Over the years, many of you have asked me about what it’s like to run a website like Prince of Travel.
How did I get started? How many hours do I put in? How do I decide what topics to write about?
No doubt, I feel like the business side of blogging and running a website is something that many readers would be interested in hearing about, but it’s not really something I’ve discussed in any detail on the blog so far.
In this post, I’ll show you a glimpse behind-the-scenes of the journey I’ve been on so far, in terms of building and operating an online business centred around what we all love: travelling the world on points.
How It All Began
I actually toyed with the idea of starting a blog focused on travelling the world on points back in early 2016. At the time, I had just discovered many of the fellow bloggers on BoardingArea, and as I was travelling through a few airlines, hotels, and airport lounges, I thought to myself, “Why not start a website of my own?”
The only thing holding me back? I didn’t have a domain name in mind. The obvious candidates had all been taken already, and I wasn’t able to come up with anything original either.
I know, I know… “Prince of Travel” would’ve been the obvious choice, but it simply didn’t strike me until over a year down the road. And so, without a fitting name for my passion project, I soon let the idea slip by the wayside.
The itch to write about my travels continued to gnaw at me in the background, though, particularly as I had just graduated from university and was just starting out in a slightly unsatisfying career path at the moment: a corporate position with one of the Big 5 banks.
Don’t get me wrong – as I look back, I fully realize that my old job was a fantastic entry-level position for someone straight out of university. But having said that, as I sat at my desk every single day working to keep the wheels of the well-oiled corporate machine in motion, I couldn’t help but wonder if that was the be-all, end-all.
As time went on, I felt tired and unmotivated, as though I was simply going through the motions of life. As a measure of solace, I’d always find myself looking forward to the next trip, especially as I was really taking my Miles & Points game to new levels and racking up some pretty spectacular quantities of points.
But of course, we’d go on a trip – business class around-the-world, no less – and we’d have to come back, and then it was back to the grind. On a day-to-day basis, I was somewhat accepting of my circumstances (“this is what real life is like, Ricky, now that you’ve graduated from university”), but my general dissatisfaction was certainly simmering below the surface.
One day, my girlfriend Jessica asked me the million-dollar question of what I’d want to do with my life if money were not a concern, and the idea of travelling the world and sharing my stories continued to resonate with me the most. And that’s when I knew I had to at least try to do what I really wanted to do with my life, even if it was only a side project at the start.
The only problem? I still needed a domain name.
I spent what seemed like months trying to think of one, exhausting what seemed like every possible combination of a cool-sounding noun and the word “travel”. I won’t lie, every time a message flashed across the screen that my idea had already been taken would carry with it another small wave of discouragement, but I knew I just needed something to get started, even if it wasn’t perfect.
When “Prince of Travel” was available, I knew that had to be it. I still remember the exact seat in the exact coffee shop where the realization had dawned on me, and I went ahead and purchased the domain the very next day.
Looking back, the name of the website always strikes me as somewhat hilarious. I occasionally ask myself, “Prince of Travel? Really?” But hey, people seem to think it has a nice ring to it, and I also find that it captures the spirit of travelling the world in luxury while spending very little money rather well.
I spent the rest of that day setting up the most basic of back-ends for the website and penning “Welcome to the Blog”, the most cursory of introductory posts. And now, 792 days and 359 blog posts later, here we are today.
People start websites for all sorts of reasons. For me, I thought of Prince of Travel as a side business at first, but given my disillusionment with my “day job”, I always knew that I had to give it a real go at transforming it into a full-time pursuit.
My intention at the beginning was to fully commit to a specific posting schedule and see how it all works out within six months to one year’s time. If, at that point, Prince of Travel seemed like it could be a viable venture and I enjoyed working on it, then I’d continue doing so; if not, I’d reassess. But during those six to twelve months, I’d stick to my schedule of three blog posts per week, external circumstances be damned.
There were weeks when I had only written two posts by Sunday, and all I wanted to do was to relax on the weekend. Nope, the third post and the Sunday newsletter had to go out.
And there was was that one time when Jessica very graciously offered to write a “guest post” for me based on a recent trip that she took with her friends: 14 Travel Tips for Iceland. But she was in China at the time, weighed down by a terrible internet connection, and it was 10pm Eastern Time on Sunday and the post wasn’t up yet, and I just totally lost it with Jessica, reprimanding her over text message about how badly she was letting me down.
Geez, Ricky, don’t take yourself so seriously.
Looking back, it was clear that I genuinely loved what I was doing with Prince of Travel, and that it gave me a level of fulfillment far beyond my day job. I mean, I’d be writing blog posts during my lunch breaks using a little remote Bluetooth keyboard connected to my iPhone – that tells you all you need to know about my priorities in life at the time.
As Prince of Travel’s readership grew and grew, so too did my desire to channel more of my time and energy into it to build it into something sustainable. And when the website turned one year old, in early 2018, is around the time when I first toyed with the idea of leaving my cushy office job and making it a full-time gig.
The numbers were growing steadily, and with it, so too was the revenue from advertising, affiliate partnerships, and credit card referrals. The prospects were looking good, I had the confidence in myself to make it work, and most importantly, I was comfortable with the risks involved, knowing that even if things didn’t work out with Prince of Travel, I could always go back to doing something else while knowing full well that I had given it an honest effort.
After spending a few months growing comfortable with the idea (and springing a big surprise on my parents when I returned home for Chinese New Year), I finally spent my last day at my old job in May 2018, right before leaving for my Latin America trip last year.
An Average Day, At Home
It did take some time to get used to being a full-time blogger. When you’re working a 9–5 job, your daily routine is pretty reliable, but running your own business is a completely different ball game, and I tend to put in a lot more thought as to how to structure my days and keep myself productive.
The fact that I’m also travelling during many periods of the year throws another spanner in the works, and I end up having two sets of routines depending on whether I’m at home or on the road.
When I’m at home, my focus is very much on making sure I’m doing as much work for Prince of Travel as I can, since I know that my productivity is drastically lower when I’m travelling. In this regard, I’d love to say I consistently work “entrepreneur hours” of waking up at 4am and pulling all-nighters – in reality, I’m doing well if I manage to wake up at a normal time!
I’ll typically focus on writing the daily blog post as the first task of the day. In terms of what to write about, I keep a running tracker of all the blog posts on Prince of Travel, and I typically tend to divide the 4–5 blog posts a week into 1–2 travel reviews, 1–2 in-depth Miles & Points guides, tutorials, or analysis pieces related to some new developments in the landscape, and maybe a more casual update on Fridays (or a new YouTube video for the week, when I manage to finish up the editing process).
I tend to continuously plan out the content for the upcoming few weeks at any given time, so that I can jump into the writing process at the start of each day.
Speaking of my workflow for blog articles, I made the transition from three posts a week to 4–5 posts a week as of the start of this year, and I find that the increased workload it’s actually sharpened my productivity when writing. That’s because I know I’ll need to be putting out some new content every weekday, instead of being able to put off the article I’m working on for tomorrow or the day after.
In terms of where I get my work done, I’m very fortunate in that the US-issued American Express Business Platinum Card recently added a complimentary year of global WeWork access as one of the benefits, so I get to visit all of the Toronto co-working spaces whenever I feel like it.
However, many days I still feel like staying at Prince of Travel HQ (read: my home office) – there’s nothing quite like getting a head start on my work for the day while in your pajamas with the coffee still brewing.
After finishing up the blog post for the day, I move on to the rest of my to-do list, such as:
Managing my email list
Updating my social media
Producing a YouTube video
Helping clients for my Points Consulting service
Doing the “business” stuff (i.e., tracking my revenue, analyzing my website traffic, reaching out to potential media partners, etc.)
Planning a Miles & Points Event
Any of the innumerable other tasks that go into running a small business
And that’s not even including the organization and planning that goes into actually travelling on points, like keeping track of my credit cards, applying for new cards, checking my points balances, planning trips, searching for availability, booking hotels, etc. Suffice to say, Miles & Points keeps me busy, whether that’s with Prince of Travel or for my own travels – and yet, I thoroughly enjoy what I’m doing, and I really wouldn’t have it any other way.
The ever-growing to-do list often keeps me at my desk until well into the evenings, although I do make an effort to take things a little easier on weekends, of course.
But in addition to all of the above, there’s of course the biggest task of all, and what ultimately lies behind why I do what I do…
An Average Day, On the Road
It’s easy to get lost in the details when you’re strategizing about Miles & Points, but the fundamental reason behind why I started collecting points, and why I eventually built a platform to talk about it, is to vastly expand my range of possibilities for travelling the world.
I’d love to be able to fully disconnect when I’m on the road, like I probably would if I were still working at my old job and simply taking a vacation. But having gone down the path of a full-time travel blogger, that’s not exactly an option: not only are my trips my bread and butter, providing the continued content for my travel reviews and destination pieces, but my readership has also come to expect a certain content flow, and I’d hate to deprive all you good people from your daily dose of Prince of Travel 😉
So, I do what I can to stay productive on the road, even though I know I could only ever hope to be, say, 75% as productive as when I’m at home (because I’m busy, you know, exploring new places). Ultimately it boils down to simple time management: striking a balance between work and play, and sticking to the plan when the time comes.
An average day on the road would probably see me getting a few hours of work done in the mornings (if I’m travelling with Jessica, then this is most likely when she’s taking her sweet time “getting ready”). After that, we’ll go out and explore the city, go on a day-trip, or do whatever fun things we’ve scheduled for the day. I’ll likely work for a bit after dinner as well, perhaps continuing into the late hours if the workload is particularly heavy.
None of this is set in stone – some days we’ll head out first thing in the morning, while others we’ll have a “productive” day at the hotel, or we’ll go hang out at a local coffee shop and I can get some work done there as well. But very rarely do I have days where I’m just all-action sightseeing from sunrise until late, because the most important thing is to always allocate time to get my work done for the day.
I also try to maximize my productivity during the time spent in-transit: on a long-haul flight or train ride, or in an airport lounge, I’ll probably be typing away at my laptop instead of actually sitting back to relax. It’s all part of the journey, really.
Looking at the big picture, I’m pretty proud of the work I’ve done with Prince of Travel in the two years or so since its inception. Nothing makes me happier than when one of my friends tells me about their friends saying to them, “Hey, you should check out this Prince of Travel website, it’s really cool.” Moments like that make me feel like I’m doing well in getting my message out there to those of you who’d like to travel more extensively using the power of Miles & Points.
Ultimately, I’m just grateful to have a platform to talk about one of my greatest passions, and I’m happy to be able to play a small role in helping others travel the world in a way that’s fulfilling to them. I hope to continue delivering value to my readers for many years to come.
And of course, I’m always open to suggestions for what you’d like to see from Prince of Travel in the future, so feel free to share your thoughts and ideas in the comments or get in touch with me via email at any time.