How and why I started travel blogging
One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is along the lines of how and why I began blogging. Everyone has a different story as to why they started blogging and we’re all nosy by nature! So without further a do, here goes…
I began blogging in 2009. It was a time when ‘professional blogging’ was virtually unheard of and blogs were mainly thought of as an online diary where frustrated teenagers would vent their anger.
It was the summer before I left to go backpacking around Australia and South East Asia and I’d been interning with my local newspaper. I knew I wanted to pursue a career in journalism when I returned from travelling so I was doing my best to build up a portfolio of written work. I’d pretty much pissed my uni years up the wall. I had a good degree but I’d been too busy partying and working to save money to go travelling that I hadn’t done any of the ‘extra curricular activities’ they recommend you do to make it in the big, bad world.
When I finished my internship at the newspaper I told them all about my planned travels and they asked me to write a blog for the website. The website featured other local bloggers such as a local mum, a councillor, a teacher and other local people with an interest in the community. I was thrilled to be asked and immediately set up a Blogger account.
I didn’t take a laptop or even a decent camera away with me but I kept a handwritten journal. This is something I’ve always done and I’d be scribbling away in every spare moment I had.
Whenever I had a spare few hours I’d pop into an internet café and type up a blog post. This usually happened about once a week and each blog post was basically a summary from my journal. ‘I did this and then I went here and then I did this and then I met someone called this and then we ate here and then we went there.’ The posts were terrible, riddled with mistakes and typos and were incredibly boring for anyone but me.
After about 6 months in Australia, Sam and I moved to the west coast to work on a tiny island called Mackerel Island. This was when I really started to discover the enormous online community of bloggers.
It was incredibly hot on the island so we didn’t work in the afternoons when it was just too hot. We had about 5-6 hours free each afternoon to do as we pleased and I’d often spend this time sat by the pool with my laptop (which I had shipped over). This was when I discovered the wonderful world of Twitter and all the amazing blogs out there. I had no idea there were other travel bloggers doing similar things to me. Suddenly my blog went from a tiny online journal to a huge opportunity and I started spending more and more time working on it.
Fast-forward one year and I was working in Sydney. It was an incredibly boring office job and I only really had anything to do if something went wrong. I ‘worked’ 12-hours a day, 7 days a week for about 6 weeks (it was a seasonal, Christmas job) and I spent the entire time sat in front of a laptop. I’ve put ‘worked’ in inverted commas because I only did about 6 hours of work and then had 6 hours to sit there and wait for a phone call to tell me someone had messed up. After a week or so, no one was messing up so I had nothing to do! This was when I basically took a self-taught crash course in blogging.
I started redesigning my blog so I learned all about coding. I learned more about Twitter and Facebook and photography and SEO. I started guest posting and commenting and sharing and all the other things you’re meant to do to grow your blog. Only I didn’t realise this at the time. I was just doing it because I was loving it.
I carried on travelling for 6 more months before I returned home.
Unfortunately, not long after I returned my grandma passed away. It was a sad time because she was the matriarch of our family and I think there will always be a gap in our family that will never be filled. But my grandma would have been pleased because the inheritance money she left me enabled me to move to London, take an NCTJ journalism course and take an internship as an editorial assistant on a travel website. The internship was paid but minimum wage really doesn’t get you very far in London! I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity my grandma provided me with and the unquestionable support from Sam and my parents.
A paid internship on a travel website is really hard to come by and, as you can imagine, it was very competitive. I genuinely believe that without my blog, I wouldn’t have stood a chance of getting this internship and all of those hours investing in it were starting to pay off.
I only had a handful of friends in London and with very little money I didn’t have much to do so I started attending blogging meet-ups and events. My first event was Travel Massive where I met lots of my fellow travel bloggers, many of whom I now consider to be my best friends.
There was free food, free booze and great company at these events so I went to as many as I could! I didn’t see them as networking events and I didn’t think they’d ever lead to anything so I didn’t realise I was meeting so many people who would later influence my career and my blog.
I began meeting PRs who wanted to send me on press trips, brand managers who had products they wanted me to try, website owners who wanted me to write for their sites and lots of people who offered friendly support, advice and inspiration.
This was the time when I started to realise how important my blog was to me and I knew it could really help my career in the future.
During this time I was doing my internship at Gap Daemon, a travel community and website which later closed down but gave me an amazing opportunity to learn about writing for the internet, SEO, online marketing, social media and basically everything you need to run a successful blog.
I finished my NCTJ and was taken on full time at Gap Daemon and then promoted to Community Manager. I basically managed the community side of the site and all the social media channels. I then worked for Travel Bloggers Unite as the Community Manager for a few months before I moved on to Flight Centre. I got both of these jobs through meeting people at networking events and because of my experience with my blog.
I was the Social Media Specialist for the adventure brands at Flight Centre (gapyear.com, Round the World Experts and Intrepid My Adventure Store) and after a year I worked solely on the Flight Centre UK brand where I managed the social channels and the blog. I finally had a budget to play with and worked with the online marketing team to develop campaigns that would lead to an increase in sales through social media.
I learned so much during this time and began implementing strategies onto The Travel Hack too. Sometimes I tested new ideas on The Travel Hack before I did them for Flight Centre so it was great to have a platform that I had full control over.
Over the next year I started doing more freelance writing, travelling more, blogging more and still attending lots and lots of networking events. It started to get too much so I decided to work even harder so I could leave my job at Flight Centre and go freelance.
I still can’t believe that the little blog I started in an internet café in Thailand has led to what I do today.