Being a travel blogger has become a pretty popular gig these last couple years. (I won’t call it a career because it is only that to a limited percentage of us.) New travel blogs are popping up daily. The attendance at the North American TBEX, a travel writer industry convention held annually in both N.A. and Europe, went from 400 in 2012 to 1,400 in 2013. And finally more and more companies and advertisers have recognized the power bloggers of bloggers and are using them to promote their wares.
You bloggers have it so easy. You get to travel the world and get paid for it!
Sure, it sounds glamorous. But so does every other job before you actually start doing it.
Trust Me, It Isn’t All Fun And Games…
There Are Some Real Hazards We Must Deal With As Bloggers
Not remembering which country you are currently in. This happens more than most bloggers are probably willing to admit. It’s especially common after having spent several months exploring a country and then suddenly finding yourself waking up in a different country where the language you’ve been focusing so hard on mastering the last few weeks is suddenly as useless as an ejector seat on a helicopter. “Tunggu, tunggu…serius? Ini Thailand, kita 20km dari perbatasan Malaysia dan lo bilang nggak ada orang yang bisa bicara bahasa Melayu? I don’t speak English. Only that one sentence and this one explaining it.” (“Wait a minute, this is Thailand…we are 20km from the Malaysia border yet you are telling me that nobody here speaks Malay? …”) For those of you who don’t know, Bahasa Indonesia and Malay are essentially the same language.
Other aspects of this problem can be a little more life threatening. Last week I was in the Philippines and I’ll be damned if I didn’t start off driving on the wrong side of the road every time I got behind the wheel or on a motorcycle. “Why are all these trikes and jeepneys driving on my side of the street yet honking at me? … OH CRAP! Sorry!”
Sleep schedule…? What’s a sleep schedule? Usually the first few weeks in a new country most of us hardly sleep more than a few hours a night. Simply put, we just don’t want to miss anything. We want to make the absolute most of our time, especially if it is a short trip. On longer trips, once that enthusiasm starts to fade it’s easy to catch more shuteye. Whether it be in the afternoon or as the sun is rising makes absolutely no difference. Trains, planes, boats, buses, cars, and other crazy forms of transportation you can only imagine — we bloggers must learn how to sleep on all of them. And to sleep through a variety of noises — not just chickens in the morning but other things like Muslim prayer calls blasted out on loudspeakers five times a day (the first of which is at 4am).
Work schedule…? What’s a work schedule? Focusing on writing while on the road is unbelievably tedious. Here you are in a new country, surrounded by a different culture, strange sights, tasty foods, friendly locals and endless possibilities yet you have to ignore all of these temptations and sit inside of a hotel / hostel / coffee shop — wherever the free wifi is — and stare at a laptop screen. Yeah, let me tell you, that just screams fun. The ability to overcome this issue is what separates the hobby bloggers from the real bloggers.
Personal relationships become a thing of the past. You think working while on the road is hard? Try holding down a “normal” relationship. It just doesn’t work. I haven’t had a relationship that lasted more than three months in oh nearly four full years now. It’s been so long that part of me wants nothing more than to settle down the with the next good girl I meet. Of course the other part of me just can’t be in one place for that long, so alas, here I am still single.
Don’t get me wrong, on a fairly regular basis two travel bloggers meet and get together. Some even make it work for a while. But in the end nearly all go their separate ways. I’ve seen many a blog fade into oblivion because she did all the writing and he did all the photography. I’ve also seen some try and divide things up post-relationship. “Okay, you can keep the blog but I get our Twitter handle and YouTube page.” That is then followed by the obligatory re-branding. However it never lasts. Within a few months they too inevitably crumble and then fade away.
Want a relationship to last on the road? Start it long before traveling. I’ve encountered tons of couples who have been traveling for extended periods of time and none of them just randomly “hooked up” along the way. They all had stable beginnings. These stable beginnings are why there are so many successful and influential husband and wife travel bloggers out there.
Read More: How To Find Romance On The Road
Growing weary of meeting new people. Don’t get me wrong, I love meeting new people. Short of trying new foods that is my biggest hobby while living life on the road. But when doing that day after day and year after year it is easy to grow numb to it all.
As professional travelers we all have many a great night with new-found friends from our hostel or our tour groups, even locals we meet on the street corner or readers who recognize us around town. But when the time comes to say goodbye we all make those same promises too, the ones we secretly know we’ll never keep but maybe, just maybe, by saying it aloud then the universe will somehow be on our side. “I’ll see you again in __________” or “when I get to __________ I’m going to look you up bro!” It never happens. Strangely enough it’s the people whom I think that I’ll never see again which I happen to randomly run into in other countries. A few months ago while I was in Kuala Lumpur‘s Chinatown trying to find James of Pursue Excitement I instead ran into this guy John for the third time! He and I had first met in Jogja, Indonesia and later crossed paths again in Singapore before finally having this third encounter in Malaysia — all completely unplanned. By this point I had finally joined Facebook so we connected there, figuring that for some reason the universe wants us to know each other. What that reason is I have no idea…
That brings up another point, Facebook. Now that I have it every person I meet on the road wants to friend me. Usually I accept most of them but now when I look at my friend list I have no idea who any of them are or where we met. “Hmmmm Scott…was he the engineer in Dubai or the artist in Thailand? Oh wait he’s the dive master from Hawaii! Or is he…” Hell if I know. I got locked out of my account a few days ago and it asked me to identify the names of six friends based on photos. Long story short I’m still locked out. (The alternative was for FB to send an SMS to my phone but my number changes every few weeks with each country I visit so yeah, no luck there either.)
Yes, despite our most noble intentions, the friends we make on the road are unfortunately just temporary friends. At the end of it all they go back to their normal, mundane life and whatever job it was they wished they could quit to be like us. And what do we do? Well we keep on traveling.
You would think all of this would make goodbyes easier but in reality it’s just the opposite. As such sometimes we travel bloggers find it easier just to not even say hello. At least then we don’t have to worry about saying goodbye.
Growing numb to it all and succumbing to the repetition. Traveling for a living means that you are not only going to see 500 of everything (“oh wow this temple looks like the last 499”) but you are also going to have to answer the same stereotypical questions over and over. This ranges from simple ones like Where are you from? (“Well I have an American passport and a flat in Indonesia but half my possessions are still in Singapore and I live out of this backpack so…take your pick.”) and How many countries have you been to? to less stereotypical….ehhh whom I kidding. No one asks the truly oddball questions that they should be asking us.
If you ever strike up a conversation with a professional travel blogger in real life, please try your damnedest to have something unique to say or to ask. Examples of decent questions: “Have you ever lived with any local tribes in remote regions?” or “What’s the coolest injury you have ever gotten while on the road?” or even “So…have you ever entered any countries illegally or done any smuggling?” I will gladly respond to those type of questions with surprisingly honest and detailed answers. Do not ask me if I know Nomadic Matt or what country has the best food. Please, for the love of God, just don’t.
Negative encounters with immigration officials. Most regular tourists don’t have any immigration issues but we travel bloggers are not so lucky. When dealing with immigration on a semi-weekly or monthly basis invariably some things will go wrong. And although the immigration officials will always be “in the right” this is not an easy thing to remember in the heat of the moment.
For starters being a professional travel blogger usually involves a fair amount of lying to immigration officials. This involves both small and big lies, depending on the country. First off you NEVER want to tell an immigration agent that you are a travel writer. Just make that mistake once and I promise you, you’ll learn fast. I did. We all did. Mentioning that you are a travel writer will always result in a mini-interrogation: What are you doing here? Where will you be going? What are you writing about? Who are you writing for? The list goes on and on. Sometimes they even like to repeat the questions.
Purpose of visit? We always say holiday. It’s a harmless white lie but every once in a while the agent might have a question or two about this. Most of us have learned to have our silver tongue ready to spit out whatever answer will result in the least number of subsequent questions.
Finally there is the departure issue. Most countries are fairly lax when it comes to proving you will be departing on time but not all. A few insist on seeing a plane ticket to prove that you will be leaving the country. In this case you have to “creatively fib” and do so without making it obvious that you are completely BS’ing them. On an island nation? Tell them you plan on taking the ferry to __________. In the middle of a continent? “Well sir after I’m done here I plan to take the bus to __________ and save some money.” In a few cases I’ve even had to sign an additional form to get a VOA promising that I will be departing before X date by X means of transportation. Other bloggers will pretend to purchase a ticket online and just show immigration the confirmation page without actually clicking confirm and having to pay for the ticket.
Yes, with every lie we tell at immigration we run the risk of being caught. I’ve only been taken to one interrogation room and interestingly enough it was as I was trying to depart the country, not enter. After rounds of repetitive questions I was finally held until just after my flight departed and then released and forced to purchase a new flight on a subsequent flight later in the day.
Read More: Strange Customs Regulations Around The World
So there you have it. While these are by no means all the downsides to being a professional travel blogger, they are certainly some of the biggest ones. If you are debating whether or not to try and make a career out of travel blogging, just make sure you are willing to make the sacrifices.