Last week I sat down with an old friend and her new partner. As it goes when you get to know someone, the conversation turned towards our jobs quite quickly. Soon I found myself showered in questions about travel blogging and our discussion made me think about why I want to be part of the Travelettes and what it is I am actually doing here.

Confessions of a Travel Blogger

After years of hype, bloggers have been met with a lot of scepticism lately. While one magazine declares fashion bloggers the lamest people on Earth (the author had apparently never read a single critically engaging post on a fashion blog before), another one says that travel bloggers are materialistic brats (who will threaten hotels with bad reviews if they don’t get the most luxurious suite). I’m here to tell you – and I hope that you know that already – neither of these accusations are correct. Yes, the number of blogs is exploding, and there are “good” and “bad” ones; but there will always be a handful of people (or ten or thousand) who have more in mind than a new pair of shoes or what’s for breakfast in this or that luxury hotel.

When I joined Travelettes in 2013 I had only known about it for a year. I had just returned from studying in Iceland and stumbled upon their guest series with Klara Harden – a kickass Austrian girl who solo-hiked in Iceland for three weeks and made a beautiful film about it. I was convinced, Travelettes is a place for me to find inspiration for my future trips. A few months later I met Katja at her book presentation in Vienna and told her about my dream to contribute a story about my upcoming trip to Canada. Said and done – half a year later I had my first article published and soon after joined the team as a regular contributor.

Confessions of a travel blogger

I had dipped in and out of fashion and travel blogging before, but never really found the motivation to write regular inspirational posts on either of these topics. This time it was different. The possibility to connect to so many readers and share my experiences with them, changed everything. And it still does.

Here are five confessions of a Travelette.

1) I love to talk, but I get bored by the questions.

I cannot shut up. Ever. When I come home from a trip and meet my friends, all I can talk about are the experiences I made on the road. Even during a trip, when meeting new people, be assured that all I can talk about are the experiences I made on an earlier trip. Talking about travelling is probably my favourite thing in the world.

And yet, telling the same stories over and over again gets boring with time. Writing them down and publishing online, makes it so much easier – now instead of telling somebody everything about my Croatia trips, I simply send them the links to every Croatia story on Travelettes that I’ve written. Spares my voice as well.

I have the urge to express myself and after years of dreaming of a career as a painter, I discovered that the written word is the perfect medium for me. Et voila – I’m a writer.

Confessions of a Travel Blogger

2) I hope to inspire others.

Does any of the following sound familiar?

“It is all about where you go, what you eat, where you sleep and what you do.” OR “Most travel bloggers are privileged and white, and are used to wealth and the freedom of going wherever they want – they don’t even question it.” OR “With their blogs they contribute to a capitalistic system and make others want to live the same consumerist, superficial lives as them.”

Unfortunately there is not much to hold against this. Or is there? Travelling is (or can be) an incredibly consumerist thing to do – from buying plane tickets to munching on local delicacies. However, there are plenty of ways to avoid these unreflected expenses, like couchsurfing, ridesharing, dinner with locals, or picnics in the park (and I love writing about them). Then again, is money (and how much we can save) really at the core of travelling? For me, travelling is not a lifestyle, but a way of living. Relaxing in a nice hotel every now and then is cool, but if given the choice, I would always choose the roadtrip sharing a car with strangers, or wwoofing at a remote farm, or trying a new sport over the weekend. Travelling is about being more curious about life and more open to others; it is about gaining self-confidence and growing as a person; it is about learning something new and challenging yourself continuously.

SONY DSC

The foundation of blogging for Travelettes is not to “inspire” you to buy something, or go somewhere just to tick it off a list. My central intention is to INSPIRE you to throw your worries overboard and jump right in. When I along the way recommend hotels, products or destinations, then only because I found them helpful/inspirational/challenging myself.

Not too long ago, we started an open Facebook group for everybody to come together and exchange their knowledge. Everyday the group sees 3-4 posts from women asking for recommendations, or offering their advice. Each of these usually gets at least 3 comments. The community formed in very short time and is extremely engaging and supportive. But what strikes me the most are the comments from women who have never made significant travel experience before. Some of them can’t afford it, others live in a country where women are not allowed to move as freely as I do. Realising that these women still find inspiration (hope?) in our articles reassures me, that we are not merely feeding a consumerist machine. We have a mission to inspire.

Confessions of a Travel Blogger

3) Girl Power!

Balancing the act between not positioning yourself and being too radical is a tough one. Although I like reading about politics, equality and gender issues, and linking relevant content on our Facebook or Twitter, I would not feel comfortable writing about these topics myself. Travelettes is written by and aimed at women, and I feel that we still contribute to the feminist discourse without shouting it out loudly.

I am sure the entire team would agree, when I say, we want women to stand up for themselves and realise their dreams. Even if these dreams don’t include travelling around the world or going on solo trips, we hope to come up with some inspirational ideas of what is possible if you just take one first step. Travelling can be an incredibly liberating process (even if it is just a day trip out of your usual comfort zone). I believe that experiencing this positive energy can be inspirational to push forwards and demand more in other areas as well.

I also want to use Travelettes as a platform to spread the word about women, who are actively making the world a better place – whether it is for other girls and women (like the Skateistan initiators in Afghanistan), for people in need (like Maggie Doyne) or for the planet’s environment (like Natalie Ille).

Confessions of a travel blogger

4) I love to have a job I like.

Like everybody else (except those few nomadic travellers – how they do that again?) I have monthly bills to pay, which means if I want to focus on Travelettes, I need to treat blogging like any other job. Of course this means making money one way or another. Every now and then you find sponsored posts up here, or ads in our side bars – and I have heard from other bloggers that some of their readers strongly disapprove with this. Sell out, is what they shout. But is it really? A blog like Travelettes generates costs, somehow we have to cover them. Ideally, in the future we can even pay our bills from our returns and focus on the blog full-time.

Travelettes is not an easy way of making shitloads of money (- excuse me), but requires a lot of hard work – whether it is about researching suitable marketing partners or writing interesting articles. Travelettes is an opportunity to (hopefully) sustain myself while doing what I love (all the writing, sharing and inspiring I mentioned above). I’m glad I don’t have to sit in an office from 9 to 5, but can work with flexible hours from wherever I want. I’m not trying to increase sales for some useless product, but am building a brand that I can fully support. I loved blogging as a hobby, now I love it as a job.

Confessions of a Travel Blogger (3)

This brings me to the next point.

5) I travel all the time – but hardly have holidays.

When I first started contributing to Travelettes I had no idea what a press trip was. If you combine all trips the regular Travelettes write about, the majority is self-funded – because we love to travel in our spare time. But of course many of our trips are supported by our cooperation partners. I am in the lucky position to receive several invitations a year, and have seen some spectacular places thanks to this. My friends and family are happy for me, because they know how much I love to explore, but there is one sentence, that I have to spell out so frequently, I should get a tattoo to spare my voice in the future: A PRESS TRIP IS NOT A HOLIDAY.

laptop at the beach

A day on a press trip requires not just the same, but even more work and commitment than a day spent in my home office. The average schedule of a 3 day press trip could easily fill a week’s holiday for someone who also wants to sleep and relax. Like any other business trip, a press trip is not a holiday, but rather moving your office to a random beautiful place and trying to get 72 hours out of the usual 24.

Don’t get me wrong – the last thing I want is to complain; but I’m definitely not a Travelette to get “free holidays” all the time. It’s not an easy job. Just gulping down a quick breakfast after 3 hours of sleep and a tight schedule ahead is nicer with a view!

confessions of a travel blogger

In the past two years I have learnt that being a travel blogger, and a Travelette in particular, is not easy. There is a lot to learn (still) and consider (always), and it can feel like/turn into a full-time job (fingers crossed). I believe I am one of the luckiest people on this planet, because I can do what I love for a living and get the amazing opportunity to share my passion and my inspiration with thousands of others. I get to meet incredible human beings – whether they contribute a story, comment on Facebook or send me a direct email. I cherish every single word they have to say and can’t believe that I’m a part of this wonderful community.

I am aware of my incredibly privileged life and hope that my contribution to Travelettes helps others to stand up and demand the same privileges no matter where or who they are.

How about you – do you blog yourself, or travel full-time? Did you ever feel misunderstood in what you do?

All photos by Kathi Kamleitner, Katja Hentschel & Brian Shaw.