I ran into Kristin Henning and Tom Bartel a few weeks ago in New York City, after spending time with them in cities on at least two other continents in the past. They run the popular boomer blog Travel Past 50 and I wanted to get their take on being a traveling blogger couple who has spent a lot of time on the road.
What were you two doing before you started travel blogging and what led to decision to go down that new route?
Before our travel and blogger lifestyle began in 2010, we were newspaper and magazine publishers in Minneapolis/St. Paul. By 2008, it was pretty clear that print was not going to be our future. That coincided with our children coming of age, and our abiding interest in extended travel.
When did you realize you were on to something in terms of monetization?
We didn’t start Travel Past 50 until early 2013, though we produced our separate blogs prior to that, just for fun. So many of our friends had questions about the logistics of long-term travel and about destinations that we realized there was a demand for our content. Then, once we connected with other bloggers and attended conferences, we learned the first steps toward monetization.
I’ve hung out with you both at conferences sponsored by the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), the Travel Bloggers Exchange (TBEX), the New York Times Travel Show (plus IMM), and who knows what other acronyms. What has attending these events led to for you?
Well, personally, we have made great friends with so many other bloggers and learned so much about the business from them. We go out of our way to stay in touch with these friends/colleagues.
On top of that, we have made excellent contacts with destinations and other clients through conferences. Hey, face time is always helpful, and some clients have become friends as well.
How much of your time are you on the road? Do you have any advice for bloggers trying to juggle the demands of travel with the demands of producing good content and managing the admin work?
We were entirely nomadic for six years, then traveled a good 10 months out of the year after that. But this year we are spending a bit more time at our “landing pad” and are more selective about our travel. We’re trying to focus on website improvements, not to mention spending more time with grandkids and with Tom’s 94-year-old mother.
The only advice we can muster–which we keep trying to practice ourselves–is to continue to incorporate writing time, social media time, housekeeping AND gathering stories (photos and notes) no matter whether we’re on the road or at home. It’s hard to catch up if you drop any of the pieces. I devote a day monthly to making sure my tracking and reporting is solid enough to provide to clients.
How do you divide up tasks between the two of you?
Ha, the perennial question. We both do everything at times, but I focus on writing, Tom focuses on photography; I focus on Pinterest and Facebook, Tom focuses on Instagram and Twitter. We keep a document to track our social media and group shares, but that’s only moderately effective, as good as our daily documentation.
I set up client proposals; Tom handles affiliate business and our store. All of this is subject to change!
If someone handed you a big bag of cash for traveling, with no expectations of articles or social postings, where would you go and why?
Antarctica. Because we want to take it all in while it’s in its current state.
But we’re conflicted, of course. Antarctica is changing, fleeting, and not a place we ought to be promoting. Instead, it’s a story we’d like to report.
Kristin Henning and Tom Bartel have visited over 70 countries since they started their travels in 2010. Their award-winning blog, TravelPast50.com, inspires travelers age 50+ to appreciate both the classic destinations and the unexpected places and personalities that inform their travels. Their travel stories and photography document culture, history, nature and wildlife, and active travel.