Why I started travel hacking
The year my father died, I accidentally got elite status. I was living in Russia and flew back to the US for my brother's wedding. A few months later, my father passed and I flew back again for his funeral and to be with my family. Aeroflot, the Russian national carrier, is a member of Skyteam, and together with a few other domestic flights, those Medallion Qualifying Miles were enough to get me Silver Medallion status.
And I loved it. I was upgraded on my first flight after making Silver Medallion, and have always kind of suspected that Delta makes sure every newly-minted Silver Medallion is upgraded on their first flight, to cement in their mind the benefits of loyalty.
Curiously, my father was also a "travel hacker," but of the old school. He always wore beautiful suits to the airport and politely asked if there was any space available in first class. He never hesitated to add a stopover in order to get more segments hopping around on short-hauls in the Pacific Northwest.
I suspect a lot of people get started like I did. They see they've just made entry-level elite status and start searching the web to find out what the benefits are. And naturally, they come across the carefully search-engine-optimized blog posts telling them what credit cards they have to sign up for in order to maximize their rewards.
And I played that version of the game for perhaps a year.
Why I started blogging
It was only after I had dutifully followed the instructions of the "top" blogs for a few months, and had signed up for their recommended credit cards, and took a look around, that I realized it was all a con.
Not that travel hacking is a con – travel hacking is amazing. But that blogging in the travel hacking space is dominated by people whose interests don't align with the interests of their readers.
You can laugh at my naïveté, but I promise you, it really isn't obvious to someone doing a search for "Medallion Qualifying Miles" that someone like René promotes the American Express Delta cards whether their signup bonuses are unusually high or unusually low – or even if there's a better signup bonus available elsewhere.
Fortunately, it's the 21st century. So I wrote an ebook, and I started a website, and I started blogging.
And, as incredible as it sounds, people started reading.
So far, this blog has been a labor of love. I saw a need, and I did my best to meet it. I write what I want to write, whenever I want to write it, and I love it.
Last year, I think I just about broke even – financially – between book sales, $1 Venmo referrals, and my lonely few PayPal subscriptions. In other words, I donated a few thousand hours of my time to this site.
But in a few weeks, I'm going to be leaving my current lightly-paid position to move halfway across the country to be with my partner. And frankly, I like blogging and travel hacking a whole hell of a lot more than I like any other job I've ever had. So I'm going to see if I can't make a go of it doing this full-time.
Usually when a travel blogger tells you he's going to start blogging full-time, it means he's earning enough from affiliate revenue that he can afford to quit his day job.
Needless to say, that's not the case around here. I'm just making a bet: that I can produce enough original content, and attract enough readers willing to voluntarily pay for that content, that I can afford to pay the rent.
The Cylons had a plan; me, not so much
While I've given this a lot of thought, I frankly have no idea whether it's going to work out. Here's my general plan for how I'll make ends meet:
- Recently I've gotten a lot of enthusiasm for my PayPal and Amazon Payments subscriptions (which I appreciate tremendously!). Hopefully that enthusiasm will continue and more readers will find what I write to be worth paying for;
- As I passed along on April 14th, I've been able to write a couple paid pieces for a website called "Credit Card Insider." If that continues, it'll provide some kind of occasional income (and I'll be open to any other paid writing gigs that come along!);
- Unlike in my current New England residence, Amazon allows affiliate links in the state I'm moving to. My guess is that there's only a minimal chance of me being corrupted by the awesome power of Amazon affiliate links ("Read more books!"), so hopefully some readers will click through an Amazon link and that will provide some kind of revenue stream as well;
- And of course my income from travel hacking itself.
But I also need suggestions from my readers: are there ways you think I can make money from my expertise, analysis, and honesty that won't detract from the experience of coming here and getting my straightforward reporting on everything taking place in this game we play?
Let me make one point up front: I love hearing from my readers, and I love answering questions, and I love helping them optimize their strategies. I do this by e-mail, in the comments to the blog, and on FlyerTalk. None of these suggestions would replace that, because I love doing that!
Having said that, would any of these ideas have any appeal to any of my readers?
- Some kind of e-mail or phone or Skype consultancy. You're getting started, you want some advice, you pay an hourly fee or a monthly/yearly "retainer" to be able to get in touch with me and bounce ideas around.
- Some kind of in-person consultancy. Firms that have a lot of employees who travel for work might pay me to do a presentation about the best ways to maximize their travel rewards. Crazier things have happened.
- Some kind of "premium" content. This could be a forum where subscribers can chat with each other and me about lesser-known techniques, or a more expensive and comprehensive version of my subscriber newsletter.
So, that's it!
Sometime in the middle of next month, you can expect to see more frequent posts here on the blog and perhaps some other announcements, depending on how ridiculous you folks find my suggestions and how awesome your suggestions are.
See you in the comments!