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How do I afford to travel so much?
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The question I get asked most is “How can you afford to travel so much?”
No, I don’t have rich parents transferring me money.
My full-time job back in Australia was paying me about $30k less than the average income.
And I actually have a mortgage!
I’ll be honest, I’m good with money but savings don’t last forever.
As you can tell from this website, I write and I take photos. I don’t do this just because I love it, I also do it to support myself.
Now if you’re thinking “But I’m not a good writer.” "I don't know how to travel blog!" or “I don’t have the money to buy good camera equipment.” please don’t let that stop you as it didn’t stop me.
English was my least favourite subject in school and I was terrible at it. I even found a loophole so I wouldn’t have to take the compulsory subject in my last year of study.
I also only picked up a DSLR a couple of years ago for the first time and still use that same camera today.
When I first started I had no photography skills, no editing skills, was an unconfident writer with no voice, didn’t know a thing about marketing, and the highest education I had was a Diploma in Event Planning and Styling… not exactly related to travel blogging.
But here I am today… writing this article in a small café in Cannon Beach, Oregon. It’s a Saturday but that doesn’t mean anything to me. All that matters is that it’s raining outside so I can sit inside and work and not feel guilty or depressed about it.
I don’t even feel bad that I didn’t get to see the famous view from Ecola State Park today because I always have tomorrow. I’m not on a 2-week holiday rushing to see everything and praying for good weather. I’m in no rush.
"Do you actually make money?"
You see the glamorous lives of Instagrammers and travel bloggers getting paid to travel, receiving free trips and free products… essentially earning celebrity status and living the high life.
While there are certainly these ups I need to be honest with you and let you know it’s not all a highlight reel. This is a long-term plan that requires a lot of work to learn how to travel blog. You also need to upskill in so many areas including marketing, psychology, writing, photography, editing and finance, just to name a few.
I began Where Is Sarah when I was working full time. Every night I would come home exhausted from a physically and mentally draining day to work for hours making this dream come true.
Through Instagram and the blog I’ve made thousands of dollars and have received just as much value in complementary products and services. What I love most about this job is having the freedom to work when I want and be location independent. That’s my priority in life.
And while I’m not making a 6 figure income like a lot of the top bloggers boast, I do have faith that it will happen. Like it said, it’s a long-term game and I’m still new.
"How did you begin?"
I began with Instagram, and I have @fitbackpacker to thank for that. She introduced me to the world of sponsored posts.
At first I thought it would be easy, you post a photo a day, write something interesting and engage with a few people. But being an Instagram influencer is a whole other world.
You need to be skilled in strategic hashtagging, writing engaging captions, creating a content strategy, building a brand and creating your voice. Above all that it’s essential to spend time engaging with followers and potential followers; building relationships and connections. Don’t even get me started on the ever-changing algorithm!
I recently met an Instagrammer who built her audience from 100 to over 100,000 in a year by spending 6 hours a day on Instagram, but she hasn’t worked out how to make money from her account! I was making AUD$75 per sponsored post at 3,000 followers. So don’t let these big accounts intimidate you.
Yes, you have a chance at this!
After a few months on the ‘gram I decided it wasn’t enough. I didn’t want to spam my followers with sponsored posts and realised my dream would be up sh*t creek if they closed my account or shut the platform down. Everything I built would have been for nothing.
So I decided to build a blog to coincide with my Instagram page. I would have more freedom in the content I could publish, more control over the platform and have more leverage when working with companies.
The one mistake I made when I was beginning to learn how to travel blog was that I didn’t want to invest in any learning. I believed I could work it out myself. I imagined blogging like I first imagined Instagram… writing a few words and taking a few photos.
With every aspect I learnt, I discovered another… SEO, plug-ins, pitching, image attributes, content creation, analytics, backlinking, affiliate marketing… the list just went on and on. The more I got into it I slowly realised I had been learning in the wrong order.
It was like trying to put together a 1000 piece puzzle without knowing how a puzzle worked.
So much time and energy was wasted because I wanted to keep the dollars in my pocket. When I think about how many hours I spent on researching these things compared to the cost of a course, it really makes no sense why I did it that way.
Blogging is just like any other business. You can’t open a café without learning how to make a good cup of coffee first. You can probably work it out yourself but no one’s going to come because your coffee will probably taste like dirt.
"So is travel blogging worth the effort?"
For me the answer is yes. I’m not trying to be a millionaire. I want to be rich in travel and experiences, rich in meeting new people and hearing their stories. I want to inspire others to live their best life, whether I meet them in person or online. I’m not doing this to become famous. Honestly, I don’t even like my face, it’s incredibly wonky haha.
That’s not the point though. The point is I know how easily life can slip away from us, especially when we get caught in a routine. I’ve been stuck in bad relationships, bad jobs and bad living situations for too long and I refuse to live that life any longer.
A lot of people give up when they realise how much work there is and that it’s not all glamorous. But I’m as stubborn as a mule and determined to make this work. I’m willing to work hard to make my dreams come true. And If I haven’t scared you off just yet, I’m guessing you are too.
The reason I became a travel blogger was to get the perks while helping others. But free travel and products don’t pay the bills or put food on the table. You need to actually make money from it. I’ve stayed in a 5-star hotel while cooking the cheapest meal I could… there’s a big difference between getting paid for work and sponsored travel.
Look guys, this is no easy feat. There’s a lot of work you do for little return (especially in the beginning) and sometimes you work with the intention of getting paid and a company will deny you (hello pitching for Instagram paid posts).
It’s like any business, the most successful businesses didn’t just pop up overnight. Though it may seem like some did, there’s always a long-winded story behind it, along with most likely, plenty of failure stories before being successful.
A little fun fact (that’s not so fun) is that in Australia, one in three new small businesses fail in the first year of operation. I don’t want that to happen to me or you.
"Okay, so what’s the next step?"
If you’re still reading you’re obviously interested but where to start?
Seriously, get some skills! I can’t emphasise this enough.
“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can never live long enough to make them all yourself” – John Luther
There are sooo many courses out there teaching this stuff. If you do decide to invest in these much-needed skills please be careful with who you chose. There are plenty of people out there jumping on the bandwagon and teaching bad quality information.
The blogging course I can recommend is Superstar Blogging - Nomadic Matt's course on everything travel blogging. Learn from the traveller who turned his small blog into a six-figure travel website reaching over a million people a month.
As cliché as this is, I’ve grown so much as a person through solo travel. The opportunities that have arisen have been purely incredible. I’ve done things I couldn’t have fathomed years ago.
Hot air ballooning in Australia, whitewater rafting in Canada, rappelling down a 60ft waterfall in Hawai’i, staying in 5-star hotels and being treated like a VIP… all just this year alone! I wouldn’t have done half of those if I was still working my 9-5 job in Melbourne.
So what are you waiting for? Go grab that dream job!
If you have any questions about anything related to being a successful travel blogger please comment below.