Travel Blogger

My Life as a Travel Blogger: An Unexpected Journey

Julie Travel Advice 66 Comments

Five 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.

This unexpected journey has been a life changing experience, not only for me, but also for Tim, Tyler, and Kara.

This is a post that I have wanted to write for sometime. It’s a lot more personal than how I normally write, but I wanted to share what it’s been like to run this travel blog.

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

Four 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. If we had used social media more during our around the world trip, I think we would be a much bigger name in the travel industry now.

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.

Where are we now?

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

In January 2016, we were getting 23,000 views per month on this website. In early 2017, that number grew to 126,000 views per month. Now we get well over 400,000 views per month. It’s a huge increase, but it’s just the start of what we want Earth Trekkers to be.

Tim and I have ideas on how to turn Earth Trekkers into more than just a travel blog, so stay tuned.

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. I work a second job. We have kids in school and Tim works full time. You could say that we do everything wrong.

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. Sometimes I write listicles but I mainly focus on writing informative posts to help you travel better.

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

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.

And it’s Tim who fixes this website when I break it. And break it I do, every once in awhile. Sorry about that.

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

We are reaching the point where I could give up my career as a Physician Assistant and put all of my time and effort into Earth Trekkers. But I’m not ready to do that. Being a surgical PA is something I worked hard for and something I love to do. Sure, being a travel blogger is a dream job, but I love the professionalism of being a PA. Plus, being a PA sets a good example for Tyler and Kara, who will soon be seriously considering what they want to do as adults.

In the OR

Update as of August 2018: A few months ago, I left my position as a surgical Physician Assistant and began devoting all of my energy to this website. It still blows my mind that I ended up doing this, writing this travel blog, after working in the medical field for so long. 

I no longer wonder if I am doing the right thing, running this website. I know that I am doing the right thing, at least for now.

What I do wonder about is the future of travel blogging. This is a relatively new field of work and its future is not set in stone. Blogging could continue to become a lucrative career or it could all fall apart in several years. Only time will tell.

For 2018, we have a lot of great travel in the works. We are becoming masters at squeezing travel into school breaks and turning Tim’s work trips into short vacations.

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 66

  1. Hi- Our family of 2 kids, ages 10 and 13, plus our 20-something year old niece, are living in Italy for 3 months. I came across your blog while doing research for an upcoming trip to Croatia. I really appreciate your straightforward and clear blogging style, and the fact that you also travel with kids. We will definitely follow in some of your footsteps in Croatia!

    And- we are an Ironman racing, drone flying, world traveling, high point climbing family too. Nice to come across another one! FYI- Ironman Brazil and Cozumel are great.

    Cheers!

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      Hello Liz! Wow, we have so much in common. I think Tim is itching to do another Ironman…thanks for the tip on Brazil. Enjoy Italy and Croatia. Slovenia is really nice too. We were there in the summer and I have more to write about (and more about Plitvice and Istria), but the Julian Alps (and the Dolomites in Italy) are awesome…however, hiking season is over, but this is a place worth coming back to in the future. Just a thought. 🙂 Cheers, Julie

  2. Hi Julie, I’m planning for our family annual holiday and this time I’m looking at a Europe trip next year. My husband and I are working full time and our kids are age between 14 to 20, so they are in high school and college. Is really hard to select a good time where all of us could take leave or kids are on holiday breaks. I find your itineraries of 9 to 10 days are really helpful for me to decide on which country to select and plan to optimize the 10 days. (we can’t take too long holidays ).

    I read how you started your blog and am truly admire your perseverance to continue building your blog and be successful. Keep it up Julie, as the information you have in your blog are very helpful and informative. Wish you all the best and success in your blogs. Yes, please use more of the social media like Facebook and Instagram. I will share your link in my Facebook to help my friends too. Thank you .

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      Thank you for this wonderful comment! Before traveling around the world, we took a bunch of 10 day trips, and this seems like the perfect amount of time for a trip to Europe…long enough to balance out the cost and jet lag of a long flight but short enough that you don’t have to miss too much work or school. So, I started publishing our itineraries to help others plan memorable trips to Europe. I don’t know where you plan to go next year, but I will be writing a lot more about Poland, Croatia, Slovenia, and France in the upcoming months. Happy travels and enjoy that precious time with your kids! Cheers, Julie

  3. I came across your blog in the spring as I was planning our summer trip to Ireland and debating on whether we should go on a landing tour of the Skellig Michael. I love the format, and the easy to access and view everything. I am so envious of your opportunity to be blogging full-time. When I arrived home from our trip, I decided to start my travel blog, angelinasadventuresca.wordpress.com, to share our Ireland adventures. I wish I had started years ago because I have more places to write about!
    You are right. Blogging is time consuming! I thought I’d zap off a post last night before bed, and next thing I knew, it was 1:30 a.m.! I love to write though, and not only do I hope my information helps travellers, it is very rewarding to recall the memories of our trip. I will continue to follow what you do and hopefully I can be blogging full-time one day.
    I don’t know much about websites, blogs, etc., so I started by using WordPress. It is a work in progress and doesn’t quite look like I want it to, so I know I’ll be looking to change. Besides it is a long web address! What do you use?
    Thanks for sharing your stories and helpful info.

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      Hello Angelina. It’s very exciting that you have started your own blog! I was clueless when I got started. The look and format of our website has changed A LOT over the past 4 years. I use wordpress also. The theme I run is called the X Theme, it’s very customizable with tons of options. Our webhost is a company called Performance Foundry. We switched to them in June because Bluehost just could not handle our traffic anymore. Performance Foundry has a big price tag but you get developer help with that. I think it’s a little too expensive for someone starting out, but once you get more traffic and make some money, it’s worth taking a look at Performance Foundry. They are amazing. As you spend more time working on your website and getting inspired by other bloggers, your own website will evolve. It’s a very fun but time consuming process. Good luck! Cheers, Julie

  4. Hi Julie and Tim. Firstly thanks for your commitment and very well written posts. We’ve just returned from a trip to the SW USA taking in a lot of the parks that you’ve mentioned in your blog and the advice you’ve put in there has been invaluable in us getting the most out of our (very expensive) journey. We loved every second!

    Guide books are good to give an itinerary or an idea of what you can do see – what they do miss is what is appropriate for families to do. With kids ranging from 16-6 it’s a challenge sometimes to see what is appropriate and what isn’t. I can’t imagine getting most of the way up a hike (say, Angel’s) only to be confronted with a wholly inappropriate section for a 6 year old to negotiate. Your blog puts a different and most welcome context to some fantastic destinations – thank you!

    Next time you’re in the UK, you must try Wales – there are some incredible walks and scenery in our beautiful part of the planet!

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      Hello Chris. I’m glad you had a great trip to the American Southwest! I agree, we need to get to Wales. I have actually contemplated doing the Ironman race they have there but the water is so COLD (for me) and it’s a very challenging course. But it looks beautiful and definitely a place we plan to visit sometime. Happy travels. Cheers, Julie

      1. We followed much of your advice when we traveled to Scotland, and we LOVED Brothers Point and the Quirang hike just as you did. Now, we are trying to plan a trip for this upcoming summer, and we are uncertain which option might be best. It might be one of the last trips we can take with our college son since he is at a point where he will be having internships, etc. so we would greatly appreciate your thoughts and ideas!

        We have taken an around the world trip, and have made it a priority to travel whenever possible, so we have seen some amazing places in this world. Favorites include: Tanzania’s Tarangire, Australia’s Kangaroo Island, Scotland’s Isle of Skye, New Zealand’s Milford Sound, and Kauai’s Kalalau Trail. With these places in mind, could you suggest a place that would allow us a chance to hike, enjoy a variety of animals, experience amazing scenery, and also get away from the large crowds. We are not fond of big cities and large crowds.

        Some options we are considering:
        Italy – Dolomites (thanks to your advice) / a few of the “must see” sites
        Patagonia (Torres del Paine Natl. Park, and Southern Patagonia?) /
        Galapagos Islands / Machu Pichu
        Madagascar / Zimbabwe / South Africa- however, if we had the $, we would LOVE to visit Rwanda / the mountain gorillas

        Three of us can be gone for a full 4 weeks as long as we can keep the costs down, but my husband will have to return home for a week and join us afterward.

        Thanks SO much for all of your ideas and for your helpfulness!

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          Hello Heidi. Wow, you’ve already been to some very cool places. Avoiding large crowds seems to be getting harder and harder to do. In the summer, unless you really go off-the-beaten-path, you’ll have to deal with some crowds, unfortunately. Patagonia sounds great, but we have not been there yet (so I can’t offer any solid advice) and it will be winter, so I don’t know if that is the experience you are hoping for. Yes, we LOVE the Dolomites. They weren’t too crowded when we were there in 2014. You could combine a trip to the Dolomites with Slovenia and Switzerland. We just spent about 10 days in Slovenia this summer. It was a bit crowded but it’s gorgeous and the perfect place if you like the outdoors. I have a lot to write about Slovenia in the upcoming weeks. If you like the landscapes of the Milford Sound and the Isle of Skye, strongly consider Norway. We did southern Norway several years ago and northern Norway this summer and it is our favorite spot in the world (it just bumped New Zealand into #2). Beautiful landscapes, great hiking trails, and northern Norway has a lot fewer crowds than southern Norway. It’s only downside is that it’s expensive and you don’t get to see many animals. Check out our Norway page for all of our posts but I have a lot more to write about in the upcoming weeks. You could also combine Norway with the Faroe Islands. Your African countries and Machu Picchu/Galapagos also sound great. These are some places that we also have on our travel wish list. We did 6 weeks in South Africa/Botswana/Zimbabwe that was amazing. If you have not been on safari yet, this would be great to do. You could spend a week in Botswana/Zimbabwe and the rest of your time in South Africa (Cape Town, Garden Route, maybe Kruger) and that would be an awesome 4 weeks.

          So much to choose from!! You can’t go wrong with whatever you plan to do, but I understand that it is a huge decision. Happy travels!

          Cheers, Julie

  5. Julie and Tim !

    Your pages load so fast now – its great !

    I hope you will do a blog soon on hiking gear – clothes, shoes, backpacks – with some links and all 🙂

    I got an email update that you are devoting full time to this blog , Julie– so I wish you all the best ! Hope this site brings you much deserved income and becomes more successful (just don’t let it get taken over by more ads than content). Your site is definitely one of the best travel blogs I have come across — like the writing style, the pictures and the useful tips !

    Warm regards, Indira

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      Author

      That’s so nice! Thank you for the wonderful comment! You are right…we do need to write a hiking gear post. I will put it on my list! We are traveling a lot this summer so I’ll try to get to it this fall. Cheers, Julie

  6. Hi Julie, I have enjoyed your blog for over a year now. Our family loves to travel as well. Tim was exceptionally helpful in answering all my questions regarding our trip to Utah. We had a wonderful time using your itinerary and his suggestions. I look forward to reading your adventures for 2018 as we plan our next trip using your itineraries as our guide. Thank you!

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      You’re welcome. 🙂 I’m so glad we could help you out and that you had a good time in Utah!! We have some really, really cool things coming up this year…I can’t wait to share them all. In one month we’ll be in Svalbard, Norway, a place we have dreamed of visiting for a long time now. Happy travels, and feel free to reach out to us again if you have more questions. Cheers, Julie

  7. Hi!
    I enjoyed every word you write and the entire article. I love travelling and do all efforts to travel as much we we can as a family and my husband and as a couple. I think that the next thing you think about experiencing and writing about is ski vacations and ski resorts. Keep up the wonderful work on your website and keep it going . Thank you.

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      Thank you, Idit. We have talked about a skiing trip over winter vacation…that would be a lot of fun! Thanks for reading (and commenting). 🙂 Cheers, Julie

  8. Just found your blog this week and I am loving it. It sure is making me dream. I am in no position to travel the amounts that you do and had, but I do hope that one, I can.
    Currently, I am hoping and dreaming for a hike of the Half Dome. That is how I found you; by stumbling upon your Half Dome blog post. It has been on my bucket list for a good 8 years or so, and I am ready to cross it off. I did not know about the permits until doing real research on it for the first time this week, so it looks like it won’t be a trip this summer, but I will try next summer.
    Reading your blog about it, actually frightened me a bit, but I think that I am in shape and determined enough to do it. I am a half marathon runner and have done some sprint triathlons as well. So, hopefully that, with some added walking miles, will do the trick and be enough for me. When I do go, I will be contacting you with questions!

    Thanks for the awesome blog. You are inspiring me and making me dream even more!

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      Hello! You still can submit an application for Half Dome, just so you know. I doesn’t matter if you submit it March 1 or March 31, you still have the same odds of getting a permit. You just need to know your dates. You could always submit an application for a time when you think you want to go. If you get a permit, great! If not, try again next year. It only costs $10. Just a thought. Thanks for writing in to us, and we look forward to hearing from you again. 🙂 Cheers, Julie

  9. I just discovered your blog and it’s great! We’re heading to Skye this June and you can bet I’ve bookmarked your Skye posts. Thanks for this great blog, the whole thing is so useful and worth it! Keep at it!

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