I always thought these blog birthdays were kind of dumb, and swore I wouldn’t write one, but a lot of what I thought this blog would and wouldn’t involve I was wrong about. Not only am I clearly writing one, but it’s a massive 1700 words including travel blogging tips (as if I’m at all qualified to give them out).
Hippie in Heels is One!
First of all I never considered myself a “blogger” and all year when some stranger on a plane asks me what I do, I say I run a travel website. I guess I feel like having a blog can be seen as something not that serious, while Hippie in Heels is a full-time job for me (even though people at home just think I lay at the beach all day.)
I also thought I would never filter myself, but I only share about 50% of what I get up to and the only truly personal thing I’ve shared is about the deaths of my two dogs, although haven’t shared too much about Piso who died very young.
Huck and Piso
The Up’s and Down’s
I enjoy writing tips and stories about India but never felt inclined to write about my acclimation here and how I feel about living in India. I changed that a bit with my “This is India” series where I share a little of the negative as well with true stories of the shit I deal with here! People seem to really be enjoying these stories so I feel happy that I can be more honest about the challenging side of India without offending people.
The best part about this blog is when people e-mail to say that they weren’t sure if they could travel India, but my blog helped them plan and feel confident. I think it’s cool when people share the blog with their parents to show them what India is like. My new Skype travel planning is also going well and of course I LOVE helping people plan their trips.
The hardest part about blogging is dealing with douche-bags. I have been called over and over asking if I can give a “sexy massage”, I’ve been accused of being an escort, I’m offered money to show gross men around Goa, and I get FB messages that are so creepy I consider turning off messaging all together. It’s always Indian men who are messaging me inappropriately and it does make it hard for me to be open to friendships with Indian men in general because every other day I get a repulsive message over one of my many social media platforms. Because of the culture gap, sometimes I don’t even realize at first what’s happening. Someone will be asking how much budget they need for a few good nights in Goa and I tell them just to see in their reply “oh, maybe I can only afford you one day, please revert with meeting details”.
Granted, this is about 3% of the messages I get. I have such awesome readers who keep me going and appreciate what I have to say. I’d be lying though if I didn’t say that 3% is hard to deal with some days.
I really love when readers email to tell me I helped with their trips and really this site would be non-existant if people didn’t keep coming back and telling their friends- so thank you!
This Year on Hippie in Heels
It’s strange to think a little over two years ago I was a nurse in Seattle, and only 1 year ago, I was googling “what is WordPress?” I even googled “who writes female travel blogs” and was SHOCKED how many there were! It was only a year ago I read my first travel blogs: Adventurous Kate, Alex in Wanderland, and Ashley Abroad (apparently I only got through the A’s) and saw a glimpse into what blogging was all about. I had thought I was being so unique starting one- but soon realized I’m one of thousands upon thousands.
Not one to be discouraged, I decided to go for it and started posting about all my older Europe travels. I fought off my first internet troll, made some blogging buddies, and finally after about 6 months I started making money- which let’s me honest, I’d be crazy to do all this work not hoping for money. I’ve made some great partnerships and although I saw my blog as a business from day one, other people are starting to see what I can do for their companies, which is a good feeling.
I watched my blog go from 500 monthly readers to 33,000 unique readers. The last few months I’ve been at close to 70,000 page views a month. I have written over 200 posts this year.
As my blog grew, I had to change hosts from Godaddy because they were terrible! I use Siteground now which is good for mid-range traffic blogs. If you are a beginner blogger, don’t use Godaddy, go for Bluehost! It’s just 2.95/month with this link.
I also updated to a new pretty theme. It’s called Avada and was $60.
I usually posted 5 times a week, but this year you’ll see me slow down to about 4; two of which will be from my series posts. It’s not because I don’t enjoy writing on here, but because 5 was a LOT; most bloggers post 2-3 per week. I have already posted SO much information about general travel in India that now I want to post more detailed posts about each city as I visit them.
Some of the series I’ve started are International Boho-Chic Designers and I hope to do more give aways for you guys with that one, This is India with the wacky stories, and Backpacker’s Boutique which includes luxury guides from expats and interviews about detailed packing lists.
My most popular posts:
Should you see a ping pong show in Bangkok?
14 tips for solo female travel in India
The only backpacking through India packing list you need
This year in Goa
Travel writer, Thai masseuse, Candle-maker, and social media consulting company… Ok, and the occasional nursing call from friends and neighbors. Once a nurse, always a nurse.
This year has been a lot of firsts. I was officially unemployed for the first time since I was 15. I am living in India with Ben, who I had only known for a mere 3 weeks before moving here. I had to learn how to be an expat and how the hell to survive without my nursing paycheck.
Blogging has finally started to help me; this month I’ll make more than I made as a nurse, but for all I know, next month I may make nothing. It’s very unreliable. Because of that I knew I needed back ups. I’ve shared that I kept my nursing active and how to do so when you move abroad. I also put fliers up for my Thai yoga massage which has been a small but nice occasional income.
PS this number is no longer correct, and even if it were- it doesn’t mean you should whatsapp message me!!!
Over monsoon I started ISLA Candles with my free time trapped in the rainy house. Even if this business doesn’t take off, it was such a learning experience. It was more work that you can imagine to source all the bits and pieces. Dealing with Indian men in business was refreshing, as I got so much more respect than usual. I also decided on planes when strangers ask, I will tell them I’m a candle-maker. It’s more interesting than writing I think!
In the last year I spent time in many cities in India, Singapore, Thailand, England, and the U.S. Next year, I will have a visa run- maybe Sri Lanka, my parents are visited for Christmas, and I have a huge trip with goMowgli that I’m on right now!
There were some sad times this year. A month or two after I moved to Goa, our little Piso (meaning crazy in local Konkani) died from parvo virus. He was an adorable but sickly little golden retriever who was taken from his mama too early. I thought that was something I wouldn’t get over, but just a year later my Huckleberry died from rabies. In my opinion, that’s the worst way to lose an animal since there are no tests to verify. His illness was the worst week of my life and although I know other people have lost dogs, I just feel like it’s impossible to get over his death and I’m not sure how other people have done so. Our rescue kitten, Kit Kat, is still with us but could have rabies, as he was only a few weeks old and unvaccinated while exposed to the virus. If he’s okay in a couple months then he’s in the clear. Ben has gotten a little puppy in Kochi that he might bring to Goa, but the pup has a mom and family in Kochi so it’s up in the air now since there are so many dogs here in Assagao that need rescued and have no mother.
Some travel blogging tips from year 1
First of all, I’m not really in a place to give tips compared to the bloggers that have been around for years, but if you’re just getting started I could be helpful…
The blog building was much harder than I thought and took about three weeks. If I could go back I would make things absolutely perfect and ready before launching to ease any stress and be able to focus on social media and getting my blog known rather than fixing bugs and mailing issues.
This year I posted 5 times a week most weeks and posted over 200 posts. Actually, my second and third month I posted 6 times a week occasionally. I think the first year it’s imperative to post at least 4 times a week with original and unique content.
When I saw my blog take a leap of readers it was when I decided to stick to writing about India. As all the blogging sites say, stick to a small niche. There were too many other bloggers out there doing the same thing. Originally I had the tagline “glamorous travel on a backpacking budget” but it was changed to “glamorous travel in India (and everywhere else)” because half way through the year I realized I wasn’t traveling as cheap as before and about 60% of my content and all my foreseeable content was about India. You need to be KNOWN for something and not only am I known for India, but girly travel in India and luxury travel in India which is so far from where I started.
SEO is important although I just use the YOAST plug-in, when reviewing my all time traffic, 50% came from Google.
It’s important to have text on your images when you share them on Pinterest and Twitter. I do my own usually but have hired people on Fiverr. By the way, if you’re saving for a trip or have any skills (seriously you can just hold a sign up with a company logo) you can make $5 per gig. I keep meaning to sign up to make Pinterest graphics for people.
I think having a media kit helped a lot when attached to e-mails to anyone I would pitch to. You want to make sure they can see all your accomplishments in one places, rather then search for them on your site and it saves time while e-mailing to just attach. I love mine and it was made by Emily over at Lets Roam Wild. I 100% recommend her work.
From the beginning, I also commented on others’ blogs although I don’t do it as much anymore except blogs I really like (and there are actually a lot). I guest posted every opportunity I could even the first month I started blogging. If you have something interesting to say, you should definitely reach out to even the biggest bloggers. Other bloggers need content so you’d be surprised how many people will be cool with it.
I also started doing this thing I read about where you give each area of your work 1% more and you will see drastic results. I used this towards my social media. I shared more people’s posts I liked, I actually started using twitter and following people. I tried to put up Instagram photos every day and commented on other bloggers Facebook posts. I don’t think it worked for Instagram, but for twitter and Facebook it helped. I now have about 1.6k to 2.3k across all my social media accounts.
Most importantly, I ALWAYS answer my e-mails, Facebook messages and comments, tweets, and website comments from my readers. I think that’s the most important part of all. When people e-mail questions I ask myself, “should I write a post about this?” because it could help other readers.
If blogging tips are something you’re interested in, just let me know in the comments and maybe I’ll write a post on it!
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Great post Rachel, and happy blog birthday! You’ve done so well in the space of a year, go girl!
Love the blog info too :)
Thanks Christine! I almost didn’t put any blog tips because I thought nahh I havne’t been around long enough!
Congratulations! Getting so far in one year of blogging is a very impressive accomplishment. I’m definitely one of those people who loves reading about the realities of what it takes to be a successful blogger, so I encourage you to post more about your blogging life ;) But seriously congrats on one year!
Thanks Justine, I think because I focus on India it helped boost my site quicker. I will do some more tips on blogging :)
Congrats on your first year in blogging! I love reading your blog and learning about about living in Goa! Keep up the great work! :-)
Thanks Joella! I love your blog too :)
Congratulations on all of your accomplishments! I’d be interested in hearing some blogging tips :)
Thanks! I think i’ll do a follow up post of sorts with a few tips although I dont have many lol
Awesome work Rachel. You truly rock! :)
I can’t believe you’ve only been blogging for a year! I really enjoyed your tips, especially the fact that you learned you needed to stick to India. I just realized a month or two ago that I should focus on China rather than Asia as a whole. There’s not a lot of us China travel bloggers (Hi Joella), so it’s smart to stick to what I know.
I can’t believe you used to post 5 times a week! I have a hard enough time with 2 a week. Good luck with all your future projects, and be sure to let me know how I can order a candle from you if you start selling online.
Thanks Richelle, yes I Think making your niche smaller is the way to go! and I also like Joella’s .. have you two met!? and as for posting 5x a week, this is my only real-sh job, as massage and candle-making are just random when people call me for orders
Yay! I like blog birthdays :) This was a great post and really informative! You’ve accomplished more with your blog in a year that I have with mine in nearly 3 years, you rockstar!
Thanks Rika.. I like reading blog birthdays on others site because I get to snoop a litle , but thought I wouldn’t write one b/c it’s braggy but then I was like ok I’ll brag a little I mean I do sit in front of a computer for basically no pay daily… lol and PS I love your blog!!
Congrats on a year of blogging!
Congratulations! Your blog is always fun to read and it’s kinda mind-blowing how much you’ve accomplished in a year.
Thanks Polly (for the compliments and for reading!)
Happy birthday Hippie in Heels and congratulations! I love seeing your new posts in my Bloglovin’ feed even though I’m so far behind in posts. Your stories are always unqiue and entertaining and your travel advice is fabulous. Keep on doing what you’re doing! And I’m sorry about the 3% who contact you for dirty things. So not cool!
Thanks girl! You’re too kind. Yeah the 3% are buttheads, but I try not to give them too much of my thoughts and hit “delete” right away
I love reading about expat life in other countries- its so interesting and I feel like I’ve learned a lot about India from it. I think its definitely made India seem more accessible. Good work, I predict you’ll see even more success in year 2
Thanks a ton girl!
So many congratulations Rachel. I can’t believe that you’ve only been blogging for a year! You derserve everything you’ve worked for.
A couple of months ago, I said that I liked your blog because I considered you to be the “go-to” person for travels to India. I stand by that, as your posts are so interesting and funnny. You also touch on what young people really want to know as to how to survive, how to live there, where to go, etc.
I am sorry to hear about all the creeps who contact you. Keep your head up high, and remember there are 97% of your readers who think you’re totally awesome!
Thanks so much Victoria! You’re right the 3% don’t matter :)
Happy Blog Birthday! I didn’t know you just turned one! I’ve felt like you’ve been around a while! Perhaps thanks to the multiple blog posts you put up a week. 5 times?! egads! thats a lot of work and dedication! congrats on the happy evolution!
yes 5x was a lot! happy to post a little less often now.. well 4x haha still a lot! Thanks girl
Happy 1 year Rachel! It’s amazing what you’ve accomplished in the past year!
Thank you bunches!
I love this year in review. Your story is super interesting. Glad to see you’ve been so successful in only a year! It’s amazing that you’ve been able to post so frequently, that’s a ton of hard work. (And don’t worry, you’re not missing anything here in North Carolina. I know you liked it, but I’ve never really been a fan of Charlotte!)
Luckily my other work is kind of non-scheduled as well so I have more time to keep creating content — and if you say so, but sometimes I really miss the U.S. esp. Charlotte! lol and the FOOD omgggg
Happy Blog Aniversary!!!
One year is such a great achievement!!!
It´s good to know a little bit more about the Rachel behind the notebook. And thanks for the blogging tips. I started de loveandroad.com 4 months ago, and it is just so hard, I didn´t expected so much work, as you say, it`s our full time job.
I follow you since december last year and from the bottom of my heart I can say that you were (are) a traveller and a blogger that inspired me to pursuit my travel dreams. Thanks and Congratulations!! Hope that the celebration party will be a big one! ;-)
wow that is so flattering – I am so happy to have brought some inspiration to you. I am celebrating in the jungle so it’s been a nice time and a little break from blogging actually lol!
You should be SO PROUD with what you’ve created in the past year. Your site is a huge resource for people planning trips to India- when I get emails about India I send them straight over! Anyway, congrats and keep up the good work. And thanks for the shoutout! :)
Thanks for sending people over that’s great! and thank you for the compliments, I am pretty proud to have build this because it was a slow start lol but so worth it!
Thanks for the shout out, Rachel! You really have accomplished so much. What a badass :)
Thanks Emily! You’ve been a big help.
Good God, are you accomplished, Rachel! I don’t know anyone who has done more in their first year of blogging than you! Excellent work! Keep it up. :-)
lol thanks that’s so incredible you think so!!! so cool that you’ve visited my site as well as I’m a huge fan of yours.
Yes yes yes I would love to see more blogging tips especially how you stay on top of things! I just moved to Pune and started blogging full time and I’m trying not to feel too overwhelmed by it – there is so much to do! I am so incredible amazed by how much content you create and what you’ve managed to achieve in one short year.
Pune full time, awesome! It’s a stressful city though sometimes, huh? Terrible traffic. I will do some more tips on time management and such.. and thank you for the compliments.
Girl, I definitely saw first-hand that this is a full time job for you, so if you have any doubters, send them my way and I will set them straight. I know you put a lot of energy and love into your blog, and it shows by how much success you’ve had and how many people you’ve helped, me included!
I’m still so choked up about Huck… *hugs*
Congrats on your year. x
lol was I working much when you came!? Thanks girl :) I remember how much you and Huck cuddled up on the couch… he knew you were an animal lover!
Your website gave me so many tips for the journey I’m doing in India at the moment, but most of all it gave me the will to transform my italian blog into a more structured english travel website when I’ll be back! Speaking of which, this post is so sincere and helpful!! Keep up the good work Rachel!
Thanks Sabrina, that’s such a huge compliment! I’m really flattered. Good luck with your blog transformation!
Wow, Rachel, this is super impressive! It’s really inspiring to see how much you can achieve when you’re really working hard! Keep up the good work!
wow thanks Julika! I love your blog so much, so cool that you’ve commented :)
That is incredibly impressive. What an accomplishment! You are a real inspiration. Thanks for doing such a good job, and helping and inspiring others. And starting a new business, (the candlemaking!) that is AWESOME! I make jewelry, (as you know) and I know how hard it is to put yourself out there, try to make it work. Right now I’m focused primarily on my travel-themed jewelry, but I hope before the end of the year I’ll find the supplies I want for more era-themed jewelry. I’m think Edwardian.
It is such hard work making a website work too–thanks for being an encouragement, and giving the tips! More stuff for me to think about. I think my hardest thing is coming up with original content–I love to travel, but I don’t get to do it often. Often I feel like I don’t have much to say, offer. But perhaps next year that will change!
Why don’t you write tutorials and teach people about jewely making? that’s something I’d love to learn! you site doesn’t have to be just travel – mine is india travel & girly fashion travel combined… you can mix it up :)
Congratulations Rachel! I can’t wait to see where the next year takes you! xo
Thanks Michelle and thanks for reading and commenting so often.
Happy birthday/anniversary!! I don’t think it’s silly at all to do a birthday post – it’s worth celebrating! Love reading your work, and here’s to many more years ahead!
Great tips there too :)
Thanks Tim :)
Congratulations! I’m looking forward to following you through the next year, to0!
Hi Rachel. I’m really enjoying reading through your blog. It’s great preparation for my forthcoming trip to India solo (flying to Delhi November 3!). So sad to hear about the deaths of your dogs. It must have been heartbreaking for you to go through twice. It reminded me about vaccinations for India. Would you recommend a rabies vaccination for myself? And would you recommend travel insurance? I’ve researched it and just doesn’t seem value for money at all (sorry if you’ve answered this elsewhere). Best wishes , Cx
Thank you Christina, i miss my dogs so much. It depends how much the vaccine is for humans if you should get it. The post exposure shots are 100% okay and are cheaper here if you got bit by a dog. but you should know even if a rapid dog licks an open cut you could be exposed. I also don’t have travel insurance… maybe i should get these things lol. I did use travel insurance about 2 years ago but forget who i went through- somewhere lonely planet recommended.
Hey Rachel! My name is Jennifer Bunce or you might know me as @brubunce on instgram! I am moving to Hawaii and wanna travel around all over and definitely interested in travel blogging. I love your blog and read it daily and think your style and blog is awesome! I follow other bloggers and of course want to get into it with my own style and own way but you definitely inspired me so thank you! I have started a little bit with photos, and other travel Instagrams use my photos, and slowly trying to get exposure on Instagram, FB, Twitter, and even Tumblr! I definitely want to support bloggers like you and think that is great advice since I admire so many blogger’s work! I guess I am wondering what outlet I should start with like WordPress? People ask me all the time for help and travel tips on previous trips so thought I could start there and then blog about Hawaii. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated, cuz you rock and it would be an honor to hear your advice and pick your brain :)
Happy to hear I’ve inspired you a little :) Yeah I use wordpress. Maybe I should write an article about it, but if you google how to start a travel blog so many of the top bloggers already have!
This has helped A LOT. I am an aspiring travel blogger. I have literally just started (one week) and feel like I am in waaaay over my head. Reading your stories give me the confidence to keep going. I’ve been traveling for over 2 years and have a lot to say. Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated! I would love to chat.