When I tell people I'm a travel blogger, there's a fairly good chance they'll either question how I make money from it, or say something along the lines of, "You get paid to travel? How do I sign up for that?"
If they say nothing at all, that usually means they think I'm full of shit and have someone paying for me to travel, like rich parents or a boyfriend or something. Either way, it's frustrating. Because the answer is much more complicated than "I travel and write about it", and that's because it really is complicated being an actual travel blogger.
It's not always sunshine, rainbows, and awesome Instagram pictures, at least not for me anyway. Sometimes I don't realize that I only show the "pretty side" of traveling and being a travel blogger, without showing what it really takes just to get there. People think that being a travel blogger is like the ultimate, mystical dream job, that we're just really lucky to have gotten, because in all honesty, that's how most of us make it look!
But the other day, I posted a Snapchat that I thought was funny of me smiling and standing in front of a pretty waterfall, then BAM, zoomed in on my bloody elbow that I got from busting my ass on a boulder trying to get to it, and noticed that people were shocked about what goes on "behind the scenes", or what I like to refer to as, "the ugly side of travel blogging".
Now, I'm not going to lie, most of the "behind the scenes" stuff while I'm traveling is still pretty awesome, but what's not so awesome is the endless hard work, disappointments, struggles, and obstacles that I've gone through and still am going through, just to be an established travel blogger. Nothing was handed to me, I didn't submit a resume and get hired, I had to create my own unconventional career as a travel blogger, despite the much less-glamorous side that comes along with it. Here are just a few of those things that most people don't see:
1. My Computer Screen
Don't get me wrong, I love my computer, especially since it's what allows me to do work from anywhere in the world. But I'm not always looking at it while on a plane or a hotel room. In fact, when I'm not traveling, I spend the majority of my time staring at my computer screen from my apartment, just so that I can be able to go on my next trip.
Even though these days some people can just stand in pretty places and look pretty on Instagram and call themselves a travel blogger, I actually am still very much into, and dedicated to the actual writing portion of it. It takes me about 5 hours to do one blog post, and I do several a week for my own blog, and various sites that will pay per article.
My content is what makes me money, and writing is my passion, so I have no complaints about that aspect except for the fact that writer's block is real, and constantly producing new content isn't as easy as it seems. When I'm not writing articles, I'm writing emails for business deals, and doing endless research on the next place I hope to travel to. I don't go out much, I don't stop working on weekends, I just sit behind my computer screen at my dining room table for hours on end, which probably isn't a sight anyone wants to see.
2. My Bank Account
Just to clarify, I don't actually get paid money to travel places. Although as a travel blogger that's obviously the ultimate goal, it's one that is extremely difficult to achieve, and takes a really long time and hard work to attain. I have however, achieved the goal of getting to stay places in exchange for publicity. I don't like saying, "getting to travel for free", because I still have to do a shit ton of writing and social media posting in exchange, and I typically always still have to pay for my flights, transportation, and meals. I pay for those things with the money I make writing for other publications, and sponsored content on my site and social media, but it still adds up, which means my bank account balance is usually quite the ugly site to see.
But, in order to be an actual travel blogger, you have spend a lot of money at first. How else are you going write about traveling, if you aren't actually traveling? I've spent more money on traveling than I've made from it, and although I cringe even looking at my bank account, it's part of the ugly side of travel blogging that I have to deal with, otherwise I wouldn't be able to do it at all! Actually, I technically have to travel at least two weeks per month, because I Air BNB my apartment out, and if I don't rent it out for at least two or more weeks per month, I can't pay rent!
3. Accidents and Injuries
Battle wounds and booboo's don't phase me...unless they prevent me from traveling or taking part in an adventure or activity. Last week I got hit by a car on a motorcycle, and flew 10 feet off of it, and while miraculously I didn't break anything or hit my head, I did get pretty bad road rash all down my left arm, Not only does no one want to see the gross gaping holes in my shoulder and wrist, but the pain and inability to fully use my left arm made it hard for me to partake in the adventurous activities I typically get myself into.
Granted injuries are typically bound to happen to me due to my vigorous style of traveling (and living in general), but it just sucks a little more that they can literally impair and affect the work that I do as a travel blogger. It's also really awkward when you have multiple people asking "What happened to your shoulder" because you're forced to wear a giant ugly Band-Aid over your road rash.
4. Living Out of a Suitcase
At this very moment, I have not been home to LA in exactly one month. I'm not complaining, because in that month I went to Puerto Rico, New York, Florida, and Costa Rica, but I'm just going to throw it out there that you would probably cringe if you saw the current state of my suitcase. I don't even know what's in there, because I tend to just wear the same few things, and overpack the rest. I'm in constant need of a washing machine, and feel gross that I have to always tote around my dirty laundry, but it's what's necessary if I want to keep traveling, and continue trying to be an established travel blogger.
Sometimes I still feel gross even after showering and staying at a nice and clean hotel, because regardless of how much I wash things, they're still going to smell like my suitcase when I take them out, and I don't have my normal toiletries I have at home. Constantly having to drag around a suitcase, and unpack and re-pack for hours is also a pretty ugly sight, but again necessary in order to keep going.
5. My Lovely Little Haters
To me, nothing is uglier than a nasty comment someone writes or says about another person. It's one thing if they have personal issues with the person in particular, but when people hide behind the anonymity of the Internet to say something mean about a person they don't even know, that's just lame AF, and makes me feel sorry that they have so much anger in their soul.
I speak my mind...well...I write it, which is sometimes a huge risk to take if I'm concerned about a backlash. Luckily, I'm not really that concerned about the negative things people have to say because I'm so grateful about the positive messages that kind people send, but it's still quite the ugly sight to see a bunch of hater comments on posts that I worked really hard on to write.
To be completely honest, I have never once looked at any of the 700+ negative comments on my "Yes, I'm Pretty and I'm Traveling Alone" article, because I knew the title alone would be controversial, and I knew that some people wouldn't understand what I was actually saying. Having to deal with "trolls" as we call them -- people who literally just look for things to hate on, and leave negative comments for everyone else to see -- is definitely a big part of the ugly side of being a travel blogger, but also a part of the unnecessary side of life that many people are forced to deal with. AKA bullying is lame AF in any form, and if you do it, you're just showing that you're unhappy with yourself.
Luckily though, most of the time any travel blogger encounters a troll comment, there's a good chance they're reading it while traveling, so it's clear to see who's really winning in those situations. For me, my encouragement to not let haters get me down, are the awesome people who find inspiration to travel from what I'm doing with my crazy life. P.S. I love you.
6. My Relationship Status
Being a travel blogger makes it really hard to start a new relationship. I say "start" instead of "have", because there's a lot of travel bloggers that do have relationships, and have been in them for a while, even before they started blogging. But, since I started when I was single, it makes it a tad bit more difficult for me to actually start a new one.
Not only is it hard for me to find time to go out and meet people, but it's hard to put effort into creating something new when I put most of my effort into traveling and becoming an established travel blogger.
Being a travel blogger also deters a lot of guys from even wanting a relationship with me, because to many of them, I'd never be around anyway, and I'm too independent. I've written several articles like "How Traveling Solo Destroyed My Dating Life" explaining this part of the ugly side of being a travel blogger, and how it seems like the only person I could date is a guy who travels too. But surprisingly, I got a lot of emails from traveling dudes who completely missed my point, because they ended up just thanking me for saying it was Ok to want to travel instead of date, when I was trying to say that I wish both were possible. Fail.
Then again, even if I were dating someone, I still wouldn't be able to admit it publicly, because let's be serious, who wants to see someone else holding the hand of a "solo female adventure traveler"? Although tons of people ask me if I secretly travel with someone on my solo trips when I don't, it makes me cringe to wonder what people would think if I actually did.
7. The Look on My Dog's Face
My little Pomeranian knows damn well what it means when I pull my suitcase out. He starts to get depressed the second he sees it, which makes me feel depressed, and even guilty when I have to leave him. Having a pet when you travel a lot is hard, but I've had mine since before I started traveling a lot...and thought my life was going to consist of a 9-5 job and a lot of free time.
Luckily, he's extremely popular, and has a fan club of my friends that always volunteer to babysit him, but the look on his face as I walk back to my car after dropping him off is probably one of the most painful things I have to endure in order to be a travel blogger.
If I'm traveling domestically, and to a destination where I know he'll be able to go, I'll take him with me on the plane, but I feel like even doing that puts a ton of stress on him, which automatically converts to stress and sadness for me too.
8. My Neurotic Perfectionism with Social Media
A few years ago, I never would have imagined that my career would revolve around spending hours creating and executing the perfect social media posts. That's because a few years ago, social media was still just for fun, and no where near the powerful marketing tool it is today. I've had a few freelance jobs doing social media posts for other people and companies, so I already knew the importance of knowing what and when to post things, but now that it basically drives my career, I focus on it a little more closely, which is annoying, even to myself.
Instagram is now like a job to me, and I hate admitting to people when they ask what I'm doing, that I'm editing and planning my next post, but it really does make a difference when I do. I don't try to hide it either, in fact, I try to share my "secrets" so other people can create great photos too.
But still, some people only see and like the pretty picture of the place I posted, but they don't see the ugly side of what I have to do to get the picture, and the annoying perfectionism I have with making it stand out.
I won't even go into how embarrassed and self-conscious I get when I have to use my "selfie stick" to take a picture when I'm traveling alone, because that's a whole other battle on its own. But I will say that I feel a shit ton of pressure to get the perfect shot, which means I have to force myself to deal with the stares and comments, otherwise I know I'll regret it.
What sucks even more is when people close to me actually think I enjoy taking "selfies", when in reality, I just know that good social media marketing involves me being somewhat in the picture, even though if they actually paid attention, they'd see that I hardly ever even show my face. I get accused of loving taking photos of myself, being obsessed with selfies, and even being a narcissist, yet I typically only show the back of my head. Statistics show that if I'm not at least partially in a picture, I won't get as much engagement, so I have to constantly choose between avoiding annoying comments, and creating a brand.
But that ugly side of being a travel blogger is what turns traveling into a career, so bring on the selfie sticks and awkward stares!
9. Not Knowing What's Next
Even my mom recently asked me, "So what's next?", which immediately gave me an anxiety attack. Especially since I didn't really have an answer. In my head, the answer is "Figure out how to make more money off of travel blogging", but that's probably the most difficult aspect to figure out aside from how I'm going to pay for my next plane ticket.
Sometimes it seems like no matter how hard I work, it's still almost impossible to make a decent amount of money off of travel blogging. It's a shitty ass feeling to have, but something I have to battle against, and keep working on, instead of just giving up and conforming to the norm.
It also takes a lot of planning to get to each destination I go to, and it's hard to plan while I'm already on a trip. I just got back from a trip, and literally have to plan another one for multiple weeks next month in order to not only have content to produce, but because I need the days away just so I can Air BNB my place out and pay rent. Well...and because I want to travel as much as possible...
All I know, is that I need to keep going. And as stressful and risky as that may be, it's my only answer to "What's next?"
10. The Constant Competition & Expectations
It seems like there has been a massive spike in the amount of people who want to be travel bloggers, especially now that it's actually possible to turn traveling into a career. I'm all for encouraging people to travel the world and write about it, but at the end of the day, it's really stressful trying to constantly stand out and make a name for yourself.
There are tons of bloggers who are solo travelers. There are tons of bloggers who are solo female travelers. There are tons of bloggers in general, which means I have to constantly work hard to do things and write about things that make me stand out from all the rest of them (even though I'm also friends with a lot of them). For me, that's doing dangerous, typically risky adventures that people wouldn't normally expect me to do.
I have a f*cking phenomenal time doing it, but imagine how draining all of those vigorous adventures add up to be on my body, brain, and bank account. Sometimes I feel like I'm going to fail. A lot of the times I think about what the hell I'm even doing trying to make travel blogging a career.
Those are the ugliest parts of being a travel blogger that most people don't see. It's a lot of work, it's risky, it's competitive, and it can make me feel like crap sometimes.
But the most beautiful part is that I'm doing something I truly love, and I'm trying to help other people do that as well. Shit really sucks sometimes, but I'm learning, I'll never stop trying, and most importantly, I am living.