Whenever I tell people that I am a travel writer and blogger, a typical reply is "Oh wow, how did you get started in that?" People are often intrigued and curious about this career path. Until recently, I didn't really have an answer to the question. I usually stammer around for an answer, ultimately saying something like "Well I just started writing a blog one day and then it turned into this."
I thought it would be a worthwhile endeavor to revisit the history of my blogging and online brand to remind myself where I started, where I made mistakes, where I made changes, and where I am today. Here is the brief history of my blogging journey from 2009 to today!
Blogging feels like something that I have been doing for a realllllly long time (ok, not really. Only since 2009), and I don't necessarily think about the the conscious decision I made to “start” blogging. But to offhandedly say that I just made my blog the way that it is today is a disservice to the many, many hours I've spent building my blog. This has been a long journey. It didn't just happen one day.
My Blogging Journey and How I Built Traverse Blog
Humble Beginnings of My “Mom, I’m Not Dead” Travel Blog
Like many other travel bloggers, my story starts with a simple text-based blog that I started on my first trip abroad without my family. I considered the blog my way to prove that I was alive and well on my trip. It was 2009 and my parents had begrudgingly supported my desire to travel to a remote coastal village in Ecuador with a group of 20 students (that I had never met before) to do a volunteer project. I could tell they were worried about the trip, so I promised to start and keep up with a blog for them to follow my adventures and make sure I was safe. I posted a summary of each day in a diary-style format with lots of “And then I did this, and then I did that” style posts. It was simple, but effective. All of my family and friends were up-to-date with my trip.
After I returned from the volunteer project, I largely stopped writing on that blog until my next big travel adventure in 2010 when I enrolled in Semester at Sea, a 4 month, 12 country voyage around the world. Once again, I started writing a summary of my days and experience on Semester at Sea for people to follow along at home. This was significantly better than sending out countless emails to everyone who asked me “How was my trip going?”. This time, my blog was slightly better because I included photos and links to my Facebook account to further illustrate my experiences in the various countries I was visiting. But, it was still largely a diary style post that I abandoned upon returning back to the US.
Blogging Inspiration Strikes
Fast forward to summer 2013. Like many millenials, I was at a crossroads in my career a few years after graduating from college. I felt disenchanted with my work in the non-profit sector, but also felt unable to break into a promising and sustainable career path. I was lost and unsure of where to go.
2013 was a time when it felt like everyone was starting a blog and some people were turning it into their careers. This inspired me to start blogging more regularly. I wasn't quite sure whether I wanted my blog to be my career at that point, but I decided it couldn’t hurt to give it a try. At the very least, it could be a creative outlet for me to showcase my personality, interest and talent. I planned to share it on my resume and LinkedIn in the hopes of proving my value to future employers. It served a dual purpose.
Once I started blogging regularly, it was like a watershed moment for me. I was flooded with inspiration! I was publishing 4-6 posts a week at the time. I was investing many hours to take photos, write and publish all this content. The blog posts were mostly short outfit posts heavy with photos or stream-of-consciousness summaries of restaurants I liked or experiences I enjoyed abroad.
I didn’t understand SEO or content-writing best practices at that point. I was just being creative and LOVED what I was doing! Blogging was just the outlet I needed to spark my energy and I started to connect with a network of online connections. In fact, blogging helped encourage me to take the leap and do a 90 Day backpacking trip through the Middle East and Asia which ultimately led to my job at Greenheart Travel. Looking back, this period of time was when I fell in love with blogging and it serendipitously led to building a career path that I continue to follow today.
Wait, blogging can be my job?
By winter 2015, my blog had nearly 500 posts and it had become an integral part of my identity and weekly routine. I was full of incredible creativity and energy but I wanted to take my blog to the next level. I was following people with large followings and engaged communities, which inspired me to try and grow my reach. I attended my first blogging conference, the Women in Travel Summit, in March 2015 and it was a deeply impactful experience for me.
My eyes were opened by incredible women who had turned their blog into their careers. These women were completely location and income independent, and it dawned on me—that was the lifestyle I wanted. At this conference, I first learned about SEO, content marketing, and more. There was so much for me to discover, and I came away from the conference ready to take on this new challenge. I dove into updating my old posts with sized photos, adding alt text, focusing my messaging, and optimizing my search terms. I spent those months making changes and tweaks, while still creating new content. I felt like I was on a really good path forward.
Rebranding to Traverse Blog and Shop
After the conference, I confronted all the different identities I had online. My blog, Instagram, Etsy, Pinterest, etc were all named different things. I was contemplating the marketability of my different identities, and I thought it made a lot of sense to unite them all under one brand. This would make it easier for people to find me online and hopefully start to build an online identity, an online brand.
After a lot of deliberation and bouncing ideas off my social media savvy friends, I decided to make the change in the summer of 2015 and announced my *new* brand: Traverse!
trav·erse | trəˈvərs | verb
- travel across or through.
- move (something) back and forth or sideways.
Inspired by my love of all things wanderlust, Traverse would go on to catalog my journey through travel, style, food and all the other adventures life throws at us. I officially united all of my social media platforms under the same name and I was thrilled by this new brand. I was so excited for the transformation and the learning process that I went through to make the improvements.
A Serious Case of Writer’s Block
And then I hit a wall. My creative energy completely disappeared. I lost all my steam.
While I still felt passionate about blogging, I had writer’s block. Like a major block. I spent hours opening my computer with every intention to write, and then I just stared at the screen. Nothing happened. My brain froze. After 20 minutes of doing nothing, I would give up. I guilted and shamed myself about the writer’s block, but couldn’t muster the energy to do anything about it.
I didn’t feel the same drive I did before to write about my life, travels and style. I didn't know how to climb out of it. I asked myself what could have caused this problem. There was lots happening in my personal life at the time—an engagement, wedding planning, promotion at work, a knee injury, low-level anxiety—which looking back, all played a big part in the writer’s block.
But more than personal issues, I was thinking about my blog. Since I wasn’t writing, I was critically analyzing, reflecting and evaluating my blog. I asked myself “Why am I doing this?” and "What value do I want this endeavor to add to my life" and “What do I want to do with this blog moving forward?”
I was being especially hard on myself because I was searching for answers. I attended another Women in Travel Summit in March 2016, which gave me some space for reflection, where I came to a few realizations. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to make my blog more “professional” and less personal. My inner monologue at that time was hypercritical, causing me to fear my own writing. I took the fun out of blogging by always thinking “How can I grow my audience?” or “How is my brand appearing to readers?” I started my blog as a fun outlet for expression, and by over-criticizing myself, I lost the whole point.
I also realized that many people who start travel or lifestyle blogs do it as an alternative to their profession because they are unfulfilled. But I had a job that I loved and was fulfilled by. I didn’t need my blog to be my career at that point. Even though I aspired for it to be my full-time gig in the future, I was super happy with my actual career and didn’t need my blog to fulfill that itch at this point. It could just be a space to write, not a place to launch a career as a travel writer.
Relaunching Traverse Blog (Part 2)
After spending some time decompressing my reflections from WITS, I decided to relaunch Traverse Blog—again! This time, I completely changed the look of the blog to be streamlined, clean and modern. I did some housekeeping to clean out old pages, posts and updating broken links. I totally revamped my menu navigation to help everyone find what they’re looking for more easily.
But the biggest change was that I completely removed all of my outfit and style posts in order to focus my messaging. I realized that the fashion portion and the travel portion of my blog didn’t go together. While they were both an extension of my personal interests, the content was hardly similar and didn't appeal to the same audiences.
I didn’t want to stress myself out about making them go together because I realized they could be separate! Lots of other women had multiple online brands, and it felt like "DUH! Of course I should just separate these." I still loved posting cute pics of my style but they were now going to be housed on a new blog—MegBethStyle. This blog would be entirely focused on quality photos over quality writing.
I made all of these changes in the hope of sparking my creativity and climbing my way out of my writer’s block. After the split, I could immediately feel my inspiration returning partially because I could focus on specific topics, writing style and topics. I spent the remainder of 2016 and most of 2017 continuing to edit and updating my past posts, along a few new posts every month. It was a slow and steady climb out of writer’s block, but I made it. I was back on track.
Where I Am Today
That brings us today. Doing this post and revisiting where I came from has helped humble my internal criticism of myself. I have made A LOT of progress from that initial diary-style blog in 2009. I have learned so much about the business. I have made conscious and thoughtful choices about where blogging fits into my future.
Many of my family and friends are still confused about what it means to be a travel blogger, but it doesn't compromise inner sense of drive that I feel—this is a space for me, a space I belong. I know blogging and travel content creation is the right path for me now. While that may change in the months and years ahead, for now, it is a big part of my career plans moving forward.
My blog is now my part-time job. I dedicate 15-20 hours per week to this platform. That means I am creating new content, promoting my posts across social media, networking with other bloggers, attending conferences and events, writing freelance pieces for other sites, and all sorts of other tasks. Bloggers truly are masters of wearing multiple hats because our jobs entail so much.
I may never be to the notoriety level of The Blonde Abroad or Nomadic Matt but I am at peace with that. I want my blog to be me, to feel like me. I want it to feel fulfilling. And yes, I hope that will eventually mean I can achieve a comfortable level of income from my online work, but I also understand it takes time to build that. I am being patient with myself and my progress.
Here's to the journey ahead. I'm sure it will be full as many lessons, challenges, wins, losses and opportunities as journey up to this point has been. I look forward to watching the process unfold ahead of me, and you can count on seeing more from me in the future. Thanks to all who have been on this journey with me, and I look forward to more people joining along.
Do you have your own story of travel writing? How did you build your blog? Comment below! I would love to hear about other people's stories in this space!
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