Around the world,  TDM

Travel Bloggers’ Life – Part 2

The year 2019 starts well for our blog. We just passed the 45 000 monthly visits mark !!! (update: 75 000 monthly visits in August 2019)

A BIG *thank you* for your loyalty, and thank you to the new readers who are more and more numerous every day.

I am used to tell you in detail about our travels but I very rarely talk about the blog. Today I’m going to unveil to you the behind-the-scenes of the blog, if you ever feel like creating your own travel blog, or if the subject simply attracts your curiosity.

How do I manage to post regularly?

During the first round-the-world trip, writing every day was strongly motivated by… boredom. Internet was often very slow, and one of my favorite activities after a day of tourism became writing articles for the blog. The slower the internet, the longer my articles are (because I had nothing else to do) ahahah.

Then it became a habit, then a way for me to clear my short-term memory. I have a very good memory, but like a hard disk with limited storage, you have to delete some files before storing others. For example, as soon as I have listed all the expenses on an item, my brain can allow itself to erase them if I remember correctly and store others instead.

During the second round-the-world trip, we no longer have any connection problems, but since writing has become a habit, it is inconceivable for us to stop the blog. However, the pace of traveling has become slower, we visit less cities. We can afford to spend more time on each article, each city, better illustrate them etc.

Of course, I am often confronted with problems of inspiration. There are cities that do not inspire me at all. Like Puno or Bucharest. I had to write articles that were uninspired and boring while remaining factual (we did this and then did that). Whereas when I’m inspired, I give more descriptions, more emotions…

Moreover, the bigger the blog’s audience gets, the more impact we are lucky to have. For example, we know that we have a great influence in the choice of a former colleague to resign and go on a trip. We give ideas to travelers who follow our advice. We are also happy to “advertise” for local people we meet along the way. For example, readers have called upon our Cambodian guide in Siem Reap after finding his contact information on the blog. All these stories are very motivating for us!

You can see that since the creation of the blog, the number of words increases as the blog grows, as do the photos. But the structure remains the same: first we tell you what we did (part 1: travel diary). Then, we give you the details of the budget spent (and some advice if necessary) so that you can reproduce the same experiences as us (part 2: practical advice).

Why are expenses detailed at the end of each item?

Because most people have no idea how much money they need to do this or that.

Before going on a world tour, I didn’t have a very clear idea of what a cruise to Egypt or a week in Japan would cost me either. These destinations have remained “dream destinations” for me for more than twenty years; whereas if I knew that there were cheaper ways to go there, that the food was so affordable in Japan, that a cruise was not the only way to visit Egypt… I would have gone much earlier. Everybody is surprised when we tell how much the “round-the-world” plane ticket costs, it’s much cheaper than what we intuitively imagine

Moreover, being Vietnamese, the questions of budget and money have always been discussed without taboo in my country, I don’t see any embarrassment in detailing my budget. I have nothing to prove, if I made a good deal I tell you, if I was swindled, I tell you too. If I have been a spendthrift, I assume it and I specify it so that you don’t have to count my “massage” and “shopping” budget in your travel budget if these activities don’t speak to you at all.

How does the blog generate so many visits?

In fact, we never thought our blog would be consulted at this point. We thought we would make a blog to keep our memories and keep our loved ones informed… and then there were visits on one then two, then… hundreds of articles.

The number of visits really increased after 11 months, that is to say at the end of our world tour…

If you ever count on your blog to generate traffic and money during your trip, you’ll have to use more aggressive means than that, do more socializing, talking about your site on dedicated forums, making blogger friends etc. and not like us, who let the blog live.

A large part of the traffic comes from SEO (natural results on search engines). Then readers started to come back to read the blog by themselves and recommend it to their friends.

JB works in SEO and even if the expression “shoemakers have the worst shoes” also applies to him, we made some basic optimizations to be more visible on search engines, namely :

  • relevant titles and descriptions. Titles are always chosen carefully, to go back to the terms we are interested in. We use the free Yoast Seo plugin to customize the title if the SEO title differs from the title shown to the readers
  • unique and quality content
  • of recent content and number
  • internal networking (putting links between blog posts)

However, there aren’t many comments and likes…

Indeed, compared to other travel blogs, we don’t have many comments on the blog or likes on social networks. Comments are mostly questions, to get more details on a specific point.

This is because we have never tried to create a community, to get in touch with our readers (via emailing for example), to go and like other travelers, to try to meet them etc. It’s probably related to our personalities, which are rather introverted. And we must surely attract the same type of readers who read us silently without expressing themselves.

There isabsolutely nothing wrong with that. As there isn’thing wrong with wanting to federate a travel community, having a lot of fans on Facebook and so on. Everyone manages his blog in his own way.

Basically, we expect nothing from our readers. If they thought it was cool, and it helps them, so much the better. We’re not in “share on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, talk about us” mode because we know that all day long you’re already in great demand.

We are grateful for every feedback received, always with a lot of love. Thank you for all those who sent us feedback to update the price of this or that ticket.

And we also have feedbacks from merchants or guides, which we have recommended on the blog. They discover they are on the blog because YOU went to see them, following our recos. Thank you for them!

Why did you make n versions of the site in 2018?

I’ve always felt that I should treat others the way I would like to be treated. So with the blog, it’s the same. I would like this blog to be exactly like a blog that I would have liked to read in preparation for my world tour.

Thus, we analyzed the Analytics data to find the blocking points of the site.

JB was very embarrassed by the design of the site, which he found amateurish and difficult to understand.

Many useful guides and tips were hidden. Internet users had difficulty reading the articles in chronological order. Some thought we were a travel agency etc.

We wanted to call in a UX expert and a graphic designer but I’m stuck on the first step: writing a specification.

As a result, I found it easier to do everything myself. I changed themes several times, redesigned the homepage and analyzed the impacts on the site (I love numbers so I did the analysis on Analytics with pleasure).

The menu has been redesigned to facilitate access to the practical guides. A sidebar has been added so that new readers know at once who we are.

Improved blog speed

Then, we set up a huge project concerning the speed of the site. We find it slower and slower. Even if most of our readers are in France (with high speed broadband), we know only too well how important it is for a reader in Cuba, for example, to be able to connect quickly to our blog.

We have therefore implemented WordPress extensions such as :

  • WP Rocket: a great caching plugin (which allows to display content by limiting slow database calls). We have also enabled the “lazy loading” option which makes the page display quickly and the images only load as you read.
  • Cloudimage : with this plugin, images of articles are stored anywhere in the world. When a user goes to our blog, the server closest to his location will deliver the images. It is an extension created by one of our friends that offers a real speed gain to visitors who are far from our server (which is located in France).
  • Accelerated Mobile Pages: to provide a faster mobile experience when you arrive on our blog after a Google search.

All these extensions offer test versions and you can pay for a professional version later if you are interested.

What about the photos?

If you have been following us for more than 6 months, you have surely noticed an improvement in the quality (and quantity) of the photos since September 2018. This is linked to the purchase of a real compact camera, the Sony RX100 M3 (Amazon link )

The reason behind this purchase is the desire to take pictures that are true to the place.

Because I’m not a fan of retouching photos.

On the one hand, I was very disappointed by a lot of destinations whose pictures make me want to go there too much. When I went there, I was flabbergasted by the lack of interest of the place. I don’t want to sell dreams and make people move for nothing.

On the other hand, retouching photos takes me a long time! I sometimes do simple photo montages and that alone sucks energy and time out of me. I think that if I can spend hours in front of Excel, I can’t say the same for Photoshop. To each his own ! It’s not uncommon that you come across badly framed photos, a little crooked on the blog… hihihihihi now you know why 🙂

the type of photo editing that takes up too much of my time

So I don’t want to embellish the truth… but I don’t want to hurt it either . A lot of my pictures taken with the iphone make the place look super ugly. Even when I read my blog again, sometimes I wonder “uhhhh was it really that ugly?”

The flip side of the coin after this camera purchase is that I take more pictures. And that it’s heavier for me to carry. If before, I used to do tours with a small pouch, now I have an extra case and look even more “touristy”. Moreover, I spend more time sorting the photos, uploading them. My time spent on each article is multiplied by two (more photos invites more text to explain the photos). It’s like a poisoned gift in fact.

all this to be sorted out

Many travelers ask themselves this question. To leave with a camera or not? I advise them to hang out with their camera (on their back or slung over their shoulder) every day for 2 weeks (before leaving on a world tour) to see if they can support the weight of the camera. And the answer will come by itself.

Note: I also do not allow myself to criticize those who retouch their photos or go on a trip with professional equipment. I know that for many, it’s art, or a passion. I know that it takes time and energy to take beautiful pictures. I respect that choice. Everyone does what they want.

Time spent on each item

The travel diaries take me between 1h30 and 3 hours (depending on the number of words/photos). Then JB goes behind for proofreading and it takes him 15 to 30 minutes.

The practical guides (by country) take me a whole day ! Even two days if I have fun making custom google maps and photo montages. For example this article on Cappadocia took me all day.

At the beginning of our 2nd world tour (as digital nomads), I made the mistake of continuing to write the articles in the evening, on the couch.

Except that I work during the day and that makes me long days in front of the computer from 9:30 am until 11:30 pm (with breaks only for eating). Also, sitting on the couch sitting sideways on the sofa hurts my back a lot.

Now, I consider blogging as an activity that deserves more attention and professionalism: I settle down properly in front of the office and try to block a moment in the week, during the day, to write.

How much does the blog earn?

The ratio of income to time spent is absolutely scandalous. Luckily we don’t charge our clients the hourly rate we have with the blog. We earn enough to cover the expenses related to the running of the blog (domain name, server, purchase of extensions…) and enough to pay the travel insurance for both of us.

So the blog is essentially for our personal enjoyment. We aren’t going to make a living from this blog.

Around the world 5 continents in 2019

I think I’ve spent enough time improving the blog in 2018 that there areno big projectsleft for 2019. You won’t see any noticeable change in design anyway.

We just intend to make improvements from an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) viewpoint because our blog lacks inbound links and detailed descriptions for categories and sub-categories. These improvements will not be very visible to you.

A small visual effort will be made to our Facebook account. For example, we want to create visual guides like this one, which you can save in your phone or on your Facebook account. It’s a particularly handy format especially when you’re going somewhere just for the weekend. I hope you’ll like it! Anyway, I love this kind of albums so I’ll keep making them 😀

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