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Ep. 165: Bonus: How to stay motivated as a travel blogger with Jacob Fu

In this week’s bonus episode, I speak with Jacob Fu, the co-founder of LocalAdventurer.com, one of the top travel blogs in the US.

He is an expert at monetizing blogs and has created the course ” The NO BS Guide to Working with Brands” which helps bloggers and content creators monetize their content.

Listen on to find out how Jacob and Esther have been able to maintain their travel blog through the current crisis.

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Transcription:

Debbie:

Hey everyone! Thank you so much for coming to this very special self-quarantine episode. I am here with Jacob and who is that? Sebastian?

Jacob:

Yeah. It’s Sebastian.

Debbie:

It’s Sebastian! Oh, Sebastian’  my favorite.

So, Jacob, this is so weird. The last time I interviewed you, we haven’t even met in person yet. And you guys are still living in Oregon, right?

Jacob:

Yeah.

Debbie:

And then you guys moved to New York, then we met up and now you’re in Las Vegas. So this is crazy, so many different places. And now, you’re in self-quarantine and you can’t even leave Vegas even if you wanted to.

Jacob:

Yep, we are stuck here. 

Debbie:

So what is that like for two people, you and Ester, who run this very, very popular travel blog and now you guys are not able to do your business? Pretty much have stopped everything that you’re able to do. 

I mean, obviously, you can still work on it but, otherwise, what has that been like for you?

Jacob:

I don’t know. It’s just kind of crazy. It’s all surreal still. I like numbers, I’m a numbers guy, so our traffic dropped to about 40% of what we normally get which is a pretty drastic drop. 

And then, I think everything in the travel industry is kind of just at a halt. So, any sponsor projects that we had were kind of put on hold, our ad revenue which was a decent chunk of our income has dropped to maybe 20% of what it normally is.

So, it’s been kind of crazy to see how it’s affected the site and everything. On one hand, I’ve always been a saver and so, financially,  we’re not as trapped, we’re not super worried that we are not able to make the money now.

Obviously it hurts but we have savings so we don’t have to panic I guess to get by which is good. But at the same time, we had a lot of discussions of, like, when is this going to bounce back or will it bounce back? And we don’t know the answer to that and so you try not to dwell on it too much just because I think it is completely out of our control.

And how the economy bounces back we’ll have to wait and see ‘cause travel is a luxury for the most part. If the country goes into a recession, like, a really bad recession, we don’t know what that looks like. 

So, on one hand, the approach that we’ve always taken with the blog and with what we’re doing is always look at it year to year and we evaluate where we’re at. 

So I think because of that mindset we’re not as stressed and worried about it. If it happens in 6 months that it just never bounces back to what it used to be then we’re okay with just moving on and finding kinda new projects and other ways to monetize whatever we’re doing or our skills. 

At the same time, obviously, we love but we’re doing and we definitely hope it will come back but we’ll have to see.

Debbie:

So, I’m really interested in the conversations that you and Esther have in terms of what you guys are actually thinking of doing. Whether if it is bouncing back and if there are any changes that you’re going to do to it because of situations like this or if you guys decide to completely let go of it because it doesn’t bounce back or maybe you guys just decide you don’t want to do this blog anymore, you never know. 

What would that decision be like? I mean, because you are one of the top travel bloggers that I know and is in the industry and for you to even think about changing it is kind of a huge thing or even pivoting.

Jacob:

Yeah. We would never just walk away and shut down the site. We would never just abandon it like that. I think if we were to consider doing other things it would just be because it just doesn’t have the income that it used to for us to make living off of it. 

I mean, I think I did similar things when I wasn’t doing YouTube and just walked away from YouTube and started doing the blog. It’s not like the YouTube channel went away,  we still morphed it to different things and we use it for our travel blog now. 

It was never, “lets just shut it down and say ‘bye’.”

My hope is that things open back up. Most of our traffic is within the states and for those listeners who aren’t familiar with our blog, we’re really focused on a lot of content within the United States and North America.

And probably part of the reason we do that is because we’re passionate about getting people to explore their backyards. So whether that’s another city, another state, or just our country as a whole, there’s so much to see here that’s amazing. 

So my hope is as things open back up, people may not want to travel far away right away or maybe if they just don’t have the money to travel far away, but there are still tons to explore locally so people can use our site for that.

And I think, regardless if it comes back financially, there are resources and the posts that we built will still be there for people to use. So, we definitely leave it up there and people will use it. It’s just more so, as we continue to make the income that we need to make a living off of doing what we want to do. 

So, I don’t know. We really don’t talk beyond that. I think it’s partly, right now, we shifted our content a little bit. We’re writing stuff that people can use and look for right now while they’re stuck inside. Some of our older posts that aren’t travel-related are kind of the top posts right now for us.

For example, we would post about hobbies that you could take up. Esther just worked on a post about the best puzzles, she’s a crazy puzzler – loves it. She’s working on an 18000-piece puzzle. Wild, the puzzle itself weighs 20 pounds.

Debbie:

It’s way bigger than her.

Jacob:

In the end, it’s gonna be 9 feet by 7 feet which is huge. 

So, were just kinda checking some of those things that we’re passionate about and writing about that. We’re still trying to put work into the site and just treating it like any other job. We’re lucky, right?

Debbie:

Yeah.

Jacob:

For what you’re doing or what we’re doing, we can still continue to work from home and that’s what we’re used to doing. 

So, we’re trying to still put in the time even though it’s not as motivating because we’re not seeing results right now. But it kinda takes us back to where it was – 5 years ago.

Debbie:

In the beginning.

Jacob:

Yeah. Exactly.

We just put in blood, sweat, and tears and you’re like, ”What’s happening? Nothing. I’m just bleeding and sweating.” Yeah, just kind of using that mentality again and just putting in some time with that. And then, just working on some stuff that just makes us happy and some side projects. 

Debbie:

And this is a really interesting time because I feel like everyone is at a level. It’s like a Level playing field because even someone like you, Jacob and Ester, who are at the top of your game, now, you’re kind of going back to the beginning of how it felt when it was like, “Oh my God, I’m doing all of this stuff and then nothing is working.”

So, it’s kind of interesting because, now, everyone who is starting to see some change kind of like the same thing. And it’s interesting to see that you all are going through the same thing that everyone else is going through because we look at we’re like, “Well, they got this. They know what’s happening.”

But it’s like everyone is in a panic right now or we’re just doing what we need to do to pretty much go through this and survive the whole thing.

Jacob:

Exactly. For me, at least, I don’t see a point in panicking. We’ve always looked at it as you could say, “It’s more about the skills that we picked up and the relationships that we build that, in a long run, we can pivot if we need to.”

I mean, I can go get a regular job if I need to but, yeah, just kind of staying steady with what we’re doing day-to-day and just putting in the time for that. So hopefully that pays off but we’ll see. 

I kind of wish we had a recipe site or a DIY site. Those sites are probably killing it right now.

Debbie:

Well, you never know. You can still do it. You guys have all the time now and I’m sure you’re eating a lot of food. 

Jacob:

Too much.

Debbie:

Obviously, Esther is not in this interview and I love Esther’s attitude with everything, she’s just like, “Whatever happens, happens,” and she’s just like, “I’m just going to do what I want to do anyways.”

I feel like, with Esther, even when she started this blog it was because she wanted to do it and then it just started creating income. And then, obviously, Jacob came in and as you said, Jacob, your numbers guys.

So, like, Esther is the brains behind all the content and then Jacob just like takes it and puts money into it and they’re such a great team, they’re such a great couple. And you guys are able to do this and make this site into this huge business that you grew into.

Now, how are you able to do this? Because, now, you’re stuck at home together before at least you could be away from each other if you wanted to even go climbing and doing all of these things. How are you keeping sane at home together, especially when you’re doing a business and now, like, all of this stuff?

Jacob:

Yeah. We’ve worked, played, and lived together for pretty much our entire marriage and were coming up on ten years this year. So we’ve always been used to very close quarters for the most part.

Esther is an introvert by far  so this quarantine is not fazing her,  this is where she lives so she’s doing great. For me. I’m definitely getting a little bit of cabin fever. I think as I got older I was thinking that I became more introverted, but this is showing me that I’m definitely extroverted and I need people and need the energy from other people.

And so, for me, I make FaceTime calls everyday to people. We’re in our third week and I’m feeling the cabin fever. I’m like, “Okay, I need to get out and do stuff.

Our day-to-day life before this, most of the time we’re home working, but we would spend a lot of time at the climbing gym. And so we would go there, like, when we’re in town, we would be at the climbing gym three to four nights a week. And we would spend another three to four hours every evening because that would just be a social time for us: we’d hang out with people, climb.

So, that’s been tough and I think the only way, for me, at least, is  I’ve had to create a routine. Otherwise, I think I’d go nuts. I know a lot of people who can just badge out during this quarantine. I think I would go crazy doing that. 

So, I have a routine now, and actually, surprisingly, Esther’s not a morning person. She’s been waking up early too.

Debbie:

Really?

Jacob:

Yeah. She’s been waking at 8 or 9 a.m.

Debbie:

That’s a big deal for her. 

So, Esther, Jacob, and I have been friends close to two years now since you moved here?

Jacob:

Yeah.

Debbie:

And every time I would, like, call or text Esther she does not get up until 12 or 1 p.m. So 8 is super early for her, that’s amazing. 

Wait, how come she started changing? The puzzle!

Jacob:

Yeah. I think it takes more time. But I think we both just seeing the value of routine for us. 

So we both kind of have a morning routine where, like, for me, I read and do this balance board thing. I have this half-hour morning routine that gets me started now. Esther’s been doing something similar. She does a little bit of exercising, some reading, and meditating. And she spends, I think, about an hour every morning now, getting ready for the day.

And then, we both put in some time working then, in the afternoon, she’ll go and puzzle. That’s kind of the rest of her day. For me, I usually work through the day, and then, I workout in the evening and just do some stuff here at home. 

And I think that’s the only thing that’s kept me sane at least, having that morning and evening routine to kind of cap the day. And then, we’ll usually spend the evening watching some TV calling it a night.

Debbie:

Well, I like the fact that you do have this routine and you’re still adding on things that you love, that you have to do. And, like you had mentioned before, all of these things are probably so unmotivating right now and I feel like I’ve felt like that too. 

That’s why, like, when I do FaceTime, calls with Esther and Marissa from Darling Escapes, it’s like, “Oh my gosh, it’s so nice to be able to talk to other people and just be asked about stuff that it’s not just about business.”

Jacob:

Yeah. 

Debbie:

It’s kind of interesting how much more connected we are through this than before. So that’s kind of a nice thing about it too. I think it’s also solidifying a lot of our friendships with each other and we got to talk more to each other in that sense. 

Jacob:

Yeah. For sure. I mean, I’ve talked to a lot of people that I haven’t chatted with in a long time, right? And that’s just ‘cause everyone is usually so busy with their own lives. And now, we’re all kind of just stuck at home and bored so, everyone’s been available. 

It’s been cool to be able to talk to people and check on them. 

Debbie

So, let’s talk about the travel community right now, especially the bloggers. Do you guys even check to see what’s been happening? Because I see a lot of discussions. I’ve even seen top bloggers saying they’re thinking about doing something completely different now and do you guys even talk to them? 

What do you even say to that? ‘Cause, going back again, I think people are just going crazy there like, “Oh my God! If this is not going to work what am I going to do?”

Jacob:

Absolutely. We have a few friends that we stay in touch with pretty closely and I think right at the beginning we all were kind of messaging each other like, “Hey, how was your traffic yesterday?” And they’re like, “It was down.”Right at the beginning, you just saw that dip. 

Honestly, I haven’t really checked in lately after a couple of weeks just ‘cause I think, for the most part, everyone’s on the same boat. I think we have a few different people, like for us, we spent the first week probably kind of just doing nothing and just resting and I think there are people who do that they’re just like, “Okay, this is a good enough excuse to just rest.”

And then, I think there are other people who are just like chugging along and creating content still. And I think we’re kinda getting back to that right now for us. Were doing some of the things that we always never had time for.

We’ve had a few videos that I wanted to shoot. And so I’m starting to do that just ‘because I don’t really have an excuse now. I have nothing else to do.

Yeah, I think everybody’s on the same boat for the most part. I think it’ll be interesting to see after we come out this where everybody’s at. Like you’ve mentioned, some people are going to use this time to transition to something else. Other people don’t want to leave and they can hold on with everything. 

So, well just have to see.

Debbie:

It’s a very interesting time because you see what people do either if it’s a necessity or if it’s from panic. And then, you’re literally going to start seeing more and more people going crazy and doing crazy stuff, like, insane stuff.

There are certain things that are funny and there are certain things that are not. And it’s just insane. So, hopefully, we could keep our sanity until this is over.

Jacob:

Yeah. I’m also interested to see how many new blogs are going to come out of this. ‘Cause I’ve had a few people reach out to me who were friends and they’re like, “Hey, I’ve always wanted to do a blog, I got nothing else to do right now. So do you have any advice?”

So I’ll be interested to see people using this time to kind of start-up new things that they wanted to do, but just never got around to do it.

Debbie:

Yeah. And maybe this is really the time for content creators and artists to really shine in that way because there’s so much more time for us. I mean, unless you have, like, children in the house and you really can’t concentrate then, that’s a different matter. 

Obviously, this is a horrible time for everybody but we can also take some time to do a lot of things as well when we do have time. We’re not parents, obviously, and there’s so much more to do to it. 

Jacob:

I love my friends with kids, but I feel bad for them ‘cause I would say, out of everybody I talk to, they are the people who are this close to pure Insanity, right?

Debbie:

Exactly. Especially if you’re not used to having them at home – the kids all day. And then, you have to do everything like you’re the teacher – you’re doing all of these different things. Oh my gosh, that must be insane. 

And if you have multiple kids, that’s even… woo, man!

Jacob:

That’s why we don’t get any advice.

Debbie:

They just love you and that’s it. You don’t have to do anything 

Oh, Sebastian! I miss Sebastian.

Jacob:

He misses you too. He’s trying to get attention from you.

Debbie:

I know, he’s so cute. But that’s good though, Jacob, I’m so glad that you guys are able to do that. And one of the funny things with the videos that you came out with, and I think it was featured somewhere, where you took a video of Esther climbing on your kitchen, right?

Jacob:

Oh, yeah. Kind of a trend for people – climbers. Most people who climb, they’re climbing multiple times a week, right? 

Debbie:

Yeah.

Jacob:

So, going from that to nothing is pretty killer. So people are climbing at home and just finding anything you can to climb on. So, yeah, we ended up doing a video just ‘cause our local gym, the PT there had a little contest. 

So it was a fun little project we had that we can do in the afternoon.

Debbie:

That was really hilarious. I was looking at them like, “Of course they would do something like this.”.

They can’t climb outside so they are going to take it inside. And it looks like a really good…

Jacob:

It’s a good problem.

Debbie:

Yeah. It looks like a really good problem.

And, at the end, Esther actually went into the cabinet and she fit in there. 

Jacob:

I tried too and I started seeing it like really bow and I was like, “Nah. I’m not gonna get it unless I get on and break it.” I don’t want to break it.

Debbie:

You don’t want to injure yourself in the middle of a self quarantine-situation here. 

Jacob:

Yeah. Exactly. I would not be responsible.

Debbie:

So, what are you guys really excited about once this is all done? Like, maybe the skills that you’ve learned, maybe the things that you want to do, or maybe even what you’ve actually learned about yourselves and your business. 

Jacob:

Oh! That’s a good question. I haven’t even thought about that.

Honestly, I don’t know, I mean, I think, for me, I’ve learned how much I appreciate and enjoy the routine – definitely want to take that. I started that just before quarantine, which is good ‘cause it just helped me, like, get into this. And then, will definitely continue that afterward. 

I think, for us, it’s just been a good reminder. Kind of like we were talking about earlier: it’s taking us back to, like, early days and like, “Okay. If you don’t see results, it’s still about putting the time in and putting the work in.

My hope is that, afterward, does pay off. All of our conversations have been around a lot of that. I’m like, “Okay. Well, how much work should we still put in? What does it look like in the future? Do we decide to stay? How much do we hold on to it as opposed to letting go and look for something new?”

A lot of that is a lot of the same conversations. we had really early on – that’s what we were doing.  We’d say like, “Okay, how do we do this year? Do we want to continue another year? ‘Cause it makes sense to continue another year.” 

So, we’re kind of taken back to the roots of how we work and how we do things. So it’s been a nice reminder for that. I guess I’m interested to see how the country bounces back from this.

Debbie:

And also, I want to mention that, Jacob, do you still have your e-course up?

Jacob:

I do. I did put it back up kind of quietly. So, the e-course teaches primarily what I do which is, like, reaching out to brands, working with brands, negotiating your contract,sales, and account managing. 

And just kind of laid down what method I use and how to approach people and then how to negotiate and put down deals for yourself. 

So, I did. Yeah, I put that backup ‘cause we had a few people asking. If you’re looking for it, check it out. 

Debbie:

Well, it’s a really great course because I think there’s a lot of, like, how to start a blog type of courses out there, but I haven’t seen anyone, except for Jacob, who really gives you all of the information that you need in order to make money from it and not just start it.

And I think what I’ve seen with a lot of people when they do give you information is very surface level but with Jacob – it’s super. I mean, he was the one that freaking helped me make money with my podcast. So it freaking works! I’m telling you guys.

Jacob:

You put the work in.

Debbie:

Yeah, but without your help, I’d be like, “Ahh… What do I do?” 

And you literally helped me like double and triple. Like the money I was going to make because of everything, you’ve taught me. So I’m definitely the person that you can see – it just definitely works. 

So, well put up a link to that on the Show notes. 

Well, thank you so much, Jacob, for talking to us today. If our listeners want to know more about you and Esther, where can they find you?

Jacob:

They can find us at LocalAdventurer.com and our Instagrams are @estherjulee and @jacobthefu.

Debbie:

Perfect. Thank you so much, Jacob, for speaking to me.

Jacob:

Thank you.

Debbie:

Hopefully, we could see each other again soon and hold each other.

Jacob:

Yes. For sure.

Debbie:

Virtual hugs. 

Jacob:

Yes. As I said, recently, I think I’m going to be a serious hugger after this – just hugging everybody.

Debbie:

We’re gonna be like, “Jacob, get away from us.” You’re going to be like attacking everybody. 

Jacob:

Exactly.

Debbie

Thank you, Jacob, and tell Esther I said goodbye.

Jacob:

Thank you. Bye-bye!


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Show Credits:

Audio Engineer: Ben Smith

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