State of the Business Address, 2019

Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Dalene & Pete Heck / Cover Photo by Neil Zeller

In past years, we’ve done an annual “State of the Blog” address, but as the years have gone by and our blog/business has evolved, we’ve decided to widen the topic for this year’s post, as many of you ask about “the other side” of what we do. (Previous posts more strictly about blogging are here: in the beginning, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016, where we shared 5 lessons learned from 5 years of blogging. The last one was done over two years ago in 2017.)

If this back-room talk sounds like a snoozefest to you, check out some of our fave travel posts from the last year, including a story about kayaking with whales, and about building human towers in Catalonia.

When I first enrolled in post-secondary education, my goal was to become a chemical engineer. Chemistry was my favourite subject in high school and it seemed like a natural progression. What I didn’t anticipate was the rigorousness required for that field of study, and as a naive seventeen year old that just left home for the first time, I quickly discovered that I was in over my head. (Read: I was more interested in partying than studying advanced calculus.) After one semester in which I almost failed every course (except chemistry!), I switched to general studies.Looking into the following year, I knew I had to buckle down and pick a major. And I honestly can’t remember why I chose to go into commerce, except that a friend of mine had switched to that too. And then after one year of that, I decided to narrow in on accounting. Why? Because another friend of mine was in it too.

Umm…follower, much?

All I knew for sure is that with a business degree in hand, it was highly likely I would emerge from University with a solid job, and I was right. Laid out in front of me for the next decade was a series of advancing opportunities. Until all of this happened, my life was laid out perfectly before me without much cause to question it.

My life was laid out perfectly before me without much cause to question it.
(But you know what happened next.)It’s been over 10 years since Pete and I left jobs that netted each of us over six figures in order to begin our life of travel. We were both extremely privileged to graduate with few student loans and at a time when jobs were easier to find, but beyond that, we vigorously hustled to reach that income by the time we were 30. (Well, Pete admits that his efforts were sometimes wanting, but as a young female in a very male-dominated industry, I had no choice but to put in extra.)

But we left that all behind and went from hundreds of thousands to zero income. And for the next decade, we worked far below any prescribed minimum wage. We were okay with that, however, because we were building something. What, we were not entirely sure of at first, and along the way, we’ve tried many different things. Ideas in various stages of execution litter the path behind us, and it hasn’t been until the past couple of years that we have finally settled on a stable business structure and plan. And now that we have focused our attention properly, everything is beginning to flourish.

Now that we have focused our attention properly, everything is beginning to flourish.

Well, except this blog.

You may have noticed that things have slowed down on these pages. At one point, we were posting three times a week, and then once a week, and now we consider once a month a win.There are three reasons for this:

  • We simply aren’t traveling as much, and it’s hard to sustain a travel blog without the travel. We’ve made a commitment this year to go somewhere at least once per month, but not all of it will be blog-worthy, either. Travel writing inspiration comes much quicker/faster when we’re in new places all the time.
  • My writing style has evolved. Whereas one trip would often result in several small blog posts, I usually only produce a single in-depth piece now. This feels like a more fulfilling process to me, and even if it means a hit to the amount of traffic we see on our site, I think it is more beneficial (to us, and to any partners we may have) in the long run.
  • Time is precious my friends, and lately, entire weeks are eaten up by our work on “the other side”. That means this blog is sadly neglected (especially seeing as the other side is what predominately pays the bills).

We have, several times, considered shuttering the site completely. Guilt about neglect is rampant, and at times this website feels like a giant burden. Website traffic is decent but not what it once was; follower numbers on some of our social channels are in a slow decline. Other bloggers, many who started long after we did, are soaring and succeeding beyond what we thought was possible for any of us. We didn’t get into blogging for any of those reasons – I’ve always admitted that writing is largely an indulgent venture for me – but I am human, and recognizing downward trends in something I’ve put a lot into doesn’t feel particularly pleasant.

We have, several times, considered shuttering the site completely.

Although Paris always makes me feel good.

But lately we have shuttered the idea of shuttering, and for now, we’re still here. Neither of us is ready to give it up. This blog encompasses so much of us, of our journey, and has built a community that we’re proud and happy to be a part of.I’d like to say that we’ll give it more attention, but the truth is, it will likely just rumble along as is. We have some exciting upcoming travels that will be documented here with the same care and effort that they always have, but the sheer number of projects we will take on will be less. We are not aggressively pursuing new audiences with growth tactics like guest posting and other things. Instead, our focus will be on nurturing the readership we do have.

Because something else about this blog has been realized in the last year – Hecktic Travels also happens to be a great business card for “the other side”. Many of our Hecktic Media Inc. clients come to us because they found us via this blog first. One of our biggest clients is a housesitting website (which, as you know, is a hot topic for us!), and our other anchor client approached us years ago on our Hecktic Travels Instagram account. And more come to us because they are specifically looking for storytelling bloggers, like us. What we are putting out on this blog is coming back to us in many positive ways.

This blog encompasses so much of us, of our journey, and has built a community that we’re proud and happy to be a part of.

We will even freeze for you.

About that other side…

Many people, including our own family, are confused about what we do when we’re not blogging. (Hey, no judgment is passed here, because as I mentioned above, we were confused ourselves for a long while.)

Stripping it down to the very basics of what we do: it all involves new media and travel, and is a perfect union of what we’ve learned via our blog with the business skills we gathered in our past education and careers. More specifically, we:

  • Manage social media accounts. If you’re active on any of the social networks attached to Nomador.com, then hi! That’s us typing those tweets and sharing on Facebook! We also populate their blog, send out newsletters, and more. (And when I say “we” or “us”, that is a big royal “we”, as we have others working for us who do much of the day-to-day.)
  • Execute influencer marketing campaigns. It can be a minefield for brands when they want to work with travel bloggers or other types of influencers. How do they know who has a legit following and hasn’t bought followers? How much should they pay? What are realistic expectations for deliverables? That is where we come in. If you’ve noticed the new ambassador program for Trover – we’re deeply involved in it. And you may have seen us talking about “Creator House“, a concept that rotates influencers through a destination to ensure a consistent stream of marketing promotion. The very first one in Banff is currently running, and a new one for Winnipeg has just been announced!

    Honestly, there are too many of these projects to list. We have carved ourselves out a perfectly suitable niche in the travel industry and after five years of building our resume, this is the side that is beginning to substantially take-off. Increased budgets for influencer marketing plays a large part in that, but so does our reputation, I believe. We’ve been around long enough to prove we are trustworthy and capable of providing results. The influencers we work with repeatedly tell us they appreciate the way that we work and nearly all of our industry clients have come back for repeat campaigns.

    (Given this and other issues, we have barely even been pursuing new work! Nearly all of our clients have come directly to us and been keeping us very busy. Finally, given my return to work full-time, we are at a point where we are investing in marketing and advancing new business pursuits. We are all excited to see what results.)

  • Speaking, training, and more. Both Pete and I are being asked with increasing frequency to speak at a variety of events ranging from corporate functions to blogger and industry conferences. You can find us in the very near future at the Rocky Mountain Social Summit and also at TravelCon in June. This is something that we would like to do more of (and if I do say so myself, we’re getting damn good at) and are putting some effort into pitching ourselves elsewhere.

For the first few years of our business, we tried so many different things but now this is a firmer list of the services we offer. I expect it will shift and evolve as the years continue, but for now, this is what fits. And this is what is working.

We are not at the point where we’ve reached pre-travel income levels for the two of us, but after years of initial investment in sweat-equity and real dollars, we are comfortable, and on our way.

Speaking at the International Indigenous Tourism Conference

Have we come full circle?

A couple of years ago, I sat down to my laptop and created a series of documents with such titles as “Mission Statement” and “HMI values”. And then I felt a wave of nausea oncoming.Hey. Didn’t I leave this corporate bullshit behind years ago? Part of our decision to strike out and travel the world was that we were tired of that sort of environment and wanted to figure things out for ourselves. But then we realized that as we brought people on to work with us (besides Pete and me, we now have two full-time and two part-time contractors), we needed to spell these things out. We needed to ensure that our vision for HMI was well communicated. Ergo, I guess those things ARE valuable, and I am immensely proud of where we are today.

Other things bring us back to what we used to be: we have a steady stream of work that keeps us fairly desk-bound, and we must adhere to a regular schedule so that contact with clients is consistent. Gone are the days where we could spontaneously bounce around the planet and get by with only a few hours behind the laptop daily. Travel must be carefully considered so as not to overlap with intensive projects. We can never be too far away from WiFi.

We have, in many ways, resumed a life we once had. But with one important difference…

Travel must be carefully considered so as not to overlap with intensive projects. We can never be too far away from WiFi.

Hard at work in our office.

It is all ours.

And there are both good and bad sides to that.Paying for our mortgage, vehicle, travel, food, clothing, etc. etc. depends directly on our efforts and on making the right choices to advance our business. Thousands of dollars can be made or wasted on one decision. There is no safety net. For some people, that is a situation that induces too much anxiety to be considered.

On the flip side, triumphs are also entirely ours (while shared with our contractors of course, who put in substantial efforts to help us thrive). But beyond registering success, what Pete and I value most is the freedom that entrepreneurship affords us. Yes, we may be put in many weekend hours, but we still aren’t fully tethered to the 9 to 5. We can hit the gym during the slower mid-morning hours or sneak off for a matinee movie as we please. We can still plan to go to Greece for a few weeks this spring (that is indeed in the works). We can balance work with exploring new destinations.

Had I continued my pursuit of becoming a chemical engineer, maybe I would have found my way to this spot too but probably not – that is a vocation that is likely much more institutional – and so I am glad I took other paths. I am glad I followed until I could break out and become a leader. And I recognize that championing this business is not something I could have done without first experiencing every other rise and pitfall that has been in my path.

I am glad I followed until I could break out and become a leader.

On a hike in Peru, 10 years ago, in which Pete and I were almost killed in a mudslide. Fun!

Most every year that I have written these posts, I have ended on a positive and optimistic note. Our future has never looked better, I have surmised on more than one occasion.

This year is no different. And that’s how I know that we’re doing something right.

css.php