I remember it like it was yesterday. Travis and I were sitting in our San Francisco apartment in December of 2014 and I was at a crucial point in deciding what I would continue to pursue. I felt stuck, unable to move forward, and not satisfied with my pursuits at the time. I had spent more than a year growing my business as an independent travel consultant and knew it was time for change.

I took a leap of faith, four years ago, exactly this week. I told Travis I wanted to take a chance on this thing called a “travel blog.” At the time, paid social posts weren’t common, press trips were mostly reserved for traditional journalists, and the idea of being a “blogger” was pretty far out there. We made a decision that day together that we’d take a chance on Bon Traveler and haven’t looked back since.

One of the most frequently asked questions is how I got into travel blogging. As we celebrate four years of this incredible community and journey, I thought what better time than now to share a quick story. So this is it in a nutshell — a snapshot of how I started and the lessons learned along the way.

How I Started My Travel Blog


6 months prior to December 2014.

We had re-branded my blog in the summer of 2014 as I was really enjoying my time writing and sharing my travels online. I had named it “Simply Wright”, a play on my last name. I knew if I was going to create a travel brand, I needed to rethink my branding strategy. I was wildly inspired by World of Wanderlust and decided to follow suit. I bought her guide on how to create a successful travel blog and started taking the steps right away.

I came up with the name “Bon Traveler” as it was homage to my French heritage. My tag line — travel well and travel often. We decided on a color code for the website and got to work.

It brought me so much joy to write a guide, share it online, and receive a note from readers sharing how much it impacted their trip. I knew it was where I was at my best — being a creative in the medium of travel. Travis helped me do the back end of the blog and I built out the majority of my blog on Squarespace by hand. (a skill I’m glad I took the time to learn then as it’s helping me with my new business now).

Almost every day for those six months leading up to December of 2014, I wrote a blog post. They weren’t great pieces of writing, but I was doing something more important: developing the habit of writing consistently, refining my social media management skills when sharing content, and learning more about the travel industry. Ultimately those six months taught me the importance of progress over perfection.

I spent the majority of my time focusing on building out the content on Bon Traveler so that when it was time to pitch my first trip, I had a foundation of work to show.

December 2014.

It was time. I had landed a campaign with Sun Valley, Idaho (more on that next) and I needed to make the decision. Sitting at that table in the apartment, I told Travis I was going to do it. I was going to go close down my business as a travel advisor and pursue Bon Traveler full time. I knew I couldn’t do both well and my heart was no longer in selling travel. He told me I should go for it and gave me encouraging support to pursue it relentlessly.

Change is one of the hardest things for me to grapple with emotionally. I’m methodical, practical, and always have a pro’s and con’s list to sort through. This time it was easy, crystal clear, and the doors couldn’t have been more wide open.

So as I finalized my Sun Valley campaign details, I closed down my business as a travel consultant. It was single-handedly the scariest and most thrilling decision to date in my career.

The First Campaign as a “Travel Blogger.”

Sun Valley took a chance on me. I had little numbers, only had the content I had written to show for, and a daring pitch that I had gone over with a fine-tooth comb. I remember how many times I went through that darn pitch email — I was sure it would be perfect and land the campaign. They took a chance on me, and if it wasn’t for them, I would not have been able to get a foot in. So first and foremost, thank you Sun Valley for believing in me.

Late December 2014, I went to Sun Valley to promote the destination. The trip changed my life and set me on a crash course for what would then set the tone for Bon Traveler. (Here’s the Sun Valley blog post in case you want to see where Bon Traveler guides started.)

The three days working with Sun Valley was a catalyst and a test for me to see if I truly loved this work. It’s no secret I did.

The First Year of Blogging (2015).

What’s the worst they can say? No? This was my mantra for year one. I had more emails filed in “Not Interested” than I could have imagined. It was tough to swallow, and at the same time, I was working on getting my brand out there.

My first big trip was in early 2015 with Jordan Tourism. I had won a spot via an application competition for a press trip with bloggers from around the world. This bigger campaign helped shape how I would continue working. I learned the importance of brand positioning and going above and beyond for clients. I used what I learned from this trip to land my first luxury hotel campaign with the Four Seasons Jackson Hole that early summer. Then that fall, another big client opportunity happened with Viking River Cruises where I got to take my mom on a river cruise through Europe (they later became my highest repeat travel client to date). These opportunities helped me shape what I enjoyed writing about and sharing. I honed in on my niché in travel through each of these experiences.

Year one was an investing year. A year of big highs and very low lows. Setting weekly, monthly, and yearly goals was crucial. I also learned the reality of being a “travel blogger”: That it’s much more than just travel — it requires you to wear every hat in a business (this post shares a bit). I set a posting schedule of Monday/Wednesday/Friday (3x a week) and committed to it. Building habits like this helped prepare me for the future.

But when I step back and look at it all, the journey couldn’t have been possible without you guys. Your support. Reading, sharing, liking, commenting, and sending notes of encouragement. It was my motivation, my inspiration, and the reason I continued pursuing this crazy journey. So thank you, thank you for showing up, and for being behind Bon Traveler from day one.

Four Years of Travel Blogging: How I Started and More.

Four Years of Travel Blogging: How I Started and More.

The Second Year of Blogging (2016).

Year two felt wild. I never would have predicted what would happen that year. 2016 set the tone of what would become a new norm of spending an average of 10 months a year on the road doing client work. I learned quickly that travel blogging means you have to actually be on the road a fair amount of time. Taking on these projects required a sacrifice I had never known before and a new discipline to getting work done.

2016 was indeed the year of sacrifice. Learning the hard way, my physical health suffered. I was pursuing a dream and nothing was going to stop me. Until my body decided it was done. Somewhere in Italy on a warm September night amidst health issues, I knew I needed to take a step back and evaluate how I could do this more sustainably. So I came home, took a quarter off of travel, and focused on my health. I never wanted to repeat that again and placed a high priority on balance for myself personally and professionally.

This year, there were some of my favorite adventures to date. A trip to Helsinki, Finland showed me a new side to Europe. I got to take my dad on a campaign to Scottsdale — we still talk about riding horses through the river. We partnered with G Adventures for a fun trip of sailing through Greece with my close friend Jaharn from Mister Weekender. There were countless memories, and I still cherish these today.

This year I learned the importance of community. In large it’s why I love what I do — the people I’ve met, the friendships formed, and every one of you who support me. I met some of my closest friends, I connected with readers who I still talk with today. It gave me a bigger, more meaningful purpose behind Bon Traveler.

Four Years of Travel Blogging: How I Started and More.

Four Years of Travel Blogging: How I Started and More.

Four Years of Travel Blogging: How I Started and More.

The Third Year of Blogging (2017).

When year three crept up, it was time to do some housecleaning on the business. I had taken on client work relentlessly without a break or pursuing creative projects for myself. So I set aside money made on campaigns and took a few trips for myself.

I went to Morocco with my dear friend Kiersten from the Blonde Abroad. We stayed up late talking, saw a breathtaking sunrise in the Sahara, and spent a night on the train. This trip revived my soul and gave me energy. Shortly after, I spent a week in Cuba with my close friend Anne from Part-Time Traveler. We danced salsa to the early hours of day, spent hours road tripping, and learned the reality of the impact of travel can have on a country. This trip refilled my joy for travel and gave me perspective.

I invested in myself for the first time with purpose and these trips sparked a new inspiration for where I wanted my business to go. The third year would be a year of learning the importance to be a creative without the constraints of a due date or a client.

We re-configured the blog and jumped over to WordPress the summer of 2017. Nothing like moving 600+ blog posts over — that goal of posting three times a week paid off. Travis took on this massive project and this business wouldn’t continue to exist without him. At the end of 2017 we launched our first Bon Traveler product, Lightroom Presets. We had some of our favorite projects with clients to date like a series of blog posts with Rosetta Stone, Lo & Sons, and Preferred Hotels. It was an exciting year of business development.

Bon Traveler grew in a way my imagination could have never imagined. A community like you guys supported me. A community of creatives pushed me to work harder. My husband stood beside me when others didn’t. Year three was a beautiful adventure and it guided me in a new direction for what 2018 would be.

Four Years of Travel Blogging: How I Started and More.

Four Years of Travel Blogging: How I Started and More.

The Fourth Year of Blogging (2018).

Here we are, completing year four. If I’m being honest, I don’t know how to capture this year in words. So let’s see if sharing some of the new adventures and feelings alongside those does it.

I started out in January this year knowing I wanted to do something new, something that challenged me to grow. So the first thing was launching Gather + Getaway (a boutique blogging retreat) with my partner Anne who I traveled with in Cuba. Our first one is in January of 2019 and to be truthful, it keeps me up at night. Mostly because I’m wildly excited for what I will get to share with a group of ladies and partly because it’s new and the experience is unknown. Starting anything new is a daring adventure, requires you to reengage with new fears and old insecurities, and at the same time rewards you with growth. So with reckless abandon, I’m setting out on a new adventure that I’m passionate about — teaching women how to be creative business owners in the world of blogging.

The second biggest dream for 2018 was living abroad with my husband. If you follow along, you’ll know we just got back from spending three months in Barcelona. It was our greatest adventure to date. We wanted to be based there to experience a new culture, integrate, and get a new perspective. There were incredible moments and then times where we spent long nights conversing over big questions like “where do we want to plant our roots?” and “what’s in store for our future creative pursuits?” Barcelona gave us a new canvas to rethink our future dreams.

When it comes to blogging, this was a year of learning to say no so that I can say yes to the right things. I love taking on every project that comes my way but I learned the hard way that this isn’t always the best choice. I said no a lot – to opportunities that wouldn’t support my audience’s interests, to high paying jobs that didn’t match what I believed in, and to travel opportunities that prevented me from growing in other ways. In return, it opened new doors that wouldn’t have been possible.

So what am I learning today? That what has worked for so long no longer works and it’s time to make change. What that change is, I’m not certain yet. 2018 seems to be wrapping up with a theme of taking the time to explore new chances, face old insecurities, and those new fears that come along with it all. There’s an itch in me creatively and I’m gearing up my game face to figure it out.

Four Years of Travel Blogging: How I Started and More.

Four Years of Travel Blogging: How I Started and More.

Thank You!

Maybe you’ve been here since day one or maybe this is the first time you’ve been on the blog, either way, thank you. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to share these dreams, these incredible destinations that inspire and change us far beyond the trip itself, and for believing in me.

So What’s Next?

I’ll be taking off the last two weeks of 2018 to be with family so that means no posts after December 21. I’ve shared three blog posts a week now for four years and I’m excited to put my keyboard down for some time of recharging. I’ll be back in January with the annual new year posts (my favorite three blog posts to kick off the year).

I won’t be traveling as much in January as I’ll be focusing 100% of my time on Gather + Getaway — if you want to join a retreat, send me a note and I’d love to share more . There’s a few exciting destinations in February like Colombia and New Orleans plus some projects I’m excited about.

Until then, I hope you have wonderful holidays wherever you are in the world and I’ll see you in 2019 for another year of adventures together that I can’t wait to share with you!

As always, travel well and travel often.

Xx

Jessica.

2 Comments

  1. What a wild ride it has been! It’s been an honor to work, travel, laugh, dance, and sometimes cry (haha) with you as you navigate this career path with bravery and commitment. The industry changes, the goals change, we change…but and the larger purpose (and lessons) of travel and creating are consistent and true — as long as we show up and keep going.
    Looking forward to what 2019 (and beyond!) will bring. xx

  2. Teri A Yeung Reply

    Thanks for taking the time to detail your journey, Jessica!
    It’s amazing how inspiring hearing about struggles can be b/c it makes you feel less alone in them. Good luck in the new year and thanks for all the great content 🙂

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