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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!