I recently had an epiphany.
I kind of hate what travel blogging has become.
When I started blogging four years ago in anticipation of traveling around the former Soviet Union for a year, I was simply looking for a way to share my stories with friends and family, record my adventures for my own sake and maybe inspire a future traveler or two out there. I never got into it to make money or to get free trips. I didn’t even know those things were possible when I first started (and largely they weren’t back then).
I miss those days.
I miss when I actually enjoyed reading other travel blogs and felt inspired by them. I miss when people weren’t starting blogs solely as a way to make money and get free hotel stays during their round-the-world trips. I miss when bloggers weren’t planning their travels based primarily on where they can get the most for free.
I miss the days when travel bloggers wrote about their highs and lows on the road and their raw impressions of a destination and their feelings about how a place affected them, good or bad. I miss when blogs were more than just boring top ten posts and hotel reviews and short raves about a place that the writer experienced with guided, structured and filtered eyes. I don’t want to wonder what a blogger really thinks about a place or if they would have even gone there in the first place if they weren’t being compensated for doing so.
I’m not saying all travel bloggers are just in it for the free travel, but I feel like the idea of being able to travel the world for free is increasingly the motivation, as opposed to a true love of writing and travel or a desire to inspire others to see the world.
I started thinking about all of this at the end of my long day trip to Rila Monastery in Bulgaria back in September. I had reached out to a tour company in Sofia months earlier and had been offered a complimentary spot on one of the company’s tours to the monastery but, ultimately, I turned it down. I decided that I preferred figuring it out myself – and having the freedom to stay and explore as long as I wanted. As I ate a late dinner at my hotel in Blagoevgrad (a town I never would have visited if I had done the organized tour), I was not only thrilled with how my journey turned out, I was reminded that days like that were why I love to travel.
I love the challenge of figuring out how to get from point A to point B. I love getting off the beaten path and doing things differently. I love the rush of adrenaline when I’m not totally sure how things are going to work out and then I love the feeling of satisfaction when it all does.
And I’d like to think that those are some of the same reasons why people enjoy reading this blog.
I continued to think about this the next day during my five hour train ride through the Pirin Mountains – another example of how I love to travel. And I realized that, while I was excited to write about Bulgaria and share my stories and photos with everyone, I kind of hated writing about my trip to Toronto in August. And my trip to Atlanta last March. And that trip to Memphis the previous June.
Why? Because the majority of the things I did on those other three trips were complimentary, in exchange for me writing about them. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed each city and I did and saw things that I really wanted to do and see. Everything I wrote in those posts was completely honest. But it also felt forced. I had to write about it all because I worked with the tourism boards in each city to organize my trips. And while I was in each city, I probably pushed myself to squeeze in too much because I felt like I had to – I needed material to write about.
I hated that feeling. I still hate that feeling.
As I sat on that train in Bulgaria, I also thought about the effect blogging and freelance travel writing have had on my life. And I realized that, for the most part, it isn’t good. I haven’t been fully embracing my life back in Chicago and too often I use my blog or my writing assignments as an excuse to not put myself out there – to not go to that cool social event or not meet up with potential new friends. I’m generally too tired weeknights to do much writing, so I end up spending most of my Fridays nights and Saturdays and Sundays writing, writing and writing some more. It’s ironic because, back when I was job hunting, I was offered a job with a low salary and my initial reaction was that I didn’t want to take it because I didn’t want to feel like I had to take on freelance work just to make ends meet. I was afraid that I would end up spending all of my time working.
But that’s exactly what I’m doing anyway. I haven’t been fully living life because I’ve been too busy trying to write about it.
That stops now.
I have let go of my regular freelance projects. I’ve resigned from the board of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association. I am removing the ads and affiliate links on this site and I de-activated the page wooing advertisers (although I’d still love to take on speaking gigs or writing opportunities designed to truly encourage people to travel). I’ve quit the various travel blogging groups I was in on Facebook (which mostly just frustrated and annoyed me, showing me how shallow travel blogging has become). I even removed the words “travel blogger” from my profile on Twitter. It just isn’t me anymore. I don’t know that it was ever me.
But I am not quitting blogging altogether. Not while there are still some aspects of it that I enjoy.
I will continue to write when I have something to share. But I will no longer push myself to publish if I am not feeling inspired. I will no longer track my stats and freak out if my traffic starts dipping. I will continue to be active on Facebook and Twitter because I love some of the connections I have made through social media, but I am done trying actively grow my following or strategize how to make my posts reach the most people.
I also hope to continue to be involved with Passports with Purpose and Meet, Plan, Go! because they represent what I love most about travel and travel blogging – making the world a better place and inspiring people to see more of it.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge anyone for their decision to pursue travel blogging as a profession – everyone is free to decide what is best for them. If anything, I guess you could say I don’t hate the players, I hate the game. So it’s time for me to get out of the game.
126 thoughts on “Why I’m Quitting Travel Blogging. Kind Of.”
Haha what’s going on with Nate’s comments up the top.
Here’s my opinion. If you don’t agree with it, just know that Im awesome. 50 bazillion ppl like my blog per day. Which means your wrong. Also, measuring success by statistics is crass. Did I mention my last post topped like 3 trillion likes?
Of course he’s got a counter of how many days he’s been away. Classic.
Same old travel blogger story. Kinda insecure, unnecessarily competitive & desperately pretending to be the opposite. And this is why the rest of the long term travel community rolls their eyes & quickly excuse themselves from the common room.
Not you Katie, you seem cool 🙂
I just started my blog a few months ago and I have to say It’s far more time consuming than I originally imagined but I enjoy writing the posts. Although I don’t claim to be the best writer in the world, I try to provide a real insight and useful information for people interested in places that are usually lacking in helpful or up to date information.
Most travel blogs are pretty girls, or the lucky few guys who got into the market early and have established readerships. Most do not travel anywhere off the beaten track and are quite frankly boring blogs that are now tuned to telling others how easy it is to earn a huge amount of money from blogging.
I like The Broke Backpacker and Goats on the Road for their honest views and engaging pots.
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Oh my my my my. I could not agree with this more.
I’ve been blogging a year or so but only really got “serious” with it the past 6 months. Already, I have felt the light burn out of me. I am in dozens of FB travel blogger groups and it is exhausting. So many empty like for like threads and reciprocation stuff. It baffles me how many people are out there trying to do this blogging thing.
All of that focus on numbers and traffic and stats has left me stressed to no end. Your post here is endlessly inspiring to me for this reason. I would totally rather stop worrying about monetizing my blog and boosting numbers and just live my life and write interesting things about it.
Not to mention, I am a freelance copywriter full time, so I already am making my living as a digital nomad. Blogging just makes me get less done. Maybe the blog can just be something I love to do…not a way to make money. Lightbulb! 🙂 Thank you for sharing your thoughts!
I love what you have written in this article. We do share the same sentiments in some ways. I recently created a travel blog and started reading other peoples’ blog as well. For me, a travel blog is not to show where you’ve been, but to tell others what the place made you feel or how it affected your senses. That’s what I’m really looking for. I love reading articles where people express their emotions and their thoughts as they go through the different locations on their journey. I personally don’t like blogs where people would present their itinerary in an up-to-the minute-detail, even including the duration of the time they spent eating an ice cream, taking a shower and whatnot. I just find it really absurd. Anyway, It’s a good thing I came across this one. It was an eye opener taking my blog to a whole new different direction.
Ive been running my blog for a couples of months now, and it all began with a love for writing and then traveling. I am very enthusiastic about it and It brings me happiness. I agree with you in that travel blogging has dwindled down to top ten lists which i absolutely hate. The authenticity of it and the raw impressions that should come from travel writing in my opinion is rare nowadays. Even though my blog is not strictly about travel, when I do write about my travel experience its always a personal narrative. Despite this post being a little disheartening, i do agree on your points and I continue to believe that travel blogging is what you personally make of it and it always has the potential to be an amazing story of your encounters around the world.
I started my blog in October 2014 and after 5 months it’s time to stop. I’m not sure why I started travel blogging, never been a writer before, just wanted to share some stories. It’s taking up too much time in trying to get traction for the blog and generate traffic. I can’t justify sitting in front of laptop all day and commenting, liking various social media platforms etc.
It was fun first of all, but now it’s feeling a tiresome.
I have never received or accepted anything for free, except when I was hitching a ride with strangers or when I used Couchsurfing. These coincidences have sometimes produced good stories. Staying at a hotel for free most certainly wouldn’t (unless it burns down while I am there).
Almost everyone seems to agree with you, but I bet the quality of most travel blogs won’t improve. There just aren’t that many people who can write well.
I unsubscribe from any travel blog as soon as I come across some boring and standardized marketing bla-bla. These bloggers won’t mind because they are not after readers, they are after clicks and shares and likes.
But the readers are a problem as well, we can’t let them off the hook. There aren’t many people left who want to read a long narrative that mixes a personal account with political or historical background information and tries to do so in a linguistically appealing way (and the few that do buy magazines, newspapers and books, so why should they waste time on the internet?). People want photos, bullet points and useful tips.
By the way, this freebie culture is not limited to travel bloggers. Have you read the travel section of major newspapers in recent years? It has become the same dull bullshit.
I can’t say that the freebies and money tempted me, but it wasn’t why I started and it isn’t why I’m still doing it. I agree about the whole blogging thing being shallow. Way to go for putting yourself on the bench Katie – you’ll be happier for it!
Hi Katie. I read this post when you first published it and it didn’t quite resonate with me then, but over the past few weeks I’ve gone through a bit of a revelation myself and I’m starting to think I want my blog to go in a different direction too. My reasons are many of the same that you have listed here. I don’t resent anybody who has gotten a lot of press trips for one second (I consider some of these people my friends); I just know it’s not for me. And there’s so much about me that is considered “wrong” in the travel blogging community – I’m wayyyy outspoken about some touchy issues and I’m sick of all the rules that say I have to shut up in order to woo brands and sponsorships. And I’m just like….dude, I just want to travel and write and be myself. So if in order to be a travel blogger I can’t be myself then, I’m out.
An insightful post and insightful comments. I very much agree Katie that when your heart isn’t in it then you should change course. I believe the best writing and blogs are honest and honesty will shine through. One thing I wholeheartedly agree with is that if any trip is comped then it should be transparent in any writing that follows on. This helps to remove any doubt and puts the cards on the table. I hope you continue to embrace the art of travel.
I just was told about this post, so I thought I’d chime in…..
I’m actually pretty happy with where I’m at right now.
My only complaint is that I’m often tired because of my travel schedule, but that is easy to correct and I’ll be traveling less next year.
For the most part, I’ve ceased doing group press trips a few years ago. I go where I want to go and have my assistant contact tourism boards to assist me in what I’m doing. If they help or not, it is my trip with my objectives.
I’ve quit all the travel blogging groups. Nothing was being achieved by being in them. I actually quit them 2 years ago, came back and left again.
I’ve never done a sponsored post or sold a link. I’ve never done any affiliate programs beyond Amazon. I don’t actively do any SEO.
I set a strategy for what I was going to do back in 2007 and pretty much have stuck with it. I work with a small number of reputable companies on a sponsorship basis, and that’s it.
My photography has evolved to a point where I’ve won most major travel photography awards in North America. I hope to land a publisher for my book early next year and might be providing a regular column for a major travel publication.
I’ve done a lot of dumb things in the 8 years I’ve been doing this, but for the most part I’ve just done the things I’ve wanted to do and never really got sucked into doing what other bloggers were doing.
Perhaps it was because I had an earlier start or I had the money to travel on my own for years before ever being contacted by the travel industry, but I never did most of the things I see other travel bloggers do.
The truth is there are a lot of people who should never have started a blog. They have delusions as to how successful they will be or how much money they will make. It takes a lot of work and if you only want free trips, you will eventually burn out or quit because you can’t eat a trip.
So, yes, I’m pretty happy.
I’m visiting places I want to visit. I’m making OK money. The quality of my photography keeps improving and I’m being recognized for it. I have an audience of engaged people who are interested in what I do.
I’ll be changing what I’m doing next year to work on other parts of my life (I need to get in shape and maybe try to actually have a personal life), but other than that I’m glad I went down this path.
Gotta agree with Gary here. The blog is just the vehicle in which bloggers feature their writing and photography skills (plus Marketing, Design, Video, whatevs).
The sooner bloggers start to realize that, the better they will be in terms of money and recognition. There’s no standard for what a “travel blog” should be about in the same sense that there’s no standard for what a “comedy film” should be about.
Let’s just enjoy the things we love and stop reading the ones we don’t.
Ps. It’s quite funny that most of the comments against the “Travel Blogging Industry” are from bloggers and not from non-blogging readers. Just my 2 rupees 😉
This is certainly an interesting read, including the comments (I’ll have to come back and read the remaining – so many). Thank you and in good Aussie slang “goodonya”. We have just revived our site, now in a WP blogging format. We used to publish, starting in 2005, country/region “reports” in chronological order, before WordPress became the format to have.
Now we need income to support our ongoing desire to be on the road, hence over the past months I read a lot about “travel blogging” – and always felt deep inside that it doesn’t fit!
In our case I know why: we’re not traditional travellers – is there such thing? We’re exploring ONE continent in our own vehicle, so not flying all over the world. We have a “niche”, we are even recognised in our niche; only yesterday some fellow travelers confirmed that our site is one of three or four respected resources people turn to.
I want advertising, but I won’t sell myself! I’ve been in business before and my mindset back then was the same: convince people with your “product” and quality of service (for bloggers this would translate into “content, quality of information you provide, and writing style”) and you can build a decent and reliable following. This has worked for me all my life!
Now I just have to hope that there are companies who see value in “honesty” and reputation, rather than in impressive Klout numbers (which we don’t have due to our small niche)…
Katie, thanks for this post, and everyone else for the insightful comments. Sounds like there’s a Great Schism happening in the world of travel blogging, where the narrative-writers are splitting from the get-paid-to-travel folks. (There has to be a more succinct way to name the two sides.)
A few years from now, these two camps might have totally separate audiences. They might not even be called “travel bloggers” anymore. So what? There’s plenty of space for both of these camps on the web. I don’t see why they can’t co-exist.
Katie, I totally understand your thinking. I hope you’ll keep up with lots of blogging about travel (rather than being a travel blogger) because I do love your stuff. I don’t know if it’s actually possible but I am trying to continue to monetise but only with my big goal in mind of getting everyone to see how travel can change your life … I actually feel like finally there are starting to be brands who can appreciate the long term and will work with people like me who are not just trying to travel a lot but to actually connect with people and make them think … time will tell if this really proves possible but I think it’s getting better. Hmm, that’s a ramble, but hope it makes some sense. I’m afraid I’ll always think of you as a travel blogger though, but the good kind!
This is my first time running into your blog. I’m on the other end of things – just starting out in travel blogging, but I can really identify with what you are feeling right now. I think it is awesome you are reprioritizing and taking the industry side out of your blog. In the end, people want your personal take on things and you need to do whatever it takes to make your writing and experiences your own. Ultimately your blog will be better if you are passionate about your experiences. I hope this helps you rekindle that fire! I’ll be subscribing to hear all about your upcoming travel -on your own terms – which is my favorite way to travel! Thanks for the great article and sheer honesty.
This is so interesting that you write this now. I’ve had my blog for 7.5 years and the times I have to write about travel now feel so forced, like I dread having to publish without passion. The times that the words flow freely are when I’m talking about my career, my family, other facets of my life *other* than travel.
And yes, top 10s will be the death of me. I’ve never really done that on my own site, because for so long I’ve been forced to do such for magazines (and it’s just draining and boring and YAWN), and I do resent when my favorite blogs transition from first-person narratives to very blatant SEO-driven content.
I’ve always kind of considered my site a lifestyles blog, but this really hit home and has made me think about a lot of things. Thanks for writing this, Katie!
Maybe instead of travel blogging (and the advertising, etc that comes with it) – you could use travel blogging to help customize and create unique, interesting, once in a lifetime travel itineraries for those of us who do enjoy traveling (and paying) but don’t find much value in traditional travel agencies.
I just read this article and immediately thought of you, especially with things said at the end about whether or not to blog/write about it.
I love your post – this is why I started my blog – and I will continue to write about my own personal experiences. I have never down any press or complimentary trips and really do not think I ever would. I want to travel where I have paid for to do what I want to do – good luck with everything !
I think any time you try and turn a passion into a profession you run the risk of loosing it. When it becomes something you have to do, rather that something you want to do it can take the fun completely out of it.
However, I would still rather see marketing dollars going toward travel bloggers who are advocating real travel than some company cashing in on the alternative. As most commenters here know, travel blogging is an incredible amount of work. Without some incentive to keep it all going I would venture a guess most of the blogs that inspired me to travel might not still be around. If that were to happen where would that leave us?
Very true Adam about things becoming less enjoyable once they are things you have to do instead of just things you want to do.
Katie, I couldn’t agree more with this. I’ve been blogging for two and a half years (well, since I first met you) although my goal was always to treat it like a business but stay true to my passion of writing and being honest. This is something I strive for still to this day, and will only take on partnerships if they are strategic, worthy of my time and fit perfectly with my blog and my niche, and where the content will be decent and not ‘just because’. That’s me also staying true to my 11 year media background and enjoying good marketing.
Have I hit a wall with my own routine? A little one, yes. I’m choosing to stop moving constantly early next year and finding a base to settle and go back and forth. I’m burnt out now and need to rethink my ‘perpetual travel’ plans.
Have a hit a wall with how the industry is? Absolutely. It pains me the amount of blogs set up in the hope of getting rich or scoring a freebie. It shifts the professionalism of the industry so many of us are striving to achieve. It also gives a bad name to those hobby bloggers who just want to… write, and who love storytelling (and who are not all looking to make this a business).
I’m not giving up as my blog is part of my livelihood combined with other sources (as others have mentioned, a travel blog alone does not make as much steady income as lifestyle or fashion), yet I guess I am still holding onto the hope that things are going to shift dramatically and that bad practice will die out, those without the true passion will give up, and those freeloaders with be blacklisted.
Leaving those who can produce decent, well thought out, emotional and honest content, whether for business or pleasure. Or both.
Maybe that is a dream, but I’m still going to keep going.
Looking forward to your future stories as and when you embark on new adventures that inspire you to share them.
I completely understand what you mean. I think it is ok for bloggers to accept press trips or tours if they fit within their niche and it is something they really care about. But if I see a Budget backpacker going on a trip to the Maldives all inclusive 5 star press trip then there is something off and it feels like that blogger has sold his soul. I never publish anything that I don`t like, even though I know Google likes these top things to do posts. I usually only post once a week but not always. I don `t like writing for the sake of it, I like writing about things that are important to me. So keep doing what you are doing! You are doing a great job!
Empathize totally with this post. Although when Caz says it’s individual taste I go get that too. Personally, I’ve always been a reader, from the moment I learned by alphabet, so I read as much for the enjoyment of reading as for the information contained in a post. I remind myself that if I want a good travel story I read Paul Theroux or Pico Iyer. If I want to know how much to tip a taxi driver in Hong Kong or the cheapest way to get to New Zealand then I’ll check out Lonely Plant, and I think that’s the difference, barring the being paid to do it. I’ve never sought deals, though I’ve been offered some, and, as you say, I, too, have been very lucky & been able to be totally honest, but felt uncomfortable. I’d decided not to do it again. I want to be a writer, not a marketer – at least not for someone/thing else. For years people have been urging me to do this that or the other to “improve” my numbers but know what – I’m happy not to be in the big leagues, and now that anyone who follows me on the blog or FB or anywhere does it because they like what I do. Lots of luck with your new attitude, and I am pretty sure that I will read you more now than I have been doing!
Hi Katie: I completely relate to everything you’ve said. I’ve been at this for nearly eight years and have had at least four instances of what I call “hitting the wall,” where I had to regroup or quit. In the earlier days of my blog I did earn quite a bit from advertising, which thankfully, was never related in any way to my content. When that source of income dried up, I had a choice: go the route of sponsored posts or be true to the writing. I chose the latter. As a result, I’ve never published a sponsored post and I’ve ALWAYS despised list posts (top ten of this, best of that) for what they are: a shallow attempt to get more traffic to the blog.
I wrote down my goals when I began blogging. I started the blog as platform for my writing, because I love to travel, write, and take photos. The blog has always been about my personal journey, rather than earning money, and I intend to keep it that way. If I can make a bit of money along the way that’s great, but income never figures into my decision making process.
I also get offered a lot of trips. I turn most of them down, and my criteria for consideration is whether it’s a place I really want to visit. If so, I may or may not accept, but if I do, I write the absolute truth about the trip, even if it means writing something bad. It’s difficult to do so, but I feel I have an obligation to my readers to tell the truth. Along the way I made a few other decisions. I no longer do group press trips because they result in a lot of people writing about the exact same place, and frankly, I can’t stand the shallowness of the whole experience in most cases (there are exceptions). These days, I only consider one-off trips that are customized for my interests, and that only happens on average once a year. Instead, I decide where I want to go, then contact the CVB for assistance with public transportation tickets and free entrance to attractions. This way, I have no specific obligations other than to write about the destination, which I’m going to do anyway.
I tell you all this so you know there are others of us who feel much like you, who want to focus on what is important: high quality writing on our persona sites. Personally, I’ve never ever referred to myself as a travel blogger. Im a travel writer and photographer. I sweat over every word I write, trying to make each story perfect, and I hope that never changes. I’m glad to read that you will continue to travel and write on your blog. It would be a shame to lose such a “good one “
Thank you so much for commenting Barbara – I really appreciate it!
I agree with Shelly on the pleasure of reading travel memoirs. Almost all my travel reading is in books, not online. I have a few favourite online publications, very few.
I have no need to read service articles, reviews, lists, etc. unless I’m actively planning a trip to that place. However, I don’t have a good way to find the online writing I would enjoy reading.
I have been saying for years that the Web needs editors who select and promote good work. I think there is a future for people who can read a lot of material (the electronic slush pile), select the best, package and promote it. I’m not saying no one is doing this yet. What I mean is, we readers need more of it.
When I started a blog in 2010, a blog that has been on hiatus for several weeks now because my attention is elsewhere, I was under the impression that blogging was a platform for writing. Sadly, I don’t think that anymore.
While it may not ever have been a travel blog, strictly speaking, it was more that than anything else, and I got involved in forums and exchanges in the usual scramble for traffic. Writers want to be read, right?
But if you’re not seo-ing your prose to death and actively courting commercial opportunities and freebies, there is no traffic. Period.
It seems to me, more and more, that blogging has nothing to do with writing.
Robin. I could not agree more. And that makes me really, really sad.
I started my travel blog about two years ago and I haven’t been on a press trip and I have no plans to do that in future. My travel blog was born with the idea to inspire people to travel to places that I have been fortunate enough to visit and I hope to continue to do so. My main focus is on photography so people reading my blog know what to expect when travelling to certain places. I was starting to feel like the odd one out that doesn’t do press trips, attend TBEX or joins forums on FB but reading all the comments I am glad to know I am not the only one!
I really admire your decision and this article Katie and I look forward what you feel inspired to share from now on.
What’s really got me thinking is the number of comments from people who share your views about the state of travel blogging. It gives me hope that things are going to get a lot more interesting if people *really* starting thinking about what they are writing, and more importantly, why.
I battled with the desire to build my blog for a while, but have realised that was never why I started it. I was just a journalist who quit her job and wanted to keep writing. Hell, only my family and friends had the URL for the first year! So now I’m writing the stories I truly want to share. The stories I’m bursting out of my skin with excitement to tell. They will not rank well on Google, they will not get widely shared on Twitter, I will never make a cent off my blog. But that is absolutely OK with me.
I really enjoy your blog even when you say you’ve struggled with finding the motivation to write some of your stories. I can’t wait to see what you do when every single post is something you really want to write! Good luck and have fun!
Thanks Megan! Most of my favorite posts don’t rank anywhere on Google either. 🙂
I’ll still be reading you. 🙂
And wow, there are lots of travel bloggers unhappy with the way things are going. Quite the thread developing here.
I think we all need to ask better questions of ourselves. Things like:
– Is my dream travel job to do destination marketing? Is that really the end game here? In some cases, yes (it seems common with those with a background in marketing) and nothing wrong with that – but for others, that is fundamentally not the reason they got into it. So it feels bad and frustrating and cheapening and an itch they can’t scratch. It’d be the worst kind of “job” if they did it full-time. So they should run for the hills.
– Ultimately, how do I want to get paid – by my sponsors, or by my audience? Very different approaches to each. And doing both is a tough line to walk. Much much easier – and more effective – to pick (mainly) one or the other, based on how you want to feel at the end of the day.
– Am I truly happy to make a living doing [aspect of travel blogging] and if not, why?
I think it’s pretty easy to avoid asking these questions, especially when lots of others are avoiding them too. I certainly did, for far too long. And I’m not equating sponsorship or press trips or anything else with “bad” (mainly because I’d be a hypocrite, as I still dabble in all of them occasionally). It’s not really about “good” or “bad” – it’s about “right”. What’s right for one person will be different for another. A one-size-fits-all model of professional travel blogging is not going to help anyone – especially the ones who want to experiment and cross-pollinate from outside travel to make something excitingly weird and new.
I didn’t get into this to do marketing for travel companies as my end-game. I want to learn how to make *public*-facing business offerings. I ultimately want a hundred thousand people to give me 50 cents for something really cool I’ve made (or something other number/price like that). And I ultimately got into this to become a better writer and traveller, so I could write books about the world, hopefully in a cool new way that really sells.
And since none of that will pay off quickly, I’m pursuing other work in order to pay my bills and finance the long-term development of all these business plans. That’s the reality for lots of creative people. I hope to join them.
It’s only when the Why gets nailed down that it’s possible to come up with a How that feels good. Sounds like you have your Why. Looking forward to seeing what you do next.
Great points Mike – thanks for commenting and for starting the discussion on Outbounding.
The subject of quality content and a reason for blogging has been on my mind a lot recently as I question why so much of the content I’m being linked to is such garbage (sorry, but it’s far too true).
Before I had a blog of my own I was reading travel blogs every day and through them felt transported somewhere else alongside someone else and their adventures. Now I’m transported to a post about “local” food, but being linked to a spa and resort more than five times in a post. Just what are they trying to promote? Travel, or the freebies they’ve had?
For me, the way I blog has to be clear and with purpose. To share stories, and to inspire. I’m really glad that you’re choosing to use the blog in a way that makes you happy first and foremost.
The “shallow” nature of blogging that you mention here is exactly why I’ve been recoiling from it so recently. And it’s the one reason I’ve never gone on a press trip, nor have any inclination to do so. And I admire your decision to totally take a step back. After all, you have a job and a social life in a city you love, so why let something that isn’t making you 100% happy take you away from that? The real readers will still stick around. As my blog has been a platform for many of my other non-blogging work, I’ll stick at it, but with the proviso that I want to be real and personal again, instead of feeling like I have to keep up with the Joneses all the time.
I love how you decided this wasn’t for you Katie and you’ve made a change. I have a long comment so apologies but I felt a burning need to talk.
I really admire how you’ve taken notice of what feels best for you and what direction you want to work towards. That’s the first essential step. The second is creating that and not caring what anyone else is doing. Staying true to yourself and defining what it means for you. What travel blogging means to someone else never defines it for you and should never have an impact upon it for you.
Before I go further I just want to clearly state that when I use the term ‘you’ it’s more the collective you than pointed at you Katie.
What annoys me about a lot of the comments following this post is most people seem to think they own the definition of what a travel blog should look like. And so now they are pissed at people changing it and hence ruining it for themselves. No one can ruin your ideal picture – you’re in control of it.
People read blogs for different reasons. If you don’t want to read a blog anymore because it doesn’t fit in with your reasons, that is fine, but you can’t make blanket statements that travel blogging has no real purpose anymore and it’s just about money yada yada. You’re saying it doesn’t for you. Not necessarily what the reality of it is.
I absolutely agree that a blog should be written with readers in mind and with the intention to help them travel more in some way.
So what does this mean exactly? How can someone help a person travel more?
There are multiple ways and the only people who can say if this is working are the blog writers and their readers. People like to read travel narratives, others like tips. Based upon the vast majority of the 80,000 google searchers that come to our site every month, they like posts highlighting things to do in destinations. Wouldn’t I be doing a great disservice to them if I ignored what they wanted and just wrote stuff that made me feel good and pleased what other travel bloggers want?
The bloggers you’ve described in this post, and what those in the comments have, is definitely me. I make money off my blog. I’ve always intended to and I will continue to do that without shame.
Because I love with a passion what I do. I no longer wake of a morning and say “Oh fuck” in greeting to another day because I have to go to a job I hate. I spend every day with my children, they are not being raised by someone else. (granted it can be a little too much on some days) and I have the freedom my soul craves. My health is better, my relationships are better and my happiness is at an all time high.
But mostly, I love that I am changing people’s lives and helping them travel more. My inbox is inundated with messages of gratitude on a daily basis.
Yet based upon what people are saying here I’m ruining blogging.
I do hotel reviews. Why?
Because it is helpful to our readers and it helps bring traffic in from Google. Why do I want to do this?
Because those people then might see we are a valuable resource that can help them achieve their travel dreams. We also have a valuable community attached that they can be a part of and hang out with people who understand their mojo.
This is not such a black and white issue. You can’t say people don’t want to read hotel reviews, and as someone said, that is what trip advisor is for (again trying to define what a travel blog is based on what you want) What you’re saying is you don’t want to read hotel reviews. Which is fine. But that is not what is true for everyone. Lots of people want to read them because they want to know where to stay. It’s a big part of travel. I read them all the time. My readers read them all the time. My readers stay in places we stay in and write to me to tell me how much they love them. I’ve only had one person didn’t like a place but commented to me that I was right in my review when I said an apartment stay would be better.
We don’t do press trips as I agree from what you have written above it is not the best way to travel, but sometimes they can be valuable. It’s been done since the beginning of travel writing in traditional media and is a way for writers to showcase destinations for their readers without going bankrupt.
Mostly I don’t like being shipped around from place to place doing things I don’t care about. But if other travel bloggers want to do them, who cares? That’s their choice. What they do will never have an impact on how my blog will look as that’s up to me. Why would I start to get disillusioned with what I’m doing because of what others are. That’s comparititus disease and has nothing to do with travel blogging as a whole as no one owns the definition of it.
I do work with tourism boards, some times for payment and for free comped stuff. But, instead of them dictating what I do and see, I tell them this is what is best for us, this is what we’ll enjoy and this is what our readers will like. I only choose to do things that fit that. So on my posts I have that it’s sponsored, but we’ve totally created and dictated the experiences, so it’s completely accurate.
And if I’m spending hours marketing their destination (which I do) why should I not get paid for that?
If we happen to experience something we haven’t enjoyed, we either don’t write about it, or we’ll mention why we weren’t that fussed about it but why someone else might be.
We do things to do and list posts. Why? Because we experience a shit load of things, to write individual posts on each would kill me. Plus a things to do post is really helpful to our readers. How do I know? Because they tell me. A reader the other day wrote and said we save her hours of work researching on Google for her trip which is why she loves us so much. In one blog post on Things to do in Hong Kong she had all she needed to know to plan her trip. What? This is ruining travel blogging.
Are you kidding?
I don’t often write travel narratives. Why? because I don’t feel like I’m very good at writing them AND because the times I have, they haven’t had a great response. It’s truly a gift to do that and my readers don’t come to me for that. So again, I’m allowing my readers to tell me what they want and create based upon that. Not what other travel bloggers think travel blogs should be about.
List posts are hugely helpful to people. It’s why they are so popular. People are always bagging the “5 things to do in X destination? It’s BS. Readers love them. They find them helpful to their travel planning. What you’re saying is you don’t like them which is fine, but you can’t say all travel bloggers who write these are broing and crap yada yada. So judgemental and again pulling someone down because they are not doing what you like or want them to do.
I don’t travel to get free stuff. I travelled for 12 years before starting the blog so have no need.
But, I do get free stuff to help cover my costs. Otherwise I couldn’t write about much to help my readers to know the great things they can do and see in a destination which is what they love to do. I spend a lot of my own money as well trying out restaurants and cafes and doing activities just so I can share it with my readers and just so I Can visit places they’ve recommnended so they can feel part of our journey. But because I don’t leave a disclaimer – hey I paid for this, its not valued and recognised but the few things I get covered for free are scorned upon.
I’m quite happy to do not much else but kick back in a hammock on a beach and swing and read all day, but how does that help my readers travel more and that’s what I’m doing?
I just received a comment from a reader today. She dug back into my site to find the post we wrote on our trip to Whitehaven Beach (which was comped). She left a comment to say she went on it because of our suggestion and she loved it. She expressed her gratitude and said what a difference it made to her travels. This is helping people travel more and create better memories. Yet according to the comments on this post, this is not what travel blogging should be about.
I’m not even sure if any of this post or comments have been referenced to us and what we do, but it certainly could be. I don’t really care. Because I’m very clear on my mission and how I do help people.
My point to this extremely long comment is to highlight the fact that no one can really judge what others do and how they “change” travel blogging. If its not working for you, its because something needs readjusting for you.
Katie has made the right choice. The way she was blogging didn’t make her feel good, she wants to do something else, Which is awesome.
But, you can’t say its because other people are ruining it by the way they are doing it. They might like to do it that way. Their readers might like it that way. It should bear no relevance at all on what you do with your own blog. I’m absolute classic to what you have described here (except for the press trips) yet we are making a huge difference to the lives of travellers.
I do agree with the travel blogging facebook groups. I got out of that years ago as I couldn’t stand the arguments and it was a complete waste of time for me. I realised it’s exactly the reason why I travel so much and cannot do cliques or have big friendship groups, because it doesn’t matter what or where it is, gossiping and bitching eventuates. This has nothing to do with travel blogging, this is human nature. Have you forgotten high school or life around the water cooler at work?
I was in several blogging and business groups in different niches and they were the same. Wherever large groups of humans gather, with varying opinions and values the shit will go down. So no,this is not an indication of how money and free travel has ruined travel blogging, it’s just another example of the foibles of human nature.
Just don’t get involved. Get out and focus on your own game. I’m not hugely involved in the travel blogging community anymore because I can’t devote the time to it. I travel full time with my kids and run a full-time business. I have to prioritise. First comes myself and my family, then my business and my community and my travels. There’s not much left over. So maybe people aren’t as active as they were when they started because their lives are busier and their situations and priorities have changed.
I don’t think this was Katie’s intention at all, but essentially what some of the comments here are doing is having a water cooler conversation in the halls of the office. Where people air their
grievances and make pointed statements towards individuals without naming them in an effort to validate themselves and feel better about what they’re doing and how right their way is. Slinging mud is slinging mud.
The only two questions each blogger needs to worry about and answer is
1) Am I doing blogging for the reasons I want to? 2) Am I truly helping my readers and how do I know if I am?
and then forget what everyone else is doing. You don’t have to be part of the travel blogging community to have a travel blog. If you don’t like what others are doing just do your own thing. You don’t have to follow their direction.
Don’t feel bad that you want to make money, just do it in the best way you can. It should be everyone’s ultimate goal to make money doing what they love AND serving others at the same time.
Imagine how much better the world would be if that was the case? I’m fully supportive of anyone who does this, even if their path or way of doing it doesn’t suit me personally. I truly believe most people have good intentions and are just trying to do the best they can. sure they’ll make mistakes, we all do.
Katie, this is not a ranting comment aimed at you. This is just to put out there to people that you can’t define what an entire industry looks like, you never know how much a person is helping their readers until you know who their readers are and what they say about it? And if you no longer fit as their reader because you don’t like the direction then stop following them. There’s no need to talk about them behind their back and each person in these comments who has whined about top travel bloggers or that travel blog they no longer follow is doing exactly that. You’re not naming them but you know your comment is being flung at them with attacking energy. I don’t think that’s making a positive difference or being any different to the people their complaining about in those facebook groups.
Other people can’t ruin your dream and what you want your blog to look like.
You’re at the centre of your Universe You can still create a travel blog based upon what your own values and mission.
Which I think is what you are going to do Katie now. And well done to you. It’s smart and brave. And I wish you all the best.
Believe that you can make money doing what you love and making a difference to others. You can be a professional blogger and contribute positively. I can’t stand the notion that only amateurs work from the heart. Ridiculous. Earning money doing what you love can be spiritual work that makes a difference. It’s a belief and perception backed up by right action. Decide what that is for yourself and let others do the same
I think this is by far the best comment on this article. Caroline has hit the nail on the head. Focus on what YOU are doing and what your readers want and forget everyone else. You have no need to compare yourself to others, no need to be disheartened by anyone else. If their content is fake and forced, eventually people will see through it.
Thanks Jacob! I really believe strongly in the power of each of us have to create our ideal reality, no matter what other people are doing. And if we believe and work towards that then there is no need to be upset with how others do things.
Caz nailed it.
Thanks Caz for taking the time to leave such a thorough response – I do appreciate it and I certainly don’t take any of it personally. And for what it’s worth, bloggers like you are not who I was referring to at all. I have the utmost respect for what you guys have created and I know how much passion you put into it.
I do think it is telling, though, how many people have responded to this agreeing with me – many of whom are not travel bloggers themselves but who are regular readers of blogs who feel disillusioned by what travel blogging has become. I have read at least two other posts in recent days expressing similar sentiments and numerous people have messaged me privately agreeing as well.
Yes maybe. Then it’s up to those people to make a choice to find someone else who resonates with them. Because there are plenty of travel bloggers doing it right – and making money at the same time. Focus on them and find them.
Again it comes down to creating something worthwhile for your own community and not caring about what others do.
I think things will always evolve. Many sports were that were once amateur only, are now professional and the athletes get paid big money. Their fans aren’t moaning about it – in fact they are happy for their team’s players to get paid millions of dollars each year to bring home a trophy and give them those thrilling fan based memories.
Build a community of raving fans who want you to be paid because it means you can continue to help them achieve their dreams.
It’s that simple. It’s why what the industry or what other people are doing shouldn’t matter. Give your fans what they want and turn them into raving ones.
Absolutely bloggers need to do this and be honest and give the best they can and find that balance. But don’t worry about the ones that don’t, because eventually they won’t have any fans left and they’d have kicked themselves out of the game.
This thread has been so interesting to read and for me, you actually nailed it with the sports analogy. Many fans aren’t moaning about their teams going professional and getting huge paychecks, but there are also SO many fans who do moan about it. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard people say that football isn’t what it used to be, and it seems like a similar situation here.
I love your advice here, Caz. If you don’t like the “pro” turn your favorite travel blog has taken, don’t abandon travel blogs/blogging, but go follow some blogs whose approach you like better, and blog the way you want to! Which is exactly what Katie is doing.
Thanks for this, Caz. Really made my day!
So well said Caz. Wow. I’ve been in journalism and media 15 years. Travel blogging 8 years. It is so young and definitely evolving and a new way. Some bloggers are feeling for the first time what travel writers have felt for decades (regarding press trips, etc), but comps are nothing new.
I now have to save your comment and Mike S’s above (and others!) for future thoughts and re-evaluation, but no time now..as I have to get some travel writing done! 🙂
Oh, I understand you Katie. It is so different then you need to write something because of commitments and not because you want to.
Katie, this is such a thoughtful and well-written blog post. I felt the exact same way you did a year ago and I got out of the game for a bit and being out of the blogging game has been refreshing. I focused on my goals, achieved some of them, and others still have to come to fruition. But the practice of focusing on the things that truly brought me happiness have brought me happiness.
Even as a freelance writer, I struggle with being forced to appease to the tourist boards/PR companies vs. going to a place because it’s where I want to go. I think a lot of other bloggers/writers feel this way and it seems there’s been a bit of a backlash, so to speak, on the press trip.
That said, you are following your heart and I applaud you. Continue to take the trips that make you happy and ones that make you happy to share. I get the reasoning behind the excuse writing gives you as well. Now is your time to settle and explore and meet others in Chicago. I hope to come visit you soon. Message me if you need anything or want to talk. xo Natalie
I have found your blog very useful. Thank you! I have noticed a lot of blogs don’t give original thoughts or content. Travel memoirs are where I look for deeper insights to travel. Have you considered writing a travel memoir?
Thanks! I don’t feel like I have an interesting enough story for a memoir. Just a bunch of travel experiences. 🙂
Good on you! My frustration with most travel blogs has been the quality of writing, or rather the lack thereof. My attitude: Do what you need to do to make money, but if you want me to read your blog, write well about interesting things. After reading your post I understand this is what you want to do, among other things. All the best in that endeavor.
(By happy coincidence today I published a list of humble lessons I learned from travel blogging. There I advise against people starting travel blogs to make money…)
You have always been one of my favourite blogs to read because of this raw honesty (and the Soviet Union intrigues me!)
I understand the feeling and I know that, too many times, I have agreed to do something or go on a trip and then am guilt-tripped into writing/feel forced to write about something I didn’t enjoy. I think your post cleared up my thoughts on this and I’m going to make a concerted effort to keep being real, like you have all these years.
I can’t wait to follow your next adventures, wherever= they may be, and do still hope we get to meet somewhere down the road. 🙂
Stay tuned for more Bulgaria posts and in less than 2 months – Mali and Burkina Faso!!
Amen to all of this, Katie! I’ve found myself with little motivation recently and wondering if I should change the way I do things. The most mundane blog posts make their way into my FB news feed, ones that are sponsored, ones that there’s no genuine enthusiasm in, and I’ve removed myself from that particular post-sharing group.
I detest reading a post, only to find at the end that everything was sponsored. I’ve stopped reading so many blogs because of it. I want to follow bloggers who go where they’re passionate about, rather than plan their travels around where they can get free stuff. I’m sick of my IG and Twitter being clogged with hashtags from sponsored trips that I doubt many people even actively follow. Bleargh.
Thanks Tom! I agree wholeheartedly – I barely read many blogs anymore because so much is sponsored or reviews of comped trips. I like reading adventures and crazy stuff – the stuff that doesn’t happen on a press trip. 🙂
If the writing and/or photography was good enough for you to actually finish the blog post, what should it matter whether the blogger had that experience as part of a press trip or a partnership?
Because it makes me doubt the validity of what was written. If I trust the blogger then fine, but when most of the stuff written ends with, “hosted by…”, “sponsored by…” etc., it does make me question whether or not I’m reading an actual honest opinion. I, and many others I’m sure, don’t like to feel duped. If a blogger purports to be all about independent travel yet they don’t appear to ever travel independently, then credibility comes into question.
Don’t get me wrong, I love that bloggers can make a living and have these kinds of opportunities, but I do think it’s overkill with certain people.
I am totally on board here with Katie doing what is right for her and sharing it with her readers. And some of her thoughts resonate with me…even as a freelance travel writer AND blogger. I think there’s always a balance to be struck.
I do want to make one small point in this specific comment thread (and I agree with the point Dave is making)…most travel writers who write for big, well-respected magazines are ALSO on comped trips for the large majority of their stories. And most don’t feel these are tainted or invalid after reading them.
And also note that none of those stories have a disclaimer about it being comped!
I think people are coming down on bloggers unfairly. Most disclose and that’s a lot more than mags and papers do.
Are there bloggers that write poorly and just want free trips? Of course…it’s a smaller barrier to entry than magazine writing. But there are many bloggers out there doing travel writing and blogging in a legitimate way…comped or not.
IT’s always been known in the freelance travel writing community (when you aren’t paid directly by a publication) that your paltry pay for the article will in no way cover your expenses…so getting comps is the only way you can make a living.
I have many friends in that are ‘successful’ in travel blogging – they get a load of freebies and enjoy the thrill of it. But I’ve also UN-followed their blogs for the reasons you stated above. It’s not a travel blog anymore, it’s an advertorial with pictures of themselves thrown in for the ‘personal’ aspect of it.
I understand the need for tourism boards to promote and the attraction of getting free experiences in exchange for a little promotion. I think it can be done well and in balance, but so often I see travel bloggers go off the deep end and get ADDICTED to press opportunities – it gauges their success- that they become puppets and much less interesting to read.
Thanks for sharing Sabina! I agree – there is definitely a need for tourism boards to promote and I don’t have an issue with bloggers who might contract out to write for the tourism board or create content for another site (I wrote for Viator.com for nearly 2 years), but when it spills over to their own site and everything is just paid opportunities, the authenticity is gone in my mind.
I found your postings by accident, I am travelling to Latvia and Estonia soon with my family and I was trying to find information to help with the trip when I found your site. I have really enjoyed reading your posts. I am not a blogger or a regular traveller but I have enjoyed reading about your authentic adventures. I wouldn’t say I have scoured the the Internet but I have had a reasonable look about for information on a country like latvia and Estonia and I agree with you that there aren’t many travel sites/blogs places to go now that aren’t simplistic “top 10 things to do” or “why latvia is the new hot place”….. I don’t care about that, hence why your postings resonated. Good luck for the future. I’m glad you aren’t stopping as your writing is genuine and lovely to read .
Welcome Robyn and thanks for reading! Enjoy Latvia and Estonia – both great countries! If you have any questions, feel free to email me.
I hear you on this Katie and I can’t agree more. I hate what travel blogging has turned into and I really miss the good old days when there was a real sense of community. That’s how I got to know you and so many others through Twitter. I feel like I haven’t gotten to know a new blogger in years…like we’ve lost a lot of that sense of community. I too hate the rigidity of doing things a certain way like you do on press trips and love “figuring out myself.”
I know my spark is fading with me and I’m so glad that you’ve come to this realization and put your thoughts down so eloquently.
I know the feeling Aaron! I have a small group of blogger friends who I feel like I all met 3-4 years ago when I was getting started and I really haven’t gotten to know many new ones – I was so turned off by the vibe I got in TBEX Toronto last year when it seemed that so many new bloggers were only there to try to score press trips to help fund their upcoming RTW trips. I know they’re not all like that, but it seems like so many are.
I loved this. I started out as an expat blogger who happened to travel. When I first started connecting with bloggers, I gravitated towards the “travel blogger” groups. But really, there are few of those types of blogs that I follow semi-regularly, because so many of the blogs seem so soulless. I’d rather read about narratives then bland reviews or “top 5 places to X.”
One of the biggest challenges of blogging is learning to say no to all the “partnerships,” “opportunities,” etc. They all take up time, and honestly, that $200 or whatever that I would save on a hotel room might not be worth it with all the emails, thinking about details, writing the review, etc.
Because I travel almost always with my family, I don’t do much sponsored travel at all, and it is refreshing. No strings attached, and we get to travel exactly the way we want to. Good luck with what comes next! I’m sure the additional time and space that will open up in your life will be welcome. (And I’m removing myself from one more FB group thanks to reading this. 😉
I feel the same way Jenna, which is a big part of why I don’t do a lot of partnerships.
99% of everything I’ve ever written is based on experiences I paid for myself, which is why I don’t in the least bit feel guilty for accepting money for a few sponsored posts per month and the occasional press trip.
Aside from living expenses, most of that money just goes back into the travel fund for stuff I do myself and write about because I enjoy the creative process and motivating others to travel.
Totally agree with everything you said, David!
I started my blog because I love to write about my travels. I have never monetized. I have never sought a free trip or a free hotel room or even a meal. That has made me a pariah among bloggers at conferences, so I do not go any more. Good on you. Be a true amatuer. The root of the word amatuer is to do what you you do out of love of doing it!
Isn’t it crazy that most of us have been blogging long enough for us to feel nostalgic about the “good old days”? I definitely, 100% understand where you’re coming from. There seems to be a slow slide lately towards treating blogging like a business, or a way to travel for free. Which is sad.
I treat my blog somewhat like a business, but to be honest, I make most of my money from freelance writing and OTHER jobs – not from my site. I don’t get invited on press trips. I turn down most offers for sponsored posts and app reviews. When I plan a trip, I plan it the way I want to, in order to focus on what I know I’ll be most interested in writing about. If I decide that there’s a company I’d like to promote, I reach out to see if they want to work with me – that way it’s a win-win, and I rarely ever feel pressured or obligated to write about things, because I WANT to write about them. Simple as that.
But I know I’m in the minority. Everyone else seems to love the drama of the travel blogging world and competing for earning the most freebies or advertising dollars. Sigh. I’m just sticking to my corner of the Internet. People are still reading, so I must be doing something right. 😉
I know – amazing how much stuff has evolved since that first TBEX we went to back in Vancouver just 3 years ago, huh?
And yes, you are definitely doing something right!
I totally agree on how things have changed. I have unsubscribed from so many bloggers who only take press trips and write the most boring posts about their trips. Some posts are more of less just a list of where the tourist board has taken them with little or none of their own thoughts. I also can’t understand how bloggers plan their travels based on where they have been invited to go. They don’t determine the direction of their blogs, the travel PRs do.
I’m still blogging full-time but I’m paying my own way and focusing on affiliate sales, my own products and side projects for monetisation.
All so true. Your point about determining where to travel is a big reason why I never even tried to do it full-time – I like going to a lot of weird places and I never wanted to feel like I “had” to go somewhere just because I wanted to keep traveling and it was the only place I could go for free.
Great post – I really struggle with a lot of the same things, and end up going back and forth from being really enthusiastic about our blog to being ‘meh’ about it all, and completely turned off by all the a-holery in the industry. When I think about my most favouritest travel blogs, I realize that none of them — zero, zip, zilch — do crappy hotel reviews, sponsored links or any of that other crap. My favourite blogs are the personality-driven ones that are all about the travel. I loved reading your adventures when you were on your big trip, and hope a break and getting away from blogging for money will help to re-inspire you.
Thanks Katie! And yes, I do hope to be re-inspired now that I’m taking the pressure off myself. I am also really excited to go to Mali and Burkina Faso in November, so I am sure I’ll have lots to write about when I return!
Thank you for sharing. I think the entire thing is about balance. Being able to recognize what makes you happy vs. your idea of what you think you should be doing and having the courage to say no sometimes. I’ve had to try different things with blogging to learn by trial and error what works for me and what doesn’t. I’m constantly evaluating where I’m at, if it’s working for me and I always try to keep a balance.
Yes – balance is so important and that is definitely something I have been missing!
I remember when I first started blogging in 2010 when I moved to South Korea and I had no clue what direction it would take me in: my sole purpose was to inform my friends and family what I was doing and hopefully be able to provide people with information about what it was like to live in SoKo. I felt like I had a very strong voice back in those days and somewhere between SEO and trying to afford to keep my blog afloat, I can see that I have lost some direction and I need to get back to where I was.
Thanks for sharing your honest account 😀
Here’s to finding your direction again! 🙂
I too struggle with this. I work mainly as a food blogger and found myself a few months back with a number of projects that paid me well, but made me fell like I was pushing products. Now, I did love the products, but I felt like the credibility was lost as I had been paid to write about them.
Blogging has indeed changed in the few years that I’ve been doing it, and I think your step back to retain balance is a good choice. I do enjoy reading about your travels though, and hope you will continue to share when you are on the road!
That’s so true – I started feeling like even if I wrote something very positive about a place or thing that people would think I was getting paid for it even when I wasn’t.
You’re preaching to the choir. We were also discussing getting out of the game. It’s definitely become too commercial. Time to get back to the roots of weblogging.
I had a very similar epiphany recently. Totally understand the struggle between being authentic to yourself and following industry trends. Let’s start a new trend – taking it back to our roots 🙂
Amen. I’m still in those Facebook forums but cringe at almost every post and try not to look at them unless they come across my feed.
It’s interesting because lifestyle bloggers that I follow somehow are able to transition into paid campaigns way more smoothly. It’s about adding good experiences to their lives and doesn’t feel so forceful. I’m not sure why there is that disconnect in the travel world.
Good luck disconnecting and I look forward to reading about your next adventure! 🙂
Sounds like you absolutely made the right decision. I miss what blogging was like years ago too, when you and I met. I struggle with this too sometimes, although I haven’t had a “normal” job in over 3 years, so I approach it all a bit differently. I don’t like lots of ads and I don’t like press trips or tons of comped things but, at least for now, I don’t mind the occasional comped thing if it’s something I’d willingly pay for anyway. As for actually making money, I try to focus on freelance writing, a tiny bit of affiliates, and my own books. I’ve never fully taken to the idea of being a full time professional blogger. And I completely agree with you, I *hate* how many people now just get into blogging for the freebies and money…money that most will never see. Blog because you enjoy it, because you have something you want to share, not because you feel like you have to or should do it. Personally, I hope you continue to write about your trips because I love reading about them, and I’m fascinated by the places you travel to, but if you don’t feel like writing about it, that’s ok to. In the end, you have to do what’s right for you.
I imagine I’ll still write a lot – I just won’t force myself to. I have a feeling Africa will really get me inspired though. 🙂
you obviously know how i feel about all this as we have more or less discussed in person 🙂 that is why i dont do any of those things. i write when i feel inspired and i dont write when i dont (ok, which has been like most every day this year). i read maybe 3-4 blogs these days (obvs yours included). i just cant stand when people say they are inspiring people to solo travel when all of their trips are press trips paid for. i know things are a business and can be run in whatever fashion they like but for me, personally, id rather read something relatable and about an authentic experience.
i think you will find much more joy in the blogging world with the direction you are taking now. i know i do. i never really dove into that whole sponsorship/press trip/etc thing, but i know i enjoy writing for myself. im just shocked someone out there actually likes to read it.
ill still be here reading your posts – i am just happy to see you feel more inspired and less pressured to put them out there! <3
Thanks! Hope our paths cross again soon!
It’s funny that I identify with this so much when my own travel blog is not even a year old yet. I’ve not yet monetized it in any way and that was never the intention when I started writing, though I have had the thought that, “Well, if I’m doing it anyway and can make a small income from it, why not?”
I’ve been traveling for the last several weeks and when my posting became less and less frequent, I panicked at first over the dip in traffic and potentially lost readers, but I soon remembered that my blog is NOT a business, I don’t owe anybody anything, and when I have the time and motivation to pick up with posting again, the people who want to read it will still be there…and that if I really do want it to become a business, that opportunity will always still exist as well.
I plan to continue writing the stories of my experiences and make my blog unique in that way, stay away from “listicles” and “top tens” as much as possible, and stay true to myself. Even as a newbie travel blogger, I can see that the massive influx of people looking to make a buck has done little more than cheapen the industry and taint it a little bit for those who are truly passionate about the writing itself.
This article has reminded me of why I originally started my blog and that the love of it (and the love of travel) is more important than turning a profit, so thank you for that. Best of luck to you and happy travels…I look forward to reading more from you 🙂
Thanks Leah! As a newer blogger, while it can be tempting to go for the easy SEO traffic with top ten posts, if you develop your voice and unique niche, you’ll find your devoted readers and your traffic will grow – it may just take longer. Definitely stay true to yourself!
Honest post, Katie! I totally agree with you, too. Travel blogging as a career was leading me to dread travel, rather than to love it & look forward to it like I used to when I started out. I’ve rarely take press trips now for the same reasons you’re leaving the game. I’m going to keep blogging and watch as the industry evolves, but for now, I just don’t want to depend on blogging for my livelihood. Thanks for your transparency! I think many of us feel this way.
Thanks Angie! Yes, it’s been surprising/refreshing to read so many supportive comments – I had no idea so many people felt this way!
Dang, powerful. I also am frustrated with the proliferation of sliminess in the travel blogging game (as you call it, perfect!).
I feel the same and that’s why I am trying to do it my own way. I don’t want to look JUST like a business, I still want to fill my blog and whatever I do with passion. So yeah I get you. 🙂
I do know what you mean about the blogging community and it’s in every aspect of blogging. I write my blog as a journal about my fitness and life. I don’t do it to make money. But I do get tired of it and think about just not writing. I slowed down a lot of my writing for various reasons. I’m certainly not going to put a post up every single day like the other bloggers out there.
And I have noticed one blogger’s posts have drastically changed since I first started reading. It’s less about the cool things she does and more about the hotel reviews. I guess some of it’s good since it involves kids, but I don’t have kids and I don’t care really.
I hope you keep posting neat stuff, because that’s why I read your blog.
Thank you for this. While I write primarily about food, travel is also a passion. I struggle with how to write about travel organically while still making money. I’m afraid the blogosphere is so out of balance in this area. I keep hoping I can find a way to write honestly and yet make enough money to keep doing what I do.
I hear you on this and agree with you. I think I’m losing interest in blogging for a different reason, though. I’m a journalist first. I’ve been in newspapers for more than 15 years and started my blog as a way to inch my way into a freelance travel writing gig because, let’s be honest, the future is not bright in newspapers. As I got going with the blog I realized the opportunities on that front and started getting into that direction. But I’m realizing that it’s just spinning wheels and investing too much energy into something that has become a low-paying side job. I’ve started a travel column in my newspaper and hope to increase my freelance career, minimizing what I do on the blog. But I guess not really minimizing, but taking it back as a personal platform. You only have one shot in this world. Why spend free time doing something that increases the gray hairs and stress? I applaud your decision. I’ve always thought there is a little more substance to you than a lot of the travel bloggers out there. I’ve gotten to the point where I just roll my eyes at a lot of the stuff I read in these travel blogging communities.
Thanks Lance – appreciate it!
I hear you 100% on this, Katie. There is such a difference between now and before. It’s much easier to make money as a travel blogger, there’s a lot more money for those that were making money before, and for those reasons, there’s a lot more crap out there.
I think it’s particularly pronounced in travel blogging because our sites don’t have the traffic levels of other niches. If you get the crazy Pinterest-induced traffic of fashion, beauty and food, you can put a little Blogher display ad on your sidebar and make a comfortable living from that alone. Me? I think you could argue that I’m one of the highest traffic travel blogs out there (not to brag, just going by the lists I’ve seen) and that same Blogher ad nets me around $120 per month. The numbers just aren’t there in travel.
But if one thing is constant over time, it’s change. Things evolve, we all evolve. The travel blogging industry will continue to evolve and change in both positive and negative ways. And I’m convinced that soon there will be a backlash. We see it in every area. Like so many people have “regressed” to local and organic food in the face of easier food convenience than ever, I think that bloggers across different niches will choose to become anti-advertising. For other bloggers whose livings depend on blogging, I think more people will be trying to make more money in less obtrusive ways like display, affiliates and products or services. (I’m doing the latter right now.)
Good for you for sticking to your convictions — go do your own thing for awhile and see how you want your site to fit into your life. I’ve still got you in my Feedly. 🙂
And not to worry, I will keep writing – and now that I’ve cut out a lot of the other stuff, I think I’ll enjoy it even more. 🙂
Other than ages ago (2005ish?) back before GoogleAds changed its policies to make it impossible to make money off of GoogleAds, I haven’t done any advertising or accepted any complimentary trips in exchange for blogging. I did once blog about a free travelogue I was sent, but it was an awkward experience – I wouldn’t have read or touted the book had I not corresponded with the author and felt that I was obligated to say nice things. I prefer being able to leave negative/positive reviews about places without feeling obligated to post in a certain way.
Along these same lines, I was recently chatting with a friend who recently had a rather failed experience in permaculture/living-off-the-land. He and his wife had gotten really into the idea, spurred on by bloggers touting how wonderful the experience was. They bought a cottage in rural Ukraine under the encouragement of a Ukrainian-American couple, and tried their hand at it. They found that not only was the experience NOTHING like the bloggers had claimed, but said bloggers made their living not off permaculture (as they claimed) but off of blog monetization and a financial allowance from the American’s parents. When they decided that permaculture wasn’t for them, the bloggers in question deleted all references to them from their blog (there had been several posts devoted to them when they first moved to the village). My friend has written about this at his non-monetized blogs here: http://ahimsa-hutir.blogspot.com and here: http://thedisenchanting.blogspot.com. He told me that he felt that his former permaculture friends couldn’t post anything that painted their lifestyle in a remotely negative light, because then they would lose advertisers.
Wow, very interesting – thanks for sharing!
Brave post! I’m sorry to see you step back from the community and the PTBA but I definitely do see where you are coming from. I personally have removed myself from a lot of the hoopla (deactivating FB groups, skipping TBEX etc) because I do think that a lot of what surrounds travel blogging right now is a circus that distracts from what’s important: producing great work and encouraging great travel.
It’s a hard balance to find too, particularly when it is so easy to get free stuff all of the time! At some point it’s really easy to cross the line from “my readers want to know about this” to “I really want this stuff for free.” Personal boundaries are important, and I’ve become a lot more selective about what is worth accepting and what I would rather just pay for myself (hotels for example- my readers don’t give a shit about hotels, so I don’t review them).
Someone is going to get pissy about this article I am sure, but reading it gave me a moment of introspection, and I hope it will do the same for others.
Thanks Steph! So far no one too pissy – at least not too my face. 🙂
I definitely feel you on this post. I’ve felt incredibly disillusioned with travel blogging lately – mainly because I feel like the overall quality of the writing is declining and no one seems to care.
I’m not saying I’m the world’s greatest wordsmith and that I’ve never put up a post with a typo, but I try and it kind of feels like a lot of bloggers…well..don’t. It feels like the ability to leverage social media and SEO is becoming more important (or maybe I’m just finally starting to accept it) and the writing itself is fading into the background. And that just makes me sad.
So true about the quality of writing! I feel like too many people are way more focused on SEO and self-promotion than on actually writing well.
This isn’t just a problem affecting travel bloggers, it’s the fact that there’s no barrier to entry to publish content on the web.
If you come across a blog that’s poorly written, the best thing you can do is not visit it again. Frequent the ones that do impress you, whether it’s travel, fashion, food or any other niche.
I’m a strong believer that the cream of the crop will rise to the top, but it’s going to take time, and there will always be the hacker types who look to gain as much as possible by putting in the least time and effort. Just ignore them and focus on improving your own writing!
Agreed! I suppose it’s all about perspective. Sometimes I find it tough not to get caught up in what other bloggers are doing, but ultimately, the best approach is definitely to focus on yourself, your own blog, and your own goals.
I’ve expressed my concern to you in person about possibly branching out to blogging after some minimal success on IG. Your post confirms why I will never pursue this avenue. Every negative you listed was reason for more doubt. I’m also a big supporter of taking a break from social media and just living! (This is the main reason I could not be a blogger.) I greatly appreciate your honesty and your personal reflection, and I’m confident your decision will guide you to a more satisfactory lifestyle. I really enjoy reading your posts, and I am so happy that you will still be writing about places you have visited! I love reading about places I haven’t seen yet and these posts definitely inspire me to go to these countries. Even if you decide to give up blogging completely, I will still ask you for travel advice. I wish you the best of luck in spending more time doing what you want and rebuilding friendships and other relationships!
Speaking of which, we really need to get together soon! 🙂
Careful, “never” is a strong word. I wouldn’t advise anyone to get into or out of blogging (about any topic) based on one person’s experience and opinions.
If you’re curious about blogging, you should give it a try. Just try not to put any pressure or expectations on yourself. Treat it like a hobby. Nobody is forcing any blogger to go on press trips or accept freebies. Those are decisions made at an individual basis, and if you take anything away from this post, it’s that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
I started blogging in 2007 and I’m one of those who’ve made a new career and business out of it. Eight years later, and I couldn’t be happier or more self-fulfilled. It’s disheartening to see how Katie’s experience is causing others to see blogging in a negative light.
I don’t think it’s fair to say my experience is causing others to see things in a negative light. From these comments and private emails I’ve received in response, it sounds more like I’ve hit on something that a lot of people have been feeling anyway and just haven’t been voicing. Just after I published this, I came across 2 other posts basically saying a lot of the same things.
Thank you for your honesty …this is refreshing to to read. I get fed up of my friends telling me I should monetize my website. Yes I have I done travel and culture related reviews but the whole point of writing is to share something with people which hopefully helps them to see the world in a different way. Or to feel something… so when everything becomes commercialised it becomes soulless. I would rather these friends of mine felt “touched ” by something I write like I have been by this post (-:
hmm.. this is an interesting article. i started to monetize my site after 10 years and never had a clue before that it is possible. i do hope that money will not the only inspiration why I’m still blogging.. people who do it for that sole purpose loose inspiration to keep up with it fast. ^_^
Well, you know how I feel about this 😉 I couldn’t agree more. I’ve never been a big fan of blogging for business and a lot of the ways people make money from it. And now it seems to be getting worse and worse with more and more people starting blogs with the idea of making money. I hear so many people who all they care about right away when starting a blog is how to make money or travel for free. It’s not about creating good content or telling a story. I too dropped all the blogging groups because I just couldn’t take it.
And it’s not just travel blogs. I read more decorating blogs than travel blogs and a lot of those have just become non stop sponsored posts. Ones I used to love reading have become so uninspiring and boring, just cranking out content for SEO and sponsorships, with no real passion in it.
I’m not saying it’s every blog and I think there are some who find the right balance. But a lot of them just don’t. Once you start blogging about something for a living, that thing no longer becomes yours. Whether it’s travel or a house or whatever. You start having responsibilities to your audience and to sponsors and I think it’s hard to keep an authentic voice in all that.
I loved hearing your thoughts and how you’ve felt about this. Go out and enjoy life without the pressures of blogging!
Good point about this not just being a travel blog thing – whenever you take something you enjoy for fun and try to turn it into a profession, it’s going to change the way you approach it.
I feel the exact same way. Although I haven’t made it to the point of receiving all those freebies, I’ve started to feel lately that I don’t even WANT to make it there. It seems so fake. I can’t stand reading hotel reviews on travel blogs—we have Tripadvisor for that. Every destination seems the same, and I have to say, many really popular blogs aren’t even written in an interesting way!! I’m going to try to keep at it a bit longer, but my niche is definitely not travel blogging. I think of A Thing For Wor(l)ds more like a lifestyle blog, where travel factors into that lifestyle. Like you say, I don’t enjoy writing the posts about my travels–I much more enjoy writing about language or small aspects of day-to-day life. If that doesn’t offer me free press trips around the world, so be it.
So true about the hotel reviews – if I want those, I’ll go to a booking or review site. I read travel blogs for the personal experiences and stories.
And I like how you describe your blog – I see mine kind of moving in that direction (which was part of why I changed the name last year from Katie Going Global to just my name – so I could write about more than just travel).
It seems like I’ve been reading a lot of posts about frustration with travel blogging/bloggers recently, and it’s sad to think that the the industry could be heading in such a bad direction. I love that you’ve traveled to so many offbeat places (when I was planning my trip through the Stans it was SO hard to find good blog posts about them), and it’s always been clear that you simply love sharing your travel stories. This post made me sad, but also impressed that you’re able to pull back a little from all the blogging glitz.
Thanks Silvia. Yeah, I’ve read a few recently too. I don’t know that I’d call it a bad direction – it’s just not a direction that I personally like. I first started reading travel blogs for the personalities and the honesty and the fact that they gave you insight that travel magazines and travel sections in newspapers rarely did. I feel like that authenticity is slowly fading away.
I have an email from a very, very, well known travel blogger. I won’t give anything away – but his/her job is to convince other people they can make a “career” from travel blogging. The email states (this is a direct cut and paste):
“I really wouldn’t bother to get into it if you want to try to make a living off it.”
“If you want to make a living off it — its too difficult.”
Basically, most travel blogs suck – because people have this strange idea they can make a career from a travel blog. And therefore, the “community” sucks as well. Most are so dishonest, they can’t see through their own bull-dust.
Here’s an idea for travel bloggers – respect your readers a little more. Write better. Take better photos. And understand that nobody with any intelligence cares, or believes, your hotel reviews, sponsored posts, or ponzi-scheme affiliate sale posts trying to convince people they can make a career off a travel blog. Surely you have something better to write about? No? You’re travelling, and you decide to write about your hotel, or how to make money blogging? Why? Hmmm…
Like Sylvia (hi Sylvia!), I came across your blog, Katie, due to your Central Asia posts – and now, I’m currently in Bishkek (great city!). Yours is real, non-sponsored, genuine, useful, personal, blogging.
It’s a rarity, unfortunately.
I wish you all the best in your change of direction.
PS – message to anyone that reads this and disagrees: I’ve been blogging in one way or another, almost continually, since the late 90’s. I know what I’m talking about. My last post had almost 17000 social media likes/shares. My “other” blog regularly get’s 50000 views a day – if you would be so crass as to measure success by easily faked statistics (these are not fake stats BTW, but nobody can tell the difference so go for it and get those free trips)
BTW – it’s amazing that of the very few bloggers I have met in real life, many of them have commented in this post (they’re the ones agreeing with you).
I call them “the good bloggers”.
The ones that disagree in these comments? I don’t have a name I could use for them. The circle-jerkers?
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