How I Became a Professional Travel Blogger

Hello Explorers!

Can you believe it’s been 10 years since I wrote my very first blog post?

Over the last ten years, I have learned a thing or two about travel blogging, especially when I went full-time and became a professional travel blogger. I get a lot of questions on my journey and what better way to answer them than in a travel blog celebrating ten years in my longest and most passionate career to date.

Professional Travel Blogger

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A writer. I have several unpublished novels and books of poetry. I never knew my childhood dreams would transform into being a travel writer. But I am so glad it did.

Professional travel blogger baby Erin

What did you do before you were a professional travel blogger?

Let’s see my first job was in a craft store with my aunty. After that, I spent 5 of my teen years working at McDonald’s. During my university days, I worked at Radio Rentals, before moving to London and becoming an office temp for a year. That was good money.

When I returned to Australia I become a receptionist for real estate and within 6 months I did my Property Management course and became a Property Manager. I climbed the ranks very quickly in that career and within five years had reached the top of the ladder with my dream company.

Professional travel blogger - Real Estate

2008 my daughter was born. I decided to go back to Uni and finish my Marketing degree while running a consultancy business with Real Estates in Property Management.

Come 2010 with 2 babies under 2 my husband had a web design business that he was struggling to keep up within the accounts department. So I took over-invoicing, chasing payments, and all the taxes, GST, PAYG, etc. I also started an arm of the business setting up social media accounts for businesses and found a passion. Social media marketing.

How did it start?

It was back in 2011 that my husband was determined we travel the world for a long period. I agreed to a six-month journey and started getting ready for our nomadic journey. During this getting-ready phase, I asked my friends on Facebook if I should start a travel blog?

Everyone encouraged me to do so because it was such a fascinating thing for a family with 2 small children to travel the world for a long period. Of course, this was back in 2012 when it was unusual for such a lifestyle. These days I’m happy to say it is such a “normal” thing to do with ones family.

Professional travel blogger - family travel blogger

What did you first write?

So I became a brand new travel blogger. We arrived on a one-way ticket to Bali in May 2012 and I wrote my first blog post in our villa that we had rented for one month. It’s here – Arrival to Bali dated 10 May 2012! 

I started writing about my time in Bali. I wrote about how much things were costing us and what I was doing with my kids all day, which was the biggest challenge since they were daycare kids before our trip. The villa we had rented for a month had no aircon and chickens in the sink. And I quickly learned that was not the life I left Australia for.

As the travel blog continued to grow I started focusing on quality content. For every destination we visited I usually wrote a post based on three themes. 1. Where to stay. 2. What to eat. 3. What to do.


Where did you go?

For the first 6 months, I had planned our trip to a tee. We started with 2 months in Bali and had a month in Kuala Lumpur, Manila, and Bangkok with a few smaller trips to Hong Kong, Kota Kinabulu, and Boracay. Read about all 68 destinations here.

We stayed in Southeast Asia so that we could retreat home easily if needed and keep our costs down.

But as we came to the end of the 6 months, we decided it was working. We were saving money, we were creating experiences with the kids that were unheard of and I now had a new remote income stream. We ended up in a nomadic lifestyle for 5 years. 

Professional travel blogger Travel with Bender days

How did the blog start?

As I mentioned I started my first travel blog etbender.com on my first day in Bali. It wasn’t too long before I changed the name to Travel With Bender (big mistake, always keep your personal blog in your own name, that way it it’s harder to steal).

It was only a few months later in Malaysia that I was watching a Chinese street festival in Penang when someone shouted out my name and ran up to me exclaiming, “OMG I can’t believe it’s you. I read your travel blog!”

I was gobsmacked. I truly believed only my family and friends were reading my blog, which was the main point. So I didn’t have to repeat the same stories to everyone they had one place to go and read.

Was I a travel blogger?

When I got home I did some research on how to check who was reading my travel blog and far from the 200 I thought I would be lucky to have, there were over 6,000 readers. How could 6,000 people be reading my writing? Is this what a successful blog looks like?

Malaysia was a special country for me. While I was there I met my good friend Mary, who was an actual real life travel blogger running a blog called Bohemian Travelers. She told me she made money from her travel blog. And started to teach me.


So what is a travel blogger?

Someone who has a “travel blog“, or online journal, largely focused on sharing the story of their travels.

And what is a professional travel blogger?

A professional travel blogger would be an individual who generates an income from their online travel blog. But I’d also suggest it is someone who delivers a professional level of service to their readers and clients, despite their income. Consistency, longevity, personalised.

Professional travel blogger phone

When did you receive your first freebies?

Never having heard of this kind of income I started to research even more. I remember one-day asking travel blogging Mary if she had ever worked with someone on the travel blog to promote them in exchange for a stay or something. She hadn’t and so I tried.

The very first hotel I presented my blog to and asked if they would like to feature on it, said yes! 6,000 followers and about 3 months into the blog. In return for several travel blogging articles and social media promotions our family received a night at a hotel, tickets to a theme park, and I even got a hot stone massage

Professional travel blogger press pass

Is it a freebie?

Hell no! I spent so much time producing content, plus the other expenses of getting there, etc. that I am sure we lost money on those first trips. But there were plenty of bonuses that came with travel blogging.

I got new content for my audience. I got to experience somewhere I never thought of going. The kids and I were bonding. And I got to share my travel tips to help solve the travel woes of other families.

If I can explain it in the simplest forms. If a burger meal costs me $20 and a restaurant asks me to come and promote them in exchange for said $20 meal. The burger place is 30 minutes from my house so I use my fuel to get there. I have a deadline on an article that day that is paying me $200, so I take away the time I need to work on that to drive to the burger place and back, and eat my meal. When I get home I formulate the content, which will take me anywhere between 1 – 4 hours depending on what the assignment is. Can you see where I’m going with this? All of a sudden the free $20 meal cost me more than $250.

Professional travel blogger award

BlogHer award – highlight achievement

What if something went wrong?

Throughout my years of travel blogging, I was determined to keep my audience at the front of my mind. During one such visit to a brand new theme park, we did not have an enjoyable experience.

My goal has always been to inspire families to travel, so I tended not to write about negative experiences so I let the brand know what had happened. I asked if they would like me to publish my experience or to just not publish anything at all. They asked me not to publish and requested that they would invite me back after they had made the changes that I informed them of.

This was such a relief for me because I was never in the business of negativity or complaining. I also didn’t want to destroy a business on what really could be a bad day or something easily fixed.

What happened after the first 6 months?

After the first 6 months, we decided our new lifestyle was working. My husband was a web designer working on his own business creating websites which I took care of all the accounts, and on top of that I was travel blogging and creating a part-time income. We had all the money we needed and I was spending more time with my kids than ever before.

So we decided to keep going. And booked a one-way ticket to the US for Christmas in New York.

Professional travel blogger Christmas in New York

Did the blog work in the US?

The US was a great idea. The population of the United States is 13 times bigger than Australia and so the travel blog kept growing.

I knew that the US would be so good for my travel blogging career that I initiated a move to the US in 2015 in which we spent two years travelling North America for the main purposes of growing my travel blog and my income.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

How did you know what to do with the blog?

As we continued to travel the world I heard about a travel industry conference for travel bloggers. I attended this conference in 2013 in Dublin, Ireland. I was also lucky enough to get a spot on a famil. A famil is where the tourism board or brand takes a group of people for a sample of what they have to offer.

That trip had me hooked on a successful travel blog career. And so did that conference.

I learned so much and I was pleased to realize I knew so much. I was on my way.


What was your pinch me moment?

2013 was also the year we attended WTM. You can find more about travel blogging conferences here. At WTM we met a gentleman who invited us on a press trip to Greece. I didn’t think much of it until about 6 months later when I reached out to him again and he told me the offer still stood.

After going back and forth multiple times my whole family was invited on a 15-day trip through Greece. 3 nights on 5 islands. It was the biggest thing I’d been invited to thus far. It was a magical, exhausting journey that I still cherish as an opening in my career to this day.


Trips after that followed consistently. Sri Lanka, Poland, Finland, Japan. They kept coming and I started to have a hard time keeping up with them. Something had to change.

Professional travel bloggers

Top 50 professional travel bloggers in Sri Lanka

How did you expand your travel blogging career?

By 2014 I’d have considered myself a successful travel blogger. My blog was making a full-time income and I had more invites than I knew what to do with. My husband, at the time, decided he wanted a change and sold his web design business to start a photography blog. It didn’t do well, so he started helping me while he attempted to grow it.

He edited pictures and took care of SEO and the backend part of the website. While I handled all the trips, writing blog posts, invoicing, and marketing of my travel brand. I started saying no to trips and sending him when I got too exhausted.

And then finally in 2015, I started charging for trips. If someone wanted our family there then they would need to pay us since a trip meant I was losing out on work time doing other paid assignments. I was saying no to other trips, and our following had grown enough that I knew I was making a significant impact on families everywhere.

Professional travel blogger - assignment Bali

What does a paid trip look like?

One of my favorite states in the US organized a 2-week road trip through the State. They included the transport, the accommodation, a restaurant budget, and activities and tours. On top of this, I was also paid just over USD$2,000 to produce the content for our blog and some articles for their website.

Check out this one trip I did with a VIP Disneyworld tour.

Do you always get paid?

No. There are times when an opportunity arrives and I have wanted to visit that destination enough that the trip itself is enough. I just want the travel story so bad.

There are times when the value of the family holiday equals the work I will need to produce so I accept the exchange of services.

And there are times when I was headed in that direction and therefore money saved is money earned.

How or what you charge is no one’s business but your own. After all, it’s your travel blogging business and that’s the best bit about being your own boss.

Professional travel blogger on phone

Why should you be paid?

In the very beginning when my blog had a mere audience of 10,000 people I likened it to this. First of all, give me 10,000 people in a room to share my experience, that’s daunting and huge so why are 10,000 readers not huge? It is! I‘ve spoken to hundreds of people, but never 10,000. 

Second of all look at the cost to advertise in a cinema. Let’s say it’s $1,000. Now, who is coming to the cinema? Possibly 10,000 people are going to see your advertisement. And out of those 10,000 people who are the ones that aren’t retired, young children, teenagers, couples, singles? If your main audience is families, namely mum or dad who makes the holiday decisions, how many did you reach in that cinema?

Now go back to my blog, with its mere 10,000 readers per month. But every single one of those readers is a mum or dad family traveler who has come to the blog to read specifically about family travel. Your audience has all of a sudden been zeroed in on and tailored to you and you’re still hesitant to pay?

If people can be paid to write content for Matador Network or National Geographic, why would my work not be considered just as important on my travel blog. Especially since I have contributed my travel writing to both of those publications.

Professional travel blogger kekova boat trip

What hours does a professional travel blogger work?

It’s a fun job, but it does take a lot of hours. Especially in the beginning. There are days where I don’t work at all. Days I’m traveling or going out with friends. But there are days I will work until midnight to reach a deadline.

The best part is I do make my hours and work as much as I want. The more I work, the more money I see. Like most jobs. But that’s ok because when I did work I made enough to sustain my life for the rest of the month I chose to travel or not work.

I work hours that I want. When I was nomadic my hours consisted of usually checking emails for an hour or so in the morning and then hanging out with my kids all day. At 7 pm bedtime, I would then start working again until midnight.

Now that I have a semi “normal-life” in Australia I work usually after I drop the kids to school and after the gym, roughly 1030am to 230pm when I go pick the kids up from school. When they go to bed (much later now) around 830/9 pm I will pick up my laptop again and work another 2 or 3 hours.

My preferred time to work is at night. There are no emails, no phone calls, and no distractions.

Professional travel blogger working

Where does a professional travel blogger work?

Anywhere they want. Right now I am writing this blog post on my couch. I’ve worked on buses, planes, hotels, offices, and cafes. I’ve worked on the floor of an airport, or in the comfort of my bed. My favorite place to work is actually on a plane. No wifi gives me so much time to write and pump out content that I can sometimes be distracted with when I have emails coming in or social media to check.


How much money do professional travel bloggers make?

Throughout 2012 and 2013 I had made a good part-time income, roughly around USD $8k – $10k. By 2014 when I turned to professional travel blogging I started making a full-time income. 4 years from my very first travel blog post in 2016 I made over USD$150,000.

I have a complete article about ways travel bloggers make money here including some of the wages of superstar blogging champs like Nomadic Matt, Green Global Travel, and Adventurous Kate.

When I had to start Explore With Erin I used all the knowledge I had from 5 years running one of the most successful travel blogs and immediately made income.

In the first year I made – $9,951.80

The second-year – $17,610.80

Third-year – $26,402.65

The fourth-year the pandemic hit and I had to pivot my travel blog since I was stuck in Western Australia for two and a half years. I focused on revitalizing my old content on the blog, freelance writing, and making money from social media content to tide me over.

Professional travel blogger.money

Is there any other career you wish to pursue?

I recently started working for an Xponential. Xponential is Australia’s leading fundraising and philanthropy consultancy. They specialize in assisting not-for-profit organizations to grow their fundraising income so they can have a greater impact on changing the world. I love working here, and giving back where I can.

I could also see myself in a career providing social media management if I needed to go down that path.

I would love to finish my latest book. It’s a fiction novel based on traumatic true-life events pre the 2020s that saw massive weight loss and the birth of Explore With Erin. Divorce is the worst, but it can be a new sparkly beginning if you dismiss all the lies.

The latest vision I’ve been working on is creating Turkey multi-day tours for single ladies, or families who have no idea what to see and how to get around in Turkey. With the help of my Turkish partner I have such great travel experience in Turkiye that I want to share it. In my opinion, it’s such a stunning country that does not get enough attention and I want to show it to you all. Stay tuned for this release date. Our first tour will most likely be September 2023.


Other than this being a professional travel blogger is all I ever want to be. I adore my job. I never get sick of working on it and with 2022 halfway through I’m starting to see a new increase in love for travel re-emerging that I hope people feel they can come to my blog and glean all the information they need. After all, I’ve been to a lot of places.

When will we see you on the road again?

Despite a pandemic, I did manage 12 flights last year in Australia.

This year I’ve already covered Singapore and Turkiye, which made for great content.

The rest of the year I have plans for Malaysia, Thailand, and possibly one of my favorites, Bali.

Travel is back in full swing and I am here for it!

I want to thank every one of you who supports me in any way you do. From reading my blog, leaving comments, and sharing posts to engaging with me on social media. Without you I don’t have a job, so please understand how much I value the contribution you make to my world, my kid’s life, and even my dog.

It’s been a hell of a ten-year ride and I can’t wait to write my next ten-year post. Because I will still be here. Older and wiser professional blogger maybe, but still bringing you the best travel adventures I can find.

Big hugs. Hope to see you soon, around the world.


Professional travel blogger

Related posts you may like to read:

15 Ways Travel Bloggers Make Money

5 Ways to Pivot Your Travel Blog Career

Nomad No More: To Become A Travel Blogger

How to start a Travel Blog in less than 5 minutes

PROBLOGGER: 5 advanced techniques I use to make money on my travel blog

Nomadic Lifestyle: The How, What, When, and Why of My Nomad Travel

Nomadic travel destroyed my commitment levels





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Showing 18 comments
  • Gina Edwards

    I’ve loved watching your journey, and you inspired us to go live in Malaysia…one of the very best things we have ever done as a family xxx wishing you nothing but the best for the next 10!

  • Beth

    Such an inspiring post. This is my ‘one day’ dream. I know it’s hard work, and it takes time to build, but I’m sure the benefits of a life well lived far outweigh the negatives.

    • Erin Holmes

      You will get there! I have full faith in you. Good luck! Please email me anytime.

  • Natalie

    This is so inspiring! Starting and maintaining a blog is hard, and I would’ve LOVED to read this way back when I started blogging in 2010! (I did so, so many things wrong back then!) I’m just coming back to blogging after taking a break for a few years, and you’ve given me the motivation to know that big things are possible if I keep going!

    • Erin Holmes

      Jumping back on the horse is huge. I’m so proud you came back to it and I look forward to hearing good things from you.

  • Veronica

    Hello Erin! I love this post! What a fun journey through your experience and I really want to squeeze you in that little girl pic. Thank you for your transparency in sharing your income. I am excited to follow in your footsteps and do some travel blogging of m own!

    • Erin Holmes

      Awww thank you that’s so cute. Good luck on your blogging journey.

  • Jen mcnab

    Oh wow. That means we have been friends for 10 years! I think I was something like your 30th follower…. might have been 16th now that I come to think about it

    • Erin Holmes

      We met before the blog when I was scouting out places to live in Bali – a decade of friendship. <3

  • Claire knowles

    5 or 6 years. Can’t decide if it was 2016 or 2017 I found ya. Have loved following along. So very proud of you how you managed the TWB end and started explore with Erin. You’re awesome. Keep up the great work x

    • Erin Holmes

      Must have been 2016 if you’re a TWB girl. But so glad you’re team EWE now 🙂

  • Christine Thompson

    I’m not sure how many years but I started following when you and YTravel I think took over each others accounts? Something like that. I think you were in Mexico and then went to US and Canada, or they were in Mexico. Your kids were so little

    • Erin Holmes

      Oh I think we were at a conference back in 2015. That was so fun! And thanks for sticking it out.

  • Robin

    Awesome story! I’ve been around probably since 2013 timeframe, though I didn’t realize you had just started! I got into family travel blog when I was planning our month long trip to India with a new born and that’s when I found you. I noticed your son was the same age as mine. I remember all these trips you talked about here, and looked frantically for you when he who shall not be named stole the site. I was so excited when Explore with Erin was born. I’m so glad you are here and keep writing, I love reading your stories. You are such an inspiration!

    • Erin Holmes

      Thanks Robin! I can’t believe you’ve been with me 10 years next year. We must schedule a meet up!

  • Sharelle Page

    What an incredible journey! Thanks so much for sharing and massive Congratulations 🥳

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