Is It Worth It? Travel Blogging As A Full Time University Student

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Last month, my travel blog, Swing Abroad officially turned one year old. Yayy! So I was thinking to write about what it’s like to manage a travel blog despite being a full-time university student. But I keep on delaying and delaying because the emotions and moods never strike me at the right time to pen down this article. Last night, I have insomnia, again. So, I was thinking that instead of rolling on my bed, I should write down my ideas of the post structures. I did the right thing.

Swing Abroad was started back in 28th February 2018. It took me a while to finally take the first step because I’ve been a fan of blogging since my trip to New Zealand in 2016. And if you’re interested in reading my past stories, here’s a link to my older blog, which I never updated in years.

In this post, I’m gonna make this like an interview, except that the interviewer is me, so is the interviewee. I hope you enjoyed reading as I provide some insights into how it’s like to be a travel blogger.

This was me back in 2016 in Singapore!
This was me back in 2016 in Singapore!

Why A Travel Blog?

That’s probably the first question you’d ask me. Or at least I like to think it that way.

I loved to share my stories with others, those who know me really well are of course familiar with this. I’ve been wanting to inspire others in my own ways. Even though I wouldn’t say I lived life the best, I’m grateful that I’m having a wonderful life.

In 2016, I’ve been to New Zealand for 6 months under the Working Holiday Visa. For the summer of 2017, I spent a month volunteering in Kathmandu, Nepal, teaching kids in elementary school, before trekking Annapurna Circuit and passed the World’s Tallest Mountain Pass, Thorong La Pass. It took me 13 days to complete.

My backpacking trip to Vietnam lasted 14 days in January of 2018. And in the summer of 2018, I went for Work & Travel USA Program in California, working in Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for 2 months before having my road trip. The latest trip would be my Laos backpacking trip in January 2019.

Yea, I know these might not sound amazing to some. I’ve been to less than 10 countries, what makes me ‘eligible’ to be a travel blogger? But optimistically, I’m sure I could provide valuable information for travelers because I’ve spent quite some time living in some foreign countries.

But all of these were just thoughts before my cousin told me – Hey, I think you should write a book.

Well, a book? I’ve never thought of that. Pretty sure my English writing skills were not convincing enough to write a book, but that sparked some ideas into my mind.

Travel blog.

I immediately did some researches and learned how to start a travel blog from one of my favorite travel bloggers. And within one month, Swing Abroad was born.

Hiking Around in Akaroa, New Zealand
Hiking Around in Akaroa, New Zealand

The Hardest Part of Travel Blogging

The worst part of starting a travel blog for a student is, of course, the money and time issues.

Just for starting this travel blog, it takes me more than US$100, which is quite a large amount of money for a university student whose bank account is ‘meh…’.

I’ve never bought any courses for my travel blog. That’s the hardest part – I have to learn everything by myself.

Searching for information online, learning from all the ‘gurus’, dealing with the technical parts of codes, designing my own theme, and more. Yep, I designed this theme all by myself with Elementor, because I wanted it to look the way I want.

Simplicity, elegant, easily-navigable, and user-friendly.

In this technological era, the thing about self-learning is that the moment you enter some keywords into Google, you’ll have numerous articles teaching you all sorts of different ways of doing things.

And it’s difficult to choose what’s right for you when you’re not even sure what you didn’t know in particular.

Some of them are contrasting with each other. So, in my first 4-6 months of blogging, I spent a lot of time doing trials and errors to find the best way to set up my travel blog and to manage it efficiently.

Of course, if you have the ability to buy online courses, I’d recommend you to go for it. But it’s not a must. A lot of ‘gurus’ have the propaganda – “You’ll never find 90% of these contents online, we’ve found these secrets by our own experiences.”, etc.

That’s bullshit. Trust me.

I’ve made a lot of researches on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), established quite a profile on Pinterest, and many ways to promote my travel blog.

To be frank, I’ve purchased an online course once, and I’ve asked for a refund within 10 days because most of the information inside is already known by myself, doing online researches and self-learning. Then, I decided that I wouldn’t need them anymore, unless they’re really advanced and worth considerating over.

And lastly, I had to do everything myself. Keyword researching, writing articles, generating ideas, designing, pitching posts, connecting with other travel bloggers, doing collaboration and guest posts, designing pins for Pinterest, and much more. Takes disciplined time management to get all these done.

Burns me out sometimes, but left me with a smile most of the time.

Me and the kids in Traibidya Shikkchya Sadan in Kathmandu, Nepal
Me and the kids in Traibidya Shikkchya Sadan in Kathmandu, Nepal

Am I Seeing Results Yet?

As of April 2019, I’ve been receiving 3,600 monthly sessions to my travel blog. That’s not a very impressive number because some travel bloggers achieved this milestone within months.

But you know what, I’m quite grateful for what I achieved. During the New Zealand Working Holiday Visa Application in Malaysia, a lot of youngsters sent me messages asking me about tips and information about the application.

I happily replied to them all, and I couldn’t describe how happy I was when I received my first message from my readers. It’s like my purposes were heard, and my inspirations transcended to my readers. That’s what keeps me going!

Swing Abroad was started to inspire readers, and I was very happy because I’m able to help my readers to experience what I think is great. If you’re reading this and you have questions for me, I’m very happy to help you, just shoot me a message on Facebook or the Contact page.

Are You Monetizing This Travel Blog Yet?

Unfortunately, nope. I hadn’t made a single cent from this travel blog for now, except the few pennies I made through the Amazon Associates Program.

I didn’t want to place ads on my website, because I feel that I would ruin the user experience, especially when my readership is still small. But I’m definitely going to place some ads into this blog once I achieved a certain milestone to apply for a decent ads company.

The milestone? 25,000 monthly sessions to apply for Mediavine.

Trekking Through World's Tallest Mountain Pass Thorong La Pass in Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
Trekking Through World’s Tallest Mountain Pass Thorong La Pass in Annapurna Circuit, Nepal

Is There Anyone Who Support What You’re Doing?

Not many, to be honest. Surely, there are some friends who mentally-supported me when I started my travel blog and some of them even give their opinions when I was tweaking my design and writing style. I’m forever grateful to them.

Financially, I had no support so every penny I spent on this travel blog was from my own pocket. That’s for sure because I never expected or hoped that anyone would support me financially. This is my own ‘project’, and nobody in this world has the responsibility to help you succeed other than yourself.

Nobody in this world has the responsibility to help you succeed other than yourself.

Most importantly, my parents supported what I’m doing right now, and I’m truly thankful. That’s the best support I could ever ask for.

Why Do I Have Time To Manage My Travel Blog?

My course in university was quite chill and free, to be honest. Comparing to other courses, we tend to have fewer classes, fewer assignments and projects, and less technical knowledge to learn.

I don’t know why, but I’m quite happy with it because if you manage your time well, you could be achieving a lot more outside the academic field.

I learned to play acoustic and electric guitars, operate photo editing software and travel blogging all by myself in my university years. If you’ve ever tried self-learning, you’ll know how much time it takes to find the right materials to get you going.

By the way, if you’re planning to learn one of the things above, let me know, I might be able to provide you some insights and ideas to get you started. Let’s get in touch.

In fact, my course is quite academically-based. There are a lot of memorizing parts for examinations, which I don’t think is useful in fostering professional growth. Ask me what I’ve learned in the past 2 years, I’ve forgotten 90% of the things. Maybe I wasn’t that committed, or even interested in this course? I don’t know.

So, I didn’t like spending too much time memorizing things that I know I’ll forget in the near future. I love learning practical skills more, which, in my opinion, are more useful in daily and professional life.

Frankly, I don’t even know whether I’ll be working professionally on what I studied. Let’s see where life brings me. Life is always changing, so are thoughts and ambitions.

Hiking in Laos during my backpacking trip in Laos
Hiking in Laos during my backpacking trip in Laos

Will I Call Myself An Entrepreneur?

Nope, nope, nope.

This term is so overused nowadays, don’t you think so? Everyone’s calling themselves entrepreneurs, CEOs, and titles like that. Maybe I’m just sensitive and love to complain, hahaha.

But throw away all the biases and judgments, I still wouldn’t call myself an online entrepreneur. Maybe when I generate a decent income from this travel blog, I’ll change my mind. Still have a lot more to learn, and a long way from success.

Connecting With Other Travel Bloggers

Connections are very important when it comes to the blogging world. Every professional blogger has to establish a certain status in order to be able to influence others.

This part proves particularly hard for me because I’m partly an introvert.

I’ve connected with several travel bloggers by doing collaboration posts and guest posts on their website, chatting with them sometimes, but those are just online. I haven’t actually met any travel bloggers on real life yet. Yep, yet.

Someday, I’ll have to step out of this comfort zone if I want to walk further and deeper into the professional blogging world. Just a matter of time, so I’m embracing myself now.

It’ll be fun to meet and befriend like-minded travel bloggers!

Wrapping It Up

So that sums up for how it’s like to be a travel blogger as a full-time university student. In case you didn’t know, I’m from Malaysia and currently studies at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. I hope you enjoyed this narrative post and learned something new out of it. Let me know in the comment section below if there’s anything particular you want to know, I’ll get back to you in no time! Let’s hope for a better second-year for Swing Abroad, thanks for your support!

Written by

Yen is a university student from Malaysia and a huge fan of Blues music and photography. His passion for travel can be traced back to 2016 when he spent 6 months traveling New Zealand. By blending into the locals and traveling long-term, he shares all the comprehensive and detailed travel ideas and guides for the countries with his footprints.

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