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Becoming a Full-Time Travel Blogger

I'm officially turning Indie Traveller into my job. (And yes, this is totally crazy.)

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It may have been a bit quiet around my blog lately, but that’s only because I’ve been preparing for some big changes: starting next month, I’m going to dedicate (nearly) all of my time to Indie Traveller.

When I started blogging in 2013, I only thought of Indie Traveller as a creatively fulfilling hobby-with-benefits kind of project. Financially, I hoped it could maybe help top up my funds a bit, and after two years things did eventually reach a point where it could sort-of cover the costs of travelling in cheap countries. But I never thought it could be my main gig back home, where life is much more costly than in places like Bolivia or Cambodia.

I don’t know if this was noticeable, but late last year I essentially put the blog into maintenance mode. I had to dial down my travelling and wasn’t able to post as often anymore. I took a job as digital marketer at Rickshaw Travel, a lovely UK agency focused on meaningful travel in Asia and Latin America. It’s a job that let me do many of the things I did for Indie Traveller but actually get paid to do it. It did feel a bit like putting down my Indiana Jones hat and going back to lecturing at the university, but it seemed like the right move.

But then: plot twist…

I was at the airport in Sevilla, waiting for my flight back home after a trip in Spain. I logged into my site analytics on my phone, after not having looked at it in a month, and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! Traffic and revenue levels had suddenly doubled, mostly thanks to a huge bump in the Google search rankings.

I had to double-check and triple-check if the numbers were real, but they definitely were. I walked around the airport with a stupid grin on my face, probably creeping people out.

In the time since that plot twist in Sevilla, Indie Traveller has been on an amazing upward trajectory. And so it’s become increasingly clear that I simply have to quit my job and focus on this opportunity, and so that’s what’s happening in a couple of weeks. Being able to do this blogging thing, and even make it my sole focus, is a dream come true.

(By the way, people always ask me how my blog makes money, and I answer this to some extent on my disclosure page. It’s different for every blog, but for me, it mostly comes from sales of my book and affiliate commissions.)

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Balancing travel and life

Working on Indie Traveller full-time doesn’t mean I’ll be travelling full-time, though. That was fun for a while but not something I’m planning to do again.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from spending nearly two years non-stop on the road (back in 2013 and 2014), it’s that you can eventually burn out.

Being a digital nomad is not for me. It just doesn’t feel sustainable.

But… I do love having the option to travel whenever I get that itch. And I love being able to go on a proper journey and not just on brief holidays.

I’ve sometimes spoken with friends about what our endgame is, i.e. how you see yourself getting to the place in life you ultimately want to be. I think, for me, the endgame is having my cake and eating it too. I want to have roots and invest long-term in places and relationships. But… I also love breaking with routine and being on the road fairly regularly. If I can somehow combine both those things, I know I’ll be a very happy cat.

As a reader of other travel blogs, I am aware of the many cautionary tales from bloggers struggling to keep a proper balance. Some overdose on travel and lose their grounding, others become a slave to their blog or write lengthy apologies just for (gasp!) being at home sometimes. It’s something I hope to avoid.

I think from a personal branding perspective many travel bloggers want to be seen as travelling literally all the time, but that’s not what I’m aiming for now. Fortunately, the type of writing I do doesn’t rely on me constantly live-blogging everything, so it should be much easier to keep a healthy diet that includes not just one but all of the food groups in life.

Of course, I’m excited to soon have a lot more time for my blog, and I have a bunch of thoughts on where to take things next.

What I’ll be working on

I believe a travel blog always needs to evolve. Indie Traveller has already gone from chronicling my initial round-the-world journey to becoming something broader than that.

My goal is to keep a good mix of content. I want to make sure I have plenty to write about when I’m travelling but also when I’m back home (see: the life balance thing!). Right now, these are things I’m thinking about focusing on in particular:

New and updated destination guides

I think I’ve gotten pretty good at doing useful high-level introductions to a country (the latest one I did was for Morocco). I want to keep doing more of these! I also feel an obligation to refamiliarize myself with certain countries or regions that I haven’t been to for a while so I can update my advice. Having covered a lot of Asia and Latin America, I’m keen to also add more Europe to the mix.

Working with external partners

I have done relatively very little of this so far. I’m proud to have built up Indie Traveller without actually relying on commercial partnerships or sponsorships, but now that I got to a point where things are ticking along nicely, I can look at working with companies a bit more. Because I have my independent income streams, I can be selective and do the kind of collaborations that I’m genuinely excited about. (Anything I do will obviously be clearly disclosed).

Travel gear reviews

People have given me a lot of positive feedback on my packing and travel gear posts, so I’m going to do more of it. I’ll be looking at backpacks, travel accessories, and probably expanding into gear reviews and advice for digital nomads as well. This is one of those things you can actually do from a desk or office better than from the jungles of Borneo, so this will keep me plenty busy back at HQ.

‘Local’ travel blogging 

Finally, I’ve wanted to base myself in a place that I feel is exciting and easy to blog about. This is part of why I’m leaving the UK and moving to Lisbon! I visited this city for the first time recently and just fell in love. The climate, the culture, and the relatively low cost of living make Lisbon a perfect base for me. I see myself blogging about Lisbon and Portugal a lot, and probably also regularly dipping across the border into Spain.

Travel plans for 2017

I know 2016 isn’t close to finished yet, but for my travel plans I’m mostly thinking ahead to the new year.

Over the next couple of months my first priority is to get settled in Lisbon, and any travelling I’ll do is likely to be within Portugal. I’ll get back into posting more regularly, but there is a bunch of unsexy behind-the-scenes development work I have to do on the site as well. I’ve got my eye on a wonderful coworking location in Lisbon from where I can focus on this stuff.

Beyond that, I’m not sure yet!

I might go on a trip back to Southeast Asia or Central America next year, and I’ve also thought about travelling around the Balkans or elsewhere in Europe. My travel goals tend to change on a whim, so we’ll see.

One thing I’m definitely hoping to do next year is attending my first TBEX travel blogger conference. I feel like I’ve been a bit of a hermit, not really connecting with other bloggers apart from a handful who I know only via e-mail, so it’ll be nice to get more involved in the community. If you’re a travel blogger, maybe we’ll get to meet face to face next year.

For now, though, I’ll be busy packing boxes for my move to Lisbon, and I’m looking forward to gradually easing into the blogger/freelancer life over the next few months.

 

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15 comments

  1. Sally Howard Reply October 1, 2016 at 3:38 am

    Hey Marek.

    Just come across your site and it looks great! Love the post. Particularly intrigued about the day you logged into Google Analytics and actually saw some results! Congratulations! We’ve had a travel blog for 9 months now but been very casual about it. I’ve just started delving in the world of SEO and keywording *tries not to cry*. As this is my first attempt, I am wandering do you just have to try certain key phrases related to your article and then hope 6 months down the line something clicks on Google and you start ranking? I guess the waiting game is the worst about the whole SEO thing, not knowing if I’m doing the right thing and having to wait several months to see if its worked.

    Anyways, sorry to ramble on. If you have any posts regarding the above would love to check them out

    Once again, congrats. Hope 2017 brings more success

    • Marek Reply October 1, 2016 at 11:26 am

      Thanks Sally!

      Yeah, SEO takes a lot of patience and there are so many factors that you can’t know exactly how a change will affect your SEO. The number of backlinks to your site can make seemingly failed ranking attempts suddenly successful, e.g. I’ve had posts come alive in SEO over a year after posting them. Even though keyword research and optimising your pages can help a lot, much of it is also quite intuitive and experimental.

      The closest I have to a post about this topic is this, but I’ve not really talked about travel blog SEO in particular yet!

  2. Stephanie Craig Reply September 26, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    Congratulations! That’s so exciting! I’ve read some posts lately along the lines of “is it still possible to make it as a travel blogger.” So happy for you that you’re going from partly lucrative to full time! Looking forward to great content!

  3. Faye Reply September 13, 2016 at 12:50 am

    Good luck Marek. You really got me inspired. Good luck in your 2017 travel. Hope you’ll visit the whole Europe. Keep safe.

  4. Cris Reply September 7, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    Congrats! That’s what I’m also hoping to achieve with my blog so it’s so nice to see people being there already and being so open about it!
    Best of luck and I cannot wait to read more of your stories!
    Cris recently posted…17 Charming Cities on the DanubeMy Profile

    • Marek Reply September 8, 2016 at 2:44 pm

      Thanks Cris! 🙂

  5. Gage Reply September 6, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    This is something I really wish I’d done before having children. Unfortunately it didn’t appeal to me at the time though. Best of luck with everything and I can’t wait to see what you get up to now.
    Gage recently posted…Great Scuba Diving GiftsMy Profile

  6. Kate Reply August 30, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    Congrats, Marek! That’s an exciting step, I’m sure that it will all go smoothly for you. Looking forward to seeing where you go next!

  7. Mia Reply August 30, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    So happy for you Marek, well done! ☺ I love your blog, I read it all the time. I’m completely addicted. Keep up the great work! Looking forward to what’s coming next.

    • Marek Reply August 30, 2016 at 12:23 pm

      Thanks Tom. Your blog looks great, I must add it to my blogs to follow! 🙂

  8. Mindy Reply August 28, 2016 at 9:47 am

    Exciting plans Marek! I look forward to following along and learning from your advice and tips too….I am 9 weeks away from flying out to India, this time on a one way ticket! I took a gap year in 2014 around India, SE Asia and NZ but this time I want to make it more of a long term lifestyle and fuse my two passions, travel and nutrition, whilst being able to make an income whether that is directly or indirectly from my blog (and from what I’m reading in the digital nomad and travel blogging community that will be from both, and take time). happy travels and blogging, Mindy

  9. Liam Reply August 26, 2016 at 5:56 pm

    High fives all round man!

    We were worried you were calling it quits with the website after your long writing break, but we’re very excited to see you’re going for it! Good luck and can’t wait to see what’s new around the corner.

    • Marek Reply August 30, 2016 at 12:21 pm

      Hah, I was getting worried my long silence was giving that impression! It’s good to be back from my writing break 🙂

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