Julie Travel Advice 239 Comments

Ten years ago, if you told me that I would be a travel blogger at this point in my life, I would have called you crazy!! And here I am.

What started out as a little travel blog to keep friends and family up-to-date on our around the world trip has grown into something much bigger. This unexpected journey has been a life changing experience, not only for me, but also for Tim, Tyler, and Kara.

If you have dreams of starting your own travel blog, or you just want to learn more about our story, fix yourself a cup of coffee (or a glass of wine 😊), sit back, and enjoy.

Travel Blogger Life

The Idea of Earth Trekkers

Seven years ago, in early 2014, the idea of Earth Trekkers was “born.” Our plans to spend one year traveling around the world were already in the works. Our house was up for sale, an epic route around the world was taking shape, and big dreams of far off places were running through our heads.

It was at this time that we started this travel blog. The idea behind this blog was to keep friends and family up-to-date on our travels, and to document what we were doing. At the time, we had hopes that Earth Trekkers would become something more once our around the world trip ended, but we had no idea if that would actually happen.

Which leads us to picking out a name for our blog.

What’s in a name?

Coming up with a name for a travel blog is big deal. It needs to be catchy and memorable and relevant. The name also has to be different from everything that is already out there. It becomes your brand and part of who you are. It’s a decision not to be taken lightly.

Tim and I spent over a week going through potential names for our website. Looking back now, some were just terrible, like Waffles and Wine. Ugh, could you imagine? I really liked Chasing Elephants, but the domain name came with a $2500 price tag so that was a no-go.

We narrowed it down to Earth Trekkers and 4gortw (an acronym for 4 go around the world). 4gortw was short and sweet but it would lead into long explanations for those who don’t know what rtw stands for. Plus, once our big trip was over, that name wouldn’t really make sense anymore.

So, Earth Trekkers was the big winner.

Life as a Newbie Travel Blogger

With absolutely no experience on website design, blogging, and writing for an audience, we started Earth Trekkers in February 2014.

Immediately, I came to the realization of how much work this would be. It took days to come up with a design and a flow for the website. I figured it would just take an hour or two to write a blog post. Boy, was I wrong. It takes hours to write a post (and now, sometimes, I spend days, yes, days, writing a single post). How was I going to do this and travel and homeschool Tyler and Kara?

I spent the months before the trip writing about our past travels, just so we had some content on the website. Some of those posts are still here and some have become quite popular, such as hiking to Trolltunga and Kjeragbolten in Norway.

Kjeragbolten

Kjeragbolten

Our First Taste of “Fame”

About a week before we started our around the world trip, we were interviewed by the Baltimore Sun. Tim and I expected to be featured in a short article on page 2 or 3 of the travel section. Well, the day before we started the trip, we had an amazing surprise. We weren’t on page 2 and we weren’t a tiny article. We were the entire front page of the travel section of the Baltimore Sun. It blew our minds!!

It also drove a ton of traffic to our website. We got 1000 views in just one day! That’s nothing now, but leading up to June 28th, we were only getting about 25 – 75 views a day. Along with the website traffic came well wishes from a lot of new followers, not only in Maryland, but from many other places across the US.

Suddenly, Earth Trekkers was enjoying a little bit of fame. We were ecstatic, but also a little nervous.

As we sat in JFK airport, waiting to board the first flight of the trip, I couldn’t help but feel a little stressed out. All of sudden, a lot of people were watching us. There was this new pressure not only to share our experiences, and share them well, but also not to fail. Not with so many people watching.

And that was one of our first lessons we learned about travel blogging. We write about everything we do. We advertise where we are going. If something goes wrong when we travel, whether or not it’s our fault, you all will know. So I feel like there’s this extra pressure on us to travel well, to not miss anything, and to not screw up. As travel bloggers, we are supposed to know what we are doing, right? Well, ha ha, that’s not always the case.

Blogging During the Around the World Trip

For 13 months we traveled around the world, visiting 35 countries on 5 continents. It was an amazing experience that I am still thankful for every single day. As Tyler and Kara get older, I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to share that experience with them during their childhood. Visiting new places was great, but it’s really the family bonding and memories we made together that Tim and I are most appreciative for.

Earth Trekkers

During this time, I embraced blogging. The more we traveled, the better our articles (and my photography) became. We slowly but steadily acquired new followers, and even got features in Terp Alumni magazine, National Geographic, Matador Network, and the Voice of America.

My biggest mistake during this time was ignoring the importance of social media. I just didn’t get it. Maybe it was because I was 40, and not one of these 20-something bloggers who Tweets and Snapchats with ease. I posted regularly on Facebook, but that was it. We had a Twitter account we never used, and did zippo on Pinterest or Instagram (they weren’t started until 7 months after traveling around the world!).

Knowing what I know now, I would have spent a lot more time on social media. It’s incredibly important in building your brand name, getting new followers, and driving traffic to your website. 

Coming Home

Our around the world trip ended in the summer of 2015. We were ready to come home. We had kept up an ambitious, fast paced level of traveling that left us completely burnt out at the end. But it was worth it.

Before the big trip, Tim and I had no intention to move right back to our hometown to our “old lives.” We were free now, why not move to Colorado, California, or New Zealand? Because we learned that our lives in Maryland, near our family and friends, was pretty freaking sweet. Sometimes, it takes leaving home to realize how great home is.

So, maybe it’s lame, but we moved back to our hometown. And it has been wonderful.

At that point in our lives, it was important that Tyler and Kara have the whole high school experience and everything that comes along with it…friends, sports, tests, dances, parties, girlfriends and boyfriends.

In order to give Tyler and Kara this experience, we put long-term traveling plans are on hold (but let me tell you…we talk about and dream about another big trip around the world someday).

Cappadocia Balloons

Cappadocia, Turkey

Life after an Around the World Trip

Once we were home, Tim, Tyler, and Kara settled right back into conventional lives fairly easily. Tim returned to his career in the aerospace industry, working full time but also feeling refreshed after a year off. Tyler and Kara resumed public school without missing a beat.

I was lost. For over a year I had put my heart into this website, writing several times a week about our travels. But now we weren’t traveling anymore.

How do you write about traveling when you are no longer traveling?

I wanted to keep Earth Trekkers going but I had no idea how I should go about doing that.

So, in the meantime, I resumed my job as a Physician Assistant, working in the operating room of a local hospital several days a week. For 15 years, prior to our big trip, I worked in orthopedics and sports medicine. Being a PA is a great job and I love being in the OR, but my real goal was to turn Earth Trekkers into something bigger than a collection of our experiences.

Earth Trekkers travel blogger

Skellig Michael, Ireland

2016: My Chance to turn Earth Trekkers into something bigger

2016 was an experiment. I gave myself one year to work really hard, to see if I could turn our little blog into something much bigger. If, at the end of the year, nothing good was happening, I’d pull the plug on Earth Trekkers.

I worked like crazy, not knowing if Earth Trekkers and this website would ever become as big as I wanted it to be. And I wasn’t even thinking about making money, yet.

So, I joined the world of social media, began writing more informative posts on how to travel better, and redesigned the website.

I was amazed at how much time it takes to run a website. It’s not like you just spend three hours a few times a week and write a post. It’s getting involved on social media, answering emails, updating posts, planning future trips, and fixing things when things go wrong. And the more traffic you get, the more emails and comments you answer.

Running a travel blog, and doing it well, is a full-time job.

We made a total of $150 in 2016 and I worked on it for almost 40 hours every week. I would wake up in the middle of the night in a panic, wondering what am I doing? Is this a giant waste of time? We have college educations to pay for soon and retirement to save for and I am making the wrong decision here?

It was a big risk and I walked around with an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach for most of 2016. I felt like I was being irresponsible for investing so much time into a travel blog that was not making money.

But then we would get an email or a comment about how much someone loved our blog or how we helped you plan a perfect trip. I would literally cry tears of joy, knowing that maybe I really was doing something wonderful for people.

So, I kept working.

Adventure Travel Blogger

2017: A Turning Point

In 2017, things changed for us. Our website traffic grew like crazy. This allowed us to sign up with Mediavine to put ads on this website (and finally begin making money).

Do we like the idea of populating this website with ads? Nope. But it’s necessary to cover the expenses of running this website, not to mention that it took 18 months of long hours without any income to get here.

Our main goal of running this website is not to turn a huge profit. I have never been motivated by money. But I am motivated to have the best life experiences possible.

And that’s what we want for you.

We want to help you travel better, discover new places, and make some amazing memories.

More Changes in 2018

We had two major changes in 2018. I quit my job as a Physician Assistant so I could devote all of my energy to this website and we signed up with Performance Foundry as our new web host.

For almost 20 years, I worked as a Physician Assistant, first in sports medicine and orthopedics, and later as a surgical PA. Upon returning home from our around the world trip, I took a part-time job working in the operating room of a local hospital.

In May 2018, I gave up my job as a Physician Assistant so I could dedicate all of my time to this website. It was a very tough decision, giving up a job I had done for so long. Sure, being a travel blogger is a dream job, but I love the professionalism of being a PA. Plus, being a PA set a good example for Tyler and Kara, who were seriously considering what they want to do as adults.

So now, I work full-time on this website. And I love every minute of it. But it still blows my mind that I ended up doing this, writing this travel blog, after working in the medical field for so long. 

In the OR

In June we signed up with Performance Foundry, a company that offers managed WordPress hosting, and it was one of the best decisions we ever made in terms of running this website. In early 2018, as our traffic increased, our website frequently crashed under the less than adequate plan we had with a different web host.

Since joining Performance Foundry, our site is fast, stable, and I love having access to developers who can handle the technical aspects of running this website.

If you are a blogger and are struggling with the support and speed you get from your current web host, take a look at Performance Foundry. They are more expensive than other web hosts, but what you are getting is 24/7 support and a developer in your back pocket to help you with technical jobs that you might need help with. Basically, you get to spend all of your time creating and you can let them handle the hassles of keeping a website up and running at blazing speed.

2019, Our Biggest Year…So Far

The big changes that we made in 2018, combined with lots of travel inside and outside of the United States, set the stage for our website traffic to skyrocket.

In January 2016, we were getting 23,000 page views per month on this website. Our traffic steadily grew, year by year, and by early 2018, we were getting just over 400,000 page views per month. March of 2019 was the first month we hit 1 million page views…an incredible milestone.

All of the hard work and time spent on the website really paid off. With that kind of traffic, we became one of the most visited travel blogs on the internet.

2020…A Challenging Year in Many Different Ways

We had huge plans and huge expectations for 2020. In January, we were getting over 2 million page views a month!! Not only was the website doing well but we also had lots of very cool trips planned for the upcoming year.

And then, news about a tiny virus began to circulate. In March, we watched in stunned silence as this virus claimed lives around the world. Countries went on lockdown, flights were grounded, and the travel industry came to a screeching halt.

It was depressing and terrifying on so many different levels.

Like many other travelers, we scrambled to cancel our travel plans and get refunds on hotels and flights. The daily news of death tolls and a virus spreading like wildfire took precedence over everything else. Those weeks in March and early April were very surreal.

With COVID-19 cases raging in the United States, it was clear that 2020 would be a year of domestic travel.

Once case numbers began to drop in the US, our goal was to travel safely but also to add content to our website that would be very valuable in the upcoming years. With talks of a vaccine taking 18 months, it seemed very likely that 2021 could also be a year where many US citizens (the bulk of our readers) would be “stuck” in the United States.

For us, 2020 became the year of US national parks. We could hike and go on road trips and minimize contact with other people. It was a great way to travel and we managed to travel quite a bit. We visited 17 national parks in 2020, which gave us enough new content to launch a new section to our website devoted to the US National Parks.

As far as our website is concerned, we got through 2020 rather well. Our website traffic took a huge hit in March but bounced back rather nicely in the summer months, as Americans went on road trips and visited the national parks. Month by month, our page views rebounded and we are now getting more traffic on this website than early 2020. Not bad after such a roller coaster of a year.

Where are we now?

We are in a very good place. To travel and to be able to share our experiences on this website…we are extremely fortunate.

In fact, we are doing so well that Tim recently quit his job to work on this website full time. Over a million people visit our website each month…another milestone that totally blows my mind.

We have some big travel plans for 2021 and some new projects that we are working on for this website. 

Family Adventure Travel Blog

Tongariro Alpine Crossing, New Zealand

What have we done wrong?

It takes a lot of time and effort, and even a little bit of good luck, to be a successful blogger.

I have not done many of the things you’re supposed to do to have a successful travel blog, but somehow it still worked out.

I never took an online blogging class. I have never been to a travel blogging conference. We have never had a paid trip with a tourism board. And remember, I ignored the importance of social media for almost two years.

We don’t travel full time. We have one kid in school and one about to start college. And until just a month ago, Tim worked full time. You could say that we do everything wrong.

But somehow, we now run one of the highest-traffic travel blogs on the internet. 

What do we do right?

We are workaholics. Tim and I are pretty boring people when we are at home. Every spare second we have we are working on Earth Trekkers. At night, we don’t go out to dinner or zone out in front of the TV. We are working on this website. One of the main reasons why Earth Trekkers is doing so well is because we work every single day on this website.

I do my best to write good content and fill that with vibrant, inspiring photos. 

My goal is to write enough good enough content to keep you coming back for more.

We plan for and pay for all of our travel, which is much different than many other travel bloggers. By doing this, we know exactly what it is like for you to plan your trips. It is an expensive, time consuming process. We pass on what we learn to you, to streamline your planning process and to help you pick out the best destinations.

Also, by paying for our travels, our opinions truly are our own. Since we don’t take free or discounted trips, we have no issues writing our true and honest opinions. We ask for no special treatment when we travel (we don’t even make it known that we are travel bloggers), so that we can pass on accurate information to you. 

We also don’t accept guest posts or write about places we haven’t visited. Everything on this website has been written and experienced by us. So, when you have a question, we can answer it. Many of you are “repeat customers” and you trust us, and we want to keep it that way. 

We also donate 5% of our earnings to charities that focus on environmental conservation. It’s important to protect our oceans, endangered species, and wildlife, and to help combat climate change.

So, what about Tim?

You always hear from me. I write the posts, I write the newsletters, and I’m the one in charge of social media. Yes, I am the main voice of Earth Trekkers, but none of this would be possible without Tim. By working full time, Tim has paid our bills and our travel expenses, giving me the opportunity to put so much time into this website.

However, if you have ever sent us an email, then you know that it’s Tim who writes back. This is something that he loves to do.

This will change in the upcoming months, now that Tim is a full time Earth Trekker. You will start reading posts written by Tim, although initially he plans to devote most of his time to several big projects that we are working on for Earth Trekkers.

Tim Rivenbark

Tim is like the man behind the curtain and the whole thing would fall apart if he were not there. Tim doesn’t get the same exposure that I do, but he is just as important to the running of Earth Trekkers as I am.

Feel free to say hi to Tim in an email (or in the comment section below). It would put a big smile on his face. 🙂

The Future of Earth Trekkers

Soon, we will be entering a new phase in our lives. In the fall, Tyler starts college. College! And Kara won’t be too far behind him.

I am very excited for what lies ahead in their future and I will miss Tyler and Kara dearly. But it only makes me more thankful for all of the experiences that we have had together as a family.

This next year is very precious to us (before Kara leaves for college), but at the same time, Tim and I also look forward to being “empty-nesters” with more time to travel, without the need to squeeze travel into school holidays.

Julie Tyler Kara travel blogger

 

And finally, we would like to say Thank You!

Earth Trekkers wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for you. It’s your visits to this website that keep us going.

Every time we get a comment at the end of a post or an email in our inbox, it’s like getting a little gift. Tim and I love hearing from you, offering you advice, and helping you travel better. Never hesitate to reach out to us.

So, from the bottom of our hearts, Thank You!

Happy travels!


Do you have dreams of becoming a travel blogger? Do you want to learn more about what it is like? Comment below if you have any questions, or if you just want to say Hi!

Or just say Hi to us on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter!

You Might Also Like:

One Year Around the World

Worst Moments While Traveling Around the World

Discover Northern Norway in 25 Amazing Photos

Our Travels in 2020…Ideas for Your Next Trip

 

All rights reserved © Earth Trekkers. Republishing this article and/or any of its contents (text, photography, etc.), in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.

Comments 239

  1. Hi Julie,
    I was so happy when you all popped up while I was searching for Grand Teton ideas for what could be our last “real” family trip (our oldest just graduated from college) I read your site so many times in early 2019 while planning a trip to Europe and was so thankful for it then…and now! Especially because it has brought back the great memories of planning that trip and the wonderful time we had! I love how realistic you are with your options ( the kids may not want to wake up to take photos of barns, lol!) and the detailed advice you give to tailor the itinerary so that we can pick what works for our family! Especially all the logsitics. I may get brave enough to reach out with questions this time around! So thankful for your site and will remember to check it first for future travels!

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      Author

      Thanks for writing in! We would love to help you plan your trip so please don’t hesitate to write in again. Your questions help us write better posts and you’d be surprised how much the comment section helps others plan their trip. I look forward to hearing from you again. Cheers, Julie

  2. Such a good read! I just started our travel blog nomadsinnature.com a few months ago and figuring out the balance of actually travel and then writing about it! Wondering when you started making SEO and importance of your website and if thats when you saw your blog start to increase views? If you do SEO research, which tool do you use?
    Also thank you for providing such wonderful content. It has helped me when visiting national parks and just being an inspo for my own blog!

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      Author

      Hello Taylor. That’s very exciting that you are starting a travel blog! For SEO, from day 1 I have used the Yoast SEO plug-in. As far as the increase in views, it was a slow and steady uptick month after month for the first 2 to 3 years. Then we had some posts from various countries we visited that really started to do well. As our content got shared and linked to by other websites, our Google rank increased, and this helps us show up on the first page of Google for many of our posts. But honestly, I have no magic plug in or secret trick that has gotten us to where we are today…I work on the website every single day, either writing new content or updating old posts. In the beginning, it takes a lot of time and patience to “get noticed” on Google. It helps to write about places that don’t have a lot of info yet on Google, so that you show up in searches. Then, as your rank increases, more of your posts will show up on Google. I hope this helps! Cheers, Julie

  3. Such a great story that started with a bang right from your front page appearance on a prominent print media. There are ups and downs in every field, but the key is to stay consistent. I am so glad that you did not give up your dream and attempted to forgo a taste of this success which is so rewarding today. Doing the things you love always leads to accomplish greater heights in the long run. A saying which stands true with your story! Thanks for sharing this enriching experience and also about the technical details of starting your website. Will certainly consider ‘Performance Foundry’ for hosting a website, given the excellent feedback and the prompt technical support at hand. It’s also quite endearing to learn that you guys kept going even when the world stood still…. Visiting nearby places and national parks was quite ingenious. As they say when the going gets tough…the tough get going… A big ‘Hii’ to Tim!

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      Author

      Thank you!! And we have a big update…Tim just became a full time Earth Trekker. He has a few days left working a job he has had (and loved) for 24 years but our website is doing well enough that he can now join me full time on Earth Trekkers. I have a big update to write for this post. 😊 Cheers, Julie

  4. Found your blog so interesting. I found you while googling how to plan a trip covering London area, Paris area and the Netherlands where our granddaughter will be taking a semester abroad in Spring 2022. After reading your suggested itineraries, I don’t feel like it is the overwhelming, nearly impossible undertaking that we thought it could be. THANK YOU. I will continue to monitor your site and may reach out with questions. What an amazing story you have as a family… the memories you made with your children will carry them through their lives, to their children and so on… what a wonderful example you have set for them. With hard work, and lots of planning, you made your dream to travel the world happen. Congratulations!

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      Author

      Thank you! And yes, please don’t hesitate to write in and ask questions as you plan your trip. What a wonderful experience for your granddaughter (and a great place for you to visit)! Cheers, Julie

  5. This is my first to visit your blog and fell in love with it! No wonder your blog has a million traffic, you deserve it! What I am so impressed with is the content of the blog is such valuable!! For example, when I search Mountain Rainer NP travel, your blog has the best informative content, including the history and geographic information(I did not see other bloggers mentioned this on such a very detailed level), the different entrances, the hiking route, etc, very practical. It truly helps people to plan their trips. After reading how you get there, it is such an inspirational story and your motivation really touches me. I best wish your family the next journey.

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      Author

      Thanks for writing in and your very nice comment. We are extremely fortunate to be able to be do this. If you are planning a visit to Mount Rainier soon, let us know if you have any questions. It’s an incredible national park. Cheers, Julie

  6. An inspiring story. The Highs and Lows..all of it. You really dreamed big and had a clear vision. I quite recently came across a quote that decision without action is not a decision at all. It’s very true in your case, and you have a fantastic blog.

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      Author

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