Why I’ll Never Be a Professional Travel Blogger

MacBook ColorsThere have been a flood of posts lately explaining why being a travel blogger is really, really hard. It isn’t, obviously.

It’s not subsistence farming in a drought. It’s not child protection or first response. It’s not labouring in the sewers, in a sweatshop, or on zero-hours contracts at the minimum wage. Nor is it rocket science, the SAS or brain surgery.

Further, there’s a phenomenally low bar to entry. You need a degree of literacy sufficient to hone such inadvertently memorable prose as “Climbing a rocky hill in the hot afternoon sun we met a friendly Boudin youngster desperate to sell us locally created paraphilia.”

You need some form of photographic equipment – delusions of grandeur strictly optional, though they tend to follow. And you’ll need the minimal technical knowhow required to navigate WordPress’ user interface.

Oh yes. According to the single most entitled GoFundMe appeal I’ve seen yet, you also need a MacBook Air and tech support, because otherwise you can’t get free stuff.

Yet… I am currently sitting in my garden, typing. That isn’t difficult. Admittedly, I honed my typing skills over 20-ish years as a jobbing hack, so YMMV. I may go out later and take some photos. That isn’t difficult, either (although, lord knows, my photography has some way to go).

So why will I never be a professional travel blogger?

You don’t just get a free trip, but you get paid to go on the free trip and write nice things about the organisation(s) that are paying you, and hashtag the living daylights out of it on social media for other shills to retweet.

Here’s the rub. It’s difficult for even venerable publications with top-flight writers and audiences thousands of times that of even the biggest travel blogger to make money online.

And travel blogging audiences are tiny. The overwhelming majority of “top-tier” travel bloggers are achieving between 30,000 and 100,000 pageviews monthly (members of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association, an organisation with which I was once involved when becoming a professional travel blogger seemed like a good idea, average under 30,000 monthly page views). As far as I know, not one travel blog, as distinct from travel websites, is hitting a million page views monthly.

So how DO they make money when, say, The Guardian is losing money? When even hugely popular sites like the wonderful The Daily Mash struggle to attract subscribers at a very few bucks a pop?

Besides paid links, the elephant in the room of travel blogging, the overwhelming “business” model at the moment is sponsorship, AKA content marketing. That means you don’t just get a free trip, but you get paid to go on the free trip and write nice things about the organisation(s) that are paying you, and hashtag the living daylights out of it on social media for other shills to retweet. Typically, a contract is signed, guaranteeing the “client” [sic], specific amounts of coverage over a certain span of time, agreeing to share and retweet content written by others working for the client, and establishing specific angles and key messages for the bloggers’ audiences.

Which strikes me as, ya know, a little dishonest for the reader. Isn’t it relevant that you are actually being paid to market the destination?

Practitioners typically spout acres of brain-shrinkingly tedious guff and reams of semiliterate pomposity about “editorial independence” whenever someone tries to point out that if you’re being paid to write about something by the place you’re writing about, there might be a degree of pressure to gloss over any negatives.

Said dishonesty has been the subject of much debate in what I can only call an “industry” by deploying factory-size scare quotes. Content marketing practitioners typically spout acres of brain-shrinkingly tedious guff and reams of semiliterate pomposity about “editorial independence” whenever someone tries to point out that if you’re being paid to write about something by the place you’re writing about, there might be a degree of pressure to gloss over any negatives, or even, heaven forfend, something in the goddamn contract, no?

The fact remains that I have only ever seen two negative writeups of a free trip. There was this one, where Adventurous Kate – whom I know and like – was on a free trip when her boat sank (whoops!), and this one, where Lauren – whom I also know and like – pointed out that, actually, the glow worms in Waitomo are much more magical if you crawl around looking for them with some mates rather than joining a group tour. I did mean to do one about a truly tedious group tour in Venice, but I was already several months behind on my life, and I hadn’t guaranteed coverage, so I let it ride.

I have NEVER seen a negative writeup of a paid trip (nor, for that matter, have I ever seen a disclosure to readers that the blogger is being paid to write up the trip). If you’ve spotted either of these rare, shy creatures, please do link to them in the comments – or spare me the editorial independence bullshit, because that weird buzzing you can hear is Ben Bradlee spinning in his grave. (Oh, and for a truly great press trip writeup, check this out.)

Someone once told me, à propos of hiring bloggers, “It’s like hiring a copywriter, basically, except they’ve already got their own Facebook following”. (Bloggers are also considerably cheaper and generally less precious about hotel rooms.)

But it’s not just that model that’s problematic for me. It’s the social media element, which is also central to content marketing gigs – someone once told me, à propos of hiring bloggers, “It’s like hiring a copywriter, basically, except they’ve already got their own Facebook following”. (Bloggers are also considerably cheaper and generally less precious about hotel rooms.)

Firstly, I don’t own a smartphone, I rarely wear makeup or style my hair, and I find selfie sticks intrinsically ridiculous. Secondly, I enjoy being offline and in the moment, rather than observing it, looking for the good angle.

I like Twitter and Facebook as much as the next person, and very probably more than most, but I tend to use them for catching up with my friends, chatting to interesting people and, well, ya know, bitching and occasionally fighting, rather than building my PERSONAL BRAND®. (Bad blogger!)

Further, my spawn is actively resistant to any lunch-photographing activities, and, while he’s good-looking and photogenic, using him as a tool to sell some kind of lifestyle dream sits wrongly with me. (Is there any child labour law covering this sort of thing?)

If you want to be a professional travel blogger, you really need to work social media. (And not just by gaming the numbers, a topic on which everything in this post from 2012 still stands, although the pseudoscience has scaled new peaks of delusion with the “measurement of online ROI”.)

And – while not hard compared to any number of things that billions of people do all around the world every single day – working social media is both time-consuming and intensely disruptive of normal life. (Think of poor darling Kimye, spending four days of their honeymoon retouching their wedding snap for Instagram, but without the multi-million dollar rewards, and in a hostel, not a mansion.)

“By the time we’ve taken photos of our lunch, updated facebook, tweeted, pinned and instagrammed the kids are running loose and our food is cold.”

One thread that stands out in all the “travel blogging is hard” posts is the sheer pressure of keeping up social media engagement while travelling and working, and, in the case of “nomadic” family travel bloggers, raising and home-schooling a child or children. (Or, of course, letting feral toddlers injure themselves or shit all over restaurants because mum’s stuck behind the laptop selling the family travel dream or asking Facebook why her kids seem a bit behind.)

Because – here’s the thing. Not only do these bloggers work long hours – which is a feature common to most fields of freelance endeavour, particularly those in which one can easily get distracted by the interwebz and the Daily Mail sidebar of doom, or sucked into the vortex of STFUParents.com, and OMG did you SEE the Irish Catholic interviewer’s face when Stephen Fry talked about what he’d say to God if he met him… I’m sorry. Let me take that one more time.

Not only do these bloggers work long hours… They are, many of them, constantly working, looking for the angle for the stunning selfie, or the next cute kid picture, or AN Other Google-sourced listicle that just might go viral – aspirants like this guy combine 40+-hour weeks with full time jobs, and, according to his website title, he parties hard too.

Or, as Craig from YTravelBlog puts it, “By the time we’ve taken photos of our lunch, updated facebook, tweeted, pinned and instagrammed the kids are running loose and our food is cold.”

Where is the space for unfiltered life? Life without the lens. Life without the audience. Just – ya know! – living.

And I suspect this, in the end, can become not just time-consuming but actively soul-destroying.

It’s the inability to enjoy a pretty sunset without snapping, processing, hashtagging and sharing, or go for a massage without shooting the goddamn spa. It’s putting on a full face of prom queen makeup to go hiking so you’re happy with the selfies. It’s spending a lovely sunny afternoon sharing content you’ve not read, and not taking 24 hours away from work for years on end.

Or, in the case of Gary Arndt, who sold a successful business to start his travel blog, it’s failing to find the time for even the basics of friendships, dentistry and eating properly.

Because amid this crowded social media schedule, amid the busyness of marketing a dream, where is the space for unfiltered life? For quiet family time? For a good book? For travelling, without a marketing angle? For a life without the lens, a life without the audience, for just – ya know! – living? I honestly don’t know.

133 Responses

  1. Talon says:

    Absolutely loved it! I get so sick of seeing these whiny posts about how hard blogging is. I don’t feel sorry for anyone who has chosen a specific path and decides to remain on it. My physician friends are constantly torn away from their family, and I don’t hear near as much complaining.

    Somehow I manage to make money from my blog without spending 6+ hours a day asking for free trips. I manage to take a photo of a particularly pretty plate of food before it gets cold and without my child going nuts. Probably because I don’t feel like it MUST be handled RIGHT NOW. I snap the photo and put the photo down and enjoy my meal. My SM followers aren’t going to have trouble sleeping because I didn’t post a pic of my dinner.

    The sense of entitlement kills me as well. I recently saw someone bitching because they had to pay for their own multiple bottles of wine when they thought “drinks” were included. Get over yourselves.

    • Talon says:

      BTW I have some activities which were comped and also received negative reviews on my site. 😉

      • Theodora says:

        Feel free to link them up – the more the merrier! I’m sure there ARE more people who write negatives of free stuff – it’s the paid trips where I really can’t imagine seeing a negative ever.

    • Theodora says:

      Indeed! Fiona of Life on Nanchang Lu – who I wouldn’t count as a pro blogger – manages to be a mum, an emergency room doctor and a successful food blogger, doing interesting projects and getting paid writing gigs, without a hint of whining, or selling out for that matter.

    • Well said Talon, well said!

  2. Well said. Just, YES. I share many of the same frustrations with poor quality writing and misuse of one’s “following” for financial gain without proper disclosure. Infinitely more pernicious is the marketing of childhood, specifically when said children are too young to have a say in what is being published about them. There is a very real violation of personhood there that is becoming frighteningly common and I think may, in time, be equated with a form of emotional or mental abuse as these kids age into a point where they can speak their own minds on the topic.

    Obviously we have a blog, and we travel, as a family. I do write about my kids. I always ask their permission. I ask before their pictures go on instagram (they are 12-18 at the moment) I also have a firm policy of not writing negative things, airing family dirty laundry, or in any way violating their privacy. This is why we’ve turned down numerous TV possibilities as well. It’s exactly your point about the value of analog life, the necessity of digging into the relationships and the moments that make up family life (and travel) and placing our value on people (specifically the ones we live with) not things (like blog numbers or popularity contests).

    Thanks for writing this, Theordora. It needed to be said.

    • Theodora says:

      I’d agree there’s some very, very inappropriate stuff happening out there – from kids’ bare bottoms (why would you put that out there?! How WILL they feel when they’re 12), through to, as you so aptly put it, the “marketing of childhood”. Like you, I ask permission – which is easy when kids are older, of course – but there’s a certain stage mom setup, where children are growing up posed for the blog, that seems really, really odd. I often wonder how Pioneer Woman’s children feel about their place in things, although that is at least a multi-million dollar empire that’s going to put them all through college and then some.

  3. Sharon says:

    Its like everything else you do in life – you need balance. I am managing to make money while still taking care of my kids, while disclosing and unfortunately have never got paid for travel. There are definitely times when I feel like an experience is ruined because I have to worry about getting a photo or something else blogging related but this negative is easily outweighed by the positives my blog gives me at the moment.

    I think most the people whining are just doing it to get exposure and attention. I try not to give it to them.

    • Theodora says:

      I hope it stays at the level where you and your kids can still overall enjoy the experiences that the outlet brings you.

  4. Lauren says:

    Great article. I often read some bloggers articles and comments and wonder why on earth they do it. All they seem to do is concentrate on how many fans on SM they can get and how many companies they can pitch. It’s cringe worthy, no wonder they don’t enjoy it. Some have a serious case of comparisonitis.Just stick to doing what you love and the rest will follow naturally. Oh, and remove the stick…

  5. Whining about travel bloggers whining. Major.First.World.Problem. 😉

    • Theodora says:

      Oh, I’m an Olympic-grade whiner: I’m British, so it’s in my DNA. As my cousin put it, a propos of me turning down a glass of wine (a rare event), “So you don’t wine and whine?”

  6. Dave says:

    Yes, this. All of this, repeatedly shouted from the rooftops. “Professional” travel blogging has turned into an utter debacle that I can’t bear to watch, and I’m damn glad to have walked away from it some time ago. It’s really quite repulsive.

  7. Love this. I’m finding I am much happier having an online gig in the travel industry (Im working right now, you know, until i got distracted by this post) – and being able to update my blog because I WANT TO…not because I feel some exhausting need to push out crappy content just to have it up.

    Since I stopped looking at it as something i need to do to survive, I feel a lot less stressed. I like my blog. It is a great jump off tool and has got me work (including my new job) – but for the last year I’ve mostly treated it as that: a tool to get other work, not as my career in itself.

    Plus im a horrible writer and really dont want to do it for a living. 🙂

    • Theodora says:

      That’s brilliant! This has certainly been a jumpoff tool for me, and, further, I believe I’ve genuinely helped people with some posts (resource style, narrative) – I like my blog, too, and I don’t intend to stop blogging, but seeing it as a small part of what I do rather than a key plank of identity, let alone the main source of income, is hugely liberating.

  8. Laurel says:

    Loved reading this.

  9. Great write up! I really dislike it when my entire twitter & instagram feed is flooded with bloggers all taking a picture & hash tagging the same thing on a press trip….

  10. Tom says:

    I’ve been working in the travel industry for the best part of a decade, and blogging in various guises for almost as long, but am very new to the travel blogging ‘scene’, as it were, and have been a little taken aback by how many of the supposed ‘big’ blogs appear to be just a series of vapid marketing puff-pieces written by earnest, self-styled travel ‘gurus’ who come across as insufferable twats… So it’s very refreshing to come across a voice like yours! 🙂

    • Christa says:

      I totally agree Tom! I keep searching for travel blogs but the first ones that show up in Google just seem to be nothing but advertisements and paid blog entries! I even quit subscribing to Travel + Leisure because it seems like their magazine is full of the same crap. I just want to read about real people’s adventures for once 😛

    • Theodora says:

      Thank you!

  11. Franca says:

    I love this! 🙂

  12. Aleah says:

    I was once asked by a fellow travel blogger why I don’t call myself a professional travel blogger. You just stated all the reasons why. 😀 My blog is secondary to my life; I don’t want to make it into a business, and I don’t want it to be the be all and end all of my traveling life. That way, I will still enjoy blogging (and traveling) years down the road without getting burned out.

  13. Yes. this, all of this. I loved reading this so much. For years I have read and adored travel blogs, even leading me to create my own but I’m fed up of reading paid positive content instead of the ‘real’ content that used to be out there. The reality of travel blogging isn’t fun and I’m so glad it’s just a hobby for me.

  14. Irene says:

    Great post! Unfortunately the quality of many travel blogs declines rapidly once excessive sponsored travel is involved and strange “industry standards” (post x times per week, add x hashtags to anything etc.) are followed… It really is quite off-putting.

  15. Irene says:

    Yes! Great post! I actually stopped following various travel bloggers because of excessive sponsored content and exclusive focus on SEO – because yes, the readers will notice!

  16. jennifer says:

    Before I had a blog, I did not realize how much behind the scenes work there is. Once I did, I appreciated people who blog so much more. But lately I am seeing more and more bloggers who are marketing their press trips to backpackers, the majority of who could not afford the trip that the professional blogger got for free.

    I understand having to make money being out there, but if this is how you choose to do that, then target a new audience.

  17. Ele says:

    Great post but I’d like to add my 2 cents. “Professional” means well done. Photos that are recognizable, texts that have no major grammar issues, no broken links (preferably), no pop-up ads. I somewhat get the impression that some hardcore bloggers advocate paying for blog domains, using expensive cameras, staying in luxury hotels, etc. as normal things to professional bloggers and if you don’t do that, you are not professional. I disagree.

    Professional means doing what you do with a certain degree of competence and love.

  18. “You don’t just get a free trip, but you get paid to go on the free trip and write nice things about the organisation(s) that are paying you, and hashtag the living daylights out of it on social media for other shills to retweet.”

    I find that extremely biased and unethical. Bloggers are required to blog about the organisations and that’s pretty much it. It’s up to the blogger to tell the truth or not, the sentence assumes that all bloggers on paid trips have a gag-order to write nice things only.

    I was recently on a sponsored 5-star hotel stay for three nights with a friend (total value 2400 euros) and I wrote a soul-crushing honest review about how the place is a money-dump. To me, THAT’S what a Professional Travel Blogger is about: The truth.

    • Theodora says:

      Can you point me to one negative review of a paid trip? Not a FREE trip. A PAID trip. Just one would do fine.

  19. Love…. “For travelling, without a marketing angle? For a life without the lens, a life without the audience, for just – ya know! – living? I honestly don’t know.”

    And this one is perfect, especially for families because I see it all the time. It is modeling for children something that is totally opposite of the intention…to LIVE in the present and BE. ” It’s the inability to enjoy a pretty sunset without snapping, processing, hashtagging and sharing, or go for a massage without shooting the goddamn spa.”

    It is an addiction for some…the adrenaline of free stuff, but the inability to just enjoy it with the above hashtagging and marketing.

    • Theodora says:

      Addiction is, I think, an appropriate word for it – and it is the families that are the biggest issue. Working travel is very different from pure travel, and much of the mechanics of the free stuff – “here’s your free hotel room, now do the tour and take the pictures and have dinner with the PR” – is quite spectacularly incompatible with family travel.

      • Sabina says:

        Having said the above, there are some (few) who have made a great business from it. I call it travel marketing.
        Most people reading this article get to choose what we do in our personal and professional lives, and it’s up to us to judge it.
        I do think that personal experiences that were comped should be disclosed… But, heck, even doctors don’t disclose their source of income.

  20. Rhonda says:

    Well said. Having said that.. I am going to make an attempt to make money blogging.. but as one part of a diversified plan of web design, photo sales, working along the way, etc. Being “old” (as in 47) and having been around both traveling and working a whole hell of a lot longer than all the “overworked” bloggers out there, I absolutely agree with the feeling of getting sucked into the digital vortex that many a life has become. I’m glad I can still appreciate a sunset without a camera, a date with my husband without a blog post, and a cuddle with my dogs without an instagram.

    • Theodora says:

      I think diversification is the way forward, and there are plenty of people who have similar diversified portfolios. When you’re trapped in a model where the blog is the main income generator – and if the blog tanks all associated income streams tank – it must be very hard indeed.

  21. This is the most refreshing travel blog post I’ve read in a long time…and it’s not even directly about a travel experience. I wrote about a similar issue but your post seems to have reached a bigger audience. I guess I didn’t spend enough hours of my free-time with my face pressed against my laptop promoting it on social media…

    • Theodora says:

      Do feel free to add a link here for others to read…. And, yes, this post has been building for a while.

  22. Thank you. As a newbie blogger, some practices in the travel blogging community feel disingenuous to me. Sharing articles on Twitter that I haven’t read just to get X number of posts out each day is not something I’m into. Nor are follow-backs. I don’t begrudge people who make a living from their blog, but I don’t want money to be my motivator. If it’s a by-product, great, but not the reason for its existence. Travel and writing are both sacred to me. Once you start succumbing to outside pressure, it can be a slippery slope. I think it all stems from your intention. If your goal is to make money, that will drive your decisions and people notice. If you do it for the love of sharing your experiences or helping others, however, that will shine through- whether you ultimately make money from it or not.

    • Theodora says:

      Oh, followbacks! I don’t get that at all. I have no expectation that someone’s going to follow me back, so why people assume that you’ll just follow them is beyond me.

  23. Nita says:

    Spot on! I started my blog out of passion for travel and writing, and have continued on that same path. Travel blogging is not a negative thing but the general obsession with numbers, be it followers, page views, and what not, sucks the fun out of it. And those press trip hashtags, annoy people and defeat the purpose of gaining attention. Honesty and being real; simplicity, is the right way I think. I guess it’s all about balance – time, mind and soul. Great, thought-provoking post!

  24. SJ says:

    I was chuckling along as I was reading this, all the while wondering ‘is this me?’ and worse… would I admit it to myself it it were me? I do disclose free trips but I do also snap photos of my food. Hmmmmm…
    Also, the fund me campaign is no longer active it seems, shame too, as it sounded like a great campaign.

    • Theodora says:

      You’re right! It’s disappeared into the ether. Apparently the blogger in question was getting a degree of stick about it on Facebook, so it’s hopefully not just me.

  25. Carla says:

    Brilliant article! I have deleted so many travel blogs from my reading list as they all seem to be sprouting puffy advertisements in the guise of interesting stories.
    Such a glut of travel bloggers reporting from the same places, with similar positive perspectives, has become boring.
    My list is now down to 10 unique, awesome storytelling sites.
    Thanks for a great blog!

    • Theodora says:

      Yes! I actually intend to visit Barcelona and Costa Brava this summer, because I love BCN and would like to see more of the Costa Brava, but, boy oh boy, there’s been a lot of coverage of it.

      • Alastair McKenzie says:

        There’s going to be more! The TBEX Europe travel blogger conference is returning to Costa Brava at the start of May 😉

    • Karyn Jane says:

      “Such a glut of travel bloggers reporting from the same places” – very well said. It sucks that some very beautiful places are getting a bit “meh” in the world of travel blogging because literally everybody is writing about them.

      I recently wrote two posts about Angkor Wat and it was the hardest thing ever to work out a way to make them stand out from the crowd of all the other Angkor Wat posts out there.

  26. Mikaela says:

    This is very thought provoking, and frankly, quite helpful as I am relatively new to the blogging realm.
    I have been trying to figure out my own code of ethics when it comes to my blog, and you have eloquently summed up much of what I have been thinking. Thanks!

  27. Mikaela says:

    oh!! I forgot!!! I loved the Stephen Fry reference!!
    I watch his show, QI, religiously!

    • Theodora says:

      It’s a corker of a video, isn’t it? My son’s an active atheist, so he loved it too.

      • Rowan Williams gave this response to Stephen Fry.

        “It’s interesting that already in the Psalms and the book of Job, you’re beginning to have that kind of protest voice within religious communities.

        It would be a very, very stupid and insensitive person who never felt that. But to me what’s mysterious is the fact that people in the heart of suffering, people who are alongside children with bone cancer still, somehow, maintain a faith, a trust of some kind.

        And that has to be mysterious, that has to be something that makes one draw back a little bit from simply saying well ‘it’s all god’s fault and that’s it’. And I’d also rather like to hope that if Stephen Fry actually met god, he’d wait for the reply.”

        How is your quest to find negative reviews of comped travel experiences going?

        • Theodora says:

          I like Rowan Williams a lot. I’m on the atheist end of agnostic, but grew up Catholic, and have immense time for people of faith – although I’m not sure it’s an answer that would stand up to rigorous interrogation (people also believe in angels, which doesn’t make them real, and pretty much everyone here in Indonesia believes in magic).

          I’m really after the holy grail, here, which is not just a negative review of a comped experience, but a negative review of an experience where the “client” paid the blogger “for their time” – which people keep assuring me doesn’t mean buying positive coverage, or specific angles and messaging, but an entirely editorially objective view.

          • Theodora, I added the Rowan Williams response because the issue is certainly not settled. You are right about belief. How many people say that they “believe” or “don’t believe” in Climate Change? It is not a matter of belief, the science is there for anyone to investigate, although a supercomputer is required to get meaningful results.
            Rowan Williams was referring to faith and trust. Does every atheists say “It’s bone cancer, if the treatment won’t work, nothing can be done”?

            • Theodora says:

              Hmmm… Iain M. Banks and Hitchens did, of course – although Hitchens went further with medical treatment than Iain M. Banks. Then, of course, you have others who put “faith” in alternative therapies. There IS definitely a human urge to deny our own mortality, and a strong capacity for hope – which isn’t to suggest that that translates into the actual presence of a benevolent, omnipotent being. Put crudely, theologians have struggled for centuries with the problem of suffering, and I don’t think Rowan Williams has cracked it – I’d also note that, historically, religions have been overwhelmingly polytheist, and included negative elements in their worldview, and, like Fry, I’d say that these polytheist models of competing deities, not to mention negative forces, are a more plausible explanation than a single, good god.

  28. I think all of this is why we’re still going strong (with the continuation of our blog) after five years. Our blog is a love, a passion and a hobby and if it makes a few quid here and there, bonus. If not, it’s not important because we do the blog, anyway. Most of the time, I do carry my camera around everywhere with me – but I used to do that, anyway – and sometimes I take lots of photos and other times I don’t. We’re very relaxed about our blogging and it suits us – because, like you said, we need to just live life, too.

  29. Anne-Marie says:

    Loved this piece. Watching people refuse to let any-one eat before the food is photographed is a pet hate, as is only ever looking at a view or a building with an eye to photography – or a selfie stick.

    • Theodora says:

      The camera inserts a completely different mindset – as does the bloody selfie stick. You’re looking at how to frame or compose a shot, rather than looking at what’s actually there. And, oh god, food photography. Extremely difficult to do well, for starters, and pathologically antisocial.

  30. Taylor says:

    I have struggled a lot with this over the years as I have tried to make money with my blog. I’ve finally come to embrace the reality that I, like you, just want to use social media to talk to my friends and sure, share a post when I happen to get around to posting something.

    Every time I’ve tried to gear up my social media profile and gain those followers(!) I just feel like a shallow sellout, get kinda disgusted with myself, and sink back into the comfort of the relative travel blogging anonymity I’ve grown accustomed to.

    So instead I’ll eat my food while it’s hot, keep my blog a place that I love (and not loathe), and find other ways to make money. Because there is always another way.

    Great post.

  31. Dear Teodora,

    I am making $18,000 a month, all just from selling Travel Blog Success. At first, I didn’t think it was possible, but my sister told me about her friend’s cousin who is now a professional travel blogger, and get’s a lot of free cock tails and luxury hotel rooms.

    In any case, travel blog success has changed my life, more than Jesus ever did.


    BTW, do you know of any free press trips to Bali that pay aspiring professional amateur travel bloggers a lot of money?


    Not Nate from Yomadic

    • Theodora says:

      Hi nat, nice to here from you! I here Jesus has some great paid press trips to Bali – just add the word #saved to your entire Twitter feed, and your away! Peace and love, a profesionnal travel blogger.

  32. Yvette says:

    Great read! As I think I mentioned to you once, I stopped trying to make money from travel writing once I realized it is literally easier to get a PhD in astrophysics than be successful as a professional blogger. If you look at the number of people who are professionals making money off of travel blogging, I think there are fewer in all the world than there are at one astronomy institute, and THAT should tell you something about the line of work.

    It’s also important to note that it’s not healthy to always be hashtagging your sunsets and such, as you note. I’m in a line of work that is very demanding and is more a passion/calling than a paycheck, but even I know you need to step away from it- you’ll burn out if you don’t.

    (Also, your GoFundMe link doesn’t work, so maybe they deleted it. Pity, I was looking forward to the laugh.)

    • Theodora says:

      I think “more common” might be a better term than “easier here” – going to take a running guess and suggest that more kids grow up dreaming of astronomy and pursue the sciences at high school level than dream of being a travel blogger and bust their socks off from age 6, but, point taken. And, yes, the GoFundMe campaign is gone, without so much as a screenshot – a pity. It was a corker! x

  33. YES to this! Such a refreshing read and exactly how I feel about the whole thing.

  34. Matt says:

    Hey Theodora,

    I love the tone you are using, hilarious! This post is a great read. Especially the part of “there might be a degree of pressure to gloss over any negatives” is an interesting topic to talk about as a lot of bloggers out there faced those problems.

    Keep up the great work,

  35. Karyn Jane says:

    I love this post! I feel the same way. I used to think travel blogging was hard but now I realise it’s just that the traditional format takes a lot of effort and time, plus an understanding of stuff I just plain didn’t understand. So in about November I kind of looked at the status quo of the traditional format of travel blogging and went, “Wow. How do people do it? That’s not the life I want. I’m out”. I’m still considered a “travel blogger” but I’m not as attached to the outcome as I was in the past. I’m very lucky – I make my money online, but not with travel blogging, so I can live a nomadic life regardless of how successful my blog is. Really, that’s what I wanted all along – just to be nomadic and location independent. I’ve got my dream, why do I feel the need to funnel my dream into this one particular career path?

    I think the best way to put it is, I live my life and I blog about it. My life is what it is and the blog fits around it. Not the other way around. For a long time I felt the pressure to have the kind of life a travel blog requires. But that’s really putting the cart before the horse, isn’t it. Besides, if I live and blog about it as opposed to the reverse, it doesn’t limit me to writing just about travel. I can write about spirituality, health, social justice, as well as travel. I feel so free now.

    Anyhoo, sorry for the rant but TLDR; I agree with you, and even though this is the first time I’ve found your blog, I totally respect the hell out of you based on this one post. 😀

    • Theodora says:

      Thank you! “Live and blog about it as opposed to the reverse” is brilliant.

    • Karyn Jane says:

      Since this post is getting a bit of heat I just wanted to come back to clarify – my comment is related to the points you’ve made about living life without the lens, and working out how to make blogging work for you in a way that gives you fulfillment as opposed to following status quo that others are following. When I say I respect you I mean I respect you in the context of figuring out what kind of life brings you joy, which is a good thing for anybody to do.

      The linking to other peoples’ posts is not something I would have done, but I was ignoring that aspect of it. Having said that, you have the right to dislike the way other people do things. xx

  36. Shobha says:

    Interesting read! I’m fairly new at blogging but have been a part-time traveller for years. My husband and I love to travel and we are foodies and we want to share that with our kids. Freebies aren’t even an option for us because I won’t take them out of school, or spend our family’s precious time together doing stuff that we are obligated to do. Kind of takes the fun out of travelling.

  37. Love this post, if you do not mind I will be forwarding it to everyone making me excuses about not having Facebook Fan Page, about not posting for months when I travel, about never taking selfies and liking my food warm 🙂 From now on all those people are getting one line email back with the link to this post! Kudos!

  38. What a fabulous post! You’ve really done a great job of demonstrating how much of a twisted cynic you are, and spread it (with love) for the world to read. I feel so honoured that you think we are important enough to be used as an example on your post – in fact, the very first example of spelling mistakes on your precious post. I feel so blessed. Right now I have a giant smile on my face.

    Out of the 900+ articles and 1 million+ words we’ve published on our post, you’ve been able to find (at least) 2 that were incorrectly spelled. You’ve made us look so good. If I as trying I could have found at least a dozen or more.

    Keep up the great work!

    • Theodora says:

      Maybe if you wrote less you’d write better? Just a thought.

      • If you wrote less, the world would be better. Just another thought.

        • Theodora says:

          You’re right! Literate writing is wildly over-rated and should be replaced with wandering black puddings selling fetishes stat. I shall never, ever write again.

          • I hope your finely-honed literacy and typing prowess compensates for your other self-evident short-comings. Perhaps you could take a few days to engage in a mind-bending experiment like being more loving and kind, and you never know, maybe you’ll attract more of the same in your life. I only wish you the best, both personally and in your non-professional blogging career, and hope you find the contentment you’re looking for. Peace.

            • Theodora says:

              Oh, for crying out loud. I was looking for bad writing in a blog that did well enough to attract free stuff. Your blog stood out as an example, as it does to many, many others besides me, and most people would concur that black puddings going in search of fetishes on rocky hilltops is egregiously bad writing, no matter how many Bangladeshi clickfarm Facebook likes you’ve bought. Thousands of people seem to have read and enjoyed this post – do you think they share my self-evident shortcomings, or might your blog’s shortcomings be more obvious than mine? Peace – and do keep an eye on the kids.

  39. I was wondering if anyone you targeted was going to leave a comment 🙂

    Press trips are tiresome. One day I literally had six photos of elephants back-to-back in my Instagram feed thanks to bloggers on a trip to Sri Lanka. I love elephants as much as the next person, but come on. Give us some originality! In the three years that I’ve been blogging, I’ve gotten exactly two things for free (a hotel buffet lunch and a food tour). The process of writing about them afterwards made me so uncomfortable that I’ve sworn I’ll never do it again. I’m perfectly content to leave my blog as a hobby, though I will admit to being one of those annoying people who has to photograph all the food before anyone can eat. But in my defense, my family back home LOVES my food posts! My FIL in particular always wants to know what goodies we’ve been eating 🙂

    Oh, and I’ve pretty much stopped using Twitter because it was too big of a time suck and have not seen my traffic suffer as a result. I’d rather be outside enjoying myself than participating in some travel chat with people I don’t know. Sure, I have fewer bloggers sharing my links, but most of my traffic comes from FB and Google anyway.

    • Theodora says:

      Hahaha – yeah, it was a little unkind to link, perhaps, yet I needed an example of a blog that was doing “well” enough to get a load of free stuff, which was abysmally written, and I thought I should probably link as otherwise people would think I’d made it up.

      I get where you’re coming from on the freebies. I find them insanely difficult to write, and where I’ve done them (a handful of hotel stays, a dive trip and a food class) they’ve always taken lots of agonising. Although – with my journo hat on, I’ll arrange and accept freebies without even blinking, so, go figure. On t’other hand – I just got a load of books to review and I’m 100% comfortable with that.

      And – yeah, food bloggers get a kind of pass on the food photography. We had lunch with Fiona when she was in Bali, and the food DID look beautiful, and was interesting – and, TBH, I’ve wanted to photograph the food at that restaurant myself, though Zac has not allowed me to.

  40. I’m just asking because I’m curious, but what is your job then?
    I mean, the kid food stuff, basically, it can happen with any single job where you will stay from 8AM to 9PM at the office. Oh, no, you won’t even see your kids eating then… 🙂

    • Theodora says:

      I’m a freelance writer – I do journalism, copywriting and web content, while this blog does also make some money. That’s not an especially easy or stable way to make a living, but it is highly portable, I don’t have to be accessible or “on” 24/7 (I can and do take days and weeks offline), and I enjoy it. I think the 13-hour working days you cite are unusual in most industries – though common at the higher end of advertising, banking, law, film, politics, etc. – and I’d also note that there’s a BIG difference between being in the same place as your kids and being actively present for your kids, particularly when they have no school to go to, so are reliant on you for education and socialisation.

      • “though common at the higher end of advertising, banking, law, film, politics, etc. –” Well, that’s still a lot of works actually…

        And, in my opinion, what you say about this kid stuff is just a great joke. Just because you are a professional travel blogger doesn’t mean you always need to be connected. You can also organize yourself (like in every single work, actually) and post pictures during your working hours.

        • Theodora says:

          Well, they’re a very small fraction of the jobs that most people do, across the planet, and even in the developed West. Who, in your universe, is looking after the kids during the 13 hour working day of posting pictures?

  41. Alicia says:

    A LITTLE unkind to link? Honestly, this blog post is really mean and nasty. What are you, a 12 year old “mean girl” in a grown woman’s body?

    You could have just written about the practices that you disapprove of, without bullying bloggers who you don’t like by naming them and linking to them.

    And that spelling thing you made fun of the Benders for was immature. Have you not ever in your life made a careless error in spelling? And when you do make such an error, do you think it’s appropriate for someone to rake you over the coals for it and make fun of you over it? Seriously?

    God, and all these people patting you on the back for it – you’re like a pack of vultures. It’s disgusting.

    Would it not have been better to highlight those who are doing great things, rather than spend your time tearing people down?

    • Theodora says:

      I didn’t name the Benders, who it appears you know: Josh outed himself. And, believe you me, that’s not a one-off error, although it is egregious – and, no, I have never and do not make those kind of howlers. Yes, I’ve probably dropped a comma, or added an l, or missed an apostrophe. Being unable to spell the word “Bedouin” when writing about the Middle East, and confusing the word “paraphernalia” with the psychological term for unusual fetishes is not a “careless error in spelling” but evident of a fundamental inability to write, or to care about writing, or to care about accuracy – which is problematic in the case of people like the Benders, who pursue blogging as a career and describe themselves as [sic] “travel writers”. Why the quote is relevant, in a state of the industry piece, is this: that people who can’t spell, punctuate or conduct basic fact-checking are pursuing “travel writing” and blogging as a career.

      This is a general post about the state of the blogosphere, speaking largely to fellow bloggers who are frustrated with it, people who read a lot of blogs, and people who are in the travel industry as a whole, as well as my regular audience: these are the people patting me on the back, and sharing the post, because they, too, are fed up with a world of (sometimes execrably written) marketing copy thinly disguised as editorial. You’re clearly not part of that, so that’s fine. If you’d like to set up a blog to highlight “those who are doing great things”, whoever and whatever those may be, you’re more than welcome: you can start one at WordPress.com right now, and go for your life.

      • Alicia says:

        “I didn’t name the Benders, who it appears you know: Josh outed himself. ”

        Are you kidding me? God, this is like having a debate with a child. They do something right in front of you, then say “I didn’t do that!”

        You LINKED to the Bender’s blog, remember? If you hadn’t done that, I’d have had no idea who they were, until Josh came along and fought back. At the beginning of your post when you were busy making fun of the spelling errors, you LINKED to them there so everyone could go and laugh along with you once they knew who you were talking about. “Look! They made a spelling error! Let’s lynch them!” *snicker*

        And no, I do not know the Benders other than via their online presence – I don’t have meet ups with them, I don’t chat with them on the phone, I’m not pen-pals with them – but yes, once I clicked through your link to their blog (remember, the one you included in your post here), I will admit to recognizing their blog, since it is one of many that I read regularly.

        And then you go on to add that poor guy who likes to party throughout the world to your list, the Makepeace family from yTravel blog – it’s mean. You’re being a bully. And the worst part of it is, unlike when someone says something nasty about you verbally, this post will stay up as a constant reminder of the nasty things you said. At least when someone has the guts to say something to your face that’s really nasty (rather than cowering behind their computer), once the words are said, they won’t be floating around on your Facebook feed, coming back to haunt you every now and then. You know, just to make you feel small. Just to make you feel crappy about all the nasty people out there in the world.

        When you start naming people who you feel are guilty of the sins you are writing about, it is no longer just “a general post about the state of the blogosphere” And no, I don’t know those other bloggers personally either, although I follow many of their blogs. In case you’re wondering.

        “Why the quote is relevant, in a state of the industry piece, is this: that people who can’t spell, punctuate or conduct basic fact-checking are pursuing “travel writing” and blogging as a career.”

        This is an exaggeration. They can spell. Any fool can see that by reading through all of the other correctly spelled words on their blog. They just made a mistake, which you decided to make fun of. Evidently they didn’t have time to read proofread their work well enough prior to publishing. That’s a far cry from being unable to spell. Ditto for the comma and fact checking you accuse them of.

        So according to you, if one chooses to blog, it is right and just for the public to ridicule them if they are imperfect? If they dare to make an error in spelling, punctuation, or anything else, they should pack up their laptop and stop blogging? They don’t deserve to share their thoughts?

        Sorry, but that’s a crap attitude.

        You dismiss everything they wrote, all the value that they’ve provided to readers such as myself over the years, over a careless error? I think you’re being very harsh. But then again, I focus on the good people bring into the world, and don’t rake them over the coals for unintentional errors, since hell, we ALL make them.

        The only reason I am focusing on the Benders is because I feel that what you wrote about them was by far, the worst, compared to what you wrote about any of the others. And you knew that, otherwise you wouldn’t have chosen to lead your blog post with it. You wanted to grab attention, and you did.

        There is no good excuse for what you’re doing in this blog post when you “out” people. It is mean. It is bullying. Plain and simple.

        If you’d left out the naming names part for your criticisms, the blog post would have been much better.

        • Theodora says:

          The term “bullying” is wildly overused on the internet. Can I suggest “snark” as a more appropriate term? Let’s benchmark against, eg, this: http://getoffmyinternets.net/forums/new-international-bloggers/travel-blogs-1/

          Now, let’s have a look at what I’ve said (I’m assuming the links to negative reviews of sponsored experiences don’t count as bullying in your universe):

          “In the case of Gary Arndt, who sold a successful business to start his travel blog, it’s failing to find the time for even the basics of friendships, dentistry and eating properly.”

          “As Craig from YTravelBlog puts it, “By the time we’ve taken photos of our lunch, updated facebook, tweeted, pinned and instagrammed the kids are running loose and our food is cold.””

          “Aspirants like this guy combine 40+-hour weeks with full time jobs, and, according to his website title, he parties hard too.”

          “Such inadvertently memorable prose as “Climbing a rocky hill in the hot afternoon sun we met a friendly Boudin youngster desperate to sell us locally created paraphilia.”

          Only the fourth of these is snarky (and, yep, I don’t name them, though I do name others). Only the fourth is making any other point than that professional travel blogging, as it’s practised, can be destructive of normal life. You’ll also note that I didn’t link to the family with the restaurant-pooing, permanently injured kids.

          Now, I didn’t lead with the Benders. I didn’t use the quote to “grab attention”. I wanted an example of execrable writing from someone who’s making money as a content marketer, and their blog was the natural place to look, as it’s consistently abysmally written and aggressively monetised, and they actively promote themselves in the community as best practice.

          That was the second post I looked at. The first had plenty of grammar howlers, dreadful writing, lacked any sense of flow and style, etc., but nothing particularly quotable. In the second, I hit that, so I stopped reading.

          And, no, I don’t have a problem with people who can’t express themselves well blogging – only with them going “professional”. There are a gadzillion and one people using the internet for travel diaries, for friends and family, and many of these travel diaries are terrible. So what? It doesn’t matter. Because they’re not describing themselves as “travel writers” and “gifted communicators”, they’re not endeavouring to speak at conferences, they’re not promoting their way of doing things as best practice, they’re not taking money and goods in kind to market businesses, they’re just, ya know, blogging.

          As I say, you’re very welcome to start your own blog, writing posts as you think they should be written. You can even write a post about how I’m mean and nasty and a bully and a 12-year-old girl or a child, if that makes you feel better. Or, of course, you could do as I did and pick a quote and link with a phrase like “mean, nasty posts like this”.

          Perhaps I should have said of the Benders: “Can’t reliably spell, punctuate, proofread or fact-check, let alone construct decent prose or identify telling detail.” That might have been more accurate, but, hell, this is internet comments not a blog post.

          • Alicia says:

            “You can even write a post about how I’m mean and nasty and a bully and a 12-year-old girl or a child, if that makes you feel better. Or, of course, you could do as I did and pick a quote and link with a phrase like “mean, nasty posts like this”

            Nope, not gonna do that. Because if I were to try and publicly shame you in that way, you are stuck with it being out there forever since I would be the only one who could hit the “delete” button and make it go away. I don’t think that’s right.

            At least here on your own blog, you are free to delete my comments, ban my i.p. address from commenting etc. and make them go away – you will never be forced to have it out there forever.

            “Because they’re not describing themselves as “travel writers” and “gifted communicators”, they’re not endeavouring to speak at conferences, they’re not promoting their way of doing things as best practice, they’re not taking money and goods in kind to market businesses, they’re just, ya know, blogging.”

            They do write about travel, doesn’t that make them travel writers?

            Every time you pick up a newspaper or magazine, they sell ad space. How in the hell is that any different from a blogger saying “This trip was sponsored by so-and-so” and then proceeding to write about it? That’s full disclosure, and is merely a different form of advertising than the full page spread that same company took out in your local newspaper or fave magazine. Do you hate the magazines and newspapers for accepting advertising money too? As long as it’s fully disclosed, who cares?

            Or should the newspapers and magazines now start publishing their advertising contracts too, since who knows what might be in there… ooo, conspiracies abound! And for sure, get the bloggers to post scans of any contracts they sign, since they’re all up to no good, right?

            You sound jealous. Really, you do.

            I just don’t comprehend why you are being so nasty to these people, belittling their writing, belittling their lifestyle choices – have you met them and found them all to be horrible people? Have you walked in their shoes? Do you know what is in their hearts? Do you know what their intentions are? No. I bet you don’t. But damn, it makes a fine blog post to go off on them. Maybe your post will even go viral!

            • Theodora says:

              What I said was “inadvertently memorable prose” – that’s three words. I don’t need to walk in someone’s shoes or peer deep into someone’s soul to notice that they can’t write for toffee, I’m afraid. Further, if the Benders’ self-published creative output makes them “travel writers”, as you feel, they should be judged by the standards of travel writers – the sorts of travel writers that write for newspapers, magazines and in commercially published books. (Want to see savage, extended writing critiques? Head over to the book reviews section of any newspaper. Or, for the blogosphere, pop over to getoffmyinternets.com.)

              And, no, god, I’m not remotely jealous: perhaps you should re-read the section where I talk about how extremely time-consuming and soulless the self-promotional/brand-building round sounds, particularly where kids are involved. This is not a lifestyle I want for myself, or for my son, and as a number of other people with both children and blogs have pointed out in the comments, it can be highly problematic in parenting terms, particularly with young children whose only carers and educators are the parents who are working it 24/7.

              Please, do go ahead and write a blog post if you like – this is the internet! Anybody is welcome to link to this post and say whatever they want about it. You are more than welcome to try and “publicly shame” me by calling me a nasty, jealous “mean girl”, or whatever level of playground rhetoric we’re currently at.

              Let me explain the editorial-advertorial issue. When a newspaper or magazine sells advertising space, it is independent of editorial: the two departments have ZERO crossover. I have *never* received direction from an editor to work with a specific company because they are an advertiser, let alone to say positive things about them. I have *never* had anything to do with a newspaper or magazine’s advertising department, and I challenge you to find a single journalist who has. Where an advertiser commissions the newspaper to write something, it’s called advertorial and clearly labelled as such. (I did do a piece on food in Bali, where it turned out one of the places I featured also advertised in the mag, but I had no idea of that, and the other seven didn’t.)

              Newspapers and magazines WILL put together special editions, which are advertiser-friendly – so, everyone does their ski special, which they can then fill with ski advertising, for the start of their ski season. The overwhelming majority of the advertising will be for trips and places and products which do not feature in editorial – although many trips that journalists do involve the provision of free accom and flights (free travel, not paid travel).

              In the content marketing world, by contrast, there’s zero separation. The same people negotiate the advertising money, agree the key angles that will be covered, go on the trip and write up the trip, giving coverage to the advertiser: the advert IS the “editorial”, and the advert covers the client. That’s the problem, here. I have never, ever seen someone saying “This is an advert”, or “I was paid by X” – the full disclosure that you cite – whereas advertising and advertorial in magazines and newspapers is instantly identifiable, not disguised as editorial.

              It’s interesting, though, that as a reader you understand that any post which has the line “This trip was sponsored by so-and-so” means that it is advertising, which has been bought, and is not to be trusted. That’s a good and healthy sign.

              And, yes, this is a damn fine blog post. It’s struck a chord with a lot of people and apparently generated a decent amount of debate, which is what state of the industry pieces are supposed to do.

  42. Mandie says:

    I’m sorry to say I’d never visited your blog before I stumbled across this post that had people all worked up in the travel blogging Facebook community. I’m now officially a fan.

    It only took me 6 months of thinking I was going to be the next Nomadic Matt to become completely disillusioned with travel blogging as a profession. I fell for the concept of making money by doing what you love, but unfortunately I don’t love scheduling social media, constantly taking pictures or writing Google-bait like “The Top 10 Things to Do in Barcelona” (which, let’s be honest, are really just the things YOU did in Barcelona).

    I left corporate America because I didn’t want to sell out only to find out that the whole ‘living your dream’ scenario can involve quite a bit of compromise itself. Sometimes trying to make money off your passions makes you considerably less passionate about them.

    Personally, I’ve discovered I’m much happier earning income through my design work and letting travel be something that fuels my soul.

    Kudos to you for having the balls to write what you really think. 🙂

    • Theodora says:

      That’s what Johnny Vagabond (Wes Nations, RIP) did as well — it’s really nice to have a job that allows you to be mobile. And well done on working out what it is that you want.

  43. Vanessa says:

    I am genuinely sorry that so many people say (or people seem to think they are saying) that being a travel blogger is hard work. I think it is more accurate to say that being self employed is challenging.

    I find being self employed as a travel blogger and a freelance writer to be incredibly challenging work as I’m sure many self employed people feel about their respective fields. That doesn’t mean I don’t love it or that I lose site of how fortunate I am or that I lack appreciate for those whose jobs puts them in danger to serve the public. It’s simply that my job, my career, has challenges as does any.

    I’ve never heard a blogger complain that their work is hard. Maybe I just attract a wholesome crowd! After three TBEX conferences and many more blogging and social media conferences, I’ve never heard a blogger act in the way others are describing. In fact, just the opposite -I’ve known many a blogger too afraid to share a bad travel or work experience for fear of being told they have too many #firstworldproblems or that they shouldn’t complain because there are real problems in the world. I’ve had to assure some of the most talented, professional, amazing bloggers that, yes, they should approach sponsor X for a chat and no, doing so will not make them appear like the notorious greedy blogger we all hear so much about but I personally have yet to encounter.

    Any job, any career, any hobby, any workplace can have difficult moments, horrible days, and miserable experiences. Sharing the highs and lows of life and work life doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate just how lucky you are in so many ways or how fortune you are compared to so many others. You’re just sharing your life with your community.

    I’m certain there are travel bloggers who are negative, cynical, entitled,, bitter, nasty people – but sadly this is true in any field and any profession. I’m sorry that the people who embody these qualities in our profession seem to be very prominent these days but I’m not sure that there’s anything you can do to change them.

    PS – I haven’t much time to read a ton of blogs these days so I can’t comment on whether or not bloggers at large are writing negative things when they are paid to go on travel experiences, but I have on multiple occasions. Not wild angry rants, mind you, but I never needed a boat to sink for me to give constructive or negative feedback about an experience – paid or not.

  44. Nonplussed says:

    Gosh! Alicia’s “vicarious” umbrage is somewhat partisan his it not? Anyway. as you stated clearly, much of what’s published or broadcast in news media is just PR puffery these days? Endless columns, opinion. infommercials personality pieces. It surely isn’t journalism. You don’t need to be Naomi Klein to work that one out. The problem is that PR for some greater underlying, but not expressed, interest otherwise undermines professional paid writers (and, it must be said, their readers), and this has serious implications, not least for democracy. We are already at the stage where people are wholly complicit in this monetised propaganda, can’t tell the difference or just don’t care. You really shouldn’t be attacked for commenting on the trend. It’s called critical thinking Alicia and Josh, look it up, it’s a useful and important skill.

    • Theodora says:

      Oh, how I’ve missed you! But, sadly, when confronted with much of the blogosphere, even the Daily Mail sidebar comes to read like the Pulitzer shortlist – so one sets up a binary opposition that doesn’t actually stand up to the sort of close scrutiny that you’ve been kind enough NOT to deploy here. Thank you!

      • Nonplussed says:

        It’s a sophisticated world Theodora, and you are a nuanced writer who has spent some considerable time crafting a very modern, witty, perceptive, critical, political, historical and, sometimes, anthropological, narrative; in the tradition of Herodotus or Ibn Battuta – you even have the right sort of name; inevitable really. But that’s not the extent of your talent, it’s just the current manifestation of it. Do recognise that it’s quite an achievement and should be reworked as a book. I’ve never really thought of you as a travel blogger, your work is your product, you have no need to shill for fun-times. No matter – there will always be a capitulating Vichy somewhere, bugger them, en avant; vive la resistance!.

        • Theodora says:

          I really do need to try and focus and settle down and write a book. A couple of people I know have sold travel memoirs, so maybe it’s a project for when I finally start getting up at 6am and starting the day with a swim as I’ve been intending to for yonks – ulp….

  45. Lorena says:

    Great Post!
    I feel you said what lots of people were thinking.
    I do prefer blog post that show real experiences. I stopped reading those who are not sincere.

    You are brave and in all right to write about it even if people doesn’t like it.

    • Theodora says:

      Thank you! I’m mercifully removed from the circles where people don’t like it – though, of course, they’re all welcome to head across and comment – and existing in a happy bubble of “Go you!” on Twitter and Facebook, and positive comments….

  46. This is obviously a continuing, or at least recurring, topic. For some of the previous discussion, see my report from the TBEX travel bloggers conference in Cancun, and Pam Mandel’s follow-up, What Does “Blogging” Mean Anymore?.

    Without trying to repeat what’s been siad in those threads, I think if by “professional” (as distinguished form “amateur”) you mean, “generating a significant portion of your income, then it’s a mistake to equate “professional travel blogging” with “content marketing”.

    There’s a small, self-referential group of travel blog content marketers, professional travel shills, and the travel services providers who hire them. But there are other types of professional travel bloggers with other business and revenue models, who aren’t visible to content buyers because we aren’t selling ourselves (out) to them, and who aren’t visible to the content marketing bloggers because we aren’t competing with them.

    • Theodora says:

      Thanks for your comment, Edward. I’d be interested to hear more about the revenue model that others have, because it’s certainly the content marketers that shout the loudest and dominate (eg) the TBEX conference – on which I read and enjoyed your report – and define the model of professional blogging. There are plenty who use a blog as a platform that supports other activities – like writing and/or photography, or graphic design or editorial services, or a combination of the above, or even leading tours (cf Yomadic). There are others who have the good sense to run resource sites, which generate solid affiliate revenue. But it’s certainly “working with brands” – AKA content marketing – that’s the dominant model at the moment, which is, I think, a shame.

      • Pam says:

        I regret not getting out of the bubble I was so happy to be in sooner. Early adopters know that it wasn’t always all content marketing, but I think I suffered a bit from boiled frog thinking, in that it was quite hot when I jumped, had I stayed much longer I’d either be a lot angrier than I am, or perhaps unrecognizable. So much metaphor.

        I’m commenting because my exchange with Edward, who references my exchange with a number of folks including Rick Calvert from TBEX, has further helped clarify that this particular corner of the “travel blogging community” (which is NOT A THING SHUT UP STOP SAYING THAT) is focused almost solely on commercial content marketing. The subject matter is irrelevant, it’s the practice that defines this group.

        Want to be a (travel) content marketer? Pay attention to These People. Otherwise, SO LITTLE TO SEE HERE. MOVE ALONG.

        But I did not come to this point of view easily and I’m still shaking my head in disappointment at a lot of things that happened in a virtual space I used to really love with my whole heart. “There goes the neighborhood,” she says, watching it get smaller and smaller in her rear view mirror.

  47. Linda says:

    I almost jumped up and down in joy when I read this 🙂 I’ve simply never been able to transition to “professional” blogger because I felt some of the old misgivings I had when working in real estate. I’ve had a handful of freebies, and thanked god every time that I lucked out and could write genuinely appreciative opinions, but I doubt I will do any more. I suppose there is some sort of vanity about having a blog and the marketing provides numbers and validates us. I only began as “retirement” age dawned, so the only pressures I ever had were self induced, wanting to prove myself. I let those go over a period and am enjoying it again. I have a life (as you do) which people sitting at home in the rain dream about, but I want to be honest about it, not a tool for the Tourist Board. At some stage a while back I realized my disappointment in blogging was that I wanted to follow a journey, in the same way I do when I read a Paul Theroux or Bruce Chatwin book, and most blogs are just superficial, “if it’s Tuesday it must be Belgium” stuff. I want to know about the quirks and the stories of the people who made the places what they are, I don’t need instuctions on how to pack a backpack or 10 free things to do in Hong Kong. Probably some of this is down to my age I realize. As someone else said, the blog is useful as a kind of business card, and it has brought me work, so I am just fine with that now.

    • Theodora says:

      Thanks for your comment. I hear you, as I’m struggling with the journey I’m on at the moment. Expat life is a journey, life is a journey. But I find the type of travel we do now – which is constrained by holidays and work – oddly hard to blog about, and unsatisfying to blog about too. I’m going to have a try at writing up a trip we did in Malapascua – but, often, these fabulous places just make for “what I did on my holiday” type of stuff.

  48. Scott says:

    You know that image of Michael Jackson eating popcorn that internet users post as a comment in interesting threads that is meant to illustrate the fact that they essentially just came to read the comments?

    Yeah, that’s me.

  49. Chakimama says:

    Theodora, so glad you are not going professional!! Truth is the Grand Mirage piece got me a little scared… Love your blog for the mishaps, the dalliance in Nepal… the stories, not travel part. So happy you are keeping your blog the way it is!

    I used to follow a food blog that went professional and now it’s all links to her sponsors. A good sponsor gets 7 posts about ONE meal! Her 9-day Bali junket was clearly less lucrative so it was two posts, photos with captions, no writing.

    Yet at the same time, I would understand if you wanted to do some posts to generate income from blogging. The food blog was a shock because it had none of the in-depth, honest descriptions it used to have. I like the mix of story types in your blog. Cheers!

    • Theodora says:

      Thanks, Chakimama. I’m not going to say never to doing comped travel on this blog, but I’d agree that the Grand Mirage post was wrong, and I’ll be a lot more selective about subsequent comped stuff I do. Not that it’s a bad hotel – it’s not – but it’s not going to generate an interesting read, and it’s not our type of place. That’s also reinforced my instinct to say no to something I’m currently discussing, so double thanks, I guess.

  50. Wow that’s a whole lot of negative energy and complaining! I’m a travel blogger and travel writer for a few major publications, my passion is travel, therefore my career is travel, therefore I’ve accomplished what most people wish they could. Hopefully your passion is bashing other people in order for that to apply to you, but one thing’s for sure, I am beyond happy with my life and probably a lot happier than you! <3

    • Theodora says:

      Gosh, Alyssa, which “major publications” would those be? I got to page 2 of a Google search on your name and could only pull up a single HuffPo mention of anyone who could conceivably be you. HuffPo, of course, doesn’t pay – or, rather, only pays journos with genuine major publication cred (i.e., not you). I am pissed off with the state of travel blogging, and I do enjoy the odd rant from time to time, but I’m very happy with my life, my family and my work, thank you.

  51. Diane says:

    I’ve made less than perfect remarks about a comp’d experience… And disclosed it as such in the article. ( http://wifewithbaggage.com/rye-bread-and-swimming-at-laugarvatn-fontana-geothermal-baths/ )

  52. Great and humorous read. I think the problem with ‘travel blogging’ is, thats what you see the other person doing in the hostel, so the ‘would be me too’ factor kicks in. I have a web site with 1,000’s of hosts needing real skills from travellers – like how to get rid of their mosquitos or fix their sewage system. People need to look around and see the real opportunities of getting paid work where they are going. After all, your a traveller and you have knowledge they do not have. Every one has their own camera and pics of them on a camel, seeing someone else do it it is like… and? Write a blog about how you fixed 100 hotels mozzy problem, you will get an amazing following and sell your ” get rid of mozzies in a week” ebook for 20 euro a pop. I rest my case 🙂

  53. Just stumbled upon this link, and I must say I’m extremely glad I am a journalist with a blog (that has occasional but limited partnerships) and not a “professional travel blogger” (whatever that means exactly) because then I can pick and choose which make sense and don’t have to take everything that comes in the inbox out of fear of not making ends meet, you know? I’ve always looked at my blog, which is now eight years old, as a good creative outlet, a way for me to share the behind the scenes from my travels that don’t make it into print (and other travels that are simply “for fun”), and a way for new magazine editors to find me–and if it results in mutually beneficial partnerships with brands I love (like Microsoft), then great: added bonus. And if not, no harm, no foul. But I definitely would NOT want it to be my full-time gig!

  54. Theodora says:

    Nice to hear from you! I wear many hats – I’m a journalist, and a copywriter, and a blogger. Mine is just five, but I do love it and it has been great for me – albeit not in the way I thought it would originally, that it would magically turn into a book because it was sooooo original to be a single parent taking a year out, lol. It has and does get me travel writing gigs (I write a lot in the booze and bars sector and I don’t think I could have moved into travel as well without this) and connect me to editors.

    It makes me some money. It has enabled me to meet many people who are now friends. It also allows me to write at inordinate length about whatever I feel like, and people read it, which is rewarding in itself. You hit the nail on the head about folk who are solely dependent on one single blog – as distinct from websites. Maybe I should have added “full-time” to the title….

  55. Mia says:

    Being a travel blogger not an easy job 🙂

  56. Jess says:

    Really enjoyed this article! I feel like these days the internet is oversaturated with posts about “get paid to travel the world by blogging.” It’s super tough work, and besides creating content, takes years of constantly engaging on social media. I really feel many travelers have forgotten to live in the moment whilst travelling because they’re too busy snapping/instagramming/talking to their gopro for their youtube video…

  57. Randy says:

    I suck at writing

  58. Tracy says:

    I’ll start off by saying that for the most part, I like your post. It really opens people’s eyes to the realization that professional traveling blogging is not all fun and games. It’s only getting to see things the tourism companies pick for you, which is something I wouldn’t like. It’s being too busy thinking about your next blog post instead of enjoying the place. I understand why you wouldn’t want to be that kind of blogger. Neither would I. But why look down on and insult the people who DO like professional travel blogging? Why are you calling them illiterate because they have a few typos, or saying that taking a lot of photos is somehow bad? Also you go on and on about how much work is involved, and then say it isn’t hard? Obviously it’s not for you, but there’s no reason to be so nasty towards the people who do like doing it.

  59. So glad I stumbled upon this post and your site! Interesting discussion in the comments too.
    I have recently started my own blog, even though I’ve been living as an expat and traveling around for the past 6 years. I made a deal with myself, that I wouldn’t lose sight of my passion for traveling by trying to treat my website as a full-time money-maker! I want to keep traveling the way I do, focusing on the moment and the sights without worrying about the next Instagram pic or whether other people would be interested about that place/experience! If a passion becomes your sole source of income, then constant worrying takes the fun out of it, and I wouldn’t want that to happen to me.

    Thanks for being an inspiration to keep doing what I love and grow as a writer without succumbing to the dilemma of aggressive monetizing (what is a “professional” travel blogger anyways? If it means they only focus on social media, SEO and what’s hot on the tourist board that month, then they can keep that profession to themselves 🙂 )

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