Travel Blogger

My Life as a Travel Blogger: An Unexpected Journey

Julie Travel Advice 116 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

Five 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.

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. In early 2017, that number grew to 126,000 views per month. In early 2018 our traffic grew to 400,000 views per month. Now, as of March 2019, we get over 1 million page views per month! It literally blows my mind how much our traffic has grown over the past five 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.

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.

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

I do wonder about 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 2019, 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 116

  1. We used your website as the main travel guide for our trip to Norway last year. We hiked 78miles in a little short of two weeks, produced some pictures that still make me weep while looking at them these days. We couldn’t make it to the northern part of Norway but that’s saved for another trip:). I want to thank you for putting so much effort into the website that guided and inspired many people like us. And more importantly, you showed me a way of life, living. We might never be able put everything behind and go travel around the world in this life, but with this goal in back of my head, i’d always to have something to hope for. Thank you!

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      Author

      Wow, thank you for such a wonderful comment. I am thrilled that you had a great trip to Norway and that we were able to help you out. 🙂 Thanks for writing in to us and I hope you have many wonderful adventures. Cheers, Julie

  2. Fabulous story and great initiative. I had a look at your Paris post and sent it to my friend with whom I will be travelling to the city of light. It’s just the type of city break I love. Thanks for the ideas and practical info. Love, Lieske

  3. Hello, This is really a great blog and also an inspiration for bloggers and wanderers. Really thankful to you, that you shared such a great experience you had as a traveler and a travel blogger.
    THANK YOU

  4. I am so envious and a little jealous. I tried doing travel blogging but it was difficult getting a site off the ground. I am able to travel extensively as I have a gambling affiliate site which I make money with affiliate marketing commissions and I also have people reaching out for links to buy. It isn’t quite the same thing but it is close enough and I feel my income is stable and guaranteed. I can travel anytime I want!

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      Author

      That’s great that you have been able to set up a career that allows you to travel extensively. But you’re right, it can be very difficult to get a travel blog to take off. I think that it must be even harder now, now that there are so many bloggers out there. Cheers, Julie

  5. Julie & Tim,

    I found your site a few years back and for some reason it stuck out to me. I think you and Tim have very similar travel interest to my wife and I. I have visited your site for tips, advice, and ideas on travel more times than I can count. We are actually planning on using a lot of your information from your Norway itinerary for our trip later this year. Thank you for all of the time you have put into making these post as we have really enjoyed reading them.

    This article was such a breath of fresh air to read. It was great to hear your perspective and how you got the site to where it is today. Your site was part of the inspiration that lead my wife and I to start our own travel blog with similar intentions of sharing out experiences with people and giving advise. We are still trying to figure everything out and now understand what you are saying with how much work goes into putting this stuff together.

    Congratulations on all of your success as it is very well deserved. We can’t wait to see what travels you will share next!

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      Author

      Hello Luke. That’s very exciting that you started a blog too! It’s been quite the journey for us and sometimes I still can’t believe how fortunate we are to be able to do this. Good pick with Norway! That’s our favorite spot in the world right now and the kind of place where we dream of a return visit while we are still there. Good luck with your blog and happy travels! Cheers, Julie

  6. What an amazing family you are! I am so glad i found your blog today and i can totally relate with the amount of work that goes into blogging! Please keep it up!!!!

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      Author
  7. Awesome advice! It’s always nice, even if this isn’t a blog about blogging, to get a peek into what successful bloggers are doing to create their success.I loved it and thanks for information

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