Four Years of Travel Blogging: Highlights and What I’ve Learnt
Four bloody years of Faraway Lucy! Who’d have thought it, eh? The exact date I sat down to write my first blog post (spoiler alert: it was only about 200 words and it basically comprised of me saying ‘hello’ to my non-existent readers) is unknown to me. But I do know that it was sometime in November 2014. Why? Because I’ve started getting emails from Namecheap, Siteground, ConvertKit and the likes saying “yo, cough up some moolah or your hosting will expire”. It’s safe to say I’ve parted with quuuite a bit of my hard earned money this month. So much for celebrating an anniversary, eh? But in this post, I am here to tell you why every penny I put into this blog is so bloody worth it!
How Faraway Lucy Came About
By November 2014, my boyfriend and I had been together for almost a year and he was the one who actually
forced encouraged me to sit down and create a blog. He knew I wanted to write so he used his brilliant tech skills to whip me up a blog. At that time, terms like ‘influencer’ and ‘clout’ barely existed, and I know everyone says this but I genuinely had no idea that people could make money from blogging.
Like many other blogs, Faraway Lucy started as a place for me to write and share my photos. That was it. At the time, Faraway Lucy wasn’t even a travel blog. I had never even really travelled at the time. It was just a general lifestyle blog where I wrote about anything and everything. And luckily, my domain name was easily transferrable to travel.
What Blogging Means To Me
Blogging really is my life, as sad or as lame as it sounds. Creating my blog was by far the best decision I have ever made and it is mad to think how differently the past four years could have been had I not gone with my gut and hit publish on that first, albeit shittily written, post. Blogging has fuelled my passion and hunger for life more than you could ever imagine. It has taught me so much, it has given me ounces of more confidence and it has led me to make so many amazing friends and amazing memories.
Over the years blogging has also become far more than just a hobby for me. This website is my business, my side hustle, whatever you want to call it. It’s my baby and it has secured me countless opportunities both in and outside of the blogosphere. Blogging has even helped me to decide what I want to do with my life career-wise!
My Five Travel Blogging Highlights
Of course, it is the little everyday things which make blogging so amazing. But hey, who doesn’t love their hard work paying off? I really don’t want this post to come across as a big ol’ brag but you’ve gotta toot your own horn every once in a while. It may not be something us Brits are too good at, especially when you’re as painfully humble as I am (as everyone seems to tell me), but after years of pitching and selling myself to brands, I’ve become quite equipped in the art.
Winning two blog awards
I would say that my biggest achievements in the blogosphere have been the two awards I have won. In June 2016 I won Highly Commended in Travel at the UK Blog Awards and just a few months ago in September 2018 I won Best Up and Coming Travel Blog in the Flight Centre Travel Blog Awards.
Stepping foot into that first snazzy London ceremony, and having champagne and canapes galore forced upon me, at the ripe old age of 18 was nothing short of overwhelming. But equally, it was spectacular. Even being shortlisted in the top ten of the Travel category out of thousands of entries was recognition enough. But then to only go and win Highly Commended placing me in the top three blogs in the UK? Now that’s bloody ace, that is.
Similarly, actually going and winning my category in the Flight Centre Travel Blog Awards was just cray-zee. Especially because the award came from a company as freakin’ awesome and globally renowned as Flight Centre.
Winning a free holiday to Thailand
I remember this day very well. It was the first day I had ever properly step foot into my university library. I was just a little fresher and I had decided that I would actually sit down and do some work for my degree. Fast forward twenty minutes later and an email rolled into my inbox from icelolly.com saying I had just won a £1000 holiday voucher and a camera for a blog I had written on my dream holiday destinations! I mean clearly, this was the world congratulating me for finally getting my ass into the library.
But in all seriousness, that day was genuinely one of the happiest days of my life. I was absolutely elated. Gaz and I decided to put our holiday voucher to good use by jetting off to Chiang Mai, Thailand for a week two summers ago, staying in a beautiful 4-star hotel. This trip was nothing short of incredible. We had such a blast. And it was all thanks to this little ol’ blog of mine!
Going on my first press trip to Ibiza
Then, just a few weeks later, I was invited on a press trip to Ibiza by that same – incredible, might I add – company! I had only turned 19 half a year ago and I was going on my first ever, fully paid press trip. It was exciting, to say the least. I had a fun couple of days sunbathing, partying and even parasailing.
Admittedly, whilst I’m still very young now (bring on 22 in two weeks time!), I was very young when I went on my first press trip. My mental health was a right shit storm at the time. I was a very vulnerable and fragile person. I don’t know why I thought I could cope with a press trip at the time. And to be honest, I didn’t. Luckily, I was with a really lovely group of girls who were dead understandable.
Although my first press trip didn’t go down a complete treat, it is amazing to look back and not even recognise the person I was at the time. If 2016 Lucy could see 2018 Lucy gallivanting around New Zealand, surrounded by about 30 people 24/7, getting drunk and sleeping only four hours a night, whilst still excelling in a 9 to 5 job and coursework, she would be well and truly shook to the core. It’s mad how much of an impact huge life experiences can have on you as a person. But I am a million times stronger, tougher and a far happier person than I was just a few years ago.
Working as an ambassador for Choice Hotels
Landing an ambassadorship with none other than Choice Hotels was a huge achievement for me. I have been used to working with brands for years now on one-off collaborations but to have an ongoing collaboration with a brand is a pretty awesome feat. My job was to write several articles on the West Midlands for their Travel Top 6 website. I also worked with them on a six-month-long social media campaign and even travelled to Munich for a press trip to create content on the city. I absolutely loved this ambassadorship and it has definitely been one of my travel blogging highlights!
Collaborating with so many amazing brands
So far I have mentioned Flight Centre, icelolly.com and Choice Hotels but there are so many other amazing companies that I have been so fortunate to work with. As aforementioned, I feel the need to disclaim that this really isn’t to brag at all. This is more a way to say thank you and to promote brands I’ve had a great experience working with.
Just a handful of these brands include 25hours Hotel, Bratislava Tourist Board, Brit Movie Tours, Clickstay, Donkey Republic, Exodus Travels, Expedia, Go Ape, Go Euro, Great Little Breaks, Host Unusual, Iglu Cruise, Inntravel, Lufthansa, Osprey, Richardson Hotels, The Eden Project, The Lost Gardens of Heligan, The Student Room, Unibaggage.com, and UNiDAYS. You can click on each link to find the sponsored work I have done with each company if you fancy a little read!
I have also been so lucky to really pave my way into the glamping world, getting to work with so many incredible glamping businesses including Harvest Moon Holidays, Herefordshire Hideaways, Loveland Farm, and West Stow Pods. Whilst working with multinational companies is not something I ever take for granted, there is something really special about working with small, independent businesses who are just so passionate about what they do! Helping to make a real difference to their businesses is an amazing feeling.
Five Things I’ve Learnt From Blogging
1. Blogging will become your lifeline through dark times
In the year following my sister’s death, I didn’t feel up to doing anything. I dropped out and deferred my year at university. And there was no way I would have been able to hold down a part-time job. But at the same time, I didn’t want to just mope around in bed all day. Although, spoiler alert: this is how I spent a lot of my days at the time.
So, running Faraway Lucy became my full-time job. It was what got me out of bed and kept me going. I put all my heart and soul into my blog. I concentrated more on making money from blogging and in that year, I earned a few grand from my blog. In that time I began focusing more on my Pinterest strategy to increase my page views, later writing a 30+ page eBook on how to skyrocket your blog traffic through Pinterest. I also wrote a 30+ page eBook on how to save money for travel. With the help of my software engineering boyfriend, I created a brand new website design for my blog and added new pages like Resources an My Upcoming Travel Plans. I also focused more on branding by creating a new logo, an on-brand media kit and a newsletter.
In short, the joy this blog brings me and my continued motivation to see this little business/passion of mine succeed is what keeps me going through tough times.
2. If you don’t ask, you don’t get
“If you don’t ask, you don’t get” is my mantra for all aspects of life, but especially when it comes to this whole blogging malarkey. So many things I have done would never have come around had I simply not had the balls to ask. Once your blog is more established, you will get opportunities flying into your inbox. But that doesn’t just happen overnight. Pitching to huge brands when you’re a small blogger can be nervewracking at first but everyone’s got to start building their portfolio somewhere so just ask!
The first time that I properly pitched to a company was to the amazing Loveland Farm who kindly hosted Gaz and I for two nights two and a half years ago. Had I not pitched to this company, I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to review all these other amazing glamping sites in the past two years either.
3. Authenticity and honesty are indispensable
One of the most popular posts on my blog to this day is On Losing a Sister: Two Months On. Publishing a post that showed me at my most fragile and vulnerable was scary at first but it ended up receiving an overwhelmingly positive response.
I am really honest and myself on this website. And that integrity is something I hold dear to my heart. This website is mine and therefore I treat it as such. I swear like a sailor on here and I crack one too many shit jokes. But that’s how I am in real life so why should I change myself online? Luckily, my very casual way of writing hasn’t stopped any brands from working with me. If anything, that authenticity is what has put me in good stead for success.
When you first started blogging, it is difficult to avoid falling into the trap of imitating the writing styles of other bloggers, writers and journalists. Whilst this may get you so far, at the end of the day your personal voice is your unique selling point. Ain’t nobody taking that shit away from you. So, trust your intuition and trust your own voice. And don’t be afraid to open up every once in a while. Yeah, those kind of posts probably aren’t going to rake in the views. And neither will you be ranking on the first page of Google. But it will help the readers you already have to understand you on a whole other level.
4. Blogging is not free
Too many people think you can just start a website for free and start writing. And that’s it. Paid opportunities will start falling into your lap. Believe me, I wish running a successful business was that cheap and easy. Sure, you can start a blog for free on Blogger or WordPress.com without parting with your pennies. But if you want your blog to support you financially then you have got to invest in it.
I invest huge amounts of money into Faraway Lucy. Siteground, Namecheap, ConvertKit, Tailwind and Keysearch are just a few of the subscriptions I have on direct debit. And that’s not to mention the technological equipment necessary to run a blog, like a laptop, phone, camera and lenses, etc. I am well aware that I choose to spend my money on blogging (and I don’t regret a single penny I’ve spent on it) but when you’ve got several direct debits regularly coming out of your account, it can be a right downer checking your bank balance sometimes.
5. Only a small amount of your time blogging will actually be spent writing content
Again, if only it were as easy as writing a post and hitting publish. Blogging involves far more than just writing. On any one day, you could be doing photography, writing, optimising posts for SEO, graphic design, website design and management, pitching to and emailing businesses, video calling clients, negotiating fees, reading and signing contracts, invoicing, social media management, email marketing, affiliate marketing, attending networking events, and the list goes on. If you are blogging professionally, blogging is more akin to running your own business than say, writing a diary. I don’t know about others, but for me, that’s what makes it so exciting!
Tell me: Are you a travel blogger? If so, what is the biggest thing that blogging has taught you? If not, have you ever thought about starting a blog?
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