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The Downside To Having The Greatest Job In The World

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girl with a camera at the Grand CanyonOne thing that really pisses me off is when I hear models complain about how hard their job is. I don’t care how many hours you have to stand there or how long it takes to apply makeup, at the end of the day you are a model not a coal miner. Coal miners have a reason to bitch about their job. It is dangerous, dirty, dark and one way or another it will probably kill you. To the best of my knowledge, no model as ever suffered from “fashion lung” disease.

Likewise, I often hear travel writers how their job is not all that glamorous. That they don’t have good wages, their assignments are very hard, press trips are very hectic, etc.

Well, let me just say for the record that I have the greatest f*%#ing job in the world. There is nothing else I’d rather be doing and I have no regrets whatsoever about traveling around the world. I’ve seen and done things that only a small fraction of our species ever will. I highly recommend “world traveler/photographer/blogger guy” as a career path to all you high school kids out there.

That being said, while the positives far outweigh the negatives, there are some negatives.

Right now, I am exhausted.

The last few weeks months I have been running almost non-stop. I spent a month driving through Canada in my car, 10 days in South Africa, 10 days back in Canada and then a week in Las Vegas for the 2010 Blog World Expo. Most of those days were filled with meetings and visits to various places. Last year I wrote a post which talked about the paradox of travel blogging.

In brief, the paradox is this: if you are traveling, you are not blogging and if you are blogging you are not traveling.

You can’t be out and about exploring the world and be sitting at your computer at the same time. You have to pick one or the other.

As I sit here at JFK waiting for my flight, I realize just how different this type of blogging is from what the vast majority of bloggers do. “How to write a blog post after you return from your hotel exhausted after a day of sightseeing and meetings” is never going to be a session at Blog World, but it is something I deal with almost every day. Usually, the exhaustion wins.

There is a stereotype of bloggers working in their pajamas or sitting in their parents basement. Let me tell you that nothing could be farther from the truth.

While I do make sure to always put a new photo up every day, my “to do” list of articles to write just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Just to give you a taste of what is coming down the pipe, here are some of the posts I have in the queue:

  • The architecture of Salvador Calatrava.
  • Swimming with great white sharks.
  • Hot air ballooning over the South African Veld
  • Dinner at the men’s dining club in San Sebastian
  • Traveling by train from Toronto to Quebec City

Oh, and I also have over 4,000 unprocessed photos sitting on my laptop waiting to be processed. That is the real bottle neck for me. I make it a point to only use my own photos in everything I do, and I also use images with every article. This means my blog posts are held hostage by my photo editing.

Excuses, however, are like assholes. Everyone has one and they all stink.

I need to figure out a better way to work. Rather than whining and saying “woe is me”, I’m going to take some steps to rectify things:

  1. After the first week in November I have nothing scheduled for the rest of the month. I’m planning to go somewhere and just work. I’ve narrowed things down to Colombia or Hawaii. It is possible I might end up going to both if things don’t pan out in December.
  2. I’m going to start doing more video. I recently purchased a new Sanyo video camera and actually got a free Kodak video camera this weekend in Vegas (just my luck that I get a free camera a few days after buying one). It is much easier for me to just talk for a few minutes that it is to try and write a blog post with photos. Expect more video.
  3. I’m going to get some help. I’ve been talking about getting a virtual assistant for ages but have never pulled the trigger. Mariya has been helping me get my email newsletter out, but other than that this is still entirely a solo effort. There are so many little things I do each day that I could free up at ton of time just having someone help out to do those things.
  4. Get on a schedule. As things get more serious, I’m having to actually plan where I’m going to be, sometimes months in advance. This is a big change from what I’ve been doing the last 3.5 years. I also need to get the blog on an editorial schedule.

So, that is where things are at. I’m off to spend the next 10 days in Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao.

  • 49 Comments... What's your take?

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Comments

  1. Tara says:

    I loved this! It’s great to see that the grass is always greener effect isn’t going on with you. I want your job so bad!!! Also, I really think you should go to Colombia. I lived in Hawaii for a year and visited Colombia last Spring. I absolutely love it and can’t wait to go back! If you do go to Colombia you must check out Playa Blanca. No electricity, and everything is extremely cheap- a complete change from Cartagena.

  2. Johnny Quest says:

    I don’t know know. Some days travel copywriter/blogger feels like being a coal miner! Minus the deadly cave ins.

  3. what you wrote is true! Thanks for the inspiration….

  4. Vago says:

    Damn straight Gary. If you are blogging you aren’t traveling and vice versa. Then when you throw having a job to pay the bills into the mix and trying to save up your nickels and dimes for that next trip- well, then that $20 a month makes a pretty big difference between doing something that sucks your time and energy and doing something that might provide a future income. Every dollar that comes from my blog feels like a sweet reward even though it works out to something like fifty cents an hour if I think about it. I can’t wait to see your monetization plans put into action. One thing I did do was finally ditch adsense. It just seemed like I was ripping my readers off by letting google choose the ads for me, especially when I was getting such a small cut for the exposure and association with my brand.

    All the best,

    Vago

  5. Great post. It seems everyone knows about this blog – except us, until now. :) We started a blog nearly a year ago for a ‘bit of fun.’ Now, it takes up a majority of our day and like you, I use all my own photos so we’re slaves to the photos being processed. I used to have all my photos in neatly labelled files and folders on the laptop – now they’re all over the place. This month has to be a tidying up month.
    We’re also debating, to monetise or not. Will it compromise the blog? Will it annoy the readers? Is it really worth it?
    There are two of us so how you get through all of this on your own AND travel is good going! We love our new hobby but I’m glad I’m not trying to do it all on my own.

  6. Your comments remind me of my own situation, though I don’t travel or blog nearly as much as you do. I go through cycles with my travel writing: while I’m traveling I’m too busy enjoying my traveling to blog, and like you what I write or the pictures I post are a fraction of what I’ve experienced, and I would very much like to share more. I’ve concluded that it’s best to write just enough to express myself and not so much for writing to be burdensome, and what I don’t get to I push into the future, with the idea of getting to it gradually.

  7. Holgs says:

    I’m playing catch-up with the work side of things in BKK at the moment.

    For me photography is my only source of income – the blogging is completely gratuitous, but I can relate very well to what you’re saying.

    To me the key is to be organised about what it is that you do and then disciplined about setting aside a period of time each day or each week for it – for me writing or image processing. Sometimes this means saying no to going out or taking part in other travel activities. Travelers on a temporary stint can afford to live like there’s no tomorrow – because the day after that they earn their money back in the cubicle (or coal mine). If you’re doing it long-term you just have to pace yourself a bit and realise that the pace is a little different from many fellow travelers.

    Still I also wouldn’t trade it back for the previous way of going about things!

  8. The paradox you mention is absolutely true. I can’t agree with you more. I have just completed a year backpacking across India. I have nearly a 100 posts to complete and upload to my blog.

    One more thing. When you actually write you post is quite important. Is it the day after, a week later or months later? I find that writing it weeks later is sometimes better because you forego minor details and focus on what you remember most about the trip. In a way, you let memory and feelings filter content. Boring descriptive passages are left out. Post is crisp.

  9. Jay says:

    Hey Gary,

    I have just stumbled upon your blog through twitter and I have to agree, you really do have the best job in the world! I love travelling, but unfortunately I am burdened with my two jobs and study at university so I can’t do much of it. I think everyone has read the stories of travel writers, photographers, bloggers etc who have found themselves in a bad situation and have viewed their job negatively from now on. Congratulations on keeping positive! I am sure that you are getting more out of your life and travels than many others who let things affect them too much.

  10. Adriana says:

    great post! I like the model/coal miner point. and yes, I would like to have a job like yours… :) safe travels! (btw< I´ve been blogging in english too! 2 blogs (one in portuguese, one in english… lot´s of work! + a full time job) what was I thinking? ;)

  11. Ed Helvey says:

    Gary, I appreciate your honesty. I am just beginning this “journey” and have officially made myself a “professional nomad” over the past two years. I now reside in a tiny (private mail) box in a big room with about 3,500 other nomads in Rapid City, SD – a “residency base/mail forwarding” service.

    Unlike you, I don’t have any significant savings to back myself up – so, I’m learning to do this as frugally and creatively as possible. I will shortly be traveling the U.S. and Canada full-time in a small, modified for my specific needs and lifestyle, motor home. I’m looking forward to meeting the endless number of exciting and interesting people across this continent.

    I’ve traveled quite a bit this year, almost all by car using low cost budget motels and couch surfing. I blog while I’m traveling – and on my longest trip I set aside time almost every morning to post the preceding day’s experience. I didn’t do as well on my last trip (ended two weeks ago) so, I’m still catching up on posting from that one. I use a dash mounted video camera to log the trips plus my still camera.

    You are absolutely right – this is hard to keep up with. But I don’t consider it a job. I have never felt or been freer or happier in my life. It’s not a job – to me – it’s life. I enjoy following your travels since I understand what you’re about.

    I’m planning to generate my funding several ways including conducting seminars and workshops on “living and working free” and “living free and happily in a chaotic world” as I travel. But, this will all take time, just as you have noted. I’m just beginning to build my audience. I’ll be very interested in your plans as you find ways to generate funds to support your “travel habit” and wean off using your savings. Keep on keepin’ on!

    • Gary says:

      By “job” I just mean it is something I take seriously. I don’t view it in the same was as I would a job where you work for someone else.

      • Ed Helvey says:

        Right on! I love to promote the philosophy of “Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow” which happens to be the title of a book by Marsha Sinatar that I’ve given to lots of friends. You’re definitely onto something, Gary. Love the photos.

  12. Nice writting. Bitter and true!
    Loved your bit on models and coal miners.

    Be well, brother.

  13. Boy, I hate to be the one to give you bad news but if you’re going to start doing more video, you’ll need to add another five hours a day to your work schedule. My blog is almost entirely videos of my travels and observations/experiences living in France so I end up spending probably five times more time filming, then editing, then finding non copyrighted music, then posting and adding narrative than people who just write their blog posts. It’s tons more work than writing or adding photos. So please give this some thought as you add that to your blog. The other negative is you start seeing your travels all through the video camera’s viewfinder and it really takes away from the spontaniety of traveling. Good luck, Cynthia in the French Alps

    • Gary says:

      I have no intention to make high production value videos. These are going to be one take, no edit shorts with me talking at the camera. That’s it.

  14. I’d be interested in learning how you schedule your time for blogging. Do you take notes while you’re out and about? How long after until you post about something you did?

    • Gary says:

      It depends. I always try to put photos in my articles so how quickly I can get up a post depends on how quickly I can edit my photos. My problem is the photos piling up on each other. I can go out and easily take over 100 photos in a given day. Currently, I have an enormous backlog. I’m going to try to catch up during November and plan my schedule going forward so this doesn’t happen again.

  15. Hi … I can see your perspective – and respect it, but do not share it.

    I believe it best to get away from the “(travel) Blogger” fame cliches, and actually focus on travelling.

    I have been travelling constantly since 1988 (100+ countries); and do so by working – teaching English & selling art, mostly – in foreign countries as I travel. This way, I have my localized travel exploration and save for the next major journey, without the pressure of tuning into cyberspace daily to perform art for my “my fans” (- actually, I have none: still no Facebook or Twitter accounts activated).

    Anyway, to travel freely and on one’s own terms I feel a person must only engage with the internet world when they want to … a successful blog can be a huge burden. Something that goes against the spirit of a free-spirit-traveling ideology.

    Off course, we are all different; this is only my view …

    Regards – Michael Robert Powell AKA the candy trail …

  16. Marcin says:

    Hey Gary, why dont you pay someone to do it for you? Money may be tight, but you might make more if you can get someone to post for you daily. Who knows…

    • Gary says:

      The focus of my site is my travels. Having someone post something just for the sake of posting something would be totally counter to what I’m trying to do.

  17. I knew travel bloggers worked really hard, but I have a new appreciation for their work after reading this blog post! Lately I’ve been thinking about not just the incredible work ethic travel blogging requires, but also the courage to just get started. This is embarrassing to admit, but I have a blog about my city, written for travelers and newcomers to the area, and I have yet to get up the courage to consider it “ready” and share it with the world. My blog-in-progress only requires a weekly entry, so I can’t imagine more frequent blogging – while traveling!

    On every vacation (most recently to Norway in July and a cruise in the Eastern Caribbean in March), I pack a journal; I start out with good intentions, but as the trip continues I find it harder and harder to keep up; consequently most of my travel journals have great detail about the misadventures of getting to the destination and pretty good detail about the first day but then it’s just random notes.

    Long-story short, I can imagine how challenging it is to travel & blog, and I admire the fact that you’re tackling your challenges head-on. You have a great gameplan, and I look forward to seeing its fruits!

  18. Cheryl says:

    Gary,
    I agree- you have the best job! Traveling and making a life doing that sounds wonderful. I would be interested in learning more about your virtual assistant job. I have a good background with computers, organizing and of course travel.
    I would love to hear from you!
    Thanks,
    Cheryl

  19. Anthony says:

    We think about these things everyday we are on the road. Is blogging taking up travel time? We try and have happy medium and only write articles whilst we are in bed or when it is raining for days on end. We travel first and blog second. If our blog makes a little money, so be it….But the main reason it to be traveling for new exciting experiences.

    I have always wondered why your site has had limited advertising. I really like that you put your readers first. I look forward to seeing your long term plan.

  20. Yvette says:

    Models suffer disproportionately from eating disorders like anorexia and bulemia in order to have the right figure to keep their jobs, and these are just as real as any other “coal miner’s lung” disease. Just sayin’.

    That said, I met Bill Bryson the travel writer once and he mentioned how when he started out writing he hated how he’d spend a lot of afternoons just sitting down writing about all that had happened to him. Eventually he just ended up training his memory so he forced himself to memorize all that had happened that was worth remembering (and yeah you need the experience to know what’s WORTH remembering!) so he wasn’t wasting travel time on writing it all down.

    Granted the guy goes home in between his trips so he will sit down to write things down EVENTUALLY without losing travel time, but I thought the general idea of redoubling efforts to remember details was a good one!

  21. Jools Stone says:

    In terms of the paradox, I fall firmly in the ‘welded to the sofa and laptop while dreaming, reading, tweeting and writing about travel’ camp practically all day. And this makes me feel desperately inauthentic and like I should apologise for it. If I was on the road I don’t think that I’d miss this stuff that much, but I’m pretty sure I would worry about it, and of losing momentum altogether and giving it up. What’s the happy medium, if indeed there is one?

  22. Cheryl says:

    Nice job. We also run a blog and want to get it to a place where it first and foremost helps travelers with pertinent and timely info and someday maybe make a little money for travel. We have also encountered your paradox since we hit the road in 2007 and started to plan how we will manage that when we get out there again. Our initial idea will be to set aside a 2 – 3 week period every 2 months where we will do a home exchange/house sit so that we can focus on getting content written and wade thru the 1000’s of photos we anticipate. We hope that it will feel like a normal setting to be in a home vs in and out of hostels, trains, buses etc. Sort of like your Hawaii idea – I vote for Hawaii BTW. We spent time there and it is a magical place to let your creative juices flow. Aloha and Mahalo!

  23. Miss Britt says:

    I ADORE what I do, but there is also more “work” involved when you are traveling in order to write in order to get paid in order to pay bills. Deadlines that aren’t personally set, for example.

    That being said, if a person finds themselves constantly bitching about their job, it may be time for them to seek out a new one.

    • Gary says:

      I fully understand that someone who has to pay the bills and feed a family has more pressure than a man-child bachelor who gets to galavant around the world. That being said, if someone doesn’t like the business, there is always McDonald’s.

  24. Miranda says:

    Oh, I LOVE Curacao!!! My family went there almost accidentally after a hurricane messed up our Mexico plans, and it’s our number one favourite place to go now! :D

  25. Monique says:

    I, like you and Pam view my writing as a job and am trying to see the big picture. You’re great inspiration. Thanks.

  26. Debbie Ferm says:

    Interesting in that I just made that model comparison to someone this morning, Gary, complete with the comparison to working in a mine! I’ve been seeing a lot of that myself lately, and it is getting mighty old. Yes, it’s a job, and I can see where people try to make the point that it’s not the same as a vacation. Beyond that, give me a break. Models and travel writers both need to quit their caterwauling.

    Thanks for saying it out loud.

  27. Crissy says:

    And for those just starting out at blogging, they might be balancing a real paying job too.

    But you’re doing a great job with the blog, love the photos and when a new post comes up.

  28. jen laceda says:

    Gary, thanks for being honest and candid about the whole situation. I’m with you on all the points you just made! I am looking forward to all your future posts :)

  29. Gray says:

    If your appearances on stage at TBEX in New York are any example to go by, I think your videos will be a lot of fun, Gary. Can’t wait to see them.

  30. Keith Gill says:

    Gary, I like your writing and enjoy reading about your trips but I’m going to have to disagree that you have a job as a travel writer.
    I see nothing wrong in you saying that you have the financial ability to travel and that some day you may write a book or develop a TV series or what ever you may wish to do that would generate income from your chosen life.
    Telling me you have a job is like Jeanne Dee telling me she travels on a limited budget.
    Please, you are both wealthy people who are living an enviable life. There is no reason to hide behind your good fortune and portray yourself as someone you are not. At least not yet.

    • Gary says:

      Keith, I’ve made no bones about the fact that I’ve done most of my travel on my savings. I’ve been extremely open about how I’m doing what I’m doing. That being said, 1) I’m a travel blogger, not a travel writer. 2) it would be much more easy for me to do nothing than it would be to run this blog.

      Suffice it to say I do have a plan and I fully intend to make this profitable. Over the next few months this should become clearer to everyone. My savings have been enough to travel where I have so far, but it is not enough to keep doing it forever. I view it as seed money.

      What I am doing is very different than most bloggers. I think putting up ads that make $20/month is a waste of time. I understand why some people want to monetize immediately, but I’ve had the luxury to be patient and focus on growing my audience.

      • Keith Gill says:

        Gary, I look forward to seeing what comes next Gary.
        Safe travels.

      • Russell says:

        I’ve been watching with interest as several of the travel bloggers work on monetizing their sites. It does seem that banner ads are unlikely to generate enough revenue to turn a travel hobby into a decent living. Also, once you turn your blog into a business you are slave to the traffic numbers. So rather than writing for yourself and gathering readers organically you would have to spend time marketing and modify your content to be more exciting/sticky.

        When you take pictures you are already one frame removed from the actual experience as you worry about how things will look as opposed to your own personal experience. Blogging seems to have the same problem only much worse. Now everything you do is experienced through the filter of your readers. Do you find that blogging is taking you out of the moment?

        Of course, we all have to make a living so I’m very interested in your plans. If you reject the advertisement route what will you do? If you can retain the enjoyment of travel while making enough to fund your wanderings you will have really broken through to the over side. I wish you luck.

        Russell

    • Nomadic Matt says:

      Ha! He just compared you to ST3! BURN!

  31. Kelsi says:

    the travel blogger paradox made me laugh. so true. i always think i’ll write a bunch of great posts in the midst of trips and then get caught up with um…traveling. striking the balance can be a challenge.

  32. Its funny Gary I find myself with the same conundrum and on top of that I have the day trading to deal with as well. Great post look forward to seeing the video as you have a hysterical personality.. I wonder if you will run into any snags with the video editing. look forward to it

  33. Jillian says:

    As my blog gets on the travel radar, I am both worried and excited about my idea of taking on the world with my 3 boys and husband. Be careful for what you wish for!

    Great blog, looking forward to living vicariously through your adventures and yeah, after working in film production, I hear your pain with models who complain but thankfully the cool ones made up for the primadonnas.

  34. pam says:

    You and I, Gary, are often in agreement. That freaks me out a little.

    I wrote somewhere about how I met a marine welder at a party and he asked me what I do. I’m not going to tell THAT guy I work hard. No way. I’m with you, I’m tired of hearing “…but I work HARD…” “And so you should,” I think, followed by, “but really, you’re not a migrant farm worker or a Chilean coal miner.”

    I’m curious about something, though… it’s interesting to me that you see this as your “job”. You’ve got no ads (unless that chunk of linksstuff is paid) I’m not seeing your work published for pay elsewhere, but clearly, you see this as your job. I get that, but I wonder how you see it playing out. Is it another self funded startup or something else?

    • Gary says:

      Just because I’m not trying to cash in immediately doesn’t mean this isn’t a job. I take the long term view. Trying to milk your readers isn’t wise in the long run.

      • pam says:

        Yes, I get that you’re taking the long term view. I was curious about what that long term view IS, exactly.

        I see my own blog as a job too, regardless of how little it earns me.

  35. Having a real job and trying to blog myself, I can totally identify. I get skeptical of those who are constantly on Twitter and have a new blog post every day! How can you be actually flying or traveling if it is that neatly packaged? Maybe they have more people involved in the operation, but I admire your authenticity

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About Gary Arndt

My name is Gary Arndt. In March 2007 I set out to travel around the world...
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