach in the post (I had never actually been to it…).
Of course, the reality is that the vast majority of readers (if you have readers that is) are not angry weirdo’s. They are probably nice, sane, people like you. But the sad case is that usually, the c***s are the only ones who engage.
You Will Have to Deal with other Bloggers
Whilst dealing with the dammed and the dispossessed of the cyber world is s**t, it’s still preferable to dealing with other travel bloggers.
At some stage, you will need to interact with other bloggers to either get advice, swap contacts, build links or work on collaborations. And may the good lord help you. Because never will you ever come across such entitled, conceited, smug and thoroughly unlikeable people as the ones you find lurking in the blogosphere.
I am a member of a number of blogger forums and almost every day, one of my peers posts something like;
“I am so sick of the plebs (that’s you readers…) asking me how it is I can travel all the time”.
As if getting into peoples faces with “Follow my Travel Blog!” doesn’t kind of elicit that exact kind of question?
Bloggers are constantly bullshitting and trying to hustle, and that includes bullshitting and trying to hustle one another.
Travel Blogging is basically a refuge of last resort for the kind of people who would otherwise, (1) blag their way into middle management positions in large corporations then spend years being ineffective without anybody noticing or (2) swindle the elderly out of their pensions.
As with the above, the reality is that not all bloggers are like this (minus the bullshitting/hustling thing which they are all guilty of). There are actually quite a few I genuinely like and admire and most, really do gladly share advice within the community and try to help one another out.
But the ones who are bad, are very bad. And that can sometimes cause a jaundiced view.
It Can Get Expensive
Either your blog will make money, or it will cost you money. You have to buy a domain, pay hosting fees, occasionally buy plug-ins to make your website work and at some point, you will probably need to hire a web designer.
If you are serious about making money, you will need all kind of SEO tools some of which are very expensive indeed.
Hopefully, these costs will be covered by what you make but it is not at all unprecedented for a blog to run at a loss. If you are happy to chalk it up as a hobby that has costs, then great.
It May Come Back to Haunt You…
Be very careful about what you fire into the ether of the internet because it stays there forever. Even if you take your post down, it may still live on somewhere in some dark recess, lurking and waiting until you are least expecting it.
There is an urban legend amongst travel bloggers about one of our own who tried to return to the straight world (presumably because he hated travel blogging as much as I do) but was refused a job at the last minute following an otherwise, very successful interview…
The tale is that, apparently, in passing, he had mentioned his blog. One of the recruiters then went away, looked it up and found an article about him smoking cannabis in India. His “But I never inhaled!” pleas fell on deaf ears. Oh dear.
Will this article ever come back to haunt me? Well, knowing my luck, this will be the one post that people do actually read and will come back to haunt me next time I need to deal with another blogger and they tell me to F**k off because I called them a “smug, bullshitting, pension-thief”!
So Why Am I Still Doing It?
If you made it this far then you are probably wondering why I am still bothering to blog if it’s so bad?! Fair question.
The truth is, there are still some elements of it I enjoy. For example, writing this was a real giggle. But mostly, I keep going because (1) I’m so deeply invested I may as well push through and (2) I make some money because of the years of work I’ve put in (but nowhere near enough to actually justify, the years I’ve put in).
But I am totally serious when I say that if I had my choice again, I would have found another way to make money online and another outlet for my love of writing.
What To Do Instead
If you want to be-be able to travel and earn money without being stuck in an office, then there are many other avenues open to you. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
Trading – Stocks or Crypto
Trading Stocks is potentially very lucrative and you can literally make millions from it. You can do it from anywhere in the world as long as you have an internet connection.
As with blogging, there are loads of tutorials out there teaching you how to get started on stock trading. Whilst it may seem complicated to the beginner, it is actually far simpler than blogging in many respects.
In recent years, many people have traded Cryptocurrencies in the same way although commentators are already suggesting that the Crypto bubble has burst for all time.
Of course, the risks are that it does entail invest some real money, to begin with, which you may well never see again.
Drop Shipping is an online venture whereby you set up an e-store. You don’t need to produce anything or ever actually holds any physical stock, you simply set yourself up as a middleman between suppliers and the end buyer.
Drop Shipping is very hand’s off and quite a low risk. The rewards are also potentially massive if you find the right niche product.
However, it is a tough market to gain a foothold in and you will need to deal with the headache of items going missing in the post or breaking.
With the rise of Skype et al, online tutoring is fast rivaling face to face tutoring. If you have some knowledge, then I can guarantee you that somebody somewhere will be willing to pay you to share it. English teaching jobs can pay $10 – $20 per hour which goes a long way if you are living in South East Asia or India.
As long as you can find your potential client base, then you can teach literally anything. History, Meditation, Electronic Music Production are all skills that can be taught remotely.
Join The Army
Want to travel whilst getting paid? Well, the army is always recruiting…
Still Thinking of Starting a Travel Blog?
In case I haven’t managed to talk you out of it and you are still adamantly resolved to start a travel blog then so be it. Whilst I may not approve of your decision, I will nevertheless offer you at least a little bit of advice.
1. Decide Whether You Want to be Authentic or Successful
You need to be honest with yourself right from the outset about what you want out of travel blogging. If you simply want to write up your experiences or write about what matters to you, then that’s fine, do it. But if you do, you need to accept that nobody will read your blog and you will never make any money.
If you want it to succeed (in this context, I am equating success with readers and profitability) then you need to forego your own interest and write solely for the market from Day 1.
Somewhere in the Bible, it says something like;
“What of it if a man gains the world, but loses his soul”
I will leave you to mull that one over.
2. Get to Grips with SEO ASAP
The most important factor in succeeding in blogging is to understand SEO. Knowing how Google identifies and ranks content will help you to keep your articles relevant and help to ensure that eventually, you find at least a couple of readers.
There are loads of FREE SEO tutorials out there. All of the information you need is out there on the internet in dedicated SEO blogs. Neil Patel, for example, runs a hugely successful SEO blog and its a great place to start. As is good old YouTube.
3. Avoid Paying For “How To” Courses
Right now it’s very vogue for travel bloggers to sell courses with titles such as;
“How To Start a Travel Blog and Be Free To Travel The World Forever!”.
Many of the leading travel blogs are actively flogging these courses promising that, for a one of payment, they will tell you everything you need to know about how to start a successful travel blog.
Avoid these courses.
Well firstly, all of the info they are offering you is already out there for free. In fact, all that most of these courses actually even do is re-package the exact free content I am talking about and then charge a premium for it.
Secondly, if the bloggers were really quite as successful as they say they are (and say they can make you) then they probably wouldn’t need to bother flogging these kinds of courses.
Thirdly, if they have truly cracked the secrets of travel blogging, then they are not going to tell you. I mean, did Colonel Sanders ever offer to teach his competitors how to make his secret recipe for only $49.99?
Whatever you choose to do, best of luck with it.