The modern world is a fascinating place. When I was born in 1987, travel blogging didn’t exist as it does today at all.
Sure, there were travel writers publishing long form novels and news beat writers telling people about their trips in a few paragraphs before the sports section every week, but that was pretty much it. In a digital sense, the term influencer didn’t exist, and websites weren’t exactly super common at the time.
As a member of the last generation to remember internet with dial up modems clogging the precious phone lines, I’ve had a close view of how the world’s changed. I grew up as 24 hour news media did. I never grew up wanting to be a blogger, because it didn’t exist.
What’s wild to me in 2022, as a successful and fairly well known travel blogger is that in my personal life, my friends kids want to become bloggers, or influencers. Rather than wanting career advice from banking executives or film directors, quite often they want to hear about my blogging and the life that comes with it.
All the usual questions and thoughts, like omg it sounds amazing, and do you travel for free naturally follow. I don’t btw, even though I probably could.
Even when I started my blog, I didn’t actually think I’d be a blogger. As one now, I can say that like most jobs, there are real pros and real cons. I’m not sure I’ve ever written specifically about how I see those, so I will now.
Professional Blogging Is More Grit Than Glitter
Tik Tok and Instagram have paved the way for more visual forms of content, some of which don’t require much more than a good set of Instagram filters and a well framed and posed shot to gain applause.
Well, that’s assuming you’ve convinced 100,000’s of people to follow your journey, so you can capitalize off those pictures enough to remotely make a living from them. And yes, that part is harder than anyone chooses to believe.
People often say I’m an @$$hole about these things, but whenever people say yeah I want to travel the world for free, “blogging looks easy”, I always say “sure, convincing millions of people to read and care about your work is easy.”
Yes, sometimes there are great invites and parties and lucrative opportunities, but those only come from genuine hustle. Ideally, also from constantly growing expertise too.
Travel Blogging: The Grit
There are truly incredible exceptions, but generally speaking, blogging is easier as a single persons game. That’s because the best way to gain traction is to be timely, and the news happens all the time.
When you have dinner plans, dreams of binge watching Netflix, or any other personal desires, that becomes harder to crack. The more personal responsibilities you have, the harder it is to drop everything and cover some big news.
Not having “a schedule” is a blessing and a curse. People who’ve only known a 9-5 probably dream of it, but there’s something amazing about punching out and shutting off. That’s just not something you do with blogging. You’re never off, if you’re good.
And if you do get good enough to leverage your points or your earnings into frequent traveler, the next element sets in: fatigue.
It’s just not that easy to quickly pump out accurate content or cover a big story after a 14 hour journey when all you want to do is fall asleep. I’m not complaining, I’m sharing that every job has its plusses and minuses. The travel is amazing, but travel can be very tiring, and working after long hauls is tough at any job.
I don’t have a boss who tells me when I must clock in and clock out, but I have a big dashboard of metrics that lets me know there’s an audience which needs entertaining and ignoring those needs for too long can cause irreparable damage.
Whenever you choose not to cover something, or blog in a timely way, you run the risk of people getting the news elsewhere, and liking it “over there” more.
7 Days A Week
Like I said, if you’ve only known a 9-5, blogging sounds incredible. And it is. Or, can be. You get to write about topics you’re passionate about, and when your blog does grow, it becomes an amazing platform.
The only issue; is the best do it 7 days a week. There is no TGIF. There is no mid week breather.
With blogging, every day is an opportunity, and when you actually own the blog, unlike people who just write for big sites, you are the one who suffers when you don’t write. But if you write too much and get burned out, you suffer in other ways.
Because blogging involves the internet, there’s a fair amount of hate involved. I never thought people would care enough about travel to threaten me, or my family, but it’s happened plenty of times.
Having millions of readers is amazing — I’m super lucky — but it’s rare that comments roll in about how much someone enjoyed an article. It’s often a very loud few who like to chime in, and usually just to talk $#!t.
Obviously, you focus on the fact that thousands of people read something without issue, and not the fact that three over privileged, adult sized babies don’t like your take on something. But still, it grates over time.
The Joys Of Blogging Are Endless
There’s something incredibly satisfying about creating something. And with blogging, you’re creating more than just content. You are building a brand. I get immense joy from hearing people’s thoughts on GSTP as a brand, and how it’s positioned.
Some of it may have come by accident, but many bits of the “brand” are deliberate. A little bit punk, a lotta bit championing the best and slamming the worst, and above all, a level of authenticity. If I don’t care, I just won’t write.
Them: “Why didn’t you write about the 200 bonus points for free?”
Me: “Because I don’t care, 200 points won’t get you anywhere.”
Travel Is The Greatest Gift
Because I do work 7 days a week, people who’ve traveled with me are often surprised at my daily routines. They’re surprised that i’ll only venture out for half a day.
It’s vacay to them, and I cherish that for them, but for me anywhere I go is a blend of work and pleasure. I can’t just enjoy carefree days, but I don’t mind at all. I’m just so happy to constantly be in places which make me feel refreshed and excited.
The new tastes, smells and feelings. It’s a priceless joy.
The In Person Interactions
I get lots of messages from people saying they saw me in an airport, hotel lobby or wherever — but didn’t want to bother me. I get that, but I’m not a celebrity.
I literally get energy off of people telling me I’ve made their trips better, or they loved that one tip. I derive so much joy from thinking I played any part in someone’s strategy or inspiration to see the world, travel more, or do things they never believed possible.
The Creative Freedom
Branding and inspiration aside, freedom to be authentic is precious. Writers for big magazines or websites are always somewhat beholden to advertisers and commercial relationships, and it’s amazing not to have nearly as much as that.
I can say something flat out sucks. Because I pay for 99% of my stays and flights, I can say that they suck, or rock, and I can be as enthusiastic or pessimistic as I want. I value the connection to readers and the demand for integrity from that end, over all else.
Instant Gratification And Learning
Who doesn’t love a bit of instant gratification? One fun thing about blogging is that you can really see what resonates and what doesn’t. There are definitely things I’ve written which I felt would be more successful than they were, but plenty the other way too.
I’ll never forget writing about the 23:59 rule, where any connection under 24 hours can be used as a side trip, only to look at the Google Analytics an hour later and see that like 10,000 people per second were reading it.
I’ve also learned a lot about what people don’t get, or don’t care about.
Cash back portals and points from shopping portals are among the least successful topics I’ve ever covered on GSTP. I don’t think it’s because everyone is doing it. I believe it’s because they think they know about it, but don’t quite grasp the mechanics. There’s a disconnect.
Making A Living On Our Own Terms
I could make a lot more money with GSTP than I do. I could also make a lot less. With no shareholders, bosses or people to answer to, other than my own lifestyle needs, I am afforded an exceptional luxury in life.
I’ll always relish being in an industry where effort often does lead to results in a very direct way, and that the more I’m willing to do, the more I stand to gain. Many people work very hard without upward mobility in title or salary, and that’s just not the case.
I know that, I appreciate that, and it’s definitely a cool element, which does beat the ole’ 9 to 5 in many ways.
Blogging Is A Juggle, Just Like Other Jobs
There are things which make blogging more wonderful than other jobs, and there are things which make a 9-5 behind a counter, doing good honest work seem ideal.
I’m sure many people reading this can appreciate that from their own experiences with work/life balance. The grass is always greener, right? In my opinion, it just depends on the day and where you are in life.
I always encourage people to start blogs for fun. It’s really cathartic and enjoyable to put experiences into words and pictures. I started mine for fun. I didn’t have SEO work, a business plan or even a clue how money was made. I respect people who get into travel blogging for the love, not for the money.
The truth is most people never make real money from blogging, and in fairness, they probably shouldn’t anyway. There are so many people covering the same things, which have already been done well before. Imitation may be a sincere form of flattery?
There’s always room for new voices bringing new light and viewpoints, but I certainly have limited appetite for people regurgitating the same info myself and other bloggers have been doing forever, and maybe already did better?
Blogging can be truly amazing, but sometimes it isn’t. It’s a unique career with the benefits of uncapped potential.
You can become a millionaire, you can become famous and you can help millions of people travel better. But you can also miss nights at home with the family, close relationships with friends and the joys of a Friday night.