To celebrate my 8th bloggiversary, I’ll be sharing some behind-the-scene secrets about my life as a travel blogger, with details on how I get paid to travel.
If you had told me eight years ago that I would be traveling the world for a living, I would have laughed at the thought of it. Never in a million years did I imagine that one day I would get paid to travel and lead a travel lifestyle.
Before becoming a travel blogger, I had a 9-to-5 job like everyone else did — but they were just a means for me to save up and go travel. I would quit my job every other year to travel for months on end. When money ran out, I would get a new job again to make money for the next adventure.
I did all sorts of jobs: from being an English teacher to a translator, network engineer and a project manager. None of these jobs was fulfilling to me and I didn’t stay at any job for more than a year. All I wanted to do was a travel job, one that allowed me to make money traveling.
Table of Contents
- How I Get Paid to Travel
- Get Paid to Travel through Travel Blogging
- Can You Make Money Travel Blogging?
- Making My First Bucks from Blogging
- How I Get Paid to Travel
- Affiliate Marketing
- Book Writing
- Freelance Travel Writing
- Sponsored Content and Product Review
- Brand Ambassadorship
- Leading Adventure Tours
- Paid Press Trips
- Social Media Campaigns
- Consultancy Work for Travel Companies
- Designing Courses
- Selling Merchandise
- Other Ways to Make Money Blogging:
- Speaking at Conferences
- Mentoring and Coaching
- Do You Want to Be A Travel Blogger?
How I Get Paid to Travel
Get Paid to Travel through Travel Blogging
Fast forward to today, I’m a full-time travel blogger and published author, and I get to go to exciting, new places all the time. It’s been 13 years now. That’s the longest — and happiest — I’ve ever been at a job.
Travel blogging gives me the freedom to work from anywhere in the world and allows my creativity to flourish. It’s fun, interesting, challenging and extremely fulfilling. Everyday is an adventure and there’s always something new and exciting happening in the blogosphere.
Most importantly, because of my blog, I get paid to travel to far-flung places around the world — from Antarctica to the Arctic, the Galapagos Islands to Madagascar, Iran to North Korea. I get to do cool stuff like skydiving, paragliding ice-climbing, and zorbing. I’ve been to 140 countries on all seven continents, many of which I wouldn’t have been able to afford on my own money — all thanks to this travel blog.
Can You Make Money Travel Blogging?
When I first started this travel blog in 2008, I didn’t know you could actually make money from it.
I knew I wanted to become a travel writer and get paid to travel, but I didn’t know how or where to begin. So I started a travel blog — as a way to practice writing and share my travel stories with others.
I dedicated all my free time to it, spending countless evenings and weekends writing and learning all the ins-and-outs of the industry. While my friends were out partying, I spent any time I had to blog and learn all I could about blogging. Hundreds of hours were spent researching and learning the tricks of the trade. It was exciting and promising.
I didn’t know where it would lead, but I knew I had found something I was passionate about.
Making My First Bucks from Blogging
Not long after starting a travel blog, I stumbled upon a network for travel bloggers and began to connect with other travel bloggers — some were experienced, while others were just at the early stages of their career like I was.
I spent the next two years building an audience, working on the craft of storytelling, gaining a following on social media, and mastering all the other aspects of blogging (while working at a full-time job).
In 2010, I was earning a healthy income of around US$2,000 a month and decided to take a leap into travel blogging full-time. By then, I also had my first article published in a Singaporean print magazine — which gave me the courage to pitch to major publications in the US and UK.
Overtime, I chocked up quite a substantial portfolio, contributing to many big-name publications like BBC Travel, CNN, Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, National Geographic and Women’s Adventure Magazine.
How I Get Paid to Travel
So how EXACTLY do I make a living from my travel blog?
Through my travel blog and social media, I’ve made thousands of connections with travel industry folks: from editors of major publications to tourism boards, online marketing firms, and travel brands seeking help with campaigns. These connections have helped me develop various income streams to support this travel lifestyle.
To succeed as a travel blogger, it’s important to constantly diversify your income stream and come up with new ways to generate an income. These income streams are constantly changing — so the key is to adapt and move along with new trends and changes in new media.
The advertisements that you see on my blog are the main source of income for me these days. You’ll see them mostly on the sidebar and within blog posts. They’re not random advertisements — the algorithm works in such a way that you’ll be shown advertisements relevant to what you’ve been searching for.
For instance if you’ve been looking for a new tent or a pair of hiking shoes, then you’ll be shown ads related to that. The ad network Mediavine is excellent to work with: their support is amazing and they really do regard every blogger as a member of the family. Mediavine pays based on views and not clicks, so basically the more traffic I have, the more I earn.
This is a great way to make passive income i.e. my blog generates income even when I’m not working or traveling. Basically, I get a commission when you click on a link to a product on my blog.
For instance on my Shop page, I will get a small commission when you buy anything on the page through the links. You don’t pay anything extra; I get the commission from the seller, not the buyer!
I emphasise again that I only recommend products or services that I personally use, like and trust. They’ve been tested on the road and worked well (for me), so rest assured they’re trustworthy. I am an affiliate for Discover Cars and Booking.com, which have both been my go-to places to book car rentals and hotels even before I started blogging.
One of my sources of passive income is from selling my book, The Adventure Traveler’s Handbook. It’s a comprehensive guide on how to explore the world in bold, new ways and includes practical tips and first-hand stories from myself and several other adventurers. The book is sold in both digital and print formats.
I also recently wrote a kids’ book, commissioned by DK Publishing. The book, Explorers, is a colorful collection of stories about the world’s greatest explorers, sprinkled with beautiful illustrations. Without tooting my own horn, I really believe this is one of the best travel books for young explorers (aged 7-11). It’s available here.
I also have a few ebooks in the pipeline, that will hopefully be published later in the year. They will be guidebooks that cover more extreme parts of the world — like North Korea and Iran — to help the intrepid travelers navigate off the beaten trail.
Freelance Travel Writing
A quarter of my monthly earnings come from writing for travel publications. Sadly, travel publications no longer pay as much as they used to; in fact many print magazines are going out of business. Nowadays, most publications pay around $0.30 to $0.70 per word— which is not a lot considering how much time, work and research go into writing a piece.
However, travel writing is still my first love and is something I do out of passion so I will always keep at it. I am currently writing regularly for many publications including BBC Travel, Rough Guides, Lonely Planet, G Adventures, and Singapore’s TODAY Newspaper.
Check out my portfolio on this page.
Sponsored Content and Product Review
I also work with travel companies and brands to offer sponsored articles, videos and social media posts. I do product reviews or giveaways for a fee, but I would only recommend products or services I believe in and would use myself.
YOU, my audience, are my priority; so I always make sure to give an unbiased review, offering both sides of the story (what I like AND dislike about the product). Here’s an example of a sponsored post. For full disclosure, I always add a disclaimer at the bottom of each sponsored article or review.
My rates have increased ten-folds since I started to limit the number of advertisers I work with. Now I charge an average of US$700 for a sponsored advertorial.
Travel brands no longer just hire celebrities or personalities to be their ambassadors — many companies are now using the influence of travel bloggers to promote their brand. It’s a smart move really; we have a close connection with our followers, we are more personable, and people can relate to us more than they would with celebrities.
I’ve worked with several companies as their ambassador — my biggest partner being G Adventures, a Canadian adventure tour operator. I was one of their Wanderers in Residence from 2011 to 2015 and I went on two trips a year with them, providing coverage on this blog, social media and other channels I contribute to. I was getting paid to travel with them and write about my experiences here.
I was also ambassadors for KEEN footwear and Eagle Creek. Again, I’m careful with which companies I work with and I always make sure that our style and philosophies are in line.
Leading Adventure Tours
I also run tours to remote, unusual destinations, like Tibet, Bhutan and Tajikistan. Many of these places are difficult and expensive to travel solo. That’s why I launched WildJunket Tours, to bring together like-minded people who have an adventurous spirit and an interest in deep, immersive travel.
It’s also a way for me to connect on a closer level with my readers and generate extra income at the same time.
I partner up with small, local tour operators that are experts in the region and experienced in bringing travelers to their home turf. So we’ll always have a local guide with us who will share insider tips and stories on the area. Check out my new tours here.
Paid Press Trips
You already know that I often get invites from tourism boards and tour operators to travel to certain destinations and write about my experiences here. In the past, these traditional press trips (also known as media trips) would include all flights, accommodations, activities, and meals.
These days, destinations are paying daily stipends on top of providing an all-expense paid trip. In that sense, I get paid to travel while clients get tons of new media content as well as other assets like videos and photos for marketing purpose — it’s a win win situation.
That said, I don’t visit places that aren’t a match for me or my audience, and rarely do I go on group media trips these days. I only do campaigns that fit my interest and niche and that would cater to my readers.
For instance, Lonely Planet recently sent me on a dream trip to Transylvania for a campaign with Skyscanner where I was paid to travel around on my own and share my experiences live on social media and on the blog. I was free to choose where I wanted to go, and absolutely loved the whole experience.
Social Media Campaigns
With over 100,000 followers across my social media platforms, I’m quite a prominent influencer on social media and often get paid offers to host or participate in many social campaigns. These can be in the form of taking over a company’s Instagram account, Snapchat account, or hosting their Twitter chat.
As the co-founder of the #AdvTravelChat on Twitter, I partner with many companies to create brand awareness for them through our monthly chat (first Wednesday of each month at 1pm EST). We work with them to decide on a topic and questions that fit their brand and ours, and together we discuss and answer the questions of more than 300 participants.
I’m also a Lonely Planet Pathfinder, which means I work closely with them to share my stories from the road on my social channels as well as theirs. I get paid to shoot vines (7-second clips) for them, share Instagram photos on their account, and take over their Snapchat.
Consultancy Work for Travel Companies
Since last year, I’ve started doing consulting work for a few travel companies, helping them with their social media and blogging strategy. As a blogger myself, I know how to make things work effectively, so it’s a great way to put my expertise to use and empower other businesses.
Basically what I do is manage blogger campaigns and build relationships with bloggers for the travel brand. This involves selecting suitable bloggers (with the right niche and demographics) and working with them to promote the brand either through sponsored advertorials, giveaways or social promotions.
To take advantage of my skills in social media marketing, I also help a couple of travel companies run their social media channels and build an audience.
Many bloggers also design online courses that help readers either learn how to become a digital nomad or get into blogging. I also offer an online course on Facebook Marketing, which gives step-by-step guidance on how to optimize your Facebook efforts to gain maximum traction. Again it’s a passive income stream, as it’s set on autopilot (once you finish designing the course) and students roll in depending on the success of your course.
Another popular way to make money from travel blogging is to sell merchandise. Since the pandemic hit in March 2020, I started selling unique print maps on my site. I worked with designers to create custom designed print maps and illustrated maps, and it was a rollercoaster ride and steep learning curve.
Other Ways to Make Money Blogging:
There are many other ways to make money through your travel blog — it’s all about experimenting to see what works. For example, I published a digital magazine for two years with my husband’s help, but we decided to stop when the hours we put in didn’t justify the income it generated for us. He went back to his old job and I decided to focus on brand campaigns and it worked out fine for both of us.
Here are a few ways that other bloggers are generating an income.
Speaking at Conferences
I’ve spoken at the Getaway Travel Blog Conference in Cape Town, the TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange) Conference in Costa Brava and the Social Travel Market at London’s annual WTM. Some speaking gigs are paid and provide you access to a huge audience. I personally have severe stage fright and get really nervous public speaking, so this really isn’t something I pursue actively.
Mentoring and Coaching
This is an area I’d like to tap into when I get the chance. Some travel bloggers such as Caz and Craig from yTravelBlog offer mentoring services for those who want to transform their blogs into businesses. They also offer coaching calls to share personalised advice and support.
Do You Want to Be A Travel Blogger?
Truth betold, travel blogging is hard work. I’ve never worked this hard in my life — but neither have I had such a rewarding career or a lifestyle I’d always dreamt of.
If you’re willing to work hard and carve a career in travel, read my piece on how to become a travel blogger.
If you’re serious about making money from travel blogging, I recommend investing in a blogging course to learn all the skills you need. Nomadic Matt’s Superstar Blogging Academy is well worth checking out if you’re interested to learn every major aspect of blogging.
Their in-depth course covers everything you need to know about the business of blogging: from the technicalities of building a blog to what to charge for advertising and how to approach companies. You’ll learn everything about optimizing your site, networking with potential clients, negotiating for deals and getting press coverage on major publications. What’s best is that you’ll have support from some of the top travel bloggers in the industry along the way.
Ask me anything you’d like to know in the comments field below!