5 Lessons From 5 Years of Travel Blogging

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Five years ago, I was working full-time as a copy editor at a small, family-owned newspaper in northwest Ohio. I worked weird hours and spent a lot of time making rectangles in InDesign and filling them with teeny tiny newsprint. I didn't *hate* this job by any means (I mean, I liked the people I worked with, and it was kinda fun to know what was going to be “in the news” the night before it was printed). But I also knew that it wasn't what I wanted to do until retirement.

Somewhere along the way, I decided I needed a hobby. A way to fill my downtime at home (and, let's be honest, at work too). So I started a travel blog.

Blogging in Norway

For the first 5 months, I stumbled around and didn't really write much. I wasn't good at the whole blogging thing. But then, in July 2010, I decided to buy a domain name and really put effort into making my travel blog a blog that people would actually want to read.

And somehow (I'm still trying to figure out how), it worked.

In the past year alone, more than 860,000 people have visited my site. THAT'S INCREDIBLE! I'm still amazed each and every time I look at my site stats that so many people care enough about what I'm doing to come here and read about it.

So thank you for that. Truly.

Thank you!

Since that fateful day in July 2010, a lot in my life has changed. I quit my job. I got my master's degree. I tried the whole “digital nomad” thing and figured out that it was an awful fit for me. I came back to Ohio and moved in with a guy. I started freelancing a lot, and then got a part-time job at a social media startup.

These days, I do my best to balance working from home with traveling (and, you know, having relationships and being a cat mom). It isn't always easy – and I certainly don't always succeed – but I'm definitely at a point now where I can look at things and go, “Yeah, I could keep doing this for the rest of my life.

Amanda in Bulgaria

Last year, I shared some of my best adventures in my four-year blogiversary post (and you can now find a very similar timeline on my About Me page). But this year, I want to share with you some of the things I've learned from being a travel blogger for half a decade.

5 Lessons From 5 Years of Travel Blogging

1. Do whatever the hell you want – just own it

When I first started out as a travel blogger, I literally had no clue what I was doing. I knew how to write, but I was clueless when it came to website management and social media and SEO and everything else. I didn't even know it was possible to make money from a travel blog, or that eventually I would be able to approach tourism boards about working with them on media trips.

I was a newb, and I often felt like it.

I would frequently turn to fellow travel bloggers with questions. I joined Facebook groups and went to conferences and read everything that everybody else had to say about travel and blogging.

But there came a point when I realized that you can't listen to everyone – and sometimes what works for one person just isn't going to work for you.


The longer I've been blogging, the more I have realized that everyone starts at square one, but that eventually you reach a point where you have to stop listening to all the other voices, follow your gut, and do whatever the hell you want.

If you want to only travel in Europe or just write about travel hookups or decide not to have a niche at all (even though everyone will tell you how important they are), do it. Do whatever feels right for you, because that's how your voice will become its strongest and most authentic. Just be bold and confident and OWN whatever it is you decide to do.

For the most part, the travel blogging community is incredibly helpful and supportive. But you will always have people trying to tell you what the “right” way to do something is, or people judging you if you travel or write differently than they do. Screw 'em. Do what you want, own what you do, and I promise your blog will be better for it.

2. Don't expect everyone to love you or what you write

No matter how awesome you think you are (and c'mon, we all think we're awesome, right?), there will be people out there who disagree with you, find you annoying, or who are just plain mean and have way too much free time on their hands. Internet trolls are real, and you'll definitely meet your fair share as a blogger.

Putting yourself out there fully on social media takes some courage, and will require you to develop a thicker skin. Because, no matter who you are or how you look, there are going to be trolls out there who will try to bring you down (just ask my friend Liz).

Amanda in London

You'll have people call you fat in your Facebook photos. Have people call you a spoiled rich white girl on your blog posts. Have people tell you that that 2,000-word post that took you a week to write is shit.

Anybody who puts anything out into the public sphere has to be thick-skinned to some extent. But, for bloggers, I think this is even more important. You're *always* publishing your opinions, and you're publishing them often and purposefully promoting them all across the Internet.

I'm not saying that the trolling or ignorant comments are warranted. But as a blogger you just kind of have to get used to them, and learn how to brush them off. (Because you're awesome, remember?)

3. Comparison really IS the thief of joy

Unlike some of my fellow travel bloggers out there, I'm not a full-time traveler. The digital nomad thing didn't work out for me, and I decided that having a home base and steady income was more important to me than traveling constantly.

So, sometimes, when I see what others are doing on social media and on their blogs, I get a major case of the FOMOs. I second-guess my decisions, scrutinize my blog, and suffer bouts of self-doubt over whether what I'm doing is cool enough to keep people interested.

And, though I'm not proud to admit it, this happens sometimes when I AM traveling, too. I'll wonder why I wasn't invited on that sweet press trip or to join that social media campaign, only to have to remind myself that I'm already in New Zealand or Norway or Vietnam or somewhere else really freaking cool.

Amanda in New Zealand

When you do what I do, it's incredibly easy to start comparing yourself to others who are doing the same thing. And it's easy to lose sight of the fact that what you're already doing is AMAZING and that other people would kill to do it, too.

Comparison really IS the thief of joy, especially when you're a travel blogger. And why would you want to rob yourself of the joy of discovery just because you're comparing your own travels to someone else's? It's dumb.

I'm not saying it won't happen (I've definitely had to give myself a reality check a few times) – I'm just saying that you shouldn't let it make you jaded about what you're actually doing.

4. You'll travel differently than other people

Here's the thing about becoming a travel blogger: you have to learn to do a lot of random things that you probably never expected to have to learn how to do. Yes, there's the whole writing and running a website part. But you'll also find yourself learning things about photography and video editing and Instagramming and tweeting and optimizing your blog posts for Google.

All of this will change how you live your life – and change how you travel.

Now, when you're on the road, you'll be live tweeting and Snapchatting and taking the perfect Instagram snaps. You'll go to new destinations with blog post topics in mind. You'll take photos of things you never would have taken photos of before because you might need them for a post (like your food or the room you're sleeping in). You'll spend nights editing photos and answering emails instead of going out for drinks.

Compass in Norway

Basically, you'll start traveling like a blogger instead of just an ordinary holiday-maker.

This DOES make a difference. You'll have to remind yourself to put down your phone, take your camera away from your face, and actually SEE the places you're visiting.

And, if at some point you stop loving it or feel like you've lost the spark that you used to have for travel, then that's the point when it's time to reevaluate things. This type of travel definitely isn't for everyone!

5. Accept that you'll get out as much as you put in

One of my biggest pet peeves about travel bloggers is that we are, in general, a bunch of cheap asses. And ridiculously impatient.

New bloggers especially want everything (the social media followers, the pageviews, the free press trips) overnight – but they don't want to spend a cent to get there.

If only I had a dollar for every time I saw a post in a blogger Facebook group bemoaning the cost of web hosting or a site redesign or a new social media tool. And don't even get me STARTED on the travel bloggers who feel they are entitled to press trips and free travel simply because they started a travel blog last month.

If you just want to have a hobby blog and write occasionally about your vacations, that's absolutely FINE! I have nothing against that. But if you come into travel blogging (or decide after doing it for a few years) that you want to make money from it and work with travel brands/tourism boards, then you have to be prepared to start treating it like a business.

And treating something like a business means investing both time AND money in it.

Packing for a river cruise in Europe
Sometimes that means investing in gear that will make blogging easier.

You'll have to pay for that new theme and that social media tool and that pricey plugin that will keep your site from getting hacked. You'll have to shell out for better hosting and a new laptop and maybe some professional photos of yourself. And yes, you'll have to pay for (most of) your own travel, especially in the beginning.

And, even then, it may take YEARS before you have the social media followers and the pageviews and the press trips offers. Building an engaged audience isn't something that happens overnight – and trying to find cheap ways to get there faster won't help you stand out to anyone in the travel industry.

If you want to start out (and continue) on the right foot, then you have to invest in staying educated about what's happening in the blogging world. I've been at this blogging thing for 5 years now, and yet I'm STILL learning new things every single week.

Luckily there are plenty of resources and courses out there for those wanting to invest in them. (Check out my blogging courses here!)

A final thank you

Lastly, I just want to say thank you yet again (yes, YOU reading this post) for coming along with me on this 5-year journey, whether you've been reading since Day 1 or just stopped by for the first time today. If not for YOU, this blog wouldn't exist. And I would be very sad.

So thanks for helping me not be very sad.

As we head into year 6, I want to know what you want to get from my blog! What would you like to see more (or less) of?


"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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70 Comments on “5 Lessons From 5 Years of Travel Blogging

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  1. I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of years, and love how you have transitioned over time to a really very professional looking website. I’m a crazy travel nut, and regularly read lots of travel blogs!

    I travel extensively for pleasure and also quite a bit for work; in my younger days (1980’s) I backpacked around the world as a solo female. Back then we had no internet, cell phones, emails, etc. We relied on word of mouth and the Lonely Planet guide books were our bibles!

    So often I think I would like to blog, but the thing that prevents me is the technology side. I attempted, last year, to set up a blog. I have a domain name, but actually setting up the site was so overwhelming (I’m very non-technological) that it has stymied me. I did consider going to a “night class” to learn about the tech side, but as I travel so often for work I just can’t attend anything consistently.

    What are your suggestions to help me overcome the technology block?

    Love your site! Love your photos! Love your enthusiasm and authenticity!

    By the way, I am posting this from 36,000′ in the air – an hour outside of Taipei! I’m heading to Singapore for a work assignment and just love the fact that WiFi is now available in the sky!

      Hey there! Thanks so much for reading, and for the compliments on my site! 🙂

      I admire women like you so much, who boldly went where few women did before technology was even a thing! I’ll bet you have some stories to tell from your backpacking days! 😉

      As for getting over the technical hurdles of blogging… a lot of it comes down to either a willingness to just dive in and learn things as you go (which is the route I took), or a willingness to hire someone and hand the tech side of things over. I’m sure you could find someone to set up a site for you, but that option of course would cost money!

      The only other thing I would suggest is perhaps checking out Lynda.com. It’s basically an online “university,” filled with courses on SO many tech and web-related subjects. It does cost money to “take” multiple courses, but it would be something you could do on your own time from anywhere (including 36,000 feet up in the air!).

      Best of luck to you!

    The article is very insightful. I have a friend who has an interest in travel blogging though she is afraid of the possibility that the blog might fail. I will ask her to read it. I think the article will be of great assistance and motivation to her. Thank you.

      Please do share it with her! There’s of course always the possibility than an online venture will fail. But I suppose you’ll never know if you don’t try!

    Congratulations on your 5th year of blogging. Hurrah! I’m still so sad that I never got to meet you properly at TBEX. I saw you as you were sitting just 2 rows behind me on the last day but you were surrounded by a whole host of girls…!
    I have always liked your blog. I only started following you in less than a year but what I really liked was the fact that you were willing to share information and advice. For example, last year, I hadn’t a clue what a press kit was and neither had any of my blogging friends! And you were kind enough to send your own so that I had an idea what it looked like. Now of course, I’m more savvy and better prepared LOL!

    Point number 1 is spot on. “Do whatever the hell you want – just own it” – Happily, I’m strong and motivated enough to do just that. I only blog once a week. My writing tends to be between 2,000 and 3,000 words although it doesn’t seem like it (LOL) and I do my social media stuff early in the morning before I go to work and that’s pretty much it. Oh, and I’m married, I have a husband, a son and a full-time corporate job! I must be doing OK as in June, I was featured on German TV as a “monarchy expert” and did a documentary as a “British blogger about town” called “Brits in Berlin!”

    That’s got to count for something surely!

      Sounds like you are definitely doing okay, Victoria! And I give you mad props for running your blog, family, AND holding down a full-time corporate job! I know that it’s certainly not easy to juggle and balance everything!

    Thanks for this article! I started my blog a year ago and I’m still working on it to make it as I want it to be, it really takes loooots of time and efforts but it’s something that makes me happy so I’ll stick on it 😉


      If you enjoy it, then the time and effort will always be worth it!

    Thanks for this really honest post, it’s just what I needed to read. Your blog is one of the few that I’ve been following for the past few years, even before I’d transitioned into a career as a blogger and freelance writer. And what I love about it most is that it really comes across that you do what you like and you’re absolutely right about listening to your gut and going with it.
    Lately, I’ve been comparing myself to others and not acknowledging my own victories and this has resulted in my mind being all over the place. As travel bloggers, we’re always going through FOMO and we’re impatient- I guess because we’re not only constantly creating content that’s meant to cause ‘travel envy’ but are also feeding ourselves that kind of content.

      Yup, FOMO is definitely a problem, and I think most travel bloggers suffer from it to some extent. That’s why it’s so so important to remind yourself every once in a while that what you’re doing is awesome, too, and probably causing some FOMO for someone else!

      Thanks so much for following along, Natasha!

    Amanda !
    I enjoy reading your Blog, and stories. I could never critisize if I couldn’t do it better myself. Keep up the good work ! Love your pictures – this week another one from Atlanterhavsveien, Norway !!!!! You must have LOVED that area !
    If I started my own Blog about 20-25 years ago, that could have been Fun !!! Ha ha

      Thanks, Arvid! And yes, I loved ALL of Norway!

    I agree SO MUCH with all of this – especially number 4, it’s so true! I find myself so often telling people “I wouldn’t do this normally, but er, it’s for the blog!”. Anyway, it’s reassuring to see that we all have the same doubts and questions as travel bloggers. It takes sooo long (in my case, years) to figure it out, you have to learn so many different skills, and if you’re impatient like me, it can be really disheartening… To be honest, I’ve made progress but I’m still far from getting it 100% right!

      Don’t get too disheartened, Camille! Things change so often in the online world that there’s literally always something new to learn!

    Happy 5th blogging anniversary! And to more adventures! 🙂

    On #4, although the “no camera” rule can stink at times, putting that camera down forces you to really look around and experience that moment. You can buy a commemorative or guide book on the place afterwards.

      Thank you, Elisa! And yeah, the camera-to-actually-seeing ratio is a tricky one to balance, especially when you know you’ll be writing about it later! But it’s definitely important to remember to take a break and just *experience* sometimes, too.

    First time reader. Referred by a cousin in Norway. I loved the photo’s of sights in Oslo.

    You asked for comments. I’m a Senior Traveler (for reference I first went to Oslo with a copy of “Europe on $5 a Day”. That was in early 60’s)

    Anyhow, cost is still a major concern & your bargain room at $150/night in Oslo was a shocker. So more comments on how to travel/lodge/eat at bargain prices would be of interest to me.

      Hi William and welcome to my blog! I hate to say it, but Norway just is not a cheap destination! Feel free to read more of the comments on that Oslo post for some suggestions from others on how to save money. Unless you stay in hostels or couchsurf or camp, though, there’s not really a great way to save on accommodation costs. And I of course can only speak from my own experience, which you already read in that post!

    Yay happy blogday!
    That’s some really sound advice. I might add that focusing on stats as well can make a blogger go nuts!
    Here’s to the next 5 years – can’t wait to read them!

      Focusing on stats (whether it’s pageviews or Facebook reach) definitely CAN make you go crazy! It’s fine to keep an eye on them, but checking obsessively definitely won’t help!

    Congrats on all your blog’s success. I have been reading for only 1-2 years but I’m sure I have read just about all your 5 years worth of posts while bored at work! I love the way that in this post you’ve focused on really doing what is right for you, and travelling and writing your way. I have dipped into blogging at various times throughout the past 5 or so years, but have never really kept at it. Now I feel like I’ve finally found my identity with my blog, and can really dedicate more time and effort to it – yay!

      That’s awesome to hear, Emma! Finding your voice really is so huge!

    I like your way of expressing your rich 5 years of experience, great. I agree with you for all of the above points. keep it up

    Amanda, I was nodding my head in agreement in everything that you wrote in there. It made me feel better about my (very low ranking) blog and realized once again that I am already doing something amazing and not to compare myself with others. Thank you and happy anniversary. 🙂

      Thanks very much, and keep doing what you do! As long as you enjoy it, that’s all that matters!

    So great to hear I’m not the only one not sold on being a “digital nomad.” Not that I’m against that standard of travel, but so many aspiring travel bloggers think you HAVE to quit everything & travel the world nonstop. Which, I confess, that’s what I thought a travel blogger did (& only did). At first. It’s so important to find out what works for you. And not just copy everyone else.
    Which is why I love this post so much!

      The digital nomad thing works for some people – but definitely not all! I could definitely see myself living abroad eventually, but that still would mean having a home base!

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