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one year travel blogging

One Year Travel Blogging: Everything I Spent & Earned

After one year travel blogging, it truly feels like this little space on the internet is part of me for the long-run. Statistically, it’s true. Only 5% of bloggers make it past the 6-month mark. I’m double past that point, so I’ll likely be around for a while. In celebration of one year travel blogging, I decided to answer the five most frequently asked questions I have received from friends, family, and people dreaming of a travel blog.

Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. If you make a purchase through the link, I’ll earn a commission at no additional cost to you. These links are marked with an asterisk.

How Did Getaway Girl Begin?

My blog obsession began in November 2013. I was studying abroad in Germany and started my first-ever travel blog–One Sun and One Moon. This blog, hosted on the free platform Blogger, documented my stories and photos as a 16-year old studying abroad. It was a way for me to inform my parents that I was indeed alive and healthy without having to call them.

One day in Germany, while feeling particularly homesick and in the search for familiarity, I found the home renovation blog Young House Love. I had long been obsessed with floor plans, but when I found people turning old homes into modern and beautiful ones, and recording the journey online, I was hooked.

When I was 17 and back from Germany, I tried convincing my parents to let me renovate their house. They understandably said no.

As I started my final year of high school, back in the United States, I felt more alone than ever before. It took me months to admit it, but I was suffering from deep reverse culture shock. Everything was terrible in comparison to my new home, Germany.

The one thing that helped me stay positive through that difficult time was a little travel blog I found in 2014 called Alex in Wanderland. I religiously read her stories from around the globe and, to this day, I’m one of her biggest fans! Her colorful photography, vivid story-telling, and emotional rawness compelled me to dream bigger.

The world was my oyster and I dreamed of my next destination. Would it be to Australia on a work and travel visa? Or to Europe to study?

Neither. My next destination was a small university about six hours south of my hometown. So much for dreaming big. While it wasn’t the grand adventure I envisioned, my little Southern university was critical to the creation of my blog.

  1. My university taught me about growth mindset. This gave me the courage to try my hand at website branding and design, basic coding, SEO, marketing, social media management, and the many other hats entrepreneurs wear.
  2. I studied abroad in Russia, where I launched my second blog–Getaway Girl. At this point, Alex in Wanderland was a big-time blogger. I had watched her journey and realized blogging was fun and could potentially be a business. She promoted a discount in the summer of 2016 for an online course called Travel Blog Success that promised to teach others how to make money from a travel blog. My parents, as my forever-cheerleaders and initial investors, gifted me the course for my birthday. The original Getaway Girl launched January 2017…and abandoned in May 2017.
  3. With the help of my incredible education and amazing advisors, I was awarded a Fulbright and moved to Belarus to teach English post-graduation. I realized this was my opportunity to invest time and money into a travel blog while still having a steady income.

The Travel Blog Success course was bought by Superstar Blogging, which I consequently had access to. So, during my last semester of college, I completed the Superstar Blogging course, found my niche (sustainable and zero waste travel) and built my website.

In May 2019, a week before college graduation, and at only 21 years old, I launched Getaway Girl 2.0. That’s this blog!

I guess third time really is a charm!

So…How Much Did I Spend?

As you now know, the development of Getaway Girl has lasted for over six years. For accuracy, I’m including everything spent on GG pre- and post-launch (including the blogger course gift from my parents, which I’m very privileged and grateful for).

Since June 2016, the total spent on Getaway Girl is $5,879.65.

That purple sliver is a miscellaneous category, which was only 1% of my annual spending in my first year travel blogging.

Education/Networking: Courses and conferences (I recommend this one and this one)

Photo Management: Camera gear, editing software, photo storage, presets

Website Management: Website host, domain name

Email Marketing: ConvertKit, OptIn Monster

Pinterest: Tailwind, templates

Other: Business cards, freelance notification subscription

I’m an example of how not to launch a travel blog. But I did some things right, too! So let’s break down spending in my one year travel blogging.

Top 5 Mistakes

  1. Don’t sign up too early for premium email marketing services. Nearly every travel blogger recommends creating an email list the day you launch your website or Instagram. Warned that moving your list from a free provider to a premium provider later was a hassle, I started with ConvertKit. I love ConvertKit, but it cost $29/month when I had only a handful of email subscriptions. Additionally, I signed up for OptIn Monster to put pop-ups on my website. Although premium pop-ups converted some readers to email subscribers, I think it was excessive for an early blog with no email marketing plan to have when ConvertKit offered (more-limited) pop-ups. Finally, while recently moving some subscribers around, I learned it’s actually not difficult to move less than 1,000 subscribers if you wanted to start with a free platform and then move to a premium platform. My advice? Build your email list on a free platform. Total spent: $460
  2. Don’t buy every new gadget. Travel bloggers should have a fancy camera, GoPro, and drone, right? Wrong. Although my phone took decent photos, I purchased a DSLR and GoPro. While I’ve used and enjoyed my gadgets, it’s a lot of tech to bring on my travels when I barely know how to use them. Make do with what you have, or buy one camera and become an expert on it. Total spent: $400
  3. Don’t buy courses until you’ve consumed all the free information. I bought three courses to help me build the tech and branding of my blog. But, there’s so much free information on the internet, including in freebies sent to your email and YouTube, that you often don’t need to purchase a course. Scour the internet for information. Alternatively, you can exchange services with another budding business owner. Are you great at copywriting and photography, but not great at website design and branding? Help a budding website designer with their copyediting in exchange for a beautiful website! Total spent: $1,185.50
  4. Don’t buy services you’re not ready to commit to. Travel blogging is much more than writing. Sometimes the mile-long to-do list feels like swimming in a high-current ocean. When I launched my blog, I promised myself to go all in, but I quickly became overwhelmed. I spent more time learning how to do things perfectly rather than actually doing them. Go slow. Don’t do all the things. Focus on one thing at a time. Don’t be everywhere at once. Be imperfect. Pick one thing that will move your business forward that month, even something as simple as writing blog posts, and focus on that. Anything else is a bonus. Total spent: $200
  5. Spend as you earn. When I first launched, I decided to not spend money I hadn’t earned from the blog. That didn’t happen. While I don’t regret the investments I made, as they were business lessons to carry into the next years of my business, I wish I had thought through my investments more. Some investment is necessary for growth, but strategize those investments. Less of everything I had already wrote above would’ve saved me over $2,000.

Top 5 “Do It!”s

  1. Invest in courses. Yes, I’m contradicting myself here. Hear me through. There is a ton of free information on the internet, but sometimes time is worth money. If you’re launching your own business, I recommend you purchase one or two cornerstone courses to give you direction as you develop a business, help you grow, and give you basic information. Time is money. Scour the internet, but strategically. I highly recommend the Superstar Business of Blogging course as your first course and the Blog Like A Boss course for when you’re ready to take your blog to the next level.
  2. Get on Pinterest. I should’ve focused more time on Pinterest a long time ago because it’s a major traffic-driver for new blogs. For the few months I focused on Pinterest, my blog traffic increased by hundreds. That’s far more than Google and Instagram bring to my website monthly. I’m certainly not the ideal example of a travel blogger on Pinterest, but I’m proud that I’ve at least put some focus into it and plan to continue. There are numerous success stories about Pinterest and a lot of free information to help bloggers grow on the platform. I highly recommend Tailwind if you’re ready to commit to Pinterest.
  3. Create an email list. While your list may not grow into the thousands in the first year, you could passively collect over a hundred. That’s what happened to me. Emails give you direct access to your biggest fans and remind them you exist. As a small blog, that direct access is vital! You don’t have to invest a lot of time or money into the email list if you’re not ready to, but at least start it. I recommend the free version of ConvertKit.
  4. Build the website independently. I invested in courses to help me brand and build my website. Yup, these are the same courses I said I regretted buying earlier. I still stand by my statement that you should consume free information for this. However, I’m now confident in navigating, altering, and fixing my website as necessary. It took me a long time to learn everything initially, but it saves me time now. Plus, I’ve made multiple small changes over the year as my vision and mission with Getaway Girl became clearer. If you’re starting a blog, I recommend consuming free information and exchanging services with someone before investing money in a course.
  5. Invest in growth-oriented purchases. Once I realized how much money I had spent on my blog, I massively downsized my blogging monthly spending. I developed a fear of future spending. Eventually, I became less fearful and more strategic at spending. The only two purchases I’ve made since November are a subscription to freelance writing gigs and Pinterest templates. These small purchases have helped me earn hundreds!

How Much Did You Earn In One Year Travel Blogging?

You probably think I’m a clueless business owner by now. I don’t blame you! I’ve had zero education on business or entrepreneurship. Yet, I’ve made money. You can too, if you’re passionate enough.

I’m an example of how to successfully launch a blog.

I didn’t earn the most money, readers, or followers in one year travel blogging. However, I did something much more important–I met my contingency factors.

The day I launched my blog, a business-savvy friend advised me to set a few deciding factors that would determine if I would continue my business. He told me to give Getaway Girl my best shot for one year, then reevaluate to see if I met those factors. Those factors for me were…

  • Earn $1
  • Still enjoy travel blogging

And guess what? I did both!

Since May 2019, Getaway Girl earned $774.41 before taxes!

Unfortunately, a lot of freelance work pays 30 or 60 days after work completion….so some high-value work I’ve done this past year won’t be paid until after my 1 year blogaversary.

Let me be clear, I’ve made many mistakes…

Top 3 Mistakes

  1. Not consistent. Whether it was Pinterest, guest posting, pitching, or actually writing blog posts, I lacked a lot of consistency in my one year travel blogging. With all the life changes I’ve had–moving abroad, teaching English without the training to do so, and being evacuated due to coronavirus–the underwhelming consistency I’ve had with travel blogging makes some sense. Yet, I recognize that if I were more consistent, I would’ve had greater blog growth. Good thing I’m in it for more than money!
  2. Not promoted my services more. Did you know I offer travel coaching for a really competitive price (aka, cheap)? If not, you’re amongst the majority. When I first launched this service into the world, I thought people would come knocking at my door. Instead, there were crickets. Well, duh! I didn’t promote it at all! Now I know to promote things more because it takes time for people to decide to invest money and people miss launches due to social media and Google algorithms. If it’s going to help people, shout it from the internet rooftops!
  3. Stressed too much. Often, I worried so much about making everything perfect that I wouldn’t create anything at all. I realize now that I can put something imperfect into the world and still be proud of it.

Top 3 “Do IT!”s

  1. Attend TravelCon. This may have been my first and only travel conference ever attended, but I firmly believe it is the best one in the industry. While the panels and breakout sessions are worth the money, the networking opportunity is what really pushed my business forward. It’s where I found my first freelance job (that turned into a long-term client), met blogging friends, and my blogging idols.
  2. Value your services. While I could’ve accepted writing opportunities with lower-price points, I understood the quality of my work and the value of my time. Therefore, I set a personal minimum price point. Any work I accepted had to be equal or above that price to make me even consider the job. Later, I increased my minimum price point. I expect I will increase my prices again once or twice this upcoming year. I also have the luxury to do this since I have an income outside of blogging.
  3. Keep your 9-5 job. It seems every travel blogger starts their bio with “I quit my job to travel the world!” I decided to have a regular job and steady income while building my business, though. Keeping my job meant I could invest more money and time in my blog instead of scrambling to monetize because I needed to put food on my plate. Hundreds of successful bloggers before me traveled and blogged full-time without keeping their 9-5, so my way is certainly not the only way. It’s what made most sense for me, though, and I’m glad I stuck with it, even if it’s not the “travel blogger” thing to do.

The Free Stuff

Sometimes in the blogging world you get free stuff.

I didn’t receive any free things this year, but I think it’s important to showcase that I exchanged $1,500 worth of services in my first year.

Just like free stuff, exchanging services doesn’t pay the bills, but it sure does save time and money when there’s something I’m really struggling with. I’ve suggested it before, but it’s important to say again–exchange services as a newbie blogger!

What Are Your Stats After One Year Travel Blogging?

Total sessions: 2,800+. When I launched GG, I truly thought I’d end the year with only my parents reading it. With zero marketing, haphazard SEO, and minimal Pinterest work, some of you have found my blog and loved it so much that you kept returning! Thank you!! I hope GG is the resource you want and need to help you on your sustainability journey.

# Blog Posts posted: 46. My goal was to post one post every week, and I nearly got there! Last fall, I had real doubts if this blogging thing was for me and took some time off. Well, I came back more committed than ever! Then, when I was suddenly kicked out of Belarus due to coronavirus, I took a few weeks off to get back on my feet. So, overall, I’m pretty darn proud of myself for being close to my goal.

My favorite post: Getaway Girl’s 22 Best International Travel Tips This post came straight from the heart. It may have an average title, but it’s anything but. As always, this post represents the unique content I try to share with the world via my blog.

Most read post: The Best High School Study Abroad Program. It warms my heart that my most-read post in 2019 was my very first post on Getaway Girl as well as the one that started my travel addiction–studying with Rotary International in Germany! I hope it inspires more high schoolers to study abroad.

What Are Your Business Goals for Year Two?

After one year travel blogging, and the ups and downs that come with it, I feel that I’ve finally concretely defined Getaway Girl’s purpose and direction for the future. I’m still working on the copyediting of my mission statement, but it feels like the jigsaw puzzle that is entrepreneurship is piecing together.

In the spirit of manifestation, and to hold myself accountable, these are my ten goals for the upcoming year of travel blogging.

  1. Publish an ebook. Since the day I launched my blog, I’ve had several product ideas sitting inside me. I finally took fingers to keyboard last fall and wrote half the book! Then, I stopped. I thought of a hundred things I should do before publishing to make the ebook perfect. I’m moving past this limiting mindset and plan on finally publishing it.
  2. Focus on Pinterest. I should’ve taken it more seriously from the beginning, but here we are a year later with my palm on my forehead. This will happen.
  3. Rebrand travel coaching services. To align with Getaway Girl’s redefined mission, I will rebrand and relaunch my coaching services. I can’t wait to make these ideas concrete and for you to see how this will change the travel industry! It’ll take time–probably many years–to fully become what I envision it to be, but I’m ready to get started with that process.
  4. Break even on blog spending. This is a lofty goal because it means I’ll have to 5x my current income. I’m hoping it’ll be possible with my new part-time work, ebook publication, Pinterest focus, freelance writing consistency, and coaching rebrand. *mentally prepares for extreme hustle mode*
  5. Host a challenge. This is another project I started last year and never finished. I want to host a zero waste challenge to give more free content to my readers and to grow my email list. Coincidentally, this challenge would perfectly build anticipation for my ebook launch!
  6. Host a live workshop. Recently, I realized I could host a live workshop demonstrating easy and cheap DIY zero waste products. After some market research, there aren’t any zero waste workshops specific for travelers. This is totally a half-baked idea, but one I’m pumped for. I’m brainstorming as I type! There could be a Q+A session after the workshop to answer travelers’ zero waste questions. I could distribute the replay as a bonus for email subscribers! Comment below if you have any ideas!
  7. Reach posting 10x per month on the blog. Hi consistency, nice to meet you. No matter how much time I spend marketing my blog, more posts is what will ultimately bring me more blog traffic. I love my 100 loyal readers dearly, and the 100 who seem to pop-in occasionally, but I would love to see this community of sustainable travelers grow. A larger community means more travelers who care about the planet and greater positive impact on the environment!
  8. Add affiliates. I’ve done this haphazardly this year, but I need a system to keep things organized. Additionally, I’d love to develop a more intuitive resources page so readers can easily access the products I love and recommend. I’ve worked on some coding, but it’s overwhelming. I either need to sit down and do it…or fork out the cash.
  9. Update old blog posts. While I’m proud of my old posts, I think it’s good practice to improve upon them as my knowledge of the business of blogging and sustainability increases. This process would include updating the writing, photography, SEO, Pinterest optimization, and affiliate codes.
  10. Maximize the courses I own. I’d love to revisit, finish, or even start some of the courses I own and maximize the money I spent on them. There’s certainly things I’ve forgotten, have a better understanding of, and could improve on.

You might feel overwhelmed reading that list. Me too!

But, I’m absolutely certain I’m in the travel blogging business for the long-run and would really love to see Getaway Girl reach a new level. I’m here to change the travel industry for the better, and I believe a stronger Getaway Girl community will help me do that. These ten goals will get me there.

General Thoughts After One Year Travel Blogging

Although I’m an example of how not to launch a travel blog, I have no regrets after one year travel blogging. There are a lot of lessons to take with me into my second year, but, most importantly, there are a lot of exciting things happening behind-the-scenes.

If you’re a budding travel blogger, I hope you’ve found this post helpful. Comment below your biggest tip for fellow travel bloggers!

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for being part of Getaway Girl. Sustainable travel is a passion of mine and I love sharing it with you. I hope you stick around for year two!

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