When One Door Closes… On Becoming a Full-Time Travel Blogger

Helen in Wonderlust in Scotland

I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool, for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive. (Oriah Mountain Dreamer)

This time 8 years ago, I was preparing for a 6 month trip to Africa, having just taken voluntary redundancy from my corporate job. My plan was to volunteer for a few months, take the train from Zambia to Tanzania, climb Kilimanjaro, and overland from Nairobi to Cape Town. I was 28.

It was my first time visiting the African continent, my first time backpacking, my first time climbing a mountain (well, aside from Scafell Pike on my Duke of Edinburgh Award in 1995), my first time as a solo traveller, the first time I’d ever flown by myself and the first time I’d peed in the great outdoors. It was a trip of many firsts!

That was the trip that changed my life. The one that sparked my love of travel and all things Africa related.

When I went home, life went back to ‘normal’, but I still yearned to travel. For the first year, my mind wandered back to Africa almost every single day. I missed being there so much, my heart ached.

I went back at every opportunity, but over time I got used to being home again and I was happy to be near my family, especially when my first niece was born in 2012 (I now have 6 nieces and nephews) but my love of travel and Africa never went away.

St Andrews, Scotland

I started this blog in 2013, partly to document my travels, partly to help other people travel and partly to dispel the myths about Africa travel. Although, actually, I think subconsciously it was more like therapy for my Africa withdrawal symptoms.

Fast forward to the beginning of this year, when I found myself in the exact same position I was in all those years ago – being made redundant, ironically from the same company (yes I went back to my safety net). But this time, it was different, it wasn’t voluntary. I was losing a job that I actually really loved. I was one of those weirdos who really love their job and the people they work with.

My work friends are like my family and incredibly supportive. They proofread my posts, give me constructive criticism (thanks Cat and Josh), share my posts, let me bore them to death about blogging and tell me I can do it even when I don’t think I can. They celebrate my successes even when I am too embarrassed to.

But doing my job and running my blog at the same time was hard. My work/life balance was completely non-existent and I worked constantly. I’d come home from work and start working again. And I had to turn down pretty much every blog opportunity that came my way because I just didn’t have the time.

The Scottish Highlands

I hardly slept and often found myself feeling stressed, tired, old, and very uncreative, kind of defeating the object of why I was writing my blog in the first place. I felt left behind by the blogging world.

Being an entrepreneur has always been in my nature, so just to add to the pressure, I decided to run my own tour, which turned out to be the best thing I did last year and really kept me going. So much so, I decided to do another Kenya trip in 2017 and my new company Rock My Adventure was born.

When I wasn’t working, I still tried to make sure I saw my friends and family as much as possible. The one person I didn’t get to spend much time with, was myself.

But I love my blog, so I kept working on it, slowly but surely, every day. In the back of my mind, I’d always wanted to blog full-time, but I was pretty happy with what I was doing and never had the time, money, or inclination to really make that leap. I was too comfortable.


So back to this January, when I had a decision to make. I could either a) apply for another job within the company and continue as I am, working stupidly long hours and feeling like a failure at everything b) take the money and apply for a job elsewhere and again, work my bum off and feel as though I am getting nowhere fast or c) take the money and become a full-time travel blogger and tour operator.

I knew what my heart wanted, but I’m also a practical person. I have responsibilities at home, so I needed to think things through. I had 10 days to decide. I chatted with my family about what I should do. Opinions were mixed at first.

Weirdly, the day before I found out I was being made redundant, I serendipitously signed up for my friend Camille’s newsletter. She says “Want to Travel the World and Create the Life of Your Dreams? Sign Up and I’ll Show You How!” So, I did.

Each day for 10 days, I received an email. It was as though she knew each worry or doubt in my head and addressed them accordingly. It was weirdly appropriate.

he Beautiful Scottish Highlands

On deadline day, I knew what I needed to do, and with the backing of everyone around me, I decided to follow my heart and go for it. This was it. I may never get another chance like this to make my dreams a reality. It was time to take the risk.

It was though a weight had been lifted. I knew I was doing the right thing (aside from the mini meltdown I had on my penultimate day at the office – thanks for looking after me Beth).

In the weeks that followed the initial news, opportunities began coming my way. Some self-created, some coincidental. Perhaps the ‘law of attraction’ in action. Or the universe going, ‘you’ve worked hard, here’s a little encouragement’.

I decided to run more Rock My Adventure tours to Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC, as well as Tanzania and Zanzibar. I worked around the clock to put these two new tours together. I also got requests for a couple of private tours.

My tours are an extension of my blog. I take a lot of pride in them and design the itineraries to be as immersive and experiential as possible. My tours are quite different from most of the other tours out there. I want to show people the Africa that I lknow and ove. 

Helen in Wonderlust

All of my trips are now full, I can’t believe it! I’m so excited and I cannot wait to share these countries with you. 

I have a holiday booked to Hawaii in September and then after that who knows?? Maybe I’ll do some more tours? Maybe I’ll go travelling somewhere new? Maybe I’ll spend it at home? I’ll keep it open to fate for now and see what happens over the next few weeks as I get acquainted with my new life.

A couple of weeks ago, I got offered my first paid travel campaign, which I am really, really excited about. It just shows you that eventually, hard work pays off, so if any of you are in the same position, don’t give up!

“If you build it, they will come.” (Field of Dreams)

Meeting Levison Wood

On the day I left work, I went home, picked up my suitcase and boarded a train for Edinburgh. My friend Brenna from This Battered Suitcase (who took all the lovely photos of me in this post – thanks Brenna) and I were planning to go to Scotland anyway, but she managed to incorporate a work trip and I tagged along.

We travelled all around Scotland for 8 days, starting in Edinburgh, taking a day trip to St Andrews, before driving up to Inverness (where we randomly met one of our heroes, explorer Levison Wood in a ceilidh pub of all places) and then took the North Coast 500 route up and around via John o’Groats, Ullapool Fort William, Glencoe and back to Edinburgh.

I can honestly say, it was one of the most fun travel experiences of my life. The trip itself was amazing and we laughed so much if you were following either of us on Instagram Stories, you will know exactly how much fun we had – I actually think we took things to a new level.

If you missed them, here’s a little taster from both of our accounts, you’ll either find us hilarious and endearing or really annoying.

Scotland treated us well. The people, the scenery and even the weather were perfect. It rained buckets at times, but the sun also shone, which meant that we saw rainbows – not one, but about six or seven, and sometimes even two at a time. It was the perfect way to start my unemployment time as my own boss.

But I am scared. What if I can’t do this? What if I actually can’t make enough money? What if my dream, isn’t actually my dream at all. Will it ruin my love of travel? What if being a full-time Travel Blogger is actually crap?

These are the questions going around in my mind.

Helen in Wonderlust Travel Blogger

My friend Vicky wrote a really interesting post about the state of the travel blogging industry and the effect that it has had on her mental health. Despite appearances, travel blogging isn’t all yachts and pools and frolicking about on inflatable flamingos without a care in the world – despite what Instagram would have us believe.

I’ve been in the industry long enough to know that it’s really hard work to be a full-time travel blogger, that the hours are long, the competition is high and it can be exhausting and stressful and disappointing, just like any other job.

Actually, it’s more so, because it’s personal. You’re not just a cog in a big business machine, you can’t switch off once you leave the office, you never leave the office, you are your business. Not to mention the fact that travel blogging is one of the most notoriously difficult blogging sectors to actually make money in.

I’m also not used to working alone. I’ve always worked in a team. Blogging can be very inward-focused, you spend your life analyzing your thoughts, staring at pictures of yourself, and comparing yourself to others. The potential to dwell on negatives is huge.

Highland Coo

I remember when I first started my blog. I was at the pub with my friend and I remember saying to her, “I want to write about my travels, but I don’t want to make other people feel bad or feel that because they don’t or can’t travel, that I think my life is better”. Is that weird? Probably.

I am not (and do not want to come across as) one of those people who think travel is the be-all and end-all of life. And it pisses me off when I read articles and blogs that make out that it is! It’s just part of an overall picture. For me, it’s family and friends first, then travel, then anything else that takes my fancy. Each to their own. Travel or not to travel? Who cares as long as you are a good person, kind to others, and happy?

Rainbow in the Scottish Highlands

But I have wasted so many opportunities in my life because of lack of confidence and I’ve avoided celebrating the good things that happen to me because I feel I don’t deserve them, or that I’ll jinx it or other people will think I’m an arrogant jerk.

Although anyone who knows me, knows that I’m nothing like that, so I don’t know why I even care?

Maybe I’m scared of opening myself up to criticism. The internet can be a dark place and people hiding behind computer screens can be horrible. The more successful you are, the more people like to bring you down.

Saying all that, I’m excited. Excited for what lies ahead and having the chance and the time to pursue all the opportunities that come my way. I’m excited to work in my pyjamas if I feel like it. I’m excited not to have a 3-hour daily commute anymore. I’m excited to have a brain that feels clear and full of ideas for a change.

I’m excited about more sleep. I’m excited to go for leisurely breakfasts with my best friend like I did yesterday. She is a nurse and works shifts, I worked 9 to 5, it was hard to get together, but now I control my hours. I’m excited to be able to wake up, look outside and if it’s a sunny day be able to make the decision to drive up to the Lake District or North Wales and go hiking, rather than having to go to the office.

I kind of wish that I’d been in this position 8 years ago, when I maybe had a little less to lose, and I often wonder what I would be doing or where I’d be if I had realised my love for travel when I was in my early twenties or started my blog in 2009 when there weren’t many other travel blogs or if I’d stayed in Africa.

What if, what if, what if….

Helen in Wonderlust and This Battered Suitcase

But life isn’t for ‘what ifs’. Life is short and precious and you need to make the most of it in whatever way, shape, or form works for you. Life is about taking chances and risks. This is the youngest you or I will ever be again, so the time is nigh.

It’s time for me to be the fearless warrior woman I know I can be. That we all can be, real and true to ourselves.

The inner doubt will always be there, but I just need to keep reminding myself that I can do it, that I’m not going to fail, and use that fear to drive me forward rather than hinder me. And hopefully, the people around me will also remind me from time to time too.

And so what if I do fail? What will I have lost? A bit of pride? At least I can say I tried.

I’ll give it a year and if I need to, I’ll get another job (or maybe try to make it as the UK’s latest Grime/Scottish Ceilidh fusion artist, eh Brenna?)

Ardvreck Castle Scotland

If it doesn’t work out, there will always be new goals to work towards. And I’ll thank my lucky stars every day, that I even had the opportunity to pursue my dreams, something that many people can’t even dream of.

Thank you to those of you who have followed my journey thus far. I appreciate every single email, comment, share, or like. you guys are the best!

So here’s to new beginnings, becoming a full-time travel blogger and entrepreneur, grasping opportunities, being your most wonderful, authentic self, and following your dreams, despite how bloody scary they are.

I hope to meet some of your around the world someday – maybe in Africa… 😉

Helen x

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  1. Congrats on your new life Helen! It was very interssting to read how you got to this point. It’s scary – yes – but that’s what makes it so exciting! I left corporate America to start my own business 18 years ago and it was the BEST decision ever! My motto was: Be afraid – and do it anyway!

    You’re going to do great in your job/life. So happy we got to sign up as one of your new clients. We can’t wait for our adventure with you in Kenya this summer!

    1. Thank you Carline, that means a lot!

      I am soooo excited to meet you guys in August!!!

      I look forward to chatting with you about following your dreams!


  2. Congratulations Hels! Love reading your blog and remembering the special things that travel and Africa can make you feel.
    Your an amazing brave lady and so proud of what you have and well achieve!

    Good luck wishing you all the best

    1. Thanks Bec! I miss our time in Africa together and can’t believe it has been 8 years already? Where did that time go?? I hope we all go back together one day. I miss that time and if I close my eyes, I can vividly remember sitting looking at the sunset from our houseboat on Lake Kariba or doing our orange peel teeth in the hotel at the Delta. Miss you xxx

  3. I love this so much. I cannot WAIT to see where this career takes you… and I also can’t wait to hear your new single on the BBC Gaelic channel! πŸ˜‰

    p.s. best trip ever

    1. Thank you Brenna. thanks for being there from the beginning of my blogging career. And being there when I took the leap and distracting me from my fear in Scotland. It was the best trip and I can’t wait for more!

      Now sing along with me… I’ll take the highroad coz you’re getting way too big for your boots (grime/ceilidh fusion, you heard it here first).


  4. First of all, congratulations on making that decision! I have no doubt you’ll be hugely successful πŸ™‚

    Being made redundant does really help to open up a world of opportunities. It’s happened to me twice now and both times I’ve managed to realise dreams of travelling long-term, and it’s the most recent occasion that prompted me to start my blog, too.

    At the moment I’m where you were several years ago – running a travel blog that I’m trying to make a success out of, as well as working a full-time day job to pay the rent and the bills (and pay for my travels!) It is a dream to one day be able to support myself off the back of my blog, but it’s a loooong way off!!!

    So pleased you’ve got there πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you Kiara!!!

      This is the 3rd time I’ve been Ade redundant, and like you say, every one has been an opportunity!

      Whether I can support myself remains to be seen though! πŸ™‚

      I hope we both get there! πŸ™‚ xxxx

  5. Congratulations Helen! Your blog was my go to resource for my first trip to Africa. You’re good at what you do and are definitely making the right decision. 3 years after reading your Vic Falls article and here I am moving to Tanzania so I completely get all the worries you’re feeling. The thing is, you can always go back and you can always say you followed your dream and lived in Africa, even if it doesn’t work out. I’m looking forward to following your adventures in this new chapter πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks Cliodhna, that’s so lovely to hear!!!

      So great that you are moving to Tanzania! Hopefully catch up when I’m next in Dar???

      Hope you have an amazing time! Don’t worry – you’re going to love it!


  6. Congratulations Helen!!! This sounds like an amazing step forward for you. I can totally relate to your situation and all of your open questions and ‘what ifs’ – I lived in Africa twice previous – once for 6 months and one for 9 months and I always ask myself….what if I had stayed..? Sometimes I think about it on a daily basis – but at the time I had no money and no job so of course the sensible thing to do was to come home. And looking back these last 5 years I have had some amazing experiences that I would never had if I had stayed. So we can always ask -what if! I also stopped writing my travel blog when I left Rwanda…but after reading your story I am inspired to start mine again – if nothing else than to share my incredible experiences seeing the world! Good luck on the start of your new life – and and hope our paths can cross one day!! Looking forward to following your journey!

    1. Thank you so much Kira!!!!

      I completely understand your longing for Africa and the what ifs!

      Start your blog again! who knows where it may lead!! πŸ™‚

      Give me a shout if you are in Africa and I’m there, or if you pass by Liverpool!

    1. Thank you Jo! You are my inspiration/ideas buddy and always a true supporter. I may have given up were it not for you, Megan and Brendon. You keep me sane. Love you! Can’t wait to see you in a few weeks for our working session! xx

  7. Dear Helen. I so enjoyed reading this. Your courage and love of life is inspirational. You should be so proud of all that you’ve built so far, and excited at all the adventures yet to come. We’ll look forward to being your fellow-travellers, in a spirit when not in practice! Looming forward to seeing you in The Land of Make Believe come early July.

    1. Looking from a window above…

      Thank you Hugo!! You guys travel more than I do. Even Lionel Rufus!

      Can’t wait to see you down The Thatch for an Aperol Spritz! πŸ™‚

      All I needed was the love you ga-a-ave….


  8. Congratulations Helen, this is a wonderful post – so open and shines with genuine emotions!
    You come across as so lovely, I enjoy reading your posts and find them inspirational.
    Although I’m not a travel blogger (my poor blog gets neglected all the time), I do write online
    and I travel regularly, so I love seeing where others are and following their journey. I had to feel the fear and do it anyway too, and I haven’t looked back.
    Best of luck and maybe we’ll pass in our travels somewhere.

    1. Thank you Triona! I’m more of a factual/practical kind of writer so putting my feelings out there is always scary – thanks for the encouragement and the very kind words.

      And yes definitely, let me know if we’re in the same area and I’ll gladly meet for a beer or two!!

  9. It’s always better to go for your dreams than to risk thinking ‘what if’ later on and having regrets. I’ve always found things have a habit of working out one way or the other just as long as you’re open to all kinds of possibilities and it sounds like you are. I hope your DRC trip works out – it’s a place I have very fond memories of – as I’d love to hear your take on it. Good luck.

    1. Thank you Anne! I agree! The fear of not doing is scarier than the fear of what if!!!

      I’m really excited for the DRC!

      Thank you for the lovely words!

  10. Whooooo, congrats Helen! Good on you for tackling those fears head-on and giving yourself a chance to see what you can make of your dreams …. I haven’t had the courage yet. Best of luck! I’m definitely looking forward to hearing more stories from your various tour trips; Africa is one of my least-explored regions, and I know I’m missing out, so maybe I will have a chance to join one of your trips!

    1. Hi Sasha!

      It’s scary, but I have the chance now so had to try!!! better late than never eh??

      Thank you and I’d love to have you join one of my trips someday! πŸ™‚

  11. Yay, so exciting Helen! Great post and good to lay out everything on your mind so when you look back in a year with a few successful trips and tours under your belt you can wonder what you were so worried about. Sounds like you guys had a great time in Scotland Γ’β‚¬β€œΓ‚Β loving your singing :).

    My tip is to get up as early as you can. Those first few hours of action set the intention for the day Γ’β‚¬β€œΓ‚Β so make sure they’re productive πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you Vicky me love!! Been great to have your friendship and support all these years! and thank you for the tip. I will do that!!

      Scotland was a lot of fun!! Counting the days until our trip in a few weeks! I’ll treat you to some of my singing. You’ll love it!

      We need to get planning Glasto and bulk ordering glitter, body paint and other accoutrements! πŸ™‚

  12. Excellent! It requires some guts to make this decision and I am sure you won’t regret it. Looking forward to more on Africa. You are my inspiration to visit this beautiful continent someday (not so long in future)! All the best.

  13. A comment from a complete stranger – I think it is wonderful that you take the risk or better: dive into the adventure. I love the “fearless warrior woman”, maybe we all should remind ourselves from time to time that she is a part of us.
    I wish you all the best and I will definitely take a look at your tours!

    1. Thanks so much Lisa! Yes I think we all need to be fearless warrior women!!!

      Give me a shout if you have any questions about the tours! πŸ™‚

  14. Great news Helen! Best of luck!!
    I hope to be able to attend one of your tours sooner or later. πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks Kami!!! I can’t believe it’s been so log since I last saw you! Hope to see you sooner rather than later!!! we should meet up in Vienna and go see Becki!!! x

  15. This is brilliant – congrats on the jump!! This post landed in my feed today and now I’m frantically searching flights – I would reallllyyyyyy love to join your Zanzibar/Tanzania trip during my summer break. If I can’t make it this year (it’s a bit tricky as I’m living in Japan now), I really hope you’ll be running it again next summer as I could for sure make it happen then. In any case, have a blast on your tours and I look forward to reading all about your wild successes πŸ™‚

    1. Hey Rika!

      Come! I just have a couple of places on my Tanzania trip left but I have a few on the Uganda one!

      I may do more tours later this year! Will keep you posted!!

      H x

  16. Good for you! It takes a lot of courage to take big life risks like this. I love how honest and raw you have been in this post. Travel, blogging, entrepreneurship are all risky endeavours but the rewards are amazing! Wishing you all the luck with this new chapter in your life.

  17. Just wanted to say cheers and that I can’t wait to see what you do! Entrepreneurship is one of the best journeys that you’ll ever take. PS. came across your blog while researching a trip of my own and not only is it inspiring, you have a great, engaging writing style!

  18. Imagine me on my knees, bowing down to you right now. You have so much guts & courage to take that risk and making the decision to follow your heart is a decision that you should celebrate. No matter what happens, you’re trying it out and that means you’ve already succeeded, no matter what happens πŸ™‚ And it definitely sounds like the universe was nudging you along in this direction; being made redundant at work, getting offered your first paid travel campaign etc. Even just the feeling of relief after you made the decision should be enough of a validation that you made the right decision. I’m so excited for you to have this new adventure and I can’t wait to read all about it in posts to come. Congrats & good luck! xx

    1. Thank you Ella!!! It’s been 4 years coming and 4 years of work, so probably about time I gave it a go!!! πŸ™‚

      Thank you for your kind words and I hope to see you on the road again someday!! xx

  19. This is pretty awesome, your posts helped me so much when I planned my trip to Zanzibar, Kenya and Uganda last summer. I am looking forward to all your insights.

  20. That’s such an amazing attitude you have! I am sure you will make a big success of your dreams!
    Hope to meet you someday too..especially if you plan a trip to India!

    Pots of luck coming your way πŸ™‚

  21. I’m so happy for you that you decided to take the leap. And good for you, it proves that with enough dedication anything is possible. If you’re looking to book some luxury holidays, be sure to visit http://www.berkeleytravel.co.uk – they are perfect for booking those once in a lifetime opportunities!

  22. I just wanted to wish you good luck and a lot of success on becoming a full time blogger. I read your post back in April and I really wanted to post and then I delayed, delayed, until I decided to actually do it πŸ˜‰ I found your blog very interesting as I have already been in Africa and have developed also a passion for its continent. I would love to do one day the same kind of trip you did the first time you went there. Your trips ans stories in Africa are very inspiring πŸ™‚ Thank you! And if I can add a suggest on your African reading list, it would be “The last Resort” by Douglas Rogers as everyone that I gave this book loved it πŸ˜‰ Cheers

  23. Yay, so exciting Helen! Great post and good to lay out everything on your mind so when you look back in a year with a few successful trips and tours under your belt you can wonder what you were so worried about. Sounds like you guys had a great time in Scotland Γ’β‚¬β€œ loving your singing :).

    My tip is to get up as early as you can. Those first few hours of action set the intention for the day Γ’β‚¬β€œ so make sure theyÒ€ℒre productive

  24. You have such a wonderful attitude! I am confident that you will achieve great success in your endeavors!
    I’d love to meet you as well…especially if you’re planning a trip to India!

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