The Insecurities Of A Travel Blogger

When I decided to start travel blogging in October 2014, I didn’t know it was going to be that hard. I thought it would be just me and my laptop, treating each other like old friends who agree upon everything: me typing fast, him making the letters appear on the Word page, us being happy together forever.
God was I wrong. And I know it hasn’t even been 6 full months since I started blogging, but I feel that the more I learn about it, the more I still need to learn, and I’m just wondering when I will finally feel like I know what I’m doing. Because seriously, it’s just too much: HTML, SEO, web optimization, mastering photography, becoming a full-time instagrammer and a social-media addict, enrolling into marketing courses, decoding your Google Analytics reports, making mini blogging strategies, et cetera, et cetera – this seems like a never-ending list.
And then you also have to produce high-quality content that will wow your readers. Like, make them fall in love with you. In my case, however, I just try to produce content and merely hope that somebody will genuinely find it interesting. Because truth be told, I’m struggling so much with what I need to be “as a travel blogger” that I forget what I am “as a person”. Which drains my creativity.
The Russian Abroad
First of all, I’m a non-native English speaker. So I already feel pretty insecure about myself every time I stumble upon a blog of some 17-year-old smarty pants, whose choice of vocabulary makes me want to sleep with the dictionary on my pillow. Yes, I have a degree in English Philology. No, it doesn’t really help my tongue to roll and my speech to flow and all that.
It’s already a damn difficult job to find your voice as a writer – but how the hell do you do that when English isn’t your native tongue? When you look up words? Confuse between American and British Englishes all the time? Struggle with definite articles? When your English sounds like a literal translation from your mother tongue (Russian in my case)?
I tell myself that language is a skill. Patience, practice, persistence – follow these 3 P’s, and eventually you’ll be fine.
Southbank London
But then there comes another problem – what to write about. Usually they tell you that you have to be “relevant” and thinking “a step ahead of your readership”. What do your readers want to hear about? Forget about what you want – what do they want? To answer that question, you start researching keywords, learning your readers’ interests and preferences, and making a nice little folder compiled from your demographics reports on Google Analytics. Until you finally have a looooooot of data that you have to take into consideration when preparing your next big post.
But then you ask yourself what do you want to write about, and there’s nothing. Long pause, no answer. How did that happen?
It happened when you put your readers first. Putting your readers first is the biggest mistake any blogger can make. There’s only that much space on the blogging pedestal, and it belongs to only one person – you. Research for yourself, write for yourself, press “Publish” for yourself, and then you will enjoy what you do, and then so will other people, and then everybody will be happy. That’s going to be my blogging mantra from now on. No SEO. No scheduled writing. No oh my god, there’s Easter coming, where’s my easter-traditions-over-the-world post? Nothing that the blogging experts tell me I have to do. No pressure anymore.
I started The Russian Abroad as my personal web-space because in autumn 2014, I was far far away in Ecuador, struggling with Spanish and with many other things, and I needed a personal project that would keep me afloat, make me disciplined and organized, and teach me how to stop leaving things half-done. And to be honest with you, I have never had a hobby that I would be devoted to for 6 months straight, so my travel blog is already a personal achievement I can celebrate already – no matter how many readers I’m getting.

Over to you! What are your travel blogging insecurities?


  • Reply
    April 6, 2015 at 3:30 am

    I kept a blog when I was in Leipzig, – and I didn’t even enjoy writing it for myself! But, when I look back, it is satisfying to have that record. Even when you feel low in creativty, remember that this is also your journal, and you will value it in years to come!

    Also, your blog is great :)

    • Reply
      April 6, 2015 at 7:36 am

      I lived in Leipzig for 2 years, it’s funny that we never crossed our paths there, and now we “met” on the blogosphere…
      You’re absolutely right, I mustn’t put my hands down! Months later I will probably remember this “creativity torture” as a great experience!

  • Reply
    April 6, 2015 at 3:54 am

    Great article. I’m also a non-native-English-speaking blogger and like you said writing is always difficult as you should have a unique, interesting way to write. It can be even more difficult when you are not sure how to say certain expressions in English. I guess we just need to remember the 3 Ps. :)

    • Reply
      April 6, 2015 at 7:37 am

      There are the 4 P’s of marketing, and now there are the 3 P’s of travel blogging! haha
      Thank you for commenting, Eniko, I know we will fight through our English problems and finally conquer the language one day!!!

  • Reply
    April 6, 2015 at 6:15 am

    Hey Olga!! I’ve been a fan of your blog for a while now and I find your posts to be quite unique and authentic, especially the ones about Equador. And I totally agree with you about writing for yourself. Less pressure=More originality!! :)

    • Reply
      April 6, 2015 at 7:40 am

      Thank you so much, Diana!! I feel hugged :)

  • Reply
    April 6, 2015 at 9:07 am

    You know how I can tell you’re a brilliant blogger already? I just read three posts and feel like I want to come back and read more. You have a great, honest voice and insecurities make you a real person. We all feel this way and after over a year of blogging myself, I still second guess what I’m doing sometimes and worry about my next post.
    It’s great to evaluate where you are and remind yourself of what’s important to you. Stay true to yourself and the rest will fall into place.
    Great blog, keep going! :)

    • Reply
      April 6, 2015 at 2:38 pm

      Kate, your comment completely overwhelmed me and I spent an hour (!) thinking about how to reply, haha… still haven’t figured it out, really, so sorry for a clumsy answer:
      THANK YOU! SO much! Your words are warming me from within and make me a VERY happy little blogger))

  • Reply
    Tam Gamble
    April 6, 2015 at 9:21 am

    I love this post. I feel your pain when you talk about creativity. I got to a point where I felt completely stifled because I concentrated so much on what I thought I should be doing I forgot to let my own personality shine through. Sometimes I do think to myself, if I had known what it really took to be a blogger before starting would I have ever started? For me, I am still trying to get my head around all the social media platforms an SEO, coding (don’t even get me started) oh and finding the time to so that small thing called writing all in the space of one day. :)

    • Reply
      April 6, 2015 at 2:53 pm

      One of my readers gave me a great advice today: when you don’t have inspiration, make sure you DO something to write about!
      It’s such a simple and yet a very wise advice, really! Completely changed how I perceived blogging before: I used to spend AGES brainstorming for future posts just sitting in front of my computer and wondering where all my inspiration is disappearing…
      I think, in the end of the day, as much as they say how important SEO and all is, it’s only your content that really matters. So it’s important to eliminate that pressure that we bloggers have created ourselves, and that’s it! (I guess, haha, I’m still figuring this out!)

  • Reply
    April 6, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    From the moment I laid eyes on your blog, I fell in love with your writing style and narrative voice. I started just a month after you and can honestly relate to every point made. In the sea that is the internet, I sometimes get overwhelmed by what I want versus what I should want as a travel blogger. In the scope of things I admire you for sharing your insecurities because I know now that I’m not alone! I still don’t know what SEO is or how to work Google Analytics. I still have no clue what a Klout score or Alexa ranking is. And I’m okay with that. I guess with time and experience we’ll learn! Can’t wait to continue following you along on your journey!

    • Reply
      April 7, 2015 at 12:01 am

      Probably all these insecurities come from simple impatience and comparing ourselves to those successful bloggers whose blogs we read every single day. They may be inspiring and belittling at the same time, I guess!

      PS. I haven’t even heard of a Klout score before :D But yes, you’re right: time and experience is the only thing we need, so I stop rushing and beating myself up for everything I don’t know yet!

  • Reply
    Katrina the Two Week Traveler
    April 6, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    Just to let you know, from reading your blog posts, you would never know English isn’t your first language. Don’t feel insecure about that!

    Besides that, I can definitely understand everything you are talking about. I started my blog in 2009 just to keep my family and friends updated on my life overseas. I only started seriously blogging back in December and worrying about getting my name out, SEO, a professional looking blog, good content etc. I enjoy writing, but I was putting a lot of pressure on myself and feeling depressed when I wasn’t getting the traffic I wanted or enough Facebook likes etc. I have recently had to remind myself that I started blogging because I love travel and writing and I need to write about what I care about and stay true to myself!

    • Reply
      April 7, 2015 at 12:05 am

      Thank you!! I always think that English is my weakest point, so it means the world to me to hear that people find it to be good!
      And you’re million times right about how important it is to stay true to yourself! That’s the only key to success!

  • Reply
    April 6, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    This is an amazing post! I can sign my name under each line, I swear! I am a non native English speaker as well and can relate so much to your worries and insecurities (however, I actually think your English is pretty damn great!) I am going through the same overwhelming phase of learning learning and learning about blogging and after being stressed over it, I decided to let it slide and just take small steps every day without trying to grasp it all at once. I decided not to care about picking a niche and just be myself and to write what I am passionate about. I made my happiness a priority. I am thrilled when someone likes my posts and become my follower, but if not – I am OK with it. I’d rather have a small community of genuinely same minded followers than try to please the majority.

    I’d like to add my personal struggle here – getting exposed in front of my real friends who know me for years and who find this whole blogging world in general (and my blog in particular) to be lame and ambiguous. I try not to pay attention, but it’s hard.

    And an issue with my boyfriend. I spend quite some time writing posts or researching or reading other people’s posts and trying to engage with those bloggers I like – so my boyfriend thinks I am wasting my time, because:

    He: Does it bring you any income?
    Me: No, not yet, but I love it…
    He: Will it bring you any income in the future?
    Me: Probably…it all depends…but it makes me happy…
    He: How you are planning to handle a full time job, your second bachelor’s studies, your millions of other hobbies and on top of it your plans of having a baby?
    Me: I dream of quitting my full time job and becoming a full time blogger…
    He: Really?…

    P.S. I am sorry for this huge comment, it’s just the kind of topic I can talk hours about and I feel some connection here :)

    • Reply
      April 7, 2015 at 12:27 am

      My friends were really supportive when I started blogging (they were my first readers, critics, and commentators actually), but I did face the same kind of wall of misunderstanding coming from my boyfriend… (now ex). He was also a bit intense about it, always pointing out that blogging doesn’t bring me money, that building an online community of strangers is creepy, etc etc etc… This made me feel sometimes that what I do is not only a waste of time, but just dumb.
      At the same time, you should be stubborn and keep doing whatever fulfills you and makes you happy without getting disencouraged by the people’s critique… Even though I know for myself how much it hurts when the people you love kinda laugh at your hobby saying it’s silly. It doesn’t make sense for me, though, because a lot of people’s hobbies is going out, drinking, and partying, or knitting, or watching allll the TV series in the world, or playing playstation, and nobody’s judging them for that, even though it’s a much less productive way of spending one’s time!
      In blogging at least we learn something every day, develop our skills, find our voices, set goals and achieve them – we grow!!
      And not many people can boast that they become better at something every day!

      My family wasn’t too understanding in the beginning too (my grandparents are just a bit too old to understand what blogging really is), but it’s funny how now they give me recommendations on how I can improve my blog, and what I should write about, and whom I should talk to. They see that it makes me happy, and they finally realize that they should simply support me in my beginnings. Because seriously, it’s not like my hobby is something destructive and horrible, so why judge it so much?

  • Reply
    April 6, 2015 at 4:33 pm

    Great advice! Write for yourself and the rest will follow! And don’t worry about your English; it’s excellent! (And I’m an English teacher!) You’d widen your audience, though, if you wrote in both languages. I’ve been thinking of doing so myself (English and Dutch).

    • Reply
      April 7, 2015 at 12:07 am

      Thank you!!
      My grandmother was telling me that yesterday, too, that I should write in Russian… I’ll definitely think about it!

  • Reply
    Jolanta aka Casual Traveler
    April 7, 2015 at 4:47 am

    Keep writing! I do find your blog interesting, even though I haven’t been able to keep up with all the posts. When it comes to English, don’t worry about it. Again, just keep writing. When you see a place, keep a notebook, think about how you’d describe a place, and jot it down. Google Analytics and all that advice to drive traffic to your blog are great, but keep remembering that this is supposed to be fun. If it isn’t, then you need to change something. Now, I don’t know when you’re going back to Russia, but I’d love to see some posts from there. Heck, you can probably write 10 different posts on the Hermitage alone, so you have plenty of topics right there. I see you’re in Riga now. I’ve seen some nice posts from Riga from other bloggers. I’m sure you’ll find interesting stuff to write about that place as well. Again, don’t give up! And if you do decide to write in two languages, that would be really time consuming for you, but the better for me :) since it might improve my Russian.

    • Reply
      April 8, 2015 at 12:51 am

      Thank you Jolanta!!
      I actually don’t come from Russia, I’ve only been there twice in my early teens)
      Thank you for encouragement though!! It means the world to me!

  • Reply
    April 7, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    Great post from the heart! Your English is actually really good, I would have never been able to tell that English wasn’t your first language. Just keep it up, you’re doing great at 6 months into your blogging journey! :)

    • Reply
      April 8, 2015 at 12:52 am

      Thank you Eden!!!

  • Reply
    April 8, 2015 at 8:58 am

    I had no idea you were struggling so much! That’s sad. Don’t worry about your English, and British English and American English is virtually the same. There are some spellings that are different like “color.” No one will give you crap about it, I promise…coming from an American.

    • Reply
      April 8, 2015 at 2:50 pm

      Thank you Leanne :)

  • Reply
    Roaming Renegades
    April 8, 2015 at 9:32 am

    I totally get this, sometimes it can feel very overwhelming to be honest and with everything you are supposed to do on this network, that social page etc. etc. it’s hard to keep up and just think about writing your posts!

  • Reply
    Venita Damore
    April 11, 2015 at 5:41 am

    By the way, I’m wearing the smile that you gave me.

  • Reply
    Daisy @ Simplicity Relished
    April 15, 2015 at 8:45 pm

    I can really feel this!! I’ve been blogging for a while, but have been thinking about sharing more of my travels and “switching categories,” so to speak. And these are a lot of the concerns that I’ve had– and how in the world do we stay on top of all the social media outlets, meanwhile making plans or getting from one country to the next? Anyway, I’m really glad I found your blog I hope you keep at it!

    • Reply
      April 16, 2015 at 1:12 am

      Thank you!! I’m sure we will fight through all the difficulties!!
      It just takes time to catch the rhythm, I think. And another problem is that blogging can get so overwhelming that we actually forget to go out, explore, travel, live – do everything that actually inspired us to blog in the first place!

  • Reply
    April 16, 2015 at 3:54 am

    Considering that you are non-native English speaker: a major kudos to you! :)

    • Reply
      April 17, 2015 at 2:40 am

      Oh thank you Olga! :)
      You seem to be a non-native English speaker too, though, but every time I go to your blog I feel intimidated by how well-written your posts are! Not fair!! hahaha
      Anyways, I love your blog, and I’m happy to see you here on mine :) Cheers!

  • Reply
    April 16, 2015 at 3:55 am

    oops i forgot to finish the sentence: your written english is fantastic!

  • Reply
    April 17, 2015 at 4:07 am

    I think you’re a little bit too harsh on yourself- you’re doing a great job!

    • Reply
      April 17, 2015 at 5:53 am

      Thank you! I guess I might be beating myself up too much sometimes!

  • Reply
    Rebecca Longman
    May 28, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    I love this post Olga, especially this:

    “Putting your readers first is the biggest mistake any blogger can make. There’s only that much space on the blogging pedestal, and it belongs to only one person – you. Research for yourself, write for yourself, press “Publish” for yourself, and then you will enjoy what you do, and then so will other people, and then everybody will be happy. That’s going to be my blogging mantra from now on. No SEO. No scheduled writing. No oh my god, there’s Easter coming, where’s my easter-traditions-over-the-world post? Nothing that the blogging experts tell me I have to do. No pressure anymore. ”

    So, so true. A blog can be whatever you want it to be, and if you want it to be personal to you, and not follow the ‘rules of the blogsphere’ then so be it. I am right there with you. Sometimes I get lost in writing what others want but my writing is never as good when I do that, nor is it heartfelt. When I write for me I say what I want to say. If people like me great, if they don’t that’s ok, we can’t please everyone all of the time.

    I love your writing. Keep at it!!

    • Reply
      May 29, 2015 at 2:34 am

      Thank you Rebecca! I think acquiring a more relaxed way of how we see blogging would be healthier for all of us, and I’m happy to see that you share my opinion! Thank you so much for the compliment, too!!

      Happy blogging! xxx

  • Reply
    June 3, 2015 at 9:11 am

    Priviet querida!

    I loved this post – it is very honest.
    I must confess to you that I have never dared to start my own travel blog, sometimes I just think too much about what I should do, and I do not really do it. Im originally from Mexico, but spending many months in South America. Too many doubts stop me. One day I think of a format, and then next day of another…so what I want to say is that I really admire you. Please keep up the GREAT work! Your blog is amazing. I do not follow many blogs, and reading yours is a treat!

    Much love from Uruguay!

    • Reply
      June 4, 2015 at 5:17 am

      Hola Andrea! Thank you so much for your warm words!!!
      I sometimes still feel like giving up once in a while, but comments like yours motivate me to keep on going because you show me that there’s so much out there that is worth continuing my work!
      You should definitely just start your own blog – for yourself! Don’t even show it to anybody until you feel you’re ready, and begin with friends and relatives, they definitely won’t judge you and will give you all the constructive comments that you will need! :) I still get them from my readers quite often, actually, but I appreciate it so much! In the end, that’s what makes my website better!

      Lots of sunshine from Berlin!

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