Why is Travel Blogging so Hard?


I originally wrote about travel blogging a while back. Please allow me to use this opportunity to vent (again) about how it’s difficult. I love to complain about this occasionally, similar to anyone that has to do any form of tedious work.

It’s a dream for anyone to be able to write blogs, travel and make money. I think most people would agree with that. However, statistics show that only 20% of travel bloggers earn a decent amount of money from it. The other 80% earn $0 to $20 per month from their efforts. This means that 80% of travel bloggers have a different primary source of income. For me, that’s programming. I love my career. As a programmer, I’m often doing work for clients in addition to writing for my travel blog.

But you just take pictures and write about traveling, right?

I wish that was the case. It’s not that easy, it’s a real challenge to keep up with a blog. Anyone can do it, without doubt, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to be successful with it. The main reason is that there’s a million little tedious tasks to do.

Here’s a condensed list of some things that make it difficult:

  • Organizing and backing-up photos,
  • Optimizing picture resolution,
  • Cropping and adjusting lighting for each picture,
  • Choosing the best photos and putting them in a methodical order,
  • Remembering what happened during each day,
  • Writing carefully about each experience,
  • Mixing each experience with genuine advice,
  • Ensuring my blog works well, looks good, is easy for readers to navigate, is interesting to read and provides some form of value to readers.

…and that’s just for creating content for the blog. There’s also website security, upgrades, backups, server administration, marketing, and a thousand more things.

A person can absolutely pay for services to handle a lot of these things. In fact, I’ve paid for services before. The problem with that is…it get’s expensive when there’s little money coming in.

Travel blogging without needing to monetizing content is a nice sounding idea. But it’s only a dream.

There’s something to be said for travel blogging without earning money. It’s definitely awesome if someone can successfully maintain a travel blog without feeling pressure to earn money from it in some way. However, assuming that most people aren’t rich, they will need some form of income, and that means that their travel blogging efforts will suffer in some way.

The 80/20 Rule is true in travel blogging.

The reason that only 20% of travel bloggers earn a decent income from travel blogging, is because those 20% have pushed really hard to make it to the top. It’s the 80/20 rule in business, the same as with real estate agents or any profession: The top 20% of workers earn 80% of the money. Likewise, the bottom 80% of workers only earn 20% of the income.

This is the economist in me speaking. I love to analyze why things are the way that they are. And it’s interesting to me that this 80/20 rule even applies to travel blogging.

The behaviors of successful bloggers.

The reason that it’s difficult for people to earn income from travel blogging is because it’s competitive. And it should be. It’s awesome traveling. As I mentioned before, everyone loves the idea of getting paid to travel. And anyone that’s willing to work very hard to earn top placement should be rewarded to continue doing what they love.

Successful travel bloggers don’t just relax when they earn money…they use that money to re-invest in…travel blogging. They upgrade their blog, hire virtual assistants, hire content writers, etc. This in turn essentially makes them even more successful at what they do. And since they have no external pressure to perform work for a secondary income, they can put all of their time and effort into being #1 in travel blogging.

This is why the top 20% of travel bloggers are able to monopolize their position. Again, I’m not some social justice warrior claiming that we should “destroy the system”. I have a lot of respect for the top contributors to the travel blogging space. They work damn hard. I do a lot of work to maintain ImperfectPlan.com, but not nearly as much as the top 20%. I only invest my time, they’ve invested their time and money for many years. They win.

The only problem I’ve noticed…it leads to diluded and filtered down content that is mostly unhelpful.

A lot of travel blogs make money by selling the dream of travel blogging. Instead of focussing on their experiences and destinations, they literally write articles and books like “Buy My Ebook On How To Make Money Traveling”. That’s just an example but you understand my point. In my opinion, that’s low. I lose any respect the second someone sells something like that. Granted, maybe some people actually want to buy ebooks like that, but the truth is that there’s really no secret way to earn money while traveling. It still requires a lot of work.

I try to be personal and inspiring in my writing.

In fact, I currently don’t have a monetization plan at this point. I’m not claiming that monetization is bad…it’s good actually. Travelers need to be able to support the good writing that they do. But the money incentive isn’t my motivation for travel blogging.

If you read any of the top 20 travel blogs online, you’ll notice that they’re often not very inspiring. Sure, maybe they market themselves well and have fancy looking blog layouts, but they lack a lot of the intimate personal experiences that makes reading and learning about traveling a cool thing in the first place. For example, I like to read about the price someone paid for a ticket, and I like to read about the unique texture of an unusual food in a different culture. Maybe it’s just me.

My point is, it feels that travel blogging has become exclusively a business. It’s impersonal. Rarely do I read real reviews that give me the idea that the travel blogger is down-to-earth, like someone I’d want to drink a beer with a share a few inappropriate jokes.

In the end, I do it because I love it.

I love travel blogging and I love my career. Both things are stressful at times, but that’s part of life. I love to read back in my travel experiences and remember the tiny details of an experience that I had. Even just looking at an old picture is something that brings memories back to life.

Maybe at some point I’ll try to monetize this blog. I’ve researched it a little bit, but I haven’t yet found any monetization options that I’m particularly fond of.

So if you want an eBook with 5 Tips To Become a Travel Blogger, just send me $10.99. Just kidding 😀