What Being a Travel Blogger Really Means (To Me). Lessons From My 4 Favorite Bloggers.
Contents – Open To Read
MY BLOG WILL TURN 3 NEXT MONTH. FOOD FOR THOUGHT!
This post is one of those rare cases when you have an idea and you just have to write it down immediately, a spontaneous non-planned post. It all started the day I decided to un-follow something like 6000 people from my Twitter account.
When my spring cleaning was done I felt light. VERY LIGHT. I was tired of the game: “I follow you, you follow me” shit. I didn’t really care if I was going to lose all my followers overnight. If they didn’t stick with me, they were not worth following anyway, and I wasn’t worth a follow from them either. A win-win situation for everyone.
This is the message I put on my Twitter Account:
As expected, I lost more than 7000 followers overnight. Not a big surprise.
This “drastic” decision really made me feel as I had just started a detoxifying diet, so naturally I started wondering why It felt so damn good: Did I really want to be the “conventional” Travel Blogger only defined by traffic, followers and numbers? But most importantly, was I happy with what I had created so far?
After almost 3 years of blogging, sweating blood and swallowing bitter remarks to get where I am today, I needed to stop for a second and think about what I was doing, not what other people thought I was doing judging from my twitter following or how many likes I was getting on each post.
I hate when someone tries to define who I am by the numbers I have, even when they congratulate me for my “success”. When you are a travel blogger, half of the population probably doesn’t even know what that really means, and the second half (usually other bloggers) is silently judging your work one way or the another.
A WAKE-UP CALL FROM MY EX…
That’s what Ex’s are for: they secretly enjoy throwing at you innocent, yet harsh, remarks here and there. Usually things about yourself that you don’t really want to hear.
A few months ago I was living in Chiang Mai and my ex-boyfriend decided to help me with my blog for a while. He is not a blogger, but he was curious to see what was behind this -apparently- glamorous job. During one of our conversations, he pointed out that I was probably starting to compromise my voice for the sake of making money. Eeeeeek… excuse me?
Even if he also politely indicated that I give the idea of someone who never listen to what others have to say, I actually do. As a matter of fact, I think things over a lot more than people would imagine. Well, I am a woman, what do you expect?
After that conversation, I took the afternoon for myself to reflect about what he had just told me. Was he right? Was I really losing my authenticity?!
I tried to focus for a moment, I was in Pai and thinking with 40 degrees outside wasn’t an easy task. A few hours of sweating and countless cold showers later, I finally got it.
He had a point there. I wasn’t exactly trading my authenticity for the sake of money, but I saw myself obsessively checking my Google analytics every hour and feeling constantly under pressure because I wasn’t writing any guest posts. Heck, I wasn’t even writing enough content for my own blog, not to mention that I still had to cover a good part of my previous year’s trip. CRAP.
But hey, on the bright side, my numbers were great! My traffic had more than tripled in just a few months, my main posts were ranking quite high on Google and I started receiving more sponsorships offers that I could physically manage. Not to mention that my revenue with the affiliates was going way better than the previous year. Bragging much? Not really.
I should have felt happy and proud, but I wasn’t nearly as thrilled as one would expect. These were just numbers. Where in hell was my voice in all this?
HERE’S THE TRUTH: I HATE BEING A TRAVEL BLOGGER.
Let’s put it this way. It’s the phrasing. I ‘d rather say that I am a Traveler AND a blogger.
When I started my dream trip I didn’t know much about this crazy world, I just found a few blogs that gave me the balls to write that damn resignation letter and screw up my entire existence. I thought that these people were cool and If they had managed to change their lives, why couldn’t I?
I remember that girl very well: A 15-year-old excited teenager, trapped in a 35-year-old body.
I didn’t give a damn about blogging back then, I was itching to hit the road as soon as possible and start writing my adventures on my brand new travel journal. A gift from a girl who had spent the previous 5 months traveling in South America. She definitely knew a thing or two about the perfect gift for a soon to be traveler!
MY TRAVEL JOURNAL… AFTER 3 YEARS OF TRAVELS!
Writing diaries has always been one of my passions. Yellowish pages plastered with half scribbled notes, entrance tickets to some random site, the phone number of a guy I met at the beach and most importantly: my inner journey.
That was what I always loved to do after all. Writing diaries, collecting memories and… cursing.
In a diary, you don’t have to put the filter mode on for your audience, no one would read it anyway. I opened my blog too, but as soon as I arrived in Asia, I completely forgot about it. I was too busy being happy and enjoying the new adventures to care.
Blogging about it? Naaah, maybe one day I’d sit down and write a few articles. Making a career out of travel blogging? It didn’t even crossed my mind at the time.
I had sacrificed my social life for months to save enough money for my trip, and that was enough to rock my world. The future? why worry about it? Screw the future, my present was much better!
And then, I don’t even know how exactly, the impossible happened: Almost 3 years later, I am now a full-time travel blogger. Last November I was even invited to Sri-Lanka together with some of the bloggers I use to read when I was a 15-year-old girl (still trapped in this now 38-year-old body).
It was a weird sensation. I don’t see the top bloggers as “celebrities”. I mean, come on, even if my soul is still 15, I’m not a groupie. In the end, they are just people like me. And that’s the main reason why they were able to inspire me during my pre-trip exciting months, and later when my blog was slowly becoming my full-time job. Against my will ?
They inspired me because they were travelers and adventurers, before being “bloggers”.
The blogging part was a tool to show their love for the ride, not just a money generator business, and that’s why they stood out from the crowd (Do you want to know who I am referring to?keep reading to discover it).
SO, WHAT BEING A TRAVEL BLOGGER MEANS TO ME?
When I started taking my blog seriously I did it because I genuinely enjoyed writing stories. One day I would wake up with an idea and I’d simply write it. No pressure at all. I didn’t care if I got only 1 or 1 million likes. The point of writing was to share my experiences, entertaining myself first and my readers as a consequence.
My English was probably far worse than it is now (yes, it can get even worse than this) but when I hit the publish button I felt happy and accomplished.
It’s not a coincidence that some of my old posts like the 17 Italian gesture explained or the top 10 list of weird travel stories are still among my most popular posts. I didn’t even know what SEO meant back then and yet they are still on top of Google searches.
Am I making money with them? Nope! But I can see myself shining through those posts, even considering my poor English. So that’s what being a travel blogger means to me:
STAYING REAL AND TRULY ENJOYING WHAT I DO.
I’m not saying that the other posts are fake. Not even a little. It’s still me with the difference that I wrote them with the pressure of creating “good content“, neglecting the spontaneous, joyful part of me.
So now I want to go back to the origins: lifting the lid and letting go of the pressure. Screw my obsession for writing in perfect English or writing the perfect piece (wake up call: it will never happen!).
A NEW BALANCE.
From now on I want to keep a healthy balance: I will still create static pages with informational-factual articles, as I know first hand how useful they can be, but when I write a story, I want to do it without thinking too much.
Even if writing in Italian is way more spontaneous and easy for me, I’ll do my best to convey my emotions and experiences in English as well. After all, the people who started following me a few years ago liked my less-than-perfect style anyway.
They are not English teachers (well, my high school English teacher is one of my most affectionate readers, but she is not here to correct my mistakes).
If you are a native English speaker, I invite you to put yourself in my shoes for a second: Try to master Italian at age 30 and open a blog in a very competitive “market”. It’s like climbing mount Everest with only one leg. That’s how it feels like for me. Every single day.
Am I complaining? Nope, I had the choice to write in Italian, but I love the challenge and that’s OK. There will always be people who criticize you, whatever your job is, and people who’ll love what you do.
THE 4 TOP BLOGGERS WHO TAUGHT ME THE VALUE OF AUTHENTICITY
But before I give you the names of my fabulous 4, let me tell you what this list is NOT about.
1 | This is not a list based on “numbers”.
I only considered the person behind a specific travel blog and why that person taught me the value of being authentic. Personality over numbers. It’s not a surprise that these people also make it to the other top lists, they have great personalities and are not afraid to say things as they are. They didn’t sell their soul to make money and somehow managed to stay true to their real nature over the years. And that’s a great example to follow.
2 | This is not an objective list
It should go without saying it, but you never know! I see a great deal of myself in what these bloggers have to say, even if I don’t necessarily agree with everything they write. Which means that my choices were highly influenced by who I am. There are many other authentic and great bloggers out there, but they focus on different things & topics.
SO HERE ARE MY CHAMPIONS, IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
But – And I’m sure you won’t mind- Ladies First!
-From “Young Adventuress”–
“…The first time I moved abroad to Spain when I was 19, I was (how do I phrase this delicately?) awkward as fuck. And not cute doe-eyed-Zooey-Deschunel-awkward, more like bumbling T-Rex awkward.”
If you’re looking for authenticity, with Liz you can’t go wrong! She is definitely not afraid to speak her mind, even if this means making controversial statements.
WHAT’S SPECIAL ABOUT LIZ?The thing I love the most about her blog is not only her straightforward way of writing things but also how she replies to the rude/insulting comments. Every year she actually puts together a list of the best hate comments. Brilliant!
But Liz’s blog is not just controversial, she also writes beautiful insights on traveling and she is super popular on Instagram (finally someone who is popular on Instagram WITHIN REASON). Check out her pictures and you’ll understand why!
Plus, she doesn’t constantly brag about her many accomplishments. At all. That’s also a top reason why I like her personality.
How I discovered and loved her blog:
10 Things I Really Wish People Would Stop Doing On Airplains
Some Of My Favorites:
The Realities About Traveling As An Introvert
5 Travel Mistakes I Make Again and Again
How To be An Adventuress
-From “Neverending Footsteps”–
“I managed to contract food poisoning, get attacked by jellyfish, caught a fish in my bikini bottoms […]. And then I poured a margarita over my brand new laptop. It was not a good month.”
Lauren is my personal Hero. If she’s not authentic, then I’m Marylin Monroe ? Every time I read her posts I think “Damn, That could have been ME!”
WHAT’S SPECIAL ABOUT LAUREN?
I’ve been reading Lauren’s blog way before I started my own adventure and as soon as I read the first blog post I was in love! How could I not be?
Finally a blogger who isn’t afraid to admit her own issues and insecurities, but most importantly… I was totally swept away by one section of her website: “The Incidents”!
Almost every blogger I knew emphasized how cool traveling was. Lauren decided to take a slightly different approach and amused her readers by writing about all sort of misadventures she had on the road. To die for!
The stories were SO hilarious that a big publishing company contacted her to write (not without incidents of course!) a whole book around them:
“How NOT to Travel the world”
Needless to say, I pre-ordered the book (arrived sooner than I expected)! Perfect timing actually, as I was about to leave for a trip and brought it with me. I’m Loving it!!
Do you think that this is a tactic to let you buy the book? Nope, here is the proof! Me sitting on the floor like a bum (same old same old!) waiting for my flight connection at Rome Fiumicino Airport ?
How I discovered and loved her blog:
My Packing List for my around the world trip
My Absolute Favorite:
This is not a post but her about page, where she bravely shares her struggles, from an eating disorder to her anxiety issues, and how she managed to overcome them.
A post that every young girl (and boy) should read. Seriously.
DEREK EARL BARON
“.. I started to understand that every single human being feels confused and lost as well, over and over again throughout life. Nobody is exempt from these feelings, it’s all a part of the human journey.”
He’s one of the first Top travel bloggers and he still doesn’t think he’s a celebrity, Indiana Jones or… spiderman. Ladies and gents, meet my favorite Travel blogger!
WHAT’S SO SPECIAL ABOUT EARL?!
When you discover Derek, or Earl… or Wandering Earl (I still haven’t figured out how you should call him “properly”, too many names man!) is very easy to get addicted to his stories ?
He writes in a way that is so simple, yet touching and immediate, no matter if he’s talking about being lost in life or why he decided that Pad Thai could be used as a currency.
He will always drag you into whatever he has to say. Even when he has absolutely nothing to say. Only him could write a post about nothing and get 80 comments!
All I know is this: When Earl (ok, let’s call him Earl, shall we?) publish a blog post, I always read it. And I mean it. I think I read a good 95% of his posts and each one of them has something special.
His voice. His point of view. His unique, captivating style that will let you think ” Oh I can relate to what he’s saying so much!”
How I discovered and loved his blog:
How I can afford my life of constant travels
Some of my favorites: This was fricking hard, I should have linked directly to his blog page!
I’m confused about life, just like everyone else
Why you shouldn’t care what others think about you
Everybody told me I was a useless bum
“As I am writing this I am done with everything I need to get done for my big trip. I am actually sitting here writing this with tears. They are tears of joy, tears of fear, tears of hard work paying off”
Jaime is the purest travel blogger out there. He is pure passion turned into flesh! He is too busy enjoying his trip to create a business out of it. Jaime, damn it, at least write a bloody book about your life!
WHAT’S SO SPECIAL ABOUT JAIME?!How can I describe why Jaime is so special?
I never met him in person but he was the one cheering me up when I needed a shoulder to cry on (yes, I do cry too.. surprise, I’m human!).
He is the cheeky guy who has a few shenanigans on his back, but he’s also the guy who fell in love and left his readers wanting for more and waiting impatiently to read what was next.
Jaime is able to take you with him everywhere he goes, and everywhere can be a destination or simply his inner journey.
He’s so damn honest that sometimes he freaks me out! I got literally addicted to his blog long before my trip, and he was one of the few bloggers who was really able to inspire me to say “hell, screw society, I’m living life on my own terms!”
The guy is also pretty flexible! He’s been featured by Good Morning America, Yahoo, Mashable and ABC for his famous toe-touch shots in front of the most famous monuments around the world and when he announced it to the world he was everything but bragging. That’s what I truly love about him. He’s been traveling for years, but he’s still so humble. You gotta love him!
How I discovered and loved his blog:
What I’m packing for my trip around the world
Some Of My Favorites:
The Last Goodbye
The Reality of coming home after you have traveled the world
Let your thoughts and dreams consume you
So there you have them, normal yet extraordinary people who inspired me to stay true to myself despite the pressure of being “perfect”.
You might have noticed that my top four have quite different styles but they all have these core values in common:
- They are some of the most influential bloggers out there but they don’t constantly brag about their accomplishments. BIG THUMBS UP!
- They don’t feel ashamed to talk about their weaknesses and insecurities.
- They interact with their audience a lot more than other bloggers, they have a real community, not just “numbers”
- They mix it up a lot. They write deep posts about life and the next thing you know they are posting the funniest adventures ever!
A FINAL NOTE:
Even if these bloggers are my source of inspiration, I don’t want to copy them, but I will try to do what they are doing best: Being authentic. No matter if for me that means being ….THIS ?