Travel Blogging Income Report: How I Made $22,000 in my First Full Year

Have you ever wondered, "can you actually make money travel blogging?" (Don't be shy, you're only the zillionth person who's asked me that). Happily, the answer is yes! In my first full year of travel blogging, I earned $22,000. The growth I saw was enough for me to quit my job and commit to blogging full time. Here's how I monetized my travel blog, and how I'm planning to double my earnings next year in my first year of full time travel blogging!

I started my travel blog, Practical Wanderlust, in June 2016. I wanted to have a travel diary for our year-long honeymoon: a way to record our experiences for our family and friends, and perhaps share information with other travelers too. Always mindful of my budget, I hoped to perhaps grow Practical Wanderlust enough during our trip to help offset some of our travel expenses after we returned, maybe with the odd discounted hotel stay, here and there.

By the end of 2016, after 6 months of blogging, I had earned a grand total of $65.07, as well as one comped $80 tour in exchange for a blog post (this one, right here). Anyone who’s ever earned their very first dollar online knows the elation I felt at having earned this teeny tiny sum of money. I was ECSTATIC, and I saw potential.

What if, I wondered, I might actually be able to make real money off of Practical Wanderlust? Like, what if I could earn $1,000 every month? That would nearly pay for our annual travel budget!

I’m not a big dreamer by nature. I’m practical, and I tend to set myself realistic, attainable goals. But even so, when I told my husband that I wanted to earn $1,000 per month off of the blog, he was incredulous. “Did you mean $1,000 in a year?”

“No, like, per month.”

“Every month, $1,000? Are you serious?”

I was. I’d heard that some people were able to LIVE off of their blogging income. Sure, in the travel blogging sphere it seemed like every full time blogger was also a digital nomad, permanently living out of a suitcase in somewhere that cost a lot less than the US,  and truth be told, I had absolutely no idea how they made any money at all, but still. It seemed reasonable.

After all, it wasn’t like I was planning to live solely off the income from the blog. So why not shoot for the sky?

$1,000 a month it was. And so I set my crazy goal of earning $12,000 from my travel blog in 2017, my first full year of travel blogging. I was aiming high and fully preparing to fall flat on my face.

But quite the opposite happened: in 2017, I made over $22,000 – nearly DOUBLE the goal I’d set for myself – and I surprised myself completely. At the end of 2017, I decided to pursue travel blogging as my full-time job. You can read more about that decision in this post.

When I made the decision to blog full-time, we weren’t planning to live somewhere cheap, like Colombia, where $1,000 paid for both us for for an entire month. Instead, we were living in the San Francisco Bay Area, shackled to a rent that would get us a mansion in most parts of the USA, much less the rest of the world.

$22,000 didn’t even begin to cover the amount we spend annually on rent, much less anything else. Blogging full-time was a crazy idea – especially considering that my husband is a teacher, and I’m supposed to be the breadwinner (whoops, sorry babe).

But I had run the numbers. I made a financial plan (because I’m a nerd and I love spreadsheets, and also because my background is in corporate retail and planning is second nature at this point)And according to my financial plan, I should be able to just about double my $22,000 again in 2018. 

Hey, I know: these are not crazy high numbers for a full-time gig. My cushy corporate salary was another double what I plan to earn next year from travel blogging. 

But look, lemme be real with you: blogging isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s not even really a get rich ever scheme. You do it cuz you love it, and cuz you can’t imagine not doing it.

I’m acutely aware that my income is not going to buy us a luxurious lifestyle, but you know what? I’m going for it anyway. I’ve thought it through, and it’s worth the sacrifice. But that’s not what this post is about (I have a whole other post on this, actually: here’s how I decided to blog full time). 

This post is about spelling out exactly how I earned every penny of that $22,000 in 2017, plus how I plan to grow next year, and how I reached my estimated financial plan numbers.  Next year, we’ll see how I did compared to my plan!

Psst: To read the rest of this post, you’ll need to head over to my travel blog, Practical Wanderlust! Click the button below to read the full post:

Monetize your Blog in 5 days!

Do you want to monetize your travel blog? It can be super overwhelming to know where to start. In our FREE email course, we'll walk you through taking the first steps to monetize your blog in just 5 days!

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

Comments (6)

Thanks for sharing your story. I’m really inspired! I just started my travel blogging journey. Where you are now is my dream, and where I want to be one day. I’m especially surprised and excited to see how you can pick up traffic so fast, i.e. within 6 months! I read about your post on using Pinterest (I don’t have an account yet), and will give it a try ASAP! Besides, I was wondering if you could share how much “promotional” cost you spent in the beginning months to publicise your blog?

Hey Jeremy! I didn’t use any paid promotions in the beginning months. I did all of my promotion on social media. It took me a LOT of time but it was “free” 😛 I’ve dabbled in Facebook ads, but didn’t really find the click-throughs to be worth the money. So I spend nothing on advertising, unless you count paying my VA to do a weekly Pinterest thread for me!

Hi Lia! Loved reading this! I’ve been blogging for aaaaalmost a year now and struggling to find ways to monetize. I think I’ve made a whopping $20 from Amazon affiliate sales? Anyways, I’m really focusing on this because, like you and most travel bloggers, I want this to be my JOB.
Your income reports are great and break it down very nicely, but it seems that most of your revenue is based on high traffic volumes (duh, Mary, that’s how it works). The golden question of blogging: how in the world did you get so much traffic in your first year?? I’m heavy into Pinterest and Tailwind, I’m creating content consistently, been SEOing as best I can, but am just not seeing results.
Have any advice?

Hey Mary! For me, the biggest traffic boost I got in the first year of blogging was from Pinterest. It takes a while for SEO to catch up, but Pinterest traffic can grow a lot faster!

I know this post is a few years old now, but I just want to let you know that your income reports are what inspired me to start a travel blog! It wasn’t until I found Practical Wanderlust that I realized travel blogging was an actual career possibility. So thank you for sharing your income reports (and your different sources of income), and your journey! It was (and still is) super inspiring 🙂

Hey Mia, that’s so amazing to hear! I’m so honored and touched that my income reports inspired you to take the leap and begin your own blogging journey!!!

Leave a comment