- Travel Topics
Today marks the 180th day that Vicky and I have been traveling. We give updates every month about our progress, and this month is no exception.
I was trying to think about what to do for this post and how I could make it “extra special” to celebrate the benchmark we’ve just passed. I found some cool code online that could be used to make an image of curtains opening, y’kno, like a “ta-da” type of thing.
And then I realized that no one would find that entertaining except me.
So, after a bit of thinking, I decided that I’d do something that we don’t usually do on this blog – be open.
“So you’ve been lying to us this entire time?”
Whoa, put down the pitch forks everyone – it’s not like that.
Here’s what I’m trying to say. See, Vicky and I aren’t the most engaging bloggers, so to speak. For example:
You’re not going to find too many gut-wrenching, pour your heart out posts on this blog (search results for gut-wrenching returns 0 results on this blog).
You’re not going to find too many pictures of Vicky and I being playful – making funny faces – or doing ANYTHING remotely entertaining.
It’s just not our style. (Note – in person, we’re actually quite colorful, but we just don’t bring it to the blog because it makes us uncomfortable. Oh, but we’re still not down with funny faces.)
In essence, we’re terrible bloggers. We started a personal travel blog knowing that we’re not 100% comfortable being open with strangers and for some reason, thought that was a good idea.
Doesn’t make much sense, right?
In fact, I sometimes don’t even think of us as bloggers – we’re more like story tellers; we talk about where we went, what we did, who we met, and we wrap it up into a nice, neat package using some basic high school grammar and questionable speling to tie the knot. Most of our sentences are clear run ons.
We’re rarely serious, edgy, or controversial…I think you get the point.
So what I meant by “doing something special and being open”, was to throw caution to the wind just this once and talk a little bit about what’s been going on inside our heads over the last 6 months, and do it in a way that is more fitting of a blogger, or at least try to and in all likelihood fail, as it’s difficult to be something you’re not.
I figured I’d start with the title, by doing what I hate and trying to suck people in with something edgy, and, in all likelihood, leave them utterly disappointed in the content (though hopefully not).
Raise your hand if you got sucked in
So what’s new after 6 months on the road? Well, for those of you who have been following along since day 1 – you might remember this little gem right here. Actually, this is probably one of a select few posts where we really did tell all (and consequently, it was one of our most popular).
So how have things changed since that first month on the road? In some ways, not that much.
Let’s go in order, shall we?
Being A Minimalist
At the time I enjoyed being a minimalist and I still do. In fact, since then I’ve managed to lose even more of the few clothes that I had and now alternate between two shirts as I refuse to buy anything else. I now abhor purchasing anything that I don’t absolutely need, though to be fair I was never much of a consumer to begin with and always hated shopping.
Vicky and I still get along just fine, and ice cream is STILL the solution.
We’re still fine on the budget, though to be completely honest, we’ve made enough money on this blog that it isn’t so much of an issue (see below). Now that we’ve been traveling around a bit, I kind of chuckle at all those resources telling you how to travel to X for Y dollars a day where Y is greater than $30 and X is anywhere that isn’t Western Europe or America. As far as I can tell, there are only a few places in the world where you actually need to budget. Asia, and I suspect Eastern Europe, Africa, and South America, are all quite cheap. See our wrap ups if you don’t believe us. On an expensive, active day Vicky and I spend $35 each. Some days it’s much less. It’s really not that hard and I’ll be the first to admit that we’re not doing anything special. Things just don’t cost that much here. Every now and again we will hold off on something really expensive, or choose a cheaper option (recently, we gave up on a hostel with a pool because it was $5 more expensive – hard core budgeting there huh?).
Bottom line – it doesn’t feel like budget travel – it just feels like travel.
In October when I wrote the one month update saying we were making money blogging we had made approximately $2k, which we were pretty happy with. We had no idea if we would make anymore or, if we did, how much. I told Vicky that if we made $500 from blogging in our first year I would be extremely surprised and, of course, extremely pleased.
All and all, in 6 months we’ve made $20k – ball park figures.
In our monthly traffic and revenue updates we go more in depth, but we do this primarily selling what are called sponsored posts on our blog. Naturally, we get a lot of questions around this and people often ask us what we’re doing to be earning so much.
The simple and disappointing answer is that we contact a lot of advertisers and publish a lot of sponsored posts. Basically, the same thing that many other bloggers are doing, just doing it more. Originally the advertisers contacted us. Nowadays, we have enough contacts we can simply trade with bloggers to get new ones, and there seems to be a decent supply of people we haven’t worked with yet.
In the last few months, not that many advertisers have contacted us. I think this is true for many bloggers – there just isn’t as much interest i.e the link selling biz isn’t as hot anymore. If you’re a new blogger looking to make money this way, I think it is still viable, but it’s definitely a lot harder than it was 6 months ago – the rates aren’t as good, and Vicky and I have to push more and more quantity to keep up.
Sometimes I worry that the income updates are sending the wrong message. If we were a newer blog and read one of those today, it would probably having me thinking “wow, we really can make all this money blogging in such a short time”. I can see from the comments we get that, indeed, there are people who think that.
But I’m not so sure it’s true anymore.
I know this because we are currently working promoting other blogs and I can see that the well is drying up. More details to follow on that in the income post, but it’s safe to say that we’re just riding this wave until it either takes us safely into shore or hurls us against the rocks.
In the one month update I wrote that we were selling out.
Now, I’d probably say it a bit differently, and that’s that Vicky and I made the decision that blogging wasn’t a long term strategy for us. There are other opportunities we’re more interested in (for example, buying existing websites/businesses), and this blog is providing the capital for us to do that.
So yes, it’s a bit selling out, but another way to look at it is we were never “in” and I’m sorry if anyone thought otherwise.
More practically, it’s allowed us to purchase two websites, hire assistants, and travel for six months without touching our savings. If tomorrow we sell our last sponsored post because Google gives us the boot – I still say it’s worth it.
After one month we mentioned that it was getting old. We haven’t Couchsurfed for over three months now and I kind of miss it. To be fair, we have at times sent requests (and they were declined), and we have met up with other Couchsurfers at events and meetups. Still, we’re clearly not making the effort we used to in this regard, and while I kind of miss it, Vicky and I are enjoying the privacy we get from hostels at a reasonable price. We’ve managed to meet a decent amount of travelers and locals too doing so. I suspect when we get to Europe we’ll be doing a lot more Couchsurfing.
Lack of curiosity
Before I wrote that the world is not a curious place.
And I retract that statement.
At the time I felt strongly about it and I wasn’t lying, however, since then we’ve run into numerous people, both locals and travelers, who have drilled us with questions – at least enough so that I wouldn’t call them uninterested. Perhaps the other Asian countries like Japan and China tend to be more reserved and that’s why we received less questions. We also didn’t meet as many travelers there because they aren’t as well traveled.
The traveler is a glorified tourist
While I can’t and won’t speak for every traveler, I know in our case, I always think of ourselves as merely tourists. We go and see the sites, taste the food, and try to meet the locals, but is that all that different from what tourists are doing, everyday?
My biggest complaint in this department is my inability to really get into the culture. There are thousands of books, articles, etc that could provide better insights into the culture but I find that I have neither the time, nor the energy, to invest in reading even a small fraction of it. After I’ve spent a day walking around Bangkok, it doesn’t get me wanting to come back and read more about Thai culture.
I’d rather explore something different, to give my mind something fresh.
But in that sense, you never really do learn anything related to the culture outside of cursory observations made from walking around and MAYBE talking with people.
Vicky’s better at this – she likes to read history.
Unfortunately, I just can’t commit myself 100% to the travel, usually because I’m thinking about business i.e how we’re going to support ourselves and what opportunities are currently available. Sometimes I wish I could just leave everything else on the table, even the blog, and commit 100% to traveling and learning about where I am – but inevitably I know this isn’t a good long term strategy, because it doesn’t provide anything for traveling or living location independent or even being self employed after the savings run out.
But then again, if not now, then when?
While English is much better in South East Asia, I still stand by my statement that it is a relatively easy language, and that I expect more from countries who spend over 10 years learning it and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars hiring native English teachers to teach abroad.
Surprisingly since the one month update post I’ve lost even more weight, which I didn’t think was possible. There are no pictures of me sideways because I don’t show up!
As we can see from the above, most of what I thought after one month of travel I STILL think after six months of travel – so I don’t know how much travel changes you, or at least, how much it has changed me. That said, it’s certainly been humbling to travel around and see the plight of the world’s disenfranchised, and that’s a take away I’m very proud of.
The last question, I think, is after six months, how do we feel about our decision? Would we do it differently?
I’ll admit, sometimes, quite often I think we’re doing it all wrong.
I think that we weren’t thinking big enough with our two year travel plan. It was nice, but two years, while sounds like a lot, is a drop in the bucket out of say, a lifetime, which is what we should have been thinking of. We should of been thinking about how we could build a lifestyle – a location independent one. This blog is supposed to be about dreaming big and, at least initially, we weren’t.
In retrospect, I feel that this would have been a lot easier had we simply moved abroad and stayed in one place while we developed a project and/or business to fund ourselves more sustainable. We would have kept our costs low and had ample time to live off our savings while we explored new avenues. From this, instead of two years of travel (or whatever amounts from this trip) we could have had a lifetime of travel and in this way I feel like we weren’t playing long ball.
But we’re trying to correct for that now.
We’re actively pursuing different projects, some related to travel blogging, and some not, all the time. It’s not easy on the road, with crappy internet, long bus rides, and…crappy internet – but we’re trying to make it work, and I think that’s the right move for where we are. It’s better to act now under less than ideal conditions than to wait until after we’ve finished our trip and say, OK, now let’s see what we can do to self employ ourselves – even if a few things have to be sacrificed along the way.
Disclaimer: After I wrote this Vicky read it and we both agreed it was neither gut-wrenching nor pour your heart out, but we tried!