10 Years of www.Travellingcamera.com - An interesting Journey & some tips for new bloggers

In July 2008, inspiration struck and I started this blog called Photo Journey, a name that has stuck despite the blog's rebranding to Travelling Camera. At that time I had no idea that 10 years later, I will be compiling a post celebrating 10 successful years of Travelling Camera. Not much has changed since then - the focus, the vision, the passion - except the fact that I am now joined by my partner-in-crime, Vibha, who also happens to be my wife. She has been an active contributor into this blog since 2013 and you would have probably read some of the posts written by her. 

When I look back at 2008, I don't think I ever thought that my blog will lead me to take up so many interesting activities, which I would probably never have thought of otherwise. I have always loved traveling, but it is only because of Travelling Camera, that I strive to out-do myself in every subsequent travel. This has led me to high mountains and distant valleys, to homestays and remote guest houses, and to planned eco-tourism itineraries and unplanned, on-the-spot travels. Travelling Camera has helped me grow as a traveller and photographer. Not too many people realize this, but a blog does tend to do that, provided you stay faithful to it. 

Today, for me Travelling Camera is much more than a blog. It is that one platform that I can use to connect with the world and express my opinions openly. It is also the means to track my progress as an individual. But above all, it is a way to connect to my readers, without whom Travelling Camera wouldn't have been anything more than a personal journal. Looking back does tend to make me nostalgic, but it also fills me with pride. My blog has helped me meet some of the most wonderful and creative people, whom, otherwise, I wouldn't have had any chance of knowing. 

Before diving deep into the Journey over the timeline, let's look at quick facts about the blog after 10 Years - 

1. 9 Million + Viewership so far (To be little precise - 93 lac 40 thousands + ). Below screenshot shows some interesting trends so far and would give you sense how challenging these problems are. It's never a smooth journey. One needs to keep an eye on numbers and keep changing the strategies. 

2. Travelling Camera is listed at many places as one of the top blogs in India. This is quite a long list and it isn't possible to mention everyone here, so I request you to check here

Lot many times people ask me - 'Why don't you get into full-time blogging' and other similar questions. There are multiple reasons why I don't do it and why my current state is the best for me.   Around 10 years back I developed interest in Photography & Blogging. Many times, I see people struggling to find time to invest in their interests and do something which can give you some sense of achievement. I have been very lucky on that front and have always tried my best to use my time in the best possible way. When I say that I am one of those corporate guys who spend days & nights on job, but we also get weekends. If we calculate carefully, we have about 30% of our waking time available to us to do whatever we want to do, and 30% is a huge number. Ultimately  it depends upon us how we utilize it. Just to clarify I am not talking about compromising with work, and at times your work may take 5% of this weekend time as well, but still 25% is huge number.   Apart from time & interest, you also need right people around you, which is completely in your control. In my case, I was lucky to find all encouraging situations all through. My office & colleagues have a huge role to play when it comes to Photography & Blogging. And today I feel that I have accomplished enough in both these spaces. Be it in terms of recognition, skill enhancement, or making some money from these passions.   Today when I have a very busy life in office and hardly get time for many of the FAM trips or other photography opportunities, I feel bad at times. But I am happy most of the time, because I use my time very productively - whether I am on job or doing some blogging/photography assignment.   The biggest factor is that I choose my projects and do them on my terms. Since I don't have enough time to do all the projects coming my way and my job ensures that I have the financial freedom too to be choosy, I only take up the assignments that add value to my blog or to me. Most of the times, my charges are more than what others would charge and I can do it because I don’t have a fear of loosing those projects. In the end, if I do good work for these clients and give them appropriate value, these relationships yield much more than what I would have achieved otherwise. I don’t believe in bragging about the revenue numbers, so am choosing to not put any numbers here. All I intend to say is that blogging professionally with a job is a very good deal if you have good readership and organic traffic. If fundamentals are strong and you have good negotiation power, you can do much better than full-time bloggers.  Gradually I have some partners who put in lots of efforts in curating content and just focus on viewers & their needs. This pays off in the longer run.   Another important aspect is logistics. When you get into such things full time, you not only focus on the blog but also need to take out bandwidth for a lot of other things and I find payment resolution as one of the biggest hurdle. So choosing clients myself and doing things on my terms resolves these issues. As a full timer, you need to think about the continuous inflow of business and that means that you may need to make some compromises.   There is a flip side too. I had to miss lot of FAM trips, which certainly is a loss in my opinion because essentially I love travelling and that's the prime inspiration for my blog. But the good part is that I can utilize my time well by choosing the most compelling FAMs instead of all. It's enough if I manage to do 1 FAM trip in a quarter and apart from that I can plan my personal trips accordingly on my holidays & weekends. Essentially I have a better control over the places I want to explore, although ye dil always mange more :).   While I am writing about this, I always hear this debate about 'a person should do what he is passionate about'. Sounds perfect but that doesn't mean that you can't be passionate about what you chose to do. So, in my opinion, it's both ways. I am not trying to justify my high paying job or anything but it's more about the sense of fulfillment you get from anything. I have been pretty happy with things I do in corporate world and I believe that I am always passionate about things I have done. So for me it's not limited to Travel or Photography. And if you notice, passions change over a time and gradually you leave few and keep following few. So it's also about experimentation and not only about sticking to your current passions.   When I say all this, I don't mean to say that full-time blogging isn't a good option. In the end, it's personal choice. We only see one side of all these things and on the basis of what we see we make few things glamorous in our head. It can also be glamorous that you follow your passions along with your full-time job that you love. Be it running, cycling, photography, travelling, music etc. At the end, it boils down to your commitment for things you choose to do and do them well. I have many good friends who are into full-time blogging and enjoy that life. Certainly this trend is new and there are plenty of new challenges that we typically don't encounter otherwise.   While compiling this post, I have tried to express my thoughts and I would like to hear your thoughts in comments below.   Let me quickly summarize the Pros & Cons of part-time blogging and full-time blogging (And I am talking about blogs of same scale in terms of statistics, quality of the content and other relevant parameters to evaluate a blog/website).  Pros - 1. You plan your travel as per your convenience. 2. There is no pressure of earning your bread. 3. You choose the best projects, which bring that maximum possible value to your blog or to yourself. 4. You can focus better on quality associations with brands. 5. You can make more money by doing lesser number of projects. 6. At a broader level, you choose things at your convenience.   Cons - 1. You lose many FAM trips (travel opportunities). 2. You miss lots of networking opportunities.  3. Your growth as a blogger is slower than full-timers, who can build better network & can leverage more marketing opportunities.   That's just my opinion and it can be seen in different light, but certainly I would love to hear thoughts from other full-time and part-time bloggers on this.

3. Publications - Several popular travel, photography, and publishing related brands have shared our content on their channels. This certainly helped us increase our reach. 

4. There are several blog-posts that have been viewed more than 1 lac times so far and the top-most has been viewed more than 3 lac times. "How to reach Kasol & things to do around Malana/Kasol in Himachal Pradesh

5. We are proud to say that we never had to do any paid promotions for our blog and 85% traffic comes through major search engines like Google, Bing etc. The screenshot below shows the top source as google and subsequent are blog-feeds, social-media and interestingly some of the websites/blogs who included our links. I always underestimated the power of link sharing, but it really works and I realized that through numbers. 

6. 2097 Posts published so far. Do check out below screenshot and notice 

7. Social-media has played a huge role in recent years. We are present on all social media platforms and we can be reached out -

8. Viewership trends have been amazing and unpredictable at times. There were times when we were focused and we had team of interns working on various aspects of the blog, but our reach did not show a proportional increase. On the other hand, at times views shot up very fast, without much efforts. So we can't really claim that we know the mantra. The only thing we can say for sure is that our hard-work has paid really well. Here is a quick snapshot of views we have been getting so far - 

Daily Page Visits range from 2500 to 42000 (a trend from last 5 years, when we actually started tracking this.)

Blog is viewed the most on Windows & Android and Mac/iPhone come the next. 

The blog is mostly viewed in India and and then come US, China, Russia, Germany, UK, France, UAE, Netherlands & Spain. Interestingly the 3rd country is China, when it comes to views. 

9. Spreading Love for Photography & Travel - Over the years, we have been involved with various institutions for sponsoring events in colleges in universities across the country. We have been doing Photography related events, workshops, & photo-walks for Photography enthusiasts. 

10. Photography Exhibitions - During these years I also exhibited my photographs in four different exhibitions - two of these in India and two in US. Apart from these I represented Photo Journey in group exhibitions remotely. All these were amazing experiences. I also got an opportunity to create one Art show in the US and that experience was completely different for me. 

11. FAM Trips - We have been invited to plenty of FAM trips, although we couldn't go to all and we can't plan our vacations as per timelines provided by brands. But certainly we love some of these opportunities and plan for them whenever we find them worth the effort. 

12. Guest Blog-posts - In last 10 years, 30+ folks shared their Travel stories on Photo Journey and you can find more about each individual and their experiences on this link

13. During this time we have also been featuring some brands in Travel, Photography, and Lifestyle space. Some of them are Google, Microsoft, Le Meridien, Expedia, New Zealand Embassy, Karnataka Tourism, Madhya Pradesh Tourism, Himachal Pradesh Tourism, Thailand Tourism, Delhi Tourism, Canon, Nikon, Fujifilm, Save our Tigers, Te Aroha etc. 

14. MOBILEGIRI - This is a very special series wherein we share photographs clicked with mobile phones and we also share some tips of making best of cameras in mobile phones. Since everyone has Mobile camera, it makes perfect sense for us to help folks click better photographs with these cameras. Here is one interesting conversation, wherein people doubting about the photograph being clicked with mobile and we consider it as compliment. 

Above were just the highlights from our 10-year-long journey. Let's go a little deeper and see how things happened over the period of time and how we changed our strategies in terms of content, marketing, branding or initiatives on responsible travel. We will reflect upon the journey and see how things happened during the first month, initial quarters, years and so on. 

First Month of Blogging -

The very first post to be published Travelling Camera was about our Shrikhand Trek on 30th july 2008 and this trek is still talked about a lot. We recieve lot of messages and phone calls from folks who want to do this trek & need help in planning. 

Total posts published in the first Month of Blogging - 9. Below is a quick snapshot of the first five posts published on Photo Journey (www.Travellingcamera.com). This also shows the numbers of views these posts have fetched so far. 

First 5 posts have different success rate in terms of viewership and there is lot of variation. If I remember correctly, during initial days a lot of friends and family used to check these posts and re-share if they liked. Traction on social media in 2008 was not that great and we never shared our posts on social media or any other places. We would just publish and let some of the close friends know about them

If I look at the posts published in the first month, it was all ad-hoc. No focus on titles and most of the posts are photograph-heavy & the quality wasn't all that great. But all that helped us in understanding the blogging space. We were grateful to have right people around us who gave us feedback at every step and shared suggestions to make the blog better. The blog started with the motive of sharing my travel and photography diaries. That's why name of the blog was 'PHOTO JOURNEY'.

First Year of Blogging -

We published 45 posts in the first year of www.Travellingcamera.com and the screenshots below give some sense about the frequency. 

One of the posts from first year has more than 1 Lac views and there are 10+ posts with a viewership more than 30,000. "Main Places to visit in Chandigarh, Punjab" is one of the oldest post that has got more than 1 Lac views so far. 

It was interesting to see many friends approaching me to publish their travel stories on the blog and that certainly helped me build good content on the blog and them re-sharing increased the reach as well. 

2014 was a very special year, when I pledged to blog everyday and I could do so (with some exceptions). Overall we published 355 posts on the blog (10 less than what we planned). The screenshot below shows the blog-posts we wrote during 2014. Creating content continuously helps and the top viewed post on Photo Journey was published in 2014 only (the one mentioned above).

Today if we look at our weekly viewership, it's interesting to see that posts from different years are still being searched & read by our viewers. A recent weekly screenshot shows this trend - 

And real testimonial for a blogger when someone reads our post and decide to go by our recommendation and on top of that, they also approve our decision and recommendation. Below mention is very special for us. 

I would like to conclude this post by re-iterating that Travelling Camera for me is a medium to connect with our readers and the fellow travellers. During the journey we may have disappointed some of you in some way or the other, but you were generous enough to alert us of the mistakes and we managed to take corrective actions. We are blessed with readers and friends who have offered constructive criticism and helped us improve. All credit for our continuous growth goes to our readers, well-wishers, and friends who cared enough to correct us. We request you to keep your faith in us and keep being our critics as well as friends. We assure you that we will always take the right actions on your inputs. 

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