The Reality of Being a Travel Blogger

Posted on March 29, 2017 by

So What’s This Job Really Like?

For the longest time, I dreamt of traveling the world for a living. Every job I had – whether it was teaching English in Spain, working as an administrator in London or a banker in Singapore – had always been a means to save up for travel.

In 2008, I started this travel blog. It has since brought me around the world – across 115 countries and seven continents – and led to some epic adventures and lifetime experiences. From expedition cruising in Antarctica to overlanding the Silk Road, tracking gorillas in the wild to catching the Northern Lights in Lapland, interviewing locals in reclusive North Korea and camping in the deserts of Iran. It’s the longest — and happiest — I’ve ever been at a job.

I’ve been a full-time, professional travel blogger for almost eight years now. But just like every job, being a travel blogger has its perks and its downsides. I’ve written about how becoming a travel blogger changed my life — now I’d like to share the flip side and show you what my life is really like. Most of you see only the pretty photos and exciting Facebook updates — what you don’t see are the sweat and tears that go behind every story, photo and blog post.

reality of being a travel blogger

Travel blogging reality: Not as exciting or glamorous as you imagine.

I get it — you see updates from me in Ethiopia one day and East Timor the next; my social media channels are constantly filled with photos of beaches, mountains or icebergs; and I seem to be going to a different country every month. I know it seems like the dream life and it is — to a certain extent.

The truth is, my life isn’t all sunny beaches, gorgeous hotels, and epic adventures. There are times when I’m absolutely fed up of flying or stressed out from the lack of WiFi connection. It’s one thing to be going on a heli-hike or canyon swing hosted by the tourism board, and another to be sick on the trip or frantically trying to meet a deadline. I know I sound like a spoiled brat here — let me clarify that while I’m extremely grateful to get the chance to go to places like Antarctica and New Zealand on other people’s dime, I just want you to know this life isn’t as perfect as everyone thinks it is.

reality of being a top travel blogger

I’m working harder than I ever have in my entire life.

Most people think all I do is travel and write a blog post or two. This can’t be far from reality: I’ve never worked this hard in my life. Travel blogging is an all consuming love affair which requires a lot of hard work and dedication. When I first started blogging full-time, I would spent 12 to 14 hours a day working on my laptop. I completely dedicated all my time and energy into building this website and turning it into a business.

Running a travel blog is so much more than just writing blog posts — the rest of my time is spent responding to hundreds of emails a day, negotiating with potential advertisers and clients, pitching magazines and websites and writing for them, editing photos, creating videos, running my social media channels, and networking with others in the online travel industry.

The thing with being a travel blogger is that the work is never done — there’s always something that I want to get done to bring my business to a higher level. Thankfully, I’ve learned to take things slow, to work smarter and prioritise family life before everything. Since having Kaleya, I’ve cut down my working hours but increased my productivity so I actually get more work done in less time now.

My life completely revolves around my travel blog.

As a travel blogger, I find it extremely hard to separate my life from work. After all, my travel blog is about my life, and I share a lot of my life on the blog. Almost everything I do (at least when I travel), is in the interest of this blog. My husband finds it annoying that I often go out of my way to find unusual places or secret corners just to have an interesting story for the blog.

Sometimes it can be stressful and tiring to be always ‘switched on’ — looking for nice photography angles, searching for interesting stories and brewing new ideas when I’m on the road (and even at home). At times, I’ll be tweeting while out on a wildlife safari, instagramming on a trek, or doing a live video at a festival — and that definitely takes away part of the fun.

I also love traveling to remote and far-flung places where WiFi may not be easy to find, and that can get quite nerve wrecking when I’ve got work to do. It took me years to learn how to strike a balance between my job as a travel blogger and my personal life, but I’m at a better place now for both my physical and mental wellbeing.

I no longer travel the way I used to.

Since I became a full-time travel blogger, my travel style has changed quite a bit (sadly). In order to share interesting stories, I’m always taking photos and videos or asking questions, so much so that I feel like I’m missing out on the full experience at times. Sometimes I really need to remind myself to put my camera down and take in the views or enjoy the experience.

Because of my work as a travel blogger, I travel with a ton of heavy and expensive photography equipment and electronics (laptop, external battery and chargers). That means I carry a 10kg daypack everywhere I go, which can be annoying and exhausting especially when I’m traveling with Kaleya. I also have to be very careful with where I stay and where I leave my daypack to make sure it doesn’t get stolen.

I’ve also become very reliant on the internet and I spend way too much time hooked to my devices.  These days, I make it a point to go on at least a trip or two to places without internet connectivity so I can unplug and fully immerse myself in the experience.

reality travel blogger - what it's like

My whole life is on the internet.

As I said, I share a lot of my personal life on this blog and my social channels. My whole life is literally on the internet and under public scrutiny. Just google ‘Nellie Huang’ and you’ll learn all about my life, from where I went to school to how I met my husband and even my t-shirt size. It’s pretty scary to think how easy hackers can probably access my security info.

And when so many people know me online, I feel that I have to live up to certain expectations in real life. I’m quite different online and in person, and I always feel stressed when meeting online friends face to face. I’ve also met people who recognised me from my website, and that can be both flattering and disconcerting.

A holiday isn’t a holiday.

Even though I’m always traveling, I’m actually not sitting on the beach and chilling out all day. In fact, I hardly do that these days. As a full-time travel blogger, I don’t get any time off work unless I prepare everything in advance before I leave. That means making a huge effort to clear my emails, meet all my deadlines, schedule my blog posts and social posts in advance and making sure my Virtual Assistant is covering some work for me.

Even then, it’s worth the effort to take a real holiday and leave my laptop behind, rather than just working ALL the time. Now that I have a daughter, I make it a priority to go on a few trips with her and my husband each year, with no laptop and work responsibilities (on our own funds). I’m currently traveling around Southeast Asia for three months with my family, and I limit myself to working just 4 to 6 hours a day. 

reality of being a travel blogger

Press trips may be fun, but they’re not real travel.

I know how lucky I am. I’ve been on press trips to places that I can’t afford to go myself, like Antarctica, Alaska, the Norwegian Arctic, and Bhutan. I’ve had really special, unique experiences arranged by tourism boards and travel brands, that I otherwise would never have on my own, such as heli hiking in New Zealand, meeting the Prime Minister of Palau, cage shark diving in South Africa, meeting primitive tribes in Papua New Guinea, and dining at a Michelin starred restaurant in Spain that was voted #1 in the world.

I’m extremely grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had, and I feel privileged that so many amazing organisations have faith in me and provide me with such incredible experiences. That said, going on press trips aren’t quite the same as traveling on my own. Most of the time, I’m constantly led around by a guide, or I’ll be traveling with a group of bloggers or journalists, being shown places that are targeted to tourists and not necessarily interesting to me. I rather much prefer independent travel, on my own terms, staying and eating at local establishments rather than five-star hotel chains. That’s why I fund my own travels these days so I can travel the way I want to and find the stories I want to tell.

reality of being a travel blogger

It can get lonely working alone.

If you follow me on social media, you would have seen photos of me working on my laptop by the beach, next to a swimming pool, or in a jungle lodge somewhere in the Africa. I have had some cool “offices” in different parts of the world — but in reality, I’m usually working in my backyard or home office in Granada, Spain.

Another thing with working from home is that it can get pretty lonely and suffocating. I used to get depressed after working in my pyjamas all day and not even talking to anyone (except my husband). When my workload got overwhelming, I sometimes wouldn’t even leave the house for a week. Luckily having a baby has changed things — I get out of the house a lot more, and I have less time to work so I’m more productive and I make better use of my working hours.

This is the double-edged sword of self-employment.  It’s liberating to work for myself and not having to report to anyone — but at the same time, it is challenging to stay motivated and cope with the overwhelming workload by myself.

travel blogger reality

I wouldn’t change a thing.

Being a travel blogger doesn’t sound like the dream job anymore, does it? But the fact is, I wouldn’t trade this job for anything in the world. It may not be perfect, but I still love almost every aspect of it. Being able to travel the world for a living has been a dream come true, and while it comes with its flaws, it’s still pretty damn fantastic.

The freedom that comes with being a travel blogger something I value deeply, and the adventure and thrills I experience on the job are what I love most. I’ve lost count of the number of amazing people I’ve met through travel blogging and the incredible friendships we’ve forged. Not everyone has the chance to work in something they’re absolutely passionate about, and I’m thankful for being one of the lucky few.

It’s been eight years since I became a professional travel blogger, and I’m sure there’ll be many more years to come. I hope you’ll join me on this amazing journey!

reality travel blogger


So you want to be a travel blogger too?

By now, you probably get that being a travel blogger isn’t easy. But if you still think it’s what you want in life, then I would suggest taking it serious and doing it right from the start.

For beginners, I suggest reading my complete guide on how to start a travel blog.

For those who want to pursue a career in travel blogging, I recommend becoming a member of Travel Blog Success. This online academy is the best in the industry and it has a number of courses available, ranging from travel writing to affiliate marketing.

Travel Blog Success is currently having a Spring sale from now to Friday march 31, 11.59pm EST. Get 25% off any course, including the Complete Facebook marketing course that I’ve authored.

During the sale, the regular $397 cost of a lifetime TBS membership will be reduced to $297. That’s a saving of $100! 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission at NO COST TO YOU. As always, I only recommend products or services I use personally.

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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.

9 Responses to “The Reality of Being a Travel Blogger”

  1. Sarah March 30, 2017 2:35 am #

    Still certainly a dream job knowing these realities! Congrats on your success and I love that there are resources like Travel Blog Success so others may achieve the same :)

    • Nellie Huang April 10, 2017 4:51 pm #

      Thanks Sarah and glad to know that I didn’t dash your dreams! Yes I wish there were so many useful resources back then when I first started blogging. With so many blogging academies around now, it’s just so much easier to take a first step into the world of blogging. Good luck!

  2. Mitchell March 30, 2017 4:31 pm #

    Hey Nellie!

    Very insightful post! I’ve recently been considering pursuing a career in travel blogging (right now I’m in the information gathering stage), so this post was very helpful. You mention many times that you often have an “overwhelming workload;” is that true with all successful travel blogs, or is that just because you are always trying to grow your blog/business. If after creating a successful blog, one decided that they wanted to work less, would it be possible to maintain a steady income?

    Thanks for the advice!

    Mitchell

    • Nellie Huang April 10, 2017 4:50 pm #

      hi Mitchell, thanks for dropping by! I’m glad you’re finding this post helpful. I wrote it not just for readers to know what my job is really like, but also for people like you who are thinking of getting into the industry. I would say that it IS possible to maintain a steady income even if you reduce your workload (like what I’m doing now) after attaining a certain level of success with your blog. The thing is, there’s always work to do when you’re a blogger, so essentially the harder you work, the more you’ll be able to grow your blog/business. I used to feel that the number of hours a day is not enough and I would work 12-14 hours a day working on the blog, but I’ve learned to work smarter and have managed to maintain my income while working less. So to answer your question, it is possible but it does take years of hard work before being able to do that. Hope this is of help!

  3. Student Accommodation salford April 17, 2017 8:27 pm #

    Every work comes with some problems and benefits too but the thing is what you love it do make it convenient to balance everything your professional and personal life.

  4. Julia April 25, 2017 5:16 pm #

    Everything you have said is true! The part about feeling under pressure to constantly find the right photo or be updating social media all the time is the hardest part for me. These days I try and separate my ‘blog’ trips from personal ones, so that I can enjoy time without a camera or phone in my hand. I definitely have to find time to reconnect from the online world, otherwise it stresses me out and seeps into everything I do.

    • Nellie Huang May 12, 2017 1:49 pm #

      Glad that you agree! Oh yes it’s so important to separate work trips from personal ones.:) I also like going on at least one unplugged trip per year, where I go somewhere off the grid with no phone or internet signal!

  5. Luna May 28, 2017 12:02 pm #

    Totally agree with you. It’ll be very easy if we just start a travel blog as an online diary which notes all of our activities and places we’ve been to.
    However, making it popular and making it a real business are hardest parts to do. Btw, congrats on your success and wish you all the best :)

    • Nellie Huang September 8, 2017 11:42 am #

      Thanks Luna, that’s very kind of you! :)

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