What is it like, when what you do for a living is suddenly completely off-limit? As a professional travel blogger, my life and business have been turned upside down in the past few weeks. I am grateful that I’m healthy, but I can’t help thinking about the impact the pandemic has had on my work as a content creator. Come with me behind the scenes of my blog, and get a glimpse of travel blogging during corona and the global pandemic.
It is a weird time to be a travel blogger!
Since the arrival of the Coronavirus pandemic in the UK in March 2020, I have lost the majority of my income. Seemingly from one day to the other, people stopped visiting my website to research their trips to Scotland. They stopped using my affiliate links to book hotel stays and rental cars. They stopped hiring me as their personal itinerary planner and did no longer require walking tours with me in Glasgow.
Plans for upcoming campaigns with Scottish tourism boards and activity providers had to be cancelled and postponed indefinitely. It is likely that I will have to cancel my hiking retreat in Glencoe in June. With events cancelled and publications going under, there is very little freelance work available for travel writers and speakers at the moment. Only my online shops on Etsy and Pixels are still generating a small income and I am grateful for every single order I get.
Go back and count – I just told you about eight sources of income I use to make money as a blogger. That is quite a broad set-up and for a long time, I thought I had built a pretty secure business model – never completely reliant on one income stream or one client alone. But now, seven of those have dried up completely.
So, what does a travel blogger do, when travelling is off the cards for the unforeseeable future?
It is not easy to continue travel blogging during Corona – but is that necessarily a bad thing?
This is an article about the realities of being a travel blogger in 2020 and what bloggers like myself have to offer their communities near and far. I’ll also share my opinion on the impact will the lockdown have on travel blogging and the tourism industry as a whole.
Why I am writing this article – A Mini Rant
First off, I want to say that I am not writing this post to complain about my situation. I am in a very privileged position during this pandemic – I’m healthy, I have a safe roof over my head, I live with a person I love, there are multiple parks in walking/cycling distance, I have very few business overheads and enough savings to fall back on for a wee while. And for all that, I am grateful.
I am writing this post because I want to shed light on my job as a travel blogger – a profession, that is so often misunderstood and misrepresented.
I love being a travel blogger. I have turned my passion for travelling, writing, photography and innovation into a viable online business. I am proud of my achievements: winning awards, flying reviews from itinerary clients, great feedback from campaign partners, rising audience numbers.
But I am tired of the negativity some people bring to the table.
I can’t think of many jobs that are admired and ridiculed by so many people at the same time.
Self-obsessed, entitled, superficial, unethical – those are just some words that people use to describe digital content creators, bloggers and influencers. Many of them are Twitter trolls, but even journalists for traditional media seem to indulge in “blogger bashing” on a regular basis. Just last week, I read an article about travel bloggers during the pandemic in one of England’s largest online news outlets. The article covered a range of bloggers and influencers, but the way they were written about, left no doubt that the reader is supposed to feel resentment towards them. This was not an article about young entrepreneurs and small business owners who had lost their income and are not receiving adequate support from the government despite paying their taxes. It was an article about spoilt brats who post self-obsessed selfies on Instagram and will finally have to “suck it up” and “get real jobs”. One look at the comment section and you could tell that this message was received.
[Unlike this article, I got interviewed for, that provides a very empathetic window on the realities of travel blogging during Corona.]
When I look at my own platforms, though, I hear words like helpful, inspiring, resourceful and encouraging from my readers and followers. There is a gap between how individual travel bloggers are perceived by their readers (positive), and how the overall profession is portrayed on a larger scale (negative).
I am not going to go into more detail as to why people hate bloggers or influencers (or why they love bashing bloggers online) – that’s a whole other story. But I think this provides essential context to why I wanted to talk about my current situation as a travel blogger during the lockdown.
What does a travel blogger do, when they can’t travel?
Travel blogging more than posting selfies in stunning locations. Even a successful, professional influencer does more than that. (But that is not to say that there is anything wrong with posting selfies.)
If you follow me (or any other professional travel blogger) on more than one platform, you will know that we constantly create content for different channels, regardless of whether we are travelling or not. In fact, I usually spend more weeks in my home office than on the road.
To be honest, the current travel restrictions have had very little impact on my day-to-day routine as a travel blogger. I’m used to working from home and doing most of my meetings with partners and clients online.
The majority of my time, I use for “background tasks”. Stuff that is not particularly exciting or picturesque, but needs to happen to keep the website and my business going. Updating old posts, fixing code issues, improving my site speed, taking courses and masterclasses, writing new email sequences, updating my free e-book and resources library, networking with other businesses in the tourism industry and strategising for the future.
I am not only a content creator or blogger. I am also a small business owner and entrepreneur. As such my world never stands still, even if it feels like that during this lockdown. There is always something to learn, to improve or something new to try.
I still write blog posts about Scotland and post on social media. I’m finally finding the time to write articles that have been saved to my drafts for months. I might not promote my new articles on social media as much, but if you check my blog, you will see new content pop up on a regular basis.
It has been a process figuring out how much I want to keep talking about travel on social media – using hashtags like #TravelSomeDay or #ScotlandWillWait to send the right message. I am still figuring this out – some days I might talk about trips I want to take in the future or post a throwback to a particularly memorable travel experience. Every Sunday, I post a long story on Facebook and Instagram to whisk you away to a different place in Scotland.
Other times, I talk about things that have nothing to do with travel – I just share something personal that is going on in my life. I am sharing a lot more personal stuff: insights into my work life, what I get up to at home, more of what I cook & eat, how I’m doing with the lockdown, and you also get to see more of my cat Dexy.
I feel more connected to myself and others that way – I don’t want to pretend everything is business as usual, because it certainly isn’t. Not every conversation has to be about travel. I’m not a robot. By being open and honest about how I feel, I might be able to help others with their situation too. I love connecting with readers and followers on a more meaningful and personal level this way. To me, that’s what social media is all about.
What can travel bloggers to for their communities?
As a travel blogger, I am part of many communities and in times like these, I want to make sure that I am doing something to reach out and contribute.
Of course, there is my own community – the readers of my blog, anyone who follows me on social media – in other words: you! I have already mentioned how important it is right now to stay active on social media to connect with people and offer whatever you can to support each other through this tough period.
I’d like to think that over the years of running Watch Me See, I have built many relationships with people of different walks of life. I hope that the majority of my readers trust my advice when it comes to travel, but I have noticed – now more than ever – that they also trust me as a person. I get messages all the time asking about the current situation in the UK, when travel to Scotland might be possible again, what is safe to do and what isn’t etc.
Since I am not a medical professional or know anything about dealing with pandemics, I point every one of them to official sources. However, I really appreciate that someone would turn to me for advice at all. That trust is incredibly precious to me!
As such, I hope that I can offer my immediate community of Scotland lovers a professional and unbiased ear – and some distraction from the current situation.
I am also part of the Scottish tourism industry. For example, I am a member of Wild Scotland, an organisation that represents adventure and nature tourism operators in Scotland. I am an active member of Travel Massive Glasgow, who host monthly networking events for local tourism businesses. But there are many other businesses in the same storm as me beyond that – accommodation providers, tourism boards, tour companies etc. All of these businesses are hurting at the moment, just as much as my own – or even more.
I feel like I owe it to them to keep amplifying their voices – not in the sense of unpaid content creation (I can afford that even less now than ever before), but in the sense of call-outs, post shares etc. And I hope they feel the same with regards to me.
Many tourism businesses in Scotland are at risk to go under as a consequence of the lockdown and travel restrictions. I want to make sure I support them any way I can to help as many as possible to survive and/or come back once it is safe to travel again. We rely on each other.
Read my post about Scottish tourism businesses you can support by buying vouchers or purchasing from their online shops right now!
Also, check out my friend Gemma’s post about the best virtual tours you can do from home.
Finally, I am of course also part of the wider community of Scottish society. As such, I see my role as a travel blogger as someone who can help spread the right message. For example, I wrote a post about why it’s so important to stay at home and stick to local exercise which was published the day for the lockdown was announced.
In the week before the lockdown, there was a surge in people travelling up to the Highlands, thinking that it was safe to self-isolate there. However, what people were not aware of was the lack of ICU units in rural hospitals and clinics, the lack of doctors or hospitals on very remote areas and on islands, and other risks they were entering by travelling to the mountains.
Call me an influencer, but I know that this post had an impact on some people and changed their behaviour.
I encouraged them to reconsider their choices. As bloggers, we have the power to convey important messages, especially at times when the average use of social media is up significantly (source | source).
What happens to travel after the pandemic?
Right now, we don’t know when it will be safe to travel again.
It is likely that before opening our international borders, the government will introduce freedom of movement within the country first, potentially tightening restrictions again if the numbers develop negatively. The Scottish government has made that clear in its framework for decision making.
I don’t want to sound like I am only focusing on the silver linings – the virus has brought too much devastation to only focus on the positive – but there are a few things I think people might have learnt during this lockdown that could have a positive impact on the way we travel.
I see people paying more attention to each other and checking in on each other with more compassion and awareness. I see the undeniable, positive effect the travel ban has had on the environment (a drop in pollution, increased air quality, less “cultural noise” | source).
And even though it has taken the backseat temporarily, let’s not forget about the pressing issues of the climate crisis.
We always knew that human activity had to change in order to save the planet. Now we know, that it is actually possible to make drastic changes if necessary.
I am not saying, let’s eliminate all travel entirely to cut those emissions back. But I do think (or hope) that people will come out of this lockdown, and spend some time reflecting on their habits – from buying £1-chicken legs to booking £10-flights to Portugal. I hope that as a society we learn to make more conscious consumer decisions and thus also travel more responsibly.
Just because you can do something, does that mean you have to do it?
I expect an increased interest in staycations, not only because flights won’t be possible or will be too expensive initially – but also because people will appreciate more what they have at their doorstep. I hope that more people will be interested in nature-based tourism, responsible activities and sustainable ways of travelling. And of course, I want to offer inspiring posts and useful resources to facilitate that!
Being a travel blogger is my dream job, but that does not mean that I relax at a luxury hotel all day, post a selfie every now and then and twiddle my thumbs while the cash is rolling in. I know that going full-time with the blog and being self-employed was the right decision for me, but this pandemic has made me aware of how susceptive of global events my business really is. I knew it was risky, but I did not expect the world to slam the brakes on me this hard.
I am healthy and able to stay at home right now, but the outbreak of the Coronavirus has nevertheless had a massive impact on my life and business. And it will keep impacting my life long after the health risks are dealt with.
Current estimates reckon that it will take years for the Scottish travel industry to bounce back (source). While that means I might have to find alternative ways to expand my business, I am hopeful that it will also bring about positive change for the global travel industry.
As a travel blogger, I want to contribute to this positive change and I hope you stick with me on this journey!
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All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.