Top menu

When Did Travel Blogging Get So Boring?

tbex-photo

With bloggers (including Caroline and Jackie) at my first travel blogging conference in 2013

I was 19 when I started my first blog, way back in 2003. Back then we weren’t talking about things like “self-hosted WordPress sites”, “search engine optimisation”, or “Google analytics”… I mean, social media was only in its infancy (no, I never had Myspace, to every early 2000s hipster’s horror) and I would only get Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram years and years later.

If you’ve read my blog for long enough, you might know the story: my Livejournal morphed into Blogspot around 2008, and Blogspot morphed into WordPress into 2013 (for those who are like, what the hell are you talking about and what is this morphing of which you speak? Those are all hosting platforms for blogs. I’m still experiencing the effects of a botched migration from Blogspot – none of my previous photos made it through. Nightmare). It was around 2012 that I realised, holy shit, travel blogging is a thing? Like, people have social media and make money and work with tourism boards? And in 2013, I went to my very first travel blogging conference, a TBEX conference in Toronto. There, I learned what SEO is (that search engine optimisation I mentioned), that my numbers weren’t good enough for anyone to work with me (I had under 1,000 followers on each of my social media platforms, and I was getting about 3,000 to 5,000 hits on my blog per month), and that there was a weird hierarchy amongst some bloggers, as in some bloggers were actually kind of famous. I remember going up to some random guy (oh how I WISH I remembered his name) to introduce myself, but before I could, he picked up my name tag/lanyard, looked me dead in the eyes, and said, “I’ve never heard of you,” before he walked away.

So yeah, I was pretty disheartened after that conference. I even wrote about how I felt a couple of weeks later (and funnily enough, much of what I say in that post rings true for me today).

IMG_4940

View from my hotel balcony at another travel blogging conference

Despite that, I kept blogging. I still didn’t really understand it as an industry, so I wrote whatever I felt like writing. Being one of the early bloggers plus the fact that I travelled for two years over 2011 and 2012, I sometimes wonder if I missed out on a lot of opportunities to have grown my blog then (though I don’t regret the path this blog took, not at all). My blog was – and still is, to be honest – pretty devoid of articles with tips, advice, or anything really “googleable” (how is that not a word yet, seriously). But I wrote. And I wrote. And over six, nearly seven, years, I accumulated nearly 800 posts on this blog. I also went to a lot more blogging conferences, ones in Ireland, Greece, Sweden, and Spain. At every one, I was told how to make my blog bigger, better, more successful. I signed up and paid for blogging groups and courses that, truth be told, I never actually opened or used (and I’ve since gotten a few hateful comments and emails for signing up for those courses, with those readers claiming I’m a “sell out”. Um, OK. Do you see me promoting them anywhere on this site?). I thought about following the path I kept being told to take with my blog, even though I knew the stuff I liked to write wasn’t really following those “rules”. Over the years, I naturally learned a lot about the industry. You can read about every single thing I know about travel blogging here (but be warned, I actually mention tumbleweeds rolling by), and every single thing I know about social media here (pretty sure there are crickets in that one).

And somewhere along the way, as time went on, those numbers started to grow into the tens of thousands. I don’t take that lightly; that was a direct result of blogging consistently for seven years (I have never posted less than three blog posts a month), not to mention all of the hours per week I spent on social media. Things I did out of love for blogging, and love for interacting with people in the travel community. And all of a sudden I started getting lots of offers. Offers for free trips. Offers for free suitcases, backpacks, cameras, and other travel products. Offers for sponsored posts, paid guest posts, and advertising, usually ten or twenty emails a day.

I took a few of them, at least the press trips; you can see the coverage scattered throughout this blog over the past three years. I’ve worked with amazing people, and done some incredible things because of this blog, and I am ridiculously grateful for all of them. In 14 years I haven’t accepted any advertising or sponsored content, and I’m not about to start.

This Battered Suitcase Blog 4

Blogging from a Thai island (plus my old design!)

But recently, I pulled back a bit to take a look at this blog, and where I’d like to take it. As I recently went down to part-time to focus on this as a possible business, it was necessary for me to outline what I wanted for the future of This Battered Suitcase, and for my career. I started going through my archives. I started looking at the posts that I loved writing the most. I started looking at the posts that readers loved reading the most. And it hit me: if I keep accepting all of these trips, and if I keep chasing SEO stats, my blog might grow, yes. But isn’t my blog also going to get really fucking boring?

I’m in the fortunate position of being sort of an outsider in the travel blogging world, because I did indeed start a long time ago, but I never really hit it big or went full-time professional. That meant I could watch from the sidelines a bit, but get to know some really fantastic, successful bloggers along the way. It also meant I could watch how the industry changed and grew over the past decade, and, if you ask me, it hasn’t always been for the better.

The number of travel blogs has risen exponentially over the years, to the point where some argue the market is totally saturated. And some of these new bloggers are here to PLAY. We’re talking fully optimised blog posts, slick web designs, professional photography (does everyone under age 28 own a drone?!), and perfectly done hair, even when standing in the middle of a rice paddy in Bali (does everyone under age 28 go to Bali?!). For my part-time job, I often research travel blogs for a large travel company, trying to find the right fit for their campaigns, and let me tell you, I am sometimes totally overwhelmed. To be honest, I can also rarely differentiate some of these blogs. It’s the same style of photography. It’s the same sponsored posts. It’s the same listicles, advice articles, and tips. It’s the same “I can teach you how to be a travel blogger, too!” ebooks and courses. So many people, including me at times, are following the recipe we’ve been told will be successful.

This Battered Suitcase Blog 1

Working on my blog in 2012 (at a café that has since closed in Winnipeg, sadly)

And yes, I am sounding like the old, bitter, granny right now. “Who are these damn kids with their expert knowledge of Pinterest and their ability to hike a mountain in a goddamned ballgown?!” you’re probably picturing me screaming toward the sky right now, shaking my fist. And I do not, in any way, want to discourage anyone from starting a blog, because it is single-handedly the best thing I’ve ever done in my life, and I encourage everyone to be creative and passionate about something. It’s also HELLA DOPE (am I using those words correctly, children? Wait, does anyone say “hella” or “dope” anymore?! Send help) that there are so many entrepreneurial, ambitious people out there who are forging their own paths, discovering ways to make money out of what they love to do, and finding their own careers by being resourceful and creative.

I do wonder about this industry, though, and how it will sustain itself in the long run. It is now such a competitive field (though one that is too often dominated by young, white people) that I see more and more individuals faking stats, buying followers, and experiencing burnout from travelling too fast and working too much. Not to mention the distortion of reality that happens with so many blog posts and photographs. On a press trip a couple of years ago, I helped an Instagrammer by taking some photos of her (her boyfriend/photographer wasn’t feeling well). It took an hour and over 500 shots of her on the beach to guarantee she got a good photo. Later, when I saw that photo go up, she had edited the colour of the sky, the colour of the sand, and the colour of the water. She had also removed everyone else in the background, and added birds in the sky. She also didn’t give me credit for the photo, hah.

And I get it – a lot of us, myself included, sometimes crave a bit of escapism. That’s why we read about different locations and look at photos from faraway lands. It’s good to dream, and yeah, I’ll admit it, that photo looked amazing (sadly, I don’t think it was because of my photography skills). But aren’t we all getting a little bit tired of travel blogs and their accompanying social media as they stand today? Do I really need to read another listicle on the top spots to eat in X, Y, or Z? Aren’t a lot of blogs and their social media all starting to blur into one?

Don’t get me wrong – those articles are very, very important. I definitely believe that travel blogs are a great way to share knowledge and information with other travellers, and that it is wonderful to have an arsenal of those kinds of helpful posts on your blog. If you want to be a professional travel blogger, you need them – they’re how you’re going to get organic searches that lead to your blog. I search for them myself when I am planning a trip. All I’m saying is… what else can we offer?

Take it from me: your blog won’t die if you write some personal posts once in a while. Your blog won’t spontaneously combust if you publish a post without any keywords. Your blog won’t suddenly be thrown out of consideration for press trips if you write from the heart.

My argument is that all of these things will make your blog stronger, and will create a much more loyal audience. If I wanted the simple facts about a destination, I’d read a guidebook. I read your blog because I like you and I want to hear your opinions. So, absolutely, write helpful posts with tips or advice. But write funny stories, too. Write about that time you missed your plane. Write about how it felt to step into a new country for the first time. Write about your favourite moments, and your least favourite moments. Write about what inspires you to travel. Write honestly and authentically. Write whatever the fuck you want, without constantly worrying if the post will ever rank well in Google or if it will get a lot of likes on Facebook. When I did this recently, my blog’s traffic grew by over 30% in one month… because people actually wanted to read those posts. And even though those posts will never, ever rank in Google, many of you wrote to me to say that you connected with those posts in some way, or that you liked the posts, and that means so much more to me than the extra numbers in my Google Analytics each month. I’d much rather have a smaller audience who actually wants to read my blog than huge numbers of people who click once to get some information and then forget about the blog all together.

And it’s not just me. Go to just about any travel blog out there and take a look at the posts that get the most comments. I guarantee you it’s not the average listicle or advice article. It’ll be the posts that are the most sincere, the most honest, and the most personal. There’s a way to balance both and still gain a lot of traction in this industry.

This Battered Suitcase Blog 3

The tiny laptop I took with me around Southeast Asia, Central America, and South America for two years to blog

There are quite a few travel blogs that sit somewhere in the mid-range level of influence, in that they get some occasional press trips and have a pretty solid following. But if you look at the top bloggers, the ones who have been able to go full-time, you see what they have in common: they have all shown their personalities, and you feel like you know them through their blogs. They have written posts from the heart, not just because someone sponsored them to write it. They have shared their ups and downs on the road, their trials and their tribulations. You know their tone of voice, their likes and their dislikes (is it weird that I know that Jodi loves soup and hates olives?!). As I wrote in that post about travel blogging: “At the end of the day, you’re going to be the one writing and editing and posting and promoting and responding and if you’re not happy with [your blog], or trying to mimic or conform to what you believe you should be doing, you’re not going to want to do any of it. Don’t get caught up in what you think you should be doing. There are so many amazing blogs out there that I admire and appreciate but I try not to compare myself or get jealous, because everyone should do their own thing. Just be you, because the reason I’m reading your blog is because you are writing it. If you’re you, you’ll be unique, memorable, and relatable, three things I personally love seeing in other blogs.”

Similarly, in that same post, I wrote about how crucial it is to have fun while blogging, because: “If you’re not having fun blogging, your readers aren’t going to be having fun either. When I went to TBEX Toronto, the first thing one of the speakers said was, “Let’s be honest, we all got into blogging to make money.” I’m sure some people would agree, and some are not only fantastic bloggers but fantastic businesspeople. I think the best of these blogs, however, still have fun with their jobs and truly enjoy what they’re doing. All I truly want [with this blog] is to have fun with it, and for you to have fun, too. I think that sometimes people get caught up in trying to make their blogs as professional as possible but, really, unless you’re just a website that specialises in well-ranking (and most likely generic) destination guides, the main reason people read a blog is because they like the blogger behind it. Your blog is your voice, and if people are reading it, it’s because they want to hear you.” And when it comes down to it, who is more likely to actually click one of your affiliate links or purchase something from you? A random person who visits your blog once, or someone who reads your blog a few times a month and trusts what you have to say?

I’m often asked about the future of travel blogging, and while I’ve heard a lot of opinions thrown around – Video! Instagram!! Travel blogging is dying, watch out!!! – I believe that people still want to read blogs. I believe that people will continue to turn to travel blogs not only for advice, but for stories and opinions. I rarely post anything under 2,000 words on this site (this post is 3,000 words, for example) and my numbers are only going up, so don’t believe the people who say nobody will read long-form writing anymore.

Blogging in London

Blogging/planning/writing in London

My goal this year is to really remember why I started blogging fourteen years ago, to share more stories, and to have more fun. Sure, I’m going to write some advice articles, and maybe even accept a few more press trips, but my ultimate goal, as ever, is to write from the heart as much as possible. I’m tired of reading the same advice about how to grow my blog, and tired of feeling the pressure of keeping up with the latest trends, algorithms, and social media platforms; if we all do the same thing, it’s going to get real boring real fast. Instead, I’m going to keep doing whatever I want, I’m going to keep experimenting, I’m going to keep trying to be honest and personal (OK, and I really need a new blog design, I’ll admit it). Way back when, in 2003, that’s what blogs were known for; hardly anyone was making any money from blogging, so we all just did it for a creative outlet, and, ultimately, for a laugh.

At the end of the day, I blog for me, and because I truly love it. The fact that some of you want to stick around is the most beautiful bonus I could ever ask for.

When Did Travel Blogging Get So Boring-

Do you have a travel blog, or do you read a lot of travel blogs? Have you noticed the change over the past few years? Any favourite travel blogs?

,

176 Responses to When Did Travel Blogging Get So Boring?

  1. Tera Givens February 12, 2017 at 10:45 pm #

    This!!!!! I needed this so desperately. I’m just starting out in the travel blogging business simply because I wanted to be a writer and am obsessed with the world, but through an odd twist of fate became a nurse instead. I started taking all these courses, reading advice about what to write about, and getting followers, and readers etc etc. I’ve been doing this for months and i told my husband a few nights ago I felt stuck, this isn’t how I wanted to do this, and that I wanted to write about what I was truly excited about and he said well do it. I kind of looked and him and was like no that not what the course said, and he told me if I wasn’t happy what was the point? I’ve been thinking about it since then and you two are so right. I have to shake off this need for validation through followers and work on the craft itself. Thanks for a great article!

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 1:26 pm #

      Exactly. If you’re not happy with it, what’s the point? I really do believe that if you are having fun with it, that energy will transmit through your work and readers will pick up on it (and the opposite is true, too, which is why when I publish articles I don’t feel very passionate about, nobody comments). Good luck with everything you do, Tera! Thanks for the comment 🙂

  2. Cate February 12, 2017 at 10:59 pm #

    This post was so spot on Brenna! I am in high school, and I began a travel blog about a year ago, not to make money or become a childhood prodigy, but to practice writing and to keep a journal of my thoughts and adventures for ME. Yes, I love it the rare times people comment, and I love that maybe other people read it too, but my favorite thing in the world is when I get to look back and remember everything like I’m there. That’s the best part. I totally agree with you on the amount of blogs these days, and how all they write are the same posts with the same titles. That’s why I love your blog so much. Your narratives are incredible, you really are talented, and they are by at my favorite to read. Also the originality of your ideas and thoughts is beautiful. Never change!

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 1:28 pm #

      Thank you so much, Cate! You are way too kind to me. 😀 I totally agree with you – I actually went back and read a bunch of my old posts from my trip around Asia in 2011, and I started crying, because it made me remember so much. I don’t think I would have had that same connection/reaction if it had just been a bunch of posts about where to go/what to eat/etc. Thanks again, you’re so sweet!

  3. Silvia February 12, 2017 at 11:04 pm #

    I love how you’ve managed to be really real and honest about the industry without (I think) making anyone feel bad. I’ve read a few posts like this recently (which suggests that you’re right about this downward trend) and often they make me want to crawl into bed and never make money from my blog again. But this just makes me want to write about that time I missed my train in Belgrade! xx

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 1:30 pm #

      I’ve had a few hate emails/comments, ha ha, but I didn’t intend to offend anyone, just wanted to encourage people to write more personal stories! And I believe there’s a great balance to be had on blogs, especially on really successful ones like yours… you do it really nicely, I think, because you’re a professional blogger but you can so clearly hear your voice in all of your posts. 🙂

      I want to hear about that missed train! x

  4. Robyn Petrik February 12, 2017 at 11:04 pm #

    Yeeessss. I don’t spend a lot of time on travel blogs specifically, but I feel like so much of what you expressed here is true for all kinds of blog niches, and even online businesses. It’s starting to feel like there’s so much cookie cutter, step 1 – step 2 – step 3 stuff out there. And admittedly, it’s really easy to fall into that trap myself. But the reason I love your blog is because your personality shines through, your writing is heartfelt, and your topics are unique to you! This post is an awesome reminder not to worry so much about the cookie cutter plan and to just have fun again. Thanks for this Brenna!

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 1:33 pm #

      Thank you so much, Robyn! It can definitely feel a bit cookie cutter sometimes, especially when ALL of the courses/guides say to do the same things. Thanks for your insight and your kind words! 🙂

  5. William Raver February 12, 2017 at 11:04 pm #

    I started blogging last year to share the things I love about traveling. I only have a few followers, but I’m not doing it to make money or build a rep. I just like to write about where I’ve been and how it makes me feel.

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 1:30 pm #

      That’s awesome, William! I wish you the best of luck 😀

  6. Lara February 12, 2017 at 11:05 pm #

    It is not just travel blogging that has gotten boring, I think blogging in general.

    A lot of people are now in it for the money that the posts all lack souls. I miss the good old days of blogging which told stories, opinions and events.

    You are not alone with this feeling and I hope we can all go back to the beginning.

    • The Random Sam February 13, 2017 at 3:03 pm #

      Comment on point. 100% agree with you Lara. No soul left. Everyone is to obsess with ‘clicks’, ‘likes’ and becoming an internet sensation.

      • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 1:31 pm #

        I do feel that too many people only focus on the clicks and the likes, instead of what they’re truly passionate about. I’ve felt it myself sometimes. 🙁

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 1:31 pm #

      Yes, agreed… I’ve seen it across the board. I just wrote about travel blogging because that’s what I know best. 🙂

  7. Katie from What's Katie Doing? Blog February 12, 2017 at 11:09 pm #

    I totally agree with you. I blog for fun, as a hobby. The most I get from my blog at the moment is bottles of gin ???? (Not that I’m complaining!). Blogging started as a challenge to keep my brain ticking over and my mum happy when I took a year out traveling. Now it’s something I love to do. But I keep it consistent with my passions – I write like I talk and I’ll willingly answer people’s questions online and in real life. I still want to to grow my blog but I’m so wary of quick fixes…

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 1:34 pm #

      SWEET I want a bottle of gin, ha ha! 😀 I’m definitely wary of quick fixes, too, which is why I think that people buying followers is such a terrible idea. I really think it’s better to organically (i.e. slowly) grow your business. It takes time and patience, of course, but I’ve seen great results. Thanks for the comment, Katie!

  8. Ella February 12, 2017 at 11:19 pm #

    A very interesting and thought-provoking post! Sometimes I wonder about the travel blogging industry, where it’s actually heading and where I fit into all of this as a travel blogger. I do not have any answers to these questions and will likely not have a clue until I see it happening before my eyes. I do know that the blogs that I keep coming back to are ones like yours, where we get to read your stories & experiences and relate to you on a deeper level. Advice and guides post are immensely helpful for trip planning and inspiration and I love gathering information from a travel blogger. But it’s the personal posts that keep me around because a connection is formed between myself as a reader and the blogger. I think blogging can be a wonderful yet very confusing endeavor. But I suppose that if you’re having fun, it doesn’t really matter how your blogging endeavor looks like 🙂

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 1:39 pm #

      Yes, exactly. A few people took this post to mean that you should never write guides, that all listicles are boring, etc. That’s not what I was trying to say – those posts can be immensely helpful. All I mean is that we should always try to put a bit of personality into our personal blogs… because they’re our PERSONAL blogs! We should always try to have a little fun. 🙂 Thank you for always reading and supporting my blog, I appreciate it so much.

  9. Kiara Gallop February 12, 2017 at 11:22 pm #

    I’m so pleased to hear this! And I’m so pleased it’s come from a blogger who I respect and admire.

    It definitely takes the fun out of writing when at the back of your mind is mentioning your keywords as often as you can in the article, having to ‘organically’ insert the title of your post into headings or subheadings, and other important SEO rules.

    I love reading my storytelling posts much more than my lists or destination guides, because they’ve come from the heart, and as a result they allow my personality to shine through 🙂

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 1:36 pm #

      I totally agree with you, Kiara – it can definitely take the fun out of writing. What I do now is just write the post I want to write, and then, if there are any keywords I want to put in, I go back and edit the piece to fit them in. It keeps me sane when writing anything SEO-based! Thanks for your comment and for the kind words 🙂

  10. Vanda February 12, 2017 at 11:25 pm #

    Thank you for this!! I’m also a new blogger trying to understand this business with the hopes of turning it into a career, and it’s so easy to get overwhelmed and loose a bit of our souls in the process. I think you’re absolutely right: the most important thing is to have fun, be creative and express ourselves. The rest will come eventually. And if not, at least we did all that mattered. Thanks again!

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 1:36 pm #

      I totally agree, Vanda! You’re right, the rest will come eventually. 🙂 Thanks for your comment!

  11. Danny February 12, 2017 at 11:33 pm #

    This post is spot on, Brenna! I couldn’t agree more!

    By no means do I know the ins and outs of the travel blog industry (I’ve only been blogging for a year and a half now), but I feel like storytelling and personality are the things missing the most from a lot of travel blogs. As you say, all the “top things to see in place X, Y, Z” posts are definitely informative, but when done ad nauseam… well, everything just seems to get a bit too generic. In fact, I think the best way to make a blog stand out is to be yourself and let your personality shine through. Because who else can do that?

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 1:41 pm #

      Exactly! I would personally never read a blog that was just full of guides or lists… it’s too generic for me. I love getting to know the blogger through their words or photos. Good luck with your blog… and keep having fun! 😀

  12. Elizabeth February 12, 2017 at 11:40 pm #

    I’m a newer blogger and I’ve been taking TBS courses and reading all I can about the travel blogging industry and started to wonder if the reason I’m not gaining followers is because I’m writing less “useful” posts in favor of the story of my adventure. Every time I try to write a useful post or rewrite an old one I get bored! This post is really reassuring that perhaps I’m not the only one wondering if personal posts have no place in the travel blog industry. I prefer blogs that get personal. I’ve been really enjoying yours lately!

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 1:43 pm #

      Thank you, Elizabeth! I think there’s a good balance to be had on blogs. If you look at mine, I do have some guides and/or posts that are SEO optimised, but the majority of my posts are personal. So I still get some of that organic traffic, but my ultimate goal is to appeal to the people to read my blog frequently, not just the ones who find it once. Best of luck with your blog, and I hope you are having fun with it! 😀

  13. Beatrice February 12, 2017 at 11:49 pm #

    Yes I love reading you because you write from the heart and your stories and thoughts are personal. I mostly follow travel blogging females my age because they inspire me. You, Oneika, Flora, Jodi and Adventurous Kate have inspired me with countries to travel to. I like that all of you are real and honest. I also like that you all have a unique and different style. LOVE ❤️ Beatrice

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 1:39 pm #

      Thank you so much, Beatrice! And so nice to see my friends listed in that comment, too. 🙂 You are always so supportive of this blog, and I am so thankful for it! <3

  14. Jen February 12, 2017 at 11:51 pm #

    I. Love. This. I’m not a blogger, but I love to read them. The best blogs are about experiences and stories regardless of what category they fall in. I love reading what you write because it doesn’t matter where you’re writing from, the experience is entertaining, thoughtful or funny. Sure, it’s nice to know about a cute cafe that serves amazing food, but reading about the fascinating person you shared a meal with or the story behind the owner takes it to the next level. Thank you for writing about things that actually matter and not just things that will earn you a few extra dollars.

    • Brenna Holeman February 17, 2017 at 3:08 am #

      Thank you so much, Jen – what an amazing comment to receive! I’m totally with you on the experiences… if I’m researching a trip, fair enough, I need those tips, but overall I like to read about someone’s time in a place and their reflection on it. Thanks again for your comment and for all of your support! 😀

  15. Abby February 12, 2017 at 11:56 pm #

    This is such a good article that points out something a lot of us readers have been feeling for a long time. Although I have a travel blog for fun, I never intend to turn it into a career. I started it because I wanted to write the stuff that I wanted to read but couldn’t find so easily. I was tired of all the Top Ten Things To Do In Thailand lists and generic photos and perfect-looking people in perfect sunsets. Honestly, your blog and a handful of others are the only ones I consistently turn to for good travel content and inspiration. And we are glad that you’re here!

    • Brenna Holeman February 17, 2017 at 3:14 am #

      Thank you so much, Abby! My blog definitely started as a hobby and even as I started to get offers, I knew that I had to stick to the style that I knew and loved. Otherwise it just wouldn’t feel right to me. It’s awesome to hear that you’re blogging for fun!

      Thanks again for all the kind words, I really appreciate it. 🙂

  16. Melissa February 13, 2017 at 12:09 am #

    Aaah, this is exactly what I’ve been feeling! I started my blog back in 2014 to document a three month trip to Europe and then decided in late 2016 to rebrand and really take it seriously. I became OBSESSED WITH numbers to the point that it impacted my mood if I didn’t get the result I expected. My blog is still super small but I decided that I don’t want it to be about the numbers. I want it to be about what I love and why I started it – to write, share my photos, tell stories, and really create something beautiful. I’m still working on my “niche” but I don’t feel pressure to find one and make it a whole thing because why should I? I’ll just keep doing and writing about what makes me happy and go with that.

  17. Tom Sweeney February 13, 2017 at 1:23 am #

    Brenna, what a refreshing take on travel blogging, I really enjoyed reading it. I’m a long-time professional journalist who specialises in travel writing and doesn’t give a damn about blog stats. I was for several years the travel editor for the Irish editions of the News of the World, a newspaper that Rupert Murdoch closed down because of the well-documented phone hacking carried out by some unscrupulous staff members in London. When the paper closed and I was out of a job, I started a travel blog, and I’m gratified to say that it has been recognised in collecting several awards. I travel and write about my adventures — or, more often, misadventures. Long-form writing comes easy — I can introduce characters and situations that would have to be left out if I were writing 800 words for the paper in Dublin, Ireland, where I’m now a staffer, The Herald. If I have a recognisable trademark style on my blog, it’s humour, with which I try to infuse all my blog articles. I’m not a puppet of any corporate; I do get many invitations from travel providers, but I accept them on the understanding that I will write an honest review. If I travel somewhere as a guest and I don’t like the experience, I prefer to write nothing rather than bad-mouth my hosts. Who the hell wants to read a bad review? For that matter, who the hell would waste time writing a bad review? Anyway, I travel blog as a sideline to my daily newspaper job as chief copy editor. I write many more travel articles for my print newspaper than I do for my blog, but when I upload a piece to Blogspot (I know it’s steam engine, but I’ll be on WordPress soon), I can do 3,000 or 4,000 words and really paint a big picture. Travel blogging is a joy for me to do, especially long-form, which you mentioned above. I could do three or four a month ’10 Things’ travel pieces, but I prefer to tell a story rather than provide a check list. It means I don’t publish an awful lot of blog pieces, but I do pour a helluva lot of time and research into every one. And, hopefully, readers will find them entertaining as well as informative — like your travel articles.

  18. Alisa February 13, 2017 at 1:26 am #

    This this, so much this! I’ve been blogging for almost as long as you have, but as I’ve never had any desire to make money or do anything but talk about my own stories and life, I keep getting told that I’m “doing it wrong.” I’m not on the right blogging platform (I decided the switch from Blogger/Blogspot to WordPress back in the day was too much work), I don’t care about SEO, I don’t write lists and my posts are too damn long. No one reads, but that’s fine. I just found it frustrating when I went to TBEX Costa Brava a few years ago and the whole thing was only about gaining more followers and rebranding and creating FOMO. As if I wanted to blog in order to make people feel bad about themselves! The only reason I was there in the first place was to meet other people who loved travel as much as I did and wanted to write about it. But it felt really fake.

    You’re so right–blogs that tell a story are so much more interesting than those that just give advice, and I honestly have so little desire to read the latter kind anymore…I wish more people had a soul in their posts these days!

    And BTW, I really loved your Bridget Jones-style confessional about men and drinking–hilarious! All the things so many of us are thinking but never dare to say. 🙂

  19. Paige February 13, 2017 at 2:14 am #

    I’m not a travel blogger myself (have thought about starting one, but that’s another story), though I’m an avid reader of many. The blogs I love (like yours!!) are narrative-based, honest, and tackle stuff outside of “Top 10s.” I’m drawn to blogs that read like memoirs, because I think that style of writing captures what actual travel feels like–ups and downs, personal stuff, funny stories, moments of insight, etc. And when I’m reading blogs (like tonight, from my snowed-in apartment) I’m doing it because I want to have a kind of secondhand travel experience, not plan a concrete itinerary. I feel like I kind of learned to be a solo traveler by reading blogs–going on trips by myself wasn’t something I thought I could actually do until I read A LOT about ALL of it. I’m pretty sure I commented before about how when I got sick in an airplane bathroom I reminded myself of your travel ailments posts and was like “I will be okay because these kinds of things have happened to Brenna too!” I guess what my rambling comment is saying is, I personally return to blogs again and again that have great story and personality.

    P.S. I am 25 and do not have/want a drone (they creep me out) but will happily take that Bali trip, lol! 🙂

  20. Savannah February 13, 2017 at 2:22 am #

    Great post as always, Brenna! Your blog is one of the only “travel blogs” that I’ve read regularly for the past four or five years since I discovered the genre. Too many travel-oriented blogs are boring, I agree. I’ve found that many of them have a handful of like-able posts but none of them have kept me coming back month after month like yours and a few others. Why? Because, like you say, you all consistently post personality-filled content. I love the whole travel writing genre, and that’s what I’m looking for in a blog: stories.
    I actually recently started my own travel blog purely for the joy of sharing my experience with family and friends & to have a creative outlet for writing while on the road. Needless to say, that made this a really reinforcing read.
    Anyway, thanks and keep doing you!

  21. Esther B. February 13, 2017 at 2:52 am #

    Again, you hit all really important points. Thanks for saying what is probably on a lot of other people’s minds. The blogs I read are the ones that get personal and stay honest with their audience. By the way, that video on Instagram husbands is hilarious!

    • Brenna Holeman February 17, 2017 at 3:14 am #

      Thank you so much, Esther! I’m glad you liked the post. And yes, I love that video! 😀

  22. Jodi February 13, 2017 at 3:51 am #

    I started a blog for my family and friends at home to keep up with what I’ve been up to. Then I discovered I actually like writing. Then strangers who don’t have to read my blog started reading and liking it. It’s easy to get distracted by the numbers and by wanting more people to see and like what you put out there. But, I’m still just writing for me and because it’s fun.
    I think what you are saying is true of most things. It’s important to remember why you are passionate about whatever that thing is, why you started doing it in the first place. It’s important to keep having fun and keep being you. It’s easy to forget those things and get discouraged. So, thanks for reminding me.

  23. Karen February 13, 2017 at 4:07 am #

    Thank you. I don’t blog. I travel. I pray new (& old) travel bloggers follow this advice because I have no need of your tips and “listicles”. I read for the narrative. So brava for staying true to yourself.

    • Brenna Holeman February 17, 2017 at 3:15 am #

      Thank you very much, Karen!

  24. Leah February 13, 2017 at 6:50 am #

    What a great and timely post. I have been in a funk and have to remember why I started (to keep in touch with fruends and family – mostly my mom – who aren’t on social media).

    So far, I have managed to avoid a “Tip 10… You Must Do in …..” post. It can be challenging to keep posts from being more than a timeline with pictures (all taken on my phone with no touvh-ups, thank you).

    Your suggestion to keep it personal resonates. Thank you. I will try to get back in the saddle.

    • Brenna Holeman February 17, 2017 at 3:16 am #

      Thank you very much, Leah… and best of luck to you! I hope you’re feeling motivated and that you get out of that blogging funk soon (I’ve been through them, and they’re the worst).

  25. Suneé February 13, 2017 at 7:34 am #

    I couldn’t agree more with this post. The number of blogs I’ve added to my feedreader only to delete two days later in disgust/boredom/annoyance is astounding. As you said, I read blogs because I enjoy a person’s story, not because I’m looking for a list of top ten beaches. A list like that once in a while is fine, but if that’s all there is to it then no thanks. Your blog is exactly what I enjoy reading, so don’t change a thing!

    • chewy February 14, 2017 at 8:04 am #

      On that note, I should do what you do and delete some from my feed. I tend to just skim through all the titles until I finally find something I’m interested in reading!

      • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 1:44 pm #

        I am ruthless with my deleting 😉

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 1:43 pm #

      Aw, thank you so much, Suneé! You’re the best. 😀

  26. Coral February 13, 2017 at 7:41 am #

    At last. As a 50 something part time blogger who does it for fun, to improve my writing, for my sanity and hopefully inform and entertain along the way, you have hit the nail on the head. The snobbishness of the blogging community (some of them) shocked me. And as a older woman the posts about travelling while you are still young and the top ten sexiest bloggers on the planet lists – just want me want to retch. Because young and sexy is all that matters now? Anyways… thank you for your honesty, and for calling it. And I so hope that guy that dissed you at the conference is reading your post (while he hangs out in Chang Mai in his jandals with all the other digital Nomads). Meanwhile this travel blogger is house and dog sitting in freezing cold Wales with two super dogs for company. I am supposed to be writing a book on decluttering and downsizing to facilitate a life with less housework and more travel. Instead I am waiting for the laundry to finish at 6.34 a.m. having packed the DH off at 5 a.m. on a longer than normal commute to work. And after 5 years have no clue about keywords, SEO or DA. But writing kept me sane, got me through some tough times and so I will carry on regardless. As I hope you will.

    • Brenna Holeman February 17, 2017 at 3:19 am #

      Oh my god, your comment about Chiang Mai made me laugh so hard! Ha ha 😀

      And yes, I think there can definitely be a lot of elitism in this industry… I don’t think it’s a very diverse industry yet which truly is a shame; the travel community is very diverse, and full of people from all walks of life. I also agree that writing has gotten me through some tough times, and that I feel best when I’m writing something I’m proud of. So best of luck to you… and have an amazing time in Wales!

      Thanks a lot for your comment, Coral. 🙂

  27. Sanna February 13, 2017 at 9:22 am #

    I think one of the reasons I really enjoy your blog, and have since I’ve discovered it a couple of years ago (although I’m terrible at actually commenting), is that you have two qualities which feel like they are becoming rarer: a unique voice and integrity. Also, I love that you’re not afraid to try new concepts and way of writing, like the series about a month without alcohol and men (which was great). Thank you for being a great inspiration!

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 1:44 pm #

      Aw, that’s an amazing comment, thank you so much, Sanna! I really appreciate all of your support. 🙂

  28. chewy February 13, 2017 at 9:29 am #

    Yes! Thank you for this post! I agree with your philosophy on this, and it’s really nice to hear from someone who has been in it for so long who also wants to keep going for the foreseeable future. I don’t want to write listicles and post perfect selfies that are photoshopped to death. But I also hope that I can grow and gain readers who truly enjoy reading my personal posts and following my Instagram feed. This gives me hope!

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 1:46 pm #

      Thank you, Chewy! I definitely think there’s a way to balance it out, so that you can gain both organic readers and keep a loyal, dedicated set of readers. Best of luck with everything that you do… 😀

  29. Tash February 13, 2017 at 9:30 am #

    I never need to see another photo of a skinny blonde “lifestyle blogger and content creator” in a bikini on a giant inflatable flamingo as long as I live.

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 1:45 pm #

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH oh my god, you made my day. 😀

      • Tash February 16, 2017 at 8:00 pm #

        Haha! Good to know!

  30. Amy February 13, 2017 at 9:36 am #

    This is a super motivating post! I totally agree with you — I might read listicles and how-tos on various blogs, but I become a *reader* of a blog when I connect with someone’s voice. And, as a writer, I enjoy writing personal pieces so much more than guides and lists (though there’s definitely a place for those too! And, done with personality, they can be fun to write/read as well).

    My most popular post (organically — no StumbleUpon or reciprocal sharing) is about how I failed at fashion compared to the stunning Russian women of Saint Petersburg. I don’t know how people find it, and I don’t know what they’re looking for, but I guess there’s something there that resonates. 🙂

    Looking forward to your future writings!

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 4:12 pm #

      Yes, isn’t that so strange… when you write something from the heart without thinking of SEO or anything like that, and then a bunch of people find it anyway? I think it proves you don’t always have to follow the “rules” or a set plan… sometimes you just need to follow your gut.

      Thanks for your comment, Amy! 😀

  31. Jasilyn February 13, 2017 at 9:50 am #

    Ugh, I hate travel bloggers, well, there are a few I like, but I wouldn’t even consider them travel bloggers because they don’t post the crap that most travel bloggers do. I even cringe when people refer to me as a travel blogger. Yes, I talk about my trips, but that’s only because I want to keep my family and friends back home up to date. I wouldn’t even consider signing up for groups “selling out.” I think selling out is when you post stuff because you think it’s what you need to do not because it’s what you want to do. Plus, I honestly hate when I actually am looking for relevant posts and the travel bloggers put little effort into it, or only write about place that I could write myself with 2 minutes of Google searching.

    This is a long comment, but I just appreciate your honesty and pointing out how ridiculous all these travel bloggers are.

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 3:59 pm #

      Thank you, Jasilyn! I’m glad that you liked the post. 🙂 I also get really frustrated when I realise a post isn’t actually very helpful.

  32. Marlee February 13, 2017 at 11:05 am #

    I have only recently started following travel blogs and with vim and vigor I aggressively signed up for quite a few before taking off on my year long travels – oh the advice I would get! While I still occasionally look at a couple of the others’ articles and posts, your blog has been the only one I’ve really latched on to and am excited to read when it pops up in my inbox. It’s my travel treat and for many of the reasons you’ve stated above, I come to look forward to reading each and every article. Thank-you for your honesty and for the overall realness of your writing and opinions. Travel isn’t always this perfect photo-shopped image (I avoid those travel Instagram accounts like the plague) and I sincerely appreciate all of “you” that goes into your blog!

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 4:00 pm #

      Aw, you’re the best, Marlee. Thank you so much for such a beautiful comment! I am so thankful for your support. 😀

  33. Annika February 13, 2017 at 11:28 am #

    I love this post so much and it comes as just the right time. I do want to treat my blog as a business but I am a bit disheartened right now as it is not going the way I want in terms of readership. But this reminds me to go back to the stories, to finding my voice again and to remember why I got in it to begin with. To share my ‘funny’ stories, to inspire and to create something meaningful on the way. Thanks for this beautiful reminder to not be another boring travel blogger but a real person behind it all!

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 4:01 pm #

      I think there’s a way to balance both – I try to write optimised posts once in a while, or take on press trips from time to time, but I understand that at the core my blog is about the personal stuff. Best of luck with your blog, and thank you so much for your comment! 🙂

  34. Georgia February 13, 2017 at 12:38 pm #

    Something I notice on your blog – and this post – you have engaging, considered comments to your articles. Not ‘wow, love it, read my blog *link* crap. That’s lacking on so many blogs – a few exceptions of course. I recently unfollowed a tonne of blogs on Bloglovin’, and more than 300 travel-related Instagram accounts, because they’re dull clones of one another. I want to know the person I’m reading about, what they really think, not who has sponsored them and how I can be a successful travel blogger, ugh.

    I understand blogs change and grow with their writer, but seeing someone go from writing their own stuff, travelling on their own dime, in countries that are accessible, to switching to business class (comped) flights, comped 5* hotels and weird (comped) destinations which are so not them, really irks me. It’s the same in the lifestyle/beauty blog world, there are barely any I can be bothered to read anymore.

    Working for a PR agency in the past, I conducted blogger outreach programmes, and the coverage is so boring. The concept is boring. The products covered are boring, and largely dictated by the agency/brand. And so few of them received any traction with their readers. (I did not agree with the outreach programmes FYI) Once a blog is sponsored post followed by sponsored post, I’m out.

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 4:10 pm #

      Hi Georgia, thank you so much for your insightful and honest comment. I also unfollow blogs once it becomes too sponsored… there’s just no point in me reading it anymore. And I totally get that feeling when someone switches to all comped travel… personally, for me, I would feel uncomfortable doing that. The odd press trip is great, but I also like to travel on my own dime (partially so I’m not obligated to write anything for anyone, hah, but mostly because I like to do what I want).

      And thank you for your words on my blog – yes, I’m so blown away by the wonderful comments I receive here, and it’s probably the thing that I’m most proud of/happy about when it comes to all this. The fact that people want to say something in reply or add their two cents is so amazing.

      Thanks for such a great comment! 😀

  35. Erica February 13, 2017 at 1:59 pm #

    I’ve had a blog (updated extremely sporadically) since 1999, no joke. That was the year I was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes. I was 12, WordPress didn’t exist yet, and I copy & pasted the HTML for each blog post, lol. That blog has gone through so many names, so many urls, that sometimes I think that if I’d kept the same name and same URL I’d probably still be on the first page of google searches for my first name. (Those were the days, weren’t they?)

    Now I’m nearly 30 and planning a big move to Europe, and have only just recently started thinking about posting more often on my blog and trying to grow it as I share my experiences. I see what you mean about travel blogs becoming boring, and I definitely relate. I love your blog—your honest writing style, your funny stories, your more realistic photography (I assume you don’t heavily photoshop like that instagramer you mentioned…) actually makes you one of my favorite bloggers and inspires me a great deal! It helps to know I don’t have to be SEO-perfect to find my audience and be successful.

    Please keep being you!

    • Brenna Holeman February 17, 2017 at 3:50 am #

      Wow, blogging since 1999? Amazing! I used to have to use photobucket for all of my photos (remember when LJ wouldn’t host photos? Maybe they still don’t) and it was SUCH an added chore. I really hope that you start blogging more again, it really is so much fun and I find it so incredibly rewarding in so many ways. 🙂

      And thank you for much for all of your amazing words about my blog, I appreciate them so much! You are way too kind to me. 🙂

  36. Victoria February 13, 2017 at 2:30 pm #

    You hit on exactly the reason I was hesitant to even start a travel blog. Because so many of them are so damn boring! I want to read a blog because I enjoy the person behind it (which is why I only regularly check a small handful of blogs). I refer to my RoughGuides book when I need practical help.
    I’m really really hoping we’re going to see a trend of more personal blogging that values writing over personality-less posts. I definitely don’t think blogging is dead, but hopefully blogging solely for money is on its way out.

    • Brenna Holeman February 17, 2017 at 3:21 am #

      Thank you for your input, Victoria! I hope that you are enjoying blogging – there is certainly room for all sorts of blogs, but I agree that I prefer the ones that value writing and that showcase the blogger’s personality.

  37. Nicole February 13, 2017 at 3:32 pm #

    I only just started my travel blog but this rings so true. I started it because I wanted to start writing again and improve my writing and creativity. I used to blog quite a bit a while ago but stopped and feel I lost some creativity in doing so. I do, however, also want to learn about social media & SEO strategy at the same time because I find it interesting and am pondering a change in career into that kind of stuff so feel it was a good way to teach myself about it. However I won’t let my writing be completely governed by it and will still write about what I want to document and in my own personal writing style.

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 4:11 pm #

      I think that sounds like a great balance, Nicole! I also enjoy learning about all of it, but I love staying true to myself and only writing what I want to write. Thanks for your comment!

  38. Monica February 13, 2017 at 3:53 pm #

    Thank you for writing this post and saving me from myself. Just yesterday my boyfriend and I were talking about my new blog and how if I want to get readership I need to do lots of information posts, which I balked at, saying “but it will be so boring!”. I have been travel blogging since 2013, but it was mostly for myself and my family so the posts are not exactly focused on a travel blogging audience. My new site is just a baby, only a couple weeks old at this point, and I am constantly debating if I should move my old content to the new blog or not. On one hand, the audience really isn’t right, the posts are personal, not very informational, but on the other hand it is those posts that captured the soul of my writing and I feel I would be losing that if I leave them on the old site to rot. Anyway, sorry for the long comment, but I appreciate hearing that I can keep the soul of my writing and still be (maybe) successful (i.e. actually have readers). Your blog is the one that inspired me to make the jump from my personal blog to something more wide ranging, because you write such entertaining, yet useful posts that manage to keep the soul of your blog alive.

    • Brenna Holeman February 17, 2017 at 3:24 am #

      I think you should definitely bring them over to the new site! If anything, it’s nice to have all of your writing in one place (I often go through my own archives and reread stuff from years ago that I had forgotten about).

      I also think there’s lots of room for balance on a blog, so mixing those personal posts with practical ones is a good solution, I believe. And thank you so much for all of your amazing words about my blog – wow, what a lovely thing to read today! I really appreciate all of your support, Monica. Best of luck with your new site!! 😀

  39. Brit Hemming February 13, 2017 at 4:27 pm #

    I absolutely love this post and could not agree more! I also blog for myself and to share my experiences with the world and I’m amazed everytime someone actually takes the time to read and comment on one of my posts. You have an awesome blog! Keep doing your thing. You are absolutely right, I would rather read a personal story about how a place made you feel than another listicle

    • Brenna Holeman February 15, 2017 at 11:20 pm #

      Thank you so much, Brit! That’s awesome that you are doing the same with your blog, and that you are having fun with it. Isn’t it such a wonderful feeling?? 🙂

  40. Christine February 13, 2017 at 4:36 pm #

    Ahhhh I have been writing a post like this in my head, mostly around all of the bloggers who now make a living off telling people that they too can become travel bloggers and travel the world and get paid for it! It’s frustrating to me because I don’t think that there is unlimited room for insane success in this profession (it is SO saturated) and it also implies that there’s something wrong with working at a job and having a home and not traveling excessively. Also, not many full-time travel bloggers I’ve met are even that happy behind the facade! So many complain about not getting paid on time and living hand to mouth even when bragging about making six figures on social media, or about being lonely when they tout how amazing it is to be on their own. Moral of the story: I’m with you, and I’m very happy with the (potentially less successful) route that I’ve taken.

    • chewy February 14, 2017 at 8:13 am #

      I’m always wary of any kind of bloggers telling people they can make lots of money blogging (or anything airy like “following your passion”, although I do often enjoy reading those blogs). I am not a pro blogger by any means, and I can tell that it’s not going to be a money maker for anyone and everyone.

      PS I also don’t like the stigmas against traveling while working, or just not traveling full time if you want to blog about it too!

      PPS It’s interesting what you mention about full time bloggers not being happy, or making that much money. I guess I’m not surprised, but a little annoyed that it is the way it is (with them pretending it’s different).

      • Brenna Holeman February 15, 2017 at 11:08 pm #

        I’m always wary of that, too, Chewy! And I’m with you on the stigmas… nothing wrong with wanting somewhere to settle or a full-time job.

    • Brenna Holeman February 15, 2017 at 11:07 pm #

      YES! Seriously, I am SO sick of hearing bloggers say things like, “You can do it, too!” No, not everyone can. It takes a serious amount of work and, let’s face it, a huge amount of luck, too (don’t get me started on the “don’t call me lucky” posts, ha ha). I have been living in London and working for the same company for over three years, and it’s been great… you’re right, nearly every single person I know who is a full-time nomad gets SO burned out, so tired, and so jaded. I am so glad that I took this route, too.

      We seriously need to meet up! Thanks for your insightful comment as always, Christine. 🙂

  41. Caroline Eubanks February 13, 2017 at 6:06 pm #

    1. Love that pic of us!
    2. I’m totally with you. I took a different path to blogging and never actually planned on making it “big.” It was and still is an outlet that led to freelance writing work.
    3. Keep on doing what you do! It’s why you’re one of my favorite blogs to read.

    • Brenna Holeman February 15, 2017 at 11:04 pm #

      We need to hang out again soon! I hope our paths cross this year somehow 😀

  42. Jen February 13, 2017 at 6:08 pm #

    This is an absolutely great post. I started blogging almost 4 years ago and I noticed right away the entitlement in the industry. I’ve been in a lot of fields (Army Officer, history teacher, yoga teacher) and I have never seen the amount of entitlement I see in the travel blogging industry.

    When I started my blog I started it purely for my love of history and travel, and I write because I love those things and want to share them. I never expected or really wanted to make a dime from the blog (although I have). Having multiple sources of income really helps with this.

    I so agree with your statement that you should have fun blogging, and really that is the only way to go. The thousands who start with an idea of quick easy money are only setting themselves up for disappointment.

    I don’t read a whole lot of travel blogs, I find that many of them have a unbearable air of pretension and arrogance, but this post convinced me to add yours to the list of the few I read on a regular basis.

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 1:59 pm #

      I know, I do see a lot of entitlement, too… it’s quite sad. I’ve sadly heard of a lot of bloggers faking stats or inflating their influence to charge insane amounts of money for press trips, and I hate what kind of message that sends out about travel bloggers. And I totally agree with what you said about the quick easy money… it doesn’t really exist in blogging! It takes time, effort, and determination before you can start to see the effects.

      Thanks so much for your insight here, and for continuing to read my blog! I really appreciate it. 😀

  43. Jessica February 13, 2017 at 7:50 pm #

    This is precisely why your blog is one of my favorites. I follow and unfollow bloggers like the Blond Abroad all the time because the photos are pretty, but it’s annoying to read glowing reviews about hotels/cruises that are free for her and astronomically expensive for the average reader.

    You have a fabulous personality and it really shines through. I was hooked on your blog from day one. Cheers!

    • Brenna Holeman February 15, 2017 at 11:11 pm #

      Aw, you are way too kind to me, Jessica. Thank you so much for your comment about my blog! I am personally a fan of The Blonde Abroad (I think her photography is excellent and I really admire her business sense) but I understand what you are saying about bloggers who post a lot of content that is unattainable for readers (this is often my issue with some fashion bloggers… I can’t afford those clothes). I try to only accept press trips that I would be willing to pay for myself (and that are within my budget).

  44. Alex February 14, 2017 at 3:55 am #

    This is exactly why I read your blog. I love your stories about what really happened, I’m interested in your opinions of the places you go. But because of all that, I trust your advice when you give it. You let us get to know you a little, so we know why we should listen when you give your opinion. Whereever you choose to take this blog, even if (and it hasn’t happened yet) we disagree once in a while, I promise you’ll have a dedicated group on the other side of the screen, cheering for you!

    • Brenna Holeman February 15, 2017 at 11:03 pm #

      Aw, thank you so much, Alex! What an amazing comment to receive. I’m so glad that you’re enjoying the blog – your support means so much. I hope we won’t disagree anytime soon! 😉

  45. Brittany February 14, 2017 at 5:51 am #

    Thank you!!! I have been reading blogs since approx 2007 and when I started, I was reading all these amazing blogs! Not only travel related, but fashion, lifestyle etc… but I was going through the blogs that I still read the other day and there are only one or two that I still read because they have changed so much! They have all started to blur into one and I can’t tell who’s running the blog anymore.
    I am constantly trying to find travel blogs and I always compare them to yours because I thoroughly enjoy reading yours. I understand that some people don’t want their personal lives all over the internet but my argument always is… why do blogging then?

    And as for everyone feeling like their blog or creative outlet HAS to be one thing… I am struggling with that myself. Having just started a booktube channel (on Youtube) I am struggling slightly to break away from what I am ‘supposed’ to be doing, and focus on what I actually want to do. Thank you so much for writing this post!

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 6:25 pm #

      Aw, thank you so much, Brittany! I really appreciate all of your support for this blog. 🙂

      I have sadly stopped reading a few blogs that I used to read, too, because there was just too much sponsored content or paid travel. I think there’s definitely a way to have a balance of optimised posts and personal posts!

      Thanks again for your lovely comment!

  46. LC February 14, 2017 at 10:16 am #

    I’ve been wondering the same thing myself lately. I read a lot of blogs and skip past many posts on my Feedly, quite simply because they are not interesting. After much trawling, I’ve found some blogs by part time bloggers that I really enjoy reading (Wales to Wherever, Eva Explores and Eternal Arrival to name a few) because they are honest, funny and engaging, which is exactly what I aim to be in my own writing.
    Anyway you know I love your blog and I think some of your success is based on word of mouth, which is pretty amazing in this field (in fact, I think I originally found your blog due to a mention it got on another very well-known blogger’s site). Newer bloggers do face a massive challenge – how the heck do you make yourself heard in a crowd as large as the travel blogging industry? I’m hoping through a healthy mix of SEO-friendly and personal posts!

    • Brenna Holeman February 17, 2017 at 3:43 am #

      You know I’m incredibly thankful for your support of my blog… but thank you again!! I agree, I think I’ve had some luck in that regard.

      And yeah, I understand how it can be totally intimidating for new bloggers – especially now as there are so many blogs. I agree that a healthy mix is probably the best way… you can still get some organic traffic, but people will want to stick around and read the personal stuff, too.

      Thanks again 🙂

    • chewy February 17, 2017 at 4:30 am #

      Would love to hear more of your blog recommendations!! I haven’t been searching for new blogs to read, mostly because I’m tired of sifting through all of it. hahaha

  47. Katie February 14, 2017 at 1:16 pm #

    Seems like you’ve struck a chord, m’dear. Working on the industry side (as you know), has also made me a bit jaded when it comes to blogging in general. I began lifestyle blogging because it had the potential to earn income, but I kept lifestyle blogging because of the occasional “I only read 3 blogs and I’ve been reading your blog for years because I love your writing style and I’ve never commented but I’m commenting now because I just tried this recipe you posted and it’s the shit, so thanks!” Talk about an ego boost.

    I never did bother really trying to figure out the whole monetization thing because the more I tried to do that, the less joy I found in the actual writing. And I kind of hate social media. And it turns out that post titles like “Five Weddings and a Foodgasm” aren’t SEO friendly at all, but like, how could you *not* give a post that title? But writing, in the end, is the real reason I did it for so long. And the reason my disillusioned self should start it back up again. If for no other reason than to train myself to stop starting so many sentences with the word “and.” So thank you for that.

    • Brenna Holeman February 17, 2017 at 3:47 am #

      Thank you so much, Katie. I’m really terrible at commenting on blogs but I agree, your blog is awesome and your writing style is fantastic. 🙂

      I also agree that I’m just simply not interested in some of those things, which is why I am probably missing out on some traffic (but yeah, you had to use that title). I’m getting really jaded when it comes to certain social media platforms (*cough INSTAGRAM cough*).

      And if you read through my blog carefully, you’ll notice that half of the sentences start with “and”, “but”, or “because”. Why yes, I do have two English degrees, why do you ask?

  48. Sarah February 15, 2017 at 7:58 am #

    This is so inspiring refreshing to read! Keep doing what you’re doing.

    • Brenna Holeman February 15, 2017 at 11:02 pm #

      Thank you so much, Sarah!

  49. Lucy February 15, 2017 at 12:20 pm #

    So much of this rings so true to me. It’s why yours is one of the only travel blogs I read, and why I don’t really consider myself a ‘proper’ travel blogger.

    I followed a similar path, getting discouraged by the rules and hierarchical nature of blogging along the way before coming to a place where I give less f@@cks about SEO and more about writing for the sheer love of writing.

    It’s why I don’t have an elevator pitch, why I can’t imagine I’ll ever go viral and why I still ADORE blogging!

    L x

    • Brenna Holeman February 15, 2017 at 11:13 pm #

      Oh god. The elevator pitch. I still don’t have one either, ha ha!

      Thank you for all of your support, Lucy – I love all of your personal posts and I love that when I read your blog I can so clearly hear your voice. 🙂 x

  50. Nikita February 15, 2017 at 1:14 pm #

    Your blog was one of the reason I started a travel blog about three years ago… And the state of the industry as it is now made me quit. I read a few too many posts saying that you don’t need to be a good writer to be a successful travel blogger, your social media presence is all that matters (and you’d better be active ALL THE TIME). It kind of made me wonder what I was doing… Writing was the only part I cared about, and I need frequent vacations from the internet. And I grew bored of travel blogs. Eventually they all blended together into one blob of guides and top ten lists (except for a few special ones that I still follow religiously). What’s worse, reading so many travel blogs started to make travel less special. There’s something to be said about keeping an element of mystery. I’m already bored of Chiang Mai and I’ve never been to Thailand! Not only that, I’d been neglecting all of my other writing, and I really missed writing fiction.

    So I started over from scratch, and kept all my legitimate followers. Apparently they don’t care what I write, as long as I’m writing! M new site is more of an online portfolio, or at least that’s what I tell myself so I can write a mix of travel memoirs, short stories, other creative nonfiction and essentially whatever I want. I’m a lot less active on social media. And my numbers are mad low, but every interaction is genuine and I’m excited about writing again.

    And, after all that, I still come to your blog for inspiration. I don’t need you to tell me where to go or what to do when I get there… There’s already so much of that information available on the internet. But I do love following your life story and reading your thoughts on the world. And apparently, many people feel the same way. I’d consider that a major success. 😉

    • Brenna Holeman February 17, 2017 at 3:40 am #

      Hi Nikita, wow, what a comment. First of all, thank you so much for all of the amazing things you’ve said about my blog here, I really, really appreciate all of your support! You are the best. Secondly, I totally understand what you mean. I had to stop reading all of those posts about blogging because they were far too depressing and vapid. I really do want to write what I love, and as you said, if it means my traffic will never be sky-high, so be it. At least I will always be proud of/happy with what I put out there!

      All the best to you and your new site, it sounds like you are doing exactly what you want to be doing! It’s so exciting to be excited. 😀

  51. Ian February 15, 2017 at 3:43 pm #

    Great read, Brenna and music to my ears, to be honest. I’ve been blogging for a couple of years now and have enjoyed steady if unspectacular growth. Having done some research on how to take my blog to the next level I’ve been left feeling de-motivated as the general advice appears to involve inordinate blocks of time being spent on a whole range of activities that frankly leave me cold. So your post and the comments it has generated have served as something of a reality check for me. And if that means continuing to have fun while I’m blogging, well I can live with that!

    • Brenna Holeman February 15, 2017 at 11:19 pm #

      I know what you mean, Ian… whenever I’m told what I “should” be doing to grow traffic, I get pretty disheartened. Here’s to many more years of fun blogging for both of us!! 🙂

  52. Emily February 15, 2017 at 7:40 pm #

    the only reason I read this is because Oneika the Traveler posted it on facebook. the only reason I follow Oneika the Traveler is because I really like her and respect what she writes. She asks thought provoking questions that make me consider things I didn’t know I should consider. The only reason I’m going to follow you on facebook is because Onieka the Traveler recommends you and because I respect her, I think I’ll like and respect your points of view. So, what you wrote matters and your assessment is correct. For me at least.

    • Brenna Holeman February 15, 2017 at 11:18 pm #

      Thank you very much, Emily! Oneika and I have been good friends for about four years now, I respect her very much. 🙂

  53. Kyomi (Wading Wade) February 15, 2017 at 8:13 pm #

    Such a good read, honestly. I think I’m considered one of the young newbies, but I have asked myself a lot of the questions you’ve poised in this article. I think ultimately authentic motives and passion shines through, which is why posts like this, I imagine, will get a strong reaction. I was totally engaged with what you were saying and would love to learn more from you!

    P.S. I don’t own a drone 😉

    • Brenna Holeman February 15, 2017 at 11:17 pm #

      Thank you so much, Kyomi! I’m really glad that you enjoyed the post. Blogging is fantastic, and I’m sure you will have tons of fun with it as you get more and more into it!

      And ha ha re: the drone 😀

  54. Laura February 15, 2017 at 8:19 pm #

    Ugh, Brenna this is everything. Thanks for saying this. I’ve been reading your blog now since you left Japan! I keep coming back because you are so real, so honest, and SUCH a good storyteller. I started blogging mostly because I wanted to share my stories too and somewhere along the way I got caught up in all the things you’re “supposed to do” as you mentioned. It IS so fucking boring, you’re right! Thanks for writing this and being so honest and for being a voice of reason in a community that can sometimes feel like everyone is just clawing their way to the top.

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 1:48 pm #

      Holy crap, I had no idea you had been reading for so long!! Thank you!!! You are way too kind to me. And yes, when you start following all the “rules”, it gets really boring, really fast. I’m so tired of all the shady stuff that happens in travel blogging (i.e. lying about stats, buying followers, promising that “you can do it, too”). Thanks again for all of your support! 😀

  55. Karin February 15, 2017 at 8:56 pm #

    I wasn´t aware of your blog before, but I really like what you say here. I didn´t realize that was 3000 words, it read really easily ! 😉 I miss those old days when we blogged about whatever and everything and I still have a couple of internet friends from those times. While I like learning a lot of new things to do with seo, social media, website making and so on, I also decided this year i want to write more of essays and give my articles my own voice instead of thinking “oh my, if i use a swear word here, people will be insulted”. Way to go!

    • Brenna Holeman February 15, 2017 at 11:15 pm #

      Aw, thank you so much, Karin! I’m glad that you liked the post, and I hope you’ll stick around. 🙂

      I also like learning about the industry, but at the end of the day I know what I like to write and what resonates with people (and it is never, ever a list on the best places to eat or where to stay in a certain city). I used to shy away from swearing online, too, but in real life I swear a lot, so I finally embraced it in my writing… and it feels so fucking good, trust me!! 😉

  56. Léonor February 15, 2017 at 9:34 pm #

    Thank you!! I’m a travel blogger too. I started because I wanted to share my pictures, texts and impressions with people. I started my blog only 3 years ago but have been blogging for around 10 more years.
    I feel completely lost at the moment. I hear all these stories of people who went successful with their blog, all their advice, and I’m lost. I recently joined some Travel Bloggers groups on Facebook and I started to be full of doubts by reading all the stuff you can read there: how to optimise SEO, how to write personal articles (?? just write them!!), how to gain followers, how to, how to, how to… I even joined a group that turned out to be a group just to get likes and comments on your blog in return of other comments. Honestly I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even have to ask myself if I would do it or not, I just knew since the beginning that there was no reason whatsoever for me to just have likes and comments because I took part to a stupid chain, not because people actually liked what I did and were interested in what I had to say.
    I’m lost amongst all the blogs that have only articles about “5 things to do in …”, “15 places to eat in…”. I mean I like these blogs but mine is not like that. It’s not my style. My articles are not fully SEO optimised. They are long, have a lot of pictures and no subheadings. Maybe my blog will never be famous, but I just want to keep writing the way I like it.
    I love reading your articles. They’re long and not SEO optimised either but they’re interesting. With Adventurous Kate, you’re the two bloggers who prove me that we can be travel bloggers and be different. I like you for that :).

    • Brenna Holeman February 17, 2017 at 3:37 am #

      Thank you for your really thoughtful comment, Léonor! I agree, I have felt totally swamped with all the “how to” articles and all of the different groups, but I think you hit the nail on the head when you said “I just want to keep writing the way I like it”. As I mentioned, if you try to do anything else I imagine you wouldn’t have the same passion for it, so what would be the point??

      I’m so glad that you are enjoying the blog – thanks again for all of your kind words and for sharing your story here!

  57. Sara White February 15, 2017 at 9:46 pm #

    This post totally resonated with me. Lately I feel like any travel blog I come across is packed with the exact same content that’s been covered and regurgitated and hammered to death on at least ten other blogs – the same old list of top places to eat, the same top activities, and, ironically enough, the exact same “off-the-beaten-path” activities, which makes me think that absolutely nothing is truly off the beaten path anymore. So much repeat content, so much of an attempt to sound like an authority on a place when someone’s spent only a few days there, and so little personality coming through it all. I used to think I was doing it wrong when I decided that my blog would be exclusively personal perspectives, long stories and somewhat rambling missives dedicated to the various places and foods I’ve fallen in love with – and technically, I am doing it wrong, since I think there are all of five people who actually read my blog – but somewhere along the way, I decided that I wanted to write for me, to capture my thoughts and experiences and, along the way, share them with whoever else might be interested. I love reading posts on other blogs that take a similarly personal, candid perspective, and your post was such a refreshing rebuttal to the current state of travel blogging. Brava.

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 1:51 pm #

      Thank you so much, Sara, I’m so glad that you enjoyed the post! I agree, so much of what I read now is very generic, obviously put there for SEO ranking. And while I think there is room for that in this industry (and we need those posts for when we plan trips), I personally have no desire to read them. I can go to a big company’s site or read a guidebook if I want those same kinds of articles. And YES I totally despise that, too, that voice of authority of a place when in reality it was a quick stopover. I try to always find blogs of expats if I can, to see what they recommend.

      Anyway, thanks again, and best of luck with your blog – it sounds like you’re enjoying it, finding your passion, and most importantly, having fun. 😀

  58. Sarah February 15, 2017 at 10:49 pm #

    Hey, Brenna! I’m so glad I took the time to read this post when I stumbled upon it! Oh my goodness, it’s like you read my thoughts and put it into powerful words. I, too, started blogging in 2003. So I can pretty much guess we are on the same age bracket! My first one was only blurty, then livejournal, to blogger, to wordpress and changed my domain name each time I had to renew it. :)) I really only started adding keywords to my post not so long ago (with my new domain. haha) and oftentimes, I just write things and forget it. I promise, I will publish more of my offline journal! This is a great read!

    • Brenna Holeman February 15, 2017 at 11:16 pm #

      Yeah!! Go 2003!! Ha ha 🙂

      I have always thought that I should go back and put some keywords in certain posts, but I’m pretty lazy. I have way more fun writing the personal stuff instead. Keep on writing! 😀

  59. Tatum February 16, 2017 at 12:32 am #

    For me just starting out, you are told to join Facebook groups to help get your name out there and blah blah freakin blah. But in return of posting your content on there, you have to read/comment/etc on other peoples? I cannot tell you how many times I sit there and think, people really read this shit? I have seen so many variations of the same damn thing time and time again. Or literally just trash thrown together to call it a post. So happy to have found this article and your site! I will admit, I think with the name of my blog -Bonvoyage Bitches- you can understand how much I want to stand out in this over saturated blogging world. Pretty sure you and I are on the same wavelength 😉 I write about real shit because that’s travel! Check mine out and maybe you will find there IS hope in the blogging world! 🙂

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 1:53 pm #

      I can’t imagine what those groups are like – I could never bring myself to join them. I do think it can be great to join groups to gain encouragement, share posts, etc… but those kind of groups where it’s solely about comment swapping don’t seem like the best use of time, if you ask me. It also doesn’t really seem very genuine. And HAH your blog name is fantastic, I will check it out!

  60. Asia February 16, 2017 at 12:56 am #

    What a well written & honest post! My favorite bloggers are REAL. I love hearing everything about them – including their ups and downs. This is my first time to your blog so now I’m inclined to keep visiting. ???????? I’m a relatively new blogger and agree that my most commented on posts are usually when people can see that I am human. I’m not perfect…who is??

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 1:54 pm #

      Thank you very much, Asia! I hope you’ll keep reading my blog – there are some of my best articles in the “Start Here” section. 🙂 All the best with your new blog, and you’re right… nobody’s perfect!

  61. Susannah February 16, 2017 at 5:53 am #

    I want to kiss you right now. I also need to interview you. I agree with this so strongly I feel as if I wrote it myself. You seriously brought tears to my eyes and a hell of a blog post to come. How can I contact you for a collab?

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 1:55 pm #

      Aw, thank you, Susannah! So glad you could relate. You can contact me using the “contact” page on my blog (my email is brenna at thisbatteredsuitcase.com). 🙂

  62. Agness of eTramping February 16, 2017 at 6:45 am #

    Time Magazine wrote last year that travel bloggers get one of the biggest revenues these days. This is a realistic and inspiring post, Brenna.

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 1:55 pm #

      Thank you, Agness!

  63. Richelle February 16, 2017 at 10:37 am #

    This is such a great post! I’ve been so frustrated at my stagnant traffic, but the really important thing is that the people who are reading actually care about you and engage with your content. I only really read and care about a select few blogs, because they’re helpful but they have a real personality.

    The business side can really drag you down, especially if you’re trying to carve out a niche, and drive traffic to your blog. But the posts I love writing the most are the personal ones, and I never want to lose that!

    Thanks for writing this 😀

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 1:56 pm #

      Yes, I totally agree, Richelle! The personal posts are the ones I love writing the most, too… and the only ones I’ll read on other people’s blogs, to be honest. All the best with your blog! 😀

  64. Coralie - Frenchie Globe Trotter February 16, 2017 at 3:37 pm #

    Awesome post !!!
    I have a blog for four years and decided to start a second blog about travel last year after living in India for 6 months and I did it to share my experiences and my journey with my friends. I didn’t even know that travel blogging was such a big thing lol !
    Now, I just blog whenever I want to and I don’t follow the 3 times a week rule cause I dont want to feel obliged to blog, I just want it to be a pleasure and fun !
    I am not making a lot of views, it’s ridiculous to be honest. But the most important for me it’s that I like what I am doing !!
    Glad I found out about your blog thanks to this article 🙂

    • Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 at 3:58 pm #

      I agree Coralie – the most important thing is to like what you’re doing! Otherwise it will just feel a like a chore. 🙂 I’m glad you found my blog, I hope you’ll stick around!

  65. Tracy Antonioli February 16, 2017 at 8:55 pm #

    Please excuse me while I use all caps. Ahem…I LOVE THIS POST SO MUCH! Yes, yes, YES! ALL OF THESE THINGS! (Does everyone under the age of 28 have a drone? RIGHT???!)

    Also that exact same thing happened to me at TBEX in Toronto and I also wrote about it on my not-monetized blog. I even included a pie chart in that post. It was both funny and sad because it was true.

    Thank you for this, and for reminding me why I started blogging in the first place. I have stories to tell, damnit. Who cares that I only have 540 Instagram followers?

    Yes. This.

    • Karen February 16, 2017 at 11:35 pm #

      I love you, Tracy! I love that blogging brought us together. I love that you are authentic!

    • Brenna Holeman February 17, 2017 at 3:27 am #

      Thank you so much, Tracy! Your all caps made me laugh. 😀 I read your post on TBEX and oh god, that pie chart is GOLD!! I was laughing out loud (but also cringing, because I remember how I felt the exact same way). If only we had bumped into each other then and been able to commiserate!

      I think you’re a great writer and it’s so awesome that you are telling your stories. I look forward to reading more. 🙂

      Thanks again for your wonderful comment!

  66. Tammyonthemove February 16, 2017 at 9:55 pm #

    I’m so with you in this. If I read another listicle or solo female travel post I’ll bang myself. Every blog you look at these days is the same. Same destinations, same articles, same photos. I’m like. I may not have a huge following, but I post stuff I want to post about, when I want to, even it’ll it is not click bait. Some of my more non travel related posts (i.e. International Development issues) are more popular than travel posts. Keep doing what you are doing! It is refreshing.

    • Brenna Holeman February 17, 2017 at 3:27 am #

      Thank you very much, Tammy! And best of luck on your blog, too 😀

  67. Francesca M February 16, 2017 at 10:33 pm #

    I really appreciate this article! I’m glad you’re encouraging people to remain authentic and to blog in a style that’s true to them. Whether or not people will do that will ultimately depend on their goals. As you said, the most famous travel bloggers are overwhelmingly of a certain demographic, and there are already several who have risen to the top. So if you’re goal is to write and also earn some money, or go on press trips, I think its really going to be hard to break through the barriers and find success without playing the game a little bit.

    For example I’ve been blogging from the heart since I decided to go professional 3 years ago (I also had livejournal and blogspot back in the day lol) and my blog is always disregarded for press trips because my numbers aren’t astronomical, despite the fact that readers constantly tell me they book trips after reading my posts and advice because I keep it real. So saying that “your blog won’t suddenly be thrown out of consideration for press trips if you write from the heart” isn’t always the case 😉

    I hope tons of people read this! Thanks for sharing

    • Brenna Holeman February 17, 2017 at 3:32 am #

      Thank you very much, Francesca! I’m really glad that you liked the article and that’s awesome that so many people are following your advice. That’s really the best feeling, isn’t it? That people are connecting to what you’ve written? I agree that it’s tough to break through the barriers (and who the hell knows how they choose people for press trips… to be honest I think it’s just about being on lists of “top bloggers” and about who you know).

      Anyway, best of luck with your blog and thanks again for reading (and for your awesome comment!). 😀

  68. Karen February 16, 2017 at 11:39 pm #

    Such a great post. I do monetize my blog a bit to cover costs of hosting. I hesitated at first, but then realized, if I am selective, I can monetize and not become a walking advertorial.

    At the same time, I have seen a shift — perhaps because I’m way past 28 and don’t care to own a drone. My blog has become more of my personal journey and less the travel lists (though, I’m editing a post on restaurants at a beach right now — oh, the irony).

    The more authentic, the better the blog world is. Thank you.

    • Brenna Holeman February 17, 2017 at 3:28 am #

      Oh yeah, I definitely think you can monetise your blog and still maintain your integrity. 🙂 I’ll still do those lists once in a while, too, but I agree, the more authentic, the better. Thanks for your great comment!

  69. chewy February 17, 2017 at 4:33 am #

    This is an article that might interest you if you haven’t seen it! It addresses some of the issues about how different internet based industries have transformed (i.e. become mostly advertising and billboards).

    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jan/08/tim-wu-interview-internet-classic-party-went-sour-attention-merchants

    • Brenna Holeman February 17, 2017 at 1:48 pm #

      Very interesting, thank you for sharing! Blogging really has transformed… and so quickly in the past decade.

  70. Csaba & Bea February 17, 2017 at 11:50 am #

    We could wholeheartedly agree with every single word in your post! And looking at the comments… it looks like a lot of people feel that way. We needed these thoughts so much. And that is why your blog is one of our very favorites! Because it’s different, one can just feel that you write from your heart and that’s why it’s so easy to relate to you whatever the topic is.
    One of our reasons no to become full-time bloggers ever is that we don’t want to let anything/anyone other than us shape our blog. We don’t want to sacrifice things to get money or chase things because we are told we should to get more followers/readers. At the same time, of course, we understand that full-time bloggers need to make money and need to consider their opportunities and offers from this point of view. They have their freedom in some senses but we think we also have our freedom, it’s just a different kind. We are so happy that we are free to blog as we like, free to reject whatever we don’t like and we can try anything we want not considering its “business value”. We want blogging to be part of our lives, maybe even make some money in the long-term, but we don’t want to give up our full-time jobs and our career. And that gives freedom. And we want to use that freedom for good.

    • Brenna Holeman February 19, 2017 at 10:23 pm #

      Aw, thank you so much! I’m so glad that you could relate… and thank you for all of the kind words about my blog. I understand not wanting to sacrifice things to chase money; I see a lot of blogs shift and change as they start to monetise, and I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do in the future (knowing I won’t really ever make much from this blog). It does feel great to have that freedom of being able to blog about whatever I want. 🙂

      Thanks again! 😀

  71. Joella February 17, 2017 at 6:45 pm #

    Well said, Brenna. I’ve been “travel blogging,” I guess you could call it, since 2006 when I had a blogspot account. I’ve had a few blogs since then but I never started them to make money. It was always for the love of it and to communicate with family back home while I was overseas.

    It’s great when people do manage to become successful with their blogs- good for them- but I can tell the ones who do it because they’ve always just loved blogging and the ones who very calculatedly set out to make money from the start. The bloggers who have a strong voice and can tell a good story are the ones I’ll keep reading whether they make a billion dollars or zero.

    I started trying to go “pro” but I found that made me hate blogging and I ended up basically giving up. I’m trying to get back into blogging the way I used to when I loved it- though it’s now made a bit tricky because I have a 12 week old baby!

    Just this morning I got a lovely email from a guy who had read some of my blog posts about travelling in the Tibetan grasslands in western China. He’d since been to visit the places I mentioned and had a wonderful time. He was emailing me to thank me. That’s the kind of success that is meaningful to me. Not judging those who do make a lot of money- that’s great too, but we all get different things out of blogging and shouldn’t “conform” to be successful.

    • Brenna Holeman February 19, 2017 at 10:26 pm #

      Thank you for your comment, Joella! I can also spot the different with those blogs, and I still read many even when they become successful if they’re able to keep their unique voice. And you’re totally right, those emails are incredible to receive; I’m so thankful for every one.

      Thanks again and congratulations on your new baby! How exciting 😀

  72. Tamason Gamble February 17, 2017 at 7:14 pm #

    It’s the balance that I feel people have lost – either swaying completely to list-type articles and removing the personal or trying to remain completely indifferent to the world of making money on their blog that they are bucking everything out there in order to be different.

    I starting blogging three years ago, after some serious sole-searching and illness. It was never meant to be a revenue stream for me but was a platform where I could try to hone my writing. It was a place where I could write in a hope that I would develop my style and grow enough in order to do what I really wanted – write a novel.

    Over the course of time however, in order for me to free up time in order to achieve the novel writing I needed to generate an income – so why not generate it doing something I enjoy. I don’t tend to write top 10 posts, and I make sure I stamp my personality on each post but sometimes people just want information – they want to know where to go, what to do and how best to achieve it without the emotional attachment. Therefore as long as there is a balance I don’t see the problem. I hate blogs that promote ads as soon as you log on, who have a pop up for subscription before I have even read past the title or who, as you mention, create images that are clearly unattainable for most but, I also believe that there is a place for lists, guides and reviews just as long as there is a balance between the two.

    To say I never want to generate an income through my writing on my blog would be a lie, however, I do want to achieve it in such a way that my readers can tell I am genuine.

    • Brenna Holeman February 19, 2017 at 10:30 pm #

      I totally agree with you – I think the key is having that balance, and, as you said, you make sure to stamp your personality on each post. I also hate when a blog has tons of ads everywhere, or a huge pop-up ad that covers the whole blog before I can even click to read something… but everyone has to eat, I suppose!

      And amen to your last sentence. 🙂

      Thanks again, Tamason!

  73. Allison February 18, 2017 at 6:24 am #

    I love this post because even though I’m a baby blogger and didn’t even realize travel blogs were a thing until like… two years ago, I feel the same way. And clearly based on the number of comments you’ve received, a lot of people are feeling the same too. As a new blogger it’s hard sometimes because I feel pressure to ‘catch up’ and create lots of SEO-driven, Pinterest-optimized posts. Yet the posts I enjoy writing the most are the ones that I almost always end up writing on my phone while I eat dinner alone for the jillionth time, ruminating on whatever random idea won’t quit my brain that day. So it’s good to see so much validation that yes, there is space for those kinds of posts, and even if they’re not “useful” in a traditional sense, they have value out there in the travel blog world. So thank you 🙂

    PS – Northern Californian here, we’re the ones who inflicted hella on the world (#sorrynotsorry) and we’ll keep on saying it til the end of days.

    • Brenna Holeman February 19, 2017 at 10:32 pm #

      Ha ha ha re: hella 😀

      I’m so glad that you could relate to the post, Allison! I totally agree, I always enjoy writing the ones I’ve been thinking about for ages, the personal posts (I just wrote one of them, for example). I do enjoy crafting the more optimised posts, too, but what keeps me writing are all of the personal stories.

      Thanks for your comment, and good luck with your blog!

  74. Robin February 18, 2017 at 9:13 pm #

    This post is amazing. I got into blogging late last year and I knew that the market was oversaturated when I got into it, and it’s sparked my determination to tell honest, raw, vulnerable stories about things that other people aren’t talking about, in a way that only I can tell them. I want to inspire storytelling and human connection, not just contribute the same bland, poorly-written, inauthentic, SEO-driven listicles that everyone’s sharing. Do I take a break from posting these deep life stories once in awhile to share some recipes or travel tips? You bet. Do I optimize my posts for SEO? I’d be shooting myself in the foot if I didn’t. But I do believe that unless you truly enjoy what you’re writing about, you’ll never build a loyal following, and you’ll never have the perseverance to make it through the difficult, frustrating, years-long process of becoming “successful” – whatever that looks like in 2017.

    • Brenna Holeman February 19, 2017 at 10:33 pm #

      Aw, thank you, Robin! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I agree with every word you’ve said here, especially about building a loyal following. You’re spot on!! 😀

      Thanks again and good luck with your blog!

  75. Ailsa February 18, 2017 at 9:22 pm #

    Brenna, you so eloquently sum up the lists-as-travel-blogs and fashion-shoots-as-travel-blogs. And don’t get me started on the ones about capsule wardrobes you should put together for a trip!

    Although I have been travelling for many years, I only began writing a travel blog last year, mainly because I like telling stories. And as all my stories are told retrospectively (some journeys were taken more than 20 years ago), I love being able to reminisce, read old travel journals, and look out old photos (some of which are actually printed out and in photograph albums!).

    Like you, I believe that a guidebook should tell you the facts about a place – the travel writer should tell you how it made them feel. Thanks for the great post.

    • Brenna Holeman February 19, 2017 at 10:35 pm #

      I love doing that, too – reading all of my old stories from my journals, blogs, etc. Isn’t it great? Thank you so much for your comment, Ailsa, and good luck with your blog! 😀

  76. Jennifer February 21, 2017 at 3:13 am #

    Thanks for such an informative article. You’ve taken a lot of what I’ve been thinking and really made me think I didn’t even want to start a travel blog because i thought the market might be over saturated! I was worried that no one would be interested in what I had to say.
    But my passion has bee writing and travel my whole life, I studied it in school and have been working in the industry professionally for two years. I knew I had things to say on the subject!
    My friends encouraged me to start a blog because I am a millennial Travel Agent (a job that many people thinks doesn’t exist anymore) they thought I might have an angle on the industry that other bloggers may not.

    Even though I may sort of have a “niche” i agree with you that if you write about what you want and really show how much you love it. The readers will come! Forget what everyone else has to say!

    Wonderful article, really enjoyed it!

    • Brenna Holeman February 23, 2017 at 1:07 pm #

      While the market is saturated, there is always room for creativity! I think that’s a great angle and I wish you all the best with your blog – I’m sure you have some fascinating stories to tell. 🙂 So glad you liked the article!

  77. Charlotte February 21, 2017 at 5:34 pm #

    I completely and utterly agree with this post. Even I have fallen into the ‘listicles’ and ‘travel tips’ with my new blog but my main intention with the blog is to have a personal online diary. Somewhere to keep my stories and write my personal experiences of travelling. This is what I’m most interested in but it is SO hard to find a travel blog that is actually a BLOG these days, you know, like an online diary. I’m so glad I’ve finally come across your blog and will be spending much more time here!

    • Brenna Holeman February 23, 2017 at 1:03 pm #

      Thank you so much, Charlotte! I think the best plan of attack that helps with organic search and with creating a loyal audience is to have a combination of the two. Best of luck with your blog! 😀

  78. Kimberly Wright February 22, 2017 at 12:07 am #

    Hi Brenna,

    Thanks for this great post. It is so easy to get overwhelmed by the “so-called rules of travel blogging” especially when you are starting out. I completely agree that many bloggers out there share the same slick look and style. Their sites are visually appealing but they lack great stories. It’s your writing that drew me to your blog and it’s why I keep coming back. You have been a huge inspiration for my own blog which also bucks the gorgeous person posing in gorgeous location format. Thank you for encouraging me (and all your readers) to follow my own path by expressing the most unique part of myself – my voice.

    • Brenna Holeman February 23, 2017 at 1:02 pm #

      Thank you so much, Kimberly! I’m glad that you could relate to the post and wow, thank you for all of the nice things you’ve said about my blog. I wish you all the best with your writing! 😀

  79. BigCheese February 23, 2017 at 5:46 am #

    Thanks for the candor, tenacity & advice!

    • Brenna Holeman February 23, 2017 at 1:00 pm #

      Thank you! 🙂

  80. Nina Lee: Nina's Sweet Adventures February 23, 2017 at 7:09 am #

    Wow, Brenna. It’s kind of creepy that I’m reading this as I LITERALLY was just writing my morning pages and wondering about the direction of my blog. I’ve moved over from World into Worlds to a new blog and with the change and all that work plus starting a blog about teaching, haven’t been able to keep up with your posts. But I was actually just writing the same thing, having already lost interest in the direction of my new blog and wondering why. This post says it all. I was just telling myself to write for myself as opposed to writing for the sake of stats and gaining popularity, because if I’m not enjoying what I’m writing how can I expect my readers to? My most popular posts and the ones people most reach out to me about are the ones that are pretty personal, and I’m OK with that. It’s the type of writing I enjoy doing the most. Can’t thank you enough for writing this post and am so happy that I popped over for a visit to give it a read. You’ve helped me to be certain that writing for me is the best way to go.

    • Brenna Holeman February 23, 2017 at 1:01 pm #

      Aw, that is fantastic, Nina. Thank you so much for letting me know! Yes, at the end of the day we need to enjoy what we’re writing, whatever that may be. Best of luck with your blog! 😀

  81. jo Ann Lawery February 24, 2017 at 9:48 pm #

    You are so on with this post, Brenna! I am a 64 year old black single woman who has a travel blog on tumblr.com called 30 Plus Teams 30 Plus Dreams and even though my blog is about what to do in a city after you’ve gone to a sporting event , you are so right. Travel blogs have gotten boring. Why do there have to be “rules” for blogging, ie. use this site , but not that site and all this jargon is making my head spin! Love your blog because it’s honest, and enjoyable reading. I don’t feel like I’m being talked down to . Keep on travelling and keeping it real with your blog posts.

  82. Alissa March 5, 2017 at 7:06 pm #

    Love this, and thank you. A friend I made while recently traveling in India forwarded this particular piece to me after I mentioned that if I’m going to bother to read a travel blog, I WANT the funny stories, the mishaps, the misunderstandings along with the high times. That’s what’s exciting to me. All of that is for me at the crux of what is at the heart of being immersed, confronted, and inspired by another culture and place. Like the time I and a friend thought we’d spend the night cheap–sleeping in the airport before an early flight, but arrived to find only a couple of guys closing up shop, and the tiny Piza airport totally dark. To top it off, no hostel had any openings, we couldn’t afford a hotel, and besides, everything was closed for the night. We wound up experiencing what for me is still the absolute epitome of Italian warmth, these two guys called everyone they knew until they found a place for us to crash. A total stranger took us in and I had the best-worst night trying to sleep in a beautifully upholstered flat back armchair. Anyways, hooray for you and your balanced candidness, I think in a very deep way it’s what the [social media] world needs more than anything.

  83. Alex March 12, 2017 at 7:07 pm #

    Brenna,

    Your blog is far and away my favourite one out there. I’ve been reading it for years and I love it so much. It’s different from most travel blogs, and your posts just make you feel allllll the feels. I hope you keep it up! And please say hi to Broadway Market for me! (I used to live on Temple St, just between Old Bethnal Green & Hackney Rd. Miss it so much).

    – Alex

    • Brenna Holeman March 12, 2017 at 7:15 pm #

      Oh wow, thank you so much, Alex! What an amazing comment to receive on this gloomy Sunday evening. I will definitely keep it up… 14 years and counting so far. 😉

      And how cool re: Bethnal Green! I’m sooooo close to where you used to live, and I visit Broadway Markets most Saturdays. In fact, I’m thinking about doing a live FB video from there in the coming weeks. If there’s a particular stand or shop you want me to point out, let me know!

      Thanks again, you’re the best. 😀

  84. Victoria@ The British Berliner March 13, 2017 at 9:17 pm #

    ‘Love this post!

    I’ve heard of you, but haven’t read any of your posts. Perhaps we’ve met instead lol! ‘Can’t believe that you’ve been blogging for that long! Anyhoo! I totally get what you’re saying, and I’m similar to yourself.

    I’m quite professional in the way that I approach things (living in Germany n’ all), but I write whatever I feel like, I only blog once a week, and I write over 2,000 words per post! And shhh! I’m not even on Instagram, and have no plans to do so! Nevertheless, I was on German TV, in the newspapers, and had a documentary made about me. I think I’m doing something right lol!

    Keep it up girlfriend! 🙂

  85. Nathalie March 14, 2017 at 7:53 am #

    This was definitely a “feel-good” post!

    It feels good to be able to relate to another travel blogger and feel inspired (and by a Canadian sister:) because as you mentioned, it seems that everything looks more and more faked and staged when reading travel blogs and looking at them on Instagram. The genuine, simple and authentic sparkle is gone missing!

    So, a simple and profound thank you for sharing your thoughts the way you do in your true manner, respecting yourself and your readers.

    Long life to your travel blog and beautiful travels ahead!

  86. Erin March 15, 2017 at 3:07 am #

    This, this, all of this. What you address isn’t limited to travel blogging, and I’m tired of reading the same short infomercials in 500 word or less. BORING. My favorite bloggers have always been the ones who offer insight and a glimpse into their lives and their perspectives. I started reading your blog in 2014ish and read every post you ever wrote, simply because you provide that-an experience I can’t get on my own, written in a way that keeps me coming back. I love what you do, keep on keeping on. <3

  87. Naomi Parry March 15, 2017 at 2:44 pm #

    I just found your blog from a link on another blog. I love this!!! I’ve just started a blog, I’m not sure if you would call it a travel blog… maybe!??? I moved from the UK to USA last year with my husbands work and started my blog to document our travels here. For me really, to look back on. And for friends and family back home. And a few random people I don’t know have started to read it to, so maybe it’s helpful?! But it’s all personal, like a diary for me to look back on with words and pictures. I’ve worked in social media for years, and doing all this for brands to get traffic, or writing blog posts for SEO is just so unnatural and not the way it started out, so it’s refreshing for me to do something different! Anyway, I wanted to comment because I’ve been trying to find new blogs to read, but as you say, they are all so boring!! I don’t want to read guidebooks, I’m not going everywhere and I have enough lonely planets… I want to read personal posts, that I will enjoy even if I’m not going to that destination. I’m not under 28, I don’t have a drone and I’ve never been to Bali!

  88. Elizabeth March 15, 2017 at 8:06 pm #

    Yeah! I saw this post shared by a blogger I really admire and immediately clicked on it. First of all, I want to say you have one new follower. Lately I’ve been scrolling through my Bloglovin’ feed wondering why I felt like I never had anything interesting to read. Though I agree that there is a place and time for great travel planning/tips posts (I write them myself and read them), what I want to read on a more daily basis is the personal stories, unique perspectives, or something really unusual that teaches me something new. Thank you for sticking to it.

  89. Maria March 18, 2017 at 11:21 am #

    Thank you so much for this. I’m rather new to blogging (about 1,5 years in) and love doing it, but for myself. I do share my posts in social media and try to get more people to read it, sure. But it’s as you say: If you focus too much on the numbers and forget to actually put your passion into your writing, you’ll just blend right in with everyone elses pretty instagram shots and listicles. I’ve been feeling a lot of pressure to get my blog “out there” and noticed – and I feel like I created this pressure myself by continuously reading about how others do so well on social media instead of just doing what I love. Your post just reminded me that it’s a much better use of my time and energy to do what I love than to stress myself about numbers! Thanks for sharing this 🙂

    • Brenna Holeman March 18, 2017 at 1:34 pm #

      Aw, I’m glad that you enjoyed the post! It’s so easy to get caught up in the numbers game… even the most successful bloggers do it. Good luck with your blog, Maria, and thanks for commenting! 🙂

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. What I'm Reading: February 2017 #1 – Edge Of It All - February 14, 2017

    […] hits it on the nail again with “When Did Travel Blogging Get So Boring?“.  I think about this a lot, since at first I was really discouraged of making a travel blog […]

  2. A Girl Down Under: In Which I Face Deportation - The Unlikely Bookworm - March 2, 2017

    […] after reading an inspiring post from Brenna at This Battered Suitcase, in which she laments the new culture of travel blogging, I […]

Leave a Reply