What Being a Travel Blogger Really Means (To Me). Lessons From My 4 Favorite Bloggers.

BLOG, INSPIRATION 79 Comments

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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:


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The Result?

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.



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Story of my life!



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?


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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!

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This is that very first diary … 3 years later!

 

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!

 

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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).


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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.

 

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This is me being “real”.. and for the records: NO I’m NOT  going to make a video out of this. Case closed 🙂

 

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!).

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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.


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THE  4 TOP BLOGGERS WHO TAUGHT ME THE VALUE OF AUTHENTICITY

 

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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!


LIZ CARLSON

-From “Young Adventuress”


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“…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.

LAUREN JULIFF

-From “Neverending Footsteps”


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“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!”


DEREK EARL BARON


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“.. 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!

JAIME DAVILA


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“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!

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 🙂


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THANKS TO ALL THE PEOPLE WHO ENCOURAGED ME TO KEEP GOING, INSPIRED ME AND KICKED MY ASS WHEN THEY THOUGHT I NEEDED IT. YOU ROCK!

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wow, Awesome post about your experience in progress this blog. Hey, How did you learn Italian gesture? I bookmarked your site for the future post. Thanks

wow
excellent

Micah

I love your blog! And now it’s one of my favorite one to read. I was checking on Siargao and then I found your blog. Glad you enjoyed your stay in my country — Philippines! God bless your trip, Clelia!

Ive just discovered your blog – what an awesome post! Something to keep in mind in future for me as well. I’ve just started travel blogging so I find these sorts of posts really inspirational and through-provoking. Authenticity is so important. Keep up the awesome work!

Glyde

I love that you used Liz from Young Adventuress! I’m thinking of following a similar path to her, as she has really inspired me too. I’m just starting out and I’m grateful for your perspective here. It would be so easy to be caught up in the numbers and forget why you started in the first place <3

Thanks for yet another great post! Travelling and blogging have similar experiences. Both are exiting and challenging!

I had to stop checking Google Analytics when I first started blogging because it quickly became an obsession. I was stressing over every statistic and wondering what I was doing wrong, because my numbers don’t come close to the stats that other bloggers get. I went on a trip around South America and was sitting on the top deck of a sailing boat during a 3-day cruise in the Caribbean working on my laptop. A member of the crew politely asked me why I had bothered to travel so far only to sit and write about something that I was… Read more »

As a new blogger this was definitely a good piece to read right away! 🙂 I would love it if you would check out my blog and let me know any thoughts!? Thanks!

Great post! And so timely for me, as I just launched my blog and still keep asking myself what do I want to achieve with it and why.

Awesome.
I agree – stay true to you, with or without followers. It’s important that you continue for personal purposes (such as self-worth and because it makes you happy), rather than because you have a deadline to meet for some monetary incentive or something.

We have one life – live it up, and share it with whomever wants to read about it 🙂

[…] with too many blog posts, but I’d have to say my that my favourite so far is… my last one: “what being a travel blogger really means to me”. It’s the most honest piece I’ve ever written about what I’m doing with my […]

To me Travelling is being open to unusual situations/people to overcome your fears.

I love it!! Thank YOU for writing this…a gentle reminder to all of us bloggers out there…keep it real…remember your voice, don’t sweat the numbers. Love it. Cheers, Nicole

Janusz

Personal and not PR posts rare this days in travel blogging. Congrats! Come and see Krakow!;)

This is a great, refreshingly honest post (and there’s nothing wrong with your English!). I’ve learnt about blogging as I’ve gone along and am enjoying the ride. I love the fact it’s grown organically, love writing in a personal style, and often question if there are any ‘rules’ in blogging, which unfortunately it depends on who you speak to.
Well done for being true to yourself. Keep it up.

First of all I have to say – what do you mean when you mention your bad english?!!! I would have thought you were a native english speaker until I read that. Seems fine to me!! (I’m Australian.) Secondly, I think once you start associating with other bloggers online it can be very hard not to get pulled into a competitive world and I totally agree it’s about deciding what is important to you and what success means to you. I think it’s also important to REALISE that everyone’s version of success is different too to not get pulled into… Read more »

Wow sorry I’m just now reading this. Ahhhhh I loved this post. Good for you for realizing you hate doing it the way you were. Good for you for going back to basics and doing what you wanna do. I read this and literally have felt everything you have felt. When I left for my second trip around the world I told my self I’m going to keep being me like I’ve always been but I’m not gonna worry about posting twice a week and staying up to date. I’ve decided the road and my life are more important actually… Read more »

Wonderful post Clelia! You’ve said what many people think. I’d rather right how I want to right and have a few comment (or none at all), than care about the numbers on my twitter account. I like to be real about travel, and not just say ‘its awesome’ (as it isn’t always).

Thanks for sharing this!

Safe travels

Abbi

Your words is full of energy and it is what are you in real!

Thanks for sharing.

Ah those gestures! Our friendship started with that post. You don’t make money with it but you’ve found a friend (chi trova un amico… ). Great article, you know we think alike. If only travel bloggers would be more focused on learning and improving writing skills, photography, videos, design, being creative, producing quality contents and finding their own original style. But now it’s all follow/unfollow tricks, clickbait articles and listicles. What we can do about this is to start to be different ourselves, be inspired by great bloggers (with quality original contents not quantity in followers acquired with questionable techniques)… Read more »

Ria

I loved to read this article! It’s reminded some things that I already forgot – even if I just started to write my blog;) 3 years – a lot! congratulations with that:)

Congrats for the 3th anniversary! I loved your article and really appreciate the honesty. It’s one of the things that maybe lack the most on the web world and I can imagine is a big reason you are rocking today! I totally feel the pain on writing in different language (mine is Spanish) + being perfectionist, but it’s great to do it despite all. Wish you all the best and keep writing in your own voice. Maybe we’ll cross paths someday 😉

Matt Rinkerman

Rock On This is why I said you inspired me. Shocked to learn your 38. Keep up your efforts there are people who care about real stories and the people behind them.

I don’t think I have ever come across a fake post on this site, Clelia, and the only reason you may have people say so is because they are haters – which comes with being popular. And you are popular, whether you admit it or not. The best part about your popularity though is that you don’t even see how real it is. You are an added value to the blogging community and to the tourism industry, and even to the world in general. I am glad I have discovered your blog, little over a year ago now. Now, having… Read more »

Naomi

I’m so glad I’ve found this post. I Loved your honesty, very inspirational. I already knew Earl’s website and I couldn’t agree more with you. He’s one of the best bloggers out there. I’m going to check out the others now 🙂
Thanks for putting this together!

Nice post. It’s so easy to get swayed and have your goals blurred especially when maintaining a blog and posts like this is a good reminder on why did you put up a blog in the first place? is it for money, popularity, or you just want a platform to express, share your stories, and help future readers in their journey. I agree with you, real numbers is better than big following but not really interested with what you have to offer. thank you so much for this enlightening post. very helpful! cheers from Manila! please feel free to visit… Read more »

it’s great to know that there are story tellers out there that still maintains passion despite challenges. ^_^ thanks for being authentic… oh and I love writing diaries too! ^_^

Good on you for keeping it real and sharing inspiration and joy with your readers. Being a more visually directed medium for me makes it easier to mix it up with my personal observations vs destination travel. Congrats on the 3 years!

Carey

I’m new here and appreciate your honesty and clarity. Such a lost talent! As I become more familiar with your blog I can only say, I bid you peace! I look forward to the inspiration! Thank you.

Hehe, I told you as well you were obsessed with Google Analytics 😉 I think what I don’t like about blogging community is that everyone obsesses with numbers and in reality they might not mean shit as followers are easy to buy and the enagagement rate might be higher with some bloggers that have less followers. But that’s not the worsst – the worst is that you can see how it’s all staged. Like I dunno, if I wanna go to place X is because I wanna see this place and not just take photos for my facebook site 0_o… Read more »

Oh girl! I am so proud of you and how far you have come! Love your blog, but more than that I love how genuine you are! Thanks for all your help!

Love love love love love love LOVE this! Great post, great blog, great person! 😀 x

Brava Clelia, non rincorrere i numeri, Google e i likes, dedica tempo a te stessa e a chi ami, arricchisci la tua anima anche grazie alle energie che gli altri possono regalarti. I tuoi post e tutti i tuoi lavori non potranno non rispecchiare poi la tua crescita interiore e saranno bellissimi, molto più emozionanti di semplici racconti . E’ un percorso che va seguito, è dura cercare di mettere se stessi in quello che si fa, come con la fotografia, ma alla fine la differenza è clamorosa! Un grosso bacio e vai così che… spacchi 😉

In all honesty, this is the first article that I read from you and I loved it. I still don’t know exactly which direction I want my blog to take, but reading your post was really refreshing. Like in everything in life, there are pros and cons and you need to choose. Thinking less and finding a healthy balance is an excellent choice! I’m actually jealous of your English, but I understand how you feel. For some reason, it came more natural to me writing in English but it’s an eternal struggle to improve… I can’t wait to read more… Read more »

Great reflections Clelia, I always love the honesty and as you know I was aware of some of the tough decisions you made. However as you’ve explained they were the correct ones. You found your voice a heck of a long time ago, just sometimes it wasn’t finding the right audience? Your Italian gestures is one of the first articles I ever read on your site. It drew me in and gave me a great insight to your humour and approach. It also remains my favourite article that you’ve written. Thanks for sharing your top 4. I must admit I… Read more »

I love reading about your adventures, Clelia, and appreciate the honesty you provide to your readers.

I want you to know that you continue to inspire me to stay on my journey not because I’m almost a year into it, but knowing that you’ve got three years behind you and you still have the same love/hate relationship makes me feel that much better about my life-altering decisions!

Authenticity comes through clearly in your posts and reflects passion for people, experiences, and the natural world. Your brand is good so content is yours to share at your heart/minds desire. Do what’s best for you the rest will flow as it should. Peace.

Wow, not sure what to say about the mention above but I’m just glad to hear that you enjoy my blog and can relate to the posts…keep being authentic and I look forward to seeing where it all takes you!

Oh, you can call me Earl or Derek or even Dearl if you wish 🙂

I so want to hug you right now:)