You’re heading out on your round the world trip and you want to document all of your travels. The big question crops up, should you start a travel blog to record stories and photos? Originally this post tended to recommend enjoying travels and not starting a full blog. In spring 2016, however, I updated it to reflect the change in global internet access, new social media options, and the massive travel blogging community.
If you’re already developing your site and want tips on the resources I use to develop this site, check out:
- How to Start a Travel Blog (Step by Step)
- How to Build Your Travel Blog Community
- Resources to Build an Online Business
I often field the travel blogging question and it’s hard to answer, mostly because blogging from the road is not roses, cake, and flowers. It takes a lot of work to keep any business or website running while you are traveling. And a full travel blog (with photos, stories, and videos) may not actually serve you best on your trip. Consider your goals and objectives for your trip, and consider the travel compromises you’re willing to make for the blog.
And know upfront that the bloggers selling you courses on “making money blogging” are a bit disingenuous—making money from a single blog in 2015 is very hard. A blog telling travel stories is not a business model, it’s something meant for family and friends. If you are looking to create an online business, there are heaps of people outside the travel space with much stronger advice on the subject. I share more thoughts on that here.
Let’s say you are looking to share your big journey—because it’s going to be awesome and naturally you want your friends to see your adventures—you have a lot of options.
These options are listed from least to most time intensive:
(Side-note: Again, if you are looking only to build a business and make money from your travel blog, you have to go with option five. Self-hosted is the only professional option. Go here for more on all of that).
- Pick a Social Media Platform and Rock It: Share photos and mini stories via your favorite social media platform—preferably the one you already use to share with friends and family. That could be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, or something else you happen to love. Each of these is magical in their own way, but all are pretty low-key, and they come with built-in sharing mechanisms. I am partial to Instagram right now, and usually spend the most time updating this platform from the road. Blog posts are too labor intensive for active travel now, so I have slowed down on that. Social media is a fantastic option for sharing a long-term or round the world trip in a fun, engaging way without being high maintenance.
- Share Photo Albums and Write Emails: Flickr, Picasa, and SmugMug are top options if photo sharing is your preference but you’re not willing to stop your trip to write out longer stories and thoughts. Facebook is also aces and there’s a good chance your friends and family are already there.
- Free Blogging Sites: Top two options here are Blogger and WordPress. These sites offer incredibly easy interfaces and are entirely free. You have your own URL and you can send this to friends and family members.
- Travel Blogging Sites: These sites are also free, but the blogging interface is specifically designed for travelers; it’s easy to map locations and visually show your journey. Best choices: TravellersPoint, TravelBlog, and WorldNomads.
- Self-Hosted WordPress site: A powerful and customizable blogging platform—you purchase the domain name and hosting package and have supreme control over the look and feel of your site. Use either BlueHost for affordable/budget hosting or MediaTemple once the site is larger. This is such a popular option that I created a primer, step-by-step guide for starting a travel blog.
Which option should you choose?
How you share your trip depends on your travel goals; consider these viewpoints and what they mean for starting your own travel blog:
I’m Soul Searching & This Trip is For Me
Goal: You want to share your best photos and maybe a few thoughts from the road, but decided against working from the road. You’ll have a tablet, perhaps, but your goal is to focus on the experience and you don’t want the obligation that comes from regularly updating a site.Consider: It’s virtually impossible to run a full travel blog without carrying a laptop with you. Plus, it definitely takes time out of your trip. Consider options (1) and (2). An Instagram or Facebook page has my highest recommendation. Instagram enables you to share mini-thoughts, accompanied by a photo or video with the hassle of designing a full site. Couple Instagram with one of the photo sharing sites (SmugMug), or use your personal Facebook page, and the occasional email and you’ll have the control to share as much/little as you want without feeling guilty if you get caught up in your travels.
With Facebook the images are hosted right there on the site and your family automatically get updated via a platform they likely already use. Consider your personal profile versus a Facebook Pages. Though the Pages app is slick and simple—and I use it regularly and with ease from all over the world—Pages themselves are restricted in reach. Facebook’s algorithm does not allow all the people who have liked your page to see your posts without a paid “boost.” This sucks if you don’t have a marketing budget and you really just want friends to see your stories and photos.
My Stories are Endless, But My Travel Time is Not
Goal: You want to tap your creativity and share stories with family and friends, but at the end of the day, this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip. You’re bringing a laptop, you’ll sort photos and share stories, but if you skip a week or two, well, it’s not the end of the world. You’re committed to keeping the site going, but it’s not the focus of your trip. Plus, you might not be very “techie” oriented, so you don’t want the headache of configuring HMTL in between rock climbing and scuba diving.Consider: Top choices here are definitely (3) and (4); consider one of the free blogging sites. If this is truly a once-in-a-lifetime trip, you don’t need the added expense of a domain name and obligation to try to keep it running. Plus, if you purchase a domain name and hosting, your site is only going to run for as long as you continue paying that expense. If you think you might keep the site going occasionally once you’re back, then WordPress is the best choice—this site allows you to easily export all of your content and comments onto a self-hosted website if you ever make that choice. The travel specific blog sites (TravellersPoint, etc) are ideal for a single trip and very easy interfaces—the learning curve is low and your blog will be up and running in no time.
Send Me a Fruit Basket, I’m Want a Blog!
Goal: You’re bringing a laptop and you’ve likely got some techie skills (or you’re willing to learn!). You’re in this for the long-haul and plan to extend the site beyond just a single RTW trip. You likely even dream of monetizing your blog and perhaps buying yourself a few beers along the way. In addition to your personal stories, you plan on sharing tips and reviews and you’ll spend some time before your travels (and in downtime) socially networking with the community (via Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat, Facebook, etc). You want the community aspect of blogging and the creativity that comes from creating a site exactly how you envision it.
Consider: You will be spending time on this blog and you will make sacrifices to get a post written, formatted and uploaded. Although the Internet is ubiquitous, you could very well spend half a day sitting in a cramped internet café uploading photos at dialup speeds for your next blog entry. You’re also carrying your laptop, which is an added liability. You will spend days and evenings away from the sights and smells of new cultures so that you can update your blog; most full-time travel bloggers thoroughly embrace this trade-off because they truly love what they are doing. Also consider that there are very few successful bloggers making a living from their blogs. Though it’s possible, you’ll need to run this blog like a business and come up with some solid business plans and unique selling points.
If you’re still sold on travel blogging, then let me be the first to welcome you to the community! You’ll need a self-hosted WordPress blog (a how-to guide to all of that here); WordPress is the standard in the blogging industry. WordPress sites are highly customizable and much of the software is free. You only need mild techie skills to set up a basic site (and you can pay someone if you want a specific design).
Final Thoughts on Starting Your Own Travel Blog
There are so many sides to this question, and you’re the only one who can decide if a full travel blog is right for you. The vast majority of RTW trippers abandon their blogs partway through their trips when they discover the time commitment involved in keeping the site updated—this doesn’t have to happen! There are a lot of choices out there; accurately assess your travel goals and decide which blogging options most closely align.
But all of this is not to scare you away, because travel blogging is a lot of fun, and I can’t imagine my RTW trip without it. I loved seeing experiences through the lens of how I could share this with others, and it made the time spent doing the more mundane tasks so very worth it to be a part of such a large international community.
Helpful Tips & Resources on the Business of Blogging
- Resources for Working Online: A handy page geared towards digital nomads, travel bloggers, and freelancers. In the page, I delve into starting a travel site, finding freelance work, and more. If making money as you travel is the goal, you might be better served by building up your online skills and working on other endeavors — you will likely make far more money leveraging a skillset than the hours it takes to build a successful blog.
- How to Start a Travel Blog in Five Easy Steps: A post with valuable and easy to understand tips (and steps) on how to start a travel blog, including the ins and outs of self-hosting, making your site pretty, and building a community.
- Content Machine: Use Content Marketing to Build a 7-figure Business with Zero Advertising: While this business model is not going to work for everyone, Dan makes some excellent points about content creation and marketing.
- Four Hour Work Week: No doubt you’ve seen it for years, but if you haven’t read it yet, you should. Some of Tim Ferris’ viewpoints are very counter to how I live my life, but I will give him this: his book changed my perception about what is possible in building an online business. It’s still a primer read for a reason, it’s worth having that knowledge and perspective in your head as you move forward.