Travel Blogger

My Life as a Travel Blogger: An Unexpected Journey

Julie Travel Advice 129 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 129

  1. Your photos are all professional quality. Do you enhance your photos with Photoshop or something similar before posting on this website? FYI, we’ve been thinking about a RTW trip for a few years now. Seems the stars have aligned and we’re now in the planning phase. Thanks for your inspiration.

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      Author

      That’s so exciting that you are planning an around the world trip! Yes, I edit all of our photos in Lightroom. Good luck with your plans and let us know if you have any questions. Cheers, Julie

  2. Hi Julie,

    Started my own travel blog too late last year… I just want you to know that you captured my heart and made me realize that I need to travel more as well. Thank you for the inspiration guys.. Keep writing your experience please..

    Cheers
    Jean

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  3. I have just come across your blog when researching about a hike I am interested doing here in Norway. I am currently in Tromso and will be traveling onto the Lofoten Islands tomorrow. I am loving all your blog posts, there is a lot of great content here. I keep a travel blog just for fun, since I have recently taken early retirement. I love hearing about your success with blogging and earning a living from it. Congratulations and keep writing 😄

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  4. Your website is fantastic! Great inspiration for traveling with kids. I found it last year when we were planning our kids first trip to Paris / Edinburgh. I actually carried a printed version of the Edinburgh portion on our trip. I can’t tell you how invaluable it was for tips, top sites, best hikes, etc…
    I frequently recommend your site to friends who are planning a trip. It is a perfect guide to highlights and also how to maximize your time. My husband and I are actually headed to Amsterdam and Switzerland in a mid-august and are definitely referring to the suggest hikes, etc…

    Thanks again! Keep up the great work.

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      I’m glad you like our website. 🙂 Switzerland is amazing!! We just spent almost 3 weeks there and loved it (sorry, I don’t have much info yet on our site since we are still traveling). I hope you have a wonderful time. Cheers, Julie

  5. Hi Julie & Tim!

    You’ve done such a great job with your blog and we used your advice recently visiting Montenegro. I always wanted to do an around the world trip with my kids when they were younger but was too nervous to leave careers. Thanks for sharing your story here. I really enjoyed reading it and look forward to whatever travels you have upcoming.

    xx Jenifer (& Guy)

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      Author

      Hello Jennifer and Guy! I’m glad you like our blog and that we could help you out. Right now we are in Iceland…amazing place! Happy travels, Julie and Tim

  6. Love your blog! You give just the right amount of details without making the articles boring. I am planning our second trip to Slovenia and in researching I came across your blog. I have a dream of writing a travel blog about how to travel throughout Europe without using tour companies. I have planned many trips for my family and friends and love doing the planning. I am over 60 and would like to make this the group I reach. I just need to take the plunge!

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      That’s a great idea and a great market to reach. It’s fun, and a lot of work, having a blog. Good luck! Cheers, Julie

  7. So much fun to read about your travel blogger jounrey, and as you know, we love your blog and use it often to plan trips. Next up is a trip to Norway that uses your combined itinerary. We love that you, like us, enjoy active travel. Hiking and experiencing the landscape of the country, as well as the food and culture, is what we find most fulfilling. Kudos on all you have accomplished with your blog and your lifestyle. What a wonderful way to live. Thanks Tim and Julie for all you do!

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      You’re very welcome!! I love following your travels, too. You have some beautiful photos from Peru. Have fun planning your trip to Norway and let us know if you have any questions! Cheers, Julie

  8. There are many reasons to visit Rome, starting from its most diversified culture. I am planning a family tour for rome in next few weeks. I came on your blog while browsing. Great information indeed.

  9. I Love your travel posts! I’ve used all your helpful info to do my hiking trips to Norway, the U.S. Southwest and just booked some travel for adventuring in Tatranská Lomnica, all thanks to your travel blogs!

    Now, if I can just get a camera that can take epic pictures like yours!

    Thank you!!!!

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  10. nice article. I’m really into hiking so I decided to search some places I’ve never been before and this actually got my attention. I found an article to a place in Spain called Canary Island https://www.canaryislandsinfo.co.uk/gran-canaria/places/artenara/ and many people have been going here to hike. Actually, the place has many activities to offer like water sports and trekking, I was planning to make a trip here next year to experience the island myself, Do you guys have any suggestions or advice regarding to the place? It would be a great help. Thanks!

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      Hello Selina. We have not been to the Canary Islands yet so don’t have any information or travel experiences to offer. The islands look nice! Cheers, Julie

    2. Hi Selina
      We, me and my wife have just been to Canary Island and we love to hike.
      El Hierro (small island to the west) have a lot of interesting ones
      Teneriffe is the busiest island but have some nice ones
      At Grand Canary we made som too.

      We use the app Komoot which I recommend and you can see the trips we made on akeke.blog

      🙂 Åke Ekenberg

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