My Journey to Becoming a Travel Blogger
Hi everyone! If you didn’t know me from before, my name is Jules from @finding.jules, and I’ve been a travel blogger the last four, going on five years. I first started my journey around 2017, but didn’t quite take blogging as seriously until 2018, and I comfortably monetized around 2020. And as of April 2022, I finally decided to quit my job to become a full time content creator and travel blogger!
Some of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to travel blogging—
1. How did you get started?
2. How did you first start working with brands?
3. Who pays you for all of this?
If you’re wondering how to become a travel blogger, or just curious about the in’s and outs of the industry, I’m here to share my journey with you!
THE START OF IT ALL
End of October 2016 to January of 2017
I was just starting to travel a lot, and began posting my travels more frequently to Instagram. This included a lot of landscape & scenery photos with simple VSCO Edits. A lot of the photos weren’t of me, but rather just places I’ve been. I did own a DSLR, but most of my photos, if not all, I took with my iPhone 4/5 at the time. Crazy how good the quality of these photos are for nearly 7 years ago! I also want to note that, I don’t have professional photography training, and I’ve never taken any classes. But I did take journalism in high school, and that’s where I learned how to use my camera!
CURATING MY FEED
April of 2017 (4 months later)
I took a trip to Morocco and fell in LOVE with this country. I became so inspired to travel even more and began to take as many photos as possible. My interest on travel blogging really began to grow– so much so, that immediately after this trip, I bought my findingjules.com website domain. I didn’t know anything about blogging, but I loved taking aesthetic travel photos and having a place to look back on my memories. People were also reaching out to me via Instagram, asking about my travel experiences (especially pertaining to Morocco.) Answering questions in DM’s about how long to stay, how safe it was, etc. just made me realize how much I enjoyed sharing my experiences– even with people I’ve never talked to before.
At this point, I began curating my Instagram feed a lot more too, and stopped posting more day to day personal stuff, but almost exclusively travel content. I basically just began to care more about what my Instagram feed looked like, as a whole
POSTING MORE CONSISTENTLY
August of 2017 (4 months later)
At this time, I started following a ton of female travel bloggers and travel repost accounts. I began paying much closer attention to what other bloggers were doing, and studying their account, noting what hashtags they were using, how frequently they were posting, and the times they were posting.
There was still so little information about being a content creator or a blogger at the time, so I just kept experimenting. Nowadays if you were curious about blogging or monetizing your social media, you can watch TikTok or Youtube videos and read blog posts. But back then, these things weren’t as transparent. And if they were, I didn’t know where to look for them.
I also downloaded Adobe LightRoom around this time to edit my photos more cohesively, and began using my DSLR. Some photos pictured above are still iPhone though!
Within this time period, I took an extra long Euro Trip and traveled to Turkey, Greece, and Italy. I got reposted by other travel accounts (almost weekly at this point!) and grew my following to ALMOST 10,000 followers. It was significantly easier to grow your account back then. And the less followers you have, the higher your engagement rate and audience typically are! So my account was growing quickly and looking great in terms of numbers.
I was challenging myself to post 3-4x a week, but looking back now, I wish I posted daily. Every post was an opportunity to grow and reach a larger audience, but I didn’t see it that way. I was too worried around being judged, and worried I was annoying my real friends. I genuinely wish that I just went full force and didn’t care what others thought back then. But that was a huge mental block that I feel like, I FINALLY got rid of. Chances are, I could’ve grown my account even more if I committed more.
But that leads me to note that, you shouldn’t be worried about people judging you for being a wannabe influencer, because, trust me, when you succeed, they’re going to be the first ones that want to know how. You can’t let people’s opinions of you dictate what you want to do!! So if you want to start posting more, if you want to start sharing your favorite products, or vlogging about the amazing day you had, THEN DO IT! I’m here to support you. And truly, everyone has influence. The word influencer has such a negative connotation, but if you use our platform for good, and use your platform to share the things you love, then just keep on going.
FIRST GIFTED HOTEL STAY & COLLABORATIONS
December 2017 (4 months later)
I started to get my first few “gifted” brand collaborations in December. I didn’t receive any payment, I was just “posting for products,” on a trading basis. It could be something as simple as getting a dress or a couple outfits free of charge, and posting me in the clothes in exchange. But even then, I was so excited to be getting PR Packages and gifts from brands. I even got a suitcase from Away and felt like I had made it in the travel world of blogging! Some other brands I worked for during this time was Cluse, a watch brand, and ASTR the Label, (which I still wear and love today), and Wear Lively, an intimates & swim brand.
At this time, a popular way to increase your engagement was to join “pods,” which is a group of content creators in a group chat. Whenever anyone posted, that person would go comment in the group chat to let the group know they’ve posted. The group will then go in and like & comment on the post. Boosting the immediate engagement was a great way to increase the reach of the post because it tricks the instagram algorithm into thinking it’s an interesting/good post. Once it gains that initial traction, the post *should theoretically continue growing. The algorithm is still pretty similar to this, and there are still plenty of pods around, but the effectiveness isn’t nearly as great as it used to be.
However, one of the best things came out of one of these Instagram Pods is the friends I’ve made via these group chats. I was living in NYC at the time, and a few blogger friends and I combined our follower count together, and that’s when I got my first hotel collaboration! There were about 10 of us, and we were gifted a 2 night experience at the penthouse of Hotel Rivington. I’m actually still really close to some of these girls!!
FIRST PAID PARTNERSHIP
March 2018 (3 months later)
3 months later, I got my first PAID collaboration. I was a little over 10k followers at this point. I had no idea what ‘deliverables’ meant, or how to negotiate and ask for payment. But a brand reached out to me for a wine campaign, and I charged them $1,000 for 1 IG Post, 5 Stories, 10HD photographs, AND a blog post.
I thought $1k was so much for an Instagram post but I quickly learned that it was actually sooooo much work and so stressful for $1k. I also spent a ton of time & money on props and planning, because I felt an insane amount of pressure to do a good job. They loved my work and I’ve worked with them several times after – which goes to show how important building a network of loyal clients and repeat customers is! But looking back now, even with having 10k followers, the work itself and the content created is far more valuable than the $1,000 payment. And the content is still being repurposed these days, years later, because I didn’t know to negotiate usage rights and incorporate it into payment.
FIRST CONTENT CREATION TRIP
April 2018 (1 month later)
A month later, I went back to Morocco with some friends I made via Instagram!! It was probably the biggest trip I took with social media friends, and this was a new era for me. I really put myself out of my comfort zone to travel across the world with people I hardly knew. In some ways, that was scarier than traveling solo. Some way, some how, they are now some of my all time, closest & dearest friends.
I had also purchased my Sony A7rii Camera too— it’s the same camera I use still today, although I do feel like my body can use an upgrade now. I felt justified on spending money on equipment now that I was finally monetizing a little. It was definitely the best investment!
And so, this trip was one of the first trips I took purely for the purpose of creating content. My friends Jess, Cherrie, and I combined our following together and reached out to a ton of hotels in Morocco. We had offered to exchange hosted stays & experiences for social media content in the form of posts and stories! To my surprise, plenty of them said yes!! We ended up working with at least 3 (or maybe 4) hotels while we were there, and hotel hopped throughout the country.
But while we were there, we ran around EVERYWHERE to take a ton of photos and save them to spread our posting out (batch content creating). Looking back, it was so funny because some of the prettiest places in all of Marrakech are hotel lobbies and hotel properties. So we would go into hotels and just take photos. We weren’t even staying there!! We even got asked to leave one time!! It feels so silly looking back now but the goal was to post as much as possible, so we’d start shooting early in the morning and work throughout the day.
MAJOR HOTEL PARTNERSHIPS
April 2018 to April 2019 (the duration of 1 year)
Between this entire year, I started to get a lot more hotel partnerships. But these were not inbound, which meant, I was the one emailing and asking for a hosted stay. I was getting complimentary rooms in exchange for creating content for photos, while also working for lifestyle and clothing brands. So while I wasn’t making all that much money, I also wasn’t spending all that much money. It allowed to travel more frequently and more often.
But I definitely hit a plateau when it came to Instagram. I stopped growing, and wasn’t getting a ton of paid partnerships. But I was in good spirits because I did get to partner with some AMAZING hotel companies, including the Shangri-La, the Fairmont Resorts, and the Belmond.
FIRST PRESS TRIP INVITATION
April of 2019
After doing these free hotel partnerships for an entire year, I got my first hotel invitation to the French Alps. This trip was made for Canadian content creators, but they still extended me the invitation, as Jess’ plus one. I still had to submit all of the same deliverables, and post content. This was my first trip that was all-expenses paid for. From the flights, the hotels stays, food, spa, lift tickets, etc.! I thought landing hotel stays was amazing, but THIS was my dream. Flights?! I couldn’t believe it.
I was able to travel without spending a single dollar. Even though I wasn’t getting paid, nothing was coming out of my own pocket. And to FRANCE?! All of this was so exciting for me, that I didn’t even realize the full potential of it all.
Around this time, I had grown to 30k followers. I STILL wasn’t growing and was getting more and more discouraged every day. Especially because a lot of accounts I knew were still continuing to grow really fast, and I was watching the bloggers I started with hit 100k+ and up. But I was still booking clients and getting hotel partnerships, so it was generally fine. Having this opportunity to France really made me feel exhilarated again! It can truly be so hard not to compare yourself to others on social media though, but I tried to stay positive with each passing opportunity.
FIRST SOLO TRIP AS A BLOGGER
April of 2019
I also went on my first solo trip to Portugal as a blogger in April, and took all of my photos with a tripod and my camera. Which really solidified my strengths as a photographer for me. Especially how creative I had to get when it came to the tripod. I really pushed myself outside of my comfort zone and it forced me to be more comfortable taking photos in front of strangers. At this time, and even to this day, many content creators aren’t quite treated with the same respect in a professional setting as photographers. They are very different, but at the same time, very similar. So I’m still really proud of this trip to this day! I also actually began growing again on Instagram after this trip, and getting higher engagement! I think people were excited to see my journey traveling solo, too!
Looking back at these photos, I find them so funny that I have my back towards the camera in all of them. It was supposed to feel more relatable, like anyone can be standing in my shoes and taking this exact photo. But I’ve come to realize it’s actually not as relatable as seeing a familiar face. Now I’m much more comfortable looking at the camera in my photos!
FIRST PAID HOTEL TRIP & INVITATION
June 2019 (3 months later)
Just 3 months later, I got my first PAID hotel trip. Not just paid for, but payment for my content creation. I received $6,000 for a 3 night trip. I remember reading the email and the marketing agency told me that my “budget was $6k,” and I remember thinking, what does that even mean, why are they giving me six thousand dollars!! The only thing they didn’t pay for was my flight & transportation but the budget was built in to cover that.
In this moment, I realized the potential of being a full time travel blogger. Of course the opportunities aren’t consistent, and you can only book so many travel gigs a month. But this was so eye opening!! And these really easy & fun campaigns don’t always happen! On really good months, I began to match my corporate salary, with a combination of hotel partnerships and fashion partnerships, but on slow months, I made literally zero dollars.
INTRODUCING: TREY BAE
In July of 2019 (1 month later/within the same summer)
At the beginning of summer, Trey slid into my DM’s, and our love story began! What started as a simple DM turned into texting and talking non stop for a couple months. He was living in Phoenix at the time, and I decided to finally fly to Arizona to meet him in real life. We began our long distance relationship shortly after!
In November, I took him on my first hotel collaboration, and he handled it so well. He wasn’t uncomfortable or weird about me taking so many photos, and he never had any issues taking photos of me when I asked. He was also really open to me taking photos of him! When it came to retakes, trying different angles or different poses, (even different outfits), he was so understanding. And he became extremely curious about my camera, asked me a lot of questions about the in’s and out’s of my job in the most genuine way. It made me feel super comfortable and happy to show him this side of my world.
WRAPPING UP 2019
Fall of 2019
Wrapping of 2019, I had the best introduction to the potential of travel blogging, and content creation. I learned so much about social media marketing, paid advertisements, and partnerships. I worked with dream travel brands like Kayak, Booking.com, Lexus USA, Ford Canada, Inside Vancouver, Hilton Hotels, Away, Club Med, REVOLVE, and more!! It was all so surreal and I couldn’t believe it! I was so excited for what 2020 was going to hold!
SIGNED WITH MY FIRST AGENCY
The Start of 2020
2020 was off to an amazing start!! Right off the bat, I went on some incredible trips. From hiking through Colombia to camping through Sedona, I had such a good feeling about the direction of my blogging. My love for travel hasn’t slowed down, and I just kept wanting to expand.
I also signed to my first agency, Amavi Agency. I wasn’t getting an overwhelming amount of inquiries, but definitely enough to want to hire some help. My manager, Victoria, began to handle all of my incoming inquiries, pitched me to certain brands, negotiated budgets, and read over all of the contracts. Having her as my right hand woman was the best decision I had made in my career thus far. She was negotiating and asking for things far beyond what I even thought to ask for, yet has been industry standard. So just having her knowledge and resources was all I could ask for and more.
ENTER IN THE PANDEMIC
March of 2020
And here comes the panini. Cherrie and I were both in Bali together when the world shut down. As a a travel blogger, this was especially challenging for us. It became super frowned upon to talk about traveling, let alone even post about it. I felt like I couldn’t even post throw back photos without getting DM’s or having to explain myself like “why are you promoting travel right now?” I lost a ton of followers and continued losing throughout the year. It was definitely a scary time for me– not only because of Covid, but because of the instability of my job.
At this time, job opportunities were cancelling left and right. From PR Events, to brand deals, to even full on press trips and travel trips. I was getting non-stop postponement and cancellation emails. I felt like after YEARS of building my brand on social media and finally gaining the traction and momentum I needed, it all stopped. Of course at the time, there were significantly more important things at hand.
HELLO HARVEST HOUSE
April of 2020
On a personal note, in April of 2020, I became a homeowner! It had been a 6 month, rollercoaster of emotions, search for a place to call home. You can read about my Journey to Becoming a Home Owner, HERE. At this time, we began shifting gears from travel to home content and home renovations. It worked out perfectly because California was on strict lockdown, and we spent most of our days painting, installing floors, and furniture shopping! The Harvest House, is now our charming little abode.
Trey originally came to California to help me move in and do some small fixer upper projects around the house. But because of long distance and the uncertainty of Covid, we had agreed it would be best for him to stay and move in. We went from 8 months of long distance to 24/7 time together due to Covid. It definitely fast tracked our relationship!
I started posting my renovations and home decor on TikTok and grew our account to over 100k on TT. We pivoted from travel content to home content because that was really the only thing I could do that made sense and felt appropriate. We were able to book a ton of new clients in a space I never thought I’d be able to exist in!
From here, I worked with some of my dream home brands, including H&M Home and World Market. I also found a long-term client in Amazon, as well as Our Place.
SHIFTING GEARS: LIFESTYLE & HOME CONTENT
April of 2020 through the year
A lot of you have DM’ed me saying you feel too boxed in or niched down in what you’re doing to do something else, and this may be an unpopular opinion amongst other bloggers, but I’m here to tell you there’s no such thing. I literally posted ONLY travel content for 4 years, and I switched to combining home & lifestyle in a way that made sense for me. I did lose followers to begin with, but the ones who stuck around were the ones that were still engaging with my content. And the ones who unfollowed, probably were more like ghost followers anyway or didn’t do anything to benefit my brand.
I know people always say “niche down” but I’ve learned to build more of a “brand” as a person, so clients want to work with me, Jules— and not just Jules the travel blogger. And that involves what I’m doing a little more holistically, like travel, home, food, lifestyle, Trey, etc. I think there’s a way to balance it well, without losing what you really care about. You’ll just have to make sure you’re posting enough of everything so that when you suddenly post a self-care video, or a fashion video, your followers aren’t like “woah this is weird.” And so, having a good & loyal following is really important!
I posted this video that I still laugh about because we made it in like 2-3 minutes, and was weeks late on delivering content. It hit 16M views on TikTok and I sold out the entire stock of the bike on Amazon within 24 hours. Within that same week, I sold out the entire warehouse stock and direct sales from the website.
Several months later when it restocked again, I posted it on Instagram, and it hit 3M views, and sold out once again. THIS, is the power of influencer marketing.
This was truly the first time in my career on social media that I single handedly experienced how influencers make money through affiliate links. It’s not the same for travel. For us, we have what we call familiarization trips— which means our jobs is to familiarize our audience with a new place or a new destination. It’s not as immediate or instant, and you can’t track your influence clearly. It’s not like everyone can pick up and go to a different country right away, or book a hotel room right away. But it is possible that through my social media content, you book a trip 1-2 years from now. Whereas for lifestyle, fashion, and beauty bloggers, something as simple as “add to cart, check out” can be immediate. And I just thought that was so interesting to experience!!
PICKING UP ON TRAVEL AGAIN
August of 2020 through the year going into 2021
As the world started opening back up again, we started to pick up more travel opportunities— a lot were to promote that certain destinations or hotels were open and safe to visit. We also got a lot of flack for doing this and people were constantly challenging me and questioning why we were traveling. I was even getting cussed out in my DM’s and blocked after explaining myself.
We were doing everything as safely as possible. And this was also our source of income. Just like everyone else going back to work, so were we.
MY FIRST FIVE FIGURE CONTRACT
In March of 2021, I signed my first 5 figure contract. And then in June, and then in August. It was literally SO crazy for me. I was definitely working on a lot of partnerships but I hadn’t ever signed year long contracts, or quarterly partnerships. Most were just one-off or maybe 2 posts a campaign. But to sign these huge high paying contracts over and over again— it was surreal.
I was getting the worst imposter syndrome ever, wondering when this was all going to stop. I didn’t and still don’t have a “lot” of followers by industry standard. And my engagement rate isn’t out of this world. But the brands were paying for my content too, and not just my audience. And the key is really to make content that is repurposable/resharable. My photos can be found on websites, in newsletters, print ads, etc., and not purely Instagram. And so a lot of the money comes from buying the ad-spend rights too.
And honestly, I think the main reason why we were able to sign such incredible campaigns, was because we took the leap and branched out in 2020, with home and lifestyle. We were constantly trying new things and adapting with all of the changes on Instagram. Of all the large contracts we signed in 2021, only 1 was travel related! We wrapped up 2021 making just over 6 figures in social media content. That included brand partnerships, content creation, affiliate links, and more. Which is all so wild to me still. For all of you guys that like, share, save, and comment on my content, THANK YOU! One second out of your day is seriously the world to me and my job.
In 2016, I was honestly so depressed and lost. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, and I didn’t even know what I could do to make myself happy. I remember so clearly sitting in my tiny hotel in Morocco and just having a feeling that I wanted to continue traveling. And just stop being this sad girl. And now, 7 years later, here I am.
PURSUING A FULL TIME CAREER
Fast forward an entire year later, April of 2022, I quit my full time job to become a full-time travel blogger & content creator. (Can you believe I worked a regular job all this time? Haha, sometimes I wonder how I functioned, I was so sleep deprived). But here goes this new chapter and this new journey of my life!! I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to share it with you!!
If you made it this far, thank you for reading!! It means a lot to me to have this platform and to share more of me, with all of you!! Let me know if you have any more questions– might start this as a little series on the blog!!
I love to have seen this journey! 💛 Always proud of you!
This was so interesting to read and amazing to see how far you’ve come! Congratulations on everything!! 🥂 I hope one day I build enough courage to do the same