10 Lessons Learned From 7 Years of Travel Blogging (and 1,650 Not Out)

“How will you ever learn when your hands are tied and your bridge is burned?” – Mark Morriss

7 lessons learned from 7 years of travel blogging.

10 lessons learned from 7 years of travel blogging.

Bonjour. Hola. Jo San La. Guten Tag. Jo Napot. Bout Ye! This is actually my 1,650th proper travel blog post on Don’t Stop Living which coincides ridiculously with being on the 7 year anniversary of my blog, so it’s time for another reflection post if that’s OK. And yes it’s OK as it’s my blog remember 😉 However, I get slated for honesty about being a travel blogger and although I could put this on one of my other sites, it should and could only be on Don’t Stop Living – on the 7 year birthday why shove a post like this into the car boot? Yeah so in just under 7 years that amounts to over 230 articles a year and about 4 per week on average. Ridiculous. No boast here – just the fact of course. I don’t want to know how many hours in front of the computer that has meant, but I’m pretty proud to reach 1,650. Some crazy sh*t happened in those 7 years like I met Roger Federer, almost pooed my pants in a broccoli farm , visited Saddam Hussein’s House of Horrors in Iraq, fed hyenas mouth to mouth and nonchalantly backpacked my way to Antarctica. Plus I banged 90 countries into my backpack somehow…

Where it all began for Don't Stop Living...Apple Store Toronto, Canada, July 2007.

Where it all began for Don’t Stop Living…Apple Store Toronto, Canada, July 2007.

I thought it was a good time for a reflective post then as I share 10 Lessons Learned From 7 Years of Travel Blogging. Don’t Stop Living is my passion now…it’s more than just a travel blog of places I go and people I meet. This blog is as much a part of my life now as anything else. Every day I mutter the words “don’t stop living.” Every day I feel the passion running through the streets of another random town in another unexpected country. Or in a desert…

This is the 1500th post so time to reflect on lessons learned.

This is the 1650th post so time to reflect on lessons learned.

“Midnight at the Oasis. Put your camel to bed” – Brand New Heavies

Here are 10 things I’ve learned from 7 years of travel blogging:

1. People DO READ Travel Blogs. Yes folks – People ARE Reading. I used to doubt it. Quite a lot. I’d spend about 6 hours writing a post like how to get a Suriname Visa in Venezuela, expecting it to go global. I click Publish, share on Facebook, Tweet and hey presto – zero likes, zero views. Nobody cares. Incorrect.

Yes! Somebody left a comment!

Yes! Somebody left a comment!

While that post may not have attracted comments – people read it. One lucky person even e-mailed me for advice which I gave and they got their visa. That made me happy! Yes, I’ve made it. Somebody read it and used my information. Success. Thanks for reading!

“I feel so extraordinary, something’s got a hold of me” – New Order

Recently I wrote an article on beaches in Australia only to get zero comments and likes. Then a friend messaged me and told me the ferry terminal on it was incorrect. He was reading it. Proof that people do read them. I corrected the mistake and everyone’s a winner baby.

7 Lessons Learned From 7 Years of Travel Blogging by Jonny Blair.

7 Lessons Learned From 7 Years of Travel Blogging by Jonny Blair.

One time I shared an angry article about a hotel in Japan (it was a bad article, a mistake to publish and I deleted it) – I had assumed that nobody would have read it. Turns out it had about 900 page views in 2 days. I didn’t even know what a “page view” was. I was shocked and a bit upset. It took me 6 minutes to write. I got slated for it. Hands up I was wrong. So that one was read by over 1000 people yet my articles that week on Getting a Hong Kong Visa staying in the mountains of Azerbaijan and Backpacking in Iran get no response and took me 6 days to write.

What has all this taught me?

That people do read travel blogs, but they don’t comment or share them unless they stand out as controversial. I’m happy to shy away from the limelight once more. I’d rather write posts on backpacking in Iraq, Nagorno Karabakh and Changsha in China. Once your stuff is on the internet, someone will read it. Be aware of that.

“Someone’s reading Lord, Kum Ba Yah”

Someone somewhere, is reading Don't Stop Living.

Someone somewhere, is reading Don’t Stop Living. (this is Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)

2. You Don’t Have to Like Other Travel Bloggers but You Should Respect Them.
This is a key point I want to make here, as I know that other travel bloggers read my stuff – it’s not just travellers. I won’t lie to you – I don’t like lots of other travel blogs, I actually find a lot of them boring. But that’s just my opinion. If I see another blog on “I sold all my stuff and moved to Thailand” I might just be sick. I hope you don’t blame me for having that opinion – I won’t change my opinion. However, I respect the people that write these blogs as I know it takes time and effort and travel is what they love. And that part is important.

“Here’s a little agit for the never believer, yeah yeah yeah yeah” – Michael Stipe

Backpacking in Bangkok..yeah yeah yeah...

Backpacking in Bangkok..yeah yeah yeah…

Also though, some other travel bloggers are extremely patronising and difficult to like – I have received very rude, arrogant and patronising emails from “top bloggers” (allegedly) and my peers in the industry don’t like me writing about this, but the fact remains – there are some big twats out there and I’ll never read their sites again.

“Solitary brother is there still a part of me that wants to live?” – Seal

“I like you and I feel so bohemian like you” – Dandy Warhols

3. Travel Blogs That Are Not Regularly Updated are Sh1t!
Again – this is an opinion and I might get slated for it but the clue should be in the title – “TRAVEL blog”. If I see a travel blog without a post for 2 or 3 weeks without an explanation, I’ll start to think the person wasn’t really travelling (health and family issues aside – I’m talking about on a regular occurrance). It’s a lot easier than you think keeping a travel blog up to date. I’ve had at least 7 posts a week for the last 2 years, and in that time I have still visited about 20 new countries and 90 new cities/towns. It takes an hour a day to write a post and put up some photos. If I can do it (and I’m not great at computers) then anyone can do it.

“Saw a vagabond king wear a styrofoam crown, wondered if I might end up the same” – Bon Jovi

4. I love my Readers
I love you. I need you. Thanks for reading.

“I can’t live with or without you” – Bono

Readers bring such joy to my life. Some of the best stories have come through people reading my stuff. Walking through a busy parade in Tokyo and a guy shouts over and tugs my shirt – Hey Jonny Don’t Stop Living!

I go for coffee and dinner with Selin in Ankara, Turkey (she messaged me).

I tour the city of Quetzaltenango in Guatemala with Giovanni who followed my stuff.

I meet a cool Canadian guy called Nick in Hanoi and he introduces my blog to one of his mates, Ray. Ray turns into one of my readers and we message each other all the time, plus just missed out on a beer together in Brazil. Next time Ray.

So yeah – thanks for reading. I care about you and I have time for you. Message me on my journeys and we can meet for a beer.

“Without you, I’m nothing” – Brian Molko

5. You Can Turn Travel Blogging into a Career
Of course you can – remember – you can do anything if you want it enough. If you work hard and really travel you can of course make travel blogging into a career. While I don’t like to use the term “career” I do have business cards these days and I do introduce myself to some as a “business backpacker” or a “professional travel blogger”. It’s just like being a “butcher” or a “banker”. We work hard, we earn money. We try to be good at what we do. I’ve tried. I’ve earned some money from my travel blogging. It’s my lifestyle and my career now. I don’t need to “work” anywhere else if I spend enough hours on travel writing, but I sometimes like to (bar work, teaching English adds spice to my life).

Working in Erbil Airport in Iraq.

Working in Erbil Airport in Iraq.

6. Your Travel Blog Doesn’t Have to be Good to Make Money.
Just like a beer doesn’t have to be good to sell. Remember – marketing, PR and outreach are just as important. If someone has put effort in and their blog isn’t great but their commitment is top class, they deserve to make money. Remember Owen Hargreaves? Quite a good determined footballer in the end I thought and always gave 100%. He punched above his weight. He played in the World Cup, you can too. Be a good marketer. My two favourite books for becoming a travel blogger:
Make Money with your travel blog – Nomadic Matt
Improve rankings and make money with your travel blog – eTramping

(buy them both, work hard and you’ll succeed)

Owen Hargreaves can do it. You can do it.

Owen Hargreaves can do it. You can do it.

7. You Should Always Be Yourself.
This is the best one. Be yourself. Go where you want to go. Write about what you want and don’t worry too much about others! It’s your blog – make it your pride and passion and enjoy it. I have no time for fakes and wannabes and believe me – there are a fair few out there! I am myself and I really love travelling the world and writing my stories on Don’t Stop Living.

“I’ve seen all the disciples and all the wannabes, no-one wants to be themselves these days” – Bon Jovi

“I need to be myself, I can’t be no-one else” – Noel Gallagher

8. The Clue is in the title “Travel Blog!!”: You Have to Really Travel
Get out there and be REAL please. One of my biggest bug bears in life is travel bloggers who are fake and don’t even travel. It grills me. The worst offenders head to Thailand for 2 weeks, start a blog then move back in with their family in the USA/England/Canada etc. and sit on their laptops pretending they’re some kind of backpacking guru that knows how to travel the world! Their sole travel experiences were sitting on a beach in Thailand and seeing Angkor Wat in Cambodia. They don’t even know how to change money abroad, how to get visas, how to visit a country they’ve never heard of and they only went there to get drunk, get their photo with an elephant and sit on a beach. Fakes!!

“Strawberry fields, nothing is real” – John Lennon

The worst part of these fake travel blogs are the Facebook pages they create, day after day they share photos they haven’t taken themsleves and lots with quotes on them!! As if they are trying to inspire other people to travel without having been to that place themselves. What you see is what you get on Don’t Stop Living. My Facebook page photos are real from my travels, my stories are real and I’m not sitting typing up stuff pretending I’m in Ethiopia or putting quotes like “Wow! Paris is cool, have you been?” Well, yes I have been, but is the person that posted that there now?? Are they backpacking down to Marseille? In most cases not – they’re dreamers and wannabes and the people who are actually out travelling are the only ones you should trust. These “travel” bloggers are also the ones that slag travellers like me off, just because I’m actually backpacking across borders, writing about real stuff that happens and being myself.

“Pretenders to the throne” – The Beautiful South

9. “Travel” Bloggers on Endless Sponsored Trips
Head to Nomadic Sam’s cool page on the top 100 travel blogs in the world and immediately stroke off all those who go on “endless sponsored trips”. Cringeworthy, freebie grabbing travel bloggers who give the real travel bloggers a bad name. Travel blogging is NOT about free trips and if it is for you, then change careers please. Travel blogging is only about travelling and blogging.

“You don’t care what it’s worth as you’re living like it’s the last night on earth” – Paul Hewson

I’ve seen bloggers suddenly fly from the USA all the way to Berlin/Paris only to stay in a 4 star hotel, get free tours, write about it and then – shock horror, when the 5 free nights are finished, they don’t linger!! They’re on the next flight out as they only did it for the freebie!! Makes me sick. If you check proper long term travel bloggers like Nomadic Matt and eTramping, you’ll see they get some sponsored tours and trips but they organise it themselves through hard work and effort. They don’t just hop on the next flight cos someone offers some free food and a hotel!! **Cringes to himself**

“Everybody’s making love cos love is free” – Sheryl Crow

And by the way if you have followed Don’t Stop Living from those early days you will know I have also been on a few sponsored trips and stayed in good and had discount hotels, but I don’t piss off after the trip and I don’t do it for the free trip, I hang around and explore the places on my own, with my own money and time as I wasn’t in it for the gold. I was in it for the TRAVEL, the experience and the BLOGGING. I sometimes despise at the Western World and think that of al the places I’ve been I was blessed to have been born in Northern Ireland.

10. Sod the Rest
Do your own thing, plot your own route and forget about the others. This is your life and your journey. Follow your dreams, you can vote for my 99th country to see where I end up.

So amen to 7 years of travel blogging. It’s a milestone. Time for a drink and you relax and have a nice day…and don’t become one of the fakes please 😉

“It’s another tequila sunrise stirring slowly cross the sky…”

It's another tequila sunrise and this old world still looks the same.

It’s another tequila sunrise and this old world still looks the same.

24 thoughts on “10 Lessons Learned From 7 Years of Travel Blogging (and 1,650 Not Out)

  • I’ve been rummaging through your archives quite a lot over the last few weeks Jonny. Proper inspiring stuff. I really enjoy reading the blogs and I often bring up your name when the subject of travel comes up. Keep on keeping on my friend.

  • Thanks for the comment Kirk – really appreciate it. Best of luck with the band the next few months and hope to catch up sometime – would be cool to do a gig review on my travel blog!! Jonny

  • Thanks for the mention, Jonny! I keep reading because you keep writing quality stuff. Plus, the places you venture into quite often are just the places I would love to see for myself some day. Because of your blog, I have now the desire to check out Paraguay, Guatemala, and Suriname (just to name a few) when I can fit them into my schedule.

    I really hope you make the 100 Country mark before your 35th Birthday, and that Don’t Stop Living makes its 10th Year Anniversary. Will be very interesting to see where you end up on August 26, 2017! My guess is Toronto. 😉
    Ray recently posted…Weech’s Wanders: One Night in Foz do IguaçuMy Profile

  • Hi Ray thanks for the comment as ever and for following my stories. The most strange fact for me is that Lee and Mike who had travel blogs and stayed in the same hostel as me (Planet Traveler in Toronto) were the two guys that inspired me to start the blog as I had all my hand written notes already. It was a bit unusual when I checked both their sites a while back to see that both stopped blogging around 2008 and I don’t think they travel much any more, which is a shame but those two guys – big hands up for the inspiration they gave me. I knew nothing about computers or how to set up a blog but I’m glad I did. I never imagined in my wildest dreams I could visit 100 countries, but give me 6 months and I’ll try and do it properly.

    When August 2017 comes round, I’d love to be still blogging as much (just so passionate about it and would be lost without my blog) and definitely would love to be in Toronto re-dreaming the city where it all began. I’ve made some promises to my cousin that lives in Winnipeg and my friends in Ottawa and Montreal too, so that would be a great place to be!

    Safe travels and out of those 3 countries you suggest, just let me know if you want any advice. Suriname for sure you only need a week to see the best of it.


  • Brilliant post Jonny 🙂 I check your blog several times a week – I find your articles interesting, inspiring and really useful, I know that If I need any advice on a country/city I can look through DSL and I will more than likely find something.

    Your site was in fact the inspiration for me booking a trip to Antarctica in November this year – I remember just googling some general info on the white continent and your blog came up – After reading your articles on Deception Island, the Drakes Passage and Port Lockroy i was hooked – Thanks so much!

  • Thanks for the kind words Paul – look forward to reading all about your Antarctica adventure – what are your exact dates and which trip is it? Safe travels, Jonny

  • No probs Jonny, the cruise is 6th of November to the 18th and Ive got a little time in Ushuaia before. I booked with G Adventures “Classic Antarctica in depth” and it happens to be on the same ship you went on – The MS Expedition! I voted for Norway for your 99th country btw 🙂

  • Thats the exact date I went and also the same company and the same boat, 4 years apart – incredible!! Can’t wait to hear your stories from it. Safe travels. Jonny

  • Hey Jonny….another great post. It’s always clear that you are a ‘real’ travel blogger who is very passionate about seeing the world. I enjoy keeping up with your adventures!

  • These are some great lessons Jonny! The day I realized I could turn blogging into a career I was very excited. My only wish is that I had of started my sites and youtube channels sooner.

  • Hi Sam, It’s amazing isn’t it?! Turning travel and blogging into a career is the best thing I ever did and I’m with you on the timeframe – I started my blogs early but I started monetising late! Safe travels. Jonny

  • Admin, if not okay please remove!

    Our facebook group “selfless” is spending this month spreading awareness on prostate cancer & research with a custom t-shirt design. Purchase proceeds will go to cancer.org, as listed on the shirt and shirt design.


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