I’ve been travelling and writing about it for a pretty long time now.
In 2013 I shouldered my backpack for my first solo trip, to South America, and decided to start a blog. Its main purpose was to reassure my mum that I was still alive and had not been kidnapped by drug lords. After that it became a bit of a habit. I’ve written about working a summer season in France, studying in China, travelling in India and a summer of teaching in Nepal, my placement coordinating a volunteer project in South Africa, and now my backpacking trip around Australia.
At first it was just an online diary full of rubbish jokes, where I mostly wrote about how long it had been since I last showered and what I had eaten that day (my favourite part of travelling has always been eating).
Mum soon got bored when she realised that all I talked about was food.
But then I started to branch out from just writing about what I was up to, and put together advice posts, on anything from how to get the right travel insurance, to budget tips for backpacking in Australia.
I suppose, if I wanted to, I could refer to myself as a “Travel Blogger”. Not that I would do that aloud because it’s possibly the cringiest self-imposed title in the world.
But here’s the thing. I will (probably) never be a successful travel blogger.
Obviously, ‘success’ is relative. But what I mean is that I will never be the kind of travel blogger that makes a living from it. That doesn’t mean I don’t consider myself successful in other ways. Every time someone comments on a post to thank me for the advice, or messages me to say that a particular blog was really useful; every time someone tells me they’ve enjoyed an article or that something I wrote hit a chord with them – I’d say that is success. It’s all the success I need.
But why can’t I be successful in the other way? The business-y way?
There’s a few reasons.
The first is that I find it incredibly, nail-bitingly awkward if and when people in real life talk to me about my online travel life. Ask me in person about something I’ve written online, and watch me go beetroot-red (which does not suit me: it really clashes with my hair), and look everywhere else but back at you, then change the subject quickly and unsubtly. I have this irrational desire for the online-writer-me to remain separate and distinct from my normal, dorky, fairly unassuming, more than slightly awkward real self.
It’s not the best attitude to have if I want to make a job of it.
The second reason is that part of me thinks that the whole industry is a bit daft. Hundreds of people writing basically the same articles with 10 things to do in [insert incredibly popular tourist destination here]? Writing entire articles full of blindingly obvious ‘insider tips’ and ‘travel hacks’? Why not just leave it to the plentiful newspapers and online magazines that already do it? And trust that most people aren’t total morons and can probably figure out that it’s a good idea to book a hostel before you arrive, and that booking flights far in advance will probably work out cheaper.
And the main reason? I’m much too idealistic, too romantic about travel to want to make a business out of it. I know, I know, I only just wrote about how travel isn’t (always) this beautiful mythical thing, but that doesn’t stop me from tending to view it that way. I still fall into the traps that I recognise.
I just don’t want to make travelling into this work-like endeavour. I don’t want to arrive to a new place, rush round the main attractions and then have to write it all down. I don’t want to write lengthy reviews of posh hotels in exchange for a free stay. I don’t want to spend half my time hooked to my phone, trying to build up my social media profile (though everybody loves the thrill of gaining a new follower on Instagram).
And besides, I like all the little details of travelling just as much as the big, obvious parts that everyone talks about. I like unexpectedly intense chats with strangers over beers, staying up with someone I’ve just met until the sun comes up, and cosy nights in common rooms watching films, just as much as I like hiking national parks and visiting famous landmarks.
If you spend all your time blogging about your experiences, how much time can you be spending enjoying the experiences themselves?
See, I’ve read all the articles about how to make a living from blogging (like this one and this one); I’ve listened to podcasts about making money online, and watched YouTube videos about keyword research and affiliate marketing, and of course it does sort of sound like a dream. I’ve toyed with the idea many many times. I blog anyway, so why would I not want to earn myself a few bucks from doing it?
I write when I feel like it, and I would hate for it to become a chore, or an obligation. I do my best to entertain and sometimes to inform, but I can’t imagine thinking primarily about getting views or gaining clicks to products from which I can gain a commission. And when it ultimately comes down to it, I just don’t really have a business brain. I can learn all I want about the processes involved in earning money from blogging – building email lists, targeted adverts and all of that – but that doesn’t mean that I have the motivation, nor the desire, to put these strategies into place.
I love writing about travel, and people coming to me for travel advice will never get old (seriously guys, I bloody love it), but I just don’t think there’s anything more in it for me.
But don’t worry. That’s not going to stop me doing it!
Agree? Think I’m bonkers? Let me know, I love to hear from you guys!