When I first started The Pin the Map Project, I could never have imagined how my blog would grow to take me on adventures around the world and continue to introduce me to exciting new opportunities and endeavors. Its been over three years since I first pressed publish on my first blog post and I’ve learned some lessons along the way.
1. My relationship with writing has changed
I started journal writing when I was about 8 years old and received my first Bugs Bunny diary from my parents. I remember the diary and filling the pages with the musings of an eight year old that included everything from boys I had a crush on to playdates that didn’t go as planned. That little diary turned into a tradition of sorts, where every year I would get a new journal and document every thought, emotion and event. I grew up writing for myself, using words to work through some of the tougher times in my life and finding a friend in the pages of my notebooks.
When I began writing The Pin the Map Project, I noticed how that relationship with my writing shifted. It was a subtle change at first but soon I had stopped writing for myself altogether. The journals stopped getting attention as my blog and freelance writing took all the words and energy I had. Every once in a while, I’ll turn to my journal to show its pages some love but for the most part my musings will live on this website, written with an audience in mind.
2. Being a travel blogger isn’t always enough
There was a time where I thought travel blogging would be my main focus but the truth is that if you want any chance at turning a passion project of blogging into a career, then you have to do a lot more than just write. Running The Pin the Map Project is like running a company; I oversee a team of writers, I am constantly brainstorming ways to improve the site, am always exploring partnership opportunities with brands and advertisers, am trying to find ways to monetize the website while still churning out new and exciting content. I am a writer, an editor, a web designer, a marketer; I am my own public relations team, my own financial advisor, my own filmmaker and own photographer. I wear many hats and even with all those roles, sometimes it’s not enough to earn a substantial amount at which point I take on even more roles and will work as a short-term, freelance social media coordinator, advertiser, etc.
3. My relationship with travel has changed too
Before I began travel blogging, traveling was very personal and experienced solely for myself. I would go on trips to escape the monotony of my routine life, regain perspective and grow as a person by discovering new cultures. I would write in my journal, take photographs and that would be the extent of my adventures. Insights gained and memories captured.
Since becoming a travel blogger and writer, each trip has become more involved as I am now tasked with balancing living in the moment with social media takeovers, hotel reviews, press trip itineraries, filming for YouTube and more. This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy traveling these days–in fact, I feel extremely lucky to visit some amazing places for almost no money—but that carefree, disconnected sort of travel is sometimes sacrificed on the altar of being a travel writer who is tasked with sharing the world with my readers.
4. The work absolutely never, ever ends
For someone day-dreaming of leisurely blogging instead of sitting at an office–think again! I work harder and longer as a travel writer than I ever did in advertising. Sure, I have the freedom to work at my favorite local coffee shop instead of an office, have the ability to travel the world more frequently and am happier writing about travel than staring blankly at Excel spreadsheets, but it is definitely more work then most imagine.
It doesn’t seem like it from the outside looking in as the life of a travel writer can seem quite idyllic when just judging from social media; but the truth is it takes hard work and self-discipline to pursue this line of work and to step outside of the 9-5 job. I do not have the rigid constraints and watchful eye of a boss to keep me being productive; I work for myself and therefore only have myself to answer to if I waste a day.
5. There is no guarantee of success
When I worked in advertising, there was a clear trajectory for going up the ladder and growing in the company. One year as an Assistant Media Planner turned into two years as a Media Planner, which got you the raise and role of Supervisor, which eventually led to Media Director and so on. More money, more accolades—there were clear promises and futures when working in Corporate America; all you had to do was perform well and commit the time.
In travel writing (and to be clear, I mean freelance writing and/or blogging), there is no trajectory. How you measure success is truly up to each individual. For some, it might be getting published in a big name magazine, for others it might be landing free travel, for some it could be how much they earn or how many followers they have. It takes patience, perseverance and passion to chase this career, knowing that there is no guarantee of success.
6. I am excited to check my e-mail every morning (really!)
Every morning I wake up, I reach for my iPhone and sleepily scroll through my new emails. I am excited to check my emails everyday because I never know if that is the day something life changing will be waiting in my inbox. There have been days I’ve checked my email to find an all-expense paid trip invitation, days I’ve checked my email to find amazing blogger/brand collaboration opportunities and days I’ve received flattering notes from readers all around the world.
When I worked in advertising, I abhorred my inbox as it never contained anything but mundane work requests, meeting invites and conference call dial-ins; but today that is no longer my reality. I never know what each day will bring–whether tomorrow Ill find myself suddenly having plans for a trip to Vietnam or will receive a meeting invite with a big editor. Anything can happen and often anything does!
7. Press trips aren’t always as amazing as they seem
When I first started travel writing, the idea of being invited on a press trip sounded incredible—a free trip with fellow journalists who share my passion for travel? Sign me up! Flash forward to today and while I still accept the occasional press trip, I’ve come to find that the rigid itineraries that come with media trips truly takes away from my experience. When I travel, I often stop planning beyond the accommodations and transportation. I love the idea of waking up in Venice or Paris and deciding–right then and there–how I’m going to spend my day. Travel, to me, has always been about spontaneity and adventure, about escaping routine and so I do my best to avoid planning my trips too much as a result. The nature of press trips through are to show journalists as much of a destination as possible in little time; this means tight schedules, packed itineraries and little downtime to explore.
8. Earning money can be tricky
The Pin the Map Project has multiple revenue streams–money comes from advertising, from sponsored posts, from brand collaborations, from affiliate programs. In addition, I will seek freelancing gigs–be it freelance travel writing assignments or freelance advertising gigs—that serve as supplemental income. Instead of receiving a bi-weekly paycheck with benefits included, my income comes from a variety of sources that all pay on different schedules and with different methods.
9. Especially when starting out, the most important thing you can do is simply ask…
I’ve written this before in my BLOG TIPS section, but the single most important truth I’ve learned while travel blogging is the power of simply asking for an opportunity vs. waiting for one to come knocking on your door. Many of the amazing things I’ve been able to do with The Pin the Map Project—be it traveling, speaking at an event or working with a brand–happened because I dared to reach out and ask.
10. Love and travel do mix
When I first decided to pursue my passion of travel writing & blogging, I believed that the life I was choosing meant foregoing having a home, a serious relationship and growing roots. Women who love to travel are often painted as free birds–beautiful creatures that stick around long enough to take your breath away and then fly off to their next destination. What I’ve found is that love and travel can mix if you find someone who shares your passion and respects your desire to see the world. While there are some travel writers who opt to go on back-to-back trips, I prefer to have a home base in New York City where I go in between trips to unwind and write my stories. I have my apartment, my kitten and my boyfriend in New York and, when I’m able, I’ll bring him with me on trips or we’ll plan our own adventures together.
Check out more travel blogging tips and confessions in the BLOG TIPS section; and share your comments, questions and thoughts below!