Traveling around the world is expensive. Sometimes it can be God damn expensive.
Since I began traveling full time in 2007 I have spent over $100,000 of my own money traveling. Since then I have probably spent more of my own money on travel than any professional travel writer working today. I have put my money where my mouth is and continue to do so.
However, I often partner with travel companies and tourist boards to help facilitate my travel. Usually, these relationships only last the length of a particular trip to a destination.
I disclose all my relationships in text articles about a place. If I say, “I was a guest” of “I was invited by” that is a nice way of saying they paid for my trip. I usually do not mention if a trip was sponsored if I am mentioning a trip in a tweet or if I am posting a photo. Tweets do not have enough room and photos can’t really express an opinion. If there is any question as to if a trip was sponsored, feel free to ask.
I prefer to work with government tourists boards, which are not-for-profit organizations. Their mission is to promote tourism for their particular destination and my goal is to visit places I can write about and take photos. Because our goals mesh and I’d be doing the same thing if I had been visiting on my own dime, I have no issue in working with them.
Sometimes, I honestly don’t know who is providing a particular meal or room. I often work with consortiums of tourism boards in a region and the lines can become blurry (and they don’t always tell me the details). I was once in a position where a national tourist board provided me a plane flight, a regional tourist board rented me a car, and local tourist boards would give me a place to stay and a meal.
Occasionally, I also work with for-profit companies like an airline, hotel, or cruise line. If that is the case I will also disclose the relationship. While I prefer to work with tourist boards, sometimes it is necessary to work with a company to visit somewhere I really want to go.
One of the realities of the travel industry is that higher end hotels tend to have more money for marketing. A 4/5 star resort is more likely to have a blogger come visit than a youth hostel. As a result, hotel mentions usually tend to be positive, because the best hotels are the ones that invite people. Nice hotels are nice. When I’m spending my own money I usually stay in 1/2 star hotels or hostels. As such, when I get to stay in a nice hotel I usually enjoy it. Almost always, my worst experiences are the ones I pay for.
I do have a few standing relationships with companies who sponsor my travels. Currently I work with G Adventures and Scottevest. I am very selective about who I work with and I turn down far more opportunities than I accept. My relationship with these companies might involve travel, speaking engagements, free product usage and of course money. I will occasionally mention them on Twitter or Facebook, especially if they are trying to get the word out about a new product or service.
At no time have I ever been told what to write, nor would I ever honor such a request if asked.
My bread and butter are the readers of my website. I will never ever jeopardize the trust they have placed in me for the sake of a trip or a hotel room. Ever.