10 Key Lessons From Building a Travel Blog + What We’d Do Differently
Here we are. A decade of travel blogging experience under our belt.
Not what we imagined when we started. I’m not sure what we imagined. We just knew someway somehow we were going to turn our passion for travel into a full-time lifestyle that helped others do the same.
The other day we shared with you the major highlights, turning points and challenges we’ve experienced over the past 10 years of travel blogging. .
In this post, we’ll share 10 of our key lessons, plus what we’d do differently. You’ll find plenty of nuggets of wisdom in the other post as well, so be sure to read that too.
10 Key Lessons From Travel Blogging
These lessons don’t specifically apply just to travel blogging. You can apply them to any business, or any dream you intend to build.
These are universal principles that guide me every day in every aspect of my life.
Let’s do this.
1. Less About What You Do, But Who You Are
I am my business. I am at the center of my creation. Therefore, self-growth is on my Daily Agenda.
I have not been sprinkled with fairy dust when it comes to talent, skills and creativity. Most of the time I don’t know what the hell I am doing, and I’m just throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks.
Our strategy changes constantly, our implementation can be sloppy, and our social channel growth and engagement often feels dismal.
I believe success is less about all that stuff – of course, it matters – but you are more likely to create based upon WHO you are. This is our biggest strength – constant and never ending improvement.
This is why you can repeatedly fail but still succeed.
When one thing that has worked really well for us dies, another one comes along soon after to keep us at the same level or higher.
It’s amazing how it happens and it gives me faith to trust in the journey and just keep working on raising myself up to be the best I can be.
If something is not working in my business I go within, not without.
What am I missing? What can I improve? What am I afraid of? Why am I holding back? Why am I resisting? Where are my blocks?
The past few months have been a shock to our business.
Firstly there was the November Google algorithm update which negatively impacted our traffic, and now this health and economic pandemic virus thing, which I call Rona for short.
These are circumstances mostly out of my control. The only thing I can control is myself and how I move forward.
Do I collapse in a heap and quit? Or do I pick up, refine, and grow into something better?
I did throw a pity party for a few weeks (essential task) and then I got to work on myself.
I uncovered a lot of places where I had become complacent and dropped the ball. I have spent the past few months working on myself, breathing fresh new life into our work and are hoping to see the benefits of this soon.
Change takes time. But start on it today.
One thing my years of self work have taught me – I am capable enough of figuring it out and rising above my challenges.
It doesn’t mean it won’t be difficult and many tears won’t be shed, it just means “I’ve got this,” and something better will be born because of it.
2. Building Relationships is Key
Thankfully, years of travel have taught us that people are generally awesome with amazing stories to tell, and I just want to hear them.
This means I love socializing and networking.
I’m not afraid to meet new people and make connections. This has made building valuable relationships an easy and enjoyable part of our business, and one that has proved to be very fruitful.
Our success lies in genuinely wanting to connect with another soul first — NOT connecting just to get something out of it for ourselves.
That transparency does not create longevity.
We have had wonderful long-term partnerships over the years and have built a solid reputation, which gives us great referrals and testimonials to take to the next person we want to work with.
We have had many opportunities come to us because of our relationships, and we have made incredible friendships with many other bloggers in the travel space (and other niches) who are a constant source of support, inspiration, connection, and insights that help us to stay motivated and in the game.
Rona is teaching us how very important connection with others is. Our travel blog has gifted us with such rich connections.
3. Work With the Right Partners
We’ve made mistakes as will anyone.
You only know what you know and the quickest way to know better is to sit in the mire of bad decisions or unfortunate circumstances.
Over the years, as we grew, and had more scope to say NO to the wrong things. We soon learned this gave more space to the right ones to appear.
Thankfully, our mistakes have been few.
We have been so fortunate to partner with incredible companies and tourism destinations that fully align with our beliefs and our travel story.
They allow us to create content in the way that suits our style of travel and messaging, as well as resonates with our readers, and weaves in their messages that fit with it.
We set this as a condition of working with us.
They have allowed us to continue to provide you with inspiring and incredibly useful content. We know that as you consistently tell us – so thank you for that feedback. It keeps us going!
We’ve found long-term partnerships are the best way to align with us.
We’re grateful to have done that over the years with Nissan, Ford, PrAna, Tourism Queensland, and now, Allianz Travel – who have been our ideal partner.
They treat us like family and care so much about you – giving us the freedom to give you the best information we can and just sit alongside that with our journey.
Some of our favorite campaigns have been:
We are very grateful to all the brands and tourism destinations who have partnered with us over the years. We have chosen them carefully, and they have been wonderful to work with.
4. BE GOOD ENOUGH – Give Up Shoulds and Coulds
I believe it’s a myth and don’t strive for it, yet at the same time, I don’t want to live in extreme unbalance where only one important aspect of my life gets all the attention.
To live a truly peaceful, happy, and fulfilled life, accept all aspects of your life won’t ever be fully expressed.
Be okay with GOOD ENOUGH. Get over the mind talk that says:
“You should be doing more. You could be doing better.”
Think carefully about what the sacrifices of that extreme reaching means.
Will the sacrifice and loss in other areas be acceptable to the health of the whole?
With our travel blog, I know we are capable of so much more. If we just did this, we could be millionaires. We should be doing XYZ to better our videos or content or social blah de blah blah.
I stop because I know reaching for that extreme will impact my health, quality time with those I love, my desires for freedom and fun and will reduce my laughter and joy.
So I settle for GOOD ENOUGH and somehow I find that elusive balance. The key is knowing what your values are and what that good enough for fulfillment and happiness looks like.
This idea aligns with lesson 8: focusing on YOUR RIGHT THINGS.
5. Don’t Quit Too Soon
Two of my biggest regrets is not sticking with videos and our travel podcast.
We mentioned in our recent video summing up our life after our last big RV adventure, how Craig and I once had a YouTube channel where we shared daily inspirations and positive messages.
We called it Wake up With Caz and Craig!! Grab your coffee and come chat!
It was before travel blogging and before videos were the thing to do.
We were building a pretty loyal community and we enjoyed it, but balancing daily videos with work and a young child, we ended up quitting. I regret not sticking with it and often think – where could we be with it now?
The other was podcasting. Again, we started before it was the big thing. I even gave a presentation on it at a conference back in Australia many years ago!
It was a wonderful format to connect more deeply with our community and share our personal stories. The feedback we were given was fantastic.
When we set out on our Australian road trip, we realized we had to drop a few things. We just couldn’t manage doing it all.
The blog was our priority, so we dropped the podcast. It was necessary at the time, but again, I often wish we stuck with it longer. It would have been a tremendous asset to our business.
We’re excited to return to it once again and share the more personal stories that don’t fit so well on our blog anymore. It’s important to know what content works best where.
For all the effort it takes to produce and promote a blog post, it’s best we leave that for the content that has longevity and can be seen via the search engines.
Personal stories can be shared in a more human way via a podcast (or video) and is more the medium for personal connection. It makes sense for us to do it this way.
Sharing a story via a podcast is soooooooooo much easier and more enjoyable than writing it all out!
Figure out what works best where and why. Then stick with it as best you can. If you get feedback from your community that they love it, stick with it even more.
6. Take Risks to Walk Your Talk
Success involves risks and sacrifices.
We’ve been able to leap when we had no wings and trust that we’d grow them on the way down. We HAD to.
I knew if we didn’t, we’d remain stuck doing the same old thing and whining and complaining about how the universe overlooks us for others.
One of the biggest things we did was take the leap to travel full-time around Australia.
We did not have the finances to do it and even spent the first three months living out of a tent. But, we saw the potential and knew it was time to walk our talk.
So we left, determined to figure it out as we went along. Eventually, it all came together and exploded our blog (and got us out of the tent.)
Once we saw it worked, we leapt to do the same thing in the USA.
Again it involved loads of fear and obstacles to overcome – again, no great foundation to do it – but phenomenal growth happen because of our risk to walk our talk.
Our question always is – how can we SHOW our community that we live our values and encourage them to be fearless in living theirs?
That’s why our content works so well on our blog. We write from in-depth personal experience. We take some risks when we visit a destination to explore and experience so much! It’s a huge investment of our resources but we do it because we want to give a full-rounded experience.
We don’t want to fill a piece of content with desk research or collabs from other people. We can incorporate some aspects of this, but we have to walk our talk.
That is where our community’s trust in us comes in.
We live and breathe travel and have for 22 years through every stage of our adult life. We are well equipped to understand our readers and help them embrace travel in their lives no matter what.
7. It’s All Possible
Believe in yourself.
Show up every day with the intention to serve with honor, integrity, and passion.
Commit to the sacrifices and doing whatever it takes.
What you dream of is possible. But, also, you don’t even have the capacity to dream or understand what else is possible for you.
A vast amount of your success will come from letting go and trusting that life is guiding you to these unbelievable opportunities and experiences.
As we mentioned in our last post sharing our 10 years of travel blogging highs and lows, we thought getting a Green Card and living in our soul home, Raleigh was impossible.
But, our travel blog brought us to it.
You seriously can’t write the script for your future life so give up trying. Sketch the outline but be open for a few extra scenes and stage directions to be written for you.
Enjoy the journey — even the hardships are blessings as they help you grow into the person who is ready for the dream. Soon enough you will be ready.
Be patient and trust in the magic.
Watch my TBEX talk below as it clearly illustrates how the magic of possibility works.
8. Focus on YOUR Right Things
There is so much noise telling you what you should do, what formulas to follow, what rules to break.
There is no possible way to make sense of the noise and see what fits your style, goals, and strategy.
That is why it’s important to work on yourself, so you develop the ability to filter through the noise and decide what works best for you.
Working on yourself is how you hear your inner voice most strongly. It’s the voice of truth guiding you to the perfect place.
It’s this voice that has brought the successes and given us the faith to leap when everyone else around us told me we were stupid or shameful.
The voice told me that only I know best and to leap anyway.
Remember lesson 4: There are so many things you COULD do with your business.
I’ve been given so much advice over the years, some I’ve followed, just to see, but my best results have come when I have stuck with what I know is best for our game plan, passions and strengths instead of chasing another bright shiny object.
Our focus has always been our travel blog – the foundation of our business that can give us longevity and passive income. We can shine with our authentic story and useful advice. (we have a lot to share!)
We believe that content is KING, but it MUST be content that inspires and helps people act with trust and confidence — in not only your authority but themselves.
Our success is directly related to our expertise.
I say expertise because we have made travel our lifestyle, no matter what life stage we are in. We started out traveling solo, then as a couple, and now with kids.
Plus we’ve lived as expats in four countries (England, Ireland, Thailand, and the USA).
Not only can we relate to many people, but we also show many people what is possible.
Our content reflects this passion and commitment to this lifestyle and the wisdom we share with others looking to do the same.
Our readers know our family. They have been following our travels for years. They know our travel styles and interests, so when we visit an area and say, “We loved this,” generally they can trust they’ll like it too.
We help people believe in the impossible and that THEY can make it happen.
We do this through our blog content, our email updates, and Facebook. We’re excited to extend this now through our video and upcoming podcast channel.
Instagram has been the WORST for us. I struggle to resonate with it and build community and it bugs me to no end.
I can’t put effort into bright shiny objects that just twinkle in the far off distance without sprinkling some magic fairy dust my way.
We also don’t enjoy creating informational products to sell. It takes a shit load of work with potentially little return AND we’ve learned our community is most interested in our travel content.
And we love giving it to them. This is why we love pursuing our advertising and sponsorship monetization model.
We can best use our time, passions, and talents to help our community with free content!
Have faith in your game plan and what you want to achieve, and just DO YOU.
Put your heart and soul into that and allow the way to appear for you.
9. Failing is Great. So is Rejection
Both are intended to help you move closer to your goal. I have no hang ups anymore about these two things.
It took me some time to not attach to them and allow them to crush my soul.
They have been my greatest teachers.
Through them I have learned what to do and what not to do, who I want to be and who I don’t want to be. Our mistakes, rejections and failures say nothing about our character.
Our character and integrity is defined by how we move on from this experiences and use them to become better.
See them for what they are – a moment of power to elevate you to the right thing.
The Creator designed us to learn by trial and error. The path of life we walk is very wide. Everything on the path is sacred – but our mistakes are also sacred. This is the Creator’s way of teaching spiritual people.
To criticize ourselves when we make mistakes is not the Indian way. To learn from our mistakes is the Indian way. The definition of a spiritual person is someone who makes 30-50 mistakes each day and talks to the Creator after each one to see what to do next time. This is the way of the warrior.”
Don Coyhis, Mohican writer and consultant.
We have failed and been rejected so many times now.
It’s how we can now create proposals that land us exciting projects, and are met with comments like, “If only all proposals look like this. “
I can promise you the other 999 ones we pitched didn’t!!
Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback on your failures. There is gold waiting for you in that.
10. Do What Sets Your Heart on Fire + Know Your Values
Trust your inner knowing – your gut – with this one. It requires the strength of a warrior.
Following what sets your heart on fire are the risky decisions. The ones that go against the grain of what others say is normal or should be done.
This is you saying – NO. I know what’s best for my life. I know how I can best serve.
It means turning your back often on the easy money and the easy road – a road that can be constrictive and detrimental in the long run.
The easy road rarely brings growth.
Lets return to lesson 1 – success is about WHO you are. The growth is essential to your future.
We made a decision a long time ago in our business to only do what sets our hearts on fire.
To uncover what that was we got crystal clear on our values – what is most important to us.
Our values is what brings us fulfillment and joy. You don’t work towards balance, you work towards aligning with your values.
For us it’s – joy, freedom, connection, growth, love, health, and contribution.
This doesn’t’ mean there aren’t tasks we do that we dislike. Blog formatting, SEO and all the algorithm bullshit that goes with this business does not set my heart on fire.
But, I do it because I helps me achieve the heart fire stuff.
I can also now outsource a lot of that stuff to others or leverage tools. We couldn’t in the beginning.
Remember the point to the journey – helping you become the success version.
Learning all that non-heart fire stuff helped me become a more efficient, knowledgeable entrepreneur and business owner which meant I could up level my value.
For the past few weeks, we’ve had so many wonderful suggestions from others as to how we can quickly make some money to help us during this very challenging time.
We’ve both been very steady in not jumping towards the bright new shiny object. None of them have set our hearts on fire. We do have some leeway at the moment in terms of savings – so we can hang tight for now.
This is a time for us to build on our foundation. Not create something new, but build upon what we have.
We can see our future, we know the potential ahead of us, we know our dreams and our values and our strengths.
We are focusing on continuing to serve in the best way possible with the utmost faith in ourselves – the people we’ve become (point 1) and where our gut is leading us, to do what sets our hearts on fire.
It’s how we can best serve you and grow during this difficult time to up level and help you the most.
Sometimes you may feel that you trusted your gut and the outcome came out all wrong. It’s not wrong just because you don’t like the outcome. Trust in the process. It’s bringing you to the lessons you need to become the person who is ready for the ultimate dream.
Things We’d Do Differently
We have built this business doing the best we could, from where we were, with what we had.
We started in near bankruptcy during a horrific financial crisis after the GFC. We had a three year old. We lived with Craig’s parents who helped us recover. We experienced a miscarriage, gave birth to Savannah and had a health crisis to deal with.
Despite all of this we made something happen. And we did it all full-time with our kids, for many years traveling full-time and homeschooling.
You are capable of more than you realize.
Don’t offer yourself any excuses and you’ll be surprised by what you can achieve.
There is so much more I wish I did. Going back to the lesson above, I’m okay with my choices. They were the best for who I was at the time.
But with that beautiful fairy wand wave called hindsight, here are a few things we’d do differently.
Focus on Video + Podcast
I mentioned this above, so won’t go over it again. But we definitely wouldn’t have quit so early on these two things. Big Mistake.
Click here for all podcast episodes.
Niche It Down
Our travel blog is so freaking hard as our audience is so diverse in location and age – from 20 years to 60+ years.
And we don’t just talk about one region in the world. It is focused on global travel.
We did notice growth came when we became experts on one region, which is why we tend to travel a region in depth to become experts in that area. We also prefer that kind of travel so it’s a perfect fit.
So we are experts on Australia, USA, road trips and family travel.
But still, so many people come to our site for multiple reasons.
I’m excited for our new Raleigh, North Carolina website that we’re currently building as we’re just focused on one city. We’re trying to keep it as simple as possible this time around.
At the moment, I’m not even sure about this.
Google has decided it wants to dominate the travel space and maximize its ad revenue to the gazillions instead of a billions and so has impacted severely most of its travel blog competitors.
It’s getting harder and harder to rank on page 1, and even if you do you’re pushed way down the page (ranking #1 on Google isn’t what it used to be) as there are so many other shiny things for people to click on – plus Google seems more intent on having people stay on Google, rather than click away to other sites.
But, it was good to us for several years. We followed Google’s Golden Rule – create super useful content that people love to read, naturally link to and share.
We don’t even know how to fix things now because we followed their rules so well, but we’re working hard behind the scenes to optimize our site as best we can and doing a site audit.
And we know there was so much more we could have done over the years with SEO to grow our blog and income faster – we’ll be implementing these strategies from the beginning with our This is Raleigh site.
We’ve recently slightly changed our design, theme and navigation to find our content better. And we’re returning to currently just writing content that sets our heart on fire and helps our community.
We’re not writing too many SEO type posts at the moment until we figure out how things look post Rona.
Focus on Email List Building
We have done fairly well with email, but if we focused on it from the beginning, I’d feel so much better about it.
Again, this has been so difficult to manage when you have subscribers who want vastly different things. I’ve created some great automated systems via Ontraport to target their different interests, but it’s still complicated and difficult to grow.
Niching it down with our Raleigh site will make it so much easier. I already have the strategy in place. Thankfully, I know a LOT about it to start in a strong position.
Monetization Model from the Beginning
We didn’t know what we were doing in the beginning back in 2010 (probably still don’t). We didn’t even know a successful travel blog could be a reality.
We were at the trailblazing beginning of this travel blog trend, which meant there were few people around to help.
But we did always envision working as long term ambassadors for brands we loved. So I guess we had somewhat of an idea, and it did shape our content strategy to some extent.
We’re kind of starting over now with our new Raleigh blog, and it is so comforting to start with an idea of what to do!
We have our monetization plan in place, and it makes things so much easier to have a strategy from the get go!
Better Money Management Plan
It can be difficult to manage your money when you are growing a business.
For the first few years you’ll barely have any to manage, and most of your profits will be reinvested back into your blog.
We did do this so I can give ourselves a thumbs up for doing this. It became our stock market. Our blog eventually grew to provide us with passive income. (until recently! All stock markets come back around though.)
I do wish we put more money away into savings and investments. Now I’m older I see the importance of that future security for ourselves and our kids.
We had money saved for a house deposit and we are hoping we can keep that tucked away for the next few months as we outwit, outplay and outlast this Rona virus and Google.
If only we had spent less on frivolous stuff and saved more for extra protection.
You will have down cycles. Be sure to always adequately prepare for them.
Pay yourself first. Put 10% into savings and 10% into investments. More even if you can.
Track your spending and re-evaluate often where your money is going out and coming in. We like to use Mint.com. How can you increase your income and decrease your spending?
Be sure you are clear on your monetization strategy, passions and talents so you don’t waste time on things that don’t give you a good ROI.
I have chased far too many bright shiny objects. Leave them to sparkle in the distance and get on with doing what you know works best.
Stronger Social Strategy
I still can’t figure out of this was smart or stupid.
Our Facebook strategy was always pretty good and we love our community there. It definitely feels more like hanging out on the hostel couch with other travelers.
But Facebook has been good at trying to kill community so I’m not sure. And Instagram, well, I don’t know. Maybe we could have embraced that better from the beginning.
But, seriously, who wants to make their short precious days centered on finding the perfect hashtag and emojis?
I’m not a cave woman. I did school for 12 years and college for 3 so I could learn how to construct sentences to convey my meaning. Now, I’m taking 2+ minutes to find a freaking pictograph for a word that takes me a second to write.
What the hell is wrong with our world?!!
I just find that a difficult and annoying game to play, and going back to doing things that set my heart on fire – writing in pictographs was something I stopped loving in kindergarten!
We could have done better with streaming live and connecting with our community that way. We just found it extremely difficult to do with the intensity of our day to day life and limited resources.
Balancing all of this with homeschooling, our business and full-time travel is beyond difficult. It’s truly NOT the glamour your Instagram feed tries to tell you.
Now mastering social feels impossible and nothing but an algorithm fight and self-esteem beat up and a TON of work for little ROI.
Social media has its place, of course, but is a drain – on your time, your energy, your mental stability.
It can be wonderful in so many ways, as long as you can protect your energy from it and not let it consume all of you.
I feel like we can do really well with social for This Is Raleigh and we’re excited to work from the beginning with a strategy based upon what we know from hindsight.
I think having a specific niche will make it so much easier and I am really looking forward to this account purely just being about the awesomeness of Raleigh.
I think that’s one reason Instagram hasn’t floated my boat. I really don’t like making everything about the awesomeness of me. So I don’t share it so much in a platform and niche that kind of demands it.
I get sick of myself on that platform, but I’ll never get sick of Raleigh so can easily share it!
The USA RV Road Trip
We talk more about this in our YouTube video on was it worth it? I’m still on the fence about our recent 1 year RV road trip across the US.
There was so much I loved about it and we had many incredible experiences and visited so many beautiful places. I don’t regret any of that.
However, sitting in our current circumstances, I wish we didn’t do it, or did it very differently.
The three main reasons being, it really affected my health and recovery has been exhausting.
And, mostly, our finances and business suffered because of it. We’ve never been so unproductive in our life and we like to be productive! And we don’t like doing things for the sake of doing things, and that includes traveling!
If the current challenges with the Google update and Rona didn’t happen, I might feel a bit different.
But, because of them, I can’t help but wish we had the extra cushion of savings we invested into that trip to protect us through these times. I also wish I could have the time back to work more on our business.
Because we traveled quite quickly to see and do so much, and the USA has so many things to see and do, we had limited time to work on the blog and we’re feeling the effects of that.
So I don’t know. Maybe if we come out of this okay, I’ll be able to say, you know what it was worth it. I hope so.
Remember my note in lesson 10. Sometimes it feels like your gut based decision failed you because you don’t like the outcome.
Time will eventually help you connect the dots to see why it was the perfect thing for your journey.
What did we forget to address? Leave us a comment so we can create future content to help you on our channels.