I heard the gurgling sounds of water and headed over to the coffee machine to watch it brew the cup of coffee that would fuel my next inspirational article. As I stood there staring into the mirror, I thought about what my readers would think of my glamorous life: standing in the bathroom of my hotel room, brewing a cup of coffee in a paper cup filled with powdered creamer.
It is not exactly the picture-perfect dream world I share on my travel website, Dream Travel Magazine, but it is my dream life and these are some of the secrets you may not see.
The real life of a travel blogger
While we do get to stay at some rather posh places at times, the reality of a travel blogger’s life is actually quite different. I can’t tell you how many coffee machine nightmares I’ve had at budget hotels, while on the road during press trips. Moldy old coffee filters in old coffee machine brewers seem to be my nemesis — or am I the only one that makes coffee in my hotel room?
Press trips or familiarization trips
Press trips or familiarization trips — called “fam” trips — are offered to us by a tourism operator to showcase their regions. Some may view this as an opportunity for a free vacation, though neither Revenue Canada nor the IRS agree. They expect to see them on our tax returns every year, and for me, these trips are hard work. The fam trips are often packed with activities that start in the wee hours of the morning and end late at night. In fact, I have been known to get up at the crack of dawn to go out and photograph the hotel or resort I am staying at, just so I have my own photos to add to the post on the site. Hotels get the short end of the stick on these media trips — often we only get limited time to sit down and relax at all.
On my site, my readers see those luxury photos of my feet sitting on a sun chair relaxing by the pool. Confession time: Most of those photos were the result of a five-minute moment during a hotel tour. At one point, I actually didn’t even get a chance for a swim — I just took off my sneakers and rolled up my pant legs to get the shot!
Press trips are known for this. Shipping you from one location and restaurant to the next, as bloggers scramble to get photos and take notes of vital information. Some trips are so packed that there is not even time to back up photos or take notes about what I experienced at the end of the day. I just get back to the hotel and crash, bracing for the next day’s itinerary.
The lonely life of a solo blogger
Being the owner, operator, marketer, writer, photographer and editor of your own travel site can be a lonely business. I remember one fam trip where I was invited to stay, on my own, for a luxurious getaway. A lot of women travel alone these days. I know this because I am one of them, but probably my least favorite solo travel moments have to be dining at restaurants.
It starts at the front desk where I am greeted by the restaurant manager: “Just you?” or “Reservation for one?” is usually the first thing out of their mouths, and then the awkward walk toward my table. I sit down and immediately start doing my work, snapping photos of the table, the set up and the restaurant around me. My waiter comes over looking around for my date. You’re going to be waiting a long time for that, I think in my head. We have an awkward back-and-forth banter about the specials, and I order a glass of wine. Somehow, I can’t seem to do these dinners without one. I order and wait for the food, sipping my wine and see the glances from the patrons around me. The pitiful looks, which turn to mysterious wonder as I take out my huge camera and start taking shots of my food as it arrives. Shots from all angles, shots with the table candle and shots without it. It’s my life — all my friends and family are used to it, but the patrons at this $100-per-person restaurant? They didn’t quite understand.
Sleepless nights worrying about Google
The other side of travel blogging involves managing the website: Checking Google Analytics to see how many visitors I got, wondering why there was a drop, wondering what I should be doing differently. Then the research begins: how to optimize the site, what is SEO and other boring techie details I have to learn and master — only to find Google did an update and changed all the rules that I thought I understood (which I never really did).
There are days I sit and watch my Facebook posts and wonder if something is broken. Like when you are waiting for an important call and you check that there is a dial tone on your phone. I refresh the page and visit it many times, but no likes, no comments or shares. Facebook is just another system I will never understand. Then, eventually I see it — the one like from my ever-devoted mom.
Would I give it up, this travel blogging life?
Despite the many late nights editing photos or trying to get a post scheduled in a packed editorial and social media calendar, I honestly wouldn’t give it up. To some, the amount of hours I work on my site and its social media channels may seem insane. I mean, it took over a year before I received my first check from Google: a whopping $101.23. For me, that day was magic — but, I saw the faces of the people around me: “Crazy girl,” that’s what they were thinking.
When you have a passion for something, you don’t do it for the money, you do it for the enormous smile you get on your face, for the excitement of the next great email offer or that extra view you got on your website that day. Every little moment is another little moment of joy that fuels me to continue to live my dream.