Two years ago this week I hit send on our first official post and launched The Working Traveller. I couldn’t quite remember if I swore at some noob error but a glance at our RSS feed shows I spent the fortnight before practising: adding and removing gibberish, uploading temporary photos and talking to myself via the comments facility.
At the time WordPress was a new and strange beast. Though I had been familiar with putting words and pictures online via FTP to our static website on working abroad and had put together exactly 100 monthly issues of our jobs abroad email newsletter, blogging wasn’t something I had properly tried before.
On our one year birthday last year we returned from our Middle Eastern trip, through Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey, and didn’t really take the opportunity for reflection on what we began on that day in May 2010.
This year though I thought it might be a good time to look at the things we have learned, our successes and big fat fails, and to dedicate a few posts this month to the phenomenon of travel blogging itself.
Not everyone will be in favour of this I’m sure. Opinion is split on whether to include travel blogging articles on travel websites. People looking for information on backpacking in Burma do not necessarily care about guest posting on travel blogs or how travel bloggers can trade advertising for accommodation. I feel we can better get away with this more than most as travel blogging in the hope of making a living is a legitimate form of working abroad and the one we know most about first hand.
Even after two years doing this I do not in any way consider myself an expert – there is always something new to learn with this craft – but should you be considering going down the same, increasingly worn, road here are some of the things we’ve learnt.
It is possible to make money with a travel blog but there are easier ways to work abroad
Let’s examine this first shall we? If you want to work abroad try English teaching, get behind a bar, wait tables, learn to cook or look after someone’s kids as an au pair or nanny. With each of these jobs the paycheque will come at the end of the day, week or month instead of a year or two down the line.
Even with two other well-established websites (both of which are over ten years old) most waitresses and English teachers will earn more than we do. Five years ago we made a good living, enough to buy a home in Turkey, but ad blindness, increased competition and other factors have sent our incomes tumbling. Oh well.
There’s more to life than money
The advantage to travel blogging is that it is mobile and can be done anywhere there is an internet connection. Work permits are not a factor. If an English teacher wants to move on to a new town or country with their income intact they must first quit their job and then find a new one. When we want to leave we just pull the laptop plug out of the wall.
It is also something I enjoy doing. It’s challenging and varied with minimal routine, and a lot of different skills are involved, which is both a blessing and a curse.
Like it or not I’m stuck with writing and editing websites. Aside from a few years spent treading water at college to avoid getting a real job I’ve done this my whole life and am almost certainly ruined for anything else.
There’s a difference between editing a blog and a static website
The rhythm is different. Running a blog is more persistently time consuming, almost like being on a writing treadmill, whereas static websites usually involves getting your head down for months on end on a lengthy project. Once this is completed I come up for air and take a long break while I figure out what I want to do next.
There’s a big difference between blogging on the move and blogging at home
Of the 24 months of The Working Traveller eight or nine months have been spent away from the comfort and security of my desk. About half of that time was spent on the road.
Unlike our other sites that focus almost solely on finding work abroad, The Working Traveller is meant to be more about the travel side of working abroad: how we spend the money we make on what we love doing.
When we are travelling the articles are more about us and what we are doing and seeing. They are almost exclusively travel orientated. At home we tend to mix things up and point you more in the direction of interesting or useful things we’ve spotted on the web, or otherwise heard about, to help you find a job abroad.
This makes the site a little schizophrenic and I’m not sure it really can be helped.
But we know not to be so rigid with our posting schedule
When we started we quickly settled in to posting every four days. Last August we tried posting every day Monday to Friday. Though we kept up the five posts a week pace not a lot got done elsewhere on our other sites. Only when we became a little more flexible with our posting schedule did other projects progress at a satisfactory pace.
The simple act of announcing we would no longer post so often lifted the pressure immediately and I no longer felt I was letting our reader (hi Bob) down if I didn’t post anything that day.
When we used to publish our monthly email newsletter often I would get it sent out within minutes of overrunning that month’s billing period for our mailing service. Clearly I thrive on deadlines but adding more as we did in August started to make editing The Working Traveller feel like a job than a vocation.
We must have learnt a lot because this post has got a little long so I’ve split it into two parts
I didn’t mean to write so much but, as I mentioned above, sometimes it’s a good thing to let you know our plans and what we are feeling. Even if you couldn’t care less, getting these things in the open can clear the mind, help with what we want to do in the future and provide the mandate to improve our sites.
Part two will be along in a few days* next year. Until then thank you for reading The Working Traveller over the past couple of years. It is greatly appreciated.
If you have any suggestions on what you would like to see more or less of on The Working Traveller, please feel free to leave your comments below.
* On reflection, another 1000 words is a little bit too much navel gazing for one year. Perhaps I’ll finish this for our third blogging birthday and with another year’s experience will be able to add editing down to the list of things learnt