When Ali Watters watched the events of September 11, 2001 unfold from his office in London, he realized how much every second counts. This led the 25-year-old techie to quit his job at Lehman Brothers and travel the world, blogging every step of the way.
"It changed my outlook so that I could see that you could only live once," Watters said. "If I wanted to see or do something, I should grab the opportunity and have the adventure now."
Ten years later, he is running a massive aggregate travel blog website, travelblog.org, which has more than 250,000 accounts from travel bloggers all over the world, with 100 new websites every day.
Only 30 percent of Americans hold current passports in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of State. Travel bloggers like Watters hope to increase that number by inspiring fellow voyagers and wannabes through travel blogs.
He said starting and keeping up with all the blogs is a challenge, but it has allowed him to travel the world while doing his favorite activity: scuba diving, especially in Southeast Asia. He advises to keep posts simple and to have a small quota such as one post a week or one post per location.
"I try not to get too perfectionist about it," Watters said. "Everyone has their own style."
He said that any people can start a traveling adventure regardless of the fears they might have. For Watters, he was nervous and confused about what to pack for his first trip through South America and said he got better with more experience.
"I had no idea what I was doing," Watters said. "It's just so funny the mistakes I made. I went off with a backpack that weighed nearly 80 pounds. It was ludicrous. What was I thinking? I started shipping things back to my parents. Why did I bring a shortwave radio? You learn so much just by going out there and doing it."
Watters isn't the only one who loves to blog about his adventures. One couple realized they loved traveling so much together they quit their jobs and spent a year-long honeymoon touring the world.
"When we decided to sell our home and belongings to travel for an extended period of time, it just seemed appropriate to document it somehow," said Alex and Mina Seville. "As opposed to a private journal, the blog gave our friends and family the opportunity to keep tabs on us."
When they visited Paris for a friend's wedding, they realized three weeks of travel a year wasn't enough to satisfy their adventurous tastes. They started the widely-followed travelogue sending-postcards.com describing their adventures as a way for friends and family to keep tabs on them. The title of the blog alludes to lyrics from The Beatles' song "Two of Us."
For aspiring bloggers, Mina advises those wanting to make it in the blogging world to just have fun with it and find similar interests with those they want to read their blog.
"I think blogging has been something that has allowed me to share my experiences and allowed me to meet people with similar interests," Mina said. "So, if I had any advice, I suppose it would be to have fun with it. I'm trying not to take it too seriously."
While Mina said she needs a camera to capture the memories from their travels, Alex’s must-pack item is practical: "A comfortable pair of shoes," he said. "We do a lot of walking."
They said the site has enabled them to meet many positive and creative people all around the world. Mina said their next destination will hopefully be Japan, according to flight deals.
"We both agree that Tokyo has been our favorite place," Mina said. "We were there for about two weeks in 2008 and haven't been able to stop thinking about it, which is why we want to go back. The people, the food, the culture — everything was amazing."
They're not the only travel bloggers who have gotten their names out there.
When Frugal Travel Guy Rick Ingersoll travels, he helps out his followers with tips on how to get the most bang for their buck. Ingersoll has been to six continents and trekked around the world twice, paying little to nothing to stay in some of the world's most luxurious hotels and fly business or first-class.
He started his hobby by reading travel forums with suggestions for certain deals and became somewhat of an expert on cheap travel in his circle of friends.
"On October 27, 2007, there was an article on USA Today about a lady who started a blog about cooking or recipes, and started monetizing with online ads," Ingersoll said. "I decided that's the way I'm going to spread the word. I had been helping my neighbors and friends, and I started the blog on that same day, October 27, 2007."
However, his blog can help only those with good credit scores. For those financially savvy folks, the blog can make travel not only cheap, but sometimes free. He recommends taking advantage of credit card application deals and using credit cards for everyday items to earn frequent flier miles.Comment on this story
"If you know what you're doing, and you can spend a little time, there's tons of promotions that go on that allow people to garnish frequent flier points, and wholesale points you can use at retail value," Ingersoll said.
He plans to travel to New Zealand as much as possible because of its "scenery that is literally out of this world" and a non-crowded vacation in a warm and beautiful place.
He said with a little planning, anyone can go on a fabulous trip for an affordable price.
"People can see the places they want at prices they can afford," Ingersoll said. "You can't always buy travel with cash. Think of frequent flier miles as other currency to reduce your travel costs. The results can be truly significant."