Is the travel blogger lifestyle really that great?

14 Oct

I've watched with interest as the travel blogosphere has filled with people 'living the dream' of funding an existence of non-stop travel by blogging about it. Good luck to everyone attempting to do this - but as an ex freelance travel writer I take this whole 'digital travel nomad' business with a large pinch of salt.

Something I learned during that decade of jumping on and off planes and writing about the last trip as I planned the next trip during the current trip - is that travel for travel's sake is tedious after a while.

Travel friendships are shallow
Before I got into travel writing - like most people bitten by the bug - I travelled quite a lot on my own. And I loved the way it freed me to make friends with anyone. At first I felt self conscious. Almost like I had a sign on my back saying "He has no friends!". But after I'd plucked up courage to talk to strangers it was fantastic fun. (A few beers helped to begin with but now I will talk to anyone!). For a while this ability to just meet interesting people totally rocked. Problem was a lot of these 'friendships' were transient and ultimately a bit meaningless. We bonded over a shared need for info about the next place we wanted to visit or whatever - but we talked the same old stuff most of the time. After a while I grew tired of this.

It's hard to observe and to participate
Once you realise these 'pseudo friendships' aren't that sustaining you tend to withdraw a bit. You sit back and observe. I kept a diary (blogs didn't exist!). Sometimes I realised I was watching with a degree of cynicism. There's a dumb pecking order to backpacking. The deeper the tan, the more battered the rucksack - the cooler the traveller. (Maybe now it's also about how many twitter followers you have?). I got tired of it all. But there were still amazing temples to see, incredible food to eat, local people with totally different lifestyles to learn from. I found though that the more I observed, the harder it became to click back into participation mode. Once I started writing full time as a travel writer this observation/participation partition seemed more pronounced still. I wasn't doing a trip just to experience it. I was there to get a story, take pictures, make notes. The first few trips were fine. I lived in the moment and just scribbled a few notes and took some pictures, but increasingly the pressure to nail the story took away from the delight of exploration. If you're serious about monetization for your travel blog I reckon you'll feel the same way. Nomadic Matt's comment in his post about how he makes money sums this up well:

"I spend more time trying to put bread on my table than I do anything else, and often it really takes away from being able to just travel and enjoy where I am."

It's lonely on the road
I've been thinking about writing a post on this topic for a while but a post by Nomadic Chick called The Definition of Lonely made me get on and write it. It's a short, oddly wistful post. It begins:

“Today, I feel lonely. I wonder what I hunger for? Male companionship?  To have my friends surrounding me? … Sometimes it’s intangible, something I can’t quite grasp.”

She goes on to say she's learnt after a year on the road that she's "discovering a drawback to long-term travel and that’s the reflex to be reserved... it leaves me somewhat alone, even when I’m surrounded by human contact."

She nails that feeling I described above perfectly. Is this a new definition of loneliness? For me, no (for her I guess, yes.) I felt that way a lot, particularly after I'd been doing the job a while.

It's wonderfully self-indulgent to gorge yourself on new stimulation day in and day out. But after a while - just like any drug - we get hardened to it.

Oh yeah. Another camel ride. Great one more temple to tick off the list… Angkor Wat next.

So, if you're reading all those blog posts selling the dream about making money just by writing blog posts and doing smart things with ebooks, advertising and sponsored posts... as you wander your way around the big wide world. Pause for a while.

Do you understand the reality of what you're actually taking on?

 

Image by Flickr user: Giorgio Montersino

56 Responses to “Is the travel blogger lifestyle really that great?”

  1. Steve Keenan 14. Oct, 2011 at 5:53 pm #

    Hi Jeremy - A great bubble-puncturing read. There is a limit to how much travelling you can do before it becomes an endless airport-washing machine-deadline cycle and for most, not all, there is a time to hang up your compass. I count myself very lucky tho for the very many great trips I had, without which I may not have gotten further opportunities on a travel desk. It's a bit about learning how travel (and yourself) works when on the road; how to be a bit humble, tolerant and grateful, and in inadvertently making some very good contacts for the future. And then you move on

    • Jeremy Head 15. Oct, 2011 at 7:41 am #

      Hi Steve
      Thanks for commenting.
      I think travel bloggers are the rookie travel writers of the pre-blog age really. They have a passion for it and want to find a way to turn that passion into a way to earn income. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. Thing is - as you and I both know - it's not easy. Blog technology means you can get published just like that now - which was much harder in the old days. But the final analysis I think is that both approaches ultimately aren't very lucrative.
      One thing to create a blog that gets a bit of traffic and a few ads. Another to live 100% from it.
      David Whitley's posts about this are quite illuminating. http://www.grumpytraveller.com/2011/08/29/travel-blogger-honesty-survey/
      http://www.grumpytraveller.com/2011/09/14/travel-blogging-why-income-matters/
      Cheers
      Jeremy

  2. Nomadic Chick 15. Oct, 2011 at 5:43 am #

    Hi Jeremy,

    I was unaware my sad confessions hit home for you. Not sure I'm glad about this or not. :)

    You are right about travel "relationships" though. Yet, sometimes, I must confess I've had some very satisfying short friendships or romances traveling, more than I did with some people I hung around for years.

    Not sure what that also says about me, goodness, we could psychoanalyze this forever.

    What you have captured so well in this piece is losing that lust for travel, and having to view it through a professional lens.

    I, too, experienced this crisis last year. I had grown to despise writing about travel, and just wanted to experience travel, period.

    I am ruined, and wonder if I'll ever be the same again?

    Time will tell..

    • Jeremy Head 15. Oct, 2011 at 7:46 am #

      Hello!
      I don't think you are ruined... I'm sure you'll rediscover the joy of discovery. But the lens will probably always be different. No holiday will be the same again. If you are serious about earning income from travelling you're constantly looking for angles and taking notes and pictures. You almost can't help it. And to be honest, I think I'd get bored if I wasn't... That's how I experience travel now. And I'm cool about that (tho sometimes my wife isn't!)
      I'm writing a piece right now about my honeymoon(!) for example. I had no plans to do so. But the opportunity came up so I've taken it. And to my surprise I discovered I have loads of great pics and some quite detailed notes that I took - on my honeymoon!
      Cheers
      Jeremy

  3. Kevin May 15. Oct, 2011 at 7:42 am #

    Soooooo true on many levels.

    Maybe you and I just grumpy buggers and bored of that "living the dream" thing, or at least reading about it...

    I haven't backpacked properly for about seven years, but do not suddenly get an urge to dump my current existence after reading the "awesome" mutterings of travel bloggers.

    Quite the opposite!

    In fact, I imagine nowadays, seeing everyone in a hostel or wherever wittering on about how they're off to update their blog ("hey, you should read it!") is even more tedious than the tiresome intros and guess-what-I-have-done-you-should-do-it conversations you get on an almost constant basis.

    Anyway, I'm severely jetlagged here in Singapore (biz trip, sorry purists) and might have a different view in a few days.

    Maybe not :)

    • Jeremy Head 15. Oct, 2011 at 7:48 am #

      Maybe not...
      Thanks for commenting despite the jetlag - you're still quite coherent! ;-)

  4. Todd @ Todd's Wanderings 15. Oct, 2011 at 9:22 am #

    Nice post here Jeremy, but to be honest I don't think there are actually that many travel bloggers making enough money to travel endlessly. Many of them are on RWT trips, skimping on costs to make their travels last a bit longer. A few (like Matt and a couple others) are having success monetizing the travel blog world and as you point out there are some serious drawbacks. I'd argue that the down side is still WAY better than being stuck in a cubical doing routine data entry. But that's just me. I've been traveling for a long time now, and I have gone through the waves of loneliness the road can bring on. But I think that was really just a factor of how I was traveling rather than just that I was traveling.

    I have learned to get paid to travel without having to depend on travel writing to sustain it. I enjoy writing, and finding angles for new stories. Travel (or rather my lifestyle) just happens to be the fodder for my creative outlet and not the reward for getting paid.

    I did the backpacking thing in my twenties. It was fun. But I didn't start writing seriously about travel until I had already been out on the road making a living for over 10 years.

    • Jeremy Head 16. Oct, 2011 at 10:11 am #

      Thanks Todd. Great insights here!
      I don't totally get what you mean with this bit though: 'I haved learned to get paid to travel without having to depend on travel writing to sustain it'. How are you paid to travel then? Do you write fiction or something? Interested to know and I bet a few other people here would be too! :-)

      • Todd @ Todd's Wanderings 16. Oct, 2011 at 1:59 pm #

        Hi Jeremy, well I started traveling before it was paying the bills. I see many would be travel writers wanting to get paid first so that they can travel. With dwindling $$$ available for travel writers on the traditional model I think many people are "living a dream" if they think they will get someone to invest in themselves if they are willing to do it first.

        For me, I started out teaching English abroad, and then moved into the world of international development and conflict resolution. This is work with NGOS, governments, the United Nations etc. I still do this work, and get paid to travel and live abroad. But I also now write for my own blog, some outside publications if it is worth my time, and am consulting on tourism and travel writing. Currently I have mixed travel writing with international development and just published a hiking guide to southern kosovo through the United Nations. They pay me to hike, bike etc and I write up pieces and get their projects publicity/tourists.

        So my blog/websites (while also earning money on their own) are also a means of creating authority to market my writing to markets not currently being serviced by the traditional travel writer. I'm not sure where this new market will take me, but at the moment it is paying for a book, and a comfortable living for my family and myself. Eventually I'll take another job somewhere else in the world and will use that opportunity to write other travel pieces, books, guides etc etc etc.

        If you have gotten this far in my comment :) here is a more detailed look at how I have paid for the past 12 years of travel: http://www.toddswanderings.com/2011/08/how-i-paid-for-12-years-of-continuous-travel.html

  5. Ekua 15. Oct, 2011 at 10:01 am #

    I think the quest for digital nomadship is often vapid, but not for the reasons mentioned here.

    First of all, I don't think travel friendships are ALL shallow. Some of them are, but some of my really good friends at home and abroad are people I spent a short time traveling with who've I've now been in touch with for a year or five years. It's all what you make of it and how well you keep in touch. Travel friendships have been one of the most fulfilling aspects of travel for me. I'm not a digital nomad, so I can't speak from that perspective, but I don't think it's right to make blanket statements about travel friendships being shallow!

    Regarding the part about getting the story versus experiencing a place... you still have some control over that. Trying to find a story is going to impact your trip once you get into travel writing but it doesn't have to overtake it if you don't want it to.

    The part about loneliness over the course of long term travel is the part of this post that I get. Even as a frequent traveler, creating a solid home base and solid friendships at that home base has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my adulthood. That's hard to do if you're constantly on the move.

    I think one of the most unsatisfying aspects of digital nomadship that wasn't touched on in this post is how it makes people slaves to "content" as opposed to down and dirty travel writing about the reality of their experiences.

    • Jeremy Head 16. Oct, 2011 at 10:16 am #

      Hi Ekua
      Thanks for comment - yes. I agree. Assume you mean writing stuff to keep sponsors/advertisers happy when you say 'content'?
      People used to ask me as a travel writer - so where do you go on holiday? I'd reply. "This cool place by the sea which is really buzzy and great for just relaxing". I was talking about my home town - Brighton. Just hanging around at home and catching up with friends. That for me was holiday!
      J

  6. Adventurous Kate 15. Oct, 2011 at 10:04 am #

    Jumping in as a digital nomad and full-time travel blogger.

    I've found that most travel bloggers I've known who make a full-time living don't travel endlessly. Yes, a few do (particularly those who make enough money to live well anywhere), but most base themselves in one place either full-time, while taking trips to different places, or for a portion of the year. In the travel blogging community alone, people do this in Chiang Mai, Medellin, Penang, Bangkok, Cuzco, Antigua, Krabi, Bali and more.

    Even back before I settled somewhere, I found genuine friendships in some of these places and was able to settle into the daily life as a member of the community. Some of these friends are still close friends of mine to this day, and I entertain the idea of living in Bangkok or Krabi for a month or two this winter.

    To be honest, I find that most of your concerns here are related to nonstop, perpetual travel -- not travel blogging or digital nomadry as a whole.

    • Jeremy Head 16. Oct, 2011 at 10:17 am #

      Thanks Kate. Fair points indeed...

  7. David Whitley 15. Oct, 2011 at 10:31 am #

    You echo my sentiments on a lot of things here. I find impossible to travel without at least one eye on selling stories/ gathering information. I've always got a notepad in the pocket, and I approach things in a different way - I always need to cram as much in as possible, rush through the museum rather than take it slowly and savour everything.

    You're spot on regarding the participant/ observer thing. When I started out, I loved going to bars and chatting to random people. But the conversation's often the same, I don't need any more random 'friends' who I've really nothing in common with and I'm someone who's happy in my own company. That ability to step back and observe is essential.

    It's not moaning about travel or the way I do it. On the whole, I still enjoy it hugely. But I can't travel constantly, the joy wears off. Short bursts works best for me, and I've learned to accept that I can't relax anywhere. It's not in my character or my job; I'm far happier coming to terms with that and living with it rather than fighting it.

  8. JohnONolan 15. Oct, 2011 at 10:41 am #

    But this wrongly assumes that "digital nomad" means "travel blogger" - when it absolutely doesn't. Many people (myself included) travel long-term and write about it, without it having anything to do with their income whatsoever!

    All digital nomad means is that you work online. Is travel blogging (or writing) the best way to do that? Of course not - but that's nothing new... it's just something that appeals to a lot of people cause they think "anyone can do it".

    • Jeremy Head 16. Oct, 2011 at 10:21 am #

      Hi John
      Thanks for commenting. Agree with you.
      I chose the term 'digital travel nomad' (rather than 'digital nomad') quite carefully in my post for that very reason.
      Thanks
      J

  9. lara dunston 15. Oct, 2011 at 10:45 am #

    Jeremy! I'm shocked, truly stunned at this post. You old cynic, you! Let me make you a martini and give you a hug.

    All I'm going to say is: 26 years with the same man, Terence, my husband, co-writer and photographer in our travel writing/life team, and travelling together for most of those years (in fact, we'd only known eachother a year when we moved to a new city to live); 13 of those years living together overseas; around the same period doing travel writing together (cause we did some travel writing before we moved 'away'); 70+ countries experienced; 50+ guidebooks written/updated; 100s (seriously, I started counting) print stories published; maybe the same amount of digital stuff (not on our site); 10s of thousands of photos shot; countless blog posts; 6 years travelling on the road continuously, living out of hotel rooms, apartments, and less often but occasionally the homes of family/friends; and 100s maybe 100s of friggin fantastic people befriended (many of them I met on my travels, some many many years ago); and I'm turning 44 next week, and we are still absolutely loving our lives as travel writers/bloggers/consultants/whatever the f*** you want to call us.

    Travel writing/travelling the world was never our dream to begin with. In fact, our first dream was filmmaking, which we did that for 12 years. Maybe that's the difference. Perhaps.

    We *do* spend some trips to places totally focused on the story, getting the interview and getting the great shots, but that's what we *do*, that's part of the experience of travel and places for us, and we absolutely love it. It doesn't mean we experience a place any more or less than an ordinary traveller doing the sights - although I could probably argue we experience it more as we're connecting with people and learning about their lives and the place on a far deeper level. We develop connections to the place that a tourist will never have.

    We don't get lonely, we don't get tired of travelling or being on the road, and we don't get tired of writing/taking photos/experiencing new places/meeting people. We love it. Although we definitely get tired in general. But, as I said, we love it.

    I think, if you, or others (Nomadic Matt, for instance) stop loving it - travel, travel writing/blogging/whatever - then obviously it's time to move on. Simple as that.

    So since when did you become an "ex-" travel writer?

    • Jeremy Head 16. Oct, 2011 at 10:26 am #

      Hi Lara
      Great comments! Feel free to buy me a martini any time.
      The difference for you is you have Terence with you on the road - working with you too - not just along for the ride. That must indeed make a huge difference. One of the things that I got a bit tired with was not having someone to share the unique experiences I was having with.
      J

  10. lara dunston 15. Oct, 2011 at 10:53 am #

    I have to ask (a general question(, if you're not 100% happy travelling/travel writing/being on the road, why are you still travelling/travel writing/blogging for a living?

    And, Kate, I'd say that for many people basing yourself somewhere other than your home (which is what we do too, and have always done) is still 'travelling' for many people, because they're still 'away' from home.

    • David Whitley 15. Oct, 2011 at 11:09 am #

      I'd not be 100% happy doing anything :) But most of the time, I'm at least 80% happy. And that'll do me...

      • lara dunston 15. Oct, 2011 at 11:14 am #

        Oh dear, really, David? Are you sure? Maybe you just haven't found the right thing? Before I returned to travel writing I was working as an academic in Dubai and Abu Dhabi for almost 8 years (though writing for part of that) and at the time I thought it was the best job in the world. I absolutely loved it - warts and all. And sometimes I think about it and it *was* an extraordinary job. But now I'm gushing and sounding like I love everything I do, but believe me I don't, I've done some really shitty jobs in my life: kitchen hand, waitress, barista before they bloody well called them baristas and tried to make the job sound better than it is, and I was probably 20% happy in those jobs. Life's too short I say.

        • Todd @ Todd's Wanderings 15. Oct, 2011 at 11:28 am #

          I 100% love what I'm doing. I have also been in Kosovo for the past 2 years and consider it both home and traveling at the same time. In a month, 2 months, or a year we will move on to the next "home base." I consider it all travel. Luckily for me I met my wife on the road, and we now have little son. Those are certainly not meaningless relationships ;)

          And Lara I have you beat. I know my wife 3 months before I moved to Sri Lanka with her and started living together :)

    • Adventurous Kate 15. Oct, 2011 at 11:31 am #

      Oh, of course basing yourself somewhere is still traveling! But when you are based somewhere, you arguably build stronger friendships, participate as a member of a community on a regular basis, and will likely have less loneliness as a result of these stronger friendships -- all while still being a full-time travel blogger. It's a great way to catch your breath and focus before hitting the road again.

      I don't think anyone is ever 100% happy anywhere, doing anything. Nothing's perfect. But I am PRETTY DAMN DELIRIOUSLY HAPPY in this lifestyle and I think that's all that matters. 98%? That's still an A+. :-)

    • Jeremy Head 16. Oct, 2011 at 10:27 am #

      In answer to your question. I'm not. I stopped doing it full time freelance for that very reason. I was getting tired of it. But the fact that I felt I was never going to make enough money to sustain a family etc. was also very important/ I think your viewpoints might change if you have kid(s)...
      BTW - I've not stopped travel writing completely - it's just not my main source of income these days. And actually I prefer editing way more now.
      Cheers!
      j

  11. Nellie 15. Oct, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    I agree with certain things you mentioned - and I can totally understand how with it feels to be travel writer who's constantly on the road researching for stories. I personally am experiencing that right now - a sort of travel-writing fatigue (not travel fatigue) where I just can't go on another press trip anymore or stay at another sponsored hotel. But that's not because I don't enjoy travel writing or traveling for that matter(in response to what Lara said) - I miss independent travel (not following a group of bloggers/journalists),traveling with my husband and traveling just for the fun of traveling (without thinking of story ideas).

    But as John mentioned, this is very different from being a digital nomad or a travel blogger.

    First off, a digital nomad might not be a travel writer or blogger - he could be a designer or accountant who makes a living online. So for a person who doesn't need to be researching for stories while on the road, the emotions he experience are probably starkly different. He could be permanently on the road, but once he's off working hours, his mind is free to roam unlike us travel writers.

    Secondly, a travel blogger might be traveling permanently for leisure i.e. they're traveling for the fun of it, paying their own way through and not specifically looking for stories. In fact, I personally enjoy reading the blogs of these people the most - because their passion for travel shines through their blogs. While these people might eventually get travel fatigue, it's not the same as travel-writing fatigue.

    • Jeremy Head 16. Oct, 2011 at 10:49 am #

      Hello Nellie
      Thanks for commenting!
      As I said to John above I chose the term 'digital travel nomad' for this very reason.

      I agree with you about enjoying reading those posts written by people less worried about monetization. Sometimes they really capture things. Indeed that for me is what's brilliant about blogs. That more personal take on stuff. Nomadic Chick's post which sparked me to write this one is a nice example of something heartfelt and honest and I love that.
      I do feel just generally that the moment you try and earn income from something creative that you do it gets harder to be really true to yourself.
      Cheers
      J

      • JohnONolan 19. Oct, 2011 at 8:13 am #

        I do feel just generally that the moment you try and earn income from something creative that you do it gets harder to be really true to yourself.

        Tell that to every designer, photographer, writer and musician in the world...

  12. Tim Richards 15. Oct, 2011 at 11:59 am #

    I'm with David, I don't feel the need to declare myself 100% happy with my travel writing job. When people say "That must be fun," I often reply "Wrong adjective. Stimulating, rewarding, challenging, yes. But not necessarily fun." To do this job full time requires a lot of hard work, including the odd bit of drudgery. But it absolutely suits my personality type - analytical, slightly obsessive, fascinated by new places and people - so I find it fulfilling. IMO "happy" is a fairly meaningless word and people spend too much time fretting over achieving it - I'd much rather feel stimulated and rewarded by my work.

    As for constant travel: it may work for some, but for me what makes travel special is my grounding in my home in Melbourne, a city I love deeply and am always delighted to return to. It keeps me anchored, connected to the "real world", and provides a yardstick by which to measure the differences of the places I visit. To me, life needs anchor points as well as the excitement of the new, to fully give travel its savour.

  13. Andy Jarosz 15. Oct, 2011 at 5:35 pm #

    Never been attracted to the nomadic lifestyle myself; I've always liked the thought of having a home to come back to, a pile of mail (bills) to open and a 'normal life' to which I can return. These form an essential part of what I enjoy so much about the whole experience of travelling.

    I travelled enough for work in a previous job to learn that fancy hotels and exotic locations held little attraction when I was there without my wife and with a job to do. I do respect those who chase their dreams by travelling constantly in the hope of making a few bucks above and beyond their living costs. But the answer to the question you pose, at least for me, is a firm no.

    (I think I'm around 90% happy although I don't really know what I should be measuring, let alone how to measure it)

  14. Nomadic Matt 15. Oct, 2011 at 7:15 pm #

    I am quoted totally out of context here. I love my job and what I do. Is it like when i was a carefree backpacker living off my savings? No. Not at all. I do have responsibilities. But that doesn't mean what I do isn't totally awesome.

    • Jeremy Head 16. Oct, 2011 at 10:33 am #

      Hi Matt
      I don't think I'm quoting you out of context. But thanks for letting me know.
      The rest of your blog certainly makes it clear you love what you do. I thought it was really good though that you were straight up enough to admit that sometimes it's quite hard work too. Exactly the point I am trying to make really. That post I link to on your blog is great.
      Cheers
      Jeremy

  15. Christine Gilbert 16. Oct, 2011 at 9:02 am #

    Is this horse dead yet?

    • Jeremy Head 16. Oct, 2011 at 10:40 am #

      Hi Christine
      Clearly not. Plenty of comments here suggest there is life in the old horse yet.
      But you don't have to participate if you feel it offers nothing new for you. That's what's great about the web isn't it?
      I wrote this post because I got tired of a similar old horse - all the posts I kept reading about 'How to be a travel blogger and make money whilst travelling' - which fail to mention - it takes real commitment; for most (a few exceptions aside maybe) it doesn't earn that much money; it has its downsides as a lifestyle too.
      Best wishes
      Jeremy

      • Christine Gilbert 16. Oct, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

        Links? I'd like to see these blogs that fail to mention downsides.

        • Jeremy Head 16. Oct, 2011 at 8:16 pm #

          Hi Christine
          Clearly you don't agree with my perspective on this. That's fine by me. :-)
          I was polite enough to try and answer your one sentence comment earlier with a bit of detail. If you don't agree with me, how about writing a decent comment and quoting a few examples of your own first?
          Thanks
          Jeremy

          • Christine Gilbert 17. Oct, 2011 at 8:57 am #

            The point is it's a straw man argument. You take an exaggerated, over simplified version of what people are saying and then you refute it.

            If you are personally questioning what you want from your life, why bring travel bloggers into it? Really I don't think wanting better friendships, having a desire to travel without having to work and avoiding loneliness has anything to do with making money online. I think you can have all those same problems in any career -- and especially ones where you work alone -- like being a writer.

            I don't have the same problems that you have with digital nomading -- my problems are different ones: how to negotiate travel with a spouse, how to travel with a small child, how to balance being a mom and being a writer. Yet I don't write posts blaming my problems on everyone else for not "warning" me that it would be hard.

            Yet, I still feel like we had this conversation back in 2009. Meanwhile, people are traveling, working online, finding ways to make it work. So what?

          • Jeremy Head 17. Oct, 2011 at 10:13 am #

            Hi Christine
            I think what's changed since 2009 - and I'll admit I was not specific about this in the post - is that people are trying to monetize the travel blogging community with conferences, blogs about the business of travel blogging etc. I don't feel totally comfortable with this. Maybe it's just fine. I don't know. This is quite UK-specific by the way. Highly likely the US has been through this cycle already and thus for you it probably does feel old.
            Do you really think this post is about me blaming my problems on people? I just don't see that. I just read a post written by someone else on the road - whom I like and rate by the way - that discussed some of these problems and I wanted to enlarge upon this theme using some examples from my own experience.
            Jeremy

  16. Mike @ Travelllll.com 16. Oct, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

    Thanks for being so frank, Jeremy....

    I have to echo Lara's point here: if you're feeling a strong negative reaction to what you're doing, do something different because that's what your heart is telling you already. The people who stick at long-term travel do so despite things sucking for them at times, because their heart says "this is what I want to do".

    The people who make a living espousing travel blogging as a lifestyle aren't guaranteeing it's for everyone, and they're also not claiming the way they've done things will work for everyone else. They're just explaining that it *has* worked, for them, so it might work for others. So I'm starting to get twitchy when I see any hint of backlash. There is no set way to travel, or make a living as a travel writer or travel blogger. It's all pick'n'mix. It's all cobbled together, differently for everyone. And as a living, it's self-employment, and that's always been harder than working for someone else, and usually much more fulfilling in the long run. I've yet to see a travel blogger that didn't make it clear that travel is hard. It really is. It's hard to put the pieces together to do it, and it's hard doing it, on the finances, on the body and on the soul. That's the reality, and it's on the wall for everyone to see. There's no sleight of hand going on here. It's clearly hard, and it requires continual adjustment, reassessment, renewal, change. That's clearly the hardest thing of all. As you travel, you change, so what you are doing needs to change as well. Otherwise you end up hating it.

    >>"I do feel just generally that the moment you try and earn income from something creative that you do it gets harder to be really true to yourself."

    You don't feel that trying to make a living from being creative is being truer to yourself? I'm a bit baffled by that, I'll admit...

    • Jeremy Head 16. Oct, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

      Hi Mike
      Some good points here thanks. I've already explained where I'm at personally in earlier responses to comments so won't do that again.
      I'm not suggesting sleight of hand. I'm just telling it like it is (in my opinion which is possibly different from yours) because I feel that too often the content written about travel blogging as an income source and lifestyle is all about the positives (of which there are indeed plenty) and not enough about the negatives.
      I stand by that previous comment too. The best content I've written has almost always been when I've not felt any financial imperative or pressure. That's a different blog post for sometime.
      Cheers
      Jeremy

  17. Hal Peat 16. Oct, 2011 at 4:29 pm #

    Wow, why am I not surprised? You created this blog only in the past 48 hours and kaboom, aside from one or two insightful posts by Toddswanderings and Lara Dunston, that provide an actual context to the past that led them into their present involvement with travel writing, you also immediately attracted the Usual Suspects out to self-justify having left behind their boring life in a flyover state for backpacking, blog-packing or whatever. And the huge huge personal sacrifices that make them a BackPacking Saint with 50,000 twitter followers, and why certain PR should pay their first-class ticket round the globe. Oh, and how you, Jeremy, should really blog more and you could be making $1,000 a month on your site easily. Oops, but you already had that unfortunate conversation with that person(s) who are back here again to berate you further.

    But you know what? You look at an image of a child dying of starvation in a Somali or Kenyan refugee camp, then you juxtapose that with someone whining about their "sacrifices" in giving up a day job and being in their boring state, and then you understand what Mike Barish addressed more directly some time ago on Gadling about the arrogance and ignorance of travel blogging by some.

  18. LIssie - from Travel Tips 17. Oct, 2011 at 8:36 am #

    OUCH - you ruffled some feathers :-) Look I've had crap days travelling, but never as crap as the days I had working in the cubicle! That said I did my long-term long-haul backpacking long before the Internet had been invented, or blogs for that matter.

    If there had been travel blogging around in the 80's would I have tried it? Probably, probably failed at it to, because I wasn't ready to know that it was all about the advertising and what the advertisers wanted - rather than what I wanted to write about.

    But really are travel bloggers any worse than your average weekend travel supplement in your local paper - that's all advertorials these days, giving the distinct impression that travel is a range of 5-star luxury experiences and nothing else.

    Given the choice between writing sponsored posts for airport hire companies, or going on an all expenses paid 5-star resort weekend retreat - I think I might take the later!

    But either way, yes its a job - and a pretty darn good one to.

  19. Emma Field 17. Oct, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    Hi Jeremy, you've provoked quite a lively discussion!

    I have to say, I'm with you. Life as an on-the-road travel writer and blogger exhausted me. I missed my friends and family - 'proper' relationships built up over years with no more effort required. I was sick of the same old conversations - I still get the willies if I feel anyone is about to ask me where I've been and how long for! When I found that I wasn't looking forward to the next once-in-a-lifetime experience I knew it was time to stop.

    Fortunately, I really do think you can carry that traveller attitude with you through life, being interested in people, delighting in small changes and local events for example. If you can be a traveller and spend time in one place, as argued above, then you can live in your home country and take time to see it through the eyes of a traveller.

    In response to Todd's comment that "the down side [of being a digital travel nomad] is still WAY better than being stuck in a cubical doing routine data entry" I have to say that career choices don't have to be that extreme! I've now got a job as a travel editor and I love it. There's travel involved, I get to go home to my own space and I can do what I like during my holidays.

    Now, if this was a debate about being your own boss...

  20. Roly 17. Oct, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    To a certain extent Jeremy I agree with your comments and with the others that people have written. However, at the same time I do get annoyed that the people who say these things are people who have had a good run of it, having spent 10 years+ at this it can't have been that bad!! I've written off to numerous travel writers of "experience" in the hope of getting some straight forward advice. As someone who is trying to break into this area all I seem to get back is lame stuff like... "be yourself" very painful to such an extent I think i'm getting advice on how to be a contestant on X Factor! I've recently thought about this line as a career or at the very least as a side line to what I love to do - ultimately Travel. Having worked in some pretty crappy jobs in windowless environments I think you have forgotten how lucky you are. You can't tell me the upsides don't massively out weigh the downsides?
    The friends i've made are just that friends, experiences I will remember with that country. If I don't want to talk to anyone then its a pretty big place to find yourself some space! As for writing to a point that you lose the enjoyment of being on the trip then maybe you have had your time you are in your own words a "full time travel writer" the grass isn't always greener think how lucky you are that you can do it full time where us mere mortals still struggle on trying to get to where you are but at least we seem to do it with a smile on our faces! This is in no ways a rant just as I said at the start people who have made it if you are not happy find something else!?

    Cheers
    Roly

    • Jeremy Head 28. Oct, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

      Hi Roly
      I'm not saying the upsides don't outweigh the downsides... I'm just saying that the upsides aren't perhaps quite as great as many people seem to think.
      Happy to answer any questions you have. Drop me an email: jeremyhead[at]hotmail[dot]com
      Cheers and thanks for commenting
      Jeremy

  21. Ryan C Haynes 19. Oct, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    Really interesting conversation on the back of the blog - it's great to hear passion for travel from those immersed in it. Also to know what I am letting myself into more and more (4 years in now and I get deeper involved in writing and video making).

    Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts - it sounds like I will need to make sure I have a good work-life balance and make sure I travel without my camera. Though next year I am planning to kill my body in Thailand on a MovNat course (so no chance of carrying a note pad or camera then)!

  22. Pam 29. Oct, 2011 at 3:06 pm #

    I'm late to this, but I gotta say... HELL yes, it's THAT great. I'm in a very nice hotel room watching the sun rise over the Columbia Gorge. Last night I had dinner at a generous seafood buffet, and today, I'm going to spend taking pictures in bad weather, something that's kind of challenging, but I enjoy it. Earlier this year I boarded a ship for Antarctica, and in September, I crossed Tanzania. It. Was. Amazing.

    BUT let's be clear about something. I have another line of work. I don't travel full time. I'm not living as a "digital nomad" or "location independent." I have a mortgage to pay and shocking health insurance costs because I'm not 20, I'm not even 30 anymore. I do my travel bloggy adventures in bites, sometimes big chewy bites that take me far away from my husband (who, BTW, is NOT a patron spouse, in case you want to pigeonhole me into that slot) for weeks at a time. I also steer FAR clear of any process that tells me I can "make it as a travelblogger" because I don't trust them.

    ALL that aside, I think you can take the "blogging" portion out of this and just approach the idea of long term travel as something that's tough and often lonely.

    I got to hear Andrew McCarthy speak about what it's like for him to travel alone and work as a writer. And I laughed when he said something like "I hate everyone I meet, and then, over time, I warm up to them." That's not truly a fair recap, but you get the sentiment.I understand feeling like that, "Oh, god, more strangers." I have honestly never been bored with my travels, though I do long for still and quiet places sometimes, and to have coffee with my husband in our kitchen in Seattle. But if you do not love the road and love the work, good lord, why would you do it? I LOVE it, and I love the writing maybe even more, if that's possible.

    Rambling. Will stop now.

    • Jeremy Head 30. Oct, 2011 at 8:57 am #

      Hi Pam
      You came late... But great comment. :-)
      Thank you. I don't for a moment want people to think I don't find similar joy in travelling and writing. I do want people considering doing it full time to understand that like most things it has downsides as well as upsides!
      Cheers!
      J

  23. Francisca 09. Nov, 2011 at 5:46 am #

    Hello, Jeremy.

    I am late to this post, but wanted to let you know I appreciate your point of view, as well the various thoughtful reactions it has received. Can't ague with the general sentiment that it is best to follow one's bliss, whatever that may be.

    The point I want to contribute (that few of the other comments have addressed) is about "blog posts selling the dream": aren't these bloggers earning more from their internet marketing (IM) of the "how to" rather than from actual travel writing? The "industry" of IM has exploded in the past decade and many are successfully tapping into people's desires and needs.

    No doubt there are talented people (like you, Lara and Todd) successful in the travel writing field, and each has found a unique way to profit from it. But there are thousands more who lack the talent, skill and drive who are eager to part with their money wanting [desperate?] to believe the fantasy that these is an easy way to earn a living. Often these people don't really even know what their bliss is. (I've met countless people who dream about traveling yet make even poor tourists; if I hear one more story about a dirty WC I will gag.)

    And so I heartily support your question: Do you understand the reality of what you're actually taking on?

  24. Molly 16. Nov, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    Late reply... just got this site passed on to me.

    Think much of this is spot on for many folks. Personally I've had some of my best 'travel experiences/relationships' when we've stayed put somewhere... stopped the non-stop journeying for awhile. Makes sense like much of what Jeremy writes... being on the move is a form of distancing yourself from much of what 'normal' life is like - at least for me. I become more connected (to others, a place) when I take myself out of the observer/travel writer mode and into being a local resident mode.

    I love both, and we do both. Works for us - myself plus son and beloved four-legged buddies. Molly

  25. Molly 17. Nov, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

    Late reply... just got this site passed on to me. Think much of this is spot on for many folks.

    Personally I've had some of my best 'travel experiences/relationships' when we've stayed put somewhere... stopped the non-stop journeying for awhile.

    Makes sense like much of what Jeremy writes... being on the move is a form of distancing yourself from much of what 'normal' life is like - at least for me. I become more connected (to others, a place) when I take myself out of the observer/travel writer mode and into being a local resident mode.

    I love both, and we do both. It's crap at times, we are broke at times... but it works for us at the moment - myself plus son and beloved four-legged buddies. Molly

  26. Christine 06. Dec, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

    Can obviously relate to much of this--particularly travel losing its luster when it's for work, not fun. Thanks for sharing!

  27. Jill 09. Dec, 2011 at 4:41 am #

    I think this article is realistic and what scares me about long term travel. I hate to leave behind a close network of people and familiarity for the unknown only to get burned and feel more lonely than when I set out. That shouldn't be a reason to keep me from traveling, but it is. I wish I had a companion to go with to keep me company, but it's hard to find a like-minded individual to travel with.

    Since getting involved in the travel writing community, I've read just as many articles praising the travel lifestyle as those condemning it, or killing the fantasy so to speak. I've essentially gotten it out of my head that I'm going to be able to rely on and make a living out of sponsored blog posts. I do think though that having a job in the travel industry (currently vying for an airline job) could help realistically supplement a traveling lifestyle. I'm hoping that by earning a decent wage and being able to fly and see new cities for free I will be able to write in my blog for fun/pitch occasionally/take a press trip now and then.

  28. Vanessa 11. Dec, 2011 at 11:51 pm #

    I guess reasons like this are part of the reason I don't want to become a "proper" digital nomad/travel writer. I like having a house, a dog, and all that. But I also love to travel, I travelled a lot as a kid, so I'm never getting away without wanting more. My goal, which is very slowly but surely being worked towards, is to work for myself at home, freeing me up to travel as I want to plan.

  29. Financial Samurai 09. Jan, 2012 at 12:27 am #

    At least Americans are traveling more! I'm always shocked how untraveled many Americans are.

    Americans might even learn a 2nd language well. It would be great for the world!

    Sam

  30. Anthonee 15. Jan, 2012 at 7:19 pm #

    This whole post along with peoples comments is intriguing and makes alot of sense. I wanna blog, i wanna travel, i wanna earn while i travel and I wanna live the dream. But, I dont want my view to be through a lense.

    I travel for experience and the thought of travelling purposely for my next post or article seems like it would take the magic away from travel after a awhile.

    The thing is... how else do i travel and earn? This is the question I am pondering!

    Anyway, informative and insightful blog. Thank you.

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