Jessie Voigt had a dream to blend her love for travel writing with her passion for teaching and it led her to create Wandering Educators, a travel site for global educators and a place for young travel writers to begin finding their voices and honing their craft. Jessie, who has written for many travel sites, looks for young people with a curiosity to learn and an eye for finding the interesting and unusual in the places they’ve lived and visited.
What path led you to the position you have now? What’s your background?
I’ve always loved travel and learning about other cultures – it’s a family tradition! From international exchanges as a teen to working overseas and in study abroad (and directing Michigan State University’s Summer Study Abroad Programs in London), travel has been an integral part of my life.
But something was missing for me – I wanted to dig deeper into why people travel, about the changes that people experienced after living abroad, and how intercultural adjustment could be understood and made easier. I discovered the PhD program in Comparative and International Development Education (CIDE) at the University of Minnesota, and packed my bags! I learned about Bennett’s model of Intercultural Sensitivity and so much more, from thought leaders in the field. I thrived in such an engaging, intellectual, intercultural atmosphere (and yes, Minnesota winters are extremely cold…but it is an incredibly diverse and exciting place, worth freezing for).
Because I have CFIDS, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I am not able to work full time. My husband and I pondered ways to include my experience, education, and passion for teaching about the world in a project that we could both work on–and include our daughter (now 18). He’s a marketing guru and email deliverability expert, and has taught classes, written books, and helped small and large businesses for decades. We combined my love of sharing the world and his business experience and started WanderingEducators.com in 2008. It’s a travel library – a community of global educators, sharing travel experiences. We love it.
How much of your income would you say comes from travel writing and blogging? In your opinion, where do you see the industry heading in the next few years?
When we first got into this business, we made an exceptional living from affiliate marketing. As everyone knows, changes in the way the search engines rank sites have made search engine marketing unpredictable. We’ve moved toward a more corporate partnership model, which has less dependency upon our search engine rankings and focuses more on the genuine relationships that we build with our core audience. That happens through social media, direct interactions with different organizations in our niche, and, of course, being a trusted resource for our readers.
The travel blogging industry is expanding exponentially and gaining credibility, while at the same time, the field is becoming SO crowded. We all need to take this responsibility seriously. It is more cost-effective for destinations, service providers, and product manufacturers to work with travel bloggers than traditional advertising channels (e.g., tv, print, and celebrity endorsements). Travel bloggers see themselves as independent journalists, but to make a living, they are going to have to become partners with these destinations, service providers, product manufacturers, and other travel bloggers. They will need to find new ways to make money and grow their audience, including creating their own products and books.
The travel bloggers who conduct themselves in a professional manner, and who treat their work as a business (with clear goals, marketing plans, social media presence, and revenue streams) will be the ones who will succeed. The ones that are in it as a vanity project or to score free stuff make it harder for serious businesspeople to succeed.
What can you share about SEO and social media promotion? What do the most successful sites like yours do to get and maintain good exposure?
SEO comes down to onsite and offsite optimization. You need to do both to succeed.
Social Media promotion is about building relationships. It’s all about your personality, which can’t be effectively outsourced. There is not enough time in the day to be truly effective in all of the major social media channels that are out there. You need to pick and choose the ones that you want to pursue (and become good at). Focus on one or two, build relationships, and be honest and genuine.
The most successful sites do well at this. They frequently refer their readers to other great sites, write quality guest posts, work together on projects, and are flexible–adapting to change well. The key thing is to not isolate yourself, but to connect with other like-minded people, learn from each other, and work together. Find a synergy with people…one phone call, and you’ll know right away who you want to partner with and create something together.
Jessie Voigts is a mom who has a PhD in International Education and is constantly looking for ways to increase intercultural understanding, especially with kids (it’s never too young to start!). She has lived and worked in Japan and London, and traveled around the world. Jessie and her family live on a lake in Michigan, enjoying the summers swimming, kayaking, and sailing, and planning travel for the winter months! Jessie is the publisher of Wandering Educators, a travel site for global educators.
In addition to writing about learning and exploring the world, she is passionate about sharing stories of family travel and travel with disabilities – her work has appeared on countless travel sites.
Interview conducted in April, 2021 by Tim Leffel