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Why I might stop travel blogging

I bet the normal lifespan of a travel blog is probably 2-3 years. You begin blogging before you travel, you blog while traveling and you blog for a year after you return home, sharing all your accumulated travel content. Eventually you fall back into the life you had before you traveled, but hopefully with a better perspective on life. Travel blogging rarely earns you enough income to survive on, so inevitably, you abandon it.

Travel Blogging

Searching into the distance – Florida Keys

I don’t fit the model above perfectly, but there are many similarities.  Aracely and I did travel for a year and blogged about out trip during that time.  In August of 2010 we returned from our first year long backpacking journey and decided to approach our jobs a bit differently.  Aracely went back to working full time and I decided to spend another year blogging in an effort to take our blog to the next level.   That next level consisted of many different goals, but most importantly it revolved around income.

Aracely and I didn’t stop traveling, it’s still our top priority and we make time for it in our busy lives.  So, it’s not like we stopped traveling.  I also created a second travel blog, focused on couples vacations which more accurately captures the type of travel we do today.  There is plenty of fresh content to continue sharing with our followers.

Is it all about the income?

Income is a big factor.  We currently live in Miami with family and plan to be here for several more years as Aracely plays a significant role in her younger brother’s life.  It’s not cheap living in the United States.  You will normally find bloggers living in cheaper foreign countries on minimum income.

Travel blogging is a flooded market

It seems everyone that travels these days starts a travel blog.  Internet companies have sprung up providing online travel journals or travel blogs as part of a bigger travel community website.  For those that want their own personal website, blogs are incredibly easy to create and manage with publishing platforms such as WordPress or Tumblr that take care of all the technical aspects.  You really only have to write and upload media such as photos and videos.  A smart phone and tumblr account and you are good to go.

Why are people still becoming travel bloggers?

Travel is one of the largest industries in the world, totaling several trillions of dollars, so there’s plenty of room.  The question is, “what is the role of travel bloggers to the industry.”  Today, the role is very little.  Big companies such as TripAdvisor and the Lonely Planet dominate the travel resource landscape.  Travel magazines like Travel and Leisure, AAA, National Geographic or Condé Nast dominate travel literature.  Gary Arndt’s travel blog, Everything-Everywhere dominates the travel blogosphere, and in comparison to everything listed above, he is minuscule.  Learn more about travel blogs and their roles from Gary.

In a trillion dollar industry most travel bloggers measure success by reaching an income level of $1,000 USD per month.  That’s well below the poverty line and impossible to live on in the United States.  We aren’t doing well to grab a share of that trillion dollars.

Is it possible to make a living travel blogging?

Yes, it’s possible and there are several doing it, but not many.  My advice is to view your blog as a tool to gain an audience.  It’s your platform, but not your product.  First, you must build a large following through the tedious task of blogging and building a connection with your fans.  Once you have succeeded at that, you then must sell them something.  A book, subscription service, discounted trips, travel guides, whatever it may be, you must have that product.  Trying to survive on website advertising is the most difficult of strategies to attain revenue.  I can show you someone that is doing it, but they are also running 5-20 websites, not just one personal travel blog.  You can dream of getting discovered and given your own travel show, but I wouldn’t base my business plan on it.

Where my blog ranks

I would say we have done pretty well with our travel blog.  We attracted a large following very quickly in 2009.  Being very active on social media such as Facebook and Twitter from the beginning helped us gain large numbers of followers relative to our competition at the time.  Our design stood out and we were producing original content in the form of travel videos and photos of the day.  I have had months were I earned over $2,000 USD and months were I earned $200USD.  On average, I net $700USD per month from 2Backpackers.com only.  Since this does not meet my income goals, I have began three additional blogs, one about travel.  These blogs are new and will take at least a year before earning any income.  All my income is derived from website advertising such as text links, banner ads and sponsored giveaways or posts.  I have not created a product yet, which I believe is the number one reason I am not earning $2,000 USD per month.

We reach ~20,000 unique visitors per month, have over 1,700 RSS subscribers, 40,000 Facebook fans and 11,000 Twitter followers.  In my estimation, in terms of visitors, followers and income, we probably rank in the top 50.  I don’t have a method for ranking, I am just guessing based on working with travel bloggers over the last 4 years.

Lessons to be learned?

If you want to succeed at travel blogging, you have to be 100% dedicated.  I know, very cliché, but in terms of time, it has to be a constant part of your life.  It seems like a new travel face appears on Twitter everyday and they are engaged.  You have to be active everyday if you want to gain an audience.  That audience is most likely going to be the same people viewing other travel blogs, which are your competitors.  How will you be better than them?  What can you provide that is different from them?  Most of us have toured the same places, so what can you share that is new?

If you can reach an audience outside of travel bloggers you are already succeeding.  You will often find travel bloggers commenting on other travel blogger sites.  This is common, but it’s not success.  You have to tap into the market beyond the travel blogosphere.  You have to attract the people that travel from their computers.  They typically don’t travel, but like to dream of it.  And that’s what you can fulfill for them, their dreams.  Then, sell them something.

Don’t expect to make money in 6 months.  With so many blogs in existence today you now have to expand your knowledge beyond just blogging.  You must learn about SEO, social media and then network with your competitors.  You have to wait out and out smart your competitors and hope half of them eventually shut down.  You will find yourself working with your competitors and sharing sales contacts and splitting revenues.  You might pay for link building services or start outsourcing blogging responsibilities.  You might even stop writing all together and obtain free content in order to focus your time on projects that yield more income.  These are all things that will eventually pop up in your email and make you wonder if you are ever going to succeed.

These are things that make me ponder travel blogging today.

Staying afloat with your competition

I communicate with a bunch of travel bloggers that find themselves in the same situation as me.  We have similar business strategies and we are working together to make money.  I view that situation as staying afloat with my competitors.  If us travel bloggers are sharing sales contacts, referring sales to each other for commissions and guest blogging on each other’s blogs to improve our chances of succeeding as bloggers, aren’t we all going to remain equal?  In this saturated market of travel bloggers we need to find a way to break free of each other.  We need to leave the other in the dust.  Today there is not enough travel industry dollars making their way down to bloggers in order for us all to benefit.

So, why am I doing these things with my travel blogging partners?

Are we playing the waiting game?

I guess I am partnering with other travel bloggers in hopes that eventually the money will flow down and there will be enough for us all to benefit.  I think that is what most of us are doing.  We are waiting out the travel industry.  Honestly, that’s not a good business approach.  We need to be more proactive, more inventive and more aggressive.

If travel blogging alone isn’t cutting it, then we need to think of something new.  I don’t want to continue to improve my website’s SEO and write “Top Things to Do in…” articles in order to eke out a few more visitors to my website or hope an article gets hot on StumbleUpon or Facebook.  That strategy won’t allow us to succeed.  It’s actually a pretty weak and boring strategy that I find myself in today.

What about travel blogging benefits?

Sure, there are many benefits to travel blogging including the top perk of a press trip.  These are trips we get to go on that are paid by a tour company or visitor bureau.  In return, we must write, take photos or create videos of their destination, tour or restaurant on our website.  They gain exposure and we get a free trip!  It’s pretty awesome, but it still doesn’t earn you income.  If reported correctly, you might even have to pay taxes on it.

Perks are great, but they don’t pay the bills.

My internal struggle

I enjoy traveling, therefore travel blogging just seemed to integrate so easily.  Why not try to make money doing what I love?  That’s our life goal right?  Besides health and happiness.  It’s been 4 years since I began travel blogging and one year since I approached it as my full time job (I am now maintaining the blog on the weekends only).  I am now operating four blogs in an effort to find my niche in blogging and to make more money (I only maintain two travel blogs now).  My focus is split evenly between content, social media and SEO.  There is little creativity developing from these blogs.

I don’t want to compete on a yearly basis with my fellow travel bloggers.  I am tired of waiting around for the travel industry to find benefit in working with travel bloggers.  I am unable to produce travel videos that require 40 hours of my time and yield no money.  I love taking pictures, but find myself breaking equipment and paying for more.  I can continue to write, but I can’t compete with the likes of AlmostFearless.com or the adventures of ThePlanetD.com.  I didn’t start blogging in 1999 like Gary Arndt.  I wasn’t SEO and advertising savvy like NomadicMatt.com.  I won’t unseat the Lonely Planet or create a better TripAdvisor.  Yelp seems perfect to me.  Online travel magazines like Matador Network have a strong foothold and continue to grow, while other travel bloggers converge, merging ideas and resources  in order to break free of the travel blogging masses.

New ideas continue to shape our swelling industry, and I haven’t been responsible for any of them.

So what do I?

I don’t sulk, I analyze.  Maybe travel blogging doesn’t excite me enough to spawn new ideas in the middle of the night.  When I can’t sleep I usually think about the problems in the world and how I might attempt to solve them.  I feel anger towards those in power and sadness for those exploited.  I hate politics, in a way that causes me to follow them religiously.  I am now conscious about what I eat because I care so much about nature and our environment.  I feel a responsibility to stay abreast of current events around the world, but no obligation to read others’ travel articles.  Travel is nice, but it’s not important.

I enjoy travel a lot, and it will most likely shape my life, but I am unsure if it’s where my mind is.  If it’s not waking me up at 2am in the morning with an idea to break out of the mold most of us travel bloggers are in, is it meant to be?  I don’t think so, but I am also hesitant to quit, as we know that is sometimes the worst move you can make.

Travel Blogging

I want to feel on top of the world again – Quilotoa Crater, Ecuador

Katrina says:

Jason!

I’ve read the post. have you quit already? or if not what are the learnings and what made you continue? im a start up travel blogger. way way far from what you have done to your blog.

I can relate about the income, but i learned that you can make money out of your passion, but it wont be easy as 1-2-3.

Please keep on posting once in a while. or replying to this thread.

thanks

Katrina, I haven’t quite, but I have changed my strategy. Our blog has now expanded to include regular contributors from real travelers. So, the stories will keep coming, from people who are actually out there still discovering. That means I have to pay them to join our editorial team, which means there is no more money being made from the blog. But, I am content, because the blog won’t die.

Denise says:

has anyone told you your background colour choice makes your blog very hard to read? I really want to read this post, but I can’t make it beyond the second paragraph!

It is the ONLY post I have read completely!

Nic Freeman says:

Thanks for sharing with such honesty Jason. I really enjoyed this post. The world of blogging intrigues me. I started writing for fun, as a creative outlet, as a way to share what I love, but have quickly become absorbed by this wonderful online community. I really enjoy your site; you are up the top of my reading list. I’ve listed you as a versatile blogger in my latest post and just wanted to say thanks for continuing to pump out the content.

Thanks Nic, I appreciate the compliments. I love the world of blogging and the awesome community too. My struggles are purely monetary, but the joy of blogging will always remain.

Donna says:

With all these posts, why not start a blog for travel bloggers. It seems there’s a lot of information and sharing that the community is searching for.

There aren’t enough travel bloggers in the world yet. Maybe someday. I figure we have ~2,000 active travel bloggers out there. If you attract a quarter of them to your site every day, that’s only 500. 500 visits multiplied by 30 days is 15,000 visits a month. We can’t make a living on that.

However, the idea is discussed a lot and some people have created subscription services for travel bloggers, but they make their money off of the paid subscriptions, not traffic. And honestly, we don’t write discussion articles for the non-travel bloggers. We offer them pictures, videos and destination info, which means no comments. And that’s fine, because I know what they are coming to us for and it’s not to leave comments. But, occasionally we do find ourselves writing for travel bloggers, and they are usually discussion pieces like this, which attracts comments.

So remember, go for the big audience and maximize your opportunity for success!

Pol says:

Great post! If we spent the time working in other fields, for sure we would make much more money but we wouldn’t like it that much. That’s the thing.

You are right, we probably wouldn’t like it as much, but unfortunately money is necessary in our world, which drives us to do things we don’t necessarily want to do.

Alexandra says:

Great post, enjoyed reading!

Jade says:

wow-great advice from someone that has been doing this for a while. As a new travel blogger, it’s great to hear these insights. I’m not even traveling at the moment (just posting content from years ago) and I already find that all I really do is write and organize content for my blog. I can imagine how crazy it gets to do all this while actually trying to fully experience other countries. It’s like a full time job that really doesn’t pay off that much – even if you are successful. There definitely needs to be passion for capturing photos, writing or sharing – or all of the above!

Christy says:

I really appreciate you putting yourself out there and writing this post. I can definitely see travel blogging having a life span. I get burnt out on it way more now after almost a year and a half. It could also be because we work regular jobs, do architectural photography on the side and are launching a new product that is extremely time consuming.

The occasional advertising income is nice, but right now this is just a side income for us. I can see how not having any other income besides a blog would burn me out even more on blogging. When I feel that much pressure riding on something where I have to be creative, it makes me not want to do that particular thing anymore.

I agree with the comments that a break may be exactly what you need. I know I need a break from something, I just haven’t figured out which “job” I want to give up quite yet. 🙂

Dave Daly says:

Thanks for the advice jason! Ive just started the Amazing Travel Concierge travel blog from the approach that it is a hobby and I will probably never make any money from it. But, I am addicted to traveling and I cant resist a good deal, so its been fun to share my travels with whoever may be interested. Hope you stick around and I much appreciate the advice!
Thanks,
Dave

Jason says:

Thanks for visiting our site Dave. If you love it, do it, as long as you don’t require it for income. When that happens, things will change dramatically and you can refer back to these post comments for some tips! I will be around, still haven’t found a job yet.

Deb says:

Hi Jason, Everyone has added quite a bit already but I just wanted to add some words of encouragement. I think that 2backpackers is great and a leader in its field and that you should stick it out. We all get burnt out sometimes so maybe you should stop and take a breath, but it would be a shame to give up now on everything that you have built so far. Companies are starting to see the light. We now focus on building partnerships. After talking to pr agencies, tourist boards and tour companies, they are starting to see the value of working with niche travel bloggers.
I am wondering if you would do better to focus on 1 blog rather than spreading yourself too thin between several? We tried running two websites for about 6 months and found it to be too much. We decided to become an authority in one niche and focus on building that brand. 2Backpackers is a great brand, so are your other sites. Maybe you could focus on just one that give you the most joy when writing for it. That is just a suggestion though. But instead of selling a couple of ads for your many sites, you could eventually find full sponsorship on one because you are the authority.
It might be time to just make a few changes to regain your passion. We had to rethink our editorial schedule when we came back from Mongolia. we were burnt out on travel and writing, and once we started to think of new ideas we were excited again. Maybe that is all you need. I know from following you these past two years that you are talented, passionate and your words resonate with your audience. I hope you don’t give up, I think big success is just around the corner.

Jason says:

Thanks guys, I appreciate the encouragement. You guys do own the adventure couple niche, and you do an amazing job at it.
I have reached these crossroads mainly because I am out of the money I have set aside to survive on, the blog has stopped growing and right now I need to help out more with money! Money, money, money! I know, I hate to say it, but when you are living in the US and have family relying on you, you have to do what’s necessary. I won’t drop the blog altogether if possible.
I am now searching for a full time job and you never know how much of my mind and time that will encompass. We agree that the industry will change, but I also know it’s not there yet. Even from sponsorships, is it enough for a family to live on in the US? I don’t think so yet. The blog will become a hobby, and we will wait for the industry to evolve towards incorporating bloggers in into their promotion and sponsorship efforts.
Just knowing right now that I am not chasing traffic anymore has relieved a lot of negative feelings I had. With no pressure, things are dramatically improved.

Carole Levinger says:

Perscription for loss of passion …….
Take a deep breath
Tell your wife you love her
Sell some worldly possession
Buy a ticket to Thialand
And spread a minimum of 30 days exploring
If you come back still undecided about blogging quit and head in another direction!

Jason says:

Unfortunately, I waited to long. No time left for a trip to Thailand. Looking for a job now, but will stay focused on long term goals. Which includes visiting Thailand.

James says:

Love how you end the article sir!
“When I can’t sleep I usually think about the problems in the world and how I might attempt to solve them. I feel anger towards those in power and sadness for those exploited.”
honest. moving.

Jason says:

Thanks James, it’s what bothers me most.

Vanessa says:

My blog is fairly new, though in the past I’ve always had some kind of website with travel stories on it.

Officially, at the moment, my blog is a hobby, however I am looking to move it to a business in the near future – not in order to sell things to my readers, but as part of a personal strategy in a re haul of finances, career and work/life balance in general.

Naturally, like many others, I would be thrilled beyond belief if it earned an income to live off of. But I’m far too cynical to expect that!

Like anything in the future, I have no idea how my plans will go, but at the very least, I can’t see myself stopping writing about travel, I enjoy it too much.

Jason says:

And you should do what you enjoy, so keep on writing! I think a point that also came out of all these comments is that turning a hobby into a job can be stressful and sometimes dreadful. We found ourselves disliking that which we once loved. If we don’t have to rely on our hobby for income and approach it that way, it’s healthier. But, when we rely on it for income, your strategy changes and it’s no longer a hobby.

I book marked this to read (favorited in Twitter) and now I am finally reading it all. i learned, smiled, and agreed with so much here. Thanks for putting this on the table.

I don’t have any solution suggestion, I won’t even try – but I will offer a thought…follow your heart. I don’t always do it, but when I do, I see doors open. Heck, travel blogging might all disappear in 10 years, think it didn’t (really) exist ten years ago… but we can always chase what we love. Heck, people tell me, do what you love and the money will follow… at times, I think I am still waiting, but at times, I realize I am not doing what I love too…

again, thanks for the post and your commitment to follow-up comments. great read.

stay adventurous, Craig

Jason says:

Thanks for your comments Craig, I tend to agree with your statement. When we talk about “doing what we love” I assume you mean doing what we love for a job. That’s where probably 99% of the people in this world struggle, and for good reason. I hate to sound cynical, but many don’t have the ability to chase their dreams or choose different careers. They are stuck farming their entire lives and hate it, but it feeds their family and keeps them alive. They are doing what they love in terms of taking care of their family, but maybe the specific job isn’t what they love. I am going to look at my life in that way for now on. Sometimes we have to do things we dislike for a living in order to have peace elsewhere. And that peace is greater than the lack of joy we feel when we work towards that peace.

I am better off than most of the people in this world. I have a higher education, some money in the bank and a healthy family. That affords me luxuries beyond what most in this world have. I need to make more money right now. I have the ability to go get a job and do so. I think it’s time I do that. I do love blogging, but I love my family more. So, I guess I will be doing what I love. Took me a bit of time to figure that out.

Jason says:

Ironically, this article was written before all the hoopla! It was the craziest travel blogging week ever. But, hey, I guess it also shows some passion in our travel blogging community.

Thanks Abi, I will keep the doors open.

Abi says:

Hope events over the last few days aren’t behind this…that would be a terrible shame. Take a break if you can – or at least leave with doors left open, bridges unburnt, clichés on hand in case you want to come back. People are clearly interested as you can tell from the comments!

J & A!
Thank for your honesty in respect to where you are at in this stage of your adventure. In an effort to not repeat things that have surely been said above, I’ll keep this (somewhat) short and sweet with an anecdote.
Nearly a year ago now, I returned home from my own RTW trip with 200+ video posts and mild blog traffic (nowhere near as high as you). I was burnt out. As you know how LONG it takes to edit a video and having pumped out 3-4 a week I dreaded the thought of editing another travel video. So, I took a break. I did some stuff here and there, but in almost a full year I’ve edited only about 10 videos. I certainly got some slack from people, my numbers dropped some – but, the hiatus was SO necessary. I’m now feeling more energized and excited about what I’m doing and have some fresh ideas.
Moral of the story – if you are feeling burnt out, tired and frustrated with it – give it a rest. If you don’t, I promise you it will only get worse. Rejuvenate yourself, try some other projects, make some cash and then take it a day at a time.
I’ve followed you two since the beginning and feel very fortunate to have gotten to know you over the past couple years. You’re two of my travel blog brother and sisters and I am thankful for all the support and help you’ve provided me.
Take the rest you need and whenever it feels right or if you find something equally as special, I (like many others I’m sure) will be here to support you and root you on!

And like your mother said – write that book! Who cares if a publisher signs you for it. Self publish (it’s so easy…and I don’t mean ebook). If you have something you actually want to write about, do it for you.

Your friend,
Backpack With Brock

Jason says:

Thanks Brock, and I have enjoyed our gchats. It’s great establishing relationships with other travel bloggers. We share ideas, can relate and can also bitch together. We all need to do that stuff.

I don’t think a book is in my calling, but I will definitely get back to our video footage. Producing the videos from our trip is more for Aracely and I than anyone else. We want to have those memories documented and we can’t wait to recall those adventures.

I wish you success with your new project, a rest was obviously good for you.

Karl says:

Dude! Look the comments you have on this post…I can only dream to have this many people interested in my words! You’ve been extremely successful, and I’m sure you’ve helped a lot of people with there travels. My blog isn’t necessarily a travel blog, but again, I can only dream that mine is one day as successful as yours. You can’t stop blogging yet, because I just recently discovered your blog! Good luck with your decision. Very detailed post!

Karl

Jason says:

Karl, this is true, there are a lot of comments on this post, but this post was written for travel bloggers, versus my normal audience, which are non-travel bloggers. You have to look at my articles that are geared toward my target audience and then you will notice that there aren’t 100 comments. Those are the articles that matter. My videos matter, but I don’t think any of those have over 10 comments. That is what matters.

I won’t stop blogging yet, but it will become a hobby again, which means less time on social media and less posts. Welcome to the travel blogging community and I hope you get a lot out of these comments.

Melvin says:

If it would be easy, everybody would do it (full time). 😉

Jermibia says:

All very good points. You would think in an industry as large as the travel one there would be plenty of money to go around. Competition is tough. I practice SEO on a daily basis. Use tools such as OnlyWire to help automate my system along with the Automatic Backlink Creator for my wordpress blog. But will all this hard work pay off? Time will tell.
Thanks for sharing.

Jason says:

Time will tell, but if you have time now, start taking our advice and don’t rely on your blog as the sole income. Your chances succeeding under that premise are slim to none. Decide what your strengths are, decide what your product is and get working on that now!

Simon Lee says:

Hi Jason, I agree with you. Money is an issue when you started to put aside your full time job and turns into a full time blogger. However, I could see that you have great potential in expressing your personal thoughts. Just don’t give up! Travel is relaxing, pampering, and most important to look the world in other perspective.

Karen Bryan says:

Jason, I am in the same boat as you. I need to earn a living from blogging as it’s my full time job. Press trips are great perk but don’t necessarily earn income. I’ve written a post on my thoughts about the future of travel blogging:
http://www.europealacarte.co.uk/blog/2011/03/29/blogging-business/

I began to take SEO more seriously after a friend asked if I wanted to have a interesting blog or make money. I said I didn’t see them as mutually exclusive; now I’m not so sure.

I work far too many hours for the income that I make and I didn’t become a travel blogger to spend so much time doing SEO & selling ads.

My current stab at a “solution” is to start a personal finance lifestyle blog, Help Me To Save, to have a change from travel and also use all the knowledge I’ve gained travel blogging on a new site from the very beginning.

Jason says:

It sounds like we are sailing together. I started some blogs based on the same reason you did. I am curious to see where they lead. But, they are more specific and more related to things I feel passionate about.

Glenn Dixon says:

From my observations, almost everyone who makes any sort of ‘passive’ income outside of a traditional job does so by telling their readers how to write about making money. In other words, it’s a big circle jerk. A much smaller percentage use an entrepreneurial approach where actual products or services are involved. This also applies to travel blogging.

For example, the only ‘pitch’ on this blog is “sharing our travels” – so that tells me your blog is something interesting to read or watch. My own blog has the same problem: it exhorts the reader to “Escape Normal, Explore the World” but this invitation is not followed up with any real how-to article or guide or ebook. So we aren’t putting much of a ‘value proposition’ out there. And we aren’t solving ‘real problems.’

I believe that travel bloggers need to focus on a problem then provide that solution, then blog the heck out of it. Monetization should occur from products (ebooks, instruction courses, etc.) or affiliate marketing. There’s a reason they call Adsense “Webmaster Welfare.”

Any way, that is what *I* intend to do. We’ve just finished a 6-month trip through the U.S. living in a pop-up camper. We’ve blogged and our audience has grown, but I’m going to use the next couple of months for a redesign and refocus before we head to Central and South America with just a couple of backpacks…

Jason says:

Glenn, I think you have a good grasp of monetization. Solving problems makes money. I wish you success.

Anthony says:

Hey Jason, Sorry to hear that you are feeling the way that you do. I think as a blogger we have all been there at one stage or another. You start to question your reasons for doing what you are doing. Your blog was one of our inspirations when we started and the reason we got into blogging in the first place. So that you for that mate.

Maybe you should look at your other passions you have in your life and create new blogs around them. Have you thought about travel video training? Maybe it is something we could do together 😉 Maybe you should be blogging about politics as it seems you are extremely passionate about that.

I have considered blogging full-time once getting back at home, but I think there will be a need to work part-time as well as blogging. It seems that the people making money are doing so through products or affiliate sales. Relying on advertising for income is pretty hard to sustain and may be short lived once Google finds a way around it.

I wish you the best of luck with your job searching and i hope that you continue to create you videos from time to time – as this was our main form of inspiration for South America mate.

Chin up buddy 🙂

Jason says:

Thanks Anthony for your compliments and support. I look at your travel videos and think, “Man, that’s what I wanted to do.” But, I didn’t, I chased the traffic and that usually means, letting videos go. You guys have a good niche with your videos and I hope the best for you.

I am currently blogging on FailingCivilization.com, which is where my social, political and environmental anger resides. I don’t talk about it over here on my travel sites, because the topic is too far disconnected from travel. You had mentioned the travel video training before I believe, and I thought about it, putting the idea on the shelf and never blew the dust off again. I felt as though I needed to get back to doing videos if I was going to be consulting on it, and that wasn’t happening as I chased the traffic numbers. Travel video is exciting to me, I enjoy it a lot. It’s time consuming because I try my best to make the entertaining through editing. Cutting down 5hrs of hiking footage to a 7 minute entertaining video isn’t easy, as you probably know. I think it takes a keen eye for entertainment and a lot of editing. I am still sitting on over 75hrs of video footage. I will get back to that when I no longer care about traffic, which is as soon as I find another job.

Working part-time when you return is an excellent idea. I think it takes some of the income pressure off, which allows your blog to grow the way you want it too. Most comments here suggest that following your heart is better than following the traffic. We hope that income will come eventually if we just do things we want. Its good to be aware that income won’t always come just because we are following our heart, but following your heart is the only way to go.

You are right, we need to look beyond advertising and links for income, it’s just not enough and it may not be sustainable. Thanks guys for stopping by and great job on your travel videos and site redesign.

Mara says:

I’m late to the party here, but (as you now certainly know) you are far from alone. I don’t have to earn any income from my blog if I don’t want to – my family can live off of (and travel) using my husband’s earnings from a job he loves. But I’ve struggled from the beginning because I’ve never wanted to be a professional hobbiest, which is how I often feel. OTOH, I do really love blogging and usually feel energized by it, even as I admit that it is a cruel and unrelenting mistress.

I agree with those here (like Melanie and Spencer and Matt) who recommend trying to figure out how to leverage your blog and the things you like about it to make a living. It is my intention to use mine to develop a writing career, because that is what I love and am trained to do. From seeing how you are online, you clearly have leadership and organizational skills and also an eye for video. I wonder in this Wild West of the Interwebs if there is a yet -to-be-thought-of career that encompasses those things?

I respect and admire you for your candor and passion and look forward to seeing what you do next.

Jason says:

Thanks Mara, I now acknowledge that I did approach blogging drastically different once I decidedly turned it into a business. Although I will never know what would have happened if I choose a different route and stayed the course with the videos. But that’s what makes life so exciting, we have to do it, to find out. You approach of leveraging your blog for your writing career is a good one. I will turn my blog back into a hobby, focus on the things I care most about, videos, and my social issues blog, and see where that takes it.

I was into article writing before I engaged into travel blogging. My original intention then in both fields were just to give vent to my, modesty aside, writing prowess developed in my school, college and university days. But things had changed since I involved myself into travel blogging. From just an original hobby-type engagement, my passion for the undertaking had slowly developed. Your observation about relationships within the travel blogging community are valid. There were instances when I got affected with comments of other prominent travel bloggers who were not comfortable with my writing and SEO style, but the support of my other equally renowned contemporaries as shown in their comments in my posts had kept my spirits high. Taking a cue from you, I should not be affected with other travel bloggers’ observations and just continue writing about my travel experiences. At any rate, I have a stable source of income to support my family and would consider income from travel blogging, if there be in the future, as an added bonus, so to speak. Candidly Jason, I hate to see you go. You are my idol and inspiration in my 10 months of travel blogging. I enrolled in the Travel Blog Success after clicking your sidebar widget, and since then got hooked to inserting photos and videos in my blog. However, I understand your predicament and I myself am not sure if I’ll stay within the travel bloggers’ world, hence, have a good time.

Jason says:

Edelito, I thank you for your kind words. There are times when we do need to ignore the observations of others and write what we believe is best, but as witness to this post, there are also times when we should take all their suggestions in and digest them. I believe we can tell when observations are useful and when they aren’t. I hope TBS helped you become a better travel blogger, and you feel you got what you wanted out of it. It was definitely useful for us in early 2010. I enjoy the Travel Blogging community, although ironically in the last 2 days I have had a person and a website really agitate me. It’s the first time in 2.5yrs someone has driven me to speak out in anger. Oh well, overall, I think it’s still full of great people. The comments on this post alone show how helpful this community can be. I wish you success Edelito. And if you already have a stable source of income, continue to approach your blog as a hobby and do what you want to do. See where that leads before making any dramatic changes.

Sasha says:

Jason I can really identify with this post, infact I wrote a post just recently about my own internal battle whether or not to continue travel blogging. It sounds to me like you’re burnt out (like I am), maybe what you need is to take a break and reevaluate your priorities maybe you realise the passions no longer there and it’s better for you and your readers to let it go or maybe you will find something that reignites the travel blogging flame. And the great thing about having a loyal readership is even if you go on hiatus you will find most of them will still be there when you pick it all back up again.

The things that I’ve learned in nearly 3 years of blogging is that
1. It’s incredibly time consuming and without passion it’s extremely difficult to not only stay motivated but to stay enthusiastic and not get fatigued.
2. There isn’t that much money in travel blogging and it’s certainly not a steady income, what most of these ppl earning big bucks blogging really are is online entrepreneurs with their foot in so much more then travel blogging. Anyone can be a travel blogger but not anyone can be a successful online entrepreneur!

Good luck with everything, I hope you discover the path that will make you feel both happy and content! 🙂

Jason says:

Sasha, that’s an excellent way to put it. Let me state that again for us all,
“Anyone can be a travel blogger but not anyone can be a successful online entrepreneur!”
I like that opinion a lot. We need to me more than writers, photographers or videographers. If it’s a business, like mine was, we need to manage all aspects of a business. That is SEO, promoting, accounting, tech support and social media marketing. That’s a lot more than just travel blogging. Travel blogging for income as a business involves all of those practices. I am not as much burnt out as I am out time. When time runs out, you look back and evaluate what you did, what you could have done better and specifically what you did wrong. The truth is, we never know the answer to what would have happened had we choose the other route, but we can ask for feedback and ponder it.

I saved up enough money to live without earning income for a year. I had to be making a certain amount of money after 1 year. I needed to be reaching a certain amount of traffic and social reach in order to have great promotional power to advertisers. I had set these goals. After falling short at each milestone marker, I changed my focus. I began to chase the numbers, the traffic, ultimately the money. I stopped the videos, accepted lots of guest posts and began networking with bloggers to find more sale opportunities. These things took the fun out of blogging and took me a direction I really didn’t want to go in initially. We initially started this blog to produce videos. We weren’t great writers and didn’t have a desire to be. It was about videos. When you don’t have to worry about income, you can focus on what gives you the most pleasure. When income becomes necessary, your priorities change, your goals change, and it’s not as easy as saying, “Just follow your passions. It will all work out.”

Thanks for your support Sasha, and I hope you work through the burnt out feeling.

I read this yesterday, but let it sit on me for a little bit. I definitely understand where you’re coming from and feel like as the comments have shown, that you’re not the only one thinking about this. I could never just run a travel blog or travel blogs for money. I don’t even make money off my own blog now as it is. I could if I wanted, but I’ve chosen instead to use it as somewhat of a live portfolio and use it as a platform for other possibilities. I write for magazines, blogs for online travel agencies, manage blogs and social media for travel companies, and write mobile content. Some of that work has been a result of my blog. I’m finding that the people that are being successful at it are the ones that have multiple streams of revenue. However, at the end of you the day, I think you should do what you want to do.
Love the honesty here and pleasure meeting you two in San Francisco.

Jason says:

And we also enjoyed meeting you, Spencer and other wonderful Internet travel people. The people I have met along this journey have been awesome. Thanks for making that effort to join us at the Bus Stop.

That’s the way to go. Use the blog as a platform, portfolio, product launcher, whatever, but use it as a tool. The odds of a travel blog obtaining success through the pure method of writing is slim. Still possible, but slim. That’s my take from all of this. We need other projects, other jobs, other specialties or other skills to utilize in order to earn a survivable income. I am going to take a break, get back into the job force and see where blogging as a hobby takes me. Thanks for the support Spencer.

Annette says:

I have obessively pondered this post for the last 24 hours & I want to say thank you. I don’t believe another article has had so much impact on the direction of my blog.

Wanting so badly to break into the travel blogging community made me stray from the true passion I had in the beginning and turned blogging into a networking, tweeting, Alexa ranking & FB fan competition. All of which took away from the simplicity of what makes me happy; having new experiences and inspiring people to step out of their box.

You never know what will hit you in the heart and this did.
Wishing you the best in whichever direction you should choose.

Jason says:

Annette, I am so glad this article and it’s comments from the community, have helped steer you back to your passion. I did that… networking, tweeting, Alexa ranking & FB fan competition. And it didn’t quite get me to where I wanted to go. That’s not to say I would have achieved my goals following my passion with videos and photography either. It’s just to say that, for many of us, the ‘other stuff’ isn’t fun, and it can take away from the feeling you had when you decided to blog. As long as income isn’t something you are entirely dependent on from your blog, I suggest doing what you enjoy most and seeing where that takes you, your blog and your readers. If that doesn’t work out in the end, at least you did it your way. Made me think of Frank Sinatra – I did it, my way.

Marc Passion says:

Everyone has said it all.

I haven’t posted in ages and to be honest I don’t really care! Right at the moment I’m over the excessive ‘like this’, stumble that, retweet this. Does it really help you and is it just bloggers commenting on each others work? Is this reducing income potential? That’s my thoughts at the moment. But at the same time none of it affects me. I work in mining around the world with a roster of 6-8 weeks of work followed by 3-4 weeks off. I earn good cash and my blog when I’m bothered gets updates because I was passionate enough to write a post. I suggest try seeking work around the world which allows you to travel and not rely on your site. Good luck!

Jason says:

Marc, it comes down to what you require from your blog. If you require income from it, then you can’t just update when you feel like doing it. That’s the dilema with many travel bloggers seeking an income. It changes our approach, it turns it into a business, and it impacts the passion. When someone has a job mining around the world, designing websites or consulting on SEO, it’s alleviates that pressure on the blog and it can be completely fun, just as your blog seems to serve you. By the way, that sounds like a very interesting job and lifestyle.

Chandra says:

Hi Jason,

Thanks so much for this post. At the end of it, I heaved a big “sigh”. You sound like how I feel in my day job, which is exactly the opposite of how I feel when blogging. I’ve had a travel blog for over 4 years and didn’t even make the content public until a few weeks ago. It just wasn’t worth it to me to try to monetize something and I didn’t have the energy or time to promote it anyways – I was literally a project 100% for family, friends and me.

That said, when I find myself facing frustrations in my “real world” job, I found that trying to become successful at when I love has in itself been more rewarding. Yea, it would be really nice if my blog got popular, but for now it is more of a personal goal to create a site that I am proud of and that I’ll have forever – its a manifestation of something creative.
If my blog ever becomes successful, it will feel more like a job to me, and then I won’t be so blissfully ignorant of potential failure (see, I have no chance of “failure” now, because I’ve never really tried! Brillian!). I think you’re bound to love your hobby less as soon as you try to make it your job. I guess some people truly love what they do, but it seems as though forcing anything creative for monetary gain is sure to be detrimental.

Thanks again though, I truly appreciate your honesty and p.s., I love your blog, too 😉

Chandra

Jason says:

Thanks for the compliment Chandra. You have it right. There is a great fear with turning a passion or hobby into a job, and rightfully so I think. And it seems, you think too. We loved the blog while we were traveling. We weren’t relying on it for income at the time. We have ideas of income, but we were traveling off money we had saved and put aside.

I still love my blog and recognize all the work I put into it over the years. It will always be here, but as hobby now.

Angela says:

I too sometimes freak out after SEO and traffic strategies, but I also realize I don’t always do it for the numbers. I work as a freelance travel writer, and this is keeping me very busy, but I also update my travel blog because I love doing it. Saying I do it only for my personal pleasure would be reductive, I love when I receive comments and feedback from my readers, I love seeing the stats going over 1500 hits per day, but mainly I keep my blog because I love writing. I talked about this on a facebook group with Evelyn Hannon of Journey Woman, and I fully agreed with her when she advised to put passion before SEO rules, readers sense it, they certainly understand when we like the topic we are writing about or when it’s only a product packed with carefully researched keywords.

Jason says:

It important to have a good understanding of the role of your blog and you seem to have that. I believe I struggled with that.

I always keep an open mind about the varying types of travel blogs out there and the various ways to make money with them. Some do connect with their readers and other’s chase google search ranks. Both, work, both can be considered travel blogging and both are acceptable to me.

Yes, if your goal is to succeed through a relationship with your readers, than we must write that way, but that’s not the only way. Some view the the “Things to do in…” articles as crap. I am guessing writers more than anyone else view them as crap, and that’s a good argument if you are searching for good writing.

When I search for things to do in San Francisco, I type it in Google Search and am basically looking for a simple to understand list. The writing style or level of writing is not important to me. My point is that there is an audience for that, I am one of them.

We need to identify our own goals and style and make sure we capitalize on them, but it’s also good to know that there isn’t a right and wrong style.

Jason,

Thank you for putting such a personal and honest piece out into circulation. The story and experiences you share are important and, I believe, can and will serve as a reality check for anyone just starting a travel blog.

I really do wish you the best of luck in breaking through your current internal struggle. My only two cents would be to maintain your honesty and transparency throughout. As you can see through the outpouring of responses to this piece, people are listening, and they like connecting directly with you – the personal behind all the “Top Ten…” and “How to…” posts. You have a voice and an audience who cares… Just stay true to yourself and focus on doing things that make you smile at the end of the day.

If I should have any new, creative ideas, I’ll be sure to share them with you, in case they help.

Best,

Jim

Jason says:

Thanks Jim. My intent was, as you noted, to have this article serve as a guide or a reality check for those looking to start a travel blog for INCOME. And let’s be clear, that it is possible, but there are many lessons to learn from my personal journey.

I appreciate your kind words and hope to continue working with bloggers in the future.

Lisa says:

Totally agree on the ‘using it as a platform’ idea Jason. That’s basically what my blog has become over the past 5 years. I was already a broadcast Journalist when I started, so that helped with contacts and freelancing. But many interesting jobs have come to me through and because of my blog. So, while the blog itself (ads, etc) makes me around the average you stated, it’s all the other freelance that comes through it – albeit inconsistently. It is definitely a larger, more diffused market now than when I first started and I do ‘feel’ that, but I do continue to use my blog as a sort of nucleus from which other work/jobs stem from. I’m doing a lot (freelance writing, photography, producing, speaking, consulting) and seeing what sticks.

Like Melanie, I cut back to one post a week when I started focusing on other freelance and business ideas.

I think since I (and I think you?) were both full time previously, also getting used to the general insecurity of a freelance lifestyle takes time and patience. I am loving life and yes, making less than half of what I used to in Television. But I am lucky to live frugally and simply and see where it takes me for now. **And love your mom’s support. Reminds me of mine! A NJ thing?! 🙂

Jason says:

Thanks Lisa, yes parental support is always good! And NJ will always remain great!
Your strategy in approaching work is one I support and one that I think we are seeing, from the comments here, is the most successful. The blog is a tool, but not your lone source of income. The blog allows you to reach more clients and then use your other skills to earn a living.

Our living style has changed dramatically since we sold most of our stuff back in 2009 to take our trip. We still live without many ‘things’ and I don’t think that will ever change.

I think it will be harder for me to get used to going back to work, rather than getting used to working for myself. We’ll have to see.

Sally says:

Maybe it’s the former creative writing major in me or possibly the current English teacher in me or maybe the blogger-who-just-blogs-even-if-I’m-not-making-a-single-penny in me, but I am pained every time I see a top blogger claim to be a “bad writer” and “not enjoy writing.”
I hope for your sake and for the blogging world’s sake that what you’re saying really isn’t true. (Just like when I say, “I hate watching crappy TV” and then proceed to watch every single episode of “Ghost Whisperer” known to man… in one sitting.) I hope, like everyone says, you just need a break.
There are enough people out there who are ready to bad mouth bloggers, to accuse us of lacking integrity and talent and take what we do less than seriously. The last thing we need are fellow bloggers (ahem, TOP bloggers) saying, “Yep, you got me there. I suck at this!”
So if it’s true, like really, really true, and you do hate writing and you really ARE a bad writer, then stop.
Do it for your fellow bloggers. Do it for all the former creative writing majors. Do it for your high school English teacher. (I’m not sure if you’re aware of this but every time you say “I hate writing” an English teacher dies. For real.)
But, most of all, do it for yourself.

Jason says:

We absolutely do need a break. I understand you feelings about trying to build integrity for bloggers and fighting many perceptions out there, but I think it’s also important to know that bloggers are not all good. In fact, there is no requirement to be a good writer, good photographer or good anything. Blogging is open to anyone and that also makes it special.

The traditional journalist was completely different. If you were writing for print, you most likely needed to show you were trained or had a certain level of skill. When we blog, we sometimes blog for ourselves.

People will flock to those bloggers they enjoy. Some of them may be bad writers, while some of them will have excellent writing skills. Some fo them will be entertaining and others will raw / unpolished. Bloggers cover all spectrums of skills and personalities and I would prefer to keep it that way.

I can be a poor writer and still be a blogger that possesses integrity, professionalism and marketability. I am not a fan of writing, yet I do enjoy having a blog, because it’s my tool for sharing my thoughts with others. On 2 Backpackers I share mostly photography. I typically share a location with my readers through photo essays and minimal text. I enjoy videos the most, but as explained, they aren’t the best for traffic.

I am forced to write, because it’s still the preferred medium for communication online. If I would have made this into a video, it would have rarely been viewed and I wouldn’t have been able to share this message with as many travel bloggers.

I am honest when I say, I don’t enjoy writing and I don’t think I am good at it. But, I also don’t feel like that is the measurable for a good blogger. I don’t think they are one in the same.

Matt says:

I think you guys have a huge resource of knowledge about South America and your video skills are second to none and like Dave said, I don’t think you have really reached your full potential. Maybe you should revamp your site to focus on those two core competencies and you might find yourself not feel like your swimming against the tide.

Jason says:

I do agree we need to focus on videos, that’s where the idea of our travel blog spawned. I will get back to creating videos, maybe one a month, they are extremely time consuming. But, the fact that we won’t be chasing traffic or setting weekly content goals means…. who cares how long it takes! Thanks for stopping by Matt.

Michael says:

You know what…. I hate to say it but after meeting you guys the other day I had a feeling that this was on the cards.
From speaking with you and Aracely i can tell you that you truly have something to contribute to the traveling community and you have the passion and conviction to do it. (you wouldn’t have built such a strong following if it wasn’t the case)
It is pretty clear that you are feeling deflated from not achieving the goals that you had set out along with being burnt out from working so heavily in your business rather than on it.
Take a break for a while….get away from the travel blogging noise and I think you will start to find some clarity.
Feel free to give me a buzz anytime if you need an ear.

Jason says:

Thanks Michael, and it was a pleasure hanging out and chatting in San Francisco.

I am going to take a break, or at least attempt to spend less time on the blogs, although that hasn’t happened since I wrote this post. Business is coming in like crazy these last few days. I guess the advertisers haven’t read this post. Shhhh, don’t tell them. I am definitely going to begin my job search and return blogging to a hobby state. I have other blogs that interest me more, but I have videos on this blog to get back to. Thanks for offering to listen, I appreciate it.

Don Faust says:

Jason – you’ve put a lot of work into this, and I like reading your posts. Unfortunately, like most readers, I’ll probably never buy anything.

Durant on Facebook Travel Bloggers mentioned the guy who runs the Turkey info site. I can understand why sites like that do well, despite the fact it is butt-ugly – he has spent his life writing travel books and is an expert in Turkey travel, so his information is probably better than most. I would probably review his site thoroughly if I were traveling to Turkey. He probably doesn’t even have many return visitors – but he has a great niche that must get a lot of Google traffic.

Personally, I like reading the more personal sites or tip sites that have a personality behind it. Even the top personal-oriented travel blogs (i.e. – not strictly informational) will struggle to get people to buy things. I think regular readers are attracted to reading about adventures and looking at great photos – it doesn’t mean they have any motivation to buy anything. Even some of the top blogs you mention I think will fall short on the numbers required to make what I would call a good living. That’s not to say they will not get there – I hope they do – I just think the numbers have to go way up to prove worth to sponsors or magnify whatever model they have. I also think internet traffic is different than say 100,000 people who have a purchased subscription to Travel Alaska or something like that. I think the odds are probably good that a larger percentage of these subscribers may actually go to Alaska, and buy something from some of the magazine’s advertisers.

The ones that I know ARE making money are using their blogs as a catalyst for other work, such as selling blogging books, travel books, consulting, travel agency, professional writing, etc. It’s a tough gig – I’m convinced you have to carve a niche.

Jason says:

Don, I am on the same page as you. When I say product, I mean everything. If you end up writing a novel, consult on SEO, build a subscription self help site, build your site around affiliate sales, speak at business gatherings, consult on online tourism… to me that is all a product. But, again, it’s the blog that gets you recognized. I think in order to have a better chance at succeeding we need to have the goods that accompany and follow our blog.

Don Faust says:

Next time we both are in Philly, I am buying you a cheesesteak (if you leave the vegetarian diet aside for a day).

Jason says:

lol, thanks Don, much appreciated.

Jackie Rose says:

Great post. Thank you for sharing so candidly. I started traveling in 2004 and didn’t bring anything electronic, not even a digital camera. Since then I’ve been to 30 countries over six continents and I’ve striven to continue traveling with no electronics. I enjoy solitary travel, just me and my pack, no connection to others unless our eyes meet across the table, on the trail, etc.

With all that traveling and some of the volunteer work I’ve done, I’ve been asked to travel blog a few times. I was even offered a few paid travel blog jobs with some of the companies you mentioned. I never said yes to the offers or started my own travel blog because of everything you wrote. I’d wake at 2am to start a hike but not to blog…

Happy travels and thanks again 🙂

I feel your pain. After years as a travel journalist, I thought the same as you. Now, although I enjoy the freedom my travel blog brings me, it’s part of a larger business model that includes other streams of income, guidebooks & more. And I think 90% of the bloggers out there aren’t starting out with any idea of what they’re doing. Think that makes it easier for the pros?

Jason says:

I think when a travel blogger decides to blog for income, it’s good to know what has worked, what is working and what the expectations are. If we can get that message out more clearly, I think it can help ease disappointment.

I don’t know if it’s the fact that many bloggers don’t know what they are doing. The truth is, bloggers don’t need to know what they are doing. It’s when it becomes a business, that different skills are needed. I think those at the top of the travel blogging industry are there because they are good business people and good travel bloggers. There are a plethora of hot-to-travel blog sites out there. I just think a few are really good at it. Many are calling it a new industry, so I guess the competition will grow as the industry grows.

Laur says:

There’s a lot to be commented on in this post, and much of it I relate to… both the pros of traveling blogging and the cons.

But I think that sticking with it far outweighs the cons. Serious travelers and travel bloggers know about the good travel blogs, ya know? It becomes more about the community and sharing of resources.

I think one of the more untapped ways to benefit from travel blogging are the sponsorships. We get really stuck in trying to come up with ways to sell products and advertising to others, but there is so much to do that is even more win-win. For instance, this past summer i went on a sponsored road trip all around the US with 4 other bloggers completely paid for b/c of my travel-related content and social media presence (which isn’t even as good as yours by the way but I’m working to get there!! :).

Because it really works like this – you want income so you can travel more, right?! So, why not go the other route and seek out the travel through your blog. Maybe you’ve done this a lot so far, but there is a lot of room for creativity here and out of the box ideas!

Anyway, don’t stop travel blogging!!!! All bloggers face the burnout now and then, but it’s worth it to push through 🙂

– LAUR

Jason says:

Laur, thanks for pushing me to look at the positive side and to seek out opportunities.

You are right, there are sponsorships out there that can pay for your travel, but they don’t pay you. That’s where the dilema exists for travel bloggers that seek income.

I am currently not in a position where I can travel indefinitely. Traveling like that doesn’t pay the bills of a home with a family in it. I hope that we can get to the point where a we receive income for attending a press trip or sponsored travel. That is a more sustainable business model.

At that point, PR companies will seek out the best travel bloggers for what they need. It’s sort of like being paid to be in a movie. If you are an extra, you don’t get paid, but they also don’t care about your acting skills. When you reach the level of a paid actor, that means you are being chosen explicitly. There is a greater investment and therefore a more scrutinized search for the actor. When a PR company decides they really want ‘Travel Blogger A’ to represent them and their destination and that travel blogger says I charge for that service, things will change.

It’s tough to say no, but until that happens we will continue to not get paid. It’s tricky and there is much more to it, but traveling for free is not the solution for travel blogger success.

I am not saying it’s not fun, but I am saying it’s not a paying job.

Phil says:

Jason,
As others have said here, I can empathize. I just read a similar post recently on Keith’s site (traveling-savage.com). I have 3 blogs and I supplement the income from those with freelance writing. All told, it is enough for me to live and travel in West Africa. I am in the states now and I am splitting time between my mom’s house and friends’ couches around the east coast until I go back. I would not be able to afford an apartment in washington, dc (where I was living before I started traveling) with my current income.

I do think your blog is a huge asset, though, even if you are not profiting from it as much as you would like. Like Caz said, have you looked into consulting or speaking? Alexis Grant (alexisgrant.com) is a traveler and writer, but she makes a good chunk of her income doing social media and blogging consultation. While it would be ideal to have your blog earning the income you are after, a consulting job similar to Alexis’ would still let you travel and have a lot of freedom with how you structure your life. Whatever you do, I just want to let you know that you have built an awesome blog and I’m a big fan of both the words and the media.

Jason says:

Thanks for the compliments and suggestions Phil. I think you and I have approached blogging very similarly. Multiple blogs in multiple niches trying to find one that takes off. But, you freelance, which is smart to do.

I will have to think hard about what I can offer in terms of my experience with SEO and Social Media. That stuff does interest me, but I see most positions are for unpaid interns. That’s doesn’t help me out too much. I will continue to search and use this blog as a foundation of past successes.

Phil says:

As far as the SEO/social media stuff, I wasn’t necessarily talking about getting a job with a firm or at a company. I was thinking more along the lines of freelance consulting. As far as I know, Alexis, who I mentioned in the other comment, approached many of her clients out of the blue and while I’m sure she had many dead ends, she’s been able to turn it into a $2,000/month side business and it is a part-time job for her. You’ve got major credibility in the areas of blogging and social media and you could easily consult with a company or even coach an individual and help them get followers and build up their brand.

Jason says:

Oh, and I read Keith’s article last night and couldn’t believe that we both had simliar thoughts the same day. And he is an awesome writer.

Jeremy says:

Thanks for writing that. I like your honesty, it’s as motivating as it is discouraging. You’re right about the timeline and I’ve had that 2-3 year plan in my back pocket from day one so we’ll see how it goes.

I’m not making a dime but i love traveling, writing and planning future travels and I hope someone out there uses my words to help them travel.

I think your next article should be why you shouldn’t stop…

Jason says:

I like that Jeremy! Made me smile. Hey, if you are able to do it and you can stay happy, then you have no worries, just keep truck’in!

thanks for your honesty Jason and expressing what we all feel. Maybe you should take a break for awhile to give yourself space to think about what you really want to do.

It is difficult as there are so many bloggers and when you compare yourself to them then it can do you in. Focus on what it is you want to achieve and where you see yourself being in 2 years time. That might help you plan more in regards to what you can do.

I think we are starting to see changes. I know it takes time and it is frustrating waiting but I’d hate to see you quit only a few months or year or so away from that..

What about other ways you can launch of this blog like speaking or consulting? You have enough knowledge to be able to do that

Jason says:

I often discount my experiences in regards to blogging or traveling long-term. Not sure why, it’s just something that I have not felt very confident about. I guess I need to change that. It’s always good looking forward and setting goals, of course that is also why I pondering this current situation. I have not reached my goals. I have to find a way to stay in the game while balancing another job and still blogging. At the same time I don’t want to find myself working 80hrs a week with no real life. It’s a tough one to work out, but It will have to be addressed. Thanks for commenting Caz. And congrats again on the new family member.

Jenna says:

I also appreciated your honesty. Certainly many of us can relate to this post. I enjoy blogging because it is a creative outlet for me. Sometimes I feel discouraged when the numbers aren’t there, but I try to remember that that’s not the reason I started it in the first place, and the (non-travel-blogging) readers who occasionally comment that they’re inspired makes me feel good. I have 2 small kids and a career, so I can’t put enough time into this to make much money, but that’s okay as long as I don’t compare myself to the ones who are getting all the free trips.
I totally agree with your powerful statement– “travel is not important.” I sometimes ask myself why I’m not working to help other people in a much more meaningful way through my blog. It’s something I plan to focus on more in my writing.

Jason says:

Jenna, we both feel the exact same way about what’s important in life and the dilema of trying to make the most of it. I struggle with that constantly. I started FailingCivilization.com which is to satisfy my obsession with the world being a complete mess. It’s not a proactive blog yet, but maybe I can make something out it. As part of a new focus to be more proactive, we are heading to Washington DC on November 6th, to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline. Life is so short, it’s hard to find what it is we should be doing. We want to have no regrets, but that’s a very difficult thing to accomplish.

Diana says:

Very insightful post … you make some very thought-provoking posts. I guess my take is — is travel blogging is something you are passionate about, you do it for you and find another way to make money. I would LOVE to make enough money to live off of blogging, but I know I’m no AlmostFearless, etc. and that will likely not happen. I think you should keep up your site. It’s wonderful. Just, think about what you want to get out of it.

Jason says:

I think you are right Diana. It should stay here. I have tons of video footage and photographs I have never used. I can see myself coming home from work and spending some late nights with a beer in one hand while I post my first photo for that week. Several posts per week won’t happen, but it doesn’t mean it still can’t exist.

Erik says:

I’ve been travel blogging for 13 years now. I love it more than ever. Take out the income factor completely, don’t try to make any money at it. Travel blogging is a creative pursuit, and not a financial pursuit. In these 13 years, travel blogging has really shaped my career. But that was all unintentional. My experience after talking with hundreds of other travel bloggers over the years is that those who do it for the love of travel and who are compelled to engage their audience are the ones who keep going. I say, keep writing, keep posting and keep developing your blogs – just forget the short term money.

Jason says:

Erik, that is very inspirational, and has much truth to it, but the unfortunately reality is that I do require money in my current situation.

If I was out traveling the world with no worries in my personal life, I could do it. My intention is not be a pessimist, but at the same time, we must realize we all have unique situations that require different approaches. I enjoy traveling more than blogging and am positive that full-time travel will find Aracely and I again some day. At this moment in time however, we are prioritizing, and traveling and travel blogging are no longer top on that list.

It’s difficult finding something you love doing and making a living doing it. And then when you begin to approach that passion like a business, the passion vanishes.

Gerard says:

It’s always great to see the other side of travel blogging as we are still pretty new with our blog (about 2 months in). We’re keeping in mind that we’re not in it for the money with this blog.. That keeps away much of the stress. We’ll be lucky if we get a few comped hostel rooms or activities along the way. 🙂
The thing is I’ll know I’ll probably be back working in the tech industry or perhaps starting another business. But travel blogging to me doesn’t seem like a lucrative business trying to live in the US like you said. And being that I have other dependents, more $ is a necessary evil.

Jason says:

It doesn’t sound like I bursted your bubble with this post Gerard. Sounds like you have a good perspective of travel blogging. That’s healthy. I hope you blog does grow, because it can be a very exciting feeling to see something you completely control evolve in to something bigger and better. Good luck!

Fabio says:

Hey Jason,
here’s another comment from another fellow travel-blogger :). I appreciated very much this post, it stands out after that horrible sponsored post about Rio de Janeirio, with those horrible “luxury apartment” links. To be honest, that very post made me question our activities a lot. When it all becomes striving for money, it all also loses a bit of sense. There are quite some other jobs that allow us to be wherever we want, we don’t necessarilty have to blog. Every once in a while, some of us reveal their stress; it happened recently to the folks at Uncornered Marken (or was it Never Ending Voyage?), who put in simple words how we’re here to always promote the joy of perpetual traveling, but reality sometimes is visible through the cracks on those colorful websites, like this crack where I’m commenting now.
I think I kind of realized this on the way sometime ago, so I went back to the roots of blogging — just express yourself. Without following the 10 golden rules, of that secret tip, or that “money back guarantee’, and my blog lately shifted to the Netherlands and to my new love for biking, and who cares about the niche. Most of what we see on many mainstream blogs is pure hypocrisy– pretending to be objective when someone pays for your trip? If another possible trip-payer says that you talk shit about the previous trip, your chances of getting another free one shrink. Or how about that pants review that says at the end “and well, if you buy this we’ll get 50% of the money”? I wonder what the point of all this has become. I can see that the fun of blogging gets at least partially lost in the hard way to get to the top. But then again, everyone has probably his balance and the real challenge is just to find it. Thanks again for your post.

Jason says:

Fabio, yes, it’s difficult to make money and please everyone at the same time. I did give up on that some time ago. I accept sponsored posts, I vet the writing and approve them if I find them useful. But, they won’t be useful to everyone and I am fine with that. I have a different view on sponsored posts than you do, but that’s fine, and healthy.

There are 2 ways to blog. One is to focus on pleasing Google and the other is to please your loyal following. The latter is harder in my opinion and greatly respect those that are able to do it like almostfearless.com or baconismagic.. You have to have an addicting personality, tell great stories and really connect with your readers. Focusing on Google requires great knowledge of SEO and social media. Both blogs are good and I don’t consider one better than the other. People use Google to search for information on places they want to visit. A loyal following gains you very little in that example. Some people follow a blogger because they enjoy their stories, connect with them and live vicariously through them. Neither is wrong or bad. They are different business models. Both can succeed and both can fail regardless of which one I aim for.

I want there to be a clear understanding of what I am struggling with. I am not struggling with the fact that I accept sponsored articles, press trips or that I have text links in my articles. I struggle with staying passionate while earning enough income to satisfy my current living situation. I don’t hate the Rio article like you do. It’s actually written by another travel blogger, because Brazil is a gap in our South American coverage. And I get paid for putting 2 links in the article. I make it a point to address your comment because I don’t want people to think that I am upset because I sell links. It’s my business model on this blog and I am content with that. Other travel bloggers, such as yourself, might view that as selling out, and I will understand and respect your view. But, it’s not the same opinion I have.

When we can blog for the pure joy of blogging, when blogging is an avocation rather than your job, then we can more easily be pure. There are some sites that have purchased all their posts from content farms. I am sure some of the those sites are getting 50k hits and possibly benefiting from excellent affiliate strategies. Good for them. They found a way to do it. I don’t think their goal was to be a writer, a purist, I think their goal was to make money online. And kudos to them for finding a way to do it. They aren’t committing a crime, they aren’t hurting society, they are simply doing a job.

We all have different goals and different strategies and that should be okay. What isn’t okay is believing there is only one way to do things, one right way to make money.

I have reached this point not because I am tired of pushing affiliate sales, selling text links or working StumbleUpon. If I was making enough money for my current situation, all those things wouldn’t be such a pain in the butt. If I didn’t do those things, I probably would be making $0 income. Maybe that means I am not a “true” travel blogger. And that’s fine too. My goal is not to please other travel bloggers, it’s to produce useful travel content, awesome photos and adventure videos. Unfortunately, I have let the adventure videos go. Exception, this post was mainly for travel bloggers.

Fabio, if you have passion for it, keep at it as long as it’s possible in your situation. All of us have unique situations, and all of us have to do what’s best for ourselves, pending it doesn’t harm other people.

Fabio says:

Thanks for your reply, Jason. I see your points, also on the sponsored post with sponsored link. But I think you forgot or underestimated a point when you say that there are two ways to run a blog: please Google or please your readers. For me, the third and most important way is to have fun myself.
I also agree with another comment, Diana, when it’s mentioned that blogging can easily become a hobby / side project to do for one hour or two after work.
Thanks for your engagement Jason, I’ll for sure keep following as I’m curious to see where this will lead you and I’m sure I will learn from it.

Jason says:

You are absolutely right Fabio. That is probably the most important way to blog. Thanks for pointing that out.

Katrina says:

I don’t know about you, but for me a big part of the thrill is keeping in contact with friend, family, and readers. The positive feedback is a really important part of the package. (The social media stuff is fun in a geeky way, but unfun when it becomes obligatory.) If you still get a buzz from sharing material the people enjoy, please keep it up. I really do like your content. 🙂

Jason says:

Thanks Katrina. What I really love is sharing photos and videos, not as much the writing. If I could remove money from the situation, I would be doing adventure travel videos. Unfortunately, I can’t avoid the money issue at this point. It’s important to us at this time and requires me to evaluate my career. I appreciate your compliment, it means much to us.

Melanie says:

Jason, I hear you…and it’s good to know I’m not alone! After a little over three years, I’ve worked hard to build a niche following and educate myself about blogging, travel PR and the travel industry itself, but I’ve lately been feeling that my blog-passion is waning. After much soul searching (and equally sleepless nights), I’ve decided to merely post once a week, start a travel-themed novel for young adults using NaNoWriMo as a springboard, and seek out other creative opportunities. I’m not willing to walk away from my blog just yet and I’m thrilled to have discovered an entire world of bright and fascinating colleagues, but it’s suddenly feeling like it, much like travel itself, isn’t quite…enough. Good luck to us both, eh? 😉

Jason says:

Yes, good luck to us both and probably many others. I can’t figure out if I just get bored easily or I haven’t found my passion yet. I do enjoy blogging, SEO and social media. I find the Internet world fascinating and am struggling to find my place in it. I keep telling everyone you have to have more than just a blog if you seek income. I gather you feel the same way Melanie by your decisions outlined above to explore new projects.

That’s my best advice to people. Don’t believe blogging is enough, it’s just your platform.

Rob says:

Lots of people have an audience.

This niche is still new. If it was a stock the IPO was like a month ago and now it’s consolidating with lots of new people in the game. FYI … Google IPO was $125, now it’s $600.

Netflix was an industry leader and at $300 earlier this year, now it’s at $77. Over time, leaders keep up what they did to become leaders or and more commonly, new leaders appear.

Industry leaders only stay industry leaders as long as they are relevant and innovative OR people just keep mentioning them.

Also think what have you done to grow your audience?

Many people with larger audiences have done a lot of grunt work.

I don’t even monetize mine but often think I should.

Jason says:

I think it’s new in terms of the time it takes an industry to change, but it no longer feels new to me after almost 3 years of blogging. We can wait it out if income isn’t an issue, or we can blog on the side, while maintaining another job. At this point I have not earned enough income to blog full time, which of course means its time to get a job.

I know many people that blog as a side job rather than their only source of income and that’s probably one of the safest and smartest routes to take. I just want people to know that even when you do blog full-time it doesn’t mean income is directly correlated.

Victoria says:

I just had to leave a comment because you pretty much summed up how I have felt about the travel blogging industry for a while. I have been blogging since 2009, and whilst I make money from my blog, it’s currently no way near enough to afford the lifestyle i want- and I don’t want to live in Asia eating rice and beans. Which brings me to a huge dilemma. I LOVE to travel and I’m passionate about travel, but I need the money to do that. Travel blogging takes up time, too much time if you ask me, without promise of any rewards. I sit on my laptop reluctantly having to use Facebook/Twitter/StumbleUpon hoping that one post will get a few hits. It’s quite frankly very boring and frustrating. I’d love to focus on creating amazing travel journalism, but instead I’m fiddling with Social Media and SEO. A whole day can be taken up just doing those things. You’re right, there are the top dogs in the travel blogging industry that seem to promote each other, but what about the rest of us? It seems a very difficult task to compete with them. Instead of a personal site, it seems the answer is to create a brilliant online magazine or come up with an innovative new startup, but the reality is that’s a mammoth task to undertake. For me, I can’t imagine creating top ten lists for the next 10 years. The industry seems to have gone a little stale. Affiliate schemes, text links, sponsored posts…it all seems like petty money. Which makes me think at some point I will have to develop another site or take a different route away from my computer. If I was to talk honestly about what I dream of doing, it would be making a difference to the world or having my own travel show…not Tweeting all day.

Jason says:

Victoria, absolutely feel your sentiments. But, I have to say that I don’t think the top bloggers only promote each other. I honestly don’t think they spend much time promoting others at all. They are busy running their business. If my blog received enough traffic where I didn’t have to Stumble, Tweet, Reddit and Digg half the day, I wouldn’t do it. That also means I wouldn’t being tweeting other people’s stuff or thumbing up their articles. I would be spending time producing content instead. I hate doing that stuff just as much as you. We truly only do it to spur traffic and that’s not really why most of us blog. I like Twitter, but I like conversing on it, not having to use it for link proliferation.

It’s a tough job and there is a lot of competition. It’s similar to starting your own business. Actually, it’s is starting your own business. It takes a tremendous amount of effort and there is a tremendous amount of competition. Restaurants don’t like to spend time passing out fliers and putting business cards on windshields, but it’s something you have to do to succeed. We just have to decide if that is something we are passionate enough about in order to invest the time to pull ahead.

And it is petty money, relative to US standards. You already seem to know that it requires something else. It requires a new idea, a new strategy, maybe even a new blog. It requires something, but I haven’t discovered it yet. I hope you do.

Best post I’ve read in a long time on travel blogging! I appreciate your honesty and I think many people share the same concerns. I’ve gotten burned out a few times and have had to take a break. I completely agree that we are all equals and that it seems like many (not all) comments are travel bloggers commenting on each other’s stuff. Like Gary, Matt, and others we need to be different and reach more than just the same audience of travel bloggers. I’ve been thinking about this for the last 2 or 3 weeks – I just don’t want an audience of travel bloggers any more.

I am not going to tell you to quit. Do what you are passionate about. That’s what matters. Yes, you will need to be different, unique, and find a new niche and something exciting to keep going. Keep doing things the same way and you will eventually burn out. I have heard numerous bloggers taking a break because they need it. And that’s a good thing. However, if we keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result then our efforts are futile and we will burn out.

Thanks for being so candid and I am with you 100% on what you say. There are DEFINITELY aspects of this that are enjoyable. However, it can be tough. Perseverance is important but so is passion. I am actually encouraged by this – glad to know that someone who has a successful site like yours shares the same frustrations that many of us feel. Your analysis of the situation and the reality of travel blogging is spot on if you ask me.

Jason says:

I think we will find many of us feeling similar in terms of trying to make a career of travel blogging. And I do believe we have some of the most creative minds working amongst us. When I see sites like travelllll.com and #TTOT take off on Twitter, I know there are people that get it and understand what it takes. It takes more than a blog, it takes more than non-stop content, it takes more than text link sales.

There is a great job out there for most of us, the trouble is finding it, and discovering where our passions truly exist. Passions that push us beyond our limits, that cause us to take futile risks and that may jeopardize the love of those around you. I want to discover that feeling. But, after searching for some time, we find ourselves lost, attempting to return the situation we first ran from.

As I prepare my resume and begin reconnecting with business buddies I will try not to lose focus of the long-term goals. I will try to remember the great feeling of total freedom, self-employment, being your own boss. Let’s hope this break results in future successes.

Jason, the only reason I keep going is because I enjoy what I do. Honestly, I spend way more time on posts than people probably spend reading them. But that is for me to get better and because I like it. Trust me – I have taken many breaks and been discouraged many times.

I am really excited about two new projects I am working. A new niche for me that could take off and one that I am working on but not announced yet. If it weren’t for these two things, I might be quitting as well.

Jason says:

But you made those 2 things happen, and that’s the kind of drive you need to make it work. Keep moving on.

Tim L. says:

You’re actually lower than 25th in reality because that Travelpod thing you linked to leaves out any blog that has a subdomain string. That includes my Cheapest Destinations Blog (which is probably close to top-10), Arthur Frommer’s blog (surely higher), and anything built on blogger/blogspot. You’re right though: it’s hard to make a 1st-world living on just one travel blog.

On another note, I’m in Miami for a few days end of this week. Drop me a note if you want to meet up for a beer!

Tim’s my Perceptive Travel Blog editor and incredibly smart about “Travel Writing 2.0” – he literally wrote the book on it. If you are within driving distance of Miami, I’d go get that beer and learn from him, pronto. 🙂

Gary Arndt says:

Calling Arthur Frommer a travel blogger totally negates any normal meaning of the word. He is an established part of the mainstream travel media with a widely syndicated radio show and his own magazine, a publishing empire.

Yes, it might technically be a blog, but that isn’t in the same universe of what we are talking about.

Jason says:

Tim, I know I referenced that ranking, but I it’s not where my top 25 estimation came from. As explained in the text, it was my opinion in terms of visitors, followers and income amongst my peers that I work with. That doesn’t include Arthur Frommer or other sites that are void of a real voice or face in the travel blog social networks or forums.

Yup, Miami isn’t the best of places to be on a travel blog budget. But, hey, gotta enjoy the weather this time of year.

Chris says:

One thing I would disagree with is that Gary or anyone “dominates” the travel blogging market. On a typical day Gary puts out one picture or < 10 seconds of a readers time. Yes his blog has a bigger audience than most but I don't find it interferes with me getting attention.

But I can relate to your income issues. I was making between $2-3k a month last year when I was doing Amateur Traveler full time. Granted I should have made more but never picked up the phone to try and sell ads on the podcast which is the best part of my traffic (1,106,476 downloads of just the audio show in the last 12 months). Not enough to support a mortgage and 2 kids in college and I was not in a position to move to Thailand where I could live on that.

Jason says:

Yes, living in Thailand helps things out a lot, and we can’t do that right now either. I understand your point about Gary’s blog, however I do believe he stands out the most not only in regards to traffic, but visibility. Gaining that followship that Gary has in my mind is the goal. With that audience you can then turn to reasonable monetization.

It used to be just about writing, now it’s about photography, video, Facebook, Twitter, RSS subscribers etc. We have to excel in many of these areas in order to succeed. It’s harder in many ways, but it still offers the opportunity for anyone to succeed if they really want it and work hard enough. I admit, I haven’t done that.

Alex says:

When I first thought about starting a blog my focus was about money and the process was very frustrating for me. Someone suggested for me to stop focusing on the business aspect of the blog and instead to view it as a hobby. by writing simply because I enjoy it has completely changed my feelings about blogging.

maybe you’ve lost your passion for your blog in pursuit of the business aspect? maybe you just need a break to clear your mind and allow yourself to reflect on what you want and how you can connect your passions (travel and politics).

good luck! you’ll have your readers waiting to find out your renewed vision when you’re ready to come back 🙂

Jason says:

I can’t tell you the last time an article was fun to write. It’s been difficult to stay focused. Videos were fun for me, but I stopped doing them because they took up too much time and yielded little traffic. The videos never did well and from a business perspective I couldn’t justify it anymore. There’s the problem, as you stated, “business perspective.” Maybe when I step away from the blog I can focus on videos again in my spare time. That’s not a bad idea.

Dave says:

I can relate to a lot, if not all, of the doubts and concerns you raise here. I’m still living month to month, with my current goal being less about where I can travel next, as being able to feel some sense of security (stability) from the work I enjoy doing.

There was a 5+ year gap between 2001 and 2006 when I continued to renew the “Go Backpacking” domain but didn’t work on the site. When I did go back to it, discovering WordPress along the way, I was kicking myself for losing all that time.

Companies like BootsnAll.com (which I admire) sprung up during that time, and became leaders in the independent travel niche. I had the early advantage back in 1998, yet I effectively gave up because I didn’t know how to build websites (the idea of investing in someone to do it for me wasn’t even a consideration).

So now I continue with a chip on my shoulder. I don’t want or need to be the #1 travel blogger, but I do feel like my site and self haven’t yet reached their full potential. For that alone, I will do everything I can to keep going, and not quit a second time.

And I don’t think this site, nor what you and Aracely are capable of within the travel niche has been truly realized either. I agree with Annabel, it sounds like now would be a good time to take a break from producing content, reflect on your vision (or come up with a new one) for where you want to be this time next year, and follow-up accordingly.

Maybe that entails getting a regular job to ease the pressure involved with trying to make money from your sites. Conversely, that might free them of advertising altogether, and you can focus on the content alone.

Whatever you decide, I hope you’ll continue to be a positive presence online!

Jason says:

Thanks Dave, I have always appreciated your continued support and admired your success on living a location independent lifestyle through hard work and creativity. TravelBlogSuccess.com was one of the first subscription services to help us travel bloggers learn the ins and outs of the business from a top blogger. We used it, not only to get ahead, but to better understand how bloggers are making money online.

You definitely shouldn’t quit, you have succeeded in many of our eyes, but unfortunately what we view as success is rather low in terms of income. It’s funny, in the corporate world we view success as coming out of college and getting a job that pays $50K. And when you hit $100k, we often think, “Booyaaa, we did it!”

In the blogosphere, $50K is heaven! We don’t image ever making $100K and most of us are able to travel in cheap countries and live off $2K a month. That’s success to us.

It’s hard looking back on that corporate job that requires less work and pays 5x more. It’s hard doing what you love for less. I promise myself to get back here one day and continue evolving to find my online niche. But, right now Aracely and I need higher paying jobs to support our current lifestyle. It’s not forever, but it’s for the time being.

Erik says:

I blog because it gives me something to do between trips. I know I’ll never make money from it, but it allows me to interact with some cool people, and there are not a lot of hard core travelers like me here in the Detroit area. It fill a void that way.

I doubt I’d enjoy it as much if I was dependent on it for income.

On a personal note, I hope you don’t quit, I enjoy this blog too much!

Jason says:

Erik, I believe I would very relaxed blogging for the pure enjoyment of it. I might not get content out often, but it would be enjoyable. Everything changes when it becomes a business no matter what job it is. You can live building furniture, but when you need to build that furniture for profit, things change, the passion dissolves. I won’t shut down the blog, but I might separate from it for a while I search for job opportunities again. I am glad you enjoy our blog and I appreciate the compliment.

Jeanne Castellani says:

Jason, This was a very truthful and passionate post. You have been working very hard trying to make your travel blog successful, and I respect that. Your articles are always interesting and make me want to pack up and go today. But if you are wanting to make more money, perhaps, books, magazines, etc. may be the way to go. You had a great book idea, when you first came home. Why don’t you try it out?
Always a believer in you, Mom

Jason says:

Thanks for the continued support Mom. 🙂 Books are options, but as most will tell you in this industry, it’s only a money maker for the few. I could have done an ebook, but I guess everyone has one and again, I get turned off by doing things everyone else is doing. I just haven’t thought of something new, creative and successful. Back to the drawing board.

Brock says:

Good to see Momma Castellani’s support. At the end of the day, that means more then anything.

Cole says:

I have Obsessive Bloggers Disorder myself, and I only just started writing our blog in July this year. I started it as a way to keep in contact with family and then all of a sudden it took off (for a couple of weeks) but that short time made me super keen to carry on. Unfortunately it all died off again just as quickly (cannot figure out why).
I am one of the great dreamers that hope that I will be able to live off my blog but realistically I know I probably never will be able to. Unfortunately this means that I hang on to a job I hate doing so that I can continue to save and travel my way around the world.
I have been thinking a lot recently about a need for bloggers to combine their efforts, like we are seeing happening with Travelllll etc so that we can all benefit. Just not sure how to start it up considering I am so new to all of this and still finding my feet and niche.
Anyway I wont be able to help much with your decision but good luck all the same.

Jason says:

OBD huh? I might have that too. I look at Google Analytics way too much when I should be looking at the broader picture. I guess that comes from having an entire career in data analytics.

It’s good to be dreamer, don’t stop. It’s also good to understand the economics of your dream and how best to attain it. I know there is more to do, just as you have ideas on succeeding. If it’s truly your passion and dream and you really enjoy blogging, make it happen. It doesn’t matter that you are a newbie or small or whatever. Network with the right people and move forward. The nice thing about blogging and creating online magazines is that it requires little investment of money. I wish you success!

Josh Aggars says:

Hey Jason,

I feel for you dude. I know that feeling of the never ending tunnel and not knowing when/whether to throw in the towel. All I can say is I’m a stuborn old goat and that’s the only way I find to get through the dullness that is earning barely any cash each month but doing things I love. I guess its a question of balance and it depends on where you are in your life. I was once earning good money and was as miserable as sin. Now I earn bugger all (have done for 3 years) and am pretty much the happiest I have ever been because I am mentally free of constraint.

I understand when you care too greatly about the world and the way its abused. It used to really get me down to the point of a real major depression. What turned it around for me was deciding there’s only so much any of us can do and there’s no point dwelling on the insurmountable if it’s causing you harm. I now look at the pint half full rather than half empty which was a step change for me. I’m not sure if this is what you’re driving at above but I sense massive frustration and hope you’re not trying to sadle too many of the worlds problems. A day at a time is my mantra.

I hope you catch a break soon… along with the Eagles.

Keep the faith.
Josh

Jason says:

Yes, the Eagles do need a break! Thanks for bringing some smiles out in your comment.

I definitely don’t feel as though I can carry or solve the worlds problems, but it does weigh me down. For some reason I can’t disconnect from the news or politics. It’s always there and I don’t want to disconnect, but I also don’t want it to make me a miserable person. I honestly don’t think I can look at that glass half full. That would be tough for me.

I understand your point of having less and being happier. I have felt that since I left my corporate job back in July of 2009. Our situation now, however does require us to attain a certain amount of income in order to keep things going well at home. Life always changes, and I think I need to change to fit my current life. I won’t be discouraged moving forward, because I know the travel, the freedom, the adventures are all still there waiting for us again.

Andi says:

I think you should definitely stop if you no longer are passionate about it, life is WAY too short to not dedicate your time and energy into your passion. But I’d be VERY sad to see you go!!!

Jason says:

Do you ever feel like your passion changes every 6 months! Lol, that is the problem I have. Thanks Andi, I don’t think I could ever just shut off the travel blogging community. They are too awesome.

jason says:

You have developed a great blog no doubt. You are talented at gaining readers and having them stay. But you should be making way more money based on your stats if you treat it like a business.

That means selling out.

As someone with a tiny audience and content that I can’t claim is so well written, I am earning between $1-$4K per month. All that means is I actively seek out advertisers and am not afraid to take the $100 advertisement. They really do add up. That money is earned from having only 2K visitors/month.

Stop complaining and throw away your journalistic ethics if your primary goal is earning income.

Jason says:

No worries Jason, I have no journalistic experience or ethics. I was never a writer or journalist and still don’t consider myself one. I am a blogger. I produce travel articles, trave photos and sometimes a cool video. That’s all I ever claim.

Do I have some morals or ethics? I do, but I don’t associate them with blogging as much. If someone wants to have a blog that is built entirely with farmed content, then I have no problem with that. You are trying to make money just like me, only with a different strategy. The internet is a complicating beast and not all sites are created to connect with readers or gain loyal followers.

I guess my post can be viewed as complaining, but my intent was to share, with other travel bloggers, the struggles that I encounter and what they themselves may someday encounter too. I can’t complain about my health, my family or my state of life. All is well. But, I am contemplating my career at the moment.

Pretty interesting stuff, Jason.
What is really amazing is that you have the followers, but cannot convert them to a paying base for anything.
Have you looked at rtwDave, followed any ideas of Seth Gordin or the Art of Nonconformity?
Do you have enough questions from your readers to possibly write an ebook?
Seth gave an example of a fellow who wrote a one page ebook and is selling it for $24.95.
People are making a living out there in internet land, which means others can do the same thing. Just because a topic has a lot of writers, it does not mean those writers have tapped into the core of the readers.
Would be interested in chatting with you on this if you are ever interested.
Cheers,
John D. Wilson

Jason says:

John, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. Here is the thing… I am aware of the opportunities that exist for making money online, but I have obviously not pursued them. I had the idea of gaining a large audience (much larger than I have) and then thinking creatively, out of the box. I really enjoyed Gary’s approach where he didn’t seek monitization until many years after beginning his blog. Of course, he succeeded in other things in life and had survivable income to last those years.

I didn’t want to feel as though I was just pumping out different ideas to make a buck, but ultimately, that fact might be the reason this blog ends. @rtwdave put together a complete business around TBS, @indietravel are awesome with affiliate sales, @artofbackpackin is experimenting with all sorts of cool new things. There are ideas out there and they are being put into play, I am just not sure if I am in the right arena.

In my past profession I was a leader, I brought new ideas to the table and I implemented them. I don’t find myself doing that with this blog. I find myself swamped with the day to day activities of maintaining traffic and attracting advertisers and link builders. If you spend all your time doing that, you won’t be creating greater projects. However, I spend my time doing that because I depend on the little income that does come in. It’s a tough situation, but not a disastrous one.

Andrea says:

Reading this from a couple of the most accomplished travel bloggers that I know of is a bit discouraging, but not so much for me because I realized this going in. At the moment I’m really enjoying the business management side of blogging and it has helped me tremendously in learning about the technical side of things in my chosen career in online. I am actually trained as a news journalist and have a Masters degree in media/comms with a special focus in online. A lot of that training involved social media and community management. So running a blog has been great for me. We make a bit of money and get some comped hotel rooms. And I think I’ll enjoy continuing to blog about the expat life. But I don’t see the blog as a sustainable business model at all. I don’t plan to ever live off of it. I think if you’re feeling disillusioned and have other projects you want to pick up, by all means, go for it. Take a break! Maybe you find a new focus. Maybe not. I think it’s great that you shared the details of your story here, however, because I think there is a lot of confusion out there among new bloggers about how much money they can make and what the work-life balance for many “top bloggers” is. Most I’ve heard from are not getting rich by blogging.

Jason says:

If I could recommend an approach to someone starting out blogging today, I would recommend your comment above Andrea. It’s some extra cash, but it’s a means of living for few.

We must ask ourselves the question, “Why are we blogging?” Is it because it’s your hobby, for extra income while traveling, or because it’s a good job that allows you to live a location independent lifestyle? If it’s the last reason, I want you to read this post and it’s comments and prepare yourself for an extremely challenging career. Don’t let this post discourage you, but let it be educational. I wanted to be a professional baseball player, but it didn’t hit me until I got to college that I had no chance. That doesn’t mean you should give up, which unfortunately I did at the time, but that’s another story, it means you need to know the challenges that lie ahead and that this is not an easy way to make money, in fact there are much easier ways that require less effort.

simon says:

good piece. and much more interesting than hearing what bars you visited in some resort in mexico i’m never going to.
most travel blogs are boring, that’s the main problem.

how many are written by trained journalists who write stories that people want to read? most of them are just some have-a-go-wannabe who thinks all you have to do is waffle on about what they thought and saw. i couldn’t care a less. if i want to know about somewhere i look it up. otherwise i’m not interested.

yet i am a professional travel writer. if i don;t like most travel blogs what do most ordinary punters think?

if you can write well about travel there’s work out there. why concentrate on a blog? there are mags, papers and websites who do pay. freelance writing is about ducking and weaving not just plodding along with the same old format.

so, you can write and i liked this piece. all you have to do is spread your efforts a bit more. one magazine article or book deal will pay you more than all your blogging for months. good luck…

Jason says:

Simon, thanks for adding your insights.

I guess many of us non-trained writers / journalists get into blogging because we feel as though it’s a medium that welcomes all. After all, anyone can write in a blog, but not anyone can have their article published in a magazine.

I am hesitant to write for print or larger online publications because I am not a good writer. I have seen good writers and that’s not me. I also don’t enjoy writing about travel. Makes no sense right? I enjoy creating adventure videos and taking pictures. My posts usually have minimal text because of that reason. If there was a great personal story behind the trip, then I can write it, but I don’t like writing typical travel resource articles. I have had offers to produce videos, but the pay scale makes no sense. I can write 4 articles in 4 hours and get paid $150, whereas a video takes me 40hrs of editing and pays about $150. Video just doesn’t pay well, and I think it’s because, just like writing, everyone has a platform to do it. And just like writing there are those that don’t have formal training that blow the trained out of the water. I respect that and understand the shift in paid information. When a 30-second cell phone made cat video get’s 2 million hits on YouTube, we need to stop and pay attention. Low budget, entertaining video is taking over. No one is going to pay me $1,000 for my adventure videos.

What makes blogging fun for many is that you can just waffle on about what you thought or saw. Blogging is platform open to all and should remain so. It’s the advertiser or sponsor’s responsibility to decide which blogger they feel as though is qualified enough to represent them and their brand.

Jools Stone says:

Thanks for sharing your thoughts so candidly here Jason. I am only 18 months in myself but plagued with similar doubts. Trips don’t pay the bills, income is slender and the competition’s growing all the time, as you say. But I enjoy having a platform and all the connections and opps it’s brought so far. I’ll check out your couples one too, that’s the sort of tarvel i tend to do these days myself.

Jason says:

It’s tough not to get discouraged, but it’s also important to realize the benefits as you have pointed out Jools. You do meet amazing people and make lasting connections in a business where we tend to help each other out.

Sam says:

Hi Jason, this is a really interesting post. I like your blog, so it was interesting to hear about your experiences running it professionally and all the other stuff you have to consider/contend with as opposed to just blogging about your travels being the sole focus.

I started a blog a while ago and don’t have the time to dedicate to it on the road that I would have liked too. It is something that I would like to do more. I still read a lot of blogs while travelling. So then when I do sit down to look at mine I think about all the other stuff I might have to ‘learn’ about readership, SEO, marketing strategies, etc etc and it becomes a bit overwhelming and I lose focus and end up walking away.

But when it comes down to it, not many people can make a full time living as you say. But hopefully the passion people have for sharing their stories, experiences and tips will not diminish as this is what makes the travel blogging world so great, and why I wanted to start my own in the first place. It is not about who has the most advertising or makes the most money but about sharing knowledge, learning, laughing and inspiring others.

I have volcano boarding on my list of ‘things to do before I die’, something I never would have known existed if I had not read your blog! Don’t lose sight of the value of sharing your experiences, even if it means you do it less because you can’t make a living from it. It is still valuable.

Jason says:

Thanks Sam, I agree, although I often lose sight of that fact. Sometimes I become so obsessed with reaching my income milestones that forget about the value other’s might still find in our blog. It’s a good reminder to hear from someone who has found it with us. I appreciate that.

As you say, it might not be possible for us to live in the USA on our own on a blogger’s income, but it still could be fun to blog. Something I will try hard not to forget. Thanks.

Darren Alff says:

Very interesting Jason, especially as this Thursday is the 4th anniversary of my blog at BicycleTouringPro.com.

I started my website about bicycle touring and world travel with NO intention of making money from the site or reaching thousands of people from all around the world. I created the site to help my old college roommate plan his first bicycle tour. But four years later, I make a full-time living from the website, travel the world on a regular basis, have readers in practically every country on the globe, and am constantly thinking about my website and how I can improve it.

It’s been fun, but it has also been a TON OF WORK.

The work and the occasional negative aspects of doing this type of work have certainly gotten me down at times in the past, but whenever I’ve started to feel down about working on the site, I have tried to do two things – two things that have always lifted me back up again and motivated me to continue.

1) Stop caring about the money. The money is nice, but sometimes when you stop caring about it, that’s when you come up with your best ideas.

2) Help people. That’s right! Go out of your way to actually help your readers. Don’t do anything because you think it is going to get you a lot of search engine traffic or make you a lot of money. Write a post, send an email, or create a product that is actually going to help someone.

If you do just those two things… and do those two things for at least a month or so, you will likely discover something new abut your blog/business that you never knew was there. And you’ll feel better about yourself and your “business” as a whole.

When it comes to quitting a blog, I think it is something that needs to be done at times. Have you ever read Seth Godin’s “The Dip”? If not, it is certainly worth a read. The book is all about quitting – when you should do it and when you should not. Knowing when to quit is important. Sometimes quitting is the wrong thing to so… and sometimes it is exactly what needs to be done.

Jason says:

Very insightful Darren. And thanks for taking the time to share you experiences and advice with me. I think one of my problems is that I have never approached my blog in the ways you suggest. Meaning, I have tried new things often. Instead, I have probably let things go, like travel videos, because they were extremely time consuming and yielded no traffic or success in any shape or form.

I am going to take a break and let things wind down a bit and see what happens on the job search front. I am totally giving up, but I do have my concerns. Again, thanks for your comments.

Laura says:

Giving up is easy. What’s difficult is to stay away from it all once you’ve gave up. It’s like a drug. You can stay away from blogging for a couple of months, but just when you seem to have lost all your followers you will come up with a new idea and you might decide to give it another try. This is the worst case scenario for me. Never completely free, never really successful.

Jason says:

I laugh because I know that is completely true. Sometimes when you take a break it gives you time to re-evaluate your strategies and approach your business differently. That same thing happens when you take a break for good. I will always say to myself, “Darn, I should have tried that.” And I might find myself back here again trying it.

Hi Jason,

I agree. Don’t quit. Maybe take a break. When you say “First, you must build a large following through the tedious task of blogging and building a connection with your fans.” it sounds as if you’re not enjoying it which is probably part of the problem. Maybe a break will set you free either to stop because you want to or to get started with renewed energy.

I wish you luck:)

Jason says:

Thanks Annabel. You are correct in sensing a lack of enjoyment right now. It’s tedious in that it’s become repetitive. I am not breaking through milestones or taking on new strategies. A break is probably needed.

Andrea says:

What a thoughtful and honest post Jason, and I was incredibly interested to read it seeing as while you’re thinking of giving up travel blogging, I’m pretty much starting it. Well, I’ve been travel writing for a long while, but I have just begun a new blog in a niche that I’m hoping will be inspirational for women.

I’m at a point in my life where I can start to travel a lot more, hence why my blog fits for me now, but I can see that depending on where you’re at, there may be a lifespan for travel blogging.

It would be sad to see an end here though, as I do like reading your blog. Though I was moved to read your final words and can relate totally to them – I’m actually challenging myself to be vegan through the whole of November, which is Animal Aid’s vegan month. I’m vegetarian already for similar reasons as yourself, and because I abhor intensive farming. Sometimes, my compassion for suffering (human, animal or our earth) feels overwhelming!

I’ll be interested to see what you decide.

Jason says:

Andrea, I enjoy writing these personal posts occasionally because I get to see which bloggers I am connecting with. These posts are meaningless to Google travel searches, but I still like them because I discover people like you that are beginning careers in blogging.

It is possible to blog and earn money, we all know that and that’s one of the reasons so many people take this path. It becomes challenging when we focus on earnings. And of course, living in cheaper countries takes some of that earnings stress away.

I encourage you to go travel, continue blogging in travel and your other niche and see what works for you and your life. Everyone is different and every blogger is unique. Not trying is the worst decision, so it seems like you are on the right path.

Like you, I do stress about things in life that aren’t related to what I am writing about. My advice is to consider writing about those things you are passionate about and care most about, such as animal welfare or human suffering. That might be the route I now go, as I search for inspiration.

Hi Jason. I’m a bit late I know but I wanted to thank you for this post and your follow up comments. As one half of a relatively young travel blog I can certainly identify with your feelings.

The relationship with competitors in particular is odd. Its great to connect with people going through similar experiences and its wonderful to have people to talk to who know what youre talking about. I am however uncertain of how beneficial in terms of dollars and cents those relationships are.

Thanks for commenting Andrew. Travel blogging by itself isn’t an income producer, that I can state with 100% confidence. You can’t rely on being the one in a million that get’s lucky and has a successful blog. Instead, use the blog as an audience builder and then decide what type of business you are going to enter. I must say I do enjoy communicating with other bloggers, there is a lot to be gained, but there is also the realization that you are all competing for the same recognition.

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