Chris Christensen, the host of Amateur Travel podcast, has a lot to say about the travel industry. Before he started doing podcasts, he built and ran online communities and events for companies like TripAdvisor and the History Channel. In our interview today, Chris talks about transitioning into podcasting and what he will be talking about at TBEX Cancun 2014. Enjoy!
Chris, tell us a little bit about the inspiration between the Amateur Travel blog and podcast.
The Amateur Traveler podcast came before the blog and my love of podcasts came even before that. Shortly after listening to my first podcasts in 2005 I decided that I wanted to create one. I thought about doing a tech podcast, and I thought about doing a religious podcast. But, we had some friends over to our house for a Memorial Day BBQ and I found that all the best stories were travel stories. The first episode of Amateur Traveler followed about a month later.
Your first podcast went live in July of 2005. Now that we’re in 2014, walk us through how your approach to blogging and podcasting has changed since then.
When I started the show I thought it would be about my travel stories but the math did not work out. I was working full time with about 4 weeks of vacation and I was trying to publish 48 podcasts a year. I was rapidly going to run out of new stories. It did not take long before the show became primarily an interview show about other peoples’ travels.
If someone close to you wanted advice on starting a travel blog, what’s the most important piece of advice you could give them?
My first thought is don’t quit your day job. I do Amateur Traveler mostly for the love of travel, which is where the title came from. If you don’t love content creation it will get pretty tiring pretty quickly.
Most of our readers are interested in making blogging more than just a hobby. How do you support yourself with your blog, how has that income stream changed over the years, and what do you foresee in the future in terms of changes?
I don’t. I did try and quit my job and live just off the blog for a while but didn’t sell our house and move to Chiang Mai which would make more sense financially. Not only did I burn through savings but I also missed my work in software. I now am working on building a new company called BloggerBridge.com which helps companies find bloggers to work with which I hope will make it easier for people to turn blogging into a career. I support myself by contracting half time as a programmer with my old employer TripAdvisor.
You’re speaking at the upcoming TBEX conference in Cancun. Can you give us a sneak peek of what you’ll be talking about?
Ha, as it turns out I am talking about just this subject. The talk, which I am doing with David Brodie, who runs a PR firm in Vancouver, is called “Don’t Quit Your Day Job”. We are hoping to talk about some of the advantages of a day job and how to craft the right balance for you of mixing a career and blogging.
Interview conducted in July, 2014 by Kristin Winet.
As we reach the halfway point of 2014, we couldn’t help but go back through many interviews we’ve conducted so far this year to see where we’ve been and where we’re going. The travel industry is changing (there is no doubt about that!), and these writers, editors, and publishers have given us insight into how to make it in the travel industry. So, as we plan for the upcoming TBEX conferences, take our much-needed summer vacations, and do what we do best (travel and write), take a few moments to sit back, relax, and enjoy this round-up of the most interesting travel writing quotes we’ve gotten so far in 2014. And, let us know in the comments section what you think about what our experts have to say!
Happy continued writing,
–Tim & Kristin
P.S. Also, if you’re not subscribed to our newsletter (which always features a round-up of our most recent interviews!), sign up here. No spam, no selling, and no sharing–just a friendly newsletter every once in a while.
“Wearing your heart on your sleeve can bond you with your audience in ways that “Everything is awesome” can’t…..Bloggers totally play it too safe. If you want to be invited on press trip after press trip or get paid day rates by PR, it pays to be safe. You have to have a lot of nerve to bite the hand that feeds you. But it depends on what your goal is. If you want to have a career as an independent writer, you’re gotta put your incisors to work. If you want to trade work as a marketing hack for luscious vacations on someone else’s dime, carry on. But no one says, “I would like to read a travel story about someone who’s having an awesome time on a meticulously managed experience, especially if they are writing to please the host.” – Interview with Pam Mandel, Nerd’s Eye View and Passports with Purpose
“I think it’s important to be judicious in your use of social media, or it can become a big drain on your time and not necessarily garner the results you’re seeking. As of mid-2014, I still believe there are lots of good paying print markets out there. You just have to find them and then consistently deliver the goods for your editors.” – Interview with Lucas Aykroyd, freelance writer
“I think newsletters are your number one asset in reaching out to readers. Keep them short, keep them sweet and make sure they are interactive so that readers can give you feedback on what they do and don’t like. From there it is your particular style (and don’t be afraid to let that show) which will spell success or not.” – Interview with Evelyn Hannon, Journeywoman
“My most popular post on the Cheapest Destinations Blog is 4,803 words, for example. There are e-books for sale that are shorter than that. But don’t take my word for it. In this awesome (long) post from AppSumo founder Noah Kagan, the analysis of more than 100,000 blog posts showed the longer the post, the more it got shared.” – Advice post from our very own Tim Leffel
“I find the key is deeply caring about what you’re writing. But more importantly is to have a clear purpose for creating a blog. Its an easy thing to overlook for newbies, but it will help determine what are the right steps – is the blog about making money, or a hobby or promoting a social cause? If a blog is primarily about making money, then it will need to be the focus front and centre. For us, we started the blog as a hobby and it has grown into a small business which are excited about building further.” – Interview with Erin Bender, Travel with Bender
“Digital media has made a huge impact in the industry and opened up a gap for new ways that travelers can get information. This was crucial for opening the door for this new wave of world travelers, who don’t necessarily travel like their parents once did.” – Interview with Cacinda Maloney, Points and Travel
“Don’t be afraid to act like a professional, even if you don’t feel like one yet. Be reliable, meet deadlines, and deliver exactly as briefed. Overcome any shyness about communicating with your editors. Good editors don’t get annoyed if you ask for guidance. It shows that you care.” – Interview with Rob Goss, freelance writer
“We’re now in the ‘golden age of free content’ which means many writers end up giving away their work for nothing, especially in the early days as they try to build a reputation. It’s very hard to move from writing for free to writing for a living but the sooner you start to make this transition the better. I would suggest starting by keeping your job and writing on the side; then transitioning to part-time work and paid writing assignments; then moving – if possible – to full-time paid writing. But it isn’t easy and there are no short cuts.” – Interview with John Lee, freelance writer
Round-up collected in July 2014 by Kristin Winet.
Want to rub shoulders with the best in the travel blogging business–for free?
We thought so. Read on.
TBEX North America and TBEX Europe are coming up later this year and our very own Tim Leffel will be joining 750+ attendees to talk about travel, adventures, writing, photographing, blogging, and making a living with the combination. This year, to kick things off, we’re giving away one free registration to TBEX Europe in Athens, a $247 value. All you have to do to enter is answer one question below in the Comments and you’re entered!
You’ll see plenty of the writers, bloggers, and editors we’ve interviewed here on the Travel Writing 2.0 blog at both TBEX conferences this year, including Max Hartshorne, Sheila Scarborough, and a host of other names in the business. Click below to see some of the interviews we’ve done with this year’s speakers:
TBEX Cancun (September 11-13, 2014):
TBEX Athens (October 23-25, 2014):
To enter our giveaway, simply respond to this question in the Comments section: What has your blogging journey been like and what do you want to learn at TBEX? Be as creative and insightful as you can!
Rules: one entry per person; no writers who work for Tim or any of the above websites are eligible. Deadline is August 8, 2014, and the winner will be announced on August 11th!
This prize is non-refundable or transferable and must be used at TBEX Europe in Athens. It is for registration only and does not include travel expenses or lodging.