Since I posted “My First Travel Blogger Freebie,” it’s continued to be one of my top-performing posts, both in views and in comments. In fact, it’s already one of my best performing posts of the year.
Turns out, getting free travel is a thing lots of people are interested in! Who knew? 😉
So, with that said, here’s how I leveraged my first sponsored stay as a travel blogger into a second, bigger travel brand partnership with Habla Ya Spanish Schools, in Bocas del Toro, Panama. That’s where I’m writing you from, now.
I am staying and studying for free, in exchange for some content.
Here’s how I got here:
I’ve been surprised to see the staying power of “My First Travel Blogger Freebie,” since it’s a bit of a free-flowing piece. It’s longer, full of very little practical advice, and in general, not the sort of thing I thought a lot of people would end up engaging with.
But it was authentic.
Authentic content is hard to come by these days on the Internet. As someone who has worked as a ‘content writer,’ let me tell you: most of what is on the Internet was written by people who didn’t care about the topic, at all. To demonstrate, I created this brief infographic:
Most articles and “definitive guides” are researched by a few hours cursory Google searching, at most. This results in a lot of soulless stuff, which might get clicks and make money in the short term, but makes everyone’s experience on the Internet worse in the long run.
As I said in the first piece: that’s not what I do here.
And because that’s not what I do here, I’m still not rich. But if you plant the seeds and you keep watering them, eventually, they will bear fruit. Which is what happened in Medellin. I had built out a site, attracted an audience, and created a vibe. If people were interested what I was about, it was easy to see. They only had to put in a URL. When I started to think about sponsored stays, all I had to do was ask.
Then, the key: I stayed true to my audience and my partner, when it came time to pay off that trade. The post succeeded and the owner liked it.
After I posted that essay, I got a Facebook message from the owner of Bambu, the hostel I was writing about. “Hi!!!” she wrote. “I just read your post about Bambù. And I really liked it.” I told her thanks, and that I was sure I’d be back to Colombia before long. “You have the golden ticket now,” she added, with a winky emoji.
Where To Find Travel Blog Sponsorship Opportunities and Travel Blogger Press Trips
Curious about how far my audience here could take me, I signed up for Matador Network and began looking at their blogger marketplace. Matador’s Blogger Marketplace is a great spot to begin searching for sponsored trips and way to get paid as a travel blogger. I saw a listing from Habla Ya on there — looking for bloggers to spread the word in exchange for free Spanish lessons. Since learning Spanish was one of my main goals for 2017, alongside growing my blog, I sent an email. They responded, and we got to chatting.
Isn’t it wonderful when things come together like that?
If you do a quick scan of Habla Ya’s website, you’ll see it gets the information across. But if you look around the edges, there’s also a hint of something more. It isn’t full of clean pages and corporate speak. It’s free-flowing and freestyle, mentioning “we’re also interested in changing the world,” and that they’re looking for a “permaculture Jedi.” If you look at their volunteering in Panama page, which they encouraged me to do when I arrived, you’ll find even more personality and style.
These are also not people that do things entirely “by-the-book.”
We would seem to be a good fit.
People and brands who have a story to tell, a vibe to convey, that exceeds traditional channels — these are the people I’d like to work with.
Because that’s what I am. That’s what blogging is, in general. Or at least how it started — a way for people without a voice to break out of the constraints of the traditional publishing system, which stacks powerful men and entrenched ideologies on top of each other in an inverted pyramid which stifles creativity and suppresses new or challenging ideas.
Blogging was a way to break out of these paradigms. Has it been transformed over the years? Sure. It’s been a bit overgrown by corporations and those with money to burn. But the basic principles still remain.
You want to build something? Build something.
You want to plant something? Plant something.
Nurture it. Watch it grow.
That’s what they’re doing at Habla Ya. (Literally — that’s their permaculture garden above)
That’s what I did.
And that’s why I’m here.
Over the next two weeks, I’ll be bringing you a few pieces about my experiences trying to learn Spanish in 2017, about the community of Bocas Del Toro, and other parts of Panama. Sign up for my email newsletter and I’ll be sure to let you know when those pieces go up. Gracias!