One question I get asked all the time is how I became a full time blogger. It just occurred to me that I’ve never really fully shared the story here on the blog. If it doesn’t interest you, by all means skip this post. I won’t be offended. However, if you are interested, here’s the story.
The short answer is that while I couldn’t be happier with how things turned out, I never intended to make this a career. It really happened by mistake. I started this blog my freshman year of college as a hobby, and here I am, almost 10 years later…
But let’s step back for a second:
My childhood/what I wanted to be growing up
Without getting into too much detail, growing up I was always independent. I had two older brothers, though my oldest brother passed away when he was in his teens, and at the time I was just a few years old. He was a great guy and was always academic and working towards the future.
My oldest brother’s death greatly impacted my whole family, and especially my mom, and caused her to have more of a “do what you enjoy” attitude with me. The same is true of my dad, and they both always reminded me that you never know how long you’ll live, and to just do what makes you happy. For me that was airplanes. Boy did I love everything about airplanes… I still do. Growing up my goal was always to be a pilot, and all I’d ever do was talk about planes (that’s still just about all I talk about).
Eventually I decided I didn’t want to be a pilot anymore. It was after 9/11, and I thought I’d be frustrated having a career where my sole form of “success” was my seniority number. I thought it would be really frustrating to work for a company my whole life, only to be laid off and to have to literally start all over again at another airline. Furthermore, getting pilot training is super expensive, and my family wasn’t rich, so I wasn’t quite sure how I’d pay for it.
While my passion for planes never decreased, eventually I decided becoming a pilot wasn’t for me.
I wasn’t academic
I did reasonably well in school, though was never really “academic.” School just bored the hell out of me, and I had a hard time putting effort into subjects I wasn’t interested in. So when it came time to apply for college, I applied for one school. In retrospect this was probably dumb, because if I hadn’t gotten in I would have been in a lot of trouble.
Fortunately I got accepted to the University of Florida, which was the only place I applied for since it was free (at the time they had a great scholarship for Florida residents). That’s roughly what I value a formal education at, so that amount sounded about right to me. 😉 I don’t think my parents could have paid for me to attend a private out of state school, and the last thing I wanted to do was graduate college with debt (not that I’m saying other should feel that way, but rather it’s just that I don’t value a formal education much).
Again, I did fine in school, though didn’t really care about it much. I just wanted to do my own thing. I traveled almost every weekend, and chose my class schedule in such a way that would minimize the amount of time I’d have to be in Gainesville. So even if my Tuesdays and Thursdays were miserable, I’d rather have eight hours of class twice a week and then have four days to go travel.
But in college I still kept doing my own thing. As part of that, I started the blog in February 2008, which was my second semester of college. I started it as a hobby more than anything.
Randy Petersen (who has been in the miles & points industry since before I was born) is my biggest role model, and I wouldn’t be anywhere without him. Around that time he started Boarding Area, and he invited me to write there. Randy is a huge inspiration, so I couldn’t say no to that opportunity.
Blogging was a hobby for me, and I never thought I’d make a dime from it. I remember around two years after starting to write I got a paycheck of $750 for three months of writing, which I thought was big bucks at the time. That probably translated to a few dollars an hour given how much time I was spending on the blog, though I would have done it for free, so….
The main way I was making money in college was by helping people redeem points, as this was around the time that I started PointsPros. It was pretty good money, especially as a college student, and I probably spent 6-8 hours per day working on it.
The point at which I turned it into a “career”
I didn’t do any internships after college, because I kept busy helping people redeem their points and writing, even though I wasn’t making much at all from blogging. In retrospect I was taking a huge risk (and probably being a total idiot) by graduating college without any internships, formal job experience, etc. On top of that, I had no clue what I wanted to do.
So I started looking around, and I saw a job opening at a certain online travel company, which shall remain nameless. The internet and travel is sort of what I do, so it seemed like a good fit. So I applied there — much like in college, that’s the only place I applied. I had a phone interview, and then flew to their office for an in-person interview. Well, I didn’t get the job.
I was disappointed. Not because I thought I deserved the job, but rather because I thought I had screwed myself over by not taking a more traditional path, and was scared. I think it’s a feeling that many people with more “traditional” qualifications have when they graduate college.
At the time I thought about the general expectations that society seems to have on people, or at least what I perceived those expectations to be — you need to go to college, you need to get a 9-5 job doing something you’re not passionate about, etc. Due to my lack of other options at that point, I thought to myself “hmmm, maybe I should just do my own thing.” I knew what the starting pay would have been at the job I applied for, and I was already making more than that helping people redeem miles. But somehow up until this point I never seriously considered trying to do my own thing long term.
I gave it a try, and haven’t looked back since. That’s how this became a full time thing. Six years later, the OMAAT readership is about 40x what it was in 2011.
I don’t say it often enough, though it’s not due to a lack of feeling this way. Thanks to you guys for all your support over the years. I couldn’t be more grateful for being able to wake up every day and do what I love. Airlines, hotels, miles & points, travel, etc., are my passion, so being able to talk about this stuff all day and getting paid for it is truly a dream come true.
I don’t for a second take this for granted, and I wake up every morning excited to “work” (I struggle to even call it that, since it’s the same stuff I’d be doing if I weren’t working). From a business standpoint I might be better off hiring people to write and instead “managing” things more, but that’s not my passion.
My passion is writing about this stuff. Tiffany does an amazing job handling things on the back-end, and that really allows me to wake up every morning excited to write. 13,000+ posts later, I enjoy this every bit as much as I did the day I started the blog (actually, I enjoy it much more, since more people than just my mom are reading).
But seriously, I can’t stress enough how grateful I am to you guys. On a day-to-day basis I’m so busy that I often don’t have time stop and think about the big picture, but as I sat down to write this post, I couldn’t help but have a big smile on my face as I reflect on this journey.
Would I recommend others take the path I did? Probably not, because it could have also ended very poorly for me. Passion alone isn’t always enough to make something work — there’s also often some luck required, at least in my case. However, I’ve shared my tips for becoming a travel blogger in the past, and absolutely recommend following your passion. Just maybe don’t do it quite as recklessly as I did. 😉