12 Things Travel Bloggers Can Do To Achieve Success In an Insanely Crowded Space

When I started my travel blog back in 2006, I knew most of the other travel bloggers personally. Eventually it grew so even if I didn’t know them personally, I was at least familiar with their site. Today, I see many blogs popping into existence that I have never even heard of before.

Many people have dreams of traveling around the world and making a living as a travel blogger. The reality is that very few people are able to do so and given the large numbers of travel blogs today, even achieving moderate success is becoming more and more difficult.

Now that I’m in my 8th year of travel blogging, I’ve seen enough to have an idea of what will work and what will not.

If you are too lazy to read everything, let me summarize by saying there is no quick path to success and the fact that you are too lazy to read an entire article means you are probably deeply screwed on multiple levels.

1) Take a Long Term Approach

It is going to take years to become an overnight success. One thing I noticed early on was that the longer I traveled, the more interested people became in my story. You need to be producing at a high level for years before you get any serious traction. This is true for almost every type of blog. The travel aspect only adds to it. If you aren’t prepared to blog and do so consistently for at least 3 years without any prospect of making money, they you probably shouldn’t even start.

2) Focus on Quality

Your content sucks. Well, at least you must assume your content sucks. The only way you are ever going to improve is by being extremely self critical. Despite having won several major travel photography awards, I constantly think my images suck and I look for ways to improve. Most bloggers don’t come from a media background and assume that if they are literate with a high school or college degree, it is good enough.

It isn’t.

Consider attending a writing or photography course, or at least spend more time researching and hanging out on writing/photography forums than you do talking online about how to make money. Yes, there are some people out there who have achieved some monetary success despite being horrible writers and photographers, but as the saying goes, “anything which can’t last forever….won’t”. Or to use another cliche, “the cream always rises to the top”.

Blogging is a craft just as much as it is a business and you should focus on improving your craft.

3) The World Does Not Need Another Blog About Backpacking Through Thailand

Thailand is a great place. I’ve been there. I’ve spent a lot of time there and I am sure I will return many times.

However, it has been done to death. It seems like the first destination for every 20-something backpacker and many people never seem to leave.

When you first start traveling, going to a new place such as Thailand is fascinating, but from a blogging standpoint, you aren’t adding anything new to the conversation.

The same applies to other common destinations. Paris, London, New York, etc. Visiting these places might have been your fantasy for years, but it can’t be your bread and butter for content.

4) You Have to Travel a Lot

Unless you are running a multi-author site where you are relying on other people’s content, your success will in large part be dependent upon how much you travel. If you created a list of the most successful travel blogs, there would be a large correlation with how much and how long the bloggers have traveled.

It doesn’t mean you have to travel full time per se, but it does mean you need to do more than go on vacation a few weeks a year. At a minimum, you are looking at many months of travel per year.

So yes, travel bloggers have to travel, and if this is a problem then travel blogging probably isn’t best suited to you.

5) Visit Interesting Places

This is a corollary to #3. In addition to not just visiting obvious destinations, you need to occasionally go somewhere, where no one else goes. Look at a map and list every country where you’ve never been and you don’t personally know anyone who has ever been. Go there. Go visit a remote island or country you only hear about during the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

It is hard to be interesting as a travel blogger if you aren’t visiting interesting places.

6) Stop Trying to Please Public Relations People

There are many seminars on travel blogging which seem to start at “how to pitch destinations” or “how to create a media kit”. Go back up and reread #2. If you are focused on pleasing people who give free trips, you probably are going to be extremely limited in your success. No one, other than PR people, really care about their made up hashtags or even know what they mean.

If you only care about getting free trips, I suppose you can milk it for a while by being a PR sycophant, but you aren’t going to create a real audience in the process. What is pleasing to PR people is kryptonite to real readers. The PR industry is always several years behind the curve and they will eventually figure this out. When they do, it isn’t going to be hashtaggers they will turn to.

I never did it that often, but starting this year I’ve adopted a no hashtag rule if I work with destinations. If I’m posting a photo about Kerplekistan, there is no need to add #ILoveKerplekistan to it. If that is a deal breaker, then I guess I’m not going to that destination.

7) You Need to Occasionally Travel On Your Own

There is a class of blogger which now exists that never travels unless someone else pays for it. NEVER.

I’m not against sponsored trips as a general rule. I’ve been on them and will in the future. However, if it is all you do, and you never just go off on your own, I don’t think it is something which people are going to be interested in, in the long run.

I’d say at least half your travels should be on your own. I spent my first 3 years traveling around the world before the first person in the travel industry ever spoke to me. This year alone I’ve visited Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and two lengthy road trips in South Africa, on my own dime. When I earn money from blogging, I spend it on more travel.

I understand the economics of travel and know it can be expensive, but you at least need to seem as if destinations are helping you travel, not that you are dependant on them for traveling.

8) If You Want To Stand Apart From the Crowd, Then Don’t Be In It

If there is a large group of bloggers all in the same place, doing the same thing, then you are just a part of that group. It is almost impossible to stand out.

I’ve turned down every opportunity to be part of a blogging collective or attend a mass press trip. With special exceptions, I won’t even go on press trips with other bloggers or journalists anymore. It isn’t that I don’t like other bloggers, but I want to stand apart and do my own thing. (Example of an exception: There is a place I was going to visit later this year on my own that will be doing a promotion with bloggers during the same time. I might go with them, but there will be no hashtags and I’ll set my own schedule.)

If I see some blog collective doing a mass trip somewhere, I’ll probably stay away from that place for at least a year. When tons of bloggers visited Jordan in 2011 (I had previously been there in 2009), I didn’t return until 2013 because I didn’t want to be seen as being part of the group.

I like hanging out and talking to other bloggers are conferences, but I don’t necessarily want to travel with them, unless it is something we are doing on our own.

These group trips are the easiest to get and they are often desperate to fill spaces. If you are just starting out, these will be the most tempting and the most difficult to say “no” to.

9) Have a Thing

My thing has sort of become UNESCO world heritage sites and travel photography. I didn’t set out to do that, but it has sort of become what I’m known for, and I’m comfortable with that.

If you are just publishing random articles without focus, then you have no thing that you are known for.

It doesn’t have to be a niche (a term which I dislike). It just has to be something that you are known for. It could be your attitude or style. It could be something you do in every place you visit. Whatever it is, you need something.

10) Have an Original Name

Any domains with the following terms, or offshoots of the following terms, is hereby verboten:

  • Backpacking
  • Nomad
  • Vagabond
  • Global

I’m sure there are a few others I can think of if given time. Sites started before 2011 can be grandfathered in.

11) Focus On Audience, Not Traffic

Traffic is not the end game in blogging. Traffic is good, and traffic is important, but traffic is a means, not an end.

Traffic to your site is like people window shopping at store. Its good, but ultimately you want people to buy something. If most people visiting your site never return, you haven’t really achieved anything. What you want is to get those visitors to commit. You want them to commit to hearing more from you in the future.

Your audience are people who have made at least a one click commitment to hear more from you in the future because they know who you are and care about what you have to say.

If you have a strong, engaged audience you can do anything. It doesn’t even have to be that big if they are engaged. It isn’t easy and it is something I still struggle with all the time. All my future plans surround engaging more with my audience.

12) Do It For Love, Not Money

Running a travel blog is a lot of hard work. The more you travel, the harder it is. Moreover, even if you reach the pinnacle of success, you would still be better off financially getting a regular job.

Too many people jump into this and expect to make money from day 1. Putting aside the fact that it is a horrible way to make money, they have their priorities all wrong.

If you can’t be a good amateur blogger, you’ll never be a professional blogger. Focusing on money will get in the way of the more important things such as improving the quality of your content and building your audience, the very things which are necessary for long term success.


Most of the thing I’ve listed I’ve been guilty of violating at one time or another. It isn’t hypocrisy, it is learning through making mistakes.

No matter where you are coming from, or how long you have been doing it, the basics are the same. Be consistent, do good work, travel to interesting places and engage with your audience.

Keep doing that and eventually you will have success.

90 Comments

  1. This is by FAR the best piece I’ve ever read about travel blogging! Too many people want to fit in, and focus on the wrong things. Quality over commerce any day. Love your blog and pictures Gary! (and no, they really, really don’t suck!)

  2. Fully agreed – with a caveat at 4): “You have to travel a lot.” If you’re doing a lot of backyard blogging, which seems to be getting more and more popular for obvious reasons, I don’t reckon “travel” has to be some great expedition to the ends of the earth – but it has to be getting out your front door and truly exploring and trying to find things nobody else has seen, and then say things nobody else has said. Blogging on autopilot without collecting any new experiences firsthand is not the way to go.

  3. Kate M.

    Nice. Very practical advice. Up under #2 you mention writing and photography forums. Do you have any you’d recommend? Thanks.

  4. Superb advice, and 10) made me laugh. I agree about 11), comments and engagement are so important. Quality over quantity, always. Can I ask, ave you ever visited Andalucia? I couldn’t see any posts on your site.

  5. I have been to Andalucia. I arrived in Spain a few weeks before TBEX Girona and went there to visit world heritage sites.

    Search for cities and you’ll find images. I don’t know if I wrote a full blown post about it.

  6. Thanks for these wonderful tip Gary! This is what I really needed today!

    I hope I apply quite a few of these already, and am definitely in it for the long term because I love travel, writing and helping others travel too!

    Safe travels!

  7. Hi Gary

    Great tips here. I have to admit I often get drawn into posts like this– probably because I continually feel as though I am either underachieving with my two blogs or I am concentrating on the wrong thing.

    Your advice is sincere, doesn’t beat around the bush and is completely right, but it is incredibly difficult to make all these things work at once.

    I think most of us do it for the love of it, not for the money, with the hope that one day it will become something bigger, better and financially rewarding, but if we start turning down sponsored posts, blog trips and disagreeing with PR companies then how are we meant to feel that we are actually getting anywhere?

    I really think that you need to be in a position of power before you can afford to do this, yet the power lies in our audience, who, of course, won’t stick around if our blogs are riddled with paid links and samey content.

    That’s the rut I’m in.

  8. helen patrikis

    This PR person wants to let you know that everything you said is spot on. Great piece and sound advice.

  9. #7 is vital and something that doesn’t get said often enough. It is essential to travel on your own.

    One thing I often tell bloggers is that getting to the point where 1) your travel is primarily sponsored 2) your content is primarily sponsored is a line that you do not want to cross. And if you find yourself leaning in that direction, it’s time to take a step back and return to how you started.

  10. I love this article. There are so many blogs out there producing low quality content. I read travel blogs for an insider perspective on how to navigate new places. I don’t need your tips for visiting the Eiffel Tower (haha) but I’d love to hear about the amazing lunch place you found around the corner that’s not in the guidebooks.

    I actually like using hashtags though because then I can connect with other people posting about the same things as me (i.e. someone else in Kerplekistan! Maybe they are doing something you don’t know about). The one thing I really hate though is hashtags that aren’t obvious as to what they are referring to.

    That being said I am a PR person (for fashion and travel products, not destinations). I agree the industry is so behind but I’d much rather work with a quality blogger than some silly person any day!

  11. This is great advice for all of us! Thanks for sharing your insights. After six years of blogging, we still have a lot to learn.

  12. Well said, Gary. I’ve always been known as a writer, but last year I decided to become a more skilled photographer. I still have a ways to go, but I’m improving. As with everything, the key is to get better. Nobody starts out at the top, but there are plenty of people with delusions of grandeur out there that think an address on the www will lead to instant fame, fortune, and an unlimited supply of free travel.

    Ha! If they only knew!

  13. #2 was a great tip. I get a good picture once in a while but definitely need a class or two to get better pictures.

  14. Peter Unger

    Good points Gary, it’s all so true. Loved the point you made about ” another backpacking blog through Thailand ” yes it seems every second blog you read is about going through Thailand,Vietnam and Cambodia. It’s only because they are a collective of very cheap countries. Yes be different is the name of the game nowadays isn’t it. I plan to be in one of those “Be different ” ones and No I am not traveling through Thailand. Been there done that. I’m hitting the “EXPENSIVE ” countries haha. Living in Australia I’m used to Expensive countries. Cheers Gary, keep up the good work. πŸ™‚ Pedro

  15. Overall, I agree with the spirit of this article – especially about constantly working to improve yourself and having a long term approach – but I have to raise some objections to number 3. (And, no, I’ve never written about backpacking in Thailand!)

    There are endless blogs about Thailand, London, New York, Paris – but very few of them are actually good quality. I recently visited London after being away for nearly 8 years and I eventually gave up searching for info and ideas on blogs because it was too frustrating to sort through all the out of date, poorly presented material.

    With millions of visitors traveling to these popular destinations each year, I think there is space in the market for more high quality blogs than currently exist.

    If your audience consists of people who are new to travel or people who can rarely travel or people who are conservative or hesitant in choosing their destination, a well written, well presented, well researched blog about a popular destination will always find appreciative readers.

    And a lot of these travel destinations are begging for more niche bloggers. I’m struggling to find good information about accessible travel in London for those with a mobility impairment, finding decent coffee in Paris (nope, not a cafe blog. Actual decent coffee – really hard to find) and Thailand for foodies with a shellfish allergy.

    I agree that it might be harder for your blog to gain some traction in these larger markets and it might be more challenging to make it your bread and butter but I still think these destinations have tons of writing potential.

  16. I find this so encouraging Gary! Especially your very first point – while I’ve technically had a blog since 2005, it’s just in the past 2 years that I’ve started to find my passion for creating multimedia travel content. Sometimes the seeming overnight success of blogs breaking lots of the rules you mentioned above gets discouraging. But I try and hold fast to my editorial standards and believe that somehow, in the long run it will all work out and I’ll get where I’m trying go.

  17. There is a difference between a destination blog and a travel blog.

    If you want to focus just on London or Vegas or Thailand, then go for it.

    If you want to travel however, then you need to spice it up.

  18. Just as I was about to lose my sense of humor over a discussion on ‘obligatory’ reciprocal likes, you pulled me back from the edge with this:
    “…and the fact that you are too lazy to read an entire article means you are probably deeply screwed on multiple levels.”
    Thanks for that.

  19. Great post.
    I’ve been blogging for about 4 years now and I’ve made next to nothing from it. I’ve never sold ads or sponsored links – only freelance writing.

    Of course I really want it to be financially successful but at the end of the day, I do it for the same reason I travel – i love it. I love indie travel, I love writing, I love photography, I love web design/coding.

  20. Hallelujah! A well articulated summary of my sentiments right now. Actually, I’d like to see this list taken one step further and turned into a manifesto that every new blogger (and a good number of existing ones) have to sign and pledge to stick to for their entire blogging careers. That would help down out some of the noise.

  21. Fantastic points and great reminders! I started a year ago and taking classes (Nat Geo Photo seminar and writing classes) has helped immensely. I will say though people tend to like my London/Paris posts more than my Easter Island and Botswana travels. For those who travel reading about all the new, offbeat places is a thrill but for others London/Paris is the bucketlist dream so I think it’s ok to write about those too and also add a new spin such as Street Art tour of Paris.

  22. Nice post, thanks for sharing. I started travelling in 2004. I wish I started blogging then. I sent group emails at dial-up internet cafe’s once in awhile though!

    Thanks for making me aware that my travel blog is not really a travel blog.

    I hope there is room in the otherwise crowded space for a mum, whom loves to travel but obviously have restrictions with young kiddies. Though I know there are fully nomadic family bloggers out there. I am hoping my very new blog can fill in the middle. Where you can travel several months of the year with kids without having to completely uproot the kids and homeschool them to continue the dream.

    PS: My writing does suck

    PPS: There are people that actually get to travel for free!? Crazy πŸ™‚

  23. Excellent, sensible, straightforward advice — the best kind!

    I especially agree that nowadays one has to be known for something and have an interesting and memorable name to stand out.

  24. Interesting take on travel blogging. this is my third year and the proliferation of travel blogs has made me rethink about my blog…how to nudge my way through the crowd. Trying to focus on senior travel
    I blog because I am interested in travel writing and have noted down your points.
    Thanks

  25. Excellent advice, Gary.

    There was a time when I felt like an outsider in the travel blog community… I had my niche. I couldn’t chase the “next big destination” that was dishing out money on social media and press trips… I didn’t get other travel bloggers leaving comments on my blog.

    Now, I feel lucky… I’ve got a wonderful, loyal audience. And they don’t see me as a travel blogger, they consider me an Ireland travel expert… I’ll take that as evidence that I took the right course.

  26. GREAT article Gary. It’s been fascinating to see the bloom of travel blogs over the past 4 years and there’s generally very little unique or special about any of them.

    For a while I was enticed by the lure of the blog – then I realised that actually, being a blogger isn’t all that. Tough to make a living, as you’ve pointed out, but to reinforce point #7, too many bloggers seem not be taking their own holidays any more. How many bloggers can actually afford to stay at Londolozi or the Burj? C’mon.

    Loved reading this…thank you!

  27. Great advice, Gary!

    I like to think I have yet to take my best image – as Sting said, “when you lose your hunger, you lose your art”.

  28. Agree with pretty much every point. Being different is the tricky bit. Some people blog for their friends and family of course – not necessarily to be admired by ‘other bloggers’.

    Just yesterday, in a post about a 1987 book about Granada and Andalucia, we state that it’s all been done before – in print of course. It is tiresome to read yet another ‘best bars in X’ for the millionth time. There are a few of them about – glossy, nice pics but say what’s been said before. Originality is the key (even if there is the occasional ‘top 10’ post!)

  29. Nice post, but I disagree with the statement that “Paris, London, New York, etc…can’t be your bread and butter for content. Ditto for the statement, “You have to travel a lot.”

    I can think of any number of destination blogs about well-known places that have significant followings (and which, in one case, resulted in a big-money three-book deal for the blogger). Some are written by temporary or permanent expats, while others are done by locals.

    A “travel blog” doesn’t have to be about the process of travel. It can be about a place. (If Francis Mayes had written UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN in 2013, instead of back in 1996, who knows–maybe it would have been a blog and not a book. Or maybe one would have led to the other.)

  30. For the purposes of this discussion, I’m defining a travel blog to be different from a destination blog.

    I understand your point and there are clearly many good destination sites even about the places I mentioned.

    However, people who are starting blogs with dreams of traveling around the world will never be able to touch the content that people who focus on those areas can provide.

  31. I needed to read this today! Over the past few weeks I’ve come so close to quitting the travel blogging ‘community’ so thanks for the reminder to keep doing what I love because I want to and not because I have a sponsored trip waiting for me πŸ™‚

  32. Some great advice here Gary about what is becoming a very saturated market – and which is sparking some good debate!

    I agree on the emphasis on quality and that travel bloggers need to continue to do their own travel. It’s how (nearly) everyone started (with savings and long-term business plan), but it’s a shame to see many losing their passion for personal travel in favour of 100% freebies. Balance is key, as is transparency.

    Successful blogging is about having SO many skills sets, and continuously learning – like stepping up photography or SEO. Thanks for outlining that it’s hard work, dedication and a clear focus which achieves results.

  33. Thank you, Gary, for writing this. Sometimes, I go from “hopeless depths of discouragement” to “fantastic flights of something entirely new” (and back). Finding your post and reading your list brought me great encouragement!

  34. First off you raise some really great points. There will be many who agree and disagree with you. And if you are only traveling because the trip is sponsored then you are not really traveling. I started blogging in 2007 and I do it because I love it. Not to make money which I don’t and probably never will. But I have helped so many people over the years with tips and inspiration that is all the payment I’ve ever needed. Blogging has also opened so many doors for me so I won’t bite the hand that feeds me and I also won’t tell a blogger what they should or shouldn’t do. That’s what’s so awesome about blogging- there aren’t any rules (except for the FCC)

  35. After reading this, I feel so much better that my first choice of domain name, GlobalBackpackingNomadVagabonds.com, was taken. Great advice!

  36. I was smiling about choosing a domain name. I am always wondering how silly mine is and if it was a good choice. Then I realised yup its better than another Global Wanderlust Nomad. Now, I need to work on the rest of your tips. Thanks.

  37. Thanks Gary for these very useful tips and tricks, especially for those of us still ‘getting our feet wet’ after 23 months of blogging! Standing out through unique quality content is definitely a talent that’s useful in all and any creative field, and especially in the realm of travel blogging!

  38. Thanks for this Gary. I particularly like #6. As an occasional consumer of travel blogs, NOTHING turns me off more than an over the top press release-ish bit written about a hotel, tour company or airline.

  39. Excellent article, Gary. Agree on all points, especially audience over traffic and passion over PR!

    Luckily for us, our domain name gets a grandfather pardon. In 2006, I had no idea there’d be so many future fellow nomads. But, cheers to there being more avid travelers in the world and happy trails to all!

  40. Thanks for this article. I found myself nodding along. It wasn’t until I posted about my Arctic trip, then about my container ship trip from Athens to Hong Kong that I started getting a bigger audience, and people contacting me, asking me to join them for face to face meetings, coffee etc! So beyond the blogger sphere as well.
    The comment about audience, not necessarily traffic is a really valid one.
    It’s quality rather than quantity. It’s too easy for people to get bogged down with being sycophantic and selling their souls to the PR bigwigs, or obsessing about viewing figures.

    So thanks once again.

  41. Great tips. As a person with a young blog I am glad to find tips such as these. Although mine is travel, it is being an expat in CR, many of the tips are helpful.

  42. Villa

    I might regret what I say here, I rarely even comment, but it’s all about being original and with your “thing” at the end… I’ve been semi-involved for some good two years in the travel blogger community, on the peripheries mainly, partially as one more of those lucky seekers who try to make something out of a little dream of independence after a good decade and a bit of corporate bullshit. (And yes, maybe occasionally realising that the playground is crowded indeed + especially filled with bs; once you get sucked in here, you’re not independent, you are just a little toy among the bigger experienced cats, or part of the groups which determine your fate).

    What does strike me is that the “blogger industry” is quite a bit like Hollywood (just without the money), pretty unaware of what’s happening in the real world. Most bloggers write for other bloggers (yes, really) and few who write for real people (and that should be number 13 on Gary’s list, if not number 1, way ahead of writing for PR agents, those at least pay). Few who leave the hostels and venture out to see how the real people have it, let alone venturing away from Chang Mai. Bloggers frenetically tweet and RT and “like” for other bloggers and they admire each other while getting really-really jealous in secret, they kidnap blogger forum threads and end up self-promoting and… It just never stops. But at the end, it’s just signs of the time, why would it be different in this field? And there’s also a lot of incredible dedication too and big hearts, so it’s not all bad.

    I might understand the behaviour, but don’t hold me to my theory: if you have a dream you want to build upon, you have to use everything in your power to make it happen. But ultimately, it’s gonna come down to who you really are, what your talent really is. If you even have it. A good writer/content creator is not necessarily a good sales person, but somehow they will always feel more genuine (but with way less money). But the good salespeople will make some money while others will – maybe jealously – frown upon them.

    All the while a few of the writers with the good stories from Kerplekistan might become eternal, but they’ll likely never find out in time.

    But to just cut the crap, ultimately, it’s about this: find the balance or try and fail and be happy for the experience. Be yourself, follow your thing, make your 12 bullet-point advice while at the same time frown upon others for doing it. It clearly works. And at the end, why the β€œold-timers” like Gary made it is not really because competition was thinner back then, they had other challenges to face; they made it because they had the talent and/or the guts.

  43. Thanks for the good advice! I’ve been blogging for over a year now but my social media skills fell a bit behind. It’s reassuring to read that it takes time. Tine

  44. All great advice, are now in our 2nd year of blogging and full time travelers. It’s really tough but I love it. We hope to keep building our audience with unique and interesting stories.

  45. Great post, I agree most with #1 and #9. Any business has to have long term plan in order to work and be successful. AS far as having a thing goes, it’s about picking a focus and then sticking to it. Lauren and I didn’t realize we had a thing, until someone else said something to us one day. Then we realized that we’re identified as the “Road Trippers”, not a bad thing to be known for at all πŸ™‚

  46. I believe you are quite wrong when it comes to points 3 and 5. For me (and my readers), it’s not about the destination, it’s about the experience you have there.

    People wrongly book tickets to North Korea in order to brag about being where no-one else has gone before…only to share the EXACT same experiences as everybody else who goes there. I would prefer a post with an unique spin of Paris instead of reading about the nth guy who took a tour of North Korea.

    Besides, every blogger needs to ask himself who his audience is: People who like NatGeo and are fascinated by reading about places they never heard before? or people who like to travel and want to get inspired to where to go next? The former will probably never leave his city to visit the places you have while the latter will use your tips and articles to enhance his own travel experience.

  47. Raphael,

    I can say after 8 years that it just isn’t how it works. I’m sure there is a segment of the market that cares about that, but for the most part, there are only so many ways you spin hanging out on a beach in Thailand or sitting at a cafe in Paris.

    Those stories have been told ad nauseum before the internet even existed.

    You are free to do it, and I’m not saying you should never do it, but just going to over-visited places and doing obvious things just isn’t interesting for the majority of people.

  48. Hi Gary, I saw your Twitter page and just had to look in.
    I love this post. It really points out the realities of being a travel blogger.
    My blog is fairly new but I have been travelling since 1994 (ahem)! I like points 4, 5, & 9. I do travel a lot and I like to think it’s to interesting places, but we’ll see! Next month, I’m going to Poland. I like Poland and where I’m going, there are hardly any tourists!

    I also have “a thing.” My thing is Britain and Berlin. I’m hoping to be the go to person, for readers. That’s my goal. Thanks for sharing. I’m also going to tweet this post. πŸ™‚

  49. Thank you Gary. I went to ITB recently and fell into a bit of a pit of “What IS this and what am I doing?”. Your advice is very grounding. Thanks πŸ™‚

  50. This is exactly why I did not write much about Chiang Mai.. Every tom,dick and harry with a blog has blazed through there and added to the list of..

    I did use the name ‘Tropical Nomad’, so I’m caught out with your verboten list. But you know, when it came to me I thought it was good. I like tropical places and i am nomadic so it worked at the time. Looking back, I would have gone a different route but such is life.

    I am developing my skill for a ‘thing’ which I do not see any other travel blogger doing. It may just be what sets me apart from the crowd πŸ™‚

  51. “My father, a wise and grave man, gave me serious and excellent counsel against what he foresaw was my design… He told me it was men of desperate fortunes, on one hand, or of superior fortunes, on the other, who went abroad upon adventures, aspiring to rise by enterprise, and make themselves famous in undertakings of a nature out of the common road…” — from ‘Robinson Crusoe’ by Daniel Defoe

    Gary,
    I happened to be reading Robinson Crusoe when I came across this article. Thought it was somehow fitting!

    Question: Where do you see the travel humor writer fitting into this world of travel blogging and writing?

    Thanks for all your good words.

  52. I wouldn’t think of yourself as a humor travel blog.

    I’d think of yourself as a humorist who happens to travel.

  53. Great tips here, inspiring to stay true to your own voice and not get swayed by PR trips and pleasing other people…

  54. LOL this exactly what you were telling me in Dublin last year (over loud music). I got it then, I get it now, and I still think about that chat we had. In fact, I have even quoted you on it. I think there needs to be a balance. I have actually enjoyed being a travel writer more than a blogger. I feel like there is far less pressure and the relationships are not as thick. I can be more creative and be more of a storyteller than a brand seller.

    Travel blogging is not as glamorous as everyone thinks. Once you get into the thick of it, it can be down right messy. There is a learning curve though, and getting settled into what suits you best is part of that.

    Thank you writing this. I enjoyed it.

    Till we meet again πŸ˜‰

  55. This is the second post I’ve read this week that’s made me feel better about being a lone caffeinated day-tripper in a world travel blogging universe. Thanks for the pep talk, needed it!

  56. Great summary Gary. I’m especially fond of #4 – and as you know have been on the road as long as you have. I find every year it becomes more challenging in a way to find new things that wow me – but I still and always will love travel and that’s why I’m still here.
    I’m curious Gary – how important do you feel public speaking is when it comes to being a successful travel blogger. I know you do it a lot and I’ve toyed with it – but I don’t particularly like speaking to other bloggers or industry stuff. I just enjoy talking to people who want to travel and don’t know where to start.

  57. I don’t actually do that much speaking.

    I’ve cut down on going to conferences because I realized I get nothing out of talking to travel industry people. There was a point where I felt like I was becoming the spokesman for travel blogging and it was something that I didn’t want to do. It didn’t bring in any money nor did it grow my audience.

    If I do more speaking in the future, it will be directly to travelers.

  58. I think what you wrote is a truth. I’m commenting this based on my own experience of running a non-commercial travel blog. Though, I don’t have a traffic and earn money, it gives me a great satisfaction when I read the comments and that my blog has been nominated for the best blog by “blogadda” and by other travel platforms.

  59. I’m pr for a destination and I really liked this article. I have a great appreciation for bloggers and other travel writers. It was very difficult for me when destination blogging started to really bloom. How to show the ROI? It was hard to explain when the power players “go by the numbers.”
    I love when my destination receives publicity, wish it was a bit more. We don’t do the press trips because eons ago a successful travel writer told me she never goes on “brown bag field trips.” I took that to heart and I understood her reasoning. When I am lucky enough to have a visiting journalist, I always provide information about my destination, everyone needs a starting point. Travel writers receive personal attention and freedom to explore.
    It would be great to see an article with a “twist” on my destination. Published articles are what we need, but I would love for a writer to find the real heart of my little, beach town. We all know the ocean and its draw. What about the rest?
    This was a really interesting read, love reading all the comments. Thanks for this posting.

  60. Thank you so much! This has really motivated me to reinvest and reinvent. I especially love the no hastag comment. Again, thank you for sharing your insight and giving me a boost!

  61. Thailand is my favorite country, and I will go again and blog about it every time I go, but I agree with 3. Unless you are going to find the way out of the way places in that country, you will be crowded out by thousands of other blogs on the country.

    I have had great traffic and success with my trips to Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago. I went to Carnival two years ago, and I consistently get great traffic from those posts, especially in December and January when people start to plan their Carnival trip.

  62. Yup! Agree with much of why you’ve written. So many people out there write with the hope of making a living out of what is a very crowded market. Do it for love, not free trips or money.

    Interesting point about mixing with other travel bloggers. I purposely avoid that crowd. I don’t want to attend TBEX etc and think they’re just an excuse for a party.

    http://www.roughguidetoalonelyplanet.blogspot.co.uk

  63. That is exactly why I do go to TBEX. It is the one time of year where all my blogger friends will be in the same place.

  64. Thanks for the post Gary, it’s a very sobering piece. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the hype of “free yourself” and rush off to start your own online “freedom” business.

    The biggest takeaway for me was how you defined an audience. You really hit the nail on the head with this:

    “Your audience are people who have made at least a one click commitment to hear more from you in the future because they know who you are and care about what you have to say.”

    Many thanks for that and happy travels.

  65. Thank you Gary for this interesting post to me, as a “newbie” travel blogger, just starting.
    I agree, quality content is the key, and having your own “thing” to stand out is necessary. I am a photographer at heart and have done several workshops to get to a level I am happy with, to accompany my writing, and it appears that my posts featuring photography and video are attracting more readers than a simple post with a featured image.
    I am definitely not a backpacker as comfort is important to me, and loved every minute of my trips to Thailand. Hopefully my experience of the Yi Peng and Loi Krathong festivals this past year will still be of interest to someone out there! I must say that photos do not do justice to those thousands of lanterns lighting up the night sky… I have been wanting to travel across Asia since over 20 years, and finally am planning a several month expedition in 2015. My thirst for discovery will certainly not be dampened by a thought that those countries have been overdone by bloggers. I travel because that is what I am passionate about, that is who I am, and writing about it and attempting to capture the spirit of a place through photography or videography is simply a natural extension for those that are inclined to do so. Personal enrichment through travel is my primary goal, not a blog post!
    The lure of sponsored trips, and therefore free travel, is a huge and natural attraction for those researching the travel blogging opportunity. I understand your point, and certainly unbiased advice should be always favored. These trips could be put to good use for scouting purposes, or a starting point to a longer stay for more in depth perspective.
    Also, having lived in Paris many moons ago and living part time in France and visiting the amazing capital often, I feel I can stir up some interesting “evergreen” articles, but feel a focused destination website/blog is the way to go to share my love of my corner of southwestern France, the gorgeous Aquitaine and Basque regions, the beautiful world heritage city of Bordeaux and it’s surrounding reknown wine country, as well as my epicurean love affair with PΓ©rigord… My head and hands are full of projects, life is fun πŸ™‚
    Thank you again Gary for sharing your experienced insights. I do want to be successful at funding my future – and pretty costly- world travels through my travel blogging and freelance writing and photography opportunities, and will keep these points in mind.
    Happy travels and best wishes to everyone here living this great adventure πŸ˜‰

  66. I like this summary, however, I find it difficult to agree with #4 You Have to Travel a Lot. I think that if you treat traveling this way it becomes a rat race. More countries to visit, more posts to write, more pictures…this is madness!

    Instead of going to as many places as you can go to few BUT MAKE IT RIGHT! I personally favor slow travel, going to the same places many times, see it in various seasons, learning the language of the country visited. A true remedy for these problems Gary brought here is going deeper instead of going everywhere.

    Safe travels to all of you!

  67. That is a wonderful way to travel, but not a very interesting thing to read about.

    Travel magazines get around this by having multiple authors who visit many different places. Most bloggers can’t do that.

  68. I understand your point of view. But as you said: it’s all about passion. How on earth you can sell a destination if you are there for 1 week/2 weeks or sometimes few days? Or even tell a fascinating story? Triviality this is what has happened with travels. We traded real life-changing journeys for short-terms trips everywhere.

    I think about two things here: first, a long tradition and common sense of traveling slowly; and second the new and quite reasonable tendency for searching “local experts” rather than people that were everywhere. No offense here.

    I think this article is written from the perspective of a person who was trend-setter. It was risky for Gary to sell everything and start his journey. It paid off. But we can’t ALL be like Gary. So, I agree with #9 and I’m keeping my fingers crossed to all EXCEPTIONAL people to go through the media noise and get their audience.

    When Gary started it was much easier – because there were few bloggers – but it was also harder – because there were no audience trained to follow such adventures. But this is something we can’t discuss with. Just the reality.

  69. Wow…this is a very useful article! I have done some travel blogging on other blogs in the past, but I devote all of my time to my relatively new blog that I have with my boyfriend called Justin Plus Lauren. We’ve been writing for about a year. I suppose I’m not looking to become the next breakthrough blog and I’m not looking to generate any real income from it – it is more a record of my our own experiences/travels as a couple that I hope others may enjoy reading. When I plan trips, I read so many great blogs and sites, that I hope to be able to help others in their planning, too! If anything, I like being able to look back on our own experiences and the memories that we have created. These are great tips though that I will definitely take into consideration. Thankfully, we do have some training (we both work professionally as video editors, and I have an English degree). I’m glad that so many people are interested in travel blogging because I am not sure that the actual amount of travelers has risen – I think that more people are willing to share their stores, which I find fascinating!

  70. I just started my blog a few months ago and I’m already an offender of rule #10 (damn!). But most of these points are things I have thought about and tried to implement. I think you have done a great job outlining what makes a “good” blog — quality content, originality, personality, love for blogging. However, whether or not this list is the way to “achieve success” depends a bit on how you define success, don’t you think? I know that the blog you describe is the one that I want — a blog with good writing and an engaged audience. I don’t care that much about making money from it. That said, I have definitely encountered travel blogs that boast some pretty terrible content, typos everywhere, hideous design and mediocre photos (not to mention a TON of PR fluff) and yet they are inexplicably popular and the bloggers behind them are actually able to make a living doing what they’re doing. I don’t necessarily approve of that, or want to be like that–but it certainly is “success.” I think what you have articulated so well in this post is what SHOULD make a blog successful, in an ideal world where the average reader has the same aversion to cliches and grammatical faux pas that you and I clearly share. Obviously I’m not saying that “good blogs” can’t be popular, too—just that there are lots of different audiences out there in this internet world and some of them really do seem to enjoy reading a 12th rehashing of “where to spend too much money on dinner in Paris,” goodness knows why. Maybe I am horribly cynical and way off base — I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  71. We’re not writing in english but it seems that it’s the same in every country/language πŸ˜‰
    Great post, thanks!

  72. My husband and I are newbies… like to the greatest extent of the word. Our website isn’t even live yet! BUT #3 & #10 literally made me laugh. In all of the research we’ve been doing nearly EVERYONE is backpacking through Thailand (and/or Southeast Asia) and nearly EVERYONE is a “nomad.” Glad I’m not the only one thinking it! πŸ˜‰ For whatever my thoughts count for (again I’m totally new), to build on #12- I think you have to have a love for actual WRITING. Not just travel. You have to want to share your stories… and that should be your primary objective. Everything else (including income) is secondary in the blogging world.

  73. Great article, thanks for all the info!
    I’m good on #10, but definitely need to get working on #4. I work full-time so I travel on vacation time, which is a bummer. I need to find a way to have a steady income and still travel.
    You are living the dream, and looks like I’ve got a lot of work to do. πŸ™‚
    All the best,
    -Jenn, Alongourway.com

  74. Great reading Gary, I can relate to so many of your experiences.
    I’ve always been in it for the long-term & now in my sixth year of promoting Uganda through my blog Diary of a Muzungu. My writing has definitely improved over the years and although I don’t have a huge amount of traffic, I definitely have regular readers, many of whom have become off-line clients. I’ve made very little money directly from the blog, but it’s a great online portfolio for my ‘day job’ (as a marketing manager that specialises in promoting tourism and conservation).
    Blogging has taught me social media skills that I’ve then been able to sell on to non-travel clients too.
    As for blog meet-ups, I’m hoping to go to my first one this May in Cape Town – there’s no such thing as JUST a party is there? Surely that’s our reward for all the late nights and lost weekends πŸ˜‰

  75. Well, some interesting insights, many things I can see the logic in, and for us a “downer”. We started “travel blogging” long before it became a fashion, but then took a long break because – well, we needed to be grounded for financial reasons. Now we jumped in feet first, next week I’ll be arriving in Montevideo/Uruguay for the next round, but this time we NEED to earn money one way or the other… After reading this I guess it has to be “the other” πŸ™

    Still: I will upgrade the website to WordPress in the near future (WP was still in its infant shoes when we started in 2005), and hopefully build on our good reputation and niche as one of the first to do vehicle based travel and write about it. Luckily our resource pages have hundreds of incoming links and some page rank with Google = that’s at least a starting point.

Comments are closed.