Are you doing it for yourself, or are you doing it for others?
Houston Texas
This blog entry was born during a spark of inspiration on a flight from Houston, Texas to Quito, Ecuador. It was entirely written on the airplane, although editing, adding in hyperlinks, and uploading the image occurred afterwards. This picture was taken during take-off from Houston, known for well-engineered highway junctions, and this Instagrammed aerial shot shows why.
My generation has been pretty much inundated with advice to "follow your passion" and "pursue your dreams," instead of picking a lucrative career path you dislike.  While this is good advice to some extent, the truth is, the majority of us need to make a living.  Tina Seelig of Stanford University said it best when she said that success occurs at the intersection between passion, skill, and market:

1.) Passion + Skill = Hobby
2.) Skill + Market = Job
3.) Passion + Skill + Market = Career

For travel bloggers looking to keep a personal journal, or let family and friends know what they're up to, passion and skill (or just passion really) are sufficient.  It is merely a fun activity, and they can write entirely for themselves.  However, for travel bloggers looking to go professional, passion, skill, AND market are requisite.  They must have the skills to capture a market of engaged readers, or no income will be generated.  While many professional travel bloggers seem to be passionate about their work, they are writing for other people.  Web traffic is the lifeline of any professional blog.  

I consider myself somewhere in the middle.  Travel blogging is my hobby, in addition to an unrelated career path, but I am hoping to contribute meaningful material to the community.  While not necessary, at least from a financial standpoint, I would like readers beyond my family and friends.  Recently, I stumbled across an article by Nomadic Matt on generating blog traffic, and it made me think about who I want to travel blog for.  

According to Nomadic Matt's article, one reason blogs might not generate enough traffic is: "You only talk about yourself."

I am relieved that I don't need to worry too much about this.  From my first month of blogging, I've noticed that I like writing deeply reflective essays, like spiritual journeys, the feeling of safety, or life lessons learned from obscure lakes.  Perhaps no one will care for my philosophical ramblings, and that is okay.  I'm writing these for myself, so I have something to look back to ten years later.   Another reason for low blog traffic Nomadic Matt cites is posts that are too long, and he recommends not going over 1000 words.  I had nearly 2000 words to say (to myself?) about visiting religious sites in Southeast Asia, and if some readers get bored 500 words in, I am okay with that.  I've clearly defined travel blogging as a hobby in this post, so I'm going to always be true to myself, because there's simply no reason not to.  

That all being said, I do want non-members of my bloodline and circle of friends to read my blog.  In the same post where I defined travel blogging as a hobby, I also stated that one of my goals was to help others.  Like I said in that post, I hope the content I produce helps someone plan their trip or inspires them to travel.  If this is the case, then this blog is clearly not ALL about me.  

So how am I go to balance writing for myself and writing for other?  

Well, I will definitely never write about a topic I care nothing about, just because I think people read it.  However, I can pay some attention to which posts are popular and which are not, and adjust my blog accordingly.  I might also read other travel blogs to see if there are any trends with popular angles, and try my hand at writing those angles.   I write super detailed Travel Itineraries (explained in the Blog Index) in an attempt to be helpful, so I'll think about what's actually helpful to others instead of plastering every detail all over the post.  Also, while I will never write specifically for SEO optimization, I don't mind keeping key words and phrases in mind, and throwing them in if they fit.  I'll make an effort to leave meaningful comments on other blogs, paying my dues before joining the club.  

First and foremost, I travel blog for myself as a hobby, where I can write about stuff I like and have a record ten years later.  However, I do hope to engage an audience, and will therefore be conscious of my reader reaction, perhaps in the form of blog stats, comments, etc.  I am not a professional myself, but I imagine even the professionals like to write for their own enjoyment, or at least not become a disillusioned ghost writer.  On the other hand, I think anyone would be flattered if their post attracted some traffic, even if they had no aspirations to grow their readership.  

How do you balance writing for yourself and writing for others? Does being a professional travel blogger and having income depend on readership change your writing?

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