Let us show you how to build yourself a powerhouse of a “village“
Our journey to travel blogging is one of dreams. The story began many years ago when a young man aspired to see the world. Endless hours captivated watching PBS, and Rick Steves had him craving to travel one day. Not for one second, though, did he believe it would ever happen.
Then, over a decade later, the opportunity arose where he could take a trip of a lifetime. Though nervous and apprehensive, he embraced the idea and dived right in. That incredible trip to several Western Europe countries was life-changing. He saw life through a different prism and started to believe dreams could come true. It would be the first of many trips to come.
The realization of more travel led to other inspired ideas. Early on, Ryan spoke about how he wished more of his fellow soldiers, some so beaten down by their service, could experience what he had. He often mentioned that we should start a travel blog. Still, it seemed only a pipe dream A soldier and a nurse with no clue where to begin, with no tech experience whatsoever, in entirely different stages of their life, and living on opposite sides of the country, were clearly out of our league.
For years it was just that, an idea. Happy times briefly brought it up again, but the flame was quickly extinguished. But it was one of those magical relighting birthday candles that wouldn’t flame out. It was that travel blogging dream just would not die.
Maybe we could do this.
Possibly make a difference.
Maybe the story and inspiration that led us here meant something.
So it commenced.
It was a 21-month journey from let’s do it to going live, a roller coaster ride we weren’t prepared for and more challenging work than we ever imagined. Throw in a pandemic, a world in chaos, and travel halted dead in its tracks. It was the perfect excuse to bail and say it was not meant to be.
Instead, we dug our heels deeper and took this opportunity to learn more about the technical side of travel blogging, get a deeper understanding of logistics, and focus on launching a stronger product from the get-go. Knowing we would make a million errors, maybe we could land up with a few less big ones. In hindsight, had we launched as planned, it would have been a weak and sloppy product. We embraced a lousy situation and worked harder than ever, making us more determined and committed.
At the start, it was all about research, getting out there, and studying for what seemed like endless hours and hundreds of travel blogs. There are thousands out there; it is a very competitive market. That initial research took months, and we took copious notes of what we did and did not want our blog to look like. Then came finding a name we could use across all social networks, setting up a business, and setting up all these new accounts and the blog itself. It was an essential but small part of what was ahead of us.
Feel more comfortable using an online website builder to assist in realizing your business dream, check out Strikingly? It is free to sign up and see if they will work with your vision.
Our first and most important lesson; there are many people and services you will need to lean on to make this happen. Unless you do this as a line of work, it is not intuitive, and it is not easy. Without those people and services we tapped, we would not be here. They are lifesavers and just excellent at what they do!
One day we will write more on our travel blogging journey, hopefully helping others avoid some of the pitfalls we experienced. Our goal now is to share what got us where we are. Along the way, we came across many duds, and if not for determination, we would have been stopped in our tracks, dreams unrealized.
So let’s share with you the incredible resources that have been with us during this travel blogging journey and those we would not be here without. This is not meant to be a tutorial on how to start a blog; that is for another day. This is a guide to help those considering starting a blog find the best resources available to them.
The old saying “It takes a village” beautifully applies to launching a travel blog on all levels. We would never have made it here if it weren’t for some fantastic people along the way, incredible resources, and a supportive network.
Up front, we want to state that having great resources does not reduce the work you will need. It should increase because when you learn from them, you need to put those lessons into play. Here is our advice from our experiences to date. We appreciated being warned about what was ahead and what to best prepare for.
Tips to get a great start in travel blogging
1. Read and take copious notes. We can’t emphasize how important it is the read absolutely everything you can get your hands on. That said, beware of bloggers who make vast amounts of money sucking you into their expensive courses. They offer “free courses” that are only the hard sell of their expensive course “worth over $2000 for only $500”. If you find selling others “How to blog courses” becomes the priority over the content of the blog, then go elsewhere quickly.
There are wonderful supportive sites that provide more than you can ever imagine. They are honest upfront, don’t say anyone can do it, and it costs next to nothing. Before you know it, you will be rich, and the blog will run itself. It is simply not true. It takes years to earn an income, money to build a blog, and, most importantly, a ton of hard work. Find a course that speaks to being your mentor and walking you through the entire blogging process.
Are costs keeping you from travel? Check out our blog post Want to travel for free? Let us show you how
2. We have tested various programs, products, hosts, themes, etc. We learned many parts the hard way. It was wasted time that should have been avoided. If you find you made a wrong choice in a particular product, let it go. Move on. The first theme we picked was a poor choice; despite asking the right questions, it was not in any way a program to be used for people, not tech-savvy. The support when asking questions was awful and very slow. Funny how they answered quickly when selling it to you but took days to answer once you were on board.
It was the best decision we could have ever made to let it go and move on. Our second theme pick was from a fantastic company that provided support beyond anything we could imagine. We owe them so much for being there for us then and for staying with us.
3. We learned early on that it is ok to ask what seems stupid questions to save you ten hours of work that was never needed. The blogging community as a whole is a very connected and supportive one. They are an excellent resource. Reach out and ask questions.
4. Have patience; when you are ready to pull your hair out, take a break and get some space. This will take time, and give yourself that time to learn, don’t set unrealistic goals.
5. Take the time to pull together what you have found in your research. Gather information, but from that, you need a strategy.
Considering a trip to Europe? Check out our Destinations page to help plan your next adventure.
6. Have determination and a strong work ethic. A mental game is at play; you must overcome significant obstacles to win it.
7. Focus on quality, not how fast you can get out there or how quickly the money will come in. It won’t be for a long while. But a well-put-together site with great content can grow if launched strong from the start. It needs to stand the test of time to survive.
8. Make this about serving others. It should not be a place to show off but where people will gain inspiration. If you make it about your audience, it will blossom over time.
9. Be ready for some failures, embarrassing moments, and some cruel people who take joy in belittling your efforts. There is a huge learning curve; forgive yourself for the errors that will inevitably happen but most importantly, learn from them!!!
10. You don’t have to travel full-time to have a blog that provides excellent content. It is more about life experiences you can share and the stories you tell.
Our Best Resources for Travel Blogging
Below are the resources we trust and have used ourselves to this day. We will put them in order of how we used them. There are many other choices out there, do your research. Just because we chose these does not mean they will work for you by default.
Explore and Study Travel Blogs
The first step is to analyze the community you are about to join. Give yourself lots of time to do this; months even. Seek multiple search engines and lists of travel blogs. Look at big and tiny sites. Then determine what you like and don’t like and write it all down. Take screenshots and write down each site you visit.
We will list the sites that brought us the most inspiration and guidance. We won’t list the sites we found to be poorly done and sloppy. Some even were scam-like, trying to sell classes while putting little new content about travel. The bad sites were of great use to us as well learned what we would never want to be like. They served an essential purpose, and as a result, they have our appreciation. That is why we will not list them, but you will find many along your research path.
The sites listed below are the ones we are most impressed with and have been using as role models. The two that, in our opinion, are the best are Nomadic Matt and A Dangerous Business. Each is unique in its own right, and both have fantastic blogs. Both hold themselves to high standards, are excellent writers, and are passionate about travel. Their honesty about the path it took to get to where they are has earned our respect and admiration. It is not an easy road and involves lots of hard work and dedication, which we have learned in these first 18 months. Through their examples and that of others, we aspire to find our unique style and voice while growing our blog.
The travel bloggers we most respect and are at the top of their game
Travel Blogging Education Resources
We secured our Domain and Host before signing up for a blogging course. It worked for us since, during our research, we were taking notes on how the whole process begins. But it does make sense to do the classes first or at least examine what they say on how to launch the process. Looking at many courses and reviews, we chose what seemed most informative and grounded.
Nomadic Matt is one of the most successful travel bloggers in the world and a New Times Best-Selling author. We feel his hands-on class is the best out there. He knows his stuff and is honest and straightforward about what it takes to launch a blog. Matt and his support staff at Superstar Blogging are great mentors. He and his team kept us inspired, helped us through challenging moments, and never made us feel stupid for asking questions. In hindsight, we recognize the patience they had. They provide Q&As, a community forum, webinars, and real-world assignments. The program is easy to follow and not overly cumbersome. The cost is only $99 for his Superstar Blogging Masterclass. Nomadic Matt also offers a travel writing course.
Securing your travel blog domain
You can’t have an online blog without a domain. That is your URL, your connection to the world wide web. Ours is www.wandererscompass.com. Based on recommendations from the Nomadic Matt team to keep where you register your domain separate from your host, we chose Hover. We picked a name for under $15 when we registered Wanderers Compass. That was it. We renew annually at the same cost.
A web host is one of the most critical pieces, and quality does matter. It is where your new blog lives. After much research, touching bases with more experienced colleagues, and tapping Nomadic Matt’s team, we signed up with Siteground. There are Europe based and provide 24-hour support.
They have many levels of options. Siteground offers a significant discount upfront for new customers. They will do free transfers and provide free email. SSL and Backups. Plans start at $2.99 a month. We are on the GOGEEK plan and have been delighted with the overall service. They are the host for over 2.8 million domains and are recommended by Word Press.org. Here is the link for Siteground.
The platform you chose to build your website is important. The most significant determining factor is how much flexibility and customization you want. We chose WordPress.org because doing it right from the start was paramount. It is what 43% of the world uses for building their websites.
WordPress is an open-source CMS (Content Management System) that you can use to create blogs and websites. They have made setting up a blog easy. The best thing about WordPress CMS is that it is free, and you can download it from its official website www.wordpress.org, or on the web you choose. You must have a web host and a domain name first. We loaded out through Siteground, our host.
Another great thing about it is the plug-in support; countless free and paid plug-ins are available online that help you extend its functionality in many ways. If you have a good grip on HTML, CSS, and a bit of PHP, you can customize quite a bit. Or hire someone who can.
We have never regretted a single day choosing the most powerful platform with the greatest customization opportunity. In our case, we downloaded WordPress from our web host Sitground (see next section); it is a seamless service they provide.
Travel Blog Theme
Picking a theme was a massive effort we weren’t expecting. There is a lot out there, and many promises their theme is easy to use and offers support. Upon studying reviews, that often was not the case. In each one, we considered we interviewed and asked many questions. Mainly to check how responsive and engaged they were. Our first choice failed us. We clearly said we are not tech-savvy and are newbies at all this. They assured us that support was great and we would have no issues.
It was awful, so complicated and support was a hassle. Once registered, you join their community support group. Many of the people complaining were professional developers, those who make websites for a living. They could not figure out all the bugs they came across and were very frustrated with the product. The jargon they used was completely over our heads. After a ton of effort to figure it out, we gave up and moved on.
We found the BEST theme
What we found was our nirvana. Solopine is a husband and wife company that makes top-notch Word Press themes that are visually stunning. They focus on form and function. What makes Solopine extraordinary is they provide exceptional support. We can honestly say they are what kept us sane through all this. Their calm, hands-on approach is remarkable. They don’t just fix things; they help you understand why and how to do it yourself. In our opinion, they are the absolute best out there. We love them!
Purchasing any of the SoloPine themes is done through Envato Market. Here is the link to Envato Market.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Plug-in
You will learn quickly it is all about SEO. It will be a word that is core to anything you publish. Google and other search engines are needed to bring traffic to your blog. Yoast SEO is the premier SEO plug-in for WordPress. This plug-in has over 5 million active installations and has been downloaded more than 350 million times with over 25,000 five-star reviews on WordPress.org. It is the #1 downloaded SEO plug-in on WordPress.
Yoast’s goal is simple; help website owners get more traffic from search engines. They help their customers keep their content neat and easy to read for their audience. But most importantly, they make sure search engines can find and understand their pages! Because that’ll help with ranking high on Google! Yoast SEO also takes care of a lot of technical SEO stuff in the background. So, you don’t have to write any code to use their software! Their mission “At Yoast, we believe that SEO should be for everyone. We believe in creating equal chances for everyone in the search results. We keep our mission in mind in everything that we do.”
In our case, we brought them on early and upgraded to Yoast Premium shortly after that. They have fantastic courses that have been invaluable and are free with Premium. They are constantly educating and keeping you informed as things rapidly change. It is a European-based company. The cost is very reasonable for all you get. Currently, the annual Premium membership is $99. They do have a free option as well. We would be lost without them.
Global Online Marketplace for Freelance Work
Our first service was logo design, and we found a gold mine in Zunairaah. She worked hard and made our concept a reality beyond our expectations. Zunairaah is a very talented and consummate professional. She was not happy until we were. Her patience was exceptional. Most importantly, she has a great vision and offers terrific suggestions. You can look her up on Fiverr by putting Zunairaah into the search box.
After that, we used Fiverr for business card design, packing lists designed by Sammerayub, emergency travel cards by maahmudulhasan, design, and artwork. Everyone was a pleasure to work with, and the costs were reasonable.
The right guy at the right moment
Our most recent contact with them was for Site Speed Optimization and Security. We found a gift from heaven on Fiverr in Miftah. Site speeds are a huge factor in getting readers to use your site. If things don’t load, they will be gone onto other sites in a heartbeat. In a competitive online world, that is essential. Though our site was doing OK with Page Speed, we still wanted better, especially on mobile, which was in the 60s. We were told not to expect high speeds on mobile. Our Fiverr GiG with Miftah proved otherwise, and we have had scores for months now near perfect. With mind-blowing results, we consistently achieve speeds in the upper 90s on both desktop and mobile.
We found ourselves a gem in Miftah. He so impressed us with his speed optimization that we ordered a WordPress security GIG and again blew us away. We approached him about setting up AMP as Google encourages us to all the time. He thoroughly audited our site for free and recommended against setting up AMP. He said it could work wonders, but when it doesn’t work, it will hurt the site, which would be our case. We plan to use him for more work soon.
Miftah has exceptional expertise, and we have a better functioning site because of him. He also offers on Fiverr: Moving a Website, Setting up a Google webmaster, Setting up Google AMP, Setting up Google indexing API, Setting up Cloudflare CDN, Creating a WordPress blog website, plus much more.
If you recall, neither of us had careers that required excellent writing skills. As a matter for Joelle, English is her second language. While her classmates were learning grammar, she was still learning the language. In the process when writing, the mistakes were frequent and embarrassing. They often happen, as only two of us provide most of the content. We needed a program to help us.
Along came Grammarly, and we have been sold from day one. It is an online grammar, spell-checking, and plagiarism detection platform. It is a robust writing editor designed to help you compose and edit clear mistake-free documents. There is a free version, but we upgraded to the Premium subscription for $139.95 a year. It is invaluable; we also use it for everything in our personal lives. Our emails now are much better worded, and it even proofs your texts if you want. Grammarly is a brilliant program.
We have suggested it to friends who are writing college essays, and they love it!
Photograph and Document Management
We would be lost without our Adobe Creative Cloud Suite. This includes Adobe Photoshop with Lightroom Classic, Adobe Photo Stock, and Adobe Acrobat, among others. The suite is called Creative Cloud. Our site is photo-heavy, and we need efficient and proficient software to manage that. We are also a business, so we need documents signed, and Acrobat takes care of that.
Adobe has so many various options that you can be on an individual or within plans. For photographers, there is Lightroom, Photoshop, and Lightroom Classic. If you are a student or teacher, some plans save you over 60%. Individuals, there are over 20 creative apps, including Acrobat and more. They can customize plans as well; that is what we did. Click on the link above or the Adobe Logo, click the Creativity and Design tab, then click View Plans and Pricing to see all the options.
Other worthwhile links we use are
Provides digital assets and services. We buy our theme through them. We also have a mapping plug-in we got through them. They have free tutorials on everything from design to illustration and video.
It is an online marketplace for community-generated design assets. The company sells graphics, WordPress themes, stock photography, and other digital goods for use by web creatives. We bought stock images from them when our pictures were not of good quality.
What if I want the process streamlined?
Though it is important to understand all the elements that go into building a website what if you have the means at your disposal to help assist in the process? You could have your own personal funds set aside or a company that has a good budget for developing a website. There is a great option out there for those who are looking for a website and e-commerce builder, Strikingly. This company is powering the next generation of websites with an easy-to-use model even for those not technically savvy. In my opinion, what is essential is that they provide fantastic customer support 24/7. This is especially important in e-commerce. Keep in mind there are over 2 billion online buyers out there shopping, you want a website that works, and draws in your audience at first glance so they can begin purchasing your products. Strikingly provides the whole package. They have launched over 12 million websites and have been featured in New York Times, Forbes, and USA Today to name a few.
The key to Strikingly‘s success is how easy and simple the core website building is while offering robust features. They offer powerful e-commerce management, a full suite of marketing and sales tools, industry-standard security, unlimited bandwidth, mobile editing and so much more. It is even free to sign up and see if they can meet your needs. Many of their themes are impressive and would meet almost anyone’s requirements. Pricing is competitive for the excellent product they provide. At Strikingly they have empowered thousands to pursue their dreams — from first-time entrepreneurs to Nobel laureates.
If Strikingly is of interest to you click the logo below to get more info.
There you have it. The lists of resources that are in our “Village.”
Without them, we would not be here. If you wish to succeed, then build yourself a solid “village” with a team that will provide the support you need to make your dream come true. They will make your work so much easier, and when you lose your mind, they will provide a much-needed dose of sanity. Remember, learning and hard work never end, which keeps you engaged and on top of your game.
Suggestions from you?
We welcome stories of resources that have worked for you. There are many talented people out there, and if we share what we have discovered, we all grow stronger in the process. Though we compete on some level, there is plenty of space for all of us. When we share and collaborate, we all contribute to the overall quality of the travel blog world and gain respect for our material.
We have an affiliate relationship with some links (not all ). If you purchase anything through that link, we may get a small commission for that purchase. We thank you in advance for your support.
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Our Recommended Travel Resources
Our favorite travel insurance site!
If you are booking a trip, don’t forget to get travel insurance within 14 days of your first booking. We could not be stronger advocates of being well-insured. Not just for the little stuff but the big stuff like medical emergencies. We never leave home without it. Over the years, we have used many sites but have now found our go-to place. Squaremouth.com does a fantastic job; it has a user-friendly interface, they use top-rated and reputable insurance carriers, and most policies cover Covid medical issues and cancellations. They also mediate on your behalf if you have problems with your policy.
To empower you as a consumer, we suggest you read our blog post on the importance of travel insurance and how to get the best coverage from top-rated companies for an affordable price.
Medical transport back home from anywhere in the world
They are the premier global air medical transport. One caveat to travel insurance is that medical evacuation usually gets you to the closest facility to care for you. Medjet gets you back to the U.S. to the hospital of your choice once you are stable enough to fly. They cover Covid-related transports as well.
Medjet carries its own policies. The policy is only for transport and no other aspects of travel insurance. They have individual trip policies starting at $99 and annual policies for around $300. Most of their policies limit the age to 74 and younger. Prices are not based on age below that.
To learn more about how Medical Evacuation membership with Medjet Assist works, check out our blog post for a more detailed review.
Hotels, home rentals, BNBs, flights, and other transportation & tours
Expedia is a US-based company whose mission is to power global travel for everyone and everywhere. Whether planning a family vacation, booking for business, or organizing the trip of a lifetime, they are a fantastic resource. Wanderers Compass focuses on independent travel, and using sites like Expedia makes that possible. Every aspect of travel you would need, from airfare, accommodations, rental car, and cruises, to activities to do at your destination, can be booked on Expedia.
Hotels, Home rentals, BNBs, Flights, and other Transportation & Tours
Booking.com connects millions of travelers to memorable experiences, various transportation options, and incredible places to stay – from homes to hotels and much more. It is one of the world’s largest travel marketplaces for established brands and entrepreneurs of all sizes.
We always start with Expedia to check prices, but it sometimes says it is sold out. We then try Booking.com, and we find it lists plenty of rooms. It could be they are a Europe-based company. Try both before booking accommodations.
Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO)
Are you traveling with a family or having an extended stay at your destination?
With over 2 million bookable vacation rentals, VRBO connects homeowners with families and vacationers looking for something more than a hotel for their trip. The VRBO community offers families or groups various rental property types such as condos, cabins, lake rentals, beach houses, etc.
VRBO is under the Expedia group ownership now, which many were worried about, but it hasn’t panned out to be a concern. It is a massive network that has access to all forms of lodging should issues arise. Joelle has used VRBO for many years with her family with no problems.
As the leading marketplace for travel experiences, Viator believes that making memories is what travel is all about. And with 300,000+ experiences to explore—everything from simple tours to extreme adventures (and all the niche, interesting stuff in between)—making memories that will last a lifetime has never been easier.
With industry-leading flexibility and last-minute availability, it’s never too late to make any day extraordinary. This one site has it all and has experiences throughout the world. We use them often during our travels, especially for food tours. We especially take the time to read the reviews provided.
Tripadvisor, the world’s largest travel guidance platform, helps hundreds of millions of people each month become better travelers, from planning to booking to taking a trip. Travelers worldwide use the Tripadvisor site and App to discover where to stay, what to do, and where to eat based on guidance from those who have been there before.
With more than 1 billion reviews and opinions from nearly 8 million businesses, travelers turn to Tripadvisor to find deals on accommodations, book experiences, reserve tables at popular restaurants, and discover great places to see nearby. We use them for guidance and research on every trip; it is a valuable app for the independent traveler.
(Airport and sightseeing service)
A global leader in ground transportation for travelers. They help hundreds of companies around the world enhance their services and boost their revenue with our 5-star ride experiences and hassle-free automation
Founded in 2015 in Athens, Greece, Welcome Pick-ups goes above and beyond the standard transfer service as the first company to deliver a holistic, in-destination travel experience. From the moment a traveler arrives at a new destination until they return home, Welcome accommodates all their travel needs (transfers, travel products, things to do, information) as the easiest, friendliest, and most personalized solution.
Discover Europe by Train
Rail Europe sells train and bus tickets for travel across Europe. They cover 24 countries, 105 rail operations, and 20,000 stations. They are the official rail and bus operations agents in the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. Rail Europe continues to add coverage all the time.
It is a fast, easy, and economical way to purchase European train and bus tickets. Eurail passes are also available to buy through their site.
An excellent source for travel essentials and guides
We now have our own Amazon Storefront with all our favorite travel accessories and gear in one place. Check out our travel store at the link below.
Amazon is one of the most comprehensive online shopping sources in the world. On behalf of their customers, teams worldwide provide lower prices, better selection, and rapid delivery. They offer a vast inventory, and their 1.7 million small and medium businesses worldwide selling on Amazon.com provide extensive options to customers.
We buy most of our travel books, accessories, and luggage from Amazon. We have ordered up to two days before travel and get what we need.
Thoughtfully Designed | Meticulously Constructed | Quality Guaranteed.
We have used this luggage for years, left briefly to try others, and returned to Travelpro. Travelpro luggage is carried by crews from over 90 airlines worldwide.
Travelpro takes the time to learn what travelers want and need, then builds it. The key factor for us is that it must be lightweight upfront and resistant to rough handling. Their luggage is the best, and we could not recommend it enough. It is our go-to luggage.
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