Sometimes travel blogging can be a pretty isolating career. I know that sounds strange since I come in contact with so many people and places everyday when I’m traveling – but a life of constant travel also leaves me a little out of touch with real life too.
One of the hardest things about running a travel blog is trying to figure out what is going to resonate with readers. The goal of course is to find things I love to do and write about them and hopefully those topics also resonate with readers – yet sometimes I find that I’m hit or miss in that department.
One thing that I noticed over the last 2 years is that my returning readership and interaction had been declining. Are you bored with my blog, are you just too busy with other things, are you no longer into travel, am I too predictable? Am I too old and boring to blog? These are all the things that ran through my head.
It’s hard not to take the decline as rejection. However deep down I think my writing, travels, photography, and experiences are getting SO MUCH BETTER as time goes by, but yet I’m losing readers over time. My travel tastes and styles have changed over time, and I’m guessing so have my readers. But I don’t really know so I decided to ask you. It had been 4 years since I had conducted a reader survey, so it was a good time to reach out and do another.
Ottsworld Survey Results
I had more people provide feedback than what I had expected, so that was a nice boost. I learned that out of my regular readership, 73% of you are independent travelers; you’d prefer to plan your own trip than take a tour. That’s great because even though I do take tours, my favorite way to travel is still independently.
I also found that the 49% of the people in the survey took a trip based on something I wrote.
That’s the best news of all for me since that’s really my overall goal of blogging – to get people to get out and explore different parts of the world that I was able to introduce them to. Mission accomplished!
The rest of the results were really interesting to me and I found that maybe the decline in regular readers wasn’t me and my writing, but instead it’s just people’s busy schedules. I had a ton of great feedback and comments. In fact I had so many comments I decided to take a few of them and address/answer some of them here on the blog to give you more honest insight of what it’s like behind the scenes to run a blog.
Behind the Scenes of Travel Blogging Through Reader Comments
Q: What would you like to see more or less of?
“You have great insights on “on-the-cheap” options, but it would be convenient to see a separate category for that when you can, especially when you’re showcasing one of your expensive paid tour trips to a cool place.”
A: I love this idea! Going forward I will try to incorporate this in one of my information boxes I normally put at the end of a post on how to recreate a trip.
“Some shorter stories would be great. I don’t always have time to read pages.”
A: Ok, will try to do some shorter ones too! I know that I can get quite long at times!
“Sometimes it’s confusing when you post places you visited in the past when you are currently somewhere else!”
A: Yes, I’m sure it is, but as my travels and work has increased, I haven’t been able to physically keep up with real time travels on the blog – it’s just impossible unless I choose not to sleep, and quite frankly the writing would be shit if I forced out stories that quickly. However, I do have a solution for you – if you want to follow my real-time travels then I share them on my Instagram Stories and on my Facebook account! And quite frankly, the stuff I share on Instagram Stories and Facebook is way more fun and unedited than the stuff I put on my blog – so you really do get some insight into the day to day of a trip that way!
How to follow Instagram Stories
See my post on how to view Instagram Stories!
“I don’t like seeing blogs that are out of season such as posting Maine in April when the photos were definitely summer in Maine. I know your blog is not where you are at the moment but I like it to be close or put the dates on the blog.”
A: Many times I travel to a place in the shoulder season – and if it’s at the end of the should season then I do typically hold the content until it’s more relevant. That way I feel like I’m putting it out when people would be looking for that information. For example – the Maine summer things to do on the water would have come out in October if I would’ve kept to my regular schedule, instead I saved it for when people were likely planning their Maine summer vacations. I do understand that it can be confusing though when my blog isn’t in real time.
“More suggested itineraries. I might like more specifics on how to do your particular trip.”
A: I do try to add this information on how to recreate one of my trips whenever I can. After all, it’s my goal to get my readers out traveling! It’s normally found at the end of a post in a little pink box of info about where I stayed or what companies I used. I will try to add more specifics though as I’m not always good at that! I’m trying to be more consistent with it – but my old articles definitely don’t have that info!
“Less adventure travel details.”
A: This sort of made me laugh…I know it wasn’t intentionally humorous – but adventure is what I do, it’s what I love, and it’s the way I travel. So I doubt I’ll be able to fulfill that request!
“Yes – I know the tours ‘host’ you, but, I often feel I have to filter out the ‘salesman pitch’ to get what I need. Your recent Alaska train trip is a good example. It made me want to ride the train BUT I felt you were only there yourself because you were hosted. I am a mere mortal so I have to pay for all my pleasures and have to make choices of what is a good place based on real world. The worst (best) example of the pitchman trip you did was Antarctica. You were on a trip that few of your readers could afford. On the other hand, on my most recent trip I switched to Sony from Nikon because of comments you offered.”
A: Yes, many of my travels are hosted. Sadly if I had to pay for all of my travels I wouldn’t be able to make a living blogging. However I think it’s important to realize that I choose the places and things I do based on my interests and THEN I contact the tourism departments. For the Hurricane Turn train article that was mentioned – I actually learned about the Hurricane Turn train on my previous trip to Alaska and thought it sounded so incredibly cool that the next time I was in Alaska I was sure to do it as I really wanted to write about it as a local way to travel. The Alaska Railroad hosted me on it and they were thrilled to have me – but I had the initial interest.
I get asked to do big ship cruises all the time, but I say no to them because it’s not something I’m interested in covering, it’s just not my style of travel and I know I’d be miserable and don’t want to write about it. I tell you this because I don’t just take everything that is thrown at me. It’s important to me to pursue travels that really interests me and things I think I will enjoy. Having to write about something I didn’t like is no fun, so I try to avoid it at all costs!
Also – regarding the cost of trips – I do understand that not everyone can afford a trip to Antarctica or the Canadian Arctic, however there are some readers who can and I’ve had readers who actually booked trips to Antarctica. So I know I’ll never please everyone’s budget or taste – but I try to have a variety (budget, location, adventures) within the things that I like to do.
Q: Anything you love or want less or more of?
“Love the live updates on your trips. Costa Brava hiking was a favorite. Also like gear reviews.”
A: I’m trying to do more gear reviews – so if there’s something specific you want to hear about, let me know! I’m also trying to do more live updates – however I’m normally hindered by my connection. I can’t tell you how many times I thought I had a good connection, started the live broadcast and then it says the connection isn’t good enough. I love doing stuff live – so I hope to do more!
“Occasionally I must confess I would have liked more info. I greatly appreciate the stresses & constraints which might have made that impossible when travelling fulltime, though!”
A: Yes, the process of balancing actually traveling with creating 2 blogposts a week is a challenge, and it’s become more and more difficult over the last 5 years as more social media is required and more people get their ‘news’ off of social media. I’m actually trying to do some more posts like this one you are reading and provide a ‘Travel Blogging behind the scenes’ posts so people can actually see what it’s like to try to capture everything.
It takes me a minimum of 8 hours to create a blog posts these days. It includes research, writing, editing photos, formatting the story so it looks ‘pretty’, keyword research so it can be ‘found in your Google search results’, creating all of the social media messages and images, and then actually sharing it in social media. Many days I wish it were as simple as when I started in 2006 – write, add a few pics, and post. But audiences have come to expect more than that now from blogs, and there’s lots of competition now! I try to add as much information as I can, but sometimes it does have to do with time restraints on the road.
“Love the Niece Projects – inspired me to do the same!”
A: Great to hear – it certainly seems like my most popular type of travel that I do. I have one more niece left to take on her trip and we’ll go the summer of 2018! AND – if you’ve done a Niece Project trip, and feel like sharing it, I do accept guest posts about Niece/Nephew project trips so just email me for more info on how to submit!
“It is actually my favorite travel blog because she is so “normal” adult. She doesn’t get political, doesn’t write about hook-ups or getting wasted, and she isn’t filling my feed with selfies in a bikini. She is like a Web focused Rick Steves, that’s a good thing.”
A: Ha! Kill me if I ever do a bikini selfie. No one needs to see that!
“In reading your blog I wonder sometimes if you are tired of all the travel and maybe a bit lonely… at least that is what comes through to me. I would suggest a little less sharing sometimes.”
A: Yes – I definitely get tired of moving all the time a life of constant travel isn’t always great. Absolutely I get lonely. But that’s also why I decided to finally settle down and leave the nomadic lifestyle and get a home base after 10 years.
As for sharing less – I actually hold a lot back already! And weirdly people are always asking me to share more – which I think is strange. The posts that I do that are more personal are always get the highest engagement. I personally think that people usually like hearing more personal things as it makes them feel like then can connect to someone and less alone in the world. Because quite frankly, I think we all go through the same struggles, and it’s always nice to hear about other people who have gone through similar ‘tough time’ as you do.
“I would like the opportunity to travel with you. Maybe you could do small trips with just a few people?”
A: Hell no! ☺ I have had a lot of people ask if I would lead trips, but I’m just not the person to do it. I know my limitations. There’s a reason why I never had kids or a husband – I’m not good at taking care of people. Hell – I even gave up my cat ! I really suck at taking care of people – I can’t stress this enough! I’ll leave the customer service stuff to others who do it well – like Intrepid or Adventure Life!
“Would love to see updates on tech travel gear/gadgets. The info changes so rapidly hard to keep up.”
A: Here’s the thing – I use very few tech gadgets when I travel. I honestly don’t think they are necessary. My most used item is Google maps. I should probably write a post on how I use all of the aspects of Google maps and free apps to travel. I use Google for directions/public transportation, finding restaurants, opening times, reviews, and I make my own maps to know where I’m going. Google Now even provides me all of my flights and delays – no need for extra apps and subscriptions like Trip It.
I will try to do better about doing reviews of what I use, but I’ll only review the things I really use!
“I think when you post blog entries about previous trips, it doesn’t keep it fresh. More entries about future travel plans, thoughts, strategies would be much more personal about you, which is a hallmark of Ottsworld. Also, I can’t tell if your website/facebook/instagram/twitter profile is strategic, planned, random, etc. and it feels like I need instructions from you on which I should go to when.”
A: Sometimes I purposefully hold off writing about a place until the correct season where people may be more interested in it – but it does mean that the blog post content is not always ‘real time’. That’s what I use my social accounts for – real time travel updates normally. The best social platform to go to for fresh/real-time content is definitely Facebook or Instagram Stories.
“I love your work. As a solo female traveler, I am looking for more info on how to travel alone, where to go and not go.”
A: I don’t like to tell people not to go places because you are a solo traveler – I think you should be able to go anywhere (within reason – no war-torn areas or N. Korea please!) Fear holds us back from so many things – and I want to abolish fear in my life. So my answer would be go anywhere – just be smart about it. My best tips for solo travel are:
- Make sure people know where you are going and when you’ll be back. Even if this means telling a hotel manager, hostel manager, Airbnb hosts, or emailing a friend at home.
- Don’t show a lot of skin. Look at the locals around you and see how they dress then follow their lead. Don’t call unwanted attention to yourself!
- Don’t drink a lot. When I travel solo I actually drink very little as I want to keep my head straight and aware.
- Take small group tours solo. I have written about this a number of times, if there’s a country that I’m concerned about traveling solo in, then I book an Intrepid trip or use Stride Travel website to find small group tours for a destination. It’s a great way to travel solo but never be alone!
- Finally – register with the State Department’s STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) program.
“I respond to narrative. The travel blog space is SO saturated with how-tos that I personally feel overwhelmed. Everyone is talking about where to go, what to see, what they ate. So unless you’re going there or thinking about going there, it’s irrelevant (which might explain the low repeat visitors). You’ve been doing this a long time; you have a perspective most bloggers don’t. I want to know YOUR story and how you live this lifestyle. More of a ‘day in the life’ kind of thing. I remember reading a very honest post from you about love and relationships that thought it was great. As someone who is over 40 and single and loves to travel, that’s what I remember :-)”
A: These days I’ve learned that a blog has to be/cover many things to be successful. I used to just write narrative stories when I started out, however only narrative stories really don’t work when trying to make a living blogging. Now I try to take a destination and create posts with more variety; informative/how-to, some long form narrative, some that will do well in search engines, and some that are just plain personal. I do hold back on the personal stuff normally until I feel like I have something to say or have worked through the issue. I guess I just don’t want it to turn into a group therapy session – so I guard it until I’ve sort of figured it out myself. I’ve tried to share more recently on social media (specifically Facebook) on the day-to-day of what it was like to move into a home again. But I still struggle with spilling my guts out on a blog post!
“More U.S. / Canada destinations, please!”
“More travel to Asia & Europe.”
A: Ahhh – I can’t win…☺
“I have always liked your travel website, but it is feeling more commercial lately, like travel advertising. I enjoyed your articles about your long hikes and driving around Ireland by yourself. People want to connect with you in your travel adventures. That is happening less because the travel feels different now and feels less like travel I can connect with. Your photos are the best I have seen and I love your photo tips. You also have a great smile, and your selfies are fun–not too posed like other travel bloggers.”
A: I appreciate the honesty of my readers, and I too try to be really honest. What that feedback is describing is the struggle that is blogging. Trying to find that sweet spot of authentic connections and also making a living doing this. The only reason why I was able to make a ‘living’ at blogging up to this point was because my trips were hosted. I could have never paid for all of the travel I did on my own and broke even – I would have blown through all of my savings! So I understand why it may feel like travel advertising at times. I’m just not real sure what to do about it yet. As I mentioned in an above answer – I do not just take any old trip that people are sending me on; I choose the destinations I want to go to and then work on the sponsorship side.
I am also trying a few new things to bring in more passive income so that I don’t have to always do hosted trips. Having a home base now allows me to have the time to try some of these things. So hopefully you’ll stick with me and see how it all evolves!
Thanks to all who responded and gave me feedback on my recent survey! I wouldn’t be here without all of you and I appreciate it every time someone comes and visits my site and reads a story I write. I really feel amazed that anyone reads in such a busy world – so I savor every reader – I really do!
I know I don’t do everything right all the time – but no one does. I’m learning every day and I think as long as I keep an open mind about learning and getting feedback, I’m on the right track.
And if you have any further feedback you want to provide – please do so in the comments below and I’ll respond!
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