Climbing the Franz Joseph Glacier in New Zealand. (All photos from Gary Arndt)
Gary sold his house in March 2007 and has since visited seven continents, over 170 countries and territories, and 125 U.S. national parks.
This is a guy who knows the business of travel blogging. That’s why we decided to pick his brain to learn the good, the bad, and the ugly of leaving your home to live out of a suitcase. Here, Gary answers all the questions that we get from people who want to start their own blogs.
Why should I start a travel blog?
If you want to share your travels with your friends and family, a travel blog can be a great way to do it. You can keep everyone abreast of what you are doing and have a great online memento of your trip when you are done.
If you intend to try and make a business out of it, you should give it some serious thought before you make that move. While the travel seems glamorous, it can get quite tiring. Also, to even get to a break-even point it will probably take several years and even then you won’t be making more than you would at any entry level job.
Related: Gary’s Immutable Laws of Air Travel
Shooting in Morocco.
I’ve seen many, many people who have started a travel blog in the belief that they’d make money and be paid to travel around the world. It doesn’t quite work that way. Those few who are able to make a living doing it, usually only do so after years of traveling around the world.
What are the steps to being a travel blogger?
Starting a travel blog is actually pretty easy. Just go to any number of blog hosting sites, and you can have a basic site up and running in minutes. If you go to Tumblr.com, Blogger.com, or WordPress.com, you don’t even have to pay any money.
The trick is actually creating something that people will be interested in. Most people assume that they are writers because they are literate and graduated high school, or that they are photographers because they can press the shutter button on a camera.
Writing, photography, and videography are skills that take years to master. Many people who get into blogging just assume that whatever they do is good enough and put no thought or effort into trying to improve their craft.
Making new friends on the Great Barrier Reef.
Even if you are a great writer or photographer, there is still the issue of the travel.
Most people start travel blogs because of the travel, not the blogging. Yet, to consistently get people’s attention you need to create an impressive travel resumé. That takes years of travel and often traveling to places which aren’t the most obvious tourist destinations.
Is it worth it?
It depends on what your goals are. If you just want to create a website to document your travels for your friends and family, it can be a great activity. In addition to sharing with friends and family, you can also share your adventures with the rest of the world.
However, if you are trying to turn it into a career, you had better be prepared for a very long slog. Getting to a point where you can make a decent living will probably take years, and even then it may never happen.
As with any endeavor, even if one day you hope you’d like to make money at it, your best bet is to start your blog off as a hobby and then see what happens from there. If you can build an audience over time, then making money is something you could consider later on.
Getting a mud mask in Songkran in Bangkok.
Keep in mind that most blogs fail because their owners fail to update them during their travels. Most people take trips to enjoy the trip, not to write articles and process photos all day. I’ve seen many bloggers start their trip with a blog and then abandon it quickly after they discover how much time it will take during their trip.
What is the best part?
The best part of being a travel blogger is, of course, the travel. Over the last eight years I’ve been to over 100 countries and all seven continents and have done and seen more than most humans do in a lifetime.
You also learn an incredible amount when you are on the road. You will learn bits of many different languages, as well as history and other tidbits about life and cultures around the world. I’d estimate that a year traveling around the world is equivalent to spending two years in college in terms of the knowledge you will gain.
Having a blog in particular has turned me into an award-winning photographer and writer, both of which are skills I can use the rest of my life.
What are the downsides?
It is extremely difficult to travel and work at the same time. You can’t be out exploring while you are sitting at your computer.
The travel schedule can also be grueling. I’ve been to over 40 countries and territories a year for the last two years. It can wear you down after a while, and burnout is a common problem with travel bloggers.
Hanging out in Easter Island.
As glamorous as travel blogging seems, it is difficult to keep relationships while you are on the road, and you can easily lose touch with friends. You also probably will not be staying in luxury hotels. More likely, your accommodations will be at youth hostels and guesthouses.
Do you ever get sick of it?
I sometimes get tired from the constant motion, but I don’t regret the path I’ve chosen. Having been doing this for eight years, I’ve decided to slow down a bit. This is so I avoid burnout, and also so I have the time to work on projects which require a level of attention I can’t give if I’m in a different hotel every day.
Check out our original adventure travel series A Broad Abroad: