My First Year Travel Blogging: 6 Things I Wish I Did Differently

| | Inspiration

Kate and Jeremy
Kate and Jeremy

A couple of weeks ago I celebrated a year and a half of blogging, which simultaneously feels like no time at all and like a lifetime.

Compared to established bloggers, the travel blog I run with my husband Jeremy, Our Escape Clause, is an infant.

On the other hand, considering that the vast majority of bloggers give up within a year, we’re getting downright ancient compared to all blogs across the internet.

I have learned more in the last 18 months about travel blogging and all of the effort that goes into it than I once would have thought possible.

While I know that my travel blogging education is far from over, I have definitely picked up some tips throughout this journey.

If you’re thinking of starting a travel blog, take the advice of someone who has been there: here’s what I wish I would have done differently during my first year travel blogging.

1. Just started

I decided to start a travel blog the same day that Jeremy and I decided to quit our jobs to travel: September 28, 2015.

In a perfect world, I would have started a blog shortly after that, and used the time before our May 2016 departure to experiment with themes, build up a backlog of content, learn about SEO, and generally get all of the awkward early stages of blogging out of the way before hitting the road.

Instead, I froze with stage fright and did nothing.

When I finally hit “publish” on Our Escape Clause’s first post on March 10, 2016, I had spent nearly six months planning a blog when I should have spent six months actually writing one.

True, content would have been a little thinner (my primary excuse for delaying the launch) as I wasn’t actively traveling at the time, but I would have moved my entire informal blogging education forward by half a year, and I still kick myself for not doing it.

Palm tree

2. Learned the basics of SEO earlier

When I started blogging, the mere sight the acronym SEO was enough to make my eyes glaze over: the whole thing seemed technical and vaguely intimidating, not at all like the creative writing and social media sides of blogging that I was primarily interested in–and so, essentially, I ignored it.

This was a big mistake: basic SEO is not terribly complicated once you get the hang of it, and dozens of early posts that never see the light of day could have potentially been rising through the Google ranks right now as my Domain Authority (DA) grows, if only I had set them up for success in the first place.

3. Spent money sooner

When I started blogging, I was very hesitant to spend money on it outside of a basic web hosting package.

I suspect that tendency came from the fact that my blog operated in the halfway space between a hobby and potential business: I wanted my blog to eventually make money, so spending money when it wasn’t making any seemed, well, silly.

This was not the right way to look at it, however: not only do businesses need capital to thrive, Our Escape Clause was also a passion project and a hobby, and it’s normal to spend money on hobbies, right?

While many travel bloggers (me included) start writing these days with the hope of eventually turning at least a small profit, the first year is really not the time to be worrying about that.

Keep it reasonable, of course, but even a $30/month budget to spend on my travel blog could have made a difference in those early days.

The one purchase I did make in the first six months of blogging was my TBS membership, which has been absolutely invaluable ever since–definitely money well spent!

Cadillac Mountain
Cadillac Mountain

4. Used Lightroom

Starting Our Escape Clause coincided with Jeremy and I getting our first DSLR and starting to teach ourselves photography–a skill we have improved immensely in the time since.

In the beginning, Lightroom (and editing our RAW images in general) seemed intimidating and like something not worth spending money on “at first” (there’s that hesitancy to open our wallets again), but the difference in quality is enormous.

Looking at Our Escape Clause, it’s easy to see the improvements in our photography over time–but to us, it’s also incredibly obvious when we switched from editing JPG images to editing RAW images, and when we moved from editing our RAW images on other software to springing for Lightroom.

There are so many photos that we hope to go back and edit properly one day, but that’s a daunting project that we’re unlikely to take on anytime soon.

5. Worried less about social media

In just the year and a half since I started blogging, social media has changed significantly:

  • Snapchat has faded from the must-use new app to relative obscurity in the face of Instagram Stories
  • Instagram’s algorithm changes have caused uproar after uproar among influencers
  • Facebook’s algorithms have continued to cause frustrations

Having a social media presence is simply a part of travel blogging these days, and one that I truly enjoy–but in the first year, I should have allocated a decent chunk of the hours I spent scrolling through Instagram or sweating over keeping an active Twitter presence developing great content, working on building a stronger DA, and learning about SEO.

After all, I can’t control the ever-changing landscape of social media, but I can control my blog.

Buda Fisherman Bastion in Budapest, Hungary
Buda Fisherman Bastion in Budapest, Hungary

6. Let my voice shine through

It’s a common problem among new travel bloggers: in a quest to not overstep our bounds and declare ourselves “experts” on places we haven’t explored every nook and cranny of, we cower away from expressing opinions and instead stick to rather mundane information.

The result? Boring blog posts without a voice–and a voice is the only reason readers come to travel blogs instead of big-name travel sites like Lonely Planet.

It is a hard, slow, and constantly evolving process to try to strike a balance between providing practical information and putting my personality on full display–I haven’t perfected it, yet (can one ever perfect a form of creative writing?), but I’m miles better than I used to be.

The best way to find your voice when travel blogging?

Write. A lot.

In other words, if you’re thinking of starting a travel blog… it’s time to check off the first item on this list.

I promise you’re ready. It’s time to get started.

We’d like to hear from you! What’s one thing you wish you’d done differently in your first year of travel blogging? 

Recent Comments

  • First year travel blogger here (April 2017!) and completely relate to this post. I’ve always had two nagging feelings – that I need to not be scared and learn SEO, and to not be intimidated by my DSLR camera.
    I just started taking my camera with me places and have learned so much just be doing, and now I need to be brave and learn the basics of SEO.
    I’m glad to hear I’m not alone, and thank you for sharing! Xo

    • Thanks, Heather! Yes, I agree–both of those things will help enormously (and aren’t nearly as scary as they seem at first!).

  • This is really insightful and well written Kate. I am 6 months ahead of you in blogging age but I still feel I waste a lot of time chasing social media that doesn’t benefit my brand except for social proof.
    My one thing is that I wish I had treated like a business from the start and not waited 2 years thinking it would fall into place over time.

    • Thanks, Dean!

  • Congratulations on one year! My blog is also very new and I’ve been reluctant to spend money on it either. I’m curious what you would have spent money on that you didn’t?

    • Good question! Probably some premium plugins such as Social Warfare and a premium theme. I would definitely have purchased Lightroom earlier (it’s $10/month), and maybe played around with some Facebook advertisement. Essentially, all the small expenses that are easy to put off, but add up to a smoother experience.

  • I definitely agree with your first point. I spent far too long “learning” about blogging instead of doing any actual writing. I was terrified that I wouldn’t sound right or didn’t know enough and I always wish I could get that time back.

    • Yep, that sums up my thoughts perfectly! There are still things I do that with (currently trying to force myself to buckle down and actually publish a video), so it’s a constant work in progress.

  • Hi Erin!
    Thank you for sharing all of this fantastic information – it’s really great to read as someone starting out and feeling that “imposter syndrome” – not ready to call myself an expert on ANYTHING! That’s a LOT of learning to do in a year – how did you go about mastering SEO? It’s still pretty daunting!

    • Well, I definitely don’t consider myself an SEO expert, but I have come a long way! I took a free Udemy course that someone posted in the TBS Facebook group awhile back, I watched a few of Moz’s SEO tutorial videos, and I joined some Facebook groups geared at learning SEO–those were probably the most obvious ones. I also started reaching out to other bloggers to write guest posts, and started participating in collab posts. Once the ball got rolling with those, things started to click into place.

  • It’s a sweet feeling to know content is king and always will be in Bing, Google, and YaHoO!. And as content is king on the web, it’ll always enable anyone to start a “side blog hustle,” with the ability to build up their blog to the point of quitting their day job in less than 2 years.

  • I just launched my own in August and it was a good reminder of things I need to be focusing on ! Thanks for the tips, its nice to see that the feelings of being scared to tackle things is universal 🙂

  • Thanks for this! I’m just about to go into month 2 of ‘proper blogging’ and feel like my to do list is growing bigger and bigger! I definitely need to do some more work on SEO and have come to realise that I need to spend money now and learn from people that know what they’re talking about. Thanks for making me focus.

  • Hello Kate,
    Thank you for this insightful post! Reading number 5 was huge relief for me as Facebook’s and Instagram’s algorithms have been rather frustrating for me. I guess I directed too much attention to social media instead of focusing on my blog and SEO.
    Good luck and keep up the good work! 🙂

  • Hi Kate Thanks a lot for the beginner tips – very useful. I am about to start a travel blog on North Germany where I live. Not super exotic 😀 but still with quite a few hidden gems that people. Like very easily access. It may also be useful for people here on assignments and on shorter stints as well as experiences are. That’s the idea anyway – because 8 still wish I had had access to such info in one place with a personal voice when I was new here.
    So my question is – which of the offers by Travel Blog Success, other than the membership, would you buy first?
    Thank You for your input and am off to read your blog !