Travel Blogging Lessons Learned: My First Six Months

Noel starting tiredly at his computer while typing an article on his travel blog

Travel Blogging Lessons Learned: My First Six Months

 

Like countless other travel bloggers, I’ve come to see that creating and maintaining a blog is far more demanding than I first thought. I started this website knowing that I loved to travel, write, take photographs, and use the internet, but I didn’t know much else. I stepped into the world of travel blogging blindly with my fingers firmly crossed.

These first six months have been an intense learning process — it’s been a steady stream of stress and struggles to get Tenacious Travel off the ground. The process is overwhelming, confusing, and frustrating at times, but I’ve come to accept these moments for what they are: opportunities to grow.

Here are some of the more meaningful lessons I learned along the way.

Lessons Learned in Writing

Take Good Notes

Notes are a travel blogger’s best friend, especially when you have a leaky memory like me. Jot down small, vivid details throughout your travels that will be useful down the road when you’re creating content. Smells, colors, emotions, weather — these are the little details that will add life and vibrancy to your writing.

I’ve started using a digital voice recorder to capture such details as I go through my days. It’s much faster than writing notes by hand and allows me to catch more thoughtful details, but it has its disadvantages too. If strangers see me speaking into a recorder in their midst, it may attract attention, so I choose my dictation moments carefully.

To-do list, pen, passport, money, and a lighter all in a pile

Make a to-do list every single day

 

To-Do Lists Are Your Friends

It’s rewarding to organize the day efficiently and thoughtfully, and to-do lists will do just this. Travel bloggers have no shortage of excuses not to write — with travel comes an unstoppable stream of distractions. To-do lists bring structure and accountability to your days and motivate you to get things done.

Put together a productive and compelling to-do list every day and always pencil in some time for writing.

Outlines Add Focus and Save Time

You need to make outlines for every single post you create if you want your writing to be organized and stress-free. Outlines save time in the long run, minimize the editing process, and funnel the jumbled stream of thoughts out of your head and onto paper.

Would you try to build a house without a blueprint? Would you journey into the woods without a map? Of course not. Outlines are the essential framework for writing compelling blog posts. 

A pile of rough drafts of travel blog articles, edited and marked up with red ink

I just chalk up all the red pen as ‘constructive criticism’

 

Editors Will Improve Your Writing

A second set of eyes will teach you a lot about your writing. You don’t need a professional editor for this — all you need is someone who communicates well and is honest in their critiques. It will surprise you how quickly a friend — or even a stranger — can improve your writing.

Lessons Learned in Photography

Closeup of an Olympus OM-D E-M10 lightweight camera

My lightweight and relatively affordable travel camera, the Olympus OM-D E-M10

 

Invest in a Decent Camera

You want your photos to capture the colorful memories from your journeys accurately. A reliable camera that takes high-quality pictures will help convey your experiences more vividly. Cameras don’t have to be bulky or expensive. Here’s the lightweight camera I use when I’m on the road.

Check Out My Other Blogging Gear: Budget Travel & Travel Blogging Resources

And Bring that Camera Everywhere

Resist the temptation to leave your camera behind when you explore out into the world — the perfect photo opportunity will arise unpredictably and often vanish quickly. Be prepared. Have your camera close at hand while you’re waiting for a train, walking to the store, or searching for your hostel.

I left my camera behind to save weight while trekking in Chile, Argentina, and Iceland, which forced me to take lesser-quality pictures with my phone. Yes, the photos I took are nice, but they don’t do the sprawling glaciers, roaring rivers, or stunning mountain passes justice.

Editing Your Photos is Worth It

Making a few small tweaks to your photos can really boost their value to your website. Every successful blogger edits their photos to help evoke a strong visual message to their readers. Take a few moments to enhance your photos and they will transport the reader into your story.

Unedited photo of street art of a man holding a sledge hammer in Medellin, Colombia

Unedited street art in Medellin, Colombia

Edited photo of street art of a man holding a sledge hammer in Medellin, Colombias

Edited photos = Better photos

 

Many bloggers choose not to edit their photos in an effort to conserve time. I understand their concern, but cutting corners ultimately lessens the quality of content. Take it from me, the guy who uploaded hundreds of unedited photos to his website, only to take them down, edit them, and then upload them again.

I edit my photos with Adobe Lightroom CC, which is the most widely used photo editing software on the planet.

Lessons Learned in Web Design

Web Design Can be Frustrating and Time-Consuming

Like thousands of other bloggers, I had virtually no previous web design experience when I chose to start this blog. My initial attempt at building the website aggravated me so badly that I shut it down and didn’t revisit it for six months. What a waste of a learning opportunity.

Don’t lose patience when starting your blog — successful ventures take time. Buy useful books, skim web design help forums, immerse yourself in relevant blogs, and never give up. Successful websites require constant tweaking, maintenance, and attention to detail — there’s no way around it.

Invest in a Good Theme

Once you decide to get serious about web design, treat yourself to a well-reviewed theme. A ‘theme’ is the coding and framework behind your blog. Choosing a solid theme backed by positive customer service will make your life much easier down the road.

Screen Shot of the WP-Prosperity premium theme for WordPress

My trusty theme, WP-Prosperity

 

Sure, free themes are nice, but they are likely to limit the functionality of your website. You’ll eventually need to pay for a premium theme to gain more flexibility with the design-related aspects of your website. This is the path to a better-looking website that will attract a broader audience. I use the WP-Prosperity Theme.

Other Valuable Lessons

Close up of corrosion and water damage on the logic board of a Macbook Pro

What a fried logic board (and $400 worth of water damage) looks like

 

Keep Drinks Away from Your Computer

In the infancy of Tenacious Travel, I spilled a couple ounces of water on my computer, and it cost me hundreds of dollars and 12 days of valuable writing and design time.

I don’t think I need to explain this one any further. Drinks near your computer — not even once.

You Need a Solid Workspace

This is vital. To be fully productive, you need a comfortable and organized space to get your work done. A comfy chair, calm surroundings, good lighting, and a clean and spacious desk will all improve your focus and sharpen your skill.

Blogging while traveling in hostels?

  • Use noise canceling headphones
  • Stay in well-reviewed, low-key hostels with good WiFi, and comfortable places to work
  • Block out ‘writing hours’ throughout the week to keep you working and on-track
A Macbook Pro getting its data backed up to a 4 TB WD Passport external hard drive

Backup your hard drive or risk losing everything

 

Backup Your Data

Years worth of writing, thousands of pictures, immature videos from my youth — they were almost all gone in the blink of an eye when I spilled water on my laptop. I hadn’t backed up any of my files and I almost paid dearly. Luckily, the spill only fried my logic board but spared my hard drive.

Get an external hard drive (here’s mine), back up your data to the cloud, or use both methods and you’ll protect your computer’s precious contents from theft or destruction. Learn from a guy who nearly lost it all.

Motivation Must Come from Within

Traveling the world, taking photos, and writing about it is easy — making a living doing so is not. The most successful travel bloggers may seem like they lead glamorous and effortless lives, but they will be the first ones to tell you otherwise. They are the ones who work hard and self-motivate, even when life on the road gets distracting, discouraging, and demoralizing.

Ask yourself why you chose to become a travel blogger and use your answer as motivation along the way. Spend time every day visiting and researching thriving travel blogs — as a result, you will learn the methods and motivations successful bloggers use to reach the ever-illusive goal — traveling the world and getting paid to do so.

Not Everyone Will Love Your Blog

And that’s okay. Let’s face it — people have different needs when it comes to using the internet and many of those needs you simply can’t meet. Focus on the audience you want to reach and create content with their needs in mind. Don’t attempt to inspire people that don’t need your blog in the first place.

Don’t take it personally if friends, family, or coworkers don’t show a huge interest in your blog — the content just might not be very relevant to them. Your goal should be to find and reach the people who will benefit the most from visiting your website, so focus on helping them while staying true to yourself along the way.

Noel hiking on the top of a mountain ridge in Torres del Paine National Park, red and sweaty

Take a break and break a sweat

 

Maintaining Balance is Essential

Professional bloggers stare at computer screens for hours and hours every week — this is the not-so-glamorous reality that comes with the job.

While it is tempting to get lost in the rabbit hole that is blog creation, don’t forget to give yourself plenty of time every day to stretch your legs, socialize, exercise, and experience the world. Quality time spent away from your blog makes the time spent in front of your computer all the more valuable.

There’s Always More to Learn

Professional travel blogging is about more than just taking pictures, writing about your experiences, and posting it all to the internet — so much more. To succeed requires dedication, adaptability, creativity, patience, and a willingness to learn new concepts.

Editing, marketing, web design, social media, search engine optimization, networking, affiliate programs, tours, guest posts, and promotion  — these are just a few of the things that successful travel blogs do really well beyond just writing and photography.

I’m just beginning to scratch the surface all this in my first six months. There’s more to learn out there and I’m going to continue immersing myself in the curiosity, confusion, and frustration of the unknown. I know I’ll emerge stronger and savvier with the effort.

If you’re an aspiring travel blogger, I hope you find my painful ‘newbie’ lesson useful for your own voyage. I challenge you to pursue a life of travel and self-sufficiency — I’m glad I took the leap. The road ahead is likely to always be full of frustrating and intimidating moments, but I’m also finding it more fulfilling than I’d ever imagined.


What travel blogging lessons have you learned along the way? Do you have any lessons you’ve learned the hard way? What’s your favorite/least favorite part about running a blog? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

6 Comments

  1. Fantastic tips. Love your blog. I am in the process of building my travel blog. My wife and I are busy selling all our possessions with the intention of buying a one-way ticket to Vietnam in August.

    1. Thank you! I try to give my very best advice, straight from the heart. Hearing your plans to sell everything and go for your dreams just put a big, big smile on my face! Life-changing decisions like that are never easy, so to that hear you’re taking the leap speaks to your character. Please tell me when you launch your blog and please keep chasing what excites you. Do exactly what makes you happy and help other people along the way. Vietnam is a wonderful place, what a perfect country to start your new life.

  2. Hi Noel,

    Good to meet up.On train to Dunhuang.

    Really like the advice here.Am struggling with editing photos in Lightroom.Any tips and tricks on how you learnt to master it.

    1. Hey Chris! Thanks for reaching out. Just saw this. I’m traveling with friends at the moment, but I’ll be sure to send you some tips and pointers to your email once they head back home and I have time to sit down and focus. Life has been a blur these last two weeks!

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