2 Years of Travel Blogging, 1 Year of YouTube & Our Secret 2nd Blog
Wow, two years of travel blogging – can you believe it?
It’s weird to think that two years ago I was so embarrassed to tell anyone about a blog that today has become so much a part of our lives and identities. We started this blog through our love of travel and need to connect with others who share the same passion outside of our friendship groups. Now here we are two years down the track.
Any way, let’s jump into this. I won’t waffle too much here as this is an epic post (with headings to help you scroll to what you want to read).
Contents of Article
This is going to be an epic post so I’m making a contents section.
- Where we traveled and what we do with our lives when we aren’t traveling
- Upcoming travel plans for 2017
- What we’ve achieved in two years of travel blogging
- Another anniversary – our first year on YouTube + our Channel Trailer
- What we could have done better
- Our goals for year 3
- What it’s really like being a (part time) travel blogger
- Our “secret” second travel blog
- Our advice on travel blogging
- What blogs do we read? (And by we, I mean me – Lexi)
- Some personal happy snaps.
- Our favourite Q&A questions answered.
- A closing note
1. Travels of 2016 & Our Lives In Between Travels
Firstly, what do we do when we’re not traveling?
We’ve mentioned it before once or twice, but if you missed it we’re on a working holiday visa in China, when not traveling. Teaching English in China allows us to take advantage of geographic arbitrage and we save much more than what we would in Australia with double the pay. If you’re interested in teaching English in China you can check out our teaching English articles.
Let’s start with our travels in China. In the past year we’ve wandered around China to check out Wuxi, Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Xi’An, the Jiuzhai valley and most importantly, saw PANDAS.
In 2016 we hit one major travel item of our bucket list which was finally having a Eurotrip. We’ve wanted to go to Europe for, like ever. I started dreaming of the trip back in 2009 right after our Intrepid tour to India. We visted Italy, Slovenia, Switzerland, Germany and Austria.
At the very end of the year our boss decided to take the whole school to Japan for a week which was amazing. It was a great way to end the year. We still haven’t edited too many snaps from Japan but you can see a few more on our Instagram.
2. Upcoming Travel Plans for 2017
As we’re trying to save this year we will not be going on a large amount of trips this year. This isn’t so much a problem for us as we have a serious backlog on writing about the trips we’ve already been on. We had quite a few plans for weekend trips around China but again, since we’re not sure if this is our last year or not, we’ve chosen to cut back and save.
January & February
January and February have been and gone so you’ll already know where we’ve traveled if you’ve been following our announcements on Instagram and Facebook. For China’s infamous Spring Festival we left the county for a quick getaway to South Korea.
March, April and May
While we have cut back our travel plans, we do plan to visit at least one place during China’s spring. Taizhou has been at the top of our list since last spring when we discovered the bloom of Rape Flowers in one of the city’s scenic spots. During the Spring, alongside the famous cherry blossoms, rape flows bloom in abundance causing unreal seas of yellow in certain places. We will be visiting Taizhou, probably in late March, to check out this phenomena.
Around this time, we also normally get a four day weekend for China’s May Day holiday. Last year we went to Beijing and checked out the Great Wall, this year we don’t have any concrete plans. While we love to take advantage of our holidays, travelling during these times is often a nightmare. Crowds can be insane if you pick the wrong spot and with a culture of pushing and shoving, it can get a bit much.
In saying that, I still believe we’ll take advantage of this holiday. Expect to see us in either Nanjing, Suzhou or Wuxi. These spots, while still popular, have ample trains available to and from (and are close to) Yangzhou so there’s not as much stress involved.
July & August
In July and August we have our second upcoming national holiday. We have two likely scenarios during this time which will be decided closer to the time based on flight prices and how our savings is looking.
- We will go overseas during this time to an Asian country we haven’t yet decided upon. During national holidays flight prices triple so we’re really limited in where we can go. That’s why I couldn’t possibly tell you now where we’re going, we’ll have to wait until we know our exact holiday dates and see the flight prices.
- We’ll stay in China and visit the Tibetan plateau near Chengdu. The mountainous region near Chengdu is one of the best places to escape the sweltering heats of summer, last year we visited Jiuzhaigou which was nearby. I’d love to check out Guilin, but I’m not game enough to sight-see in such ridiculous temperatures. I’d love to check out the Tibetan plains and do a multi-day horse trek.
We’ll spend the crazy National Week holiday visiting one of the towns we didn’t visit during May Day – so either Nanjing, Wuxi or Suzhou. National Week is the craziest, busiest holiday of them all, so I definitely don’t want to stay too far.
December plans are up in the air, depending on if we stay in China, or decide to leave. Often when re-signing a contract you’re given a one month holidayhowever, it depends on staff availability to cover our classes.
If we stay our contract finishes at the end of November, so we might have a month long holiday either this month or in the preceding or following months. We’ve already decided we’ll be returning back to Australia for a special event that isn’t time specific, but I couldn’t bear the thought of spending our entire holiday time lazing around Brisbane. We’ll probably tack on a side trip to a nearby island – I’d love to visit Fiji, New Caledonia or Vanuatu.
If we decide to leave China, we’ll spend the month of December traveling around to all the places we want to see in China before we leave. Guilin, the 1000 Island Lake, Harbin, the Yellow Mountains, Zhangjiajie, the Snow Town and a few other places are on our hit list. We’ll end 2017 by flying to another Asian country, or to Australia for the aforementioned event.
3. What We’ve Achieved In Two Years Of Travel Blogging
Here’s what we’ve achieved by our second birthday.
- Some how we have a 54% open rate with our emails which is above the industry standard of 30%
- More personal messages and lovely comments from readers, Instagram followers and YouTube subscribers. We LIVE for these, nothing makes me forget the stresses of China than getting a genuine comment or message from someone who likes our blog, videos or pictures. These messages are by far my highlight of having an audience online. I always feel too weird to reach out to bloggers I like, but it is the best feeling in the world when I get a comment from someone who likes what we do and believes in us.
- We’ve worked with some amazing brands. We grew quite fast, getting 20,000 visitors a month by the six month mark but I’ve never really felt confident to reach out to brands. I was therefore mind boggled when we had such a positive response for our European trip and were able to have our dream trip by working with some amazing brands. Of course, great responsibility comes with that and we worked really hard to provide value on our end. It just took me a while to see that what we had was valuable, but now I’m not afraid to pitch anymore.
- We stuck with it. For the last few months I’ve seriously considered quitting blogging. I work endlessly on this blog, more so than in my teaching job and it can get very tiring. As we grow this blog takes more and more of my time and I’m always avoiding social situations to keep up with my obligations here. The introvert in me doesn’t mind this, but I know I shouldn’t do this. Regardless, I’m glad we stuck with it as I truly believe this will be our job one day once we have the time to focus on monetizing it.
- We stuck with travel vlogging. We have recorded almost every day of our trips, although we’ve been very slow with uploading. I kick myself when I think back to our epic Central American trip and how I shouldn’t have been too nervous to film myself talking to myself. We would have so much amazing footage. However we have filmed all our trips to Europe, Japan, China and South Korea and I’m so excited to compile the footage so we can look back on these trips in the future. I love vlogging so much and I’m excited to improve my skills in this area. One day I’d love my video skills to be as good as Steve’s photography skills, although I’m still a long way off.
- Steve’s photography. Steve (or Stevie as I call him) is an amazing photographer and it’s been so nice to see his photographs get better and better through the years. Without his skill we would never have found our niche in the travel photography sector.
- We got invited to the Australian Influencer award event. While I don’t think we have any chance of winning, we’re in the Top 100 that was invited to the 1st annual Influencer Awards in Australia. I have no idea where we are (our ranking) in the Top 100 but it’s still pretty cool. I’m literally dying that we can’t attend personally – I’ve always wanted to go somewhere where I can dress up – but we’re sending an old friend in our place. I’m so jealous that he gets to meet so many bloggers (I have zero real life blogger friends so I would kill to go and meet others), but it’s still cool our blog will make an appearance. UPDATE: We were voted 2nd at the Australian Influencer Awards, wow!
- There are so many other highs that I can’t think of right now – I literally just realized we hit the two year mark so I’m rushing, whoops – but I just want to say thank you to everyone who has supported us in some way or another. Especially our friends and family who are no doubt bored to death of us talking about blogging, but still put up with us anyway.
4. Our first year on YouTube + our Channel Trailer
While March may celebrate our second year of blogging, it’s also the first anniversary of our YouTube channel. While we uploaded one or two random videos prior to March, it’s the month we decided to upload frequently in 2016. We’re still terrible with consistency on our YouTube channel but we’re hoping to change that and stick to a Monday, Wednesday and Friday schedule.
You can subscribe to our channel here. We upload travel vlogs (we film almost every day of our travels), photography advice videos (coming soon) and travel advice videos.
I love vlogging just as much as I love blogging and I feel like it’s a thing that I can have for myself. Steven’s so good at photography but videography is uncharted territory for both of us. I edit all the videos and Steve edits the photos so it gives us both something to do. I feel like I’m slowly getting better at editing as well.
5. What We Could Have Done Better
Here’s where I think we could have done better. I hope our mistakes can let you know what to avoid in your own blog:
- Consistency has been our main problem ever since we started this blog. While we do, for the most part publish consistently on this blog, we just can’t keep it together on social media. I don’t want to use lack of time as an excuse, I just want to focus on being consistent with the time we have.
- Not meeting other bloggers. While it’s a little more difficult in China, I know that there are probably a lot of bloggers and vloggers floating around Shanghai, Beijing, or even Nanjing. While I doubt there’s any in our small town of Yangzhou, I want to make an effort to find some bloggers that live nearby. I’d love to have a gaggle of blogger friends but I’m just so damn shy.
- Too much planning, too little doing. I love planning, but it’s a real procrastination problem for me. I need to get in a cycle of planning and doing, instead of planning and planning.
6. Our Goals For Year 3
Here are our goals for our third year of blogging. I’ve tried to be a bit more conservative this year.
Goal One: Reach 25,000 followers on Instagram. Considering we’re at 14.8k as I write this I feel like this is reasonable, but ambitious.
Goal Two: Finish the courses I bought. Last year I bought the Travel Blog Monetisation course; and this year so far I’ve bought an Affiliate Marketing course and a short Instagram course. I’ve also got my eyes on two other courses, which I’m very tempted to buy. 2017 will be the year we really invest in improving our blog. The problem is that I find it a little hard to find time for them, so I want to make finishing these courses a priority.
Goal Three: Launch our flagship travel photography course and a coffee table book. We’ve already started making the content for our photography course, but haven’t set a date for launch yet.
Goal Four: Reach 100,000 social media followers. We’re finishing year 2 with about half that.
Goal Five: Reach 3,000 YouTube subscribers. We really haven’t grown too much on YouTube in our first year but I’m oping that will change if I can keep up some sort of consistency. I’ll manage to keep an uploading schedule, and then I’ll stop for a few months and start again. Maintaining consistency will make or break us on YouTube.
Goal Six: Get to 30,000 YouTube views per month. I feel like we can achieve this if we post consistently.
Goal Seven: Reach DA of 35. We’re ending the year on 29 despite the fact we rarely guest post, I think most of our DA is from features or collaborative posts. We plan to be much more strategic and active in the guest posting game this year.
Goal Eight: Double our visits per month. Pretty self explanatory.
Goal Nine: Start regular newsletters – one for photography, another for personal updates. I recently upgraded our newsletter hosting so I could automate the process a little. True to my style, I haven’t actually started setting up the newsletter chain. I want to have two newsletters because I understand not everyone wants to follow our personal updates. The photography newsletter will lead our readers through all of our most helpful photography articles, which I will set on automation. I’m yet to decide on frequency but I’m leaning towards once a week.
The personal newsletter will be weekly and include updates from our Youtube channel, and our non photography related blog posts. If you’re a non blogger reader and you’ve still reading, don’t worry you can join both of these lists (or one, or none) once I’ve finished installing the code for our newsletter sign up.
Goal Ten: Be consistent. This should really be number one. I believe not being consistent is slowing our growth a little so this is going to be a top priority for the next year.
Goal Eleven: Grow to 1000 email subscribers. We’ve never focused on growing an email list before, we’ve also only posted about 3 newsletters in 2 years (see above). I hope we can end year three with 1000 subscribers on our travel photography focused newsletter. We’ll be implemented a few techniques recently we’ve learned to grow our list.
7. What It’s Really Like Being A (Part Time) Travel Blogger
Is being a travel blogger, albeit a part time one, as awesome as it sounds? I’m going to say yes with a ‘but’.
There are so many cool perks that come with being a blogger – you get to (e)meet people from all around the world and get extra travel opportunities. Sometimes people you’ve never met even send you amazing heart warming messages and you’ll be left wondering how you got so lucky. I love blogging and I can’t ever see myself not doing it in the future, it’s too much apart of who I am.
Due to this blog we’ve found a massive community of travel minded people just like us online. I love my friends back home, but a lot of them have different hobbies to us so it’s great to find other people to geek out with. Apart from finding our community, we’ve had some amazing partnerships with brands that we wouldn’t of dreamed of prior to starting a blog. We’ve stayed in some beautiful hotels, spotted pandas with popular tour aggregators and even been invited as VIP guests to an event in our home town!
We’ve also become walking encyclopedias of random travel knowledge – What’s the flag of South Korea look like? What’s that country starting with B in South America? How much does it cost to live on a tiny island in the Honduras? We can answer all of those questions and more. We can also tell you how to find a room full of llamas at Macchu Picchu, but nobody has ever actually asked us that.
However with every hobby there are a few drawbacks. Steve and I easily spend 60 hours on this online space every week, and that’s on top of the 25 or so hours we spend at work. Try explaining that to people who aren’t bloggers and they just won’t understand it (we’ve had some off-putting reactions). It does severely limit your social life. It doesn’t bother me so much, but it’s annoying to have to explain why you can’t go to an event with other people that everyone else is going to. I used to worry I’d offend people but I care less and less about that now.
Never having a lot of down time is as fun as it seems, and even though I love blogging, every now and then I’ll have a blogging related meltdown where I need to go offline for a week and ignore it. I know that sounds so negative, but I think it’s important to be honest that growing a blog is not as easy as some people portray it to be. As we grow bigger it is fast becoming obvious that we’ll soon have to focus on our blog full time, as blogging and working in a normal job at the same time feels less and less sustainable.
Regardless, I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.
8. We have a “secret” second blog?
Sounds scandalous, right?
If you’ve been following us since the beginning, or at least for the past year, you’ll have noticed we are steadily moving this blog away from its general travel niche. Our goal for They Get Around is to become a thought leader in the niches of scenic travel and travel photography advice. We really want to help you improve the quality of your photographic memories. Due to this, there’s been a lot of things we’ve felt weird to write about over here.
After many years of traveling on a budget we’ve also drastically changed the way we travel. On our first backpacking trip we traveled on a tight-ish budget, often skipping pricey (but amazing) experiences and choosing the cheapest double rooms we could find. As we’re now entering the last half of our twenties, we really don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t want to miss out on doing something amazing in order to prolong my time abroad, nor do I want to search for hours walking around looking for the cheapest hotel rooms.
On our recent trip to Europe we ditched our budget mindset and indulged in some amazing experiences. From zipping around Florence on a Segway, staying in a junior suite for the first time ever and taking a day tour to the Dolomite mountains. Yes, we are in a position to get many experiences for “free” these days through our blog, but these are things we actively pay for with our own money as well.
The problem is however, that some of these activities don’t really fit in with our new niche of scenic travel, and they definitely don’t mesh with the topic of travel photography. While we can talk about the scenic benefits of visiting the Italian Alps, it’s much harder to draw a link to the unique experience of segway driving. Nor can we write couples guides to cities as while some of you may be in relationships, I’m certain we’ll be alienating a large part of our audience.
Hence, we decided to start a second website dedicated to our new preferred way of travel. In July 2016 we launched our second travel blog The Trouvaille, which focuses on luxury experiences for couples. On this blog we talk about romantic getaways, luxury experiences and we’ll speak a bit more about our personal travel experiences.
We’ve waited so long to announce our second blog for a few reasons. Firstly we don’t think many of you are likely to cross over as the niches are different. Secondly, we wanted to wait for the website to look a little more appealing and have it’s own audience before we mentioned it. If by some chance you do share a love of luxury experiences and romantic escapes with us you’re more than welcome to hop over there and leave us a comment.
9. Our Advice On Starting A Travel Blog
I’m going to keep it quick and easy for my tips this year as I feel like short and precise is best to help you focus (unlike this post, which is EPIC). We shared so many tips in our 1st birthday post (read here) and not a lot has changed.
Here are my tips:
- Focus on only a few social medias. You can join as many as you want, but pick 2-3 to focus on.
- Learn SEO pre launch.
- You can start monetizing at any point you like, or not at all. It’s your choice.
- Guest post to build your DA (and yes, we accept guest posts as long as they are a good fit).
- Focus on doing, not just planning. Over planning is a sneaky tactic of procrastination.
- Be consistent.
10. Blogs We Like
While I hardly find the time to consistently read the blogs I like I thought it might be a little interesting to let you know who we (read: Lexi) read. I’m always interested to find out who the bloggers I follow like – so here we go.
YouTube: Confession, I definitely spend most of my free time watching YouTube videos.
- Dani Mansutti – Not a blogger, but a Youtuber. She’s Australian and a few years younger than me but I think she’s relate-able. She’s a beauty vlogger but I prefer her lifestyle videos.
- John Kuckian – I always paid out my mother for reading Gossip Magazines out of boredom, but I got sucked into the same game on YouTube. I don’t really know any of the people he talks about, and I don’t really like the gossip-y side of the videos, but I love watching him because of his personality. John has coined many a catch phrase that I won’t dare type here as you really have to see him say it on video for it to be funny. I also really love his deadpan sarcasm which makes me feel so much less brutal about my deadpan sarcasm.
- Kristen Sarah – Kristen is a Canadian blogger and she makes regular travel videos following her travels with her husband Siya.
- John Oliver – He is my spirit animal. John has his own show covering news with humor, but I first found him as the geeky professor on the TV show Community. I just think he’s hilarious.
Instagram: Obviously these are accounts I follow (Lexi). Steven doesn’t really go on Instagram.
Blogs: Actually I don’t read too many actual blogs as for some reason the more I travel, the less I want to read about general travel advice. When I’m actually searching for advice, blogs are always my first source though. I’m just not a casual reader, especially as I’m so time poor. I do tend to have a soft spot for Australian couples or girls around my age though, especially as I feel like we have to fight a little more to stand out as most bloggers are American.
- Sometimes I read the blogs of Adventurous Kate and Young Adventuress, but mostly just when they have blogging posts as they’re earlier adopters to blogging.
- Flying the Nest – Their photos are quite different to ours (in a good way) and they’re another Australian couple.
- Hey Nadine (YouTube & Blog)- Nadine is a big travel Youtuber but also has a travel blog. She was one of the first vlogger/ bloggers I ever heard of and I still watch her videos to this day.
- Polkadot Passport – I probably follow her on Instagram more than I read her blog, but her blog is pretty awesome as well. I think she’s also Australian.
- Mapping Megan – I found out about her blog through a Facebook group I’m a part of and she just seems like a nice person. She’s also Australian.
- Ramit Seethi – I actually don’t technically read his blog, but I’m on his email list and he gives such good advice on the psychology of buying and working online.
11. Some Personal Happy Snaps
I always mean’t to share these in our monthly round ups before we stopped them, but never actually got around to it. Here are our favourite personal travel shots (some have never been shared online) from our past travels. We’ve taken some of these, while others have been taken by others.
12. A Quick Q&A / FAQ On Us
I thought I’d share some answers to Q&A sessions we’ve had in the past, and also some general questions that I’ve added in myself. If you would like to see our Q&A videos then you can check out our Q&A playlist here.
- How do you afford to travel? I can’t speak for others, but there are a couple of different ways we afford to travel. We used to save for a year or two and then go traveling on a longer trip. Now, we’ve moved to China and take advantage of the geographic arbitrage (i think that’s what it’s called). We get paid a western wage but live in a city where we can save most of it. We teach english in China and go on holiday 3 times a year in our breaks. We also work with brands but that’s something that only comes with having a decent following so not too relevant to help most people, and we were travelling long before that. I wrote a post about how we saved money as students when living back in Australia here
- How old are you? We’re in our mid twenties.
- How long have you been dating? We’ve been dating for 10 years, engaged for almost 3 years.
- Who takes most of your photos? That would be Steven. I (Lexi) take some but the “wow” shots you see are often taken by Steve. Sometimes we use creative common images though which you’ll see the photographer’s details underneath the photo. Check out our now finished Weekly photo series to see some of our shots.
- How many countries have you visited? 20, or 21 if you count Hong Kong.
- Top of our bucketlist: Iceland, Gateway to Hell, a return to Central & South America, Maldives, Mongolia, Tonga (to swim with whales) and Palau.
- Number 1 photo tip? Go manual.
- Where should I go if it’s my first time traveling (on a budget)? Central America or South East Asia.
- Number 1 Blogging tip? Don’t get so swept up in planning that you don’t actually do the things you plan.
- Number 1 video/ vlogging tip? Stabilization (smoothness of movement).
13. A Closing Note
If you’re thinking of starting a blog than we 110% recommend that you do it, even if all you hope to get out of it is a place to look back on your memories. This blog has literally changed our lives, our goals and the way that we look at the world. Bring on the third year!
Other blogs of ours mentioned in this post: The Trouvaille (so you don’t have to re-hunt for it).