Nearly a decade ago Shannon O’Donnell, now a full time travel blogger, decided she wanted to travel solo around the world. She never thought it was a permanent gig, only that she wanted to change her perspective for a bit.
Having grown up in a small town in central Florida, she’d never been anywhere. Traveling had always seemed like a luxury, so beyond visiting family in neighboring states and moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting, O’Donnell had seen very little of the world.
After a year of traveling, she knew this wasn’t the end, but only the beginning. Today she’s a professional travel blogger who has visited more than 60 countries; and for those of you that dream about typing away on your laptop in far off places, she’s here to shed some light.
How It All Began for This Travel Blogger
O’Donnell didn’t initially have any intention of making money from her blog A Little Adrift. At first, it was her way of journaling and documenting her trip. But when she began researching long term travel packing lists online, she couldn’t find any. She started to realize that there was a real need for the information that she was providing, and over time, the blog become more and more popular. More important, a seed had been planted and O’Donnell knew that settling back into a regular 9-to-5 existence just wouldn’t suffice.
What Does the Typical Day of a Travel Blogger Look Like?
“I’m an early riser, especially when I’m on the road,” says O’Donnell. “I usually work a few hours in the morning and then go out and explore.”
O’Donnell says that she typically spends about four days a week blogging on her site and then a few hours working for other clients here and there. From time to time, she’ll meet up with fellow travel blogger friends like her best friend Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads. Sometimes family and friends from back home will also come travel with her for a bit. O’Donnell enjoys a good mix of traveling solo and traveling with family and friends.
How Do Travel Bloggers Make Money?
The short answer, according to O’Donnell, is that it depends. In her case, she makes a small commission on her site because her packing list is linked to Amazon. However, she insists that she never recommends products that she doesn’t love and already use. Additionally, she does work for a number of other travel writing and social media clients. After winning National Geographic’s 2013 Traveler of the Year Award, she’s also been doing more speaking engagements at universities.
According to O’Donnell, other travel bloggers make money doing product endorsements on their sites as well as teaching pricey courses on how to become a successful travel blogger. Additionally, fully paid press trips are another avenue of revenue for travel bloggers. But for O’Donnell, these streams of income can be ethically iffy.
But the bottom line, according to O’Donnell, is that it’s about living minimally. You avoid spending a bunch of money so that you don’t have to work all the time and can, as a result, spend the majority of your time actually seeing the places you visit. Long-term travelers like her tend to visit places for long enough to actually get to know the people of the place. She’ll also live in places where the cost of living is much lower than in the U.S. so her dollars go further. A master of frugality, she’s well acquainted with budgeting.
“I was able to pay off all my student loans while traveling the globe,” says O’Donnell.
The Best and Worst Parts of Being a Travel Blogger
O’Donnell spends most of her time on the road, about 11 months of the year. The rest of her time is spent catching up with family and friends back home in central Florida. It’s no secret that being away from home for such extended periods of time can have its ups and downs. She says that sometimes she feels behind and completely out of sync with the people she grew up with and her oldest friends.
“Back when I started we were all in our 20s and traveling the globe was completely acceptable, but now I’m 33 and most of my friends are married and have kids,” she says. “Sometimes this alienates me from their daily lives.”
While she finds these real life relationships difficult to navigate sometimes, the high points of her lifestyle are also undeniable.
“Put simply, it’s always interesting,” she explains.
The moment to moment lifestyle that O’Donnell has enjoyed for the past decade make the idea of living what’s considered a “normal” life seem impossible.
Where Do You See Yourself in the Future?
O’Donnell says that travel will always be an important part of her life. Ideally, she’d like to find a place to live permanently (maybe Mexico or Portugal) and then travel about four months of the year. In the future she’s looking forward to doing more speaking engagements and travel podcasts. She’ll always be a long-term traveler, but she’s not completely sure the form it will take in the years to come. While she loves being on the road and can’t imagine life without it, she has some longer term projects like a book proposal that seem to fall by the way side when she’s on the road.
In the short term, she’s planning her travel for 2017, which thus far consists of a potential trip to Cuba and another trip with her niece across Southeast Asia.
Are you travel obsessed? What trip has had the most impact on your life so far? We want to know! Drop us a line via Twitter @EcoSalon.