Travel Blogging: 10 Lessons Learnt

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I started travel blogging on Going Somewhere Slowly in October 2012 when I left South Korea for Indonesia to go on my first ever solo bicycle journey. I blogged about my experiences, the road, the ups and the downs. I probably had five regular readers; my parents were two of the five. Bless their loyal parental hearts. My SEO sucked, Google hated me and I was in a fairyland, jotted everything down and rambled like a “Dear Diary…” school girl. I was not serious about my blog; I just did it for the love of words and to tell my family that I’m still alive.

Travel Blogging Anje Rautenbach

Slowly but surely things changed and escalated. The passion for writing and travelling grew stronger; it became inextinguishable. Blog posts and ideas trickled from the tips of my fingers; I saw more readers and more engagement. I invested all the extra hours I had into changing my blog, doing SEO-ing and Social Media-ing, getting a new look and a new host. I traded my baby blogging booties in for a bigger pair of toddler booties, self-studied a hell of a lot and became addicted to coffee.

So far I’ve posted 99 blog posts and I’ve experienced buckets of happiness, a few hiccups and my fair share of headaches. This post is my 100th post! Actually it’s probably the 117th one but during the metamorphosis of Going Somewhere Slowly in 2014 a lot of the “Dear Diary…” bicycle posts “disappeared”  (to be transformed into an e-book later). But for argument’s sake, and for the sake of 100 being such a beautiful poetic number, this is my 100th blog post and this is what I’ve learnt from 100 blog posts.

Travel Blogging Anje Rautenbach

Travel Blogging: 10 Lessons Learnt from 100 Travel Blog Posts

1) You Will Work Harder Than Ever Before.

Never have I ever spent so much time, put in so much effort, into one thing. Teaching in Korea was a damn breeze, working as a copywriter at an ad agency was a joke. Blogging is hard work.  It takes up all of your time. It makes you choose between a fun activity and a deadline. It turns vacation destinations into a new workplace…but never have I ever loved something so much, had a passion so big, that I don’t mind doing it day in and day out. 

2) There Is No Off Switch for Blog Mode.

Blog Mode is that switch that is permanently switched on to explore, to take it all in and to share the experience.  It’s a 24/7 thing. I wake up in the morning thinking about my blog, the social media, the content and the possibilities. I repeat these thoughts throughout the day and it’s the last thing on my mind before I fall asleep. I happily eat, sleep and breathe my blog and have yet to find the “off” switch.

3) Time is Your Friend.

Everything takes time; life, nature, success and yes, blogging. Through blogging I’ve learnt to trust time and to trust the process. You can never rush the process.

4) Not Everyone Will Understand.

The concept of blogging is a difficult one to explain and understandably a difficult one to grasp. What goes on in a blogger’s life during “office hours” can’t be pinned down to one thing. Friendships will be tested and loyalty will be measured when you have to say no to social gatherings due to deadlines. You might come across as a hermit. Questions will be raised when people hear that you are doing the majority of the work not for payment, but out of passion and to better yourself. You’ll be called ungrateful when you say that you’re tired while being in a typical-vacation-type-of country. You will experience disappointment. A lot. Unfortunately.

5) It’s Not Just About Writing.

Your work is never done when you are a travel blogger (or any kind of blogger). After battling to find the right rhythm and a unique concept for your post, the painful, yet beautiful writing process starts. Then comes the editing and the reediting.  But don’t forget about your photos; find five suitable images in a sea filled with thousands of photos, edit here and there, resize and upload. Edit the blog post again. Make sure everything is lined up and not out of place. Test the post in a browser. Publish the post. Share your post across your various social media channels. Answer e-mails. Respond to tweets. Send a pitch. Make a few tweaks to your website. Fix one of the dozen technical problems. Have a look at your Google Analytics. Tweet your blog post a few hours later again for optimal views. Answer a few more tweets, a few more e-mails. Network. Edit the article again just to make sure there are no typos. Make a backup of your sea filled with thousands of photos. Update some kind of blogger profile. Find quality content to share. Connect with other bloggers. Research key words. Drink coffee and smile, because you are having the best day, every day.

6) Social Media is King.

Content is king. Social Media is king. Conversation is king. It’s all very obvious but it became more obvious to me this year; especially after attending one of Scott Eddy’s sessions at the TBEX conference in Thailand. It’s amazing to see what commitment, genuine interest and conversation can do to your social media presence. I’ve learnt that you can’t wait for people to come to you; you need to go to them. I’ve learnt that numbers mean absolutely nothing without conservation. I’ve learnt that instead of chasing after the big number guys who will ignore you, engage with your peers and your audience and slowly but surely build it from there.

7) Passion Trumps Money.

Travel blogging is not something “you get in to” to make money. One of the things that disappointed me the most during the TBEX conference is how often “money” came up. Bloggers were so eager to get noticed that they handed out business cards left, right and center. Some bloggers even put their business cards on the table decorations, between food and in bathrooms.  Passion always trumps money. I’m so glad that I started my poor little tiny blog when I still had no idea how the blogosphere worked (or how competitive it can be).  Travel blogging should firstly, lastly and always be about passion.  Jodi Ettenberg, the blogger behind Legal Nomads, presented the closing keynote at the TBEX conference with such a beautiful speech, Why Travel Blogging Needs More Storytelling; it resonated with my soul.

8) Family, frenemy, enemy or threat?

Blogging is a two-way street. You get what you give. The blogging community can be a beautiful one or a nasty one. I found my blogging family this year and choose to spread the love. I choose to interact, share content, stand up for the work of others, get involved in conversations, encourage, share tips, share opportunities and celebrate the successes of other bloggers. Keeping things to myself will only make me one miserable human being.

9) You Can’t Be It All.

You can’t be a photographer, a videographer, a vlogger, a writer, a social media expert, a marketing consultant, a travel blogger, a food blogger, a lifestyle blogger and a graphic designer. I guess you can, but I don’t want to. I prefer to focus my energy and devote my time to a handful of things. I firmly believe that if you try to achieve it all you end up achieving nothing.

10) I’ll still do this even if…

I will still blog about my travels and experiences even if I will never get a cent again. I will still ramble on and put in all the time and effort even if no one is reading my blog. I will still engage in social media conversations even if it does not generate any traffic to my website. Going Somewhere Slowly is my passion, my baby; I’ve seen it grow, I’ve nurtured it and I’ve cleaned the nappies. It’s my love child, my partner and my passion; there’s no turning back!

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A huge thank you to all my readers (luckily not just my parents anymore), thank you to the family and friends who support me, thank you to my chatty social media lovelies and my blogging family; my life and my blog would be pretty dull without you! You rock!

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