Travel Blogger

My Life as a Travel Blogger: An Unexpected Journey

Julie Travel Advice 159 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

Six 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 this point in our lives, it’s 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. It won’t be long until they are in college (and Tim and I are paying college tuition).

In order to give Tyler and Kara this experience, more 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

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 will soon be 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.

Where are we now?

Earth Trekkers is in a very good place. Our traffic is steadily growing and we are reaching a lot of people.

In January 2016, we were getting 23,000 page views per month on this website. Our traffic steadily grew, year by year, and by 2019, we got well over 1 million page views per month. Now, as of January 2020, we get over 2 million page views per month! It literally blows my mind how much our traffic has grown over the past six years.

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 two kids in school and Tim works 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. 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. 

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.

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

We are going to continue traveling as much as possible around our work and school schedules. Believe me, we would love to take another long-term trip, but while Tyler and Kara are in school, those long-term plans are going to have to wait. Their education is our #1 priority right now.

Julie Tyler Kara

For 2020, we have a lot of great travel in the works. We are masters at squeezing travel into school breaks and turning Tim’s work trips into short vacations.

We only have a handful of years until Tyler and Kara are out of the house. These years are very precious to us, 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. 

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 May Also Like:

One Year Around the World

Worst Moments While Traveling Around the World

Discover Northern Norway in 25 Amazing Photos

50 Adventures to Have in Your Lifetime

 

Comments 159

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  1. Hello Julie and Tim.

    You have done an amazing job with your website. I found your website while looking for information about hiking the Milford Track in New Zealand. While you haven’t done that particular hike your website popped up when using hiking in New Zealand.

    Your blog has been helpful as my 12yo high functioning special needs son wants to do the hike with me. It’s a big decision to take him but reading your base camp hike shows me what kids can do.

    I would also be very interested in reading about the equipment you use for hiking; clothes, shoes, etc. I have been looking at local stores, but amazon looks a much cheaper place to buy things even with international shipping.

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      Hello Ursula. I should publish a hiking gear guide. We do get questions on this quite frequently. We all wear Merrell waterproof hiking shoes. Our go to store is REI. The REI brand gear is less expensive than other well-known brands but the quality has been just as good. We know because we wore some of this REI brand gear around the world for one year and it held up great (we also like Prana and the kids wear Under Armor). I am a big fan of the zip-off hiking pants. They may not be the most fashionable clothing, but it’s so convenient when you’re hiking and get hot. Plus, it’s like 2 pairs of pants in one so you can pack less clothing.

      Good luck on the Milford Track! It’s so beautiful in that part of the world. What a wonderful adventure you have to look forward to!

      Cheers, Julie and Tim

  2. Hello Julie and Tim!

    I feel like we are living similar lives. My wife and I are beginning a year-long trip around the world this May and blogging about it at https://wemarriedadventure.com. We started our blog about a year ago while traveling in Iceland and are just now seeing real traction. Hopefully we will catch some similar media exposure as we ramp up to the departure date.

    I love the fact that you travel with your kids. There is no greater gift than that of experience! Our younger son, Ben, will be joining us for the entirety of the summer before he begins a study-abroad program in South Korea. Our older son is in the Army and stationed in Hawaii, so he’s already living his own adventure.

    We found your blog while searching for info about the border crossing between Zambia and Zimbabwe, and, as a result, I’ve actually made some adjustments to our route! So, thank you for that. In fact, I will be consulting your posts frequently as we will be venturing to many of the same places you experienced.

    Safe travels, and thank you again!
    Mike, Angela, Ben, and Zack

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      Wow, this sounds great!! I think it’s a good idea that you got your blog started well before your trip. The more you write, the more active you are on social media, and the more adventures you have, the more traffic your blog should generate. Enjoy your journey and feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions! Cheers, Julie and Tim

  3. Julie! This article is so great! Thank you! We are on a 6 month trip around the world and I would love to start a travel blog when I get home! I feel bad that I haven’t written while on this trip but I honestly haven’t had any time since we are exploring from sunup to sundown with our kids! It’s refreshing to know that we can tackle it when we return! Did you find it difficult to write about the trip after the fact?? I’m also thinking about a name, it is so difficult!!!

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      Hello Charlotte. That’s so exciting that you are on an around the world trip! If you want to start a blog when you get home, I recommend keeping a journal now, just to capture your emotions and the things you are doing. It’s really not difficult writing after you travel, at least while the memories are fresh (and you have good notes). Good luck coming up with your name and enjoy your travels! Cheers, Julie

  4. Just wanted to let you know I LOVE your website. Can’t remember how I found you but it is just wonderful. I have read most of your articles. And am using your London guide for an upcoming trip to London. Your pictures are amazing. Your articles are well written, informative and honest. I dream of a rtw trip. Someday I hope. Until then I will travel as much as I can and travel vicariously through your website. Kudos to you all for following your dreams and working so hard on this site. I (and apparently many others) appreciate your effort and hard work. Thank you. Keep up the good work.

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      Thank you for all of these wonderful words!! Keep dreaming about that around the world trip…we dreamed about it for quite awhile before we could actually make it happen. Enjoy London! Cheers, Julie

  5. Hi Julie and Tim
    I came across your blog when I was planning our trip to the Southwest USA last year. Your tips were so useful (and we loved the restaurant you recommended in Kayenta – Amigo Cafe) and I have loved reading your blog updates.
    All your time and effort have been well worth it – what a fantastic website and travel resource! Thanks!

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  6. Dearest Julie & Tim
    You have done such a wonderful job of letting us travel vicariously around the world with you. I love your honesty and openness in this article – clearly why you were chosen for the UMDNJ PA program ;). Thanks for all the continuing depth and breadth of info. I especially LOVE seeing your pics. You have truly had quite a metamorphosis in the travel industry/blogging and your contagious way of inspiring others. I love it when I mention your blog to a like-minded travel-lover and they say they follow you!!! Only I am the lucky one to say we sold our first dining room table to that newlywed couple so many years ago…hahaha. Cheers to you in 2018. Hope you make it back to the West Coast again, there’s always an open door in San Fran! <3

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      Thank you, Heather!!! This means a lot, hearing this. I would like to say Thank You to you, for sharing our articles and giving us the occasional shout out. 🙂 It has been crazy, this change in direction of my life, it’s been like a dream in many ways. BTW, we used that table up until we took the around the world trip…first it was our kitchen table and then it became our art table. I always wanted to send you photos of how much of our life revolved around that table for so long. 🙂 Thanks again, and hopefully our paths will cross in San Fran or somewhere else in the world. Cheers, Julie and Tim

  7. Thank you for a marvelous blog. I love reading your travel stories and gazing at the beautiful photos. If (or more like when) you return to Australia and visit Sydney, I would be pleased to invite you for an experience you may not yet have had, a flight in a glider. Then you can add that experience to your blog if you enjoyed it.

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      That sounds awesome! We would love to return to Australia someday. With only a month to visit the country Australia, we barely scratched the surface, but we were there long enough to know that there are many great things to do. Thank you for the offer! Keep in touch, Julie

  8. Hi Tim !! – Now that the mystery is revealed that you are the one that replies to mails and posts 🙂 Thank you for replying to my many questions on the various blogs you have done !!

    Julie – your website is amazing ! I am glad you are making some money of it– you have clearly put a whole lot of effort into it. Your writing style is simple, yet captivating and makes me want to book a ticket right away ! Its nice to see your kids have grown up – they are taller than you or close ! I regularly come and check the website ! Its helped a lot in planning our Ireland trip (Summer of 2018 !) – we are also going to spend a day on Aran Islands – excited about that !

    I come to your website regularly to look for ideas to plan our next trips – 2019 and out. We also have 2 kids coming of college age and can only plan a trip a year, at the most. I like the fact that you guys are into hiking– that’s my passion too and so I feel I really gain a lot from reading your articles and can plan hikes into my trips as well. My husband is not so sure of all the hiking 🙂

    I wish you both all the success in running this blog and look forward to your travels and articles ! Keep up the excellent work ! Thank you for sharing all the information so generously and taking time to respond to all the emails and questions !!

    Warm regards, Indira

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      Hello Indira. I would like to say Thank You for these very kind words. It really means a lot to Tim and I to hear comments like these. It makes running this website an even bigger pleasure. Yes, you’re right…Tyler is taller than me now! That means he can carry my backpack…ha ha!! But it’s crazy how kids just seem to grow 5 inches taller overnight at this age. I hope you have a great time in Ireland and may your husband learn to love hiking. 🙂 Thanks for writing to us and don’t hesitate to contact us again if you have more questions. Cheers, Julie and Tim

  9. Thank you for a great post and the previous posts. I followed your RTW trip here. I am interested in spending a year in Japan and filming or writing about my travels there with my Japanese wife and kids and your site inspires me to do that even more. I am really interested in how you managed to increase your visitors so dramatically in 2017. Thats a really big jump. How did you do it?

    PS: Please keep up the good work. Its great and adds so much value to people’s travels.

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      We did a lot of little things in 2017 that all added up to generate more traffic: spent a lot more time on social media, upgraded to a faster server and did some website optimization (although I still have more to do), wrote more lengthy, detailed content, and traveled to and wrote about places that we thought would generate more traffic. We have several posts that get a ton of traffic everyday so that helps. Pinterest has been our best social media traffic generator and Facebook has been #2. I also go back and update our older posts.

      A year in Japan sounds like a wonderful experience. I wish you all the best! Happy travels! Cheers, Julie and Tim

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