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My Story – How I Travel Full-Time As a Travel Blogger

My Story – How I Travel Full-Time As a Travel Blogger

First off, welcome, and thanks for reading my blog!

I’ve been using this space to document my and Haylea’s raw adventures around the world since 2019. While it started as a passion project to help get my photography out there, this humble blog has opened up a world of opportunities for us.

So here it is. This is my story of how we went from teaching English online in hostel bathrooms– to getting paid to travel the world full-time.

Whether you’re interested in perpetual adventure travel, the digital nomad lifestyle, or what the process of starting a travel blog actually looks like, I’m sure you’ll enjoy my story!

Quick Intro – Life Before Travel

The Early Days

I was born in a small town in rural Sweden called Växjö, a town probably nobody has ever heard of. At the age of seven, my parents immigrated to New South Wales, Australia on student visas, bringing me and my sister along with them.

Over the next few years, we moved around quite a bit. By the time I was ten, I’d been enrolled in four schools but could now speak fluent English. Looking back, I’d say this perpetual movement at a young age had a big impact on me.

My family finally found a base in a small beach town on the Central Coast of New South Wales. What a place to grow up!

Lucky to grow up in Australia with a solid group of mates

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have spent my early teens with a solid group of mates, riding bikes around secluded beaches, cliff jumping, snorkeling, hiking, camping, and generally just loving the outdoors.

Young Olly in a cave
Australia kickstarted my passion for adventure

Around this time my dad also had the crazy idea to build a 50 ft steel yacht in our backyard, which turned into a family affair for the next decade.

The childhood project – Malaika
Attila Gaspar with Malaika

Muay Thai

Around the time I was 14 I rode my bike past a Muay Thai Kickboxing Gym just 5 minutes from my house that I had no idea existed. I decided to give it a try and within one session I was hooked.

I spent the rest of my school years balancing my newfound addiction with school commitments and hanging out with my good friends and girlfriend Haylea, who I met at 16.

As anyone who’s really gotten serious with a sport knows, the balance is hard to keep. I’d train for two hours in the morning before school, and three hours in the evening as I prepared for fights.

Young me & Trainer Gary King

My trainers had spent most of their fighting careers in Thailand. So, from day one, I was introduced to a real Thai style of training, where the concept of overtraining doesn’t really exist.

I had my first fight at the age of 15 and this passion carried on for several years.

Olly Gaspar Muay thai
Fighting on the circuit in Australia

2015 – Our First Big Backpacking Trip

After finishing school, I continued my love for Muay Thai but I was longing for a real adventure.

As with most people, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life, but I got decent grades in school so I decided to enroll in a business degree. I chose this because it seemed like the broadest subject.

Two years in, I was starting to feel a little lost and unfulfilled. Haylea and I decided we’d commit to a year-long “gap year” of backpacking through Europe before wrapping up the last year of university. We figured that by then, we’d kind of have this travel bug out of our system and we’d be content with starting a conventional career.

Backpackers
Italy 2015 – Great times with great people

To save up for this trip, we worked tirelessly, saving every single penny and locking ourselves into an obsessive money-saving mindset. I consider myself very lucky to have had an Australian passport by this stage, which allowed me to earn decent money for hard unskilled manual labor work.

While studying part-time remotely, I managed to secure 50-hour weeks digging trenches for a large-scale Australian telecommunications project in Australia called the “NBN”. On the weekends I’d also do some childminding for extra cash and I was still able to get some decent Muay Thai sessions in every day.

I did this for eight months, without a single dollar of “unnecessary” spending. Haylea also locked hard into the money-saving mode, working equally as hard to reach our savings goal. Safe to say, the hard work paid off. We managed to save enough money for 10 months of backpacking through Europe with just 8 months of work. Australia is the land of opportunity and I’m forever grateful for the hand I was dealt.

HIKING IN NORWAY
Hiking in Norway on my first long backpacking trip – 2015

Also safe to say, that first backpacking trip didn’t get the travel bug out of our system. In fact, I’d say it ignited in us an undying passion for travel. It was also the first time I picked up a camera for landscape photography, and instantly I was hooked.

From that moment we knew that all we wanted to do was to continue to backpack. But, we also knew that dedicating years of our youth to working and saving money for short-lived moments of freedom was not going to be sustainable in the long term.

But still, I didn’t see any other way.

The Pursuit of Perpetual Travel

We returned to Australia, and I finished my degree while working several jobs in the hopes of saving more money for future trips. I refused to buy a car and cycled everywhere, non-essential spending was reduced to zero and I picked up extra work wherever an opportunity lay, from babysitting to teaching Muay Thai classes, to cleaning gyms to trying my hand at online start-up ventures.

During this period I still managed to fit in several short ultra-low-budget trips to The Philippines and Thailand. I also modified my road bike and rode it across the south island of New Zealand and squeezed in a month-long Muay Thai camp in Bangkok.

Solo Bike-packing in New Zealand
Olly Gaspar Muay Thai Gym
Training with some former Muay Thai and future Lethwei World Champions in Bangkok

It felt great to be back on the road in those fleeting moments.

However, all they really achieved was cementing my longing for a raw, minimalist, and nomadic way of life.

Backpacking Olly and Haylea
Stoked to be back on the road

2018 – My First Remote Job

Then, in 2018, after reading books like The Alchemist and The Celestine Prophecy, while working a desk job to save up for another trip, I began to question what the end goal really was for me. I needed a purpose that aligned with my passion for raw travel, minimalist living, and photography. Pretty cliche, I know.

But, I also knew that I didn’t fit into the conventional framework of life and that western ideals didn’t really resonate with me. I guess I can blame spending that on spending the majority of my teenage years in a Muay Thai gym.

I began furiously googling things like “how to make money online”, “how to become a digital nomad” and “how to get digital nomad jobs”.

Google: “How the f*** do I become a Digital Nomad?”

Most of the answers then just confirmed the little I already knew. To work online in 2018 you need to either convince your current employer or start an online business or eCommerce store. I had already tried starting an online dropshipping business and an online anti-piracy service but they ultimately failed because I wasn’t prepared to dedicate thousands of dollars to something that I wasn’t passionate about.

Then, I found an ad looking for remote online English Teachers. My partner Haylea and I applied immediately and within a week we were offered a contract paying $20 USD per hour to work 12 hours a week on Sunday and Monday afternoons. This seemed too good to be true for us. $20 was easily enough to get us through a day backpacking in South East Asia. We were being paid that per hour, each!

And, when you want something, all the universe conspires to helping you achieve it.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Seeing how easy this was shifted my mentality instantly. I quit my desk job at the time and bought a one-way ticket to Thailand. A few weeks later I found myself training full-time and even fulfilling my bucket list dream of fighting Muay Thai in Thailand.

Olly Gaspar Muay Thai in Thailand
Finally training for a fight in Thailand – one of my biggest bucket list goals – 2018
Sometimes we had to teach English in the bathroom to limit noise

Related: My Updated Guide to Digital Nomad Jobs


2018 – Getting My Second Remote Job

We stayed in Thailand for several months in 2018. My childhood friend Tom came to live with us on Koh Tao, where we both got our Dive Master certificate together. I also secured a second job as an SEO copywriter earning 3 cents per word, anything to help keep the dream of full-time travel alive.

Living as a Dive Master on Koh Tao with my buddy Tom

This company asked me to write some pretty weird articles on some wild topics like “how to build a beehive box”, and “best bear spray for the backcountry”. Either way, I quickly became an online expert on a lot of random topics. But hey, there’s a lesson for you, just because someone sounds confident in an article you read online, doesn’t mean they really know what they’re talking about!

In hindsight, I was getting shafted big time by getting paid only 3 cents per word. However, in all honesty, I would have probably agreed to less than this. Haylea and I were loving the freedom, raw experiences, and challenges that this remote lifestyle permitted.

Most importantly, this job taught me a lot about SEO, a skill that would become very valuable for me once I started my own blog.

Beats the old office

This new source of income, combined with Haylea and me teaching English online, meant we could now finance our life on the road from our laptops.

In the second half of 2018, we made our way through South East Asia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. I began writing about some of the far-flung places we visited but never published anything online.

Haylea hanging out with some kids on Apo Island

2019 -Starting We Seek Travel

After hopping around Asia spending roughly $40 USD per day between us, we took a flight to Sri Lanka in January 2019.

We rented two tuk-tuks and drove them across the country with some old friends. This was one of my favorite trips to date.

It was then in a lazy beach town called Hikkaduwa where I quietly hit publish on We Seek Travel. By this time I’d accumulated lots of written content and photos from our adventures already, and finally had a place to publish them.

I started We Seek Travel in hopes of having my own place on the internet where I could showcase my photography, which had grown into a pretty serious hobby for me by then.

By this time, I’d accumulated a bunch of great photos and I wanted to be able to document and share all of the awesome adventures we’d been on.

I also noticed that some of the blog posts I was writing for my copywriting job were showing up among the first results in Google and generating a lot of traffic. Most of these pieces were on topics I had literally zero idea about before being given the assignment. So, I thought I’d take the technical skills I’d learned and apply them to my own project.

I figured, if I was able to rank for topics I didn’t know anything about, then surely I could rank for travel content, which was pretty much my daily life at this stage!

So, I started my blogging life knowing a bit of SEO, but not much else. In the blogging world, this is kind of weird and actually, a bit of a reversed learning curve as SEO is usually one of the last things newbie bloggers master.

Regardless, over the course of the next few months, I finally got my self-hosted WordPress blog in order and started uploading blog posts about our travels through Sri Lanka, India, and Nepal with Haylea and my friend Ryan, as well as a subsequent solo stint through Myanmar.

At this stage, We Seek Travel was generating around 10,000 page views a month. This was pretty much all from Google as I wasn’t using social media that much.

My mindset was always a bit hesitant on the whole social media thing, the last thing I wanted was to become another manufactured influencer. Instead, I tried to focus more on telling stories about the adventure and location rather than shamelessly selling my personality. Google seemed to like this, but social media, not so much.

I also wasn’t earning any money from blogging yet, since I was reluctant to put any ads on my website and I didn’t really know much about affiliate marketing.

To me, it was just exciting that people were seeing my adventures. I started getting emails and comments about how much I’d inspired people to go on similar trips and how much my blog helped them plan their travels. This was and continues to be the biggest motivator for me.

Nevertheless, during this period We Seek Travel was far from a job, more like a side project and I continued to teach English and write random (sometimes fun, but mostly boring) articles for big companies in order to continue living the digital nomad lifestyle.

2019 – Sailing the East Coast of Australia

Remember my family’s boatbuilding project? Well, my dad launched Malaika in 2014 and in 2019 it was finally time for her first major maiden voyage.

My parents had already sailed hundreds of nautical miles north but Haylea and I flew back to Australia to join them for the last three months of the trip to Cairns. To date, this is still one of the most memorable experiences and was the perfect way to celebrate this decade-long family project.

Junk rig sailing at michaelmas cay great barrier reef, Sailing Up the East Coast of Australia,
Sailing on the Great Barrier Reef on a home-built yacht

During this time, I started uploading weekly Sailing Log updates on this blog, which documented our adventures on Malaika.

2019 – Back to Asia

Once we’d completed the sailing journey, we flew straight back to South East Asia and backpacked for the last three months of the year through Borneo, Lombok, Komodo, and Northern Thailand.

THINGS TO DO ON LOMBOK, MOUNT RINJANI

While we’d spent close to two years in South East Asia at this point, we felt there was just so much more left to see, especially since we tend to travel quite slowly to really do a deep dive into a destination. Additionally, this slow travel pace also allowed me to dedicate some days to writing blog posts on We Seek Travel, while we both still also worked our remote jobs online.

This was also the time when we started working with a few small tour companies and hotels, taking photos for them in exchange for some free boat trips and lodging. This seemed too good to be true at the time for me.

PINK BEACH KOMODO ISLAND

2020 – The Pandemic

After over a year of blogging, We Seek Travel was still only getting around 30,000 page views per month, which is far from impressive after an entire year of working on it. I put this down to avoiding popular topics and just writing about whatever I was interested in. Usually, these were off-the-beaten-path places in Asia and the Indian subcontinent that nobody was really searching for.

Nevertheless, it was certainly getting some attention from a few media outlets who were very interested in sharing our unique adventure travel style.

30,000 monthly hits was also still enough to start earning me a little bit of money for all my effort. So, I decided I would start running some Google Adsense display ads.

Was I excited about having ads on my blog? Definitely not, but to finally be compensated for the hundreds of hours spent in front of my laptop felt good.

During the first few months of 2020, we landed our first big collaboration in New Zealand. We spent two months exploring the South Island with SpaceShip Rentals, who offered us a free van in exchange for publicity on the blog. During these months, We Seek Travel was really starting to take off.

Views were increasing quickly and I was now earning enough from my blog to quit writing articles for other people, I could quit my SEO copyrwriting job! This was massive for me and allowed me to dedicate a lot more time to writing my own posts.

Spaceships Rentals – our first big collaboration

We were stoked to have such a great collaboration with Spaceships and it provided us with the freedom to spend an awesome few months hiking every in the South Island and publishing a lot of blog posts!

MUELLER HUT CAMPING
Life in New Zealand living in a rental van is pretty damn sweet

Then, when all the pieces looked like they were coming together, the pandemic.

Doubling Down on Travel Blogging During a Pandemic

The pandemic hit, and around April 2020 New Zealand immediately began banning all forms of movement within the country. The entire travel industry shut down overnight, and just like that, blog traffic dropped to as low as 100 page views a day.

We decided to cancel our travel plans for the year and flew to Cairns in Far North Queensland, Australia. We figured this would be the last place a virus would get to.

And we were right. Cairns remained Covid-free for the rest of 2020, and we were able to spend a solid six months hiking and exploring the rainforest and islands of Far North Queensland. I consider myself very lucky that while the rest of the world was struggling with trying to contain a virus, I was still free to keep the adventures rolling.

To add to our fortune, I was also able to get my remote jobs back, which gave me the flexibility to still work on We Seek Travel and keep a small income rolling in while the blog wasn’t generating anything.

DEVILS THUMB HIKE QUEENSLAND
Adventures kept rolling in Cairns

While it might have seemed silly in the midst of a pandemic, I made an educated gamble to double down on my blog during this time. I began obsessively self-learning everything there was about SEO, affiliate marketing, page speed, and everything else I could about blogging.

I also published a comprehensive eBook about the Three Passes Trek in Nepal and launched over 100 blog posts in this six-month period, most about all of the hikes, waterfalls, and other adventures in and around Cairns.

Fast forward to late 2020 and Australia was very much isolated from the rest of the world. We had the freedom of movement and as a result, many of my Cairns posts were getting attention from locals, which helped motivate me to continue.

WHERE TO STAY IN CAIRNS, THINGS TO DO FITZROY ISLAND, ISLANDS OFF CAIRNS, DRONE
Not a bad place to be stuck during a pandemic

Then, another gamble. We decided to use our rainy-day savings fund left over from our savings back in 2018 to purchase a high-roof, long-wheelbase 2013 Ford Transit Van and convert it into a campervan. We figured that the virus wasn’t about to slow down, and even if it was, Australia’s borders didn’t look anywhere near close to opening to the rest of the world anytime soon.

TAKING OUR VAN ON THE SPIRIT OF TASMANIA
When life gives you a pandemic, buy a van

So, we drove the new van 2,300 kilometers (1420 miles) south to New South Wales, where Haylea’s family was kind enough to let us work on our new covid project. The next three-month period was the longest pause in travel we’d had in over two years, but I continued to document our van build on We Seek Travel.

Today, over 100,000 people have relied on my van-build guide as a resource to build their own off-grid campervan– that’s a lot of vans!

VAN TRAVEL IN AUSTRALIA
The finished product

Van Life in Tasmania – 2021

For the first half of 2021, we traveled around the island state of Tasmania in our new off-grid home. We continued to work online while exploring all of the hikes, waterfalls, and hidden gems in Tassie, and posting all of the adventures on We Seek Travel.

Van driving through Black Spur Drive
Black Spur Drive
MOUNT AMOS SUNRISE

In total, I published over 120 blog posts during this six-month period, mostly about hikes and hidden gems in Tasmania. While I wasn’t seeing much traffic due to the ongoing pandemic, I figured once the world returned back to normal, people would begin reading my blog again. I certainly wasn’t complaining about the situation, and I was happy living presently while still dedicating time and energy into growing this blog.

Unfortunately, it seemed that our luck began to run out in the second half of 2021. While the rest of the world began to open up, the virus was finally able to creep through the Aussie iron borders.

We kept a close eye on this, and the timing called for us to try to sell our beloved van and head back overseas where the rest of the world was now opening up.

Momentum is an important thing for me, and I was petrified of being locked down and not being able to move. We made the right moves at the right time to keep our freedom and avoided lockdowns altogether.

After just one day of posting the ad, an awesome lady named Ali decided to buy it from us in hopes of driving it through Australia in 2022.

Take care of her :'(

2021 – Back to International Travel & My First Tourism Board Gig

At the end of 2021, the best place to go with the least restrictions was Mexico, so after selling the van we booked another one-way ticket across the world and hoped for the best.

This was Haylea and I’s first time setting foot on the American continent, and it was super exciting. We were missing our van, but there’s just special about owning only the things you can carry. Unfortunately, most of the places I’d written about so far were still locked down, which meant very little search traffic to my blog, and very little income.

However, at this stage, I had so much content out there, that we were still able to fund our travels through some affiliates. But we kept our $ 50-per-day budget between us.

Riding a moped in Mexico

Initially, the plan was to backpack through Mexico and head down deeper into Central America, documenting some awesome spots along the way. However, things changed quickly when I was offered my first Tourism Board gig in the Seychelles.

I’m forever grateful for this opportunity, as it really kicked things off for me. These islands are traditionally a luxury honeymoon destination. However, with such epic and rugged islands, the board knew there was lots of potential for adventure– they just needed the means to get that out there.

This was my job.

Seychelles coastline

I spent two weeks exploring my ass off in the Seychelles. The board gave me a pretty packed itinerary, but I pretty much doubled it by waking up before the birds and exploring and photographing some of the more off-the-beaten-path places on the islands.

The tourism board couldn’t believe how much I’d covered in just a short two weeks, and gave me an awesome testimonial. Today, they’re still using tons of my content which is transforming a whole new sector of adventure tourism in this island group.

Hiking in the Seychelles

I flew back to Tulum, Mexico, where Haylea and I stayed for a while catching up on blog content. I published over 30 Seychelles adventure guides in just a few weeks.

End of 2021 – I’m now a full-time travel blogger

As I slowly started building a portfolio of successful collaborations with travel brands, tour companies, and brands, my blog really started gaining momentum again.

These were mostly content-creation partnerships in Mexico and the US throughout the last months of the year. I’d get small jobs to photograph their tours and products/services and write honest reviews about them on my blog. I wasn’t getting paid much from these early gigs, but for me, I was just happy to be gaining traction.

Dive platform at Tulum Cenote
Van road trip in Death Valley, USA
An epic road trip through Southwest USA with Travelers Autobarn

Then some good news. Even with the new Omicron variant, Australia was opening up, which meant that some of my biggest areas of coverage were getting hits again.

As I sat there on my sister’s apartment floor in Houston Texas on Christmas, I finally had hit enough monthly sessions (50,000) to apply for Mediavine– the bee’s knees of ad management companies. Ads went live and within just a few days, I went from just scraping by to earning a full-time wage from my blog.

This felt surreal. It’d taken me nearly 3 years of working on what started as a hobby project to finally turn it into a job that could sustain me financially.

New Years Eve in Houston – 2021

2022 – Growing We Seek Travel into an Adventure Travel Business

2022 was a huge year for Haylea and I. The world was opening up quickly, resulting in massive travel demand. All the work I’d put in over the past few years was finally being seen.

By now, companies and tourism boards were really seeing the value we could offer them. We were hired for content creation and promotional campaigns all over the world, from Colombia to Malta.

Every month of 2022 we were flown to a new destination. We went from working in hostel bathrooms for 3 cents per word to being paid to travel by tour companies and tourism boards.

Kayak in Malta's Coral Lagoon
Working with the Malta Tourism Board – 2022

We approached every job with the intent to over-deliver in content and effort. Consequently, after each collaboration brands and boards would give us an excellent testimonial.

Diver at the Blue Hole in Egypt
Content creation trips with dive shops – 2022
Johnny Cay on San Andres Island, Colombia
Working with tour operators in Colombia -2022
Cruise boat in Croatia
Sailing the Adriatic with Sail Croatia -2022

However, being more used to slow travel, the year took a bit of a toll on us. We loved the freedom and the amazing places we were being paid to visit, but I did miss the sense of independent travel.

Girl at the Great Shinx of Giza
Exploring Egypt with TravelTalk Tours
Hot air balloon tour in Cappadocia, Turkey
Content trips in Turkey

So, in late 2022 I went back to India to complete a mountaineering course I’d been dreaming of for a long time. I lived and trained for a month in the Indian Sikkim Himalayas learning the ins and outs of mountain climbing in one of the most remote regions on earth.

Climbing glaciers in India

Living in the mountains without access to the internet was a refreshing feeling after a huge year of cycling non-stop adventure with long hours in front of the laptop.

But, after I returned to the land of internet connectivity, I found that my blog sessions were still continuing to grow exponentially, even though I hadn’t touched my blog for over a month. The hundreds of posts I had constantly published since 2018 were still climbing the rankings of Google and being read by more and more people every day.

By now, Hundreds of thousands of people per month were reading about my adventures and my detailed destination guides on We Seek Travel and using them to plan their own travels. This still blows my mind to think about.

Nepal Hiking, Himalayas

This is the power of travel blogging and building a passionate project that can award you a passive income. Yes, it’s taken a lot of work, and there have certainly been more than a few hiccups along the way. However, I’m a firm believer that nothing worth doing is easy.

By valuing freedom and momentum above all else, we’ve built a lifestyle that allows us to continue doing what we love every single day– on our own terms. This is priceless to me and why I think travel blogging is the best job on earth.

Do you want to become a travel blogger? I’ve accumulated everything I’ve learned over the past four years and put it up as a free beginner’s guide to how to start a travel blog. While a lot of bloggers sell this kind of information in a paid course, my guide is completely free and includes everything you need from kicking off a WordPress site to getting started with SEO – go check it out.

Otherwise, make sure to follow me on Instagram and Facebook to see my latest adventures and guides. Here’s to another huge year of travel in 2023!

Thanks for reading,

– Olly

OLLY GASPAR

Guest

Thursday 29th of December 2022

Well, I appreciate your effort. SO glad to see your journey and would like to share it with my dad just after his

By the way, good luck for your future....