I have one of the best jobs in the world, and there are many days where I don’t need reminding about that joyous fact. I make a living travelling the world, sharing tips and strategies to get the most travel you possibly can, whatever your budget, or even if you don’t really have one at all. Whenever a “what do you do” conversation pops up, people have questions, misconceptions and ideas. Here are a few that amuse me…
Many people think “oh, I travel, I could write a blog”. That’s not inherently wrong, but it’s also not anywhere near arbitrarily right either. Just like age isn’t a guarantee of experience, travel is not by any means a guarantee of knowledge. Just because you know something about one loyalty program or one destination doesn’t make you a travel expert.
The other thing: people fail to realize how hard it is to keep going, after the first year. It’s easy to bang out a how to get upgrades guide, best ways to use points, a few tips for a great city and what not but what do you do after that first day, week or month? I’ve written more than 3,000 articles on this blog and I’ll probably write 10,000 more. Try coming up with 13,000 things worth reading, day in and day out.
People also fail to realise just how much people in the top end of this travel blogging realm actually know, about virtually anything, in any part of travel. I can confidently say that I speak fluently in almost any loyalty program, and countless destinations, with first hand thoughts on hundreds of cities. I am constantly learning about trends, tech and all the things which shift travel. Even with all of this, I’m still in awe of many bloggers who know far more than I ever will.
I think to be great at anything, learning needs to be a constant, and probably my favourite thing about doing what I do, other than getting awesome messages and pictures from people enjoying their travel is just constantly expanding my base of understanding. All I can say is it gets harder and harder to be an armchair CEO the more you learn…
People love to give bloggers a hard time about plugging things, and some of it is very well deserved. At the same time, very few travel blogs actually make enough money to create jobs and livings for one let alone a few people, so when there’s an opportunity to support a blog, which is a small business just like your local coffee shop, it’s a nice thing to do if it makes sense for you.
So how do most blogs make money? Advertisement space is a big one. If you have 1 million eyeballs a month on something, someones gotta be paying to be in front of that travel interested audience. Links are another one, via affiliate programs. This allows bloggers to effectively make a commission when you get something like a credit card, buy an airline ticket or hotel. It seems fair, if they gave you the good info in the first place. Also, sponsored articles can be lucrative, but they’re a slippery slope.
People often ask how many page views or users you need to make real money from ads, affiliate links and sponsored content and to the dismay of anyone reading this, it’s almost impossible to answer on a general basis. This is why many bloggers have side jobs to make things work at first and why it’s often feast or famine for most bloggers, but somewhere around 500,000 you start to see daylight.
For the first two years of this blog, and into the third, I had two side jobs to make ends meet on top of the support of my partner. It’s not anywhere near as easy as it looks now and if you really want to do it right, without appearing like a desperate money whore or saturating a page with ads, you’ll have to suffer for a while.
There’s basically two kinds of travel bloggers: freebie or discount blaggers and those that try never to ask for anything, so that they can remain completely unfettered. At least as far as I can tell, there’s no magic button attached to any of my frequent hotel guest or frequent flyer accounts which lets anyone know that I may or may not have an audience. When I book economy, I fly economy like anybody else. When I buy business class, I end up there too. I’ve had plenty of terrible travel experiences just like anyone reading this, and pulling a DYKWIA wouldn’t have helped any of them. Plus, who am I anyway?
Sure, some smaller luxury hotels do Google guests, and a Google search of my name may yield some interesting results, but it’s the exception not the norm. Many bloggers undoubtedly abuse their little fiefdoms to extract maximum discount, but all the ones I know and respect work harder to actually pay for things, so that they can give an honest assessment.
Again, there are plenty the other way, but those are people who call themselves influencers, and think that sticking their bum in the air next to a coconut on a beach makes them a marketable entity. These people typically start or end every 20 word blurb with #ad #spon #partner or something like that, and would never be sharing any info worth reading anyway.
Lots of people get in touch to say how furious they are with a hotel, airline, travel booking site or destination and they want validation in that. Worse, many think that by not slamming one of these businesses that we’re all on the take or something sinister. The truth is, it’s much harder to look at a travel business through the eyes of the greater public scheme of things, than through one personal experience. Both matter, but people trying to use exceptions as rules just don’t get it.
Just because a plane was late once doesn’t mean it usually is, just because a hotel was overbooked once doesn’t mean it will be again. Commenting on these sorts of things doesn’t often help anyone or provide support to anyone dealing with it. It’s really hard to balance first hand reports with overall statistics and decide what’s worth covering. This is where looking at trends and data, rather than just raw traveller emotion is crucial.
It’s not always easy, and sometimes the raw emotion and power of what first hand accounts are telling is more important than anything, but there are just too many arm chair quarterbacks out there who aim to generalise an entire business based off of one lousy experience they had personally, forgetting that millions of people are transported safely, or visit safely on a yearly basis without issue.
Perhaps it’s my New York upbringing, but in the harsh world we live in, many people subscribe to the what have you done for me lately, or cross me once and you’re dead to me mentality. I take this with me every day into every article I write. I’d never accept money, access or favours to cover something if it’s not legitimately good. No amount of money is worth losing public trust and credibility.
I rest easy at night knowing that any tip on my travel blog has been vetted first hand. There’s no “go to this restaurant it’s great” without actually going there first. In fact, I’ve probably been a few times. Not all can say that, sadly. When you’re starting out, all the most lucrative money opportunities aren’t the best for your audience, and too many people take the easy money.
To this day, I’d have a lot more money in the bank if I didn’t spend it all on travel, to keep adding valuable content.
People reading blogs also sometimes fail to think about the history they have with a blog, when they don’t agree with something. They forget that great deal, brilliant use of points or hot tip for a city that made their trip. I don’t see this as anything other than ‘what have you done for me lately’. It’s fair, and a big reason why we’re trying to constantly find the next great thing for people.