Ok, I don’t know the exact date. The first post on Andy’s Travel Blog was posted in late November 2012 but I had started writing a few posts before then (one of the few times I’ve ever written posts in advance actually haha). We’re close enough that I’m going to officially celebrate the 7th anniversary of Andy’s Travel Blog!
Why I started this blog
My brother and I went on a mistake fare trip to Israel. It was too short of a trip, and we were beyond exhausted the whole time, but it remains one of my favorite trips of all time.
When we got back, people asked the typical, well-meaning “so how was your trip?” question. As a fairly religious person, Israel was incredibly and deeply meaningful to me, yet I still replied with the usual “oh it was good, cool scenery, didn’t get by a rocket,” reply.
There was more than that. There was deep meaning that couldn’t be explained by a water cooler. In life, I feel like everyone has a unique story and special perspectives from which they tell it. It was time for me to tell my stories. If nobody read them, so be it.
Andy’s Travel Blog begins
So I told my story.
And nobody read it.
But I kept going.
And nobody read that either.
But, after a few months, a few people started reading it. A few turned into tens of people reading it. Tens of people turned into…well…tens of people for another few months. Then I had 100 readers in a month. Slowly but slowly I found my voice, told my stories, and my readership grew.
At times, I doubted myself. Why would someone want to read this? Am I just showing off or am I trying to help people? Every now and then I’d get an encouraging word like “hey man, love following along as you travel, we just had kids and are focusing on them right now so we read all your posts so we know where to go once they’re a bit older” or “hey man, where’s that twenty bucks you owe me,” and it kept me going.
From the beginning, I wanted my writing to be authentic, happy, and optimistic. That’s why the blog’s name has never been all that creative. Heck, in the beginning, I received a bunch of traffic for the Google keyword “creative blog titles” because my tagline was “Imagine a more creative title”. I wanted to be simple, tell simple stories, and simply inspire people.
The single biggest turning point for Andy’s Travel Blog
With a header about the biggest turning point I’m sure you think I’m going to say “when I bought my first professional camera in 2014”, but that’s not it (although I can’t imagine life without a camera now).
I’m a very firm believer in the power of asking for what you want, even if a positive response isn’t likely. When I felt like my body of work was consistent and that I had strung together a few good series of posts, I went to BoardingArea.com, found a Contact link, and shot off the following missive, tongue firmly planted in cheek:
“Good afternoon, what sort of traffic are you looking for bloggers to have before bringing them onboard? My writing style is a mix between An Idiot Abroad and Ernest Hemingway and I often think too highly of myself. All the best, Andy (www.andystravelblog.com)”
I mean, this was BoardingArea, home of Gary Leff, Ben Schlappig, to a lesser extent Ed Pizzarello (just kidding, love you Ed), and founded by none other than the creator of the frequent flyer hobby, Randy Petersen. I was never expecting anything but a “Hey Andy, thanks for reaching out, we’re looking for infinity-threeve viewers per minute and, per our research, it seems like your reader base consists of your mother and a diminishing amount of friends” reply, but what the heck, right?
Yet three weeks later my life changed. I received the following reply (while on this trip actually)
“Andy…don’t worry about Hemingway! A great day and week to you. I’ve continuted to read your blog since you contacted us and think it would be a great add to our expansion of BoardingArea. I think you’ve got a nice writing style, unique attitude and something that could really grow with exposure to more readers.
I can answer any questions you have and at this point am wondering of your interest to join our current family of bloggers.”
And thus I became a BoardingArea blogger. Randy’s email couldn’t have been more accurate. BoardingArea is indeed a family. Support staff like Randy, Denny, Mark, Meagan, Heather, Jerry, Josh, and innumerous fellow bloggers have stopped at nothing to encourage me and support me. Their mission: for me to be the best blogger I can possibly be. I was never once asked to write about a specific topic, to write more or less, to push credit cards or not, they just simply only wanted me to write whatever made me and my readers happy.
Now, looking back at the victories and defeats of Andy’s Travel Blog, I realize that Randy’s growth prediction was right: Andy’s Travel Blog now has 2 million lifetime pageviews from 1.25 million users.
Who I am now versus who I was in 2012
Honestly, I don’t think who I am has changed that much since I started blogging. The values I hold very close are just as close. I’ve always tried to make sure what you’re reading is authentically from me. The good, the bad, and (sometimes) the ugly and painful. I try and write about stuff that I find interesting and think my readers would enjoy. Sometimes I do that well, and other times I know I’ve fallen short. But it’s all been from me.
What I never would’ve imagined are the places I would go because of this blog. The experiences I’ve had, some of the emotions I’ve felt, and the number of breaths taken away as the result of that random decision back in 2012, it blows my mind. I’ve met people different than me, people who don’t speak my language, people who don’t vote for the candidate I support, and people who call God by a different name (or none at all). They’ve just about all been great people and helped me along my way. And I guess that’s what I’m probably most thankful for: the friends I’ve made along the way. There’s no such thing as traveler strangers, only traveler friends you have yet to meet, I truly believe that (granted, there are some turds out there, but they’re few and far between).
I’m a part-time blogger. I have a full-time career in finance that I enjoy (it also takes me around the world to care for clients). Since 2012 I’ve also become a part-time professional photographer. Recently I’ve been in a great relationship with a girl I’m crazy about, which has been awesome. Sometimes the blog is front of mind for me and sometimes the world gets a little busy.
No matter what, thanks for staying with me for the past seven years. Thanks for every comment, all 4300 of them. I hope you’ve enjoyed the 4600 pictures I’ve posted (almost all of them personally taken by me).
On a personal level: my grandmother, one of the most amazing women this world has ever known, died a few years ago. I’m so glad she got to hear about some of the trips I took for this blog before she died. She inspired me to travel ever since I was a young dude, and my family stopped at nothing to nurture that traveling spirit as I grew older. It’s been a joy to bring my family along on trips now, to hopefully begin to repay the favor. In the same vein, I’m sad my dad never got to see any of this. He died when I was young and I think about him often. He died before the internet was really a thing, so I’m not sure he’d understand quite what a blog is, but I know he’d be proud that I’ve been able to travel like he always wanted to.
My hope for my readers
I hope you’ve found something informative, exciting, or amazing over these 883 posts. If you’re in a position to travel, I hope my stories have given you inspiration, and, if not, I hope they’ve given you a respite to enjoy. I hope my story has contributed to your story and inspired you to tell it to the world.
Most of all, I hope at some point I’ve been able to make you smile. That’s enough for me and will have made this blog and the thousands of hours I’ve put into it worth it.
What’s next for Andy’s Travel Blog?
I just reread the post and it sounds like I’m about to retire from blogging. Not at all haha, I’m going to continue trying to balance important things like Blogging and less critical things like Making Sure I Sleep. I’ll continue to talk about photography, hopefully debut my photography training course soon, and talk about camera gear. And don’t worry, I’ll continue to go to amazing places and keep sharing my stories and hopefully teaching you a little bit along the way.
All that said, thanks again for coming along, here’s to seven more years, and I’ll see you out in the world! Look for the guy wearing Bluffworks 🙂