Two days ago, the dreaded moment arrived. After nine months of travelling, I confronted the inevitable reality of returning home, and started writing a job application.
The job looked great. It was a senior communications role in a children’s charity that I would be passionate about working for, located in the liveliest part of east London. If successful, I would get to manage a team of talented people. The salary was good, and the benefits would allow time for travelling, holidays and seeing the family.
Sounds perfect, right? But, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t bring myself to be truly excited about it. As I trudged through my personal statement, regurgitating the same old professional jargon to answer questions like “give an example of how you have successfully managed projects in a fast-paced environment”, a feeling of stolid indifference washed over me. This was not what I wanted to do.
For several weeks, an idea had been creeping into my head. There was another option on the table, albeit a scary one: I could try and turn professional as a travel blogger.
Over a decade ago, I remember my sister asking me what my dream job was. To work as a travel writer for Lonely Planet, I replied without hesitation. Years later, not much has changed; one way or another, the idea of being a professional travel writer has always been the ultimate dream for me. “There is nothing stopping you from doing it,” my sister had told me. But I didn’t believe her. I’ve always placed the idea on some unattainable pedestal.
But travelling the world in my 30s has changed the way I think about it. I’ve met lots of people who travel and blog for a living. Some make barely enough to stay afloat, others make tens of thousands of dollars a month. But every one of them has proved to me that it can be done.
Over the last few weeks I have started getting involved with the travel blogging community. I’ve joined Facebook groups, listened to professional travel podcasts, and gone out of my way to quiz people I meet about their digital nomad lifestyles. The more I have done this, the more I have realised that it is possible. Not only that, but right now I have the best opportunity to try it that I am ever likely to get.
There are four major factors working in my favour. Firstly, I am not starting from zero; I have a blog that I’ve been steadily building as a hobby over the last few months (you’re reading it now). It’s a long way from making any money, but it’s a solid starting point.
Secondly, I have exactly the right skillset to make a success of it. I have worked for over ten years in communications management positions, so I know a fair bit about content and audience. I know how to write a business plan, how to create and implement a communications strategy, and how to evaluate and improve it. These are all things I would need to do as a full-time travel blogger.
Thirdly, I now have quite a lot of travel experience. By the time we arrive back in the UK, I will have 46 countries under my belt, 20 of them on the current adventure alone. So I know about life on the road and have plenty to write about.
Finally, and most importantly, there is nothing I could be more passionate about doing. Other than Lisa, travelling and writing are my favourite things in the world. I would put every ounce of my energy and devotion into making it work.
But, of course, there are some problems. How would we survive in the initial weeks and months without me having a full-time income? Lisa and I talked about it and juggled the numbers. We could live in Ealing Broadway, where she works, so we would have zero transport costs. We could move into a flat share, which would significantly reduce our monthly outgoings. It would be tough, but not impossible.
Then we thought about how different our lifestyles would be in comparison to before we went travelling. Sure, we’d have less disposable income, but everything else looked a damn sight better. Neither of us would have to commute, so we would have more time on our hands. Lisa would be able to devote more time to her artwork. We would have much more flexibility to take holidays together and see our families, as Lisa has very generous leave allowance. What a huge improvement this would be on the days of working/commuting all hours and saving the pennies! The reasons to do this kept mounting.
As I put the finishing touches to the job application, I thought about how I would feel if I was offered the role. The truth was undeniable: I would be disappointed. I would lament the fading dream of becoming a travel writer. And I would always wonder what might have happened.
So here I am. I have a unique opportunity to try the thing I’ve always wanted to do. I can do it in one of the world’s best cities with the love and support of my amazing partner. And if it doesn’t work out, I can always get a job again. You know what? I am going to give this a go.
I have no illusions that this will be easy. I know I am going to have to put in a huge amount of hours and make lots of sacrifices. I may need to take on some part-time work in the early stages to supplement it. I will need to learn about stuff like self-employment and invoicing and tax returns (ugh). I also know there is a good chance it won’t work out. But if I don’t try, I will never know.
I already have plenty of ideas about the direction I will take with the blog in the beginning. As thirty-something backpackers, Lisa and I are reflective of a growing trend in the industry. I can position my content towards older travelers and couples like us. I’m also going to launch a podcast, which will feature interviews with people who have extraordinary stories to tell. I’ve met plenty of those, and I’m keeping in contact with them.
I have begun formulating the next steps. I will need to assess the current picture and write those plans and strategies. Should I change the blog’s title and domain name? What content will I produce? What niche can I fill? What are the best ways to monetise it? How will I redesign the site? I will need to address all these questions. While I intend to enjoy the last few weeks of our travels, I am going to start the wheels in motion.
In the space of a couple of days, I’ve gone from dreading our return to the UK, to being infinitely excited about it. In fact, I am buzzing about this even more than I was about going travelling in the first place.
I didn’t submit the job application.
The time for talking is over. Let’s do this.
To follow my journey as I try and turn professional as a travel blogger, take a look at my monthly business reports here.
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