When we tell people we're travel bloggers, there's a fairly good chance they'll question how we make money from it. We are inevitably met by a quizzical frown and the question, "So, um, what do you actually do?"
If they say nothing at all, that usually means they think we're full of sh*t. They think we have someone paying for us to travel, like rich parents, an inheritance or something else along those lines.
Either way, it's frustrating. Some people say, "I'm going to start blogging." To that, we just smile and say, "You should." Nine times out of 10, they won't get past the blog design, especially once they see what's really involved.
It's not easy by any means. Trust me: The questions get old, and we have to remind ourselves that if things were reversed, we would be curious too. After all, it's a weird career choice. But it's also weirdly amazing.
The answer is much more complicated than “We travel and write about it.” That's because it really is complicated to be a travel blogger. It's not always about flying first class, five-star hotels, free food and awesome Instagram pictures. At least, not for us anyway. We don't mind the questions because it is such a new career path that sometimes, we feel like we don't quite get it ourselves.
Every blogger works in a completely different way. We all travel differently and earn our money differently. Each week is completely different from the last.
There are lots of different types of bloggers too. Solo female bloggers, family travel bloggers, backpacker bloggers, budget travel bloggers, luxury travel bloggers, bloggers who blog about travel blogging: The list of niches goes on and on. If you haven't followed us for long, we consider our niche "luxury-adventure." We like to get our adrenaline pumping and stay in foofy hotels.
It might seem like we do little more than write posts and take pretty pictures. But that is just a small part of it. The rest of our time is spent responding to potential advertisers, responding to brands, editing photos, editing videos, assembling promotional materials, pitching travel and tourism contacts, writing for other sites (also called guest posts), Facebook group networking, tweaking site design, tracking financials, link building, doing keyword research, reading other travel blogs and maintaining our presence on social media.
Have you ever logged onto Facebook the day of your birthday and had 100-plus notifications? Welcome to our life every day. If we log off Facebook for two hours, we come back to 100-plus notifications.
Sometimes, we don't realize we are only showing the “pretty side” of traveling and being a travel blogger. People think being a travel blogger is a dream job that we're just really lucky to have gotten. In all honesty, that's only because of how most of us make it look.
Most travel bloggers who haven't "made it" work their 9-to-5s, and all other hours are devoted to their blogs.
Kids? Family? Down time? What's that?
Now, I'm not going to lie: Most of the “behind the scenes” stuff that happens while we're traveling is still pretty awesome. But what's not so awesome is the endless hard work, disappointments, struggles and obstacles we've gone through (and still are going through), just to be travel bloggers.
Nothing was handed to us. We didn't submit a resume and get hired. We had to create our own unconventional career path, despite the not-s0-glamorous side that comes along with it. Even thought we're number 87 on the list of top 1,000 travel bloggers in the world, we never feel like we've "made it."
Our parents still read the newspaper. They don't trust the Internet, and they think travel is still reserved for the 1 percent. Try explaining travel blogging, let alone press trips.
Even though we spend well over 40 hours per week pouring our blood, sweat and tears into this blog and our freelance work, it doesn't usually feel like work. We don't feel like our brains are leaking out of our ears as we sit in a cubicle, completing monotonous tasks over and over again. There's no boss to answer to or workplace drama to worry about.
We are the bosses, and it feels amazing. But sometimes, we miss that bi-weekly direct deposit that comes with having a boss.
Just to clarify, we don't actually get paid money to travel to places (most of the time, anyway). Although that's obviously the ultimate goal, it's one that is extremely difficult to achieve. It takes a really long time and hard work to attain.
We have, however, achieved the goal of getting to stay at places in exchange for exposure. We don't like saying “getting to travel for free” because we still have to do a ton of writing, photography and social media posting in exchange. We typically always still have to pay for our flights, transportation and, sometimes, our meals. We pay for those things with the money we make writing for other publications, and through sponsored content on our site and social media. But it still adds up.
In order to be an actual travel blogger, you have to spend money first. How else are you going to write about traveling? We've spent more money traveling than we've made from it.
As with most freelance work, we are never guaranteed a paycheck. Some brands and advertisers pay the day after you work. Sometimes, you have to chase them down. Some offer direct deposit or PayPal. Other times, you have to wait for a check in the mail. Often, we write articles in the hopes they will get published. But then, they don't get published at all.
Every month is different. Sometimes, we land great gigs and store money away to go on our dream trips. Other months, we wonder if it's all really worth it. We have to have a large savings account, and we have make sure we have as many streams of income as possible.
The truth is, we don't make that much money. But we are happy.
We could have easily stayed at our steady, monotonous, cubicle jobs. But getting seven days off for vacation a year seems like torture. We make less, but we travel more. We make our own schedules. How much we make in any given month depends on luck and how motivated we are.
We get paid in a variety of different ways: advertising on the blog itself, freelancing, social media consulting and managing, sponsored social media campaigns and sponsored blog posts, ongoing campaigns as brand ambassadors, strategic paid partnerships and the occasional paid press trip.
It's wonderful not to have a boss anymore. It's great to be able to work for yourself. But can you trust yourself to do the work when someone isn't asking you or paying you to do so?
We love our laptops, iPads and phones, especially since they allow us to work from anywhere in the world. We spend the majority of our time staring at a screen, so don't take it the wrong way when we forget to look up sometimes.
These days, some people can just look like models on Instagram. They can stand in beautiful places and call themselves travel bloggers. We are actually still very much into the writing portion.
Tiana wrote for her college newspaper, and has always dreamed of being an author. It takes us about five hours or more to just draft one blog post, let alone edit it, review it and rewrite parts of it. Then, we have to figure out what photos to use, edit those, add links, research keywords and publish several posts a month on our own blog. On top of that, we must write for other sites that will pay per article.
Professional travel blogging is hard. It's a big commitment. We worked on our blog for six months before anyone even shared an article. Imagine walking through your office and seeing that people don't acknowledge your work or pay you. You just keep going to work for months, hoping to be noticed and paid eventually. It takes dedication.
I think most people fail because they don't realize the commitment involved in it. Depending on how much time and effort you dedicate to it, it could take years.
(Think you have what it takes? Start a travel blog with our step-by-step guide.)
There are a lot of seasoned travel bloggers doing amazing things. But there are also plenty of bloggers out there who are ruining our reputations as a whole.
We work together to show brands that bloggers are valuable and worth investing in. Whenever we work with someone, we make it a point to exceed expectations. But brands may work with one bad egg, and that will shut the doors for everyone.
Travel woes don't faze us anymore. The marketing manager is off for the weekend, but forgot to put us in the system? Arrested on a train? Luggage lost? No problem.
We constantly have bad luck when we travel, but it doesn't stop us. You learn to go with the flow. We learn to have a backup plan, and in the end, it makes us better and smarter travelers.
We have been home in LA for exactly two weeks. We have had back-to-back trips, and we're seriously behind in posting about them. We are not complaining because we just returned from New York, Portland, Abu Dhabi and South Africa. Our living room is literally a minefield of suitcases and travel cubes.
Sometimes, we miss birthdays and weddings. We don't see an important status update. We don't know your kid was sick, or that you got a new job.
We care. We really do. We just have six jobs rolled into one, and they are all on our devices. We make money on the Internet: The same place you go to vent and play games on is our office. Don't be offended.
To Our Friends And Family
As bloggers, sharing our posts and photos means the world to us. It's the virtual pat on the back we all crave. It's hard to explain this to friends and family.
They scroll past our posts with an occasional "like," and that's that. We usually have anywhere between 30 to 100 comments on any given blog post, but none of those are from friends or family.
We have strangers leave us paragraphs of questions and compliments. It is the virtual thumbs up and "good job" that we love. We just wish it came from people we knew sometimes.
We see you sharing that dancing cat video. Can you share our posts?
Yes, we are unashamedly begging for attention. In our case, it pays our bills.
Since we started travel blogging, we have made some amazing friends. We are closer to some of these virtual friends than we are to our real-life friends. We can message our blogging friends at 2 am and ask them how to fix a glitch on our site.We can meet them for lunch and discuss blog design.
We help one another work with brands, and we plan on going to conferences together. We compete for spots on press trips, sponsorships, partnerships and speaking gigs.
We compete for funding to be spent on us. We love each other and support each other's blogs and endeavors, even if we have a twinge of jealousy when our friends land amazing press trips and we don't.
Social media runs our lives.
When Facebook first came out and we had to sign up using my college email address, we could never have imagined that my career would revolve around spending hours creating and executing the perfect social media posts on it. Back then, social media was still just for fun, and used to keep up with old friends.
Now, it's the most powerful marketing tool in the world. We barely have time to keep up with our personal Instagram accounts because we are so focused on the business account.
Instagram is a job to us. Therefore, we spend hours planning, editing our photos, writing captions, researching hashtags and posting x number of times. It's about more than just picking a filter for us.
Our likes and comments are our livelihood. No one wants to work with a blogger with 12 likes and no comments. We have been invited on press trips just for having 11,000-plus Instagram followers.
We have to remember that a sunset on the beach looks beautiful, and you want a horizontal photo for the blog. But you also need a vertical shot for Instagram and Pinterest.
It's hard to remember to tweet, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and Periscope one thing while you're still trying to enjoy the moment. Sometimes, we need to unplug.
It's amazing being a travel blogger.
If if seems like we're making travel blogging sound like it's a soul-draining endeavor, that's not entirely true. We often have to sacrifice days at the beach in Hawaii to write a blog post. Other times, we edit photos instead of going out on a Friday night.
We miss the reliable paychecks and the stable feeling of a 9-to-5 sometimes. But hey, our meetings are no longer in a conference room. Instead, for example, they could be via Skype call in Cape Town.
In the past 18 months, we've gone swimming with great white sharks in South Africa, hiked through a gorge in Portland, taken a cable car up Table Mountain, gone diving at Molokini Crater in Hawaii, spent the winter teaching English in Germany, drunk craft beer in Denver, eaten at amazing food trucks in Austin, spent a week in Mexico, eaten a Cajun Thanksgiving in New Orleans, had a luxury getaway in Santa Barbara, eaten brunch at 13 places in Los Angeles and spent a weekend unplugged in upstate New York. (This is just to name a few.)
These adventures are the result of all the hard work we've put into travel blogging. We've found a way to get paid for performing our favorite hobby. It just so happens we get to do so while following our dreams of traveling the world.