Two years ago when I first hit publish, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. If I had, maybe I would have shutdown my computer, gone back to the beach, done some yoga, and forgotten about that silly idea to start a blog. For better or for worse I’m glad I didn’t.
While at times it’s been a burden to bear and a distraction from actually living, writing this blog has given me a deeper sense of purpose in my travels, connected me with amazing humans I might never know otherwise, and supported me with the financial freedom to maintain a nomadic lifestyle.
Over the years I’ve learned that like anything in life, writing a blog can connect you as much as it can disconnect you. It can support you as much as it can destroy you. Writing a blog can expose layers of yourself you didn’t even know existed as easily as it can cloak you in masks of self protection and delusion.
I’ve written this post as a gift for those of you who want to start a blog and need a little push, for those of you who are new to blogging and need some support, and I’ve written this for those of you who have been blogging for what feels like forever and need to remember why.
These are the insights I’ve gleamed from blogging, or as I like to call it, falling and getting back up again, and again, and again. Here’s how to be a Rockstar Blogger, without losing who you really are.
Set an Intention
Before you start a blog, and actually before you do anything in life, consider your intention. Why have you chosen to do this? How will it better your existence and in turn better the existence of others? If your primary goal is to make money, you may want to reconsider. Blogging and building a following requires a tremendous amount of work with no guarantee of financial reward. You have to do it because you feel deeply called for a reason other than online income. The internet offers vast opportunities for communicating with large groups of people; what do you feel needs to be said and to be heard? What truth can you share that will make the world a better place? How can your blog be an outlet for your light to shine even brighter? When we create from our truest place of authenticity and love we achieve the greatest success of all. Start there. If you’re a blogger who has lost his way, go back there and start again.
Create a Brand
Once you know your intention, it’s time to share that intention with the world. With your blog that means developing a strong brand identity. How can you communicate why your blog matters through your brand? How can you express to readers and companies who you are and what you’re about? Consider a name that captures the feeling tone of what your blog aims to do. Consider how your blog might evolve over its lifetime and if your brand name is expansive enough for that growth.
After deciding on a name, I cannot stress enough how important it is to register a domain for your brand. Using WordPress is great for getting started, but use your own domain name from day one to make it easy for people to find you and to keep from redirecting all of your pages later when you move to self hosted. You can register your domain on a variety of sites including Godaddy.com and Networksolutions.com and pay WordPress a little extra to host you with your own domain name. However, if you want to get professional, it’s important to go with your own host so that you can have greater control over your site design and advertising. I use BlueHost who has very inexpensive starter plans where you can use your existing domain name or register a new one.
Just Do It
I think I spent more time talking about starting a blog than I actually spent doing it. It took me years to finally sit down, write the post, and release it into the ether. Why? Because I thought it had to be perfect. Nothing I could create would possibly fulfill this expectation, so instead of just creating something, I created nothing. Finally, after eight months of traveling the world and two years of wanting to blog, I bit the bullet and I just did it.
Was This American Girl immediately the most amazing blog the world had ever seen? Unlikely. Just like any craft, blogging takes practice. You may look back and be embarrassed at your early posts. I know I am all of the time. Sometimes I’m embarrassed about what I posted on Facebook five minutes ago. However the only way to hone the craft of blogging, is to BLOG! So start writing, put it out there, and learn from your mistakes. Remember, publishing that first post is usually the hardest part.
Maybe you can do it all on your own, but why would you want to? Take advantage of the supportive communities of bloggers open and willing to support you on your journey. Comment on blog posts that you love, email bloggers whom you admire, and join Facebook groups created for your blogging niche. When I finally broke out of my blogging bubble about a year ago is when blog really began to grow. Other bloggers offered me advice on how to grow my following, shared my content with their readers, and supported me when I faced challenges and backlash from readers. The opportunity to connect with people who share your passion and lifestyle is a true gift worth receiving.
Keep it Real
Real, raw vulnerability touches people. When you share why you feel first world guilt or why you cling to unhealthy relationships or why you emotionally eat, someone who has concealed those same feelings can find release and relief through your words. The posts where I share my deepest truths and allow myself to be the most vulnerable are the ones that speak to the most people. The ones that I wrote in between sobbing sessions after being heartbroken in Bali or confronted by poverty in Cambodia or deceived in Costa Rica. And they don’t come without consequence. They’re often the posts that receive the most criticism. But at the end of the day what matters is how I felt when I wrote it. It’s inevitable that along the way you will lose some readers and you will offend some people, but you will also deeply motivate and inspire. The best way to do that is by being your true, beautiful, brilliant, authentic self.
Ignore the Haters
Ever heard the quote, “how people treat you is their karma, how you respond is yours”? That’s my mantra when it comes to the haters. As your blog grows so will your exposure and with popularity comes jealousy. The first time I received a negative comment on my blog it hurt. I worried if I had said or done something wrong. I spent time and energy considering how I might reply with dignity. Since then I’ve had people say things meaner than I could ever conceive. I’ve been called a slut, a sociopath, fat, pathetic, selfish, spoiled, and shallow. My motives, my lifestyle, my feelings, you name it, have been publicly scrutinized. That is the risk one takes when sharing publicly. While admittedly it still hurts when someone tells me I’m destroying the earth or that I only care about myself, the more I practice detaching the easier it becomes. If my blog triggers anger in others, those are their issues to work out, not mine. Take a moment to feel pissed off, then brush it off, and move on. Remember, where the mind goes the energy goes, and there are far more valuable efforts to focus your energy on.
It’s easy to let your blog consume your life. Set boundaries on how much time you spend online and how much you want to share. Allow yourself private moments for no one but you. Watch sunsets and leave your camera at home. Have “aha” moments and don’t share them on Facebook. Consider scheduling days and times where you disconnect digitally entirely. You deserve days off. You may share your life on your blog, but you still need a life.
We’re bloggers. We’re not driving ambulances. We’re not performing open heart surgery. We’re not putting out forest fires. What we do matters, but it’s not life or death. Keep it light and remember that if you get to an island with no wifi, the lighting is off in your photos, or no one seems to care about the blog post you poured your heart into, life goes on.
Don’t be Afraid to “Sell Out”
Fear of selling out prevented me from expanding for a very long time. I believed that allowing myself to make money through my blog somehow made me shallow or inauthentic. I wouldn’t accept sponsored stays in hotels, I wouldn’t accept money for advertising, and all conversations about money made me feel extremely uncomfortable. If you ever want your blog to be your business, do not adopt this mindset. Every time you write a blog post or compose a tweet you share a piece of yourself. That has tremendous value. Believe yourself deserving enough of receiving support for all of the value that you contribute to the online world. Keep your integrity and recognize that at this point in human history money can be a tremendous tool for making positive change. Find a monetization solution without feeling like a sell out. Get feedback from your tribe. Listen.
Being a blogger can certainly inflate one’s ego. When you receive dozens of comments and thousands of likes every single day, it’s easy to derive your sense of worth from external validation. A sexy selfie on social media can make the difference between having too much attention and none at all. As your fan base grows you may find yourself being recognized offline as well. You may find yourself losing a sense of anonymity. These are the times when it’s most important to return to your roots. Remember who you really are and what really matters. Go spend time with your family, travel somewhere where no one knows you, and take a break from social media. My medicine comes in the form of being completely alone in nature. There I witness how the earth considers me as important as a seashell or an ant. There’s something deeply humbling, and healing, about that.
For the cycle of creation to flow effectively, there must be a moment of surrender. I have wasted so much time monitoring the success of a post by checking my email a hundred times and refreshing my social media pages. Once you put your piece into the hands of the public, it’s time to let it go. You can only control what you create, not how people choose to receive it. Sometimes you will write something so kick ass and no one will even care. Other times you will write something without a second thought and it will go viral. Let go of the outcome and get back to creating something new.
Are you a blogger? Do you have advice to share? We’re beyond grateful to receive it!
you made some really lovely points here. It’s hard at first to take negative comments with a grain of salt, but comes easier over time. When it comes to “selling out”: I created my blog to make money (I had no job when I moved to India) and looked at it as a business from day 1, but I stay honest therefore I feel fine about it, plus I’m open with my readers that I’m trying to make money. Your posts are always very uplifting… thank you!
Thank you Rachel, always so nice to hear from you <3
I have been thinking about writing a blog for a long time. I think I might just follow your advice and just do it. My upcoming trip to Puerto Viejo might just be the perfect point to start assembling material. Thanks for the little kick in the pants with this post. 🙂
You’re very welcome! 🙂
I’m glad to see that, in your case anyway, it starts with a Mac ;-). Hi hi hi! That’s the IT guy in me.
I do have a blog and while public, it is only there to help my family and friends who can no longer travel, for whatever reason.
Maintaining it honest, as most things, is “relative” to the writer as much as to the reader, hence the bad comments, the “no comments” or the good ones. Like you said, I also believe one’s ego is the thing to watch, whether a writer or a reader.
Phew thank you, just what I needed to hear!
“Fabulous Post!! Bravo!!”
thank you, glad you enjoyed it 🙂
Great points! My humble little blog hasn’t grown big enough to garner any hate mail yet, but I’ve prepared myself to get really excited for that first mean comment because it will mean I’m making my way up, haha. I think the best piece of advice is that you should blog because you are compelled to, not simply just to make money. I’m always drawn the most to blogs written like that and which make me feel like I’m really getting to know a person. Like yours! 🙂
Aw thank you love! Well, when you do get those hate comments, let us know and we will be here to support you! 😉 <3
Thanks for this post, Camille. I’m a yoga lifestyle blogger using a website and also Instagram (@modern.yogi) as a mini blog. It’s still in the early stages and I very much appreciate you sharing your knowledge.
I will say that I think Instagram is a fantastically underused platform for writers. Yes, you need to put effort into pictures, but the captions can be quite long and, in my experience, most people read them. It’s also super easy to connect/interact with others. I’m not promoting my blog at all right now, but Instagram keeps driving traffic to it.
Guest posting is also key. I wrote articles for Elephant Journal and Huffington Post and both generated traffic and resulted in a few new subscribers. Again, I’m very early stage and my knowledge is limited, but these are the strategies I plan to pursue next year.
Love what you say about not selling out! So important to not feel guilty about making money. We deserve abundance and prosperity, spiritual and material.
Sending you continued blessings on your journey.
Thanks so much for your advice! Great idea with Instagram. I haven’t tried writing anything long on Instagram, and typically I don’t get traffic from Instagram to my blog, so this is great advice. I definitely agree with you on guest posting, I’ve seen big bumps from stuff of mine going viral on elephant journal 🙂
I love your mantra on haters – probably the best way I’ve actually heard a travel blogger sum it up for sure. I also do think that as a travel blogger it can be soo crazy easy to lose your mind with pernickety things, this and that, and even forget about the travels at times! Good advice, thanks for sharing 🙂
Thank you so much, it absolutely can! These are all things I have to continually remind myself of 😉
This post is so great! You clearly put a lot of time and thought into it and I really appreciate that. Blogging can be hard and sometimes the people around you don’t understand. Finding the balance is incredibly important.
Thank you I totally agree! Do you have any tips to share?
This is the most insightful and helpful post I have read about blogging. Whether I decide to blog or not, this has definitely inspired me to write down, and not commit to just memory, the experiences in life that make us who we are. Thank you!
BTW- I found you via Backpacker Banter after doing a search on Backpacking Blogs. 🙂
Wow thanks so much! <3
Thanks for the inspiration, Camille. This is exactly what I needed to hear today.
You’re so welcome, thanks for the comment 🙂
Yep, I definitely have a fear of selling out so it’s great to hear you did too! At any meeting I feel like my head’s about to explode – I have no idea what I’m doing at that point. But to learn to value what I produce and put a value on it is top of my new year’s resolutions list! Thanks for the push!
Awesome! You’re welcome. You may find this post helpful too:
I have just started blogging a few months ago and so far I doubt any more than a handful of people are reading it. While external recognition/appreciation of my thoughts and writing may be nice, I think it’s important to love and accept oneself. If you validate yourself you do not need the validation of others. This is something I am working on with myself.
Nevertheless, this post is really helpful in keeping me focused. Thank you so much. Whether I wish to grow my blog in numbers (human or $) or to maintain it for my own personal fulfilment is irrelevant. Everything that you have shared is applicable to any writer.
Keeping authentic is really important to me, there is a balance that needs to be found between authenticity and writing with the expectation of a response. I find it really easy to open up, and I worry whether this comes from the need for external validation, so for the mean time my blog has mainly been about my thoughts and observations on life as opposed to reflections on myself. I would never want to share myself with inauthentic intentions. But I am an over-analyser so I wonder whether my intentions are inauthentic or whether I am simply over-analysing! 😉
Anywayss!!! Thanks a lot for your really positive insights.
Thank you so much for your comments 🙂 It sounds like you’re coming from a great place which means everything will work just as it should <3
Awesome read, and fantastic photos. Blogging is certainly a marathon and not a sprint…. it takes a lot of work and dedication…. sometimes for little or no reward…
But it is worth it in the end… to get your voice out there….
I have just started a blog, and finding sources of inspiration is so important! Thank you for sharing your journeys and your amazing photographs.
Thank you dear, good luck to you in starting blogging 🙂
Camille your travel blog is my favourite, it was my go-to before travelling SE Asia and I still love reading it now even though it makes me miss travelling so so much!!
I’ve started a travel and lifestyle blog recently but it’s more of a sort of journal at the moment, maybe one day!
Thank you so much sweetness. Hope you had an amazing adventure in SEA and best of luck to you in your blogging and travels in the future. If you love it, keep with it <3
This post is really helpful. I’ve recently started a blog of my travels as well. I keep getting frustrated by the lack of growth. Do you have any tips for growing a following other than just over time with good content?
Thanks and I love reading your blog!
Hey Melanie, I hear you. I think this is something I should write a post about in the future, but for now here’s my best tips: #1: Connect with the blogging community. Join Facebook groups for bloggers and get your name out there. Then you can do guest posting, collaborate with other bloggers, etc. #2: Write about the things that people really want to know, more than just waxing poetic on your travels (which I do all of the time lol) give them practical advice too. That’s what people share. Your personal journey and personality will keep them coming back however. #3: Guest post for big name blogs if you can. Contact some different ones and see if they will let you. #4: Shamelessly promote your blog to everyone on your personal Facebook page. Hope that helps!! And thanks so much for reading xox
This is so great and is in great timing! Thank you for being real and for your words of encouragement.
You’re so welcome!! <3
Loved reading this!
I have just started my blog about a month ago! Aiming to help people who feel they can’t travel because they don’t know where to start! Any advice would be amazing! Love your blog!
Thank you so happy to hear this post helped you 🙂
Thank so much for such great and much needed advice! I really needed to read this at this very moment. I’ve recently started blogging and the beggining seems to always be the hardest. I will remember your words and keep this post bookmarked to look back on for whenever I need it. Thanks again!
You’re so welcome Sandy! Good luck to you <3
Thank you for writing this. It came at an appropriate time. It’s just today that I pressed “publish”. MY journey blogging is just starting. I love your blog.
Awesome! Congrats Elaine. I checked out your blog, it looks great, keep it going 🙂
As always thanks for sharing and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. I struggle with vulnerability and transparency. I have been researching “how to blog” for about a year and have lots of ideas but feel like I’m all over the place and not focused enough on a specific idea or niche. I have gathered lots of info but lack faith in myself to move forward with action. I am in the midst of a career change and my blog will become one aspect of my business however I am afraid of feeling exposed and naked to the public and unable to handle the critics when they appear. Thanking you for sharing and being honest and transparent. It is in being vulnerable and transparent that you become more relatable, an area in which I have struggled a lifetime!
Hi Michele, I hear you and thank you for sharing! All that you’ve written in fact shows great vulnerability 🙂 Perhaps work on being vulnerable in other aspects of your life, and it will be easier to do so in blogging. Also, there are plenty of successful bloggers out there who don’t get as personal as I do! So it’s not necessary for success.
Hey thanks for this post it is really encouraging. Ash and I have been travel blogging for a couple of years and we are growing very slowly and that can be discouraging. Especially when see young bloggers who blogs take off quickly. We are happy for them but we question what we are doing wrong. All we can do though is just keep traveling and writing because it is what we love. Also keep showing support for our fellow travel bloggers who are doing well. The days where we get no views is really tough though.
How do you reach out to other bloggers? Do you go to blogs and just ask for help? I am little unsure on the etiquette of asking for tips. We really want grow our viewership and we’ve been doing everything we can. I guess we will just have to keep on writing and traveling the world. If you have any tips it would be much appreciated. Thank you again for this article.
Hey Alex, thanks for your message. I hear ya! I recommend you join the Facebook group We Travel We Blog, awesome community!
You are an inspiration! I just start blogging and its way too much work than i thought!
Keep it up!
Thank you xo