The month that many Americans have been awaiting all year has finally arrived; November 3 is Election Day, and I don't think there's ever been more tension or media coverage surrounding a US election before.
I'm just as exhausted as most of you after months of being bombarded with news of the election, the pandemic, and everything else in between. It's been getting increasingly harder not to spend hours every day just doomscrolling. The good news is that I'm working the polls tomorrow in my county in Ohio, so I won't have time to obsessively refresh all the stats until I get home in the evening.
On the travel front, we're heading into winter and another inevitable spike in COVID-19 cases. Countries in Europe are already going back into lockdown. And while I don't anticipate more lockdowns in the US (not that we don't need them; I just don't think the governors would survive trying to shut things down again), I think most of us will be spending lots of time at home in the coming months.
But enough doom and gloom; let's talk about how I spent my favorite season of the year – I'm not ready to let go of fall just yet!
September and October: The months in travel
- Countries visited: 1 – USA
- Cities visited: 5 – Cleveland, Ohio; and Mackinac Island, Munising, Houghton, and Traverse City in Michigan
- Flights taken: 0
- Days spent on the road: 10
Michigan road trip – That's right, Elliot and I went on a real, honest-to-goodness trip in October! I've wanted to do a road trip around Michigan for years. And while we tweaked my original dream route a bit due to the time of year and COVID, it still ended up being a fun trip overall. We spent 10 days traveling around the northern part of Michigan, mostly focusing on parks and things we could do outdoors (though we also stayed in hotels for the first time since February!).
Visiting Mackinac Island – One spot we both really wanted to visit on our trip was Mackinac Island, Michigan's famous car-less resort island. We spent two nights on Mackinac Island and ticked off all the must-dos, including having coffee on the world's longest porch at The Grand Hotel, and riding the 8-mile bike highway around the island. Mackinac was busier than we expected it to be at the end of the tourist season, but we still managed to enjoy it safely.
Visiting the UP in fall – The real star of our road trip? The fall colors! And especially those up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. In this sparsely-inhabited part of Michigan, we took a cruise to see the Pictured Rocks, hiked to waterfalls, bought baked goods from monks, and flew our drone in some cool places. If you've ever thought of visiting the UP, I would highly recommend a trip in the fall.
Fall adventures close to home – We soaked up fall in Ohio, too; we went apple picking and sunflower-seeking back in September, and did a few walks to peep fall leaves in different local parks. We even went to a wine tasting in a corn maze! I'm sad that fall is all but over in northeast Ohio now, but we made the most of it while it lasted!
Figuring out drone laws in Michigan – Elliot has his Part 107 license from the FAA, meaning he paid money and took a test to be cleared to fly our drone for commercial purposes (he's even got his name on our joint business cards and everything). And he takes his role as Drone Pilot very seriously. Before we travel anywhere, he's always online checking rules and maps to make sure he can legally fly in all the places we think we might like to fly. We thought we had everything figured out before our trip to Michigan, only to arrive at a couple sites in state parks to find “No Drone Zone” signs. We could not (and still cannot) find documentation stating that flying a drone in those areas is not allowed. We adhered to the signs anyway (getting creative at least once to still get a shot we wanted), but not without a few hours of exasperation.
The great maskless outdoors – Traveling during a pandemic is obviously a tricky thing to do. I've already written about the challenges of planning a trip during a pandemic, some of which we ran into on this trip, too. But the major thing I was disappointed with on our road trip was running into so many people without masks in the outdoors. Newsflash: You should still wear a mask outdoors if you can't keep distance from people; simply being outdoors doesn't mean you can't catch or pass on COVID!
September and October on the blog(s)
After a pretty strong end to the summer thanks to many Americans still planning road trips and getaways closer to home, traffic on my main site is now seeing a pretty noticeable drop. Some of this is seasonal (travel always sees a dip once kids go back to school in the fall), but some of it is definitely COVID-related, with cases spiking all around the world and most places still closed to international tourism.
I had hoped I could continue riding the almost-normal traffic wave through to the holidays, but it's just not happening this year.
I also really fell off the publishing bandwagon in this 2-month stretch; before our Michigan trip, I was just SO uninspired to write anything about travel, and then I mostly took the 10 days we were traveling off from work. Here's hoping I can get more content out to you in the coming month!
A Dangerous Business traffic: 185,678 unique visitors and 245,322 pageviews in September; 166,386 unique visitors and 219,700 pageviews in October
Most popular post: 3 Days in Bologna: What to Do in Italy’s Foodie Capital – I finally got around to writing about my trip to Bologna, Italy, from last year. Bologna is one of the most delicious cities in Europe, and I enjoyed writing this post (even if it did make me long for Italy again).
Other posts published in September and October:
- 9 Reasons You Should Visit Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
- 30 of the Coolest Airbnb Stays in Ohio
- Small Town America: Getting to Know Ypsilanti, Michigan
On Cleveland Traveler, I've been pretty successful at publishing almost once per week – and my traffic has reached an all-time high! And even though there's been a dip in traffic over there in the last two weeks, it's an expected seasonal dip now that summer is over and it's getting harder to do things outside.
The holidays are approaching, though, so I hope to still have plenty of things to write about!
Cleveland Traveler traffic: 17,479 unique visitors and 24,280 pageviews in September; 16,739 unique visitors and 24,081 pageviews in August
Some of what I've published:
- The Best Things to Do in Cleveland in the Fall
- Heated Patios in Cleveland to Enjoy this Fall and Winter
- Where to Find the Best Holiday Beers & Christmas Ales in Cleveland*
*This post was written by my friend Kat from World Wide Honeymoon, who freelances for me over on Cleveland Traveler.
September and October on social media
It's been a weird time on social media. One day my Instagram photos are blowing up, and the next Instagram has effectively turned off hashtags to combat voter disinformation (yes, really, and it matters because at least half of the eyeballs on photos I share on Instagram usually come from people browsing hashtags!).
I'm writing this before Election Day, and good lord I just hope all the madness on social media ends soon. I'm kind of glad that I'm working the polls on Nov. 3 and will be forced to ignore Facebook and Instagram most of the day!
Most popular post on Instagram (@dangerousbiz) – Folks have really loved my fall photos from around Michigan, and I've had multiple Instagram photos do far better than usual. This one from Mackinac Island was the most popular:
View this post on Instagram
Most people associate stunning fall colors in the US with New England, but completely overlook another incredible option: the Midwest! And within the Midwest, I honestly think Michigan has some of the best fall colors in the country. (There, I said it!) This photo, for example, isn’t from New England, but rather is from Mackinac Island, a popular summer resort island in Michigan. While Mackinac isn’t known for its fall color (its delicious fudge and ban on cars are way more famous), there are nevertheless lots of colors to enjoy this time of year. So I guess my point is… don’t write off the Midwest when it comes to fall color! (Also, expect lots more fall color photos in the coming weeks ?.) Would you have ever guessed this photo was taken in Michigan? Also, what else would you like to know about Mackinac Island? I’ll share more info about this quirky spot in my next post.
Most popular post in Instagram (@clevelandtraveler) – Fall color was the winner here, too, with a photo from a local metropark being the favorite:
View this post on Instagram
Rocky River Reservation is hands down one of my favorite places to go leaf-peeping in the Cleveland area. Whether it’s at the Fort Hill Stairs (pictured here) or at Berea Falls or any of the other great trails or natural areas, this metropark really comes alive with color in the fall. But one pro tip for visiting: I would go on a weekday if possible, or hit one of the less-trafficked trails if you’re going on a weekend. Spots like Fort Hill are pretty popular, and it can be hard to keep distant from others. (If you’re planning to climb these stairs this weekend for the great views, be sure to pack your face mask!) Have you been to any of the Cleveland Metroparks this autumn to check out the fall colors?
September and October business update
Things were pretty good going into fall, but with traffic dropping and COVID cases rising again, I'm already mentally preparing myself for a rough winter.
Ad income in September and October (which was actually earned in June and July) was much improved over the previous months, and affiliate income also ticked up – but it's still way down from where it would be in a “normal” year, and I expect it to fall again over the winter.
A Dangerous Business September income report:
- Advertising: $5,139.97
- Affiliates*: $1,462.8
A Dangerous Business October income report:
- Advertising: $6,675.45
- Affiliates: $1,761.43
(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! You can check out my affiliate marketing for travel bloggers course here – and save 20% by using the code ADB20OFF.
On Cleveland Traveler, meanwhile, the site is finally starting to hit its stride. Advertising income is up, and I'm finally starting to see some sales in my new product shop – which I hope will really take off as the holidays approach!
Cleveland traveler September income report:
- Advertising: $138.12
- Product sales: $28.54
Cleveland traveler October income report:
- Advertising: $305.92
- Product sales: $161.32
(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 10 months.)
I won another SATW award – A couple years ago, I won a Silver Award for Best Travel Blog in the annual Lowell Thomas Awards, which are awarded to travel journalists through SATW (the Society of American Travel Writers). This year, I got an Honorable Mention in the same Best Travel Blog category, which is still an accomplishment in an industry that doesn't always recognize blogs as “real” travel writing.
Getting booked for some speaking gigs – Okay, so they're mostly podcasts and webinars, and they are mostly unpaid, but I'll take them! One of the webinars I'm doing is in December, and it's a conversation about “travel shaming.” You can sign up for that one (for free!) here.
The usual struggle to stay motivated is still there, and got especially bad in September! I know going into winter I'll also be trying to find new ways to pivot to bring in more income. You know, just the usual challenges of trying to run a travel-focused business during a global pandemic.
Upcoming this winter
I don't have any travel plans in the coming months. I'm working the election, will quarantine afterwards, and then my sister is having her baby! Elliot isn't allowed to take time off in December, so other than maybe doing some socially-distanced holiday-type things locally, we will likely be spending lots of time at home in the next two months. I see lots of Hallmark Christmas movies, holiday candles, and games of Beat Saber in our future.
Mayyyybe we'll look into a winter getaway in January or February, but it's too soon to make a call on that yet.
I likely won't do another of these updates until after the New Year, so I hope you all have a great (but safe!) holiday season.