7 Things I’ve Learned from 7 Years of Travel Blogging

Happy birthday to Venga, Vale, Vamos, a little blog that was born seven years ago today!

This blog was born out of my UCLA dorm room in 2008, before I had even been admitted to my study abroad program. I was just so darn excited to go – and (as a web design geek since the age of 10) happy to have any excuse to launch a new website – that I kicked off a new blog, hand-coded my own WordPress theme from scratch, and began rambling to myself.

One of the earliest versions of this blog. The design is a bit dated, but I do admire how fun it is, and I'm proud of my own hand coding skills!

One of the earliest versions of this blog, from May 2009. The design is fairly dated, but I’m proud of doing it all myself!

Venga, Vale, Vamos has been through various incarnations, changed from La Vida Madrileña to Entre Flores, Fandanguillos y Alegrías to suit the Andalucían theme when I moved to Sevilla, then finally to Venga, Vale, Vamos when I returned to Madrid and continued on to Sydney. It began as a total hobby with one reader (me), then a handful (my family), and somehow, here it is seven years later, a mini side business with a network close to fifteen thousand.

I’ve learned a hell of a lot since November 2008 as a blogger, as a traveler, as a digital marketer, and as a person. Here are seven of the biggest lessons I’ve taken away from seven years of travel blogging.

At the desk where it all began a month before this blog launched, and me blogging in 2015.

At the desk where it all began a month before this blog launched and a recent shot of me blogging.

1. Blog, first and foremost, out of love.

Regularly maintaining a blog takes a lot of work. A lot. Writing, researching, photographing, engaging on social media… the list goes on and on. Keeping up can be difficult (especially when you also work a full time job and have a busy social schedule), which is why the biggest piece of advice I would give to someone starting a new blog is to make sure you’re doing it because you absolutely love it. It can get frustrating and tedious, but if you’re passionate about what you’re doing, it’s all entirely worth it.

2. Drawing the line between hobby and business can be tough.

Is blogging just for fun, or is the end goal to make a profit? For the first six years of Venga, Vale, Vamos, I was mostly focused on the former, but, as this has grown, I’m still trying to work out where exactly this falls on the hobby-business scale. Since my primary career is in digital marketing, I’m obviously tempted to use my knowledge to grow this blog’s influence, but I also want to stay true to myself and continue doing it mostly for fun.

Kirstie Jeffries business cards

Started the jump into the professional blogging world in December with personal business cards. (Yes, my contact details are public!)

Do I work myself to exhaustion to get a few extra visitors? Should I take a sponsored opportunity, or is the brand in question not interesting/useful enough to my readers? How can I make a profit on advertising without compromising aesthetics? As bloggers, these are questions we all have to figure out for ourselves, and it’s tricky! I’ve loved growing this blog, making some extra spending money, and getting approached by brands for business opportunities, but my personal promise to you readers is that Venga, Vale, Vamos will always be primarily a labor of love.

3. Network, network, network with other bloggers.

Fellow travel bloggers are not your competition; they are, quite possibly, your greatest asset! I have found the travel blogging community to be incredibly supportive overall. I’ve networked online with other bloggers for years (Facebook groups are great for this!) and in the past year have also been attending many offline meetups around Sydney. These bloggers have taught me useful tips, introduced me to contacts within the travel industry, answered pressing questions, provided laughter and support, and so much more.

Sydney travel blogger meetup

Meeting some of Sydney’s most fabulous travel bloggers in February. Recognize any? (photo credit: Kelly)

4. Social media can’t be forgotten.

When I started this blog, Instagram and Pinterest hadn’t yet been born, and Twitter and Facebook were still, for the most part, in their infancy. Outside of this blog, I’ve worked in digital marketing/social media since 2010 and have loved seeing it evolve to the point that it has become absolutely essential for bloggers. Over a third of my traffic comes from social media, and I’ve met a lot of really fantastic people and encountered some great blogging opportunities through it as well.

If you’re serious about travel blogging, don’t neglect social media! I could write another 500 posts about its benefits and how to best utilize it, but, if you’re just getting started, pick the social networks that you click with best, and really focus on growing your following and engagement there.

Alexis Ohanian, Reddit, UCLA

Socializing with digital superstar and Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian in 2011

5. Even as a hobby, blogging can do wonders for your career.

I’m lucky that my primary job and blogging are directly linked – writing, graphic design, blog management, analytics, and social media are all core responsibilities for both digital marketing specialists and bloggers – so I am constantly learning things at my job that feed directly into this blog and vice versa. (And I’ve clearly found my calling if I do very similar work in my free time and still don’t get sick of it!)

But even if you work in a field worlds apart from travel blogging, the skills you learn as a blogger are incomparable. Time management, networking, business development, writing, creativity… Bloggers, whether it’s a hobby or a business for you, appreciate just how many valuable skills you learn through your blog, and make the most of them in your career.

people2people Twitter

Tweeting for my “real” job

6. Blogging will take you places you’d never imagine.

Through my blog – mostly since I started putting a bigger push on it in the past year – I’ve been given some fantastic opportunities that I would have never experienced otherwise. In some cases, I was approached directly by companies, while in others I successfully pitched promotional collaborations, and both have provided amazing feelings of accomplishment. Harbor cruises, ghost tours, mouthwatering meals, film screenings, flashy hotel stays, and more have introduced me to new worlds and provided some of my most unforgettable memories of the year. I can’t wait to see what else lies ahead.

Beachcomber Island, Fiji

Who’d have thought I’d one day blog my way to a hosted stay on a private Fijian island?

7. Running a travel blog is insanely fulfilling.

This blog may, in fact, be the love of my life. I’ve stuck with it through seven formative years, I’ve put countless hours of effort into it, and, while I have a lot of room for improvement, I am incredibly proud of what I’ve achieved here. I’ll get home after a full day of work and still get excited about spending hours working on this darn thing, and that’s a rare thing to find. The blog has become a huge part of who I am and has shaped my ambitions for the future. Running a travel blog stimulates me, challenges me, inspires me, and empowers me, probably more than anything else I’ve found. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Thanks for the memories, Venga, Vale, Vamos, and thanks to all you readers for your invaluable support through the years. I look forward to seeing what the next seven years have in store!

25 Responses

  1. Tiffany says:

    Congrats on seven years! That is a long haul in the blogging world!

  2. Cristin says:

    Happy blog birthday! 7 years is a great run. Cheers to many more!

  3. That’s a great list of things and yes definitely a blog has to come out of love and passion – not to make money. A lot of helpful tips there too.
    congrats on your seven years! I just started my travel blog so I’m excited and nervous to see where it goes. Any tips for first timers in their six months/first year? Things to do/not to do?

    • Thanks, Shayan! I think the first six months/year are just about finding your own voice by figuring out what you enjoy writing about best. It’s great for SEO/branding purposes that you’ve started out on a domain (rather than starting on wordpress.com or Blogspot) and that you’re active on social media already. If you don’t have one already, I’d recommend starting a Twitter account for the blog too. Really great way to disseminate your content and meet people!

      • Those are great tips and thanks for the feedback. Yea I’m a fellow digital marketer so I had/couldn’t help being active on Social Media. I have been for the past 3 years. I have a Twitter account for my personal but didn’t know if I should create one for Dose too. Difficult to manage so many accounts. I use my person Twitter to disseminate posts and connect with others.

        • I run three Twitter accounts (my travel one, my personal/protected one, and my professional one) plus a few for work, so I definitely understand it can be difficult to manage so many, but I do enjoy it a lot!

  4. Congratulations Kirstie! Wow 7 years is a long time and as a fellow blogger I know you must be insanely passionate about it otherwise you wouldn’t have lasted this long. I totally agree with all 7 of the things you have learnt especially number 3 and 7. I wouldn’t be sane without the support of my fellow bloggers, you included! Cheers to 7 more successful years for you ahead no matter where your path takes you.

    • Thanks so much, Jen! I definitely didn’t focus as much energy on it until the last year or so, but it has stuck with me quite a long time! I’m glad to have met you through blogging, and I wish you many happy blogging years ahead too!

  5. Very cool! As someone new the blogging world this is super handy to know. I have just started learning how to code and was super impressed you made your first theme from scratch! 🙂

    • Thanks! I’ll admit there were a lot of weird glitches with the code (and in no way was it mobile friendly, but, then again, very few sites were in 2008!), but web design has always been my favorite aspect of running a blog!

  6. Definitely agree that you need to start a blog foremost out of love, but also that it can teach a lot of transferable and useful skills for other areas of your life too. I’m only 1 year in and it’s already proving very fulfilling!

  7. Sabine says:

    Wow, 7 years is a long time and makes you a blogging expert. Thanks for the tips and tricks, always good to read how experienced bloggers do it. 🙂

    • And I’ve been blogging in other areas even before that! Well, if you can call the terrible “weblog” I wrote as a 12-year-old about my classes and friends a real blog, haha. I’ve loved doing it through the years!

  8. Steve says:

    Great post! It seems you’ve learned a lot. How much traffic/following do you need for a sponsored trip? Thanks

    • Thank you! To be honest, I think it’s more about your pitch and less about your numbers. I’ve had sponsored opportunities that didn’t even ask for traffic numbers, but they just knew I was a good fit for what they were looking for. Just continue improving as you go, and you’ll do well!

  9. Well done for sticking it out for so long. I can totally relate to hobby or business. That’s how mine started but hoping to use a way to earn income now but keep enjoying. As you say blogging for love is key. Best of luck!

  10. Great post and I hope it inspires lots of new bloggers! Becoming a blogger almost ten years ago was the best thing I’ve ever done and it has totally changed my life in so many ways. It’s amazing to be able to make a living doing what you love. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Howard D. Teague says:

    Congrts 7 years of travel blogging.

  12. This is awesome! It’s s so fun and exciting to follow bloggers who travel and keep up with all of their
    adventures. Thanks so much for sharing!

  1. April 5, 2017

    […] 7 Things I’ve Learned from 7 Years of Travel Blogging Begun with some impressive coding skills Kirstie Jeffries’ blog has taken her from her university dorm room in California to living in Australia, via studying and teaching in Spain. […]

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