There are very few people in the world that don’t like to travel. There’s just something about going out there and exploring faraway places that keeps us daydreaming more often than not, no matter what style of traveling you’re into; whether it be a hardcore one year round-the-world backpacking trip or a two week holiday splurge in the Caribbean leaving our daily life behind for some time is just something we need. But think about this: what would you do if you were paid to travel? Imagine being sent on press trips around the world, visiting remote destinations, staying in nice hotels, eating succulent food and doing all this without spending your money or a fraction of what it would cost you.
Believe it or not there are people who live like this, and among these lucky individuals are a selected group of people you know as travel bloggers, and I’m one of them. In this article I’m going to introduce you into the world of a travel blogger, what you need to know to get going and explain how you can do it to. By the end of this post you’ll know how a travel blogger lives, the work involved, the ROI and you’ll be able to decide if it is something you want to pursue.
Traveling for free
One of the best perks of being a travel blogger with an audience are press trips. Whether sponsored by a private company or a tourism board you get to visit interesting and sometimes new places that you otherwise would not, or at least not for now.
During March of this year I learned that Tourism Finland was looking to promote their country as a tourist destination. I got in touch with them, pitched some article and video ideas, stats of the site and my social media reach and on May 1st I was flying to said country. While at it I had also contacted another private company working in Morocco and after visiting Finland (this was my second time there) I finally made it to Morocco, a country I had been wanting to visit for many years. Were all these trips paid for? Not completely. I had to make my way to New York and was flown by Finnair from there, and I paid my cheap flight to Morocco, but the rest of the expenses were pretty much covered for. In other words, I wouldn’t have done this trip were it not for my travel blog.
The secret to making this a reality
It all comes to getting a travel blog going. I began mine in early 2009, right before my RTW trip which I financed on my own. Back then I knew nothing about HTML, blogging, Social Media or SEO. In fact I updated my site infrequently, didn’t care about Facebook or Twitter and focused on my trip. In retrospect, this was a big mistake. Of course not all of it was my fault as I was learning about HTML and SEO reading free ebooks while traveling by bus in Vietnam, but how could I focus on generating content and making the site grow if I was about to hop on a ferry in the Philippines?
All this to say that because of my lack of focus the site did not grow as fast as it could have. It took me more than a year to get my first advertiser which is quite the norm, but nowadays some bloggers are able to score this in 3 months. How? Treat your travel blog as a business, with all the requirements this implies.
A travel blog is a business
If your blog is meant to be a diary for your family to read then none of this applies to you, but if you’re reading this it’s because you want to
1) make money and
2) get travel benefits, and to achieve this you need to give what any business asks for: time and some money.
How much of each?
Moneywise all you need is a good WordPress theme and a hosting company. I strongly recommend your website is self-hosted to be the full owner of everything and get a premium theme that is professionally coded and offers support as chances are you’ll need it. All things considered you’re talking about around 100-150 USD for your first year.
Once you have your website up and running it is time to generate useful and high quality content but above all establish relationships. Get superb tips on creating a good travel blog from travelbloggingacademy.com, sign up and actively participate in the community at travelblogexchange.com and become a member of the Travel Blogger Facebook group. Then open accounts in the major Social Media networks (Facebook,Youtube, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Flickr) and interact with other travel bloggers (sure, I’ll be happy to hear from you, but there are many others out there you need to speak with too) . Speak, ask questions, share their content besides your own, etc. Be heard. Next, you want to begin networking with travel companies and tourism boards everywhere, so follow them in everywhere and share their stuff too.
Your blog is a travel blog and you therefor need to hit the road. If you don’t have the time and money to travel far and long term take short trips around your area and make your blog a niche travel blog. Believe it or not these blogs are easier to grow and are targeted to a specific audience and travel companies, which will be more approachable too. You can make it destination specific or be creative like Benny the Irish Polyglot, who travels the world by learning languages and showing others how to do it in his site http://www.fluentin3months.com.
Once you have decent content with good pictures and your search engine rankings are picking up it is time to pitch possible sponsors. Get a Media Advertisers Kit ready and have your stats handy as well, all of this while you’re getting email from readers (hopefully) who you want to sign up to your email list with the free giveaway (ebook?) as an incentive.
Finally, you also have to know where you’re going. How do you want to monetize your site? I mean if you’re spending so much time networking, traveling and generating content you’re going to want to monetize the site somehow, otherwise I don’t see the purpose. You don’t want to rely on selling links only because you don’t want to be penalized by Google, and finding advertisers is not easy. Adsense (AdChoices) is quite useless as a source of revenue in travel blogs so you’ll need to decide what you want to do. In other words, if you want to make money from the beginning it won’t happen, forget it. But, if you have networked correctly and have an appealing blog with decent readers scoring free local trips is not difficult. Contact travel businesses where you are and tell them about your site, the social media aspect of it and how you can help them grow by working with you. Make sure this happens when you write and share a good article review about them, share it on your social media channels and get back to them showing the comments it has received and how people responded to it.
How much time do you need to spend per day? The top travel bloggers admit to spending 5-10 hours per day working on their blog or blogs (sometimes one is not enough) just so you get an idea.
In a nutshell
Travel blogging is a great opportunity to visit faraway destinations and lead a lifestyle not many people can fathom or even begin to comprehend, but it does come at a price. You’ll need to spend lot of time with it and, like with any blog, become an expert at your field. The good news is that you do get free perks, you can make money, and while it is a very competitive niche there is room for many; it all depends on how much you’re willing to give.