How Being an Adventure Travel Blogger Changed My Life

Posted on June 19, 2013 by

This was excerpted from my new book, The Adventure Traveler’s Handbook. Read more about it here or click to buy from Amazon.

Being an Adventure Travel Blogger

Twenty years ago, if you’d told me I would be jumping out of planes and climbing active volcanoes as a full-time travel blogger today, I would have laughed.

In fact, the old me was far from an adventurer. Never mind being an adventure travel blogger.

You see, I grew up a shy and timid girl in Singapore, where creativity and social skills were always secondary to academic excellence. I did well in school, but not in sports or other recreational activities. To make things worse, I was a big girl (I still struggle with weight issues these days but I don’t let it bother me as much as it used to) — which means my self-esteem was crushed to non-existence.

In my teenage years, I slowly picked myself up from the dumps, and eventually found myself more active. I had also found a close circle of friends. My family was always supportive but they cocooned me in a protective shell — one that kept me spoiled by creature comforts and urban life. Growing up in cosmopolitan Singapore meant I never knew mountains, valleys, gorges, or even nature for that matter, existed.

Even then, I had an insatiable curiosity for the world. This was largely from having heard intriguing travel tales from my father and sister. I’d traveled with my family before and even backpacked in Australia with my friends at the age of 18, but I knew I wanted more. I wanted to see the world myself, on my own pace. Crucially I wanted my travels to not just be on vacation.

The Old Me - being an adventure travel blogger

A Turning Point

My world as I knew it changed when I signed up for a study abroad program in Miami – connecting with people from around the world and exposing myself to a culture that was completely different from my own. I was amazed by the way people learned in school, partied on weekends, and led their lives in general. I made life-long friends there, people who are still my closest friends today. But most importantly, I met Alberto, my present-day husband and business partner. It opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities.

From then on, everything changed. I became more confident and open to trying new things. Most of all, I had faith in myself. I believed I was capable of big things.

Travel also became a big part of me. Even though I was still in school, I took short trips to Thailand, Indonesia, and Australia, packing in as many sights as I could and returning with a desire to do more. I saved every cent of the expenses my father gave me. Instead of going out to party, I stayed home and hung out with my family; I would not allow myself to go shopping nor eat out; and I watched every penny I spent. With the extra money I made from an internship, I even made it to Spain and Italy to visit Alberto for the summer. It was my first trip to Europe, but I knew it wouldn’t be my last.

Student life in Miami - being an adventure travel blogger

From then on, everything changed. I became more confident, opened to trying new things, and most of all, I had faith in myself. I believed I was capable of big things.

Alberto and I made it through a year of being apart and we both graduated from Engineering school with an urge to pack our bags and leave. We soon moved to London to find work, and during those days, we explored the city like curious vultures and took vacations just like you did. We started off with weekend jaunts to Greece and cultural immersions in Morocco, but we wanted to go deeper and further.

Within a year or so, we left our jobs to spend a few months volunteering in Tanzania with our dreams and hopes of making a difference. The volunteering stint gave us some of the most memorable times of our lives and gave us a peek into what travel could teach us: we both spent all of our time with our students and we got to know them as well as their families rather well. Staying with a host family in the village also helped us to truly understand their way of life, their culture and food. The experience left us feeling really privileged, to have had the chance to live with these villagers as one.

Volunteering in Tanzania - being an adventure travel blogger

A New Life

Adventure eventually became the theme that linked our travels. We found ourselves connecting with the great outdoors. Cities no longer appealed to us; we were happier surrounded by wide open spaces — whether in the mountains, desert, or sea. In the intervening years, we set off on extended trips (which often involved leaving our jobs to travel) around the world: backpacking Latin America from Argentina to Mexico, spending a few months in Southeast Asia, overlanding from Egypt to Jordan, and hiking through the Balkans.

But something was still missing. The tipping point came when I found myself dreaming about travel the day we returned home from a trip. Alberto and I were back at work in Singapore and I was miserable with my banking job. It was my fourth job in the past four years and just like the previous work I did, it did not offer me any form of fulfillment nor satisfaction. But I couldn’t care less about the job, all I could think about was travel.

There and then, I decided I did not want to lead a normal life anymore. I needed to build a living around travel.

There and then, I decided I did not want to lead a normal life anymore. I needed to build a living around travel.

I went back home and wrote a blog post about it. I’d started travel blogging almost five years prior to that, but I never took it seriously. A friend left a comment, praising me for my writing skills. He wrote, “Perhaps you should consider becoming a writer.”

I was doubtful of myself but I wanted to try. I needed to try. It would be my ticket to freedom.

The Start of my Adventure Travel Blogging

Over the following months, I worked hard to build this blog into a successful writing channel. I was desperate to try being an adventure travel blogger. I spent every minute of my free time learning the fundamentals of writing, the technical side of web management, and tools that I needed to build a following. I read up everything I could to learn about blogging and writing — and within half a year, I had my first writing gig for a travel magazine. Eventually, I found myself receiving well-paid commissions from magazines and newspapers around the world. This blog had somehow grown into a popular resource and inspiration for travelers.

Paragliding in South Africa - being an adventure travel blogger

That was five years ago. I have successfully achieved my goal and now I’m fortunate enough to live a life that revolves around travel. I work more hours now than I have ever done in my past life, and it wasn’t easy to get where I am today, but I’m extremely thankful to be doing what I love most in life.

Thanks to my incarnation as a travel blogger and writer, I continue to travel to places far and beyond: from the Arctic to Antarctica, South Africa to North Korea, Madagascar to the Galapagos. Travel has completely changed who I am, and my attitude towards life. Now I know that if I set my mind to it, I can do anything in the world.

I often look back at the old me and imagine how life would be like if I had not taken that first trip to Miami. I definitely won’t be who I am today.

What about you? Have you taken that first step to discovering who you are? Is being an adventure travel blogger also on your career horizon?

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About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is a professional travel writer and blogger with a special interest in off-grid destinations and adventure travel. Her mission is to visit every country in the world. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Iceland, swam with sealions in the Galapagos, built a school in Tanzania, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, crossed into North Korea and drank beer in Palestine.

28 Responses to “How Being an Adventure Travel Blogger Changed My Life”

  1. A Montrealer Abroad June 19, 2013 1:52 pm #

    Beautiful post, Nellie. It's nice to hear more about you :)

  2. Abhishek June 19, 2013 2:18 pm #

    I really enjoy your motivational and inspirational life story…..I would like to share it with others who are looking for life of traveler instead of boring job they are doing presently ….

  3. Rennie Allen June 19, 2013 3:48 pm #

    Congratulations Nellie. As the old saying goes “If you’re employed doing what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life”.

  4. ausglobetrotter June 20, 2013 2:19 am #

    Yes go you! I love it and congratulations on your success. I too love travel, more than anything and was sick of going back home to work and save up (just like you). Until i heard about people (like you again) travel blogging as a job and that was it for me. The next month you could barely peel me away from my laptop (not even for sleep) as I created my site.

    I have not been blogging long and It does take up a lot of time but its a dream job and why would I not fight for it. So I have to say if it wasn't for the community of travel bloggers and your inspiring success stories, like your beautiful one, I never would of known about this and I thank you for that. You have helped me find a job I am passionate about, something I will continue whether the money rolls in or not.

    Congrats again and cheers

    • Nellie Huang December 30, 2013 4:35 am #

      Thank you for the very sweet words! It is so awesome to be part of this travel blogging community and to meet travelers who understand how we feel and encourage each other to follow our dreams. Without the community, I doubt we would have come this far.

  5. Carole June 20, 2013 8:22 am #

    Thanks for sharing another personal story. I think I enjoy them even more than the actual travel stories. Your writing style really pulls the reader in.

  6. thewelltravelledpostcard June 20, 2013 6:00 pm #

    It's nice to hear such honesty. And studying abroad brings about so many ooprtunities and allows you to meet all kinds of lovely people! My year abroad was easily one of the best years of my life and I can se that it was very significant for you too!

  7. Alan June 20, 2013 10:20 pm #

    Inspirational!

  8. Spencer June 22, 2013 4:25 am #

    Great story! It is nice to see someone living out their dream with some success.

  9. Kristy of Visa USA June 24, 2013 12:56 am #

    A truly inspiring story and I can really relate to it since I also not an adventurous type of person like you and I never imagine that I will be travelling different places.

  10. Marian Smith June 24, 2013 1:22 am #

    volunteering in Tanzania was amazing, I salute you for that.. Thanks for sharing your story, really inspiring….

  11. Melissa Adams June 25, 2013 9:55 am #

    Nice to hear about your roots. Love your stories + Albert's photos.

  12. Morgan June 27, 2013 9:47 pm #

    Blogging and building a faithful set of followers certainly isn't easy. (In fact, i understand it quite well at the moment) I'm so proud to see how far you have come. Your work is beautiful and deserves to be published for all to see. I look forward to future articles!

    • Nellie July 3, 2013 5:12 am #

      Thank you Morgan, it\’s been a rollercoaster ride but I am truly grateful to have people like you supporting me every step of the way!

  13. @azzurrodiary July 24, 2013 3:42 am #

    Hi Nellie, thank you for sharing your inspirational story! Your work is inspiring to me :) I understood what I can do, when I started going to the mountains and to climb while living in Switzerland. Once I cycled up a pass (1.100 m) without having done it before.

  14. Sierra August 2, 2013 1:19 am #

    Thanks Nellie, to share your heart touching and beautiful story with us. Some things make big inspirations to our life. I like your writing ability how beautifully you expressed your story in a most impressive way. Others should take your site as a role model.

    • Nellie August 6, 2013 11:03 am #

      Awww many thanks Sierra for the very kind words! It\’s people like you who keep me motivated to continue writing and traveling. Cheers!

  15. Kristen September 5, 2013 10:14 pm #

    This was such an inspirational story to read. This is exactly what I want to do. I’m constantly thinking about travel and would like to make it my day job. Thank you for sharing such an inspiring story! Keep up the good work!

    • Nellie September 10, 2013 3:19 am #

      Thanks Kristen for the kind comment! Go for your dreams – Im sure you will achieve your goals if you work hard!

  16. Open World September 17, 2013 3:33 pm #

    I love your story! Best of luck!

  17. UPW Sydney June 7, 2014 8:32 pm #

    Great read, traveling certainly changes people view of how they live by seeing outside of the box that we live in…

  18. HannahBanana June 29, 2014 10:07 pm #

    This such a beautiful and inspiring story Nellie! You and Alberto have worked so hard to get where you're at today and I'm glad it has all paid off. Yay Miami :) <3

  19. Brock September 17, 2015 6:38 pm #

    “There and then, I decided I did not want to lead a normal life anymore. I needed to build a
    living around travel.”

    Yessss! I am in the same boat right now. I am in the transition-process of making that happen.

    I. Need. Travel! :)

    • Nellie Huang October 14, 2015 6:48 am #

      Ohh I know what you are going through. Let me know whenever you need any tips/advice! Good luck!

  20. Emma davis February 14, 2017 10:43 am #

    Same thing happened with me, i was frustrated to myself or my work and then after few days i thought to make a plan, go for a adventures travel blogger and find to myself then realize that life never stops at the time of frustration.

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