When I started Should Be Cruising in July of 2018, I had no idea what I was getting into. For years I had been thinking, should I start a blog? More importantly, CAN I start a blog? I didn’t even know where to begin.
What I did know is that I love to write, I love to travel, and I love to help people. But could I become a travel blogger? Could I have any success as a travel blogger? Or would this just turn into a very expensive hobby?
I also knew that I needed to try.
Why I had to start a travel blog
Travel has been my greatest passion since I was a child, so naturally I gravitated toward working in the travel industry. I adored my job as a flight attendant, even when I moved back to New England from the airline’s base in Phoenix, and I commuted across the country to work.
However, I had to hang up my wings when my daughter was a baby. Since I adored her more, I needed to take a job where I wasn’t gone for two weeks out of every month. So I spent the last two decades working insanely long hours for large corporations, usually commuting over an hour each way from home.
I was exhausted, both mentally and physically. I realized that not only was my creativity being stifled at work, but that I no longer enjoyed what I was doing. Many companies were slashing their payroll budgets, and like lots of other people, I found myself doing significantly more work for the same paycheck. Days off turned into work-from-home days. Vacations went untaken. The harder I worked, the more was expected from me.
Enough was enough. I decided that I was going to leave the corporate world and travel as much as possible, combining that passion with my love of writing. I started Should Be Cruising, not knowing at all how I was going to make it work. Would anyone find my blog, and if they did, would they even like it?
Sharing my lessons learned so far as a travel blogger
A year later, I’ve learned so much about travel blogging that I can hardly believe it myself. Have I learned everything there is to know about blogging? Ha! Not even close. But I’ve discovered a lot in this past year, so I’m going to share the ten key lessons that I’ve learned.
If you’re thinking about starting a travel blog, or any kind of blog, I’m glad you’re here. Lots of what I’ve learned will apply to any type of new blog.
If you’re a brand new travel blogger, wondering if anyone will read your posts or if you’ll ever make any money, you need to read this.
And if you’re a regular reader who loves to travel but has no interest in starting a blog, I hope you’ll enjoy a behind-the-scenes view of my first year as a travel blogger.
So after a year of travel blogging, here are the ten biggest lessons I’ve learned.
1. No one understands what you do
When people hear that I’m a travel blogger, they usually think one of two things. They might think that I’m a journalist working for a company that sends me around the world, I write something about it, and I collect a paycheck.
Or, they think that brands are blowing up my inbox with offers of free, all-expenses-paid vacations, and all I have to do is write a quick review or make a few Instagram posts in exchange.
Neither of these things is remotely true.
For those who think that the life of a travel blogger is non-stop free vacations and very little work, I’d love to have them watch me spend 12-hour days researching, writing and editing, designing graphics, editing photographs, responding to comments and emails, fixing inevitable website issues, it goes on and on.
Don’t get me wrong; I love what I do, so the long hours I spend growing my business don’t bother me at all. It’s just interesting that most people don’t understand how travel blogging can even be a business!
While I was writing this post, my uncle called to chat. He asked me what my plans were for the rest of the summer, and I told him about the two trips I have coming up.
“That sounds fun,” he said, “but all this traveling must be getting expensive!”
I explained that I was paying for the first trip, but that a company had asked me to go on the second one. I’d be writing several articles about it, and taking pictures and videos.
“What?” he asked, confused. “How did you land that kind of job?”
I reminded him that I wrote a travel blog.
“Oh, right, that internet thing! Wow!” he exclaimed, “Your thing must be an actual thing!”
Not everyone is going to understand what you’re doing, but that’s OK. People understand that plumbers fix pipes, doctors help sick people, and bakers make bread and sell it. They understand that those people provide goods or services in exchange for money.
But even though bloggers provide a service (content to help people make decisions or solve a problem) and sometimes a product (ebooks, courses, merch), most people don’t understand that it can be a business and not just a hobby.
I’m always prepared for any possible reaction (usually confusion) when people ask me what I do. I’m considering hiring my uncle to follow me around and tell people I have an “actual thing”. It might be easier than explaining.
2. Travel blogging can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be
If you’re just starting your journey as a travel blogger, you’ll likely have to self-fund your travels. Unless you’re already an influencer on another platform, brands won’t want to work with you until you have an established audience, which can take a long time, often years.
So, you’ll need to pay for your own travel, unless you already work in the industry and have travel privileges (or your immediate family does).
I’ve paid for all of my own travel so far, and only after a year are brands finally approaching me for sponsored travel.
I realize that I’ve been very fortunate to be able to afford to travel and to have the time to blog about it. But constant traveling without making an income isn’t sustainable.
So how can you become a travel blogger without spending tons of your own money?
I’ve always been a pretty frugal person, so if there’s a way to save money, I will find it. With that mindset, I’ve found a few ways to start a travel blog without spending a lot of money.
Blog about places close to home
I know, blogging about places near where you live doesn’t sound as glamorous as jetting off to Bora Bora or cruising to St. Lucia. But odds are there’s somewhere near you where others enjoy vacationing. Or maybe you know of some local spots that people would enjoy visiting, if only they knew about them.
Leverage your current location to create content that your readers will enjoy. For example, I currently live 90 minutes from Boston. It took me a while to realize that I need to write more about Boston! After all, I lived in and around the city for two decades. My perspective as a native is valuable to someone who is visiting for a day on a cruise.
Think about places that are close to you so you can provide a local’s perspective for your readers. You’ll create value without having to spend much on travel costs.
Don’t assume you need to spend money on expensive equipment or tools to start a blog
I started my blog on my ancient laptop with a cracked screen, using my five-year-old smartphone as a camera. Guess what? I’m still using them both. No one has ever called me out for not using an expensive camera to take my photos. My laptop is just fine for writing posts, although it can be a little slow when I’m editing photos. No big deal.
Note: the blog did just buy itself a birthday present of an entry-level DSLR camera, which I’m slowly learning how to use. On a friend’s recommendation, I chose the Canon Rebel T7, and I got a really good deal on a bundle package with a bunch of lenses and accessories.
You also don’t need to pay someone to design your website, purchase an expensive theme for your blog, or sign up for pro versions of plugins or editing software.
I started with a free theme from WordPress, although I eventually purchased a paid theme (Extra from Elegant Themes) because they offered several features I wanted that would cost money if I purchased them separately, like customizable opt-in forms and a premium social media sharing plugin. I also wanted access to customer support if I got stuck while I was still learning how to tweak my theme.
But you don’t need to start with a paid theme! Here’s what I recommend to get started that will cost you less than $4 per month total.
Web hosting: Bluehost is the best deal around. Their customer service reps are friendly and helpful, and they even throw in a free domain name and SSL certificate. You can sign up right here for only $3.95 a month. They make installing WordPress super simple, too (like, one click simple).
Free WordPress themes: There are thousands of free WordPress themes that you can use for your new blog. The only problem is choosing which one! If I was going to choose a free theme right now, I’d go with Neve from Themeisle, because it’s fast, easily customizable, and works well with the page builder I use, Elementor.
Page design: Elementor is a free drag-and-drop page designer. It comes with hundreds of free templates, and you can also create your own pages from scratch. It’s the easiest designer for beginners that I’ve found, and I’ve tried quite a few of them! They also have a paid Pro version, which I haven’t needed yet.
Graphic design: I use Canva every day to create Pinterest pins, infographics, and page elements. The basic version is free. They also have a paid Pro version, but you probably won’t need it unless you need to create images on a transparent background or upload other fonts (Canva comes with LOTS of fonts).
Photo editing: If you don’t have Photoshop, Photopea is a free clone that you can use to edit photos. If you’ve ever tried Photoshop, you’ll recognize the interface, as it’s nearly identical.
Free stock photos: Although your own pics are best, sometimes you need stock photos (I use them often for creating graphics). But be careful about where you get your photos! If you use an image that you don’t have the right to use, you could be breaking the law. (Read about how another blogger was sued for this.) Pexels, Pixabay, and Unsplash are my favorites, and they’re completely free, even for commercial use.
You don’t need to take an expensive online course to learn how to be a blogger
I’m constantly bombarded with promotions to take someone’s online blogging course. Some of these courses cost hundreds of dollars, or even more! The funny thing is, most of the information these courses provide is out there on the internet, for free. You just need to spend time to do your research.
I’ve never taken a paid blogging course of any kind. I’m learning as I go, so I’ll take any free courses that come my way (although they’re almost always a funnel to a paid course).
Of course, if you don’t feel like taking the time to research, a paid blogging course can be a way to jumpstart your blogging journey. You may even make fewer newbie mistakes if you follow along with an established blogger’s program from the start.
I can’t recommend a specific program, because I haven’t taken one. But, my advice to you is to consume all of the free content that you can, until you find someone whose content and teaching style feel like a good fit for what you need to learn and how you like to learn it. If a blogger you’re unfamiliar with is posing as an expert, but doesn’t share any content for you to try before you have to hand over a significant investment, I’d find another course.
3. Money will come…slowly
I didn’t even make a nickel in my first six months of blogging. Not one. I did have two small Amazon affiliate sales in that time frame, but they were never paid out because Amazon closed my account. (If you don’t have at least three sales in your first 180 days with Amazon Associates, they close your account. You can reapply, but you lose any sales you might have already made.)
When did my blog start making money?
I reapplied with Amazon Associates right when my traffic was starting to take off. In March, my first month back with the program, I had 70 sales and made $59.05.
I started with Google AdSense in February 2019, and in my first month I made $23.79. Not enough to pay the bills, but it paid for almost a year of my Bluehost hosting!
As my traffic continued to grow, my AdSense revenue slowly increased, but I didn’t think that the amount of revenue my ads were making was really worth it. Then I was approached by Ezoic. They offered to manage my ads for me, and run experiments to find the best types of ads and ad placements to appeal to my readers. They also assured me that I’d see a significant increase in revenue.
It sounded great, but I was skeptical. I figured I’d give it a month or two, and then reevaluate. Right after I signed up, my Pinterest nightmare started (see lesson #4), and traffic to my blog plummeted. Despite this, I made $124.69 in ad revenue that month!
Because of my huge loss of traffic in May (see that big valley on the graph below? Thanks, Pinterest!), my May page views were just slightly less than my February page views – the month I started with Google AdSense.
With roughly the same traffic, I made $23.79 with AdSense in February, and $124.69 with Ezoic in May. My ad revenue increased by a whopping 424%!
If you’re also frustrated with AdSense, definitely give Ezoic a try. They require far fewer page views per month than other premium ad management programs, so they’re more accessible to newer bloggers.
They state that they require 10,000 views per month, but I’ll let you in on a little secret. I know people who have been accepted with under 10K per month. So if you’re anywhere in that ballpark, it wouldn’t hurt to apply. Get more info and apply here.
Am I making a good income after a year of blogging?
Not even close! I’m not even making enough to pay myself minimum wage. But the blog is growing, and I’m seeing continued growth in both traffic and income, which makes me excited and hopeful for the future.
If you only factor in the costs required to keep the blog running (web hosting and domain renewal), I’m spending far less on the blog than it earns, so in that sense it’s making a profit.
If you look at where I’m spending money to help grow the blog (tickets and accommodation for a travel conference, a new camera, a couple of premium subscriptions that save me lots of time and increase my traffic (Tailwind for Pinterest) or help grow my following (MiloTree), I’m not making a profit yet.
However, I’ve been really strategic about how I spend money on the blog. I’ll only put money into it if I know it will come back to me several times over with time.
What about my travel costs? In the past year, I’ve taken several trips with my family. We’ve been trying to catch up on the traveling we missed out on because of my previous career. I’d still be traveling if I wasn’t blogging – I’d just be working on funding my future travels in a different way.
How much money is the blog actually making?
Want some real numbers? As of right now, mid-July 2019, the blog currently earns about $20 a day between advertising and affiliate programs. That’s not very much! But it’s earning that whether or not I work on it on any given day.
It’s still in its early stages, and I’m confident that it will continue to grow. Will I be able to make a full-time income from blogging? That’s my long-term goal. Right now I’m focusing on creating more content and using my earnings to grow the blog.
4. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
Ready to hear about my Pinterest nightmare? While it was happening, I honestly thought it was the end of my blog. Spoiler Alert: The nightmare did finally end, and I learned a very important lesson about diversification.
A pin goes viral: the storm before the calm
In March and April 2019, my page views began to skyrocket. I was getting good traction on Pinterest, and I had a pin from my first month of blogging suddenly go viral. I was beyond thrilled that so many people were reading my blog.
Since my blog was so new, my organic traffic from search engines was still tiny. Pinterest was my go-to platform to drive readers to my site, and all my hard work creating pins and promoting them was really starting to pay off! (Not in lots of money, but in new readers.)
Then something really weird happened. I peeked at my analytics late one day in May, and I had something like 20 page views for the entire day so far. It should have been at least in the hundreds by that point. Something was seriously wrong.
I soon found out what had happened, thanks to a few fellow travel bloggers who alerted me – Pinterest had blocked my entire website as spam!
I was shocked, then confused, then upset, and probably a whole bunch of other emotions were thrown in the mix, too. Spam? I’m probably the least spammy pinner on the planet. I know Pinterest’s rules, and I follow them. I had no idea why this was happening.
Why Pinterest (usually) blocks accounts for spam
Pinterest wants to protect its users’ experience. Users can report pins if they’re misleading, like a pin that says “20 Top Attractions in Bermuda”, but actually links to an online gambling site.
None of my pins are misleading, so I reached out to Pinterest via the email form in their Help Center to ask if they could manually review my website and my pins. (In case you ever need to contact Pinterest about anything, email is the only way to contact them. They don’t have a listed phone number – believe me, if they did, I would have found it!)
After emailing them several times and having my ticket closed with no response, I tried their Content Creators support, but again my emails went unanswered and my tickets were closed.
I found out a few days later from my friends over at Tailwind (that’s the Pinterest-approved scheduling tool I use) that a bug had caused Pinterest to block thousands of legitimate content creators as spam.
It took a full week for my site to be unblocked, and the experience was really eye-opening for me. In the future, if I were making a living from just one traffic source and I was suddenly banned, or they shut down, I’d be in deep trouble.
If you’re starting a blog, diversify your traffic sources!
- Learn and implement SEO practices to rank higher in search engines for your keywords
- Have a presence on more social media platforms, and consistently post on each of them
- Work on building your email list and consistently send a newsletter to your subscribers
5. You have to wear every hat
Writer, researcher, photographer, social media marketer, graphic designer, web designer, tech support, SEO, bookkeeper. Unless you have a large budget for your blog, you’ll have to be all of these and more.
I had zero experience in most of these fields when I started, other than having a lifelong love of writing. Oh, and an obsessive need to research just about anything that interests me.
After launching my blog, I set out to learn all I could about all the different hats I’d need to wear. Where did I find the information I needed? Mainly Google and YouTube, but Facebook groups and Reddit have been so helpful when I just can’t find an answer and need help or advice.
My big giant piece of advice if you haven’t yet launched your blog? Don’t feel overwhelmed by all the things you’ll have to learn how to do. Jump in there. Create your content and publish it. You don’t have to have everything perfect when you start! A blog is always a work in progress, and you can change and improve it over time.
What did I learn by wearing so many hats?
I learned that I can improve at anything with practice. There’s usually a free or inexpensive way online to help you with anything you need to do for your blog.
I’ve found that I really like creating graphics, and I’m getting much faster and creating more appealing designs than when I first tried.
I’ve also learned that I enjoy learning about SEO, and instead of watching TV in the evening, I watch SEO videos on YouTube!
Even though I enjoy taking pictures, I really know nothing about photography. My next step is to take a photography course. Even though there are plenty of free resources to learn photography online, I’ve realized that I don’t have the time to teach myself another skill. I’m also hoping that feedback from an instructor will help me grow faster.
6. Don’t be afraid to promote your blog
Many years ago, I was working for a company when they filed for bankruptcy. They slashed their advertising budget, and decided that we were going to do “grassroots marketing” instead. What did this mean for me? On top of my regular job, I now had to cold-call other companies and organizations to try to drum up new business.
After months of minimal success, I complained to my boss that it was a waste of time. Of course, he said to me, “I know that only a small percent of the people you’re talking to are turning into customers. But think of it like you’re sowing seeds. If you don’t plant any seeds, you can’t expect anything to grow. But if you plant enough seeds, something is eventually going to sprout.”
I think in that case, I had a bad bag of seeds. But his advice still stuck with me.
Planting seeds for your blog
For a blogger, especially someone who is newer or without an established audience, your blog posts are your seeds. But you have control over how good those seeds are. Better content = better seeds.
No matter how fantastic your posts are, no one is going to see them at first if you don’t promote them.
Promoting your content is like watering your seeds. If you don’t keep your baby seedlings watered, they’ll wither and die.
But how can you promote a new blog?
At the beginning, I really didn’t know where or how to promote new posts after I had published them. After lots of research and trial-and-error, I found lots of great ways to get posts seen by more people, and to keep those people coming back to the blog.
Promoting your blog on Pinterest
- Create a business page on Pinterest (tip: if you have an old Pinterest account, rename it and convert it to a business account. Pinterest likes aged accounts better than new ones).
- Join a few relevant group boards in your niche. Stay away from the all-topics boards, they’ll only hurt your profile. Take a look at successful pinners in your niche and see what group boards they’re in, then apply to those. Pin your content in your group boards every so often – don’t be spammy.
- Join Tailwind to automate your pinning. Pinterest’s algorithm rewards consistent pinners, and who has time for that? You’ll also have access to Tailwind Tribes (they’re like group boards, but members have to share others’ pins as well), and to take advantage of their analytics tools, which are more in-depth than Pinterest Analytics. Tailwind is completely free to start (no credit card required).
- Shameless plug: Join my very own Tailwind Tribe, A+ Travel Pins! Follow me on Pinterest and then you can apply for my tribe in Tailwind. I hope to see you there!
Promoting your blog on Facebook
- Start a Facebook business page and invite your friends to like it. Post your new content there and invite a conversation.
- Join Facebook groups for travel bloggers, or for people who enjoy travel. Many allow you to post your content for group members to see – just check the rules of each group.
- Try Facebook ads when you have a post that’s resonating with your audience. I’ve done a few weeklong campaigns targeted to my demographic and I’ve had reasonably good success. You can start at $1 a day to try it out. (Also watch for free ad credits that they offer periodically.)
- Be sure to invite anyone who interacts with your posts to like your page. That way they’ll be more likely to see your new content. Facebook will send you reminders in your notifications to invite people.
Promoting your blog with an email newsletter
An email newsletter is the perfect way to remind your readers that you have new content and bring them back to your site. But it’s hard to drive much traffic with a small (or nonexistent) email list!
Your email list might grow slowly, but it’s so important to build opt-ins to encourage your visitors to sign up. After all, your email list is something that you own and you can control the communication. When you email your subscribers, you’re not subject to the whims of social media algorithms and feeds. You send your newsletter and it shows up in their inbox.
If a genie came along and told me I could have one wish: either 20,000 Instagram followers or 20,000 email subscribers, you bet I’m going with the email subscribers!
How to build an email list for your blog
- Pick an email marketing platform. Like many new bloggers, I went with Mailchimp because it’s free for up to 2000 contacts and 10,000 sends per month. Since my list is growing, I’m currently looking at other options. But Mailchimp is a good place to start.
- Create your opt-in forms to collect emails (I use Bloom from Elegant Themes – It came free with my theme subscription) and link your forms to your email marketing platform.
- If you’re going to have a popup, don’t have it launch right away! Give your reader time to read before you ask them to subscribe. Many people are turned off by popups, but they do work if done well. I have mine set to launch after three minutes, and it only comes up once every 24 hours.
- Make it easy for your readers to find your email signup. Placing an opt-in form in your sidebar is great for desktop users, but your sidebar gets pushed to the very bottom on mobile. Embed your opt-ins into your posts as well to make them easier to find.
- Include a call-to-action: make sure you invite your readers to subscribe by using the form.
- Give away a freebie. When I wrote a post about how to pack a carry on bag for a cruise, I also made a printable packing list that included everything I covered in the post. I give it away as a freebie to all of my subscribers. The form in that post is my top converter for getting new subscribers.
Do you want that packing list? Pop your email in the form below, and I’ll send it right over.
See how I did that?
7. You’ll probably have Imposter Syndrome
Lots of people have Imposter Syndrome when they first start a new job or business, whether they’re fresh out of school or have decades of experience. You might think, “Why did they hire me? I don’t know what I’m doing!” Or, “Is everyone going to know that I really don’t belong here?”
Impostor Syndrome is a pervasive feeling of self-doubt, insecurity, or fraudulence despite often overwhelming evidence to the contrary.– Ellen Hendriksen, Ph.D., in Scientific American
Self-doubt is totally normal for new bloggers
Unless you’re the super-confident type, you’ll probably feel a bit of self-doubt when you start a new blog!
I was incredibly nervous to publish my very first post. It’s not even a long post, but I spent days reading and re-reading it, trying to pick out anything that someone could call me out for. Even though I knew the content of my post was good, I wasn’t a “real blogger” yet, and I was sure that everyone was going to see that.
Time passed, and I published more and more posts, feeling a little more confident each time. You know what? No one ever exposed me as not being “a real blogger”. And over time, I became a real blogger.
That post that I agonized over publishing because I thought it wasn’t good enough? That I wasn’t good enough? A year later, that little post on what you need to do before a cruise has been shared on social media over 1700 times.
Imposter Syndrome II: Back and Badder Than Ever
I was feeling good for a while – my blog was growing, and I was gaining new readers and followers every day. I was thrilled to be doing something I loved and happy that people liked to read my little blog.
Then I saw a notification on Facebook that TravelCon was coming to Boston at the end of June. If you haven’t heard about it, TravelCon is a conference for travel bloggers and influencers that’s put on by Matt Kepnes, AKA Nomadic Matt, one of the most successful travel bloggers of all time.
I was beyond excited. Living so close to Boston, I had to go. I bought my tickets in early spring, and was counting down the time until the conference started. There would be guest speakers, breakout group sessions on a range of topics, the opportunity to meet with travel industry reps, and most importantly, 800 other travel bloggers to network with.
My excitement continued until the week before TravelCon, when I was hit with Imposter Syndrome all over again.
Would I be the newest blogger there? Would the other bloggers check out my not-very-fancy blog with only 31 posts and my camera phone photos and laugh me out of the conference? Would they sneer at my self-designed business cards that I spent two days making? I almost talked myself out of going.
But I did go.
I wasn’t the newest blogger by far – there were people who hadn’t even chosen a domain name yet. There were people who just started blogging last month. I also met bloggers who had been doing it for over a decade.
Best of all, as often as I was asking the veterans for tips on this and that, the brand new bloggers were asking me for advice. And I had answers for them!
Have I completely overcome Impostor Syndrome? For now, definitely. But I know that if it ever comes back, I can remember how I felt at the beginning of my journey, and how having just a little bit of confidence in yourself can go a long way.
8. Manage your time
Time management is my biggest struggle, and I’m constantly battling the urge to learn a new skill, or to do little projects to upgrade my blog’s look or loading speed.
I used to start the day with the best intentions – to finish and publish a post, or to upload and edit a massive batch of photos from my last trip. My problem? I’d think of all sorts of other little things that I needed to get done, which distracted me from my primary goal for the day. I used to feel like if I didn’t take care of those things in the moment, I’d completely forget about them.
If you don’t have this problem, feel free to skip this part. But if you do, I’ve found a system that has helped me to stay on track and be way more productive with my time.
Bullet journaling for bloggers
The tool that has helped me immensely with time management is a bullet journal. If you haven’t seen one, you can check out an overview of how to set one up on bulletjournal.com (This is Ryder Carroll’s website – he invented the system.)
What I love about the bullet journal system is that you don’t have to buy any expensive planners and special inserts. You can make one with any notebook you have lying around. I made mine with a small, inexpensive binder and looseleaf dot grid paper.
Instead of having to immediately jump on any little task that crosses my mind, I can write it in my journal. I have a page for each day with my primary goal and anything else I need to get done. If an item isn’t completed, it goes on my next day’s page as first priority.
I’ve also made pages for future projects, blog post ideas, and things that I need to research. I’ve even made sections for goals and monthly stats to track my progress.
Basically, my bullet journal functions as my second brain. I know I don’t have to worry about forgetting anything, so I’m able to put my full focus into whatever task I need to complete right now. I definitely recommend learning the system if you also struggle with time management!
9. Take a break, for Pete’s sake!
I don’t actually know who Pete is, but he wants to remind you to be good to yourself and take the occasional break from your blog. Whether you do this by scheduling days when you don’t even turn on your computer, giving yourself a time limit on how long you’ll work each day, or hopefully both, taking time off from blogging is essential to your well-being!
This blog is proof that yes, you can take a day or two off, or a week, or even longer if you need to. Your blog CAN bounce back. If you use some automation tools to schedule your blog and social media posts as well as your newsletter, no one will even notice that you were gone.
I had to take three months off, and my blog survived
I started Should Be Cruising in July 2018, a year after I suddenly lost my mom to an undiagnosed heart condition. In late September, my first husband got sick. He was my daughter’s father and one of my closest friends (we were much better as friends than as a couple).
I spent much of my time taking him to doctor’s appointments, supporting him when he was in the hospital, and generally being on-call when he wasn’t feeling well. I had to put the blog on the back burner.
He passed away in early November, followed soon after by his mother in early December. I needed time to process all of this loss, and to support my daughter who had lost her father and her two remaining grandparents in such a short period.
Why am I telling you all of this? I didn’t touch my blog for months. Months! I didn’t even turn on the computer. And this was a brand-new baby blog!
Honestly, I almost abandoned the blog completely. For a while, I completely lost the drive to create anything. But in January 2019, I told myself that I had to try to resurrect it.
I was nervous to even log in. I’m not sure why; maybe I thought that my comments would be overrun with trolls? But I logged in and there were no troll comments, just some nice ones.
My traffic, as I expected, had tanked, but there was still a little bit, even after all that time away.
While everyone else resolved to go back to the gym for the new year, I resolved to bring my blog back to life (and looking back, I brought myself back in the process).
After only a week back, my traffic began to come back, stronger than ever. I learned that it’s OK to take time off. If you need a mental health day, or a weekend off, or you’re traveling, you don’t have to keep checking in. Your blog will be fine without you for a little bit.
10. Be yourself
There are a lot of successful bloggers out there, and the most successful ones share their own unique voice and perspective with their readers.
You have a unique voice and perspective.
It’s tempting to check out what other bloggers are doing, and try to copy their style. After all, if they’ve succeeded by using that style, they’re doing it right. Right?
Right. But what’s right for them may be completely wrong for you.
Blogs are like soft drinks
I know I already told you that blogs are like plants. Bear with me here, I like analogies!
When you think of soft drinks (soda, pop, tonic, whatever you call carbonated beverages), the main players are colas: Coke and Pepsi, right?
If you wanted to launch a brand new soft drink flavor, you probably wouldn’t invest all your time and money into creating another cola drink. It’s already been done, and done well.
Not to say that colas are the only soft drinks that people like; look at all the other carbonated beverages that are successful – Sprite, Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew. They’re still popular soft drinks, but they didn’t feel the need to be colas.
Recently, smaller-batch craft sodas have been increasing in popularity. Some of these companies have resurrected old-timey flavors like sarsaparilla and cream soda, and others produce unique new flavors like prickly pear or butterscotch.
You are not Coke or Pepsi. You might be a mix of lime and cucumber, or passionfruit and guava. Whatever you are, you are unique, and there’s room for you in the marketplace.
Coke and Pepsi were unique flavors at the time they were created, and look how far they’ve come.
Be authentic. Be yourself.
Maybe you really have a way with words. Or you might have a killer sense of humor. Maybe you’re not the best writer, but you have a winning personality that shines through in your text. You might be an amazing photographer, and choose to let your pictures tell most of the story.
Whatever your unique flavor is, make it part of what makes your blog stand out from the pack. Be yourself.
Have you been thinking about starting a travel blog? What’s holding you back from launching? Maybe you have a newer blog, or you’ve been blogging for a while now. What lessons have you learned? Let me know in the comments below!
Disclaimer: I may receive a small commission when you make a purchase from a link on this site, at no added charge to you. I was not sponsored by any companies I mention in this article. I paid for and personally used all products and services I recommend, and the opinions expressed are entirely my own.
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Friday 27th of May 2022
Love, Love, LOVE this post! Thanks for being so honest and helpful. I'm a retired guy and have a dormant blog/news aggregator/reviews (seniortrippers.com) that I keep thinking about re-opening. Your post has been very helpful. Best of luck to you.
Friday 27th of May 2022
Hi Bobby, thanks so much for your kind comment! You should totally restart your blog - I know of several travel bloggers who've resurrected their websites after long periods of inactivity. I wish you the best of luck :D
Wednesday 15th of January 2020
You have some really solid advice, thank you :) And I do agree with you, no one really understands what you do when you tell them you're a travelblogger...
Thursday 16th of January 2020
Thanks for reading, Ann. I'm glad you liked my post! Nope, no one gets it, except other bloggers! :D
Tuesday 14th of January 2020
I don’t think anyone realizes how much effort it takes to manage a travel blog. It’s not just the writing but all the social media support and all the collaboration activities it takes to grow an audience.
Thursday 16th of January 2020
Jay, I completely agree! I feel like it's 20% writing and 80% promotion if I want anyone to actually read my posts :D
Tuesday 14th of January 2020
Thank you Carrie for your inspirational and honest words. You have given me hope for my baby blog by telling me that it's ok to not be perfect, to be human.
Tuesday 14th of January 2020
Hi Jennifer, thanks so much for reading. I checked out your blog - love it, especially the post on gulet cruising in Turkey!
Saturday 21st of December 2019
Thanks! This is a very interesting blog!
Saturday 21st of December 2019
Thanks for stopping by! I'm glad you like it :)