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How To Start A Travel Blog In 10 Minutes

Start your blog quickly and properly with this simple future-proof set up

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Updating Indie Traveller from a hostel in Argentina… the travel blogger life!

Lately I’ve been getting more and more questions from people about how to start a travel blog, so I thought I’d begin share some of my experiences.

It’s often said and I’ll repeat it here: travel blogging is not easy. Honing your writing style and gaining an audience takes a lot of time. Fortunately, starting a travel blog does not take much time at all, nor does it take any technical expertise. In this post I will tell you how to start a travel blog, and how to do so properly so you won’t be getting into any frustrating issues later.

First: what is your goal?

It’s a good idea to ask yourself now what your ambitions are for your travel blog. Are you starting a travel blog just to post diary entries to share with your family? Or is it a fun way to improve your writing? Maybe you dream of turning your travel blog into something serious down the line (and actually making money with it).

Many people actually don’t really know the answer to this at the start, and that’s okay. Maybe your travel blog will always remain a personal blog, maybe it’ll become a hobby-with-benefits or a portfolio piece, or maybe it will turn into your dream job. I essentially started Indie Traveller on a whim myself, not knowing I’d still be blogging two years later. The best thing is just to get started, gain an audience, and see how things go. While you don’t necessarily have to know the end point for your blog now, it is however super important to be prepared for the future. Choose the wrong hosting solution or blogging platform, and you will be kicking yourself later when things get serious.

The problem with free blogging platforms

There are dedicated travel blogging platforms out there such as Travelpod or World Nomads. These are nice if you just want to throw a few posts up that are no more than long-form postcards for your family. But if things get more serious, you’ll be locked into a system that you can’t get out of. Want to monetize a blog on Travelpod or WordPress.com? Forget about it — it’s against the terms of service and commercial activities may even get blocked. Want to add modules or plugins, or change the design so that your site looks unique? Not possible. Migrate your posts to other blogging software? Many free blogging platforms don’t allow it, or make it very difficult.

It really sucks to be locked into the wrong blogging system. I made this mistake myself: I initially built my blog on top of Expression Engine (a fairly esoteric blogging platform) simply because it was a system I already knew, but two years later I hugely regretted not going with a self-hosted WordPress install. Migrating all my content over to WordPress was a long and arduous (and rather technical) nightmare. You want to get this right from the start.

Another problem with these free blogging platforms is that they don’t look professional. Your address will be something like www.travelpod.com/members/yourusername or http://yourname.wordpress.org/, but no one will take your travel blog seriously unless you have a proper domain name. Be sure to get one!

Step 1. Sign up at Bluehost

For your domain as well as your hosting platform I recommend getting a shared hosting account with Bluehost. Their plans are cheap and their tech support is superb. For $5.95 a month you get true unlimited storage and bandwidth, unlimited email addresses, and you can host an unlimited number of sites (so for instance if you have friends or family who want a site too, you can just stick them on there as well). If your site becomes super successful in the future, you can easily switch to a more powerful VPS or dedicated server  (this costs more though it will take a long time before you hit this level). The bottom line is: it’s completely future-proof.

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On sign-up you’ll be offered a free domain name.

Bluehost also throws in a free domain name. Getting your own domain name is key in not coming across as amateurish, and it will make it easy for people to remember your site’s address. Don’t be too hung up on getting a .com domain though as most of those are gone by now. I went with a .co domain — not used so often, but still easy for people to remember.

You can still use a domain you registered elsewhere, but if you sign up with Bluehost you’ll get the free domain and you’ll be all set.

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After a quick sign-up, you’ll enter the Bluehost control panel.

 

Step 2. Install WordPress

Why WordPress? Simple: it’s the blogging platform that pretty much everyone uses. This means there’s a huge level of support, and free plugins for pretty much anything you’ll ever want to do with your blog.

The difference with getting a free account at WordPress.com and having your own self-hosted installation of WordPress is that you keep total control. You can add plugins, tweak things, change the theme (visual design) in any way you want, and so on. You can’t do this with a free account on WordPress.com.

Installing WordPress is very easy! Don’t be intimidated by the number of menu options in the Bluehost panel. Just go to the control panel, find the Website section, and select Install WordPress. Select your domain name, and simply press “install”.

The set-up might take 5 minutes. Time to make yourself a cup of tea or tell a story to your cat. Come back to your computer and WordPress should be all set up now.

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Installing WordPress takes just one click – no technical knowledge required

Step 3. Say hello to your travel blog!

Go to www.yourdomainname.com/wp-admin and lo and behold, your WordPress admin awaits you.

Go to Appearance > Themes if you want to change the visual look of your blog. There are lots of nice free themes to choose from. Don’t worry, you can change theme very easily in the future (it takes just one click), so you’re not locked into anything now. Of course, there are a lot of blogs out there already using the standard themes, so if you want something a little more unique you can buy a premium theme. ThemeForest is a great place to look for beautiful themes.

You might also want to go to Settings > General and change the name and tagline of your blog.

Your blog is now essentially ready for you to start writing. Later on, you’ll probably want to add an About page, or enhance WordPress with some extra plugins, but you don’t have to worry about this now. The first thing to do now is to get started and create content — but you can rest assured that your blog is set up properly so you can get into the more advanced stuff later.

That was easy! Here’s what’s next…

Many people make the mistake of going for sub-rate blog platforms because they think setting up their own hosted solution is too difficult. But as you’ve just seen, setting your blog up in the legit and professional way is very easy and hardly takes any time.

Now comes the actually difficult part, which is the blogging itself! It takes a while to learn how to write good posts and how to grow an audience, so don’t give up. Be sure to read this post 7 Ways To Ruin Your Travel Writing by Fevered Mutterings. It’s very funny and will nudge you away from some of the bad travel writing clichés (I recognize a thing or two from my own work!).

Check out my previous post titled 10 Ways To Promote Your Blog & Grow Your Audience to take your blog to the next level.

If you want to go commercial, great sites where you can learn more about professional blogging also include Pro Blogger (free) and Fizzle (paid with trial).

But for now, it’s important that you don’t keep staring at that empty ‘New Post’ screen in WordPress. Your first posts don’t have to be perfect. Whether you just want to tell stories of your travels for others to see, or already have much grander designs for your travel blog, the key thing now is to just start writing and start publishing.

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16 comments

  1. Gavin Chandler Reply September 28, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    Hi Marek,

    I´ve just read a lot of your tips and guidance and firstly, thanks a lot. I´ve been blogging for a couple of years but so inconsistently that it´s more like just a few months. Anyway, I have written more consistently the last month and feel motivated to keep it going. My viewing figures are currently in the low thousands which is actually a huge increase for me! Anyway, I pay for my domain annually and there my page looks slightly more professional in terms of the URL, however I am still using wordpress.com. I don´t use any hosting platform currently. What I want to know essentially, is how much you´d recommend upgrading now, even though I have no monetary interest as far as I know,and transferring all my content over rather than letting the pile get bigger and bigger?! I do want to make a leap from just personal blogging, does upgrading just make things easier IF this happens rather than providing any increase in likelihood of it happening? Sorry if this post is all over the place, I´ve been reading tips for about ten hours straight!

    • Marek Reply September 29, 2017 at 4:50 pm

      Hey Gavin. You could stay on WordPress.com for now if you are happy with the functionality. If you have no monetary interest in it then you might be fine with what that platform offers. However, if you want to have any commercial activity at all, then this is not allowed on WordPress.com (it’s against terms of service, and often this gets blocked even if you tried). You also can’t do more advanced stuff with your templates or plugins.

      It is possible to migrate your content from a WordPress.com account to a self-hosted account in the future. Just count on this being a bit of a project. You’ll need to extract the content from one site and insert it into the other, and point the domain to your new site as well.

  2. Victoria Reply June 21, 2017 at 8:34 pm

    Hey Marek,

    Is there a device you would recommend for traveling and blogging purposes. I don’t want to lung around my laptop so I’m looking to get something that I can use for these purposes before I leave on my year long trip. Something light but that will also have the capacity and storage for any software I might need to download like WordPress.

    • Marek Reply June 22, 2017 at 12:18 pm

      Hmm, well, you could consider an Android tablet. Put in a big SD card, or learn how you can attach an external drive to it where you can store things like photos etc. Or you could get a small lightweight laptop (some suggestions here).

      • Victoria Reply June 22, 2017 at 1:39 pm

        Marek,

        Thanks for the advice. I’ll look into that link.

  3. John Hancq- LifetimeTrek.com Reply March 3, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    Hey Man,

    I just started my own travel blog with your advice a little bit ago. I’m working on getting my first few readers. Its definitely slow at the beginning, but so far I’m getting 12-14 more unique visitors a day. Any advice on how to speed this up?

  4. Travel Jaunts Reply January 12, 2017 at 3:40 am

    Have seen the travel blog success course, let me look at Fizzle. Thank you for sharing however have you used any of these?
    Travel Jaunts recently posted…Is it safe to go to Egypt ?My Profile

    • Marek Reply January 12, 2017 at 11:25 am

      You mean Fizzle? I watched their videos almost nonstop before I launched my blog. 🙂

  5. Vincent Reply November 28, 2016 at 12:03 am

    Hey, IMHO if you want a fast and easy blog, you should use Medium

    There is no cost and the default on the blog are really beautiful 🙂

    • Marek Reply November 28, 2016 at 2:05 pm

      I love Medium though by design it’s very limited with customisation/templating (which is something many people do want for a travel blog), and it’s bad for ever monetising it. I agree Medium could be a great option for some people though!

  6. Ivan Tannenberg Reply November 5, 2015 at 12:24 pm

    Hello, Marek!
    Sorry for that late comment but still there is one thing I’d like to ask about Word Press.
    Should one know PHP to run it properly?
    Thanks for that comprehensive post!

    • Marek Reply November 23, 2015 at 10:20 pm

      No knowledge of PHP is needed (unless maybe you want to do rather advanced stuff). If you use plugins, you can build a site with WordPress without coding knowledge.

  7. Lawrence Reply September 26, 2015 at 5:05 am

    Hi Marek!

    I read your post about setting up a blog. I was just wondering, why do I need a Dreamhost account if I can still purchase my own domain in wordpress? I a bit confused on how does this work.

    Thank you.

    • Marek Reply September 26, 2015 at 12:14 pm

      Hey Lawrence!

      This could be fine for basic blogging needs, but you will end up facing certain limitations. I hope I can explain this better… 🙂

      There’s a difference between WordPress.COM (a hosted service) and WordPress.ORG (the software platform itself which you can self-host). WordPress.COM is designed to give you a basic WordPress environment only. You are not allowed to put ads on a WordPress.com site, you can’t install any third-party plugins, you can’t upload themes, and there are other limitations as well. This is OK for basic blogging, but you will be horribly stuck if you want to monetize your blog later, or use any of the thousands of tools and extra features you can get as free plugins normally.

      When you sign up with Dreamhost, it gives you a full self-hosted install of the WordPress software (you can normally download this at WordPress.ORG, except Dreamhost does it for you automatically). This lets you do anything you want, no restrictions at all.

      If you just want a free blog for sharing a couple of travel diaries, WordPress.COM is a decent option. If you want to have the flexibility to customize your site and have full control over everything, self-hosted with Dreamhost is the way to go.

      Phew, long reply, but hopefully this made sense.

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