Last May, I launched The Daily Travel Podcast. There were only a handful of other travel podcasts and I wanted to do something remarkable by launching the first and only daily show about travel. I wasn’t sure exactly what it would be about but I knew that I could reach out to fascinating people living remarkable lives of travel and find out how they make this a reality. As a result, I get to spend my time examining the stories that people share with me and my listeners to pull out common trends, themes, and patterns that have helped many of them to succeed as travel bloggers, writers, or content producers.
On episode 91, I sat down with TBEX keynoter and world record holder Lee Abbamonte to get inside his head on how he got started traveling, went to every country in the world, and built a business and lifestyle around it. Below is the full session followed by 5 key habits or lessons for travel bloggers to apply that I pulled out of the conversation. (And I put together a bonus worksheet at the end of this post that compiles the 5 things you can ask yourself to refine your travel blog.)
1) Be remarkable by doing remarkable things.
By going to all 193 countries, Lee traveled to many places people neither know nor visit. In the interview, he shares with us compelling stories about going to Pitcairn Island and crossing a border in Libya during the recent war. His experiences stand out and as a result of going to these places he is often asked about them, well-practiced in talking about them, and has become known for going there. This is how Lee has grown expertise and authority around topics. If you tell stories about places where other people are not going or the things in which people aren’t talking about then your content will be both uniquely interesting and more discoverable for its novelty.
What are the unique travel stories that you have to tell? Or, in planning your next trip, where can you go to find them?
2) Have a quest
Lee acknowledges that his world record affords him a lot of credibility. If you do remarkable things, then people will reach out to you for your story. This does not mean you have to travel to every country. While Lee landed on my podcast because he’d traveled to every country in the world, we didn’t concentrate on that. Instead we focused in on specific experiences from his travels.
If you don’t think you’ve done something remarkable enough then remember that Lee started his blog as a way to chronicle his attempt to set the record and not as a way to promote the achievement afterwards. That came organically after he’d built an audience around his quest.
As a traveler, you might already have this ace up your sleeve. Maybe you quit your job to travel the world, but what’s your quest? What remarkable thing are you doing? Be specific and don’t be afraid to be unrealistic. Maybe you’re hiking the tallest mountains, diving in every ocean, skydiving in every sky, golfing all of the courses. Even the smallest quest can lead to bigger things. This is certainly not something you must have to be a travel blogger, but it’s an easy way to become larger than ourselves. If you set yourself on a journey with a goal, your readers will not only follow you to read your content but also to root for your success.
What journey are you already on? What’s something you consider unrealistic?
3) Tell your story
In the interview, Lee says, “All of my travel happened by accident.” That is an extremely intriguing statement from the guy who traveled deliberately since 2006 to every country by a certain time to set a world record. It’s an honest statement that adds intrigue to Lee’s backstory and intrigue is a critical ingredient to a good story. If you’re on a journey with a goal, then all you need to have a simple story is to know why you’re on this quest. For Lee, his father didn’t understand why he wanted to travel and openly questioned his decisions. Defying that mentality compelled Lee to continue the journey until he found himself on an accidental quest to visit every country. By having a reason why, a daunting quest to visit every country becomes something to which many people can relate.
What’s the reason why you’re continuing towards your goal?
4) Don’t be afraid to self-promote
In the interview, Lee lets us know that he went to a top business school, earned good money on Wall Street, and set a world record. He knows that he can’t rely on me to bring these things up in the interview and that he should be proud of his accomplishments. The fact is, you have to sell yourself first. You can’t rely on anyone else. If you went to a top school, let us know that. It can be uncomfortable to self-promote but if you want to gain exposure at any level then you have to be your own number one fan. After all, travel blogging is inherently self-promotional.
If you’re completely uncomfortable with it, try something. When I opened the interview, I read testimonials about Lee from Arthur Frommer and Samantha Brown. Don’t hesitate to ask for a testimonial from someone you respect.
Who do you respect that understands your work?
5) Focus on others, not yourself
It’s important to note that there’s a big difference between selling yourself and writing for yourself. Lee identifies himself as an entrepreneur. He refers to what he does in travel as a business because he recognizes that he’s delivering value to his audience. It’s easy to confuse the idea that writing about an experience you had is selling yourself but if you only ever focus on you, and neglect your subject or audience, then you might not be offering anything of value. Lee shares his story of visiting Pitcairn Island and everything he has to say about the place is about the place. In his story about crossing the Libyan border, even after getting led into the crossfire of gunfight, he doesn’t criticize or pass judgment on any part of it. Instead his storytelling focuses on the effect a thing had on him rather than his reaction to it. The former is something we all might experience, while the latter is only his.
Are your travel stories ones that anyone might be able to experience or only yours? If they’re only yours, what lessons from your experience can you highlight for your audience?
And there you have it!
Those are 5 things I learned from my conversation with Lee Abbamonte that I’ve applied to my work.
Author Bio: Nathaniel Boyle is a creative consultant, personal brand designer, explorer, and host of The Daily Travel Podcast, the first and only daily podcast about travel. The show features conversations with those who took the plunge including world explorers, creative wanderers, and travel experts to help you create a life of travel, whatever that means to you. As a brand new dad, he’s still trying to figure that one out himself.
If you want to apply these questions to your travel blogging business, I put together a helpful series of questions from this article into a single worksheet for TBEX fans. It’s a lot to remember and I find it helpful to have a simple series of questions to ask yourself. You can grab that right over here.