Shock and dismay where what I faced when I announced my move to Eastern Europe. Most of my family and friends didn’t even know where Poland was on a map (it’s worth noting, I’m from an incredibly small town in Southern US).
They then all begged me to start a travel blog.
The idea of starting a blog was incredibly daunting, but what better way to share my adventures with my family and friends than through a site that was accessible from practically every corner of the world (with a working internet connection, that is)? As a lover of words and an avid consumer of literature, I knew that writing about my experiences would be undeniably rewarding.
But, one question loomed in front of me, more daunting than Mordor: how exactly do I start a travel blog? What dark paths lay ahead and what obstacles would I have to endure to find success in this writing mission?
Thus began my dilemma, the more I researched “how to start a blog” the more burdened I felt (like the weight of the ring pulling me down). I longed for my blog to be beautiful and efficient and transient.
The blogs I loved had incredible photographs, were organized elegantly and contained clutch content. They pitched “start your own travel blog now” and “turn your travel blog into a business.” So I spent hours and hours and hours trying to figure out. Having a blog that was easy to manage and affordable was also crucial as I was working full time and living in Poland where I was earning Polish zloty, where every 1 zloty earned equated to $0.25. (Unlike Frodo, I didn’t have Sam to guide me in the right direction or carry me through the obstacles).
So, long story short: I didn’t succeed.
That’s not to say I didn’t try. I found a domain name that was cliché (pretty sure some part of it included “wander”) and hosted it via the highly recommended Bluehost and then set it all up on WordPress. In practice, I was taking the right steps.
However, my ideals got in the way.
I expected if I correctly set everything up, my site would ascend directly to one of the highly ranked sites that I had been perusing for inspiration and ideas. Rather than investing time in documenting my experiences and slowly taking steps to move forward, I focused on the things I didn’t have, like a fancy camera for out-of-this-world pictures or expertise in how to monetize.
Looking back now, I wish I had focused on simply documenting my experiences. Too much time was wasted worrying about the quality of my site or how to precisely optimize photos or which were the most targeted keywords (all important things, but things that come with time).
Here’s what I wish I had known:
1. Set up your blog. (I did this successfully.)
I won’t dive into the depths of how exactly to set up a travel blog, as has been expertly done by Expert Vagabond in his clear step-by-step guide. You should check it out.
His post very clearly outlines the fundamental steps that build your foundation and put you in the direction of success.
It is important to note that you will need to invest a small amount of money for your domain and hosting. While there are lots of options for website hosting and you might spend some time cooking up a bright, unusual, yet catchy name, this part of the process is formulaic, and there are dozens of great walk-through guides that are essentially fail-proof.
2. Write, Write, Write.
The writing task is the part I was most hung up on. I wasn’t sure how to find my voice or what style to write in.
This article provides some tips for generating content, and the key takeaway that Camille imparted to me is this: each writer presents his or her unique value and perspective.
When I was starting, I felt like I couldn’t compare. I told myself that my efforts paled in comparison to other bloggers or I simply wasn’t relevant.
Wrong. Yes, many travel writers are documenting their journey via blogs, but no two experiences or takeaways are the same.
Travel writing also allows you to see your experiences in a new light. So even if you aren’t standing out in the way you initially envision (top of the search results, hundreds of page views), you are collecting your stories and honing your own writing voice.
If I had merely pledged to write one travel blog post every two weeks, I would have collected 26 posts each year. Over time I would have built up an arsenal of posts; patience is critical when starting a blog. It takes time to become established and gain followers.
Of course, if you still find yourself stuck, there are courses such as this one here at writing.ie which helps you find your voice.
3. Schedule in blog writing and maintenance.
Having a full-time job was a bit of a hurdle for me. I was learning a new position (as an English Teacher), meeting tons of new people and more interested in embracing my life in Poland than anything else.
Where did that leave time for the blog?
In hindsight, when you decide to stay the course, you must schedule in your life and then find an absolute time where the blogging can fit in. If this is something you are genuinely interested in pursuing, you designate time to writing posts and do it. No excuses.
Establish a dedicated space (maybe a coffee shop or library) and commit some time to your blog. Uncover some tools that will make writing easier like a blog post title generator to jumpstart your blogging session and allow you more time to devote to the writing itself.
Build your blog, writing practice and routine, only then you can move forward with next steps such as monetizing and promoting or rankings and analytics.
If only I had stuck to these three keys, the roots of my blog would have been deep enough to allow me to take those next steps successfully. Instead of doing too much all at once, remember that like most things, blogging is a process. Following the proper steps in the right order will set you on the path for success.
(c) Kristen Klepac
Kristen is now a writer for the Bucket List Events travel blog – where she can focus more on the writing and less on the web development.