“Let’s just do it,” I decided, “and see where it goes.”
We had just tucked the boys into bed at The Tamajun Hotel in Chanthaburi, Thailand, and were enjoying a couple of Chang beers on the wooden veranda overlooking the river. I had been receiving messages from friends asking for tips about travelling with young kids (our boys were 1 and 2 years old at the time) and one friend mentioned that we should start a blog.
Jenny and Jay’s UK to Aus Blog
We had actually started a blog back in 2007. This was pre-kids, when hubby and I travelled for 8 months overland and sea (no planes) from Kent, UK, to Sydney, Australia (we took a freighter from Singapore to Brisbane for the last leg). The blog was really just a diary to keep friends and family back home up to date with our adventures. We never continued writing once we settled in Sydney, and in all honesty, forgot all about it. But for anyone interested, here’s the link to Jenny and Jay’s Blog!
This new blog would be different though. We had travelled extensively before kids and wanted to continue our travelling lifestyle. This blog would hopefully inspire and provide tips to like-minded parents who wanted to do the same. We had no plans for what it would become, we just thought we’d start it and see where it went.
Starting TraveLynn Family
Once we returned from that family holiday in Thailand, Jay (hubby) wrote our first post – 10 reasons to travel with young kids. We hit publish, set up a Facebook and Twitter page to tell our friends about it, and TraveLynn Family was born!
Note that Jay wrote the first blog post. I never considered myself a writer back then, I was more into the photography and social media side of it. However, after a few weeks I decided to start writing some posts myself, and I loved it. I was a SAHM at the time and this creative outlet was just what I craved. I found the writing process calming and rather therapeutic, and when you’re writing about something you’re passionate about and know a lot about, well, once you start, the words begin to flow. Those early posts are far from my best work, but as with most things in life, the more you do it, the better you become. Well that’s what I tell myself anyways…
Growing the blog
When we moved to India in April 2017, the blog really took off. Whilst living in Bangalore we took every available opportunity to travel when Daddy Lynn wasn’t working, be it a weekend in Hampi or Pondicherry, or flying to Northern India or the neighbouring countries of Nepal and Sri Lanka. People seemed interested that we were doing something different; although through the blog I’ve connected with so many similar families and there really are a lot of us travelling the globe intrepidly with our young kids.
Our 101 days overlanding Africa in a Land Rover brought more followers, as again, I suppose it was something a bit different.
Since returning to the UK and setting up a new life in the Peak District in July, our life is perhaps no longer as exotic. But ironically I’ve been able to become a better travel blogger as I’ve had the time to sit down and write, and to invest into making the website more user-friendly and improving posts so that they can be found better in Google searches. It’s actually really difficult to find the time to be a travel blogger when travelling (especially with kids)!
Becoming a family travel blogger
Since finishing a Masters at Nottingham Uni back in 2004, I’ve worked as a spatial software consultant (my short-lived corporate years), a travel agent, an actor, a wine adviser (hello free wine!), a performing arts teacher, a swimming teacher and even started a little sewing business called Sew Ape. You could perhaps call me flaky, or indecisive, but I’ve just always fancied trying new things, although I always thought that blogging was just a hobby.
If you told me two years ago that blogging would become my ‘job’, I would have stared at you in complete disbelief. I had no idea that you could make any money out of blogging, and I certainly didn’t imagine all the amazing opportunities that would come our way. Nor did I really appreciate the amount of work that goes in to becoming a travel blogger and making it successful. Over these past couple of years I have learnt a lot about building a website, growing page views, SEO, coding, as well as social media strategies, networking and content creation (yes – a lot of this used to be foreign lingo to me too).
Since Arthur started school and Ezra started mornings at pre-school this September, I’ve finally had some time to myself in the week to better focus my energies and monetise the blog. Whilst I by no means make a fortune, I’m making more than I did as a part-time swimming teacher (a job I did for a couple of terms before moving to India).
Travel blogging is the first job I’ve had where I’ve thought – “this is long term”. It allows me to work from home, be totally flexible about my hours, talk about travel all day, and enables us to travel more as a family (which is what we love to do). We’ve been hosted by tourism companies to promote destinations such as Johannesburg and Iceland, been invited to stay at accommodations across the globe, and worked with prestigious travel brands, including Lonely Planet, Mountain Warehouse, and Vango. In fact, I often feel uncomfortable telling people it’s my job as it sometimes sounds too good to be true, even to me.
How do I make money?
Some of my income is from affiliate links. This may be an amazon link or a booking.com link, for instance, where I have recommended a product or accommodation on the website, and I receive commission if you click my link to purchase (this is at no extra cost to you).
I also get paid on occasion to write travel articles for online and print magazines, or sponsored posts for my own website, and also to publish posts on my social media channels, like this one for Petits Filous below.
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The boys had hardly any toys for our recent African travels as we like to travel light. Instead they were more than happy to play with sticks, stones, sand, leaves… whatever they could lay their hands on. Of course this meant that they were constantly filthy! 😂🙈 .. They were so excited to be reunited with their plastic toys on our return – but oh my, that's when the arguments started. Why do they insist on playing with the EXACT same thing when there is a whole room full of toys to play with??? .. So yesterday, I took it back to the basics with a cardboard box from @amazon and @petitsfilous yogurt pots, and their imaginations were sparked again. We spent hours in the garden making monsters with googly eyes, then making up games with our creations. 🤗 .. #PetitsFilousPlayFree
In all instances, whether I am paid, hosted (complimentary accommodation) or gifted (I’m sent a product for free), I will always disclose this to my readers (you may sometimes see #ad #hosted or [AD] in my social media posts), and I will ALWAYS say EXACTLY what I think and be honest with you. For example, we were invited to Alpkit’s Big Shakeout, an outdoor festival in the UK, earlier this year, and I was honest in telling readers that it is not really suitable for young kids. You can read my Alpkit’s Big Shakeout Festival review here.
It sounds like the perfect job for a travel-loving Mum!
It’s not all smooth sailing. For a good 18 months I built the blog around looking after my boys full time and whilst we lived in India for a year, neither of them were in nursery/pre-school. This meant lots of late nights and very early mornings, writing and editing, for no payment whatsoever. Although I started to get invites from accommodations asking me to write a review for my blog and post to my social media channels in exchange for a complimentary stay. One of the first invitations I received was from the Savoy Hotel in Copenhagen, and since then I’ve reviewed many hotels across the world, including Living Heritage Koslanda (Sri Lanka), Ayana Fort Kochi (India), Game Haven Lodge (Malawi), and Victoria Falls Waterfront (Zambia), to name a few.
Whilst these may sound like a free holidays, in all these instances I am working. I’m making notes, taking photos, posting to social media and even writing the blog post(s) whilst I’m there. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. But I just want to portray the full picture for anyone believing us bloggers get ‘free’ trips. There’s a lot of work that goes behind the scenes.
Plus I never switch off when travelling now and have to really make an effort to put my camera down, and appreciate the moment. I’m always wondering how a particular view or scenario could fit into a social media or blog post.
The future of TraveLynn Family
Now that we live in the UK and are limited to travel in school holidays, we can’t travel to exotic destinations as much as we have in the past. But I’m not going to hide that – it’s real, and something that so many wander-lusting families face. Who knows, we may one day up sticks, home-school our boys and travel long-term. But for right this moment, we’re enjoying home comforts and watching our boys thrive and blossom in their new environment. We’re just going to have to be clever with the time we do have to travel, and we have lots of exciting plans already in the pipeline for 2019.
I’m only two years into my blogging journey, still have so much to learn, and my husband always comments that I never switch off (I think any self-employed person has that). But I love it! This job fits so well around my family and gives us amazing travel opportunities, I think this is one that I’ll stick at for a bit longer…