Confessions of a Travel Blogger, Part Three

Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

Shortly before ringing in 2012, Pete and I were kicking it in southern Spain, quietly getting through the holidays with a luxurious house-sit. We were recuperating from a whirlwind trip on the Eurail Blog Trail, sleeping late and spending whole days in our pyjamas.

There *may have* also been some copious indulgence in the local reds, such that it prompted much giddiness and enthusiastic chatter about what was going to happen in the upcoming year (despite having zero plans at that point). We were so confident in ourselves, in fact, that we created multiple lists and docs, set up this file and that, and exploded with ambitious ideas of what we would accomplish in the new year. I even gave our one ‘master plan’ file the title of: 2012 is gonna be SUPER RAD for Hecktic Travels.

Confessions Travel Blogger-005(I should note that on this same file is the “To Do (or die) List” which includes an index of must do’s of course, but also harrowing threats if not completed: dishes for a month, sleeping on the floor, and yes, even the odd titty-twister. Clearly, we were typing while under a boozy influence. It was, however, surprisingly effective – feel free to steal this idea for your own use.)

And such, as we are set to kick off our THIRD year of blogging (today just happens to be our second blogiversary!), it is time to reflect and give our annual ‘state-of-the-blog address’. What worked and what didn’t? What are our plans for this year? And, was 2012 indeed SUPER RAD for Hecktic Travels?

(Also, if you’re interested, check out our original Confessions post, written when we were only 2 months in, as well as last year’s sequel).

WHAT WORKED

— Hey! We wrote a book! For months we had debated compiling all of our house-sitting advice into a book to share with others, and we finally put our noses to the grindstone last summer and got ‘er done. We are really proud of our product! We could definitely be better at marketing (it is NEVER enough though, right?), but overall it is doing really well on it’s own. We’ve gotten some fantastic reviews, and are excited to be helping more people than ever get into house-sitting.

— Substantial Facebook and Twitter growth. Oh, and we’re on Instagram! And Pinterest! When new bloggers ask us about the work that goes into maintaining a travel blog, I always respond saying that only about 20% of our time is spent actually creating content. Much of the rest is consumed with nurturing our social media networks, and our hard work has really shown good results. We are not giants compared to many of the excellent blogs out there, but our communities are another thing we are really proud of. And despite some slight dabbling in advertising, the growth has almost entirely been organic.

Jordan-Petra-Dalene-974

— Readership growth. We have to include this as a success because there was notable growth, but not enough to keep us happy. We admittedly slacked a bit towards the end of the year and cut down on our regular posting pattern (and that is carrying into the new year, unfortunately), but we’re already working on plans to step up our game.

— Finding balance. We got a little better at finding the sweet spot between traveling and working. We slowed things down a lot, and learned that the best formula is to take the number of days we would normally spend in one place, and double it. When we couldn’t do that and were on a jam-packed excursion, we made sure to factor in plenty of down time afterwards.

— Changing the face of the English language. We will not rest until ‘Hecktic’ makes it into the dictionary. We are off to a good start.

HeckticSpelling

WHAT DIDN’T WORK

— Working together on site redesign. For some married couples, feuding often results when contemplating home renovations, which is equivalent to our bickering over our site redesign early in the year. This is one place where I think it would be easier to be a single blogger and not having anyone to fight with over what font to use. Hope you like what you see folks, because we ain’t tackling this again for some time.

— Developing working relationships on our home continent. What up North America? Why you so hard to work with? In Europe we were spoiled with a tourism industry that has largely embraced the concept of working with bloggers. In North America, this is far from the case, and trying to develop working relationships has been difficult and discouraging.

Confessions-Travel-Blogger-974

— Having a crappy web host. We thought we had a pretty good deal. What we didn’t notice is that our site went down often (if only for very short times), and once we did upgrade to a new host, our site speed increased dramatically. This is definitely one of those cases where you-get-what-you-pay-for.

— Money, money, money. Where art thou? In last year’s confessions, we reported making a whopping $3.26 per hour. This year, we did nearly double that number (if we use the same number of hours worked, although I think we put in more time), but it was still not enough to cover all of our costs.

Why do we keep at it when we can’t even crack the minimum wage rate? Well, because the luster of this life still hasn’t faded. We love it. However, we clearly need to do something about our dwindling funds. (See our big plans below.)

Was 2012 indeed SUPER RAD for Hecktic Travels?

In our opinion: 2012 had medium-sized radness. We surely tucked some grand adventures under our belt and made some great strides, but we’re still hungry for more. Bigger. Better. Badder.

In your opinion:Β  Please, we would love to know. We have just launched our annual reader survey, and if you are a regular browser of this here l’il website, then we are asking for just a few minutes of your time to complete it. We promise, it will be painless, and we are very eager to know your thoughts and opinions on what you like, and what we could be doing better.

Click Here to be taken to the survey!

And finally, what have we got in store for 2013?

We gots a few tricks up our sleeves.

Confessions Travel Blogger-004— New business #1: We are so pleased to be working together with some of our favourite bloggers in the industry to form Navigate Media Group. After a lot of hard work we’ve come out with three early successes: one you know about, another was the very successful BlogHouse at TBEX Girona, and the other to be announced on the blog next week. We also have much more in the works!

— New business #2:Β We’ve decided to put our skills in social media to work. Hecktic Media launched late last year, aimed at taking on small to medium sized travel related businesses looking to increase their digital footprint. We already have one small client and are in talks with another, but plan to cap ourselves at 3 or 4.

— Oh yeah, and then there’s the TRAVEL. It feels weird to say this – but we already have plans out until June – being serious commitment phobes and typically adverse to planning, this is a BIG deal for us. We’ll soon find ourselves in Guatemala and Belize, then crossing the Atlantic for our next adventure with Navigate Media Group before heading to Berlin and attending the ITB conference. After that we will be heading back to one of our favourite places on the entire planet and enjoying 2 1/2 months house-sitting in rural Turkey. Finally, we’ll recross the Atlantic to our home country, and participate in TBEX Toronto.

Confessions-Travel-Blogger-Turkey-974

Burhaniye, Turkey – here we come (back)!

And as of June 3rdish, we’re available for any new opportunities that may arise.

We can’t wait to see where we’ll be then, and for the SUPER RAD year that 2013 is surely shaping up to be.

70 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • January 7 2013

    Luckily for Stephanie and I, we have our own blogs!

    I hear you on North American tourism industry. Not super easy around here.
    Michael recently posted..When is it Cheaper to Purchase a EuRail Pass?

    • January 8 2013

      Ha! If you guys are debating starting a joint blog, think again… πŸ™‚

  • January 7 2013

    Sounds like 2012 was a great year guys and here’s to 2013 being even bigger! We hope to catch up with you when you’re on our side of the pond this year!

    • January 8 2013

      Thanks Alison! I hope we do get to see you guys again too. πŸ™‚

  • I’m one of your new followers from 2012 – thanks for all the updates, and sharing.

    Because I’m new to the blog and reading about bloggers travelling, can you give me some specific ideas on what the average North American could DO to support the travel bloggers and promote them in the NA tourism industry?

    Happy Travels in 2013!
    Lori @ Encourage Your Spouse recently posted..Changing the Future – Together

    • January 8 2013

      Hey Lori, thanks so much for your comment and question.

      I do apologize for my wording in the post and should clarify – we are absolutely thrilled with the support we get from our home continent readers! All the comments, social media shares, recommendations to friends, etc. is all a huge help. What I was referring to is working with the tourism industry in general. In Europe they seem much more willing to support bloggers in developing itineraries, providing support for tours, hotels, etc. as they recognize the value that comes with partnering with travel bloggers to help promote their brand. It seems as if that isn’t quite understood in North America yet. We’ve had some small successes, but our efforts to reach out have gone largely ignored, which is quite discouraging.

  • Interesting, we’ve had really good response in North America. Or at least in Canada and the U.S…not so much in Mexico. (Which really is part of North America!)

    About to take your survey. Great idea!
    http://www.travelwithkevinandruth.com recently posted..Settled in to the little apartment

    • January 8 2013

      Glad to hear you’ve had some good success Kevin and Ruth!

  • January 7 2013

    Even though you may have had a medium-radness level year, I think your blog is totally gnarly! (I think we use a lot of the same lingo :P)

    Coming back from New Zealand where I was able to score so many travel partnership opportunities, there had been absolutely no luck in the US! It seems like most of the companies just can’t grasp the concept of blogging and the influence of social media.

    I too had blunders as well, like closing down my blog for 3 months then bringing it back just to find out GoDaddy lost my database files and everything was deleted!

    I’m excited to see where 2013 takes you two, and excited to read more epic adventures! I think you are doing an epic job with this blog.
    Ryan recently posted..Weekly Photo Mojo: Swing Life Away in Doubtless Bay, New Zealand.

    • January 8 2013

      Ha! Thanks Ryan! Your comment is equally as gnarly. (Hmmm, maybe we should be careful about the overuse of that word here) πŸ™‚ Glad you had such great success in NZ, we’re excited to get there someday.

  • January 7 2013

    Sounds to me like you got your priorities right and you’ve figures a lot of things out over the year. I agree that it’s VERY hard to engage with tourism folks in Canada. They mostly look for bloggers from elsewhere. And with a few exceptions they’re lousy at social media.

    Look forward to meeting you at TBEX this year.
    Leigh recently posted..Hotel Review: The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

    • January 8 2013

      I am sorry we didn’t make an effort to connect when we were in Alberta Leigh, we’re really looking forward to meeting you at TBEX!

  • January 8 2013

    You may have had a medium rad year, but we think you guys are super rad and kick some serious blogging butt!
    Jennifer recently posted..Bathing at GrjΓ³tagjΓ‘ Thermal Spring

    • January 8 2013

      Thanks Jennifer! πŸ™‚

  • January 8 2013

    AGREED on North American tourism. Way behind. I’m working on my new blog about the Southern USA and down here I’m lucky if they’ve heard of a blog.

    • January 8 2013

      Time to school them Caroline! πŸ™‚

  • Knowing that you’ll be at TBEX just convinced me to go. πŸ™‚ See you there!

    • January 8 2013

      And now I will hit up TBEX for a kickback! πŸ™‚ Looking forward to meeting you Marie!

  • What a year… Look forward catching up with you guys during ITB in Berlin!

    • January 8 2013

      Glad to know you will be there Sebastian! Looking forward to meeting you!

  • January 8 2013

    My year feels much like yours, I wish I had done more but it felt like the year went so quickly. Here’s to a totally rad 2013.
    Ayngelina recently posted..I’m going to Finland!

    • January 8 2013

      We’re both gonna be off to a good start… πŸ™‚

  • Love hearing honest accounts of this whole blogging process. Sounds like you guys had a great year! Looking forward to reading about the next one…

  • January 8 2013

    I’ve really enjoyed following your blog this past year and discovering all your previous posts. Your honesty and your spirit is inspiring. Thank you! I look forward to seeing what 2013 will bring πŸ™‚
    Victoria recently posted..Can I sleep on your sofa? An ode to couchsurfing

  • January 8 2013

    Can’t wait to see what you guys will do this year. It was great “meeting” and following you on 2012. You guys have changed our lives more than you can imagine. We are just a few weeks away from starting a very similar path like the one you guys took when you sold your possessions 3+- years ago and everything you’ve done since.

    Best of luck on everything you have planned for this year!

    Cheers!!
    Joe M Wong recently posted..Fin de AΓ±o en Aguas Termales y Visitando Aspen

    • January 9 2013

      Thanks so much for your comment and kind words Joe. We’re always glad to help!

  • January 9 2013

    Y’all doin great. Keep up the good work !

  • January 9 2013

    Super summary of what seems like a busy, but fun year….keep things rolling and hopefully the costs won’t be such a worry anymore πŸ˜‰
    Red Hunt recently posted..10 Surprisingly Tasty Animals

  • January 9 2013

    Oh man, you guys actually did the money break down?

    I don’t want to know. I think we averaged like $2/hour for a long while lol. <3

    • January 9 2013

      Our calculation isn’t highly scientific, trust me, just a total amount divided by an estimated number of hours (which is probably far too low, really)!

  • January 9 2013

    Thanks for sharing your reflections of 2012, it sounds like you are progressively getting it together and hopefully 2013 will see you benefit from your hard work!
    Pretraveller recently posted..Pretraveller Site Rehosting – 9 Jan 13

    • January 9 2013

      Thanks Anne! We’re ready to kick some ass in 2013.

  • January 9 2013

    In a year I make about the same as a McDonald’s worker, but probably double the hours…. that can get me down sometimes, but then I remember — I’m working with a view of the Gulf of Thailand!

    Love your enthusiasm and wishing you the very best in 2013. I too am am all booked up right up until TBEX — hope to meet up with you there!
    Alexandra Baackes recently posted..The Hawaii Hostel Experience: Banana Bungalow in Maui

    • January 9 2013

      That’s the thing – I don’t care to make millions, I just want us to be able to financially sustain ourselves. Really hope we get there this year! Looking forward to meeting you in TO!

  • January 9 2013

    Still waiting for Tennessee to pop on your upcoming trips list πŸ˜‰

    Like you, I’m pretty much booked until mid-June and then various times throughout the summer and fall. It’s already becoming one of those years!

    Also, I love this post and all the detail about what you’re doing, have done and where we’ll find you two next.

    • January 9 2013

      Thanks Kristin! We haven’t seen any house-sits for Tennessee yet, but are keeping our eyes peeled. πŸ™‚

  • January 9 2013

    Enjoyed reading that, laughed a lot – and wishing you all the best for a super-sized rad 2013! …Pretty sure that meeting the man who has involuntarily teamed up with you to change the spelling of ‘hectic’ into ‘hecktic’ will make it even better;) See you at ITB!
    Vera recently posted..What to see in Ayutthaya

    • January 9 2013

      We are really looking forward to meeting you both at ITB!

  • January 9 2013

    Really surprised you are going back to Burhaniye. Will you just be using it as a base? If so, I can totally recommend the Black sea and south east to see. I spent last year exploring those areas and loved them. This year, I am focusing on the Aegean coast, all the way up to Istanbul so maybe there is a slight chance that our paths will cross.

    Also it is interesting what you say about capping your clients at 3/4. I was overwhelmed last year and ended up outsourcing a lot of work which in turn brings its own headaches. Maybe the answer is simply bigger does not mean better.
    Natalie recently posted..The Mesopotamian Ruins of Dara Near the Syrian Border

    • January 9 2013

      Natalie, we loved our time in Burhaniye so much, we jumped at the chance to come back and see our friends again. Of course we will still have some freedom to travel, and the Black Sea region is definitely on our list. I really do hope we cross paths this time!

      Capping our clients at 3 could be the answer, I don’t even know that 4 will be doable, I guess it all depends on what they would want us to do. We really want to still be able to enjoy our travels as much as possible, and can’t imagine taking on much more than that. Glad to hear your 2012 was so successful!

  • I enjoy following you guys and appreciate your unique approach to finding accommodation πŸ™‚ Here’s to a great 2013!
    The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen) recently posted..Where we&#8217;re headed in 2013

  • January 9 2013

    Great news guys! Please, don’t forget about the travel spirit as all I could read in this note is about making money and getting as much profit as possible. Don’t want to be critical, it’s just my personal feeling. South America sounds great and congratulations on the book! That’s a milestone. I also planning to do some house-siting.

    Greetings from Asia.
    Agness recently posted..Polish Weddings Rock!

    • January 9 2013

      Hi Agness, I think you’ve misunderstood…the only thing we are concerned about when it comes to money is covering our costs. We are wary of depleting our savings account to zero! If we want to keep our travels up, we need to find a way to make them sustainable. That’s all!

      • January 17 2013

        Oh, I see. Misunderstanding. That’s my first thought when I read the post. I know what you mean. We are also trying to keep our travels up πŸ˜‰ Good luck and stay safe.

  • Ali
    January 9 2013

    Congrats on a great year! Looks like some great plans for the first half of 2013, and that’s so awesome you’re going back to Turkey! Are you housesitting for the same people or somewhere else? As always, let us know if you happen to be in the Freiburg area.
    Ali recently posted..6 Countries for New Travelers

  • January 9 2013

    Hey, great post!

    I’m on the cusp of choosing a web host but trying to gather as many second opinions as possible! Which web host did you go for that you were much happier with?

    • January 10 2013

      We are now with Media Temple. So far, so good!

  • January 9 2013

    Well… I have a full-time job that pays about $3 an hour if I sit down and add in the hours I spend at the office and at required work events. Gotta love it! (Enter my own red over-indulgence…)

    • January 10 2013

      That’s a sad number, isn’t it? But, as long as we love what we do, I guess! πŸ™‚

  • January 9 2013

    Came across this blog hours ago and now I’m hooked. Will be back. πŸ™‚

  • January 10 2013

    Your Media business ideas are great! I wish you guys the best and will definitely have a look at your packages!

  • Nico
    January 10 2013

    Sounds like you have a great year lined up for 2013. All the best for your future plans.
    Nico recently posted..Stress-Free Travel Tips for Beginners

  • January 10 2013

    Seems like 2012 treated you well. Congrats on all your success and look forward to seeing what happens on the blog and with your business this coming year! And hope to run into you guys at TBEX. πŸ™‚

  • January 10 2013

    Another great year, and I’ve enjoyed tagging along with it here. Cheers to a great 2013, and thanks for the idea of a “goals sheet.” I have ideas in my head, but rarely write them down, and NEVER institute such inhumane consequences. Perhaps that’s why so few of them get accomplished:)

    • January 10 2013

      I swear, it REALLY works. Not one of those had to actually be done… πŸ™‚

  • January 11 2013

    I understand your frustration with North American tourism operators…try their South American counterparts! I definitely get a little jealous of all the great relationships I see developing in Europe, but maybe it just means we’ll eventually be on the cutting edge when these other continents figure it out.

  • January 11 2013

    Sounds like you guys really have it together! I am still in the getting it together phase, although, like you said…most of my growth has been organic and, while slower than I would have liked, I am pleased with my steady progress!
    Sounds like 2013 is already off to a great start for you guys. Love the long term house sitting you are doing. I have signed up with trusted house sitters but have yet to give it a go.
    Looking forward to reading more about your adventures!
    Anita Mac recently posted..Ottawa Restaurant Bucket List

  • January 12 2013

    Hi guys! Really enjoyed your 2012 recap – congrats on the growth and good luck for 2013. I can sense your enthusiasm and that, in itself, is really encouraging! I just found your blog and have poked about a bit, and am looking forward to reading more!

  • January 12 2013

    I love your honesty. I hope 2013 is fantastic for you both.
    lisa recently posted..Old School Services Offered in Hungary

  • January 12 2013

    Whichever Heck picked the font did a great job. πŸ˜€

    Good luck in 2013!

    PS. And stop procrastinating. No one enjoys a throat chop…

  • January 19 2013

    Sounds like a great year coming up! I love reading your blog and can’t wait to read the new year’s observations.
    Have a fun and prosperous year!

  • January 19 2013

    When and where are you visiting in Belize? I am moving here in Sept 2013 and looking forward to reading about you adventures!

  • I understand the blog related costs-income issue so well. I have a year old blog that is doing quite well, but have only had a few advertisers approach me. I think I just need more patience and more hard work πŸ™‚
    Izy Berry – The Wrong Way Home recently posted..Costs in Siem Reap

  • Wil
    January 23 2013

    Glad to see you’re growing and moving forward. Travel has helped me grow a lot and we’re all just figuring out life.
    Wil recently posted..Bucket List

  • Kim
    January 28 2013

    Wow, you guys are busy AND kicking some ass. Congrats on all of your successes thus far- I know there are many more on the horizon for you guys!

    • January 29 2013

      Thanks Kim. πŸ™‚ It’s a tough life, but we’ll take it. πŸ™‚

  • February 15 2013

    Hi guys,

    I really enjoyed this post, thank you.

    You guys are like rock stars to us! We have been following your blog for 2 years, since we started planning our nomadic life. Now, we’ve been on the road for 12 months and have just started blogging, after being inspired to do so by people like yourselves.

    I love that you are always so honest and open in your posts.

    Thank you for continuing to be an inspiration to us! We love you work! Hope to meet you guy at TBEX!

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