I used to know a guy who would greet people like that, without fail, every time. His logic was “well, I’m either early or late, but I hope it was a happy one anyway!” He was super positive and meant it very genuinely. He was also a car salesman, so it came across kind of crazily.
The reason I bring that up, though, is if that guy happened to walk by my blog, he invariably would’ve said “happy birthday!” to it. And today, he would’ve been right!
Andy’s Travel Blog turns nine years old today!
Why I started blogging
I’ve told this story a few times, but I always like retelling it. My brother and I went on a very meaningful trip to Israel in 2012. When we got back, I got the same question from people, “So, how was the trip?”
I reflexively told people, “Good.” It’s what we all say, right? But the full story was longer than that, and richer than that. There was depth and context, there were pictures, I dunno I just wanted to share more. It wasn’t just the trip itself, but how I booked it. We found a mistake fare and flew roundtrip to Israel from DFW for around $400. I wanted to share how I started finding these fares, how points and miles worked, and how I traveled the way I did.
How I envisioned this blog when I started it
I wanted it to be a jovial, happy, almost Ted Lasso-esque view at traveling, where I pointed out what I loved about destinations and the world of miles and points. My plan was to make money from the blog by having credit card affiliate links. My goal was ultimately to join the BoardingArea network of travel blogs, where most of the bloggers I looked up to, like Gary Leff and Ben Schlappig, hosted their blogs.
So how did I do?
I joined the BoardingArea network in 2014, checking one of the big goals off my list. The BoardingArea team has been absolutely wonderful. Randy Petersen is a great friend and trusted advisor whenever I need anything. The BoardingArea support team, some of whom have moved on over the past few years, have helped keep me sane and helped me to just focus on writing, they take care of literally everything else for me. I’m grateful every day to the entire team.
What about credit cards? Well, you’ve never seen a credit card affiliate link on this blog (aside from the Google ads that come in about credit cards from time to time). Why? Well, I’ve seen so many people do amazing things with points and miles earned from credit cards. I’ve seen a handful, though, get themselves into pretty perilous situations with the irresponsible handling of credit cards and have set themselves back financially for quite a few years.
At the end of the day, I wanted this blog to be about the joy of traveling, and with affiliate links comes a LOT of paperwork (I hate paperwork), a LOT of site maintenance and updates (I hate site maintenance and updates) and you need to be bringing in applications or else risk losing your links (I hate this), so writing about credit cards never really made sense for me. As a result, I have never really made a ton of money from Andy’s Travel Blog, but that’s ok, as I still have a full-time career at a company I love.
Here’s what has surprised me about blogging
I never realized how vulnerable writing a blog post could feel until I started doing it. Every time I write something, whether I spend weeks working on it or if it’s more of a stream-of-consciousness/extended tweet kind of article, I’m putting a piece of myself out to the world. I have to remember that when I’m critical of companies, even when they deserve it. I cannot control who reads my blog and sometimes that frightens me when I put personal information out there. At the end of the day, though, I believe most people are good and genuine and are just looking for an escape from their lives for a minute to check out cool airport lounges or where a random Texan is off to now.
Putting yourself out there can be frightening but the rewards can be so sweet. I’ve met so many friends from blogging, to the point where I can reach out to someone for a beer or dinner almost no matter where I am traveling in the world. I’m grateful for that. I’ve had the chance to work with some wonderful organizations collaborating on articles or posts. None of that ever would’ve happened if I didn’t have the courage to hit Publish on my first post 9 years ago today.
And here are the results
If you would’ve told me nine years ago that I would be a decently well-known professional photographer I would’ve laughed at you, as I didn’t have the patience to learn something as artful and creative as photography. Nine years later, I’ve posted 5576 images on this blog, all but a handful taken personally by me. I’m known more for my photography than I am my writing, in fact!
I’ve had a few posts go really viral over the years:
- The time I was paid a $4500 voucher by Delta to fly to Iceland a day later
- When I filed a Freedom of Information Act request for information about the FAA’s investigation into Casey Neistat’s drone flying
- That time I paid for a night at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore just so I could swim in their pool
The number one post of all-time on Andy’s Travel Blog, though, is the one I’m most proud of (even though I’m still paying it off). My They Will Fly Again project was a massive hit and helped the world understand the devastating scale of the COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation industry. I never put as much into a story as I did that one, and it was so gratifying to see the results from it.
Overall, by visiting this blog you are part of an exclusive club of 1.5 million people who have visited in the past 9 years, equating to roughly 2.5 million pageviews! I love those numbers because it’s all been from me, I’ve tried other writers in the past but at the end of the day it’s my name on the blog so none of them ever really worked out.
Have I made the money I thought I would? Nope. Have I gained so much more than money with the friends I’ve made, the experiences I’ve shared, and the photos I’ve taken? Absolutely, wouldn’t trade that for any amount of money.
So what’s next?
Well, I’m really close to my 1000th post on the blog, so that’s going to be fun! I also am a few months behind with some great trip reports from Europe and, inevitably, more photography news as I feel appropriate. I just might bring back Picture of the Week as well!
Thank you. To everyone who has visited this blog in the past nine years. Thank you even more to those who have reached out with an encouraging word when a post hit you in the feelings. Thanks to my support teams, both technical and emotional, who keep me going. Thanks to Randy Petersen, the godfather of points and miles, for believing in me. What started as a small-time blog is now a small-time blog with great photography, and the story ain’t over!
Here’s to nine years and hopefully many more, or, as my old colleague would’ve said, “happy birthday!”