Lessons from a quarter year of publishing the Travel blog

Indian couples walking holding hands on the green hills of western ghats

“The Vacaywork Travel blog is Up.” On 21st December at 11.30 PM, this is what Ashrith & I posted on our social media accounts. We didn’t know what to expect and how people would react.

After returning from Iran, I began our Travel Blog in 2020 for various reasons. We even thought we would travel sooner in April to celebrate our 4th anniversary. Then…..

Indian woman travel blogger wearing mask and sitting by the Ganga Ghats next to a boy dressed as god Shiva

Then the bloody covid and lockdown happened – Mask & no mask at Varanasi

We wrote and rewrote it for those two years, and it was out in public by 2022. The blog is doing fine with 15k views and 3500 visitors in 4 months. I don’t know where it is taking us, but we enjoy writing through which I relive my past travels and await our next one. We realised certain things and learnt a lot (I never knew there existed something like Search Engine Optimisation). We received more positive responses, some valid feedback, and many questions.

So here I share some quirky-witty thoughts and answers after four months of releasing our Travel Blog.

Is travel blogging saturated?

Indian woman travel blogger holding shopping bags at Istanbul grand bazar

That is how I feel when I see too many competitive blogs. But pic above is shopping in Istanbul.

Some people who know us personally are worried that the Travel Blogging Arena is highly competitive and saturated & it is very tough for amateurs like us to co-exist with the best ones. I agree with them! There are expert bloggers like Mathew Kepens and Alex Reynolds. Our blog needs to exist side by side & compete against such best ones; that will take a looooong time.

We have the patience to wait & we focus on creating honest and quality content over quantity. Like Dwayne Johnson said –

“Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.” 

A travel blog with good content isn’t just enough.

Sunset picture from assassin creed compared to real location at Egypt

Our journey through movieverse is one post I enjoyed writing most & loved it even more after completing it.

I had no idea what Google search console was before releasing the blog. The word “Keyword” existed for me only in the architectural research papers I read. Creating a neat, legible layout yet “not boring” for the website wasn’t as easy as I thought. It should look good, must sound great for readers, and the pages should load faster without shrinking the quality of images.

How hard is it to start a travel blog?

It depends on what you think as hard! Our idea was not to invest except for the domain name. Our URLs were dated, which was odd; I couldn’t have a static menu bar. The change in URL created a broken one! Thus I slowly realised good content is just one part of this blogging ocean.

So at the end of three months after releasing the blog and learning 1% of how Google indexes the page, we invested some basic amount in certain tools that help us SEO & design the website better.

Indian male travel biker kissing onpillion rider's head sitting on royal enfield red bike with mountains and terraced land covered with snow behind

That is how I felt after spending on a few essential plugins for the blog. The pic above: Ashrith completing his Kanyakumari to Kashmir bike trip with his buddy Sukesh

How hard is it to rank on the first page of Google?

It is super hard for learners like us.

Two tired male bikers sleeping with mouths open at a restaurant in Rohthang

Riding in Rohthang (before Atal tunnel was built) & editing posts for keywords are equally tiring.

As of April 2022, none of our posts ranks one on google. We have 150 posts, and only 54 are indexed ( It could have been more, but I had to change the URLs of many, and it takes time to get indexed the redirected URLs)

After writing the Lakshadweep blog, I was agitated why this post didn’t appear on the first page of google search results. There are only a few blogs on Lakshadweep, one of India’s offbeat places. I knew our content was decent. Still, some “not so great” posts ranked better than ours. I tried all the circus of SEO & Keywords. Kept editing keywords and inserting them everywhere.

Hindu bride in red saree and gold jewels with a rose garland around her neck

“Why isn’t getting better ranking ” expression. And I wonder why I made that face on our wedding day.

The agitation increased, and the enthusiasm to write decreased! Then I learned how google indexes with web crawlers. The backlinking, redirecting, getting a mention from a reliable source, and getting published in daily journals – We need to do a lot more than create great content with good keywords to be the cream of the coffee. We have just started scratching the surface, so you can see us walking at tortoise pace like how I climbed the Al-Kubtha trail in Petra.

Realising passion & profession.

When I met my friend Archana, an ex-product marketing lead for a famous home interior brand in Bangalore, she explained how meticulously she edited one particular post for 15 days only for keywords to make it rank number one!

Couple travel bloggers sitting in front of blue wall adorned with nubian paintings.

Arguing who is better at planning the trip at Nubian Village

That one sentence from her got me back to writing and doing the needful SEO instead of fussing over keywords and chasing behind, getting ranked number 1 for one post of mine from a blog that is just four months old. That sentence is –

Converting passion to a profession doesn’t work for everyone. You wrote because you enjoyed it. To get ranked 1, you have stopped writing and are about to begin not enjoying writing. Do the basics of techinalities and focus on creating content that you enjoy.

So I follow that now. I add the keywords after decent research and focus more on the writing that I enjoy most.

I have to consume and add to Social Media Junk as part of Travel Blogging.

Blue and white glazed tiled roof in flower petal form at Kashan

“Oh my god, what to put on Tumblr to promote the blog” expression -Pic above: The best travel experience of our life was in Iran.

Whenever someone new whom I met follows me on Instagram, says, “Your blog is nice.” I feel so happy and ask back, “Oh, you read vacaywork? Which post did you read,” They – What is vacaywork? I saw your blog on Instagram, the photos you have shared”

What people want and what I think people want are different. The Instagram reels where people put one-liners & with default editing settings have become vlogs. The “Copy Paste” of someone’s blog to their IG posts are considered blogs. 

So many think that sharing photos on Instagram is blogging! We can’t blame or decide what is right and wrong. It’s people’s choice. And people prefer this over reading travel blogs. A famous content creator Markian recently shared something called ” Content Creator Funnel. He mentions, “Social media is where the audience finds you.” So whether we are interested or not, we post reels and posts once in a while as “fresh bloggers to find the audience.”

So social media takes the lion’s share as of now in publicising our travel blog.

What Do People Want To Read On Travel Blogs

A monastery on a hillock surrounded by green all around

Santorini is good, but Meteora was better. But people were keen on knowing Santorini’s stories more than the latter.

As we observed in the past four months, most people enjoyed our 20-word Instagram stories instead of a detailed blog. Honestly, most people you meet daily aren’t interested in your travel tales for various reasons. Based on the responses we received, we realised people read the blogs about the place they have already been to compare their experiences. Only a few read our posts to plan their trip. Some found ‘How to get to XYZ place” most useful. Most people asked for itineraries.

Is Vacaywork travel blog interesting enough for people to read?

Indian woman travel blogger standing in front of Taj Mahal

Blunder of the world in front of the wonder of the world

I started writing for my mother and my forgetful husband without the intention of making it public. It was crude then with cheesy stuff – Wacky details like how I farted while travelling to Abyaneh; How his dhoti was about to fall in Santorini. Once I realised that I enjoy writing, I rewrote the entire thing again without the cheesy things. Ashrith has a habit of keeping bills of restaurants he loved most and entry tickets/maps of a certain place.

Two Indian travel bloggers sitting inside a crystal cave smiling at Egypt

The cave is where I farted, and Ashrith continued the medley because of our heavy meals at Bawiti village.

Plus, we had tonnes of pictures. Like a cherry on top, I almost have a photogenic memory when travelling. So it was kind of not hard to recollect memories and write them in detail.

People are finding it helpful & interesting.

Couple travellers selfie with red adobe village on the terraces behind

Sun-kissed stories at beautiful Abyaneh

Our blog contents are those we would love to know as independent travellers. We didn’t worry if the details were silly or too much. We penned down what we felt and what we went through. Initially, I wondered if it was ok to put certain things like – “How we felt wiping our butt and not washing for the first time or going inside a sex toy shop for the first time in Amsterdam.” Before publishing, I read many successful permanent traveller tips on starting a blog. Everyone said, “Be You. in your writing” That is what we did! We haven’t got thousands of compliments or comments. But most comments go like this “ This is unique. It feels as if you are narrating the stories through your talk because the writings are casual, and it is very you.”

Why our Travel blog language is simple and straightforward?

Plain language over Bureaucratese

Having studied in a rural region of Karnataka in a Kannada medium school till the 7th, our English skills are average. Eventually, in professional UG courses, we learned better. Being an admirer of Sudha Murthy, I loved her way of writing. In an interview, she said,

“In India, people do speak English. Only 10-20% of people are extremely good at English with a great vocabulary. The rest speak a colloquial language. People should read my books without a dictionary.”

I could relate ourselves to the people to whom she is referring. We don’t come in that 20% who understand jargon & euphemisms easily. Slowly improving our writing skills, I stick to casual English, and it looks like that is what people like more.

FAQ 1- Is your travel experience affected by creating travel content?

Indian woman travel blogger in red anarkali dress sitting on a boat with beautiful Varanasi ghats and seagulls flying in the background

We aren’t taking the pressure of creating content while travelling in reality. Pic above – I am explaining why I should buy more namkeens to feed Siberian seagulls in Varanasi

Oh, you will mint money when you launch the blog. You will get paid for travelling immediately.”

Many said

So it looks like we write with what we have experienced rather than trying to have an experience for blogging. I am 99% sure about this, but let me confirm that 1% after our next few travel experiences.

Are travel bloggers paid?

Yes, but we aren’t making money yet!

Grafitti showing an Indian sadhu sleeping at Varanasi

Grafitti at Banaras meaning – Everything is illusional

Many said, “Oh, you will mint money” when we launched the blog. You will get paid for travelling immediately.” I knew it would take time to reach that spot. But now I realise it is going to take a longer time. Those whose job is to write only blogs everyday 8hrs for 5-6 days a week may start earning within six months. For that, their content and strategy must be really good. So for a part-time traveller with a full-time job and an ongoing PG program in our respective subjects, it is impossible to dedicate 8 hours a day to blogging.

Girl toddler staring at the photographer in India

I knew it would take time to reach that spot. But now I realise it is going to take a longer time. Pic above: Perhaps the first trip of my life from Sringeri to Bangalore in 1994

Those whose job is to write only blogs every day, 8hrs for 5-6 days a week, may start earning within six months. For that, their content and strategy must be really good. So for a part-time traveller with a full-time job and an ongoing PG program in our respective subjects, it is impossible to dedicate 8 hours daily to blogging.

Is it too late to start a travel blog?

You are never late to do the right thing. If the right thing is your passion – We usually publish 3 to 4 posts of 3000+ words every month. There is some kind of strategy to promote it, but it isn’t concrete yet. We have received one request to write about a resort that Ashirth visited recently. As that wasn’t good enough and he didn’t have a good time there, he denied the request politely. So we assume that we may earn at least peanuts from our travel blog in two years.

We won’t quit our jobs to become travel bloggers.

Girl sitting on mud floor with two beagle dogs and a black german shepherd cuddling

My kids live with my parents in my native. Not seeing them for months together is impossible for me.

Those who read and loved our blog suggested that we quit our job, become permanent bloggers, and travel the globe. I read various traveller’s blogs almost daily. Not just to plan my next trip but to learn from them. The lifestyle they have and what we want is a little different. Plus, both of us enjoy our job. And we can’t be away from my dogs and parents for a long time! As much as I enjoy voyaging and travel blogging, I love coming back home. So vacaywork is going to remain “Vacation+Work” forever.

FAQ 1- How do you write travel content? We don’t have free time like you do.

Travel blogger's hand written notes in hand-made paper book.

We don’t have extra time, but we make time. When I am stuck on the keyboard, the handmade paper and my Uniball pen gets me flowing.

Like anyone else in the world, we are also prone to criticism. Some acclaimed,

“You have a lot of time in your lives. I am always busy with work and the household. If I had time like you, I would have also travelled and written.”

We also belong to planet earth, which has 24hrs/day. We can’t miss out even a few minutes from our 8hr solid snoring sleep. Travelling, researching about it beforehand, comparing it with the actuals after coming back, and writing about it are what we love most. There is always scope & time for what you are passionate about.

“One of the most exciting parts of travel is all the research you do beforehand. The possibilities you find! Things to do!The places to eat! It builds such excitement.”

I totally second what travel writer Mathew Kepins says.

There is nothing like I dedicate “z” number of hours to writing a blog every day. But we have decided to publish at least three quality posts a week, and we schedule ourselves for it whenever possible.

I am glad I am an architect.

Indian woman travel blogger holding a square handmade tile with floral pattern of cyan, yellow and red colour

Knowing places where they create unique things is easier for me because of my profession. Pic Above: Fully handmade tiles of Attangudi

I write most posts. & I have a great disadvantage of dyslexia. So you will find a lot of spelling mistakes. Ashrith is the man behind most of the photos and the one who checks my writing. I also have Grammarly’s annual plan subscribed. Besides those spelling mistakes, you mostly find architectural details in our post because I am an architect.

Why should an architect travel?

After finishing my degree course, Bachelor of Architecture, I wasn’t quite happy with my profession because of the low salary. People aren’t aware of this profession in India, so contractors and civil engineers often dethrone us. We face a lot of intrusion by “Pinterest” influenced clients. Once I shifted to the teaching profession, I realised how interested I am in learning a place’s history, culture, and architecture. So learning and teaching the history of Architecture & other subjects introduces me to new places and cultures. Most times, particular lessons I prepare become my source of inspiration for travelling.

Broken walls and dome roofs of New Goruna village market in Luxor

New Goruna village at Luxor – A place where a tourist won’t come to take selfies and a place that reminds most architects of their 1st sem brick laying classes

After reading some posts, a few of my friends said, “Now I know your love for architecture. It is evident in your travel and travel stories.” Thanks to my dad, who realised and encouraged me to take this course for my UG. I no longer regret becoming an architect,

What makes a good travel blog?

The experience you had and the joy you had while writing it always reflects your contentedness. So, “you being you, honestly”, makes a good travel blog.

Indian couple travel bloggers standing at the cliff with green rice fields in the background

Foreign land or home town – We love it all.

Writing-reading-rewriting Vacaywork made the pain of “not being able to travel during COVID” lesser. What started as a private storybook is opening new doors. Every new post reminds us of some funny/happy/dumb/ exciting thing we did during our trip.

A post of 3000 words would have heard hours of conversation & laughter shared between us, remembering stories like how romantic it was to walk in Bruges or how terrified I was inside Egyptian pyramids, thinking it is haunted. Those sunsets at Firostefani, that “Ghalebto” song driver played while crossing brown mountains in Isfahan, all surface.

Mediterranean sunset with white houses in the front at Oia

How can we forget that annoying lady who ruined the beautiful sunset at the “Most Touristy” place on earth?

Immititating that weird jingle that gets played in Hagia Sophia’s audiobook, watching funny tourists at beautiful Galle trying to eat Appam with a fork, I & mom misunderstanding a tuk-tuk driver’s loo break for an elopement at Sukothai- All these are the personal perks of reliving certain moments by writing the stories to share with you all.

Do I have any tips for new travel bloggers?

Indian married couple in traditional attire laughing

Expecting Travel Blogging tips from 4 months old babies?

How do I blog my travels?

I don’t know if we should call ourselves “travel bloggers in the womb” or ” the bloggers on commando crawls.” We are still experimenting with certain technical things. So we have no solid advice to give you. Except – Travel whenever you can and create original quality content consistently. We love Ranchoddas Shamaldas Chanchad & his saying, “

Pursue excellence and success will come chasing you.”

What are your thoughts on our baby steps? Let us know in the comment section below.

Couple travel bloggers driving a boat in the canals of Giethoorn

Joyfully we experimented with our boat driving skills at Giethoorn and doing the same with our Travel Blog – Wish us luck.

Published by Sahana Kulur

Traveller | Blogger | Architecture and history

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