The Reality of Being a Professional Travel Blogger

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Becoming a professional travel blogger has been a dream come true for me in so many ways.  I’ve found a way to get paid for my favorite hobby, and do so while following my dream of traveling the world.

Sometimes I can’t believe this is my life.  Six weeks ago, I was invited on a monthlong press trip to Australia — and had to turn it down, as I had prior commitments.  Until recently, never in my life did I believe that I would be offered a free monthlong trip to Australia out of the blue, much less turn one down!

Not surprisingly, people ask me all the time how they can do what I do.  The short answer I give them is that travel blogging requires a tremendous amount of work, as well as a tremendous investment of time and effort before you begin to see any benefits.

How to Start a Travel Blog

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There are a number of posts about travel blogging telling people that if they can dream it, they can do it!  While encouragement is nice, many of these posts are short on reality.

The truth?  Almost all of you who start travel blogging with the hopes of doing it full-time will have given up a year from now.

Having been a blogger for ten years, a travel blogger for two years, and a full-time, professional travel blogger for a year and a half now, I’ve put together a list about the reality of this career.

Note: The following list is about being a professional travel blogger — not necessarily someone who makes his or her income online and also happens to be a travel blogger, nor someone who uses travel blogs primarily as link farms.

The Reality of Being a Professional Travel Blogger

You will work harder than you ever have in your entire life.

If you dream of having a four-hour workweek, this is not the career for you.  Look into passive income.  Don’t become a professional travel blogger.

It might seem like I do little more than write posts.  That’s just a small part of it.  The rest is spent responding to potential advertisers, reaching out to would-be advertisers, editing photos, editing videos, assembling promotional materials, pitching travel and tourism contacts, writing for other sites, Facebook group networking, tweaking site design, tracking financials, link building, doing keyword research, reading other travel blogs, and maintaining a presence on social media.  To start.

When you’re a travel blogger, the work is never done.  There is always something else that you could be doing, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Your travel blog is your life.

You will not succeed at travel blogging unless you produce content prolifically – at least at first.  This means that you will need to work at least a few hours each day.  Working this much means that you will be miserable unless you genuinely love it.

I don’t love everything I do as a blogger, and I’m not always in the mood to do the things I do enjoy – but as a whole, this is something that I love.  I love the work.  I love the people.  I love the conferences and events, and I love the seminars that teach me more about this field.  Travel blogging exhilarates me, and that’s what keeps me going.

This translates into a bit of workaholism, and it’s hard for other people to understand this, especially my family and friends.  When your career and passion are the same thing, you need to point out — often with frequency — just how necessary it is for you to work all the time.

You won’t make money for a long time.

The general rule is that you shouldn’t expect money for the first year.  Most advertisers, whether they be link agencies or travel companies, won’t work with a site less than one year old.  Why not?  You haven’t proven yourself as an investment yet.

While there are exceptions – I began making money about six months in – you should be prepared to not make anything for the first year.  What’s nice is that it weeds out the people who aren’t serious.

The money ebbs and flows.

Entrepreneurs and freelancers of all kinds will be able to relate to this point – most of the time, it’s either feast or famine.  I have some steady contracts with advertisers, but most of the money is not made regularly.  Either I’m making far more than I need or I’m not making nearly enough.

Those lean times are scary.  It’s important to have savings and diversify your income as much as possible, but even more important is asking yourself whether you’re prepared to handle the emotional roller-coaster that is entrepreneurship.

It’s nearly impossible to make a living from one site alone.

Yes, some people are able to make a full-time income from one site – but they are in a very small minority.

No matter how you make your money, chances are that you will be part of the 98% that needs multiple sites in order to make a living, rather than the 2% who can get by with one.

Living cheaply abroad may be necessary.

For most professional travel bloggers, it takes a long time to earn an income that would be enough to live on in North America or Western Europe.  Many make the decision to live abroad in a cheap country for that reason.

One of the main reasons why so many travel bloggers live in Chiang Mai, Thailand, is that you can live very well there for very cheap.  $800 a month could cover rent in a nice place, food, cable, internet, and most everything you would need for a month in Chiang Mai, plus a bit of travel within Thailand, too.

$800 a month, by contrast, is what I paid for half of a one-bedroom apartment in downtown Boston.

Being a great writer and a great blogger are two very different things.

Writing for the internet is different from any other kind of creative writing you’ve done before.  You’re writing to engage people with a short attention span who are reading your blog while being bombarded by major distractions like Facebook.

You could write exquisite, intricate, heartbreakingly beautiful prose that would win you awards in a long-form memoir or a collection of essays.  But when you use this kind of writing on a blog, you’ll likely end up with a few comments of, “Wow, you’re a great writer!” without the traffic to back it up.  It’s simply not engaging to most readers.

Take my favorite author – Lionel Shriver, who wrote We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Post-Birthday World.  I adore her exquisite writing, which makes me feel smarter just for having read it.  But if she wrote a blog in the style of her books, very few people would read it.

This is not to say that good writing isn’t appreciated.  There are quite a few travel bloggers who are talented storytellers  — Wes Nations and Lauren Juliff and Mike Sowden come to mind.  You need to write well, but in order to attract the masses, your writing needs to be digestible to casual readers.

You will never travel the same way again.

When you’re a professional travel blogger, you don’t get time off, which means you can never go completely off the grid.  Sometimes you can plan ahead by scheduling posts, tweets, and Facebook shares, but when travel blogging is your main form of income, you can’t step away from your email for long.

In San Antonio, Texas, my mom and sister went out for margaritas on the Riverwalk every night while I stayed in and worked.  In Hoi An, Vietnam, my friends had a blast at the My Son ruins, which I skipped because I needed to work.  In Sayulita, Mexico, the girls in my group went to a cooking demonstration that I really wanted to experience – but I couldn’t, because I had work to do.

I’m not complaining.  I think the trade-off is very fair.  And since I travel solo most of the time, it’s easy for me to travel slowly and build in extra days to be spent working.  It’s more difficult when I travel with others.

This spring, I’ll be taking my first vacation in more than two years.  And I can only do it because I’m hiring someone to run my site in my absence.

Press trips don’t pay the bills.

Press trips can be amazing.  I feel privileged to have worked with some fantastic tourism boards and travel companies that have chosen to invest in my site, and to have experienced some amazing destinations as a result.

But in nearly all instances, travel bloggers don’t make money for these trips.  In fact, we lose money because we’re losing time that could be spent working.

That’s not to say that they won’t pay off in the future for smart, resourceful travel bloggers who parlay their relationships with these companies into creative new opportunities.  But for the press trips themselves, you won’t earn money.

I actually believe that a few years from now, it will be standard practice to pay professional travel bloggers to attend press trips.  But that’s not the case just yet.

Doing it alone is a challenge in itself.

Running a business entirely by yourself is extremely challenging.  Everything, from the creative aspects to the business aspects, comes down to you, regardless of what your strengths and weaknesses may be.  It doesn’t matter.  You’re responsible for it all, and it’s a pile of never-ending work.

This is the double-edged sword of self-employment.  It’s wonderful not to have a boss anymore and to be able to work for your own interests — but can you trust yourself to do the work when someone isn’t imploring you to do so?

This effect is somewhat mitigated for multiple people running a travel blog together.  When you have two or more people working on one site, you’re able to get a lot more done – particularly if you play to each other’s strengths.  Consequently, you’ll need to earn a higher income to support more than one person.

(For what it’s worth, I’ve been told that all the benefits of having two people go out the window if you have young children.)

The industry is evolving constantly.

While all industries are evolving, the travel blogging industry is zooming ahead at the speed of lightning.  It’s still a very new industry, even compared to other blogging industries like mommy blogging, fashion blogging, even food blogging.

People are still figuring out what to make of us.  Being a blogger doesn’t exactly sound like a potential career.  Most people have no clue that we can make money, let alone be valuable entities that can reach tens of thousands of readers each month.

If you’re going to become a professional travel blogger, you need to commit to networking constantly with other travel bloggers and reading everything you can about the industry.  If not, you’ll fall behind.

BUT – things are getting better all the time.  One thing that many travel bloggers are doing these days, myself included, is partnering with companies to do paid work in additional to working in exchange for travel.

You need to be one arrogant motherf*cker.

At times, it seems like the travel blogging community is a bastion of helpful support and group hugs.  And it is – I love that more experienced bloggers often pitch in to help newbie bloggers, or even each other when we’re stuck.

But we’re also competing with each other.  We compete for spots on press trips.  We compete for sponsorships and partnerships.  We compete for speaking gigs.  We compete for funding to be spent on us.

If you’re going to compete in this space, you need to be able to convince companies to invest in you.  And wooing companies requires different skills than wooing readers.

You need to approach companies with confidence and, after they tell you they’re considering working with a blog with double the pageviews, you need to be ready to smile and explain what makes you a better choice.  You need to do this with charm, and grace, and humor.

At the end of the day, people want to feel good about themselves.  Travel companies are run by people.  Your job is to make them think that working with you is the best damn decision they could make for themselves.

Can this be taught?  To a degree.  It’s a tough line to walk – being cocky but approachable, arrogant but polite, and supremely confident of the belief that no other blog can even approach yours when it comes to quality.

Modesty does you no favors here.

It’s for the love of blogging.

Your love of travel has very little to do with your ability to succeed as a travel blogger.  Sure, cool travel experiences lead to good potential content, but being a compelling blogger depends on what you do with that content.

Most of the successful travel bloggers I know became travel bloggers because they loved the act of blogging, and also loved blogging about travel.  The least successful ones are people who wanted to make money while traveling and thought blogging would be a way to do it.  Most people fall somewhere in between.

You are nothing without your readers.

Your readers are the single greatest asset you have.  Travel companies and tourism boards work with bloggers because they have devoted audiences who trust them.

The moment you take advantage of your audience, you are destroying your most precious asset.  What’s considered taking advantage of your readers?  It’s your call.  For me, it’s publishing anything that I myself wouldn’t want to read.

You have friends around the world.

This piece has been a bit of a downer, so let me end it on a nice note: travel bloggers are wonderful.  I’m very fortunate to count travel bloggers among my closest friends.

I love that I can travel almost anywhere in the world and have either a blogger or a reader say, “You want to meet up while you’re here?”  That’s amazing.  That’s a gift, and one that I hope I always treasure.

Being a professional travel blogger is not for everyone, and not for everyone who thinks they could handle it.  Before you take this step, you need to decide if you’re cut out for this career.

If you think you can hack it, here’s how to start a travel blog in six easy steps.

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295 thoughts on “The Reality of Being a Professional Travel Blogger”

  1. This post is great. As a brand new (hopeful) travel blogger, I am trying to find all the information I can get my hands on in order to make this a full time job. Compared to other travel bloggers’ sites (like your own) mine seems completely naked!

    Perhaps I can climb to the level of “professional blogger” some day. Like you said, it will take a lot of work, (and I’m at the very bottom of the mountain) but the amount of effort one puts into something reflects the outcome. Congrats on your success!

  2. Hi my name\’s Melinda and I\’m 18 years old. I\’ve had a passion for traveling since I was born and all I\’ve wanted to do is work while traveling and exploring this huge world. I never wanted to work in an office and stay in one place for the rest of my life. I want to be on the road and air, constantly visiting new places and learning as I go. When it comes to the idea of becoming a travel blogger, I\’m just not sure. I don\’t know where or how to start (you probably get asked this a lot and I can google but I want advice from someone like you). I\’m worried that I won\’t be successful and fail at this. I also don\’t want people telling me that this kind of job won\’t get me anywhere and that I\’d be wasting my time on something that won\’t make me rich and blah blah. I\’ll be going to college next year for hospitality management. I want to learn that but I don\’t want to spend my career in a hotel, restaurant or resort like I probably won\’t be able to do much traveling right. I don\’t know how much a flight attendant gets to travel and I mean actually going out in the cities they visit to explore the place, not airports… How should I start? I think your blog is amazing and I wanna be able to do what you do. I hope you haven\’t fallen asleep yet but if you\’re reading this then you made it to the end! Thank you and I hope to hear from you soon and I hope you\’re enjoying Mexico 🙂

  3. I am glad I read this piece! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and realities of travel blogging. I have been blogging for the past 14 months and I can understand blogging requires hard work, focus and determination – however, it is easily done with love by those who love it naturally – and thank God I am one of those!

    Thanks again!

  4. Nice writings Kate!
    I found that you are a successful travel blogger.

    My name is Joshua. I am from Indonesia and I am starting to build my blog up.
    I will be glad if give me some suggestions for my blog so that my blog could be better and better.
    Thanks anyway!

  5. Kate, I’m glad I stumbled across your site and found your article very inspiring. Thanks for keeping it real and not sugar coating it. It’s crazy on the amount of travel bloggers out there, but I will beat the odds

  6. Great post! Start a new travel blog is easiest part…

    One thing people forget is that most of the times, travel bloggers are invited to travel alone. Which is Ok for someone who is single. But then, maybe one day you’ll have a husband and children, and you’ll have to earn enough to choose when and where you want to travel (or the blog should be really famous, so you can bring all of them with you..) Anyway, one thing is for sure. It’s not easy and it’s not for everyone….

  7. Thank you very much for your words!
    In Italy it’s very difficult to become a professional blogger, but your example and suggestions are very helpfull!!!

  8. Wow your words are so inspiring! I just started my travel blog adventure in February 2014, but I have been blogging in other areas for six years. I agree that you HAVE to love it! I have been a bit overwhelmed with the amount of time it takes to market your blog! Thank you for the tips! I would love any tips on what you think I can do to keep my blog moving forward!

  9. Dear Kate, Thank you so much for this honest and informative post. It really opened my eyes to the reality of travel blogging. I have been thinking about it for a while and will be giving it a test trial this summer – during my travels I will write, keep connected to emails and social networks daily, to see whether it’s my cup of tea! At least I’ll be aware of the challenging reality before I leave, thanks to your blog. All the best

  10. Just stumbled upon your amazing post! Thanks for being real about travel blogging as a career and at the same time motivating!

    I have only been blogging for a couple of months now and I can already relate to what you are talking about. It is hard work all day every day for sure and for me the hardest will definitely be the “Be an arrogant mother…” ;D

  11. Very interesting post. I was thinking about you (and others I met in TBDI) going all around the world every week… what about family, boyfriend, parents… But I think maybe it’s a phase. It takes time to get to the top, then you have a brand and you can “send” someone else for u 😉
    thanks for sharing your experience with us.

  12. This article was so refreshing and it was great to know what does it actually takes to be a travel blogger. There is so much to learn from this. It definetly requires a lot of effort to keep blog up and running and keep people engaged. Thanks for your honest advice.

  13. Nice write up Kate, I really respect what you do. And no you do to take advantage of your readers, I always like reading your posts. They’re always interesting and funny.Now if I could get my blog going. I could use some tips!

  14. Hey Kate!
    Since last 7 yrs when i was in my school, Travelling around the world is my dream. After school, I did my graduation itself from India in Computer Science. In those 4 yrs of graduation-2009 to 2013, i explored the complete city alone and with my friends. Sitting in the office, working as a Quality Analyst, i hit the google to read some stuff , one of my daily routine.And i got Adventurous Kate!!
    I started reading, and while reading I felt it was another me !! 😀
    Someone who is crazy for travelling, Someone who wants to roam around the world alone, Socializing people, Having fun all around, and most importantly feel the place!!

    Your blog highly motivated me and had encouraged me alot to fulfill my dream.Sitting in this new city Delhi, India where i am working i have explored almost in my last 8 months.I had also planned to leave my job at the age of 26-27, now 22.
    Will have lot of dollars to spend on my travelling.And will earn like you after that. 😉
    Wonderful tute..!! 🙂

  15. Hi Kate,
    this post makes me realise the more I learn – the more I want to know. Writing/Blogging is the creative way for me to express my freedom, the physical aspect of this comes when I travel. It is a lot of hard work, so many different things to do everyday but it is so worth it, when I feel excited about what I am achieving.
    In the words of M Scot Peck – writer of the book, A Road Less Traveled
    “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

  16. Hey Kate, came across your blog and found this post really informative and inspiring! I’ve started travel blogging and love it. It’s really interesting to know your story and that with hard work and a lot of saving, it’s totally possible to combine travel and work – something I hope to do very soon. Just need to keep saving!

  17. I love your honesty Kate and how you tell it as it is. It is certainly not easy and there is ALWAYS a to do list.

    After a year and a half I know that more patience is needed. Sometimes the growth and influence can be slow and sure.

    Like you say, if people are dedicated with a passion they can make a success of blogging. Expecting overnight success is 99% guaranteed to fail.

  18. Great post! Totally agree with everything! I’m primarily a travel blogger on YouTube but am investing more time into my website, blogs and articles. The only struggle I have is having to work full time to fund my travels and trying to put full time hours into my online work. Just hope the more I put in, the less I will have to work full time on the road, and swing it to working more hours online and start increasing my revenue. Slow process, lots of times I want to throw my laptop out the window, but hell I love it! =]

  19. I love these frank posts. I’ve been working online for many years now and although it opens up the world to me I don’t make a dime from my travel blog. It’s a side project that I would love to be my job but I am not dis-illusioned. It may never happen!

  20. Kate —
    I think we have a few mutual friends (being that we are both from Boston). I was talking to one of them today and told him that after reading this article, that’s when I knew I wanted to take travel blogging seriously. I’m 7 months in and still loving it. Would love to know what you think!

    xo, Regan

  21. Kate,
    Great piece lots of helpful advice I had not heard elsewhere! I think you give a clear and honest reality to those of us looking to make money, and perhaps even blog full time! As a new blog owner, I was surprised at the amount of work it takes to promote yourself, but I was more surprised with all the positive feedback I am receiving. Like most things, hard work and dedication pay off and I look forward to having sucess like you in the future!

    Thanks again for this post,

  22. Oh Kate, Oh Kate, Oh Kate…

    05 July i turned 26. In 4 months time I am selling it all and focusing on being a travel bloger fulltime for
    My trip will see me go through 12 countries in 6 months. on a shoe string budget. in a week i managed to get accommodation sponsorship from backpackers establishments.
    I will be backpacking from Cape Town. South Africa to Cairo, Egypt. Something about turning 26 has people brave enough to follow their dreams.

    Thank you very much for this article. you spoke to my wanderlust soul.

    You my lady inspire me annd i hope one day our wanderlust selves can get to meet.

    thank you very much.

  23. Well Kate, thank you! I’ve been looking at your blog here and there for a couple months now. My bf and I travel a lot in New England and started a blog because: 1) I love the online life 2) We go so many places it started to blur together 3) We wanted to put it out there for others 4) Possibly it will turn in to a source of income as we continue to do the things we love to do.

    I have a few blogs but never one about travel so when I did a search, yours came up! I think because you are from Boston and we are in Nashua, NH… who knows? Maybe I got the right search term.

    Anyway… thanks for all the help you offer to people.

  24. Really, really great insight here. I’m just starting out as a travel blogger, but I’ve worked with many previously. Being familiar with the process and some of these steps, I realize I need to be ready to sacrifice a lot if I’m going to make it work. The trouble for me right now is finding the motivation to work a lot on the new blog, and simultaneously work my day job. But my dream is to travel the world and have the freedom, so I need to make it work.

  25. Hey Kate, your post is both encouraging as well as informative and realistic. It is really very comforting to read the thoughts of someone else who shares the same passion as I do. I just wanted to ask this from you Kate : I am someone who is thinking of making traveling my career BUT i don’t have any intention of making money out of it…as long as I have enough cash to pay my bills and air tickets I would be perfectly fine. i just wanted to ask you, as you imply that it is hard and time-consuming to make enough money off as a professional travel blogger, what other income generating source could you recommend? Something that I would be able to do while traveling full time?
    Thanks a lot for your help Kate,

  26. Love this article Kate, very informative. I’m hoping to start my own site her pretty soon and I’ll definitely be taking you advice to heart, thanks.

    Cheesy marketing move:
    Don’t forget the name CHASINJASON13!

  27. Hi Kate,

    WoW!! I envy you because me too has long been dreaming to make travel blogging a lifetime career. I hate being stuck in an uninteresting job which is what I am right now. My greatest dream is really to travel around the world and publish a book about this adventure. I always wanted to become a full time blogger but because of money concern I keep on postponing it. I am also afraid with the prize I would pay if I quit my regular job without any fall back as I don’t earn much in the ads of my blogs. Hopefully someday I can do it but I want to make it happen right now haha!

    Thanks for the inspiration you’ve showed and the travel tips you’ve shared.

  28. Wow!

    This is indeed inspiring Kate.

    Thanks for the tips.

    I find this very clever:

    Renuka says:
    January 8, 2014 at 2:17 PM
    I think it should be put this way that a good blogger is always a good writer, but a good writer may not be a good blogger. You need to be much more than just a good writer to be a good (successful) blogger.

  29. Wow what an honest and helpful post.
    I know this post is old but the content is timeless. We’re just starting out on our blogging journey, we’ve read more tips and advice than we care to remember but yours Kate is what we’ve been looking for – “The Truth”
    Thank you

  30. Thanks for showing many people the reality of the travel blogging life! I started about 6 months ago and it’s been a crazy rollercoaster already. I wouldn’t give it up for anything though. I think as travel bloggers we have to learn to support one another. I love your site. Thanks for sharing this! Would you consider having a guest blogger? I feel like we gravtate toward the same style of writing and adventures. Cheers! 🙂

  31. Such a great post! Its great to find insight that doesn’t scratch the surface and makes it all sound easy. Blogging, like any good career or lifestyle choice needs to be something you absolutely love to do. It’s not fast money or easy money, but it’s rewarding. Thanks for sharing!

  32. Hello!

    Thank you for sharing the realities of travel blogging. I’m not a travel blogger but I’m considering to be one after my stint here in Japan. (I’m saving up for my 6-month tour next year.) It does sound hard work and I feel like I have to learn a LOT after reading your post. Nonetheless, I appreciate how honest you are as a travel blogger.

  33. How did you start? Like what was the first place you visited and did you have money saved to travel and start the blogs? Was the first place you blogget about out of the country?

  34. Thank you for such a frank and funny post! You had me at “Lionel Shriver” – the books you mentioned are two of my favorites!

    I am currently in my mid twenties and working as a travel agent, but two of my greatest aspirations are to see more of the world myself and to work as an editor/writer. Maybe it’s time to try blogging.

  35. Hi Kate,
    I follow your blog ever so religiously ! I took lot of travel tips to start my solo journey two years ago from your travel experiences and I had the best time ever. I have recently jumped into the world of travel blogging. I am from India and lot of people think there is something “wrong” with a girl who would want to travel alone. I would like to express through my blog that we as Indians don’t have to be so conservative when a girl wants to travel alone. Not only Indians even lot of people from other ethnicity have given me awkward expressions when I tell them I am going alone to “Brussels” just because I want to go and just because I can 😀
    I want to show them how rewarding it is and how much we grow as a person when we travel alone. And I am very glad my husband always supports me in this journey of mine. I am motivated all the more after reading this article to keep going and writing more about my travel experiences. Although I do not have a great camera but I try to make the most of what I have.
    Mostly doing it to shed my modest ass and bloom into a successful + arrogant + awesome travel blogger.
    P.S – I use Momondo more than facebook *hides her face*, thank you for introducing me to this wonderful world of travelling and blogging #honestconfession

    Best of Luck,


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