What a difference a month makes. Does anyone else feel like they've aged about 10 years in the last four weeks?
March was bad, guys. I know you know this. It all feels like it's happened in slow motion. At the beginning of the month, it seemed like things were improving; cases were slowing down in Asia, and the number of people recovered was rising.
A month ago, I was totally on-track to run my tour in Morocco, and then visit Jordan for the first time. While I was being cautious, I was confident in the WHO suggestions to avoid canceling travel plans if you were headed to an unaffected area.
But then the shit hit the fan in Italy. And the WHO declared a pandemic. And the US closed its borders. Everything fell apart fast, and within just a few days I'd canceled all my plans and was in lockdown in my house in Ohio.
I debated even writing this post this month, because do people really want to hear me whine about canceled travel plans and gloomy income reports right now? I'm not sure if you do. But this has been a crazy, unprecedented time for people in many industries, and I thought maybe you would be curious about what it looks like in mine.
I'm self-employed in the travel industry, and the business I've spent the last 10 years building has all but disappeared overnight. That's a pretty terrifying thing to type right there. Add on to this the fact that there's a pandemic out there, and no wonder it's been the Month From Hell.
But I'm luckily in a much better spot than many. My family is healthy. Elliot still has his job. I'm still making a bit of money, and have a lot more tucked away in the bank. This is a tough time for everyone, but I'm trying to look on the positive side: this WILL eventually end, and I plan on hanging in there until it does.
Let's take a closer look at March, shall we?
March: The month in travel
- Countries visited: 0
- Cities visited: 1 – Cleveland, Ohio
- Flights taken: 0
- Days spent on the road: 0
Those numbers are obviously sad, but necessary. I don't think anyone should be traveling right now – not even locally – until this thing is under control.
March travel highlights
There were no true “travel” highlights, since I basically didn't leave my house after about March 10.
March travel lowlights
The Morocco tour saga – I was supposed to run my very first reader tour in Morocco from March 15-25. In early March, life and travel were still continuing on fairly normally in most of the world (can that really have been only a couple weeks ago??). Everyone still wanted to go, and our tour company partner saw no reason to think the tour wouldn't run. But then things started to escalate in Europe. And then the US closed its borders just a few days before most of us were set to fly.
While I wish I could say it was a swift and easy decision to cancel the tour, it wasn't. I decided by about March 12 that I wasn't going to get on a plane, and that I couldn't in good conscience tell anyone else to do so, either. But 4 guests were already either in or on their way to Morocco, and the tour company still wanted to run it. The irony was not lost on me that my first reader tour was going to go ahead without me.
In the end, the tour ended up being canceled at the last minute and Morocco fully shut its borders a few days later; thankfully the 4 people who were already there managed to get home. I knew at the time I was making the right call by not going, but those few days of uncertainty and back-and-forth with the tour company were some of the most stressful of my life.
I may try to re-schedule the tour for next year (everyone got 110% credit for their canceled tour, which was good), but honestly thinking about it at all right now still gives me anxiety.
Everything else getting canceled – I don't really have any travel planned in 2020 now. Morocco and Jordan were canceled outright. Conferences in May have been rescheduled for later in the year. The trip I had booked to the Arctic in June has been pushed to May 2021. The conference I was so excited about attending in Australia in October has been canceled altogether. And several projects that were in the works are now in limbo.
And before you police my feelings here and tell me that I should be thankful that I'm healthy and that I still have a job right now, please know that I am. I know how lucky I am. But it's ALSO okay to feel sad about all those plans and projects that have now disappeared. As humans, we are able to feel multiple things at the same time.
March on the blog(s)
The beginning of March was okay, with traffic only being down slightly. But the night that Trump announced that he was closing the US border to Europe, my traffic fell off a cliff.
This isn't at all surprising, of course. The world was sent into a tailspin, and the only people worried about travel at that point were those who suddenly found themselves trapped abroad. As things have progressed, the travel industry has all but shut down and there aren't too many people researching trips right now.
I know that this will eventually pass, and that the world will open up again… someday. But for now I've just got to hunker down and accept that much lower traffic numbers will be the norm for a while.
I've decided to continue publishing on both sites, but have shifted focus from encouraging travel right now to offering suggestions for things people can do or read while they're at home.
A Dangerous Business traffic: 150,412 unique visitors and 208,467 pageviews (down more than 40% from February; it'll likely be even lower in April)
Cleveland Traveler traffic: 4,273 unique visitors and 6,091 pageviews (down more than 20% from February)
Most popular post: 12 Travel-Related Things You Can Do When You’re Stuck at Home – Want to keep feeding that wanderlust? This post has a dozen different suggestions of travel-related things you can do at home.
Other posts published in March:
- 9 Things You Can Do to Support the Travel Industry When the World is Closed (please read this one if you haven't already!)
- 12 Fun Facts You Might Not Know About Norway
- Did You Know? 13 Fun Facts About Scotland
- 12 Fun Facts About Cleveland That Might Surprise You
- 15 Cleveland-Related Things to Do in Self-Isolation
Posts updated in March: I've been updating some older posts, and in some cases re-publishing them. Next month, I'll update posts about my favorite travel and photography gear.
- What Working Remotely is Really Like + 7 Tips for Working From Home
- The Quest to Find the Perfect Travel Shoes (2020)
March on social media
Most popular post in Instagram (@dangerousbiz) – Before the world shut down, this photo from the last hotel I stayed in in Puerto Rico was the clear favorite on Instagram.
View this post on Instagram
Do you ever book hotels or trips or anything else based solely on a photo? Well, I booked our second hotel in San Juan based on a few photos, but it was definitely these floor-to-ceiling windows looking out towards the ocean that sold me on the Serafina Beach Hotel. Elliot and I wanted to spread our tourism dollars around a bit in San Juan, so when we returned to the city from Vieques, we headed for the hip Condado area and a hotel right on the beach. The weather didn’t end up being beach weather during this part of our stay in Puerto Rico, but this view from our bed still was pretty awesome! The Serafina Beach Hotel was the first new hotel to open in Puerto Rico after the devastating Hurricane Maria in 2017. The hotel has been open for nearly two years, but I feel like many people still think the hurricanes were last month; during our stay (which was during high season in Puerto Rico), we felt like this hotel was almost empty! If you’ve been putting off that trip to Puerto Rico, it might be time to plan it now. And who wouldn’t want to enjoy this view?
Most popular post in Instagram (@clevelandtraveler) – This photo of Playhouse Square, Cleveland's theater district, at night was the local favorite. I love this shot of the world's largest outdoor chandelier.
View this post on Instagram
Did you know that Playhouse Square is the second-largest performing arts complex in the US after Lincoln Center in New York City? How lucky we are to have this amazing venue right here in Cleveland! And speaking of Playhouse Square, it just announced its 2020-21 Broadway series, which is going to include new shows like Hadestown, Moulin Rouge, Pretty Woman the Musical, The Cher Show, and more! Other favorites like Come From Away and Dear Even Hansen will be back, too, making for an excellent season. Have you been to the KeyBank Broadway Series at Playhouse Square recently? Are there any shows you’re hoping to see this year?
March business update
Do we have to do this section? Actually, the income I reported in March was on-par with what I would have expected for the last month of Q1. It was actually a good month. BUT, this is because of how I earn and report income. I report income when it hits my bank account, but it's often earned months previously.
So, for example, most of the income coming into my bank account in March was actually earned in December and January. This means that my income numbers will still look okay for the next month or so; you won't really be able to see how this has affected my business until this summer. (To give you a preview, my income is currently down 85%.)
A Dangerous Business income report:
- Advertising: $9,583.69
- Affiliates*: $5,217.22
- Course sales: $135.32
(Note that this is my income before deductions and taxes.)
*Curious about how I make money with affiliates? I actually have a course on that! And since you can see how much I make each month, hopefully that's proof enough that I kind of know what I'm talking about. You can check out my affiliate marketing for travel bloggers course here.
Cleveland traveler income report:
- Advertising: $227.45
- Sponsored content: $250
(Note: A Dangerous Business was started in 2010, and has been monetized for more than 6 years; Cleveland Traveler was started in 2019, and has been monetized for less than 6 months.)
Having a lot of savings – I have never been more thankful for my savings than I am this month. I spent many years just scraping by as a blogger, unable to think about savings accounts or retirement. But in the last couple years, I have been able to think about and contribute to those things. 2019 was a very good year for my business, and I spent far less than I made – meaning I now have a comfortable amount sitting in my bank account. Even if my income continues to suffer in the coming months, I'll be okay for at least the rest of the year.
I realize that I am very privileged to be able to say this, and even more privileged because my husband's job has been largely unaffected. Because of our situation, I'm still looking for ways to support small businesses locally and around the world. I realize not everyone is able to do this right now, but I feel strongly about mentioning options for those who can still help.
Being challenged creatively – I'm not always motivated to work right now. But I've been using the bursts of motivation I do have to try to be productive and creative. I've come up with some content I can still publish and share, because I know at least SOME people out there are looking for a bit of distraction. I'm also working on a big project to celebrate my 10-year blogging anniversary, so look out for that soon!
Grappling with so many feelings – My emotions oscillate daily between optimism and despair, calm and anxiety, and many other things in between. There also are some weird feelings of guilt that I'm either manifesting for myself, or that others are suggesting I should feel.
I think it's REALLY important right now to remember that everybody deals with times of stress differently. Some people need to curl up on the couch for days with Netflix, while others need to seek out funny memes or push on to be productive. All the feelings you're feeling are valid – but everyone else's feelings are valid, too, as are their coping techniques (as long as they aren't putting people in danger, of course).
It's true that you don't HAVE to feel pressured to be productive during this crazy time. But, on the flip side, you also shouldn't be made to feel bad about wanting to dive into work or creative projects. There's no “right” way to deal with all of this (except, you know, staying at home!).
Imposter syndrome – I think everyone suffers from a bit of imposter syndrome from time to time, but I find myself feeling less than adequate a lot lately. While others in my industry are finding ways to pivot and offer their audiences creative new services and products, I genuinely feel like I have nothing new to offer. My professional trajectory has remained within the writing/publishing space for a decade; I don't really KNOW much else other than travel. Deep down, I know this is silly. But the feelings are still there and are something I'm dealing with!
Upcoming in 2020
I literally have no travel plans for the rest of 2020, with the exception of maybe one or two conferences. Every single thing that I had planned has been either canceled, postponed, or rescheduled.
But you'd better believe that I'll be back to planning travel as soon as it's safe to do so. We'll just have to wait and see when that is.