Behind the Scenes at PassingThru

A detailed look at what’s working for us behind the scenes at PassingThru. Consistent effort, no complaints and lots of fun keep us focused beyond the fray.

Clusters of blog posts cycle to the forefront from time to time about the difficult realities of life as a digital nomad. A recent spate went on from this to cover what a “real” blogger who writes about travel should or should not be doing. All rather predictable, and best taken with a grain or two of salt.  A look behind the scenes at PassingThru will show you the approach we’re taking.

behind the scenes at PassingThru

Life’s a beach as a digital nomad, isn’t it?

Nobody appreciates great advice more than we do. We look up to a goodly number of individuals who are successful at location independence and travel blogging. But one size doesn’t fit all; you have to cobble together a business strategy that fits your circumstances in conjunction with your objectives and overall goal.

After all this time (we’ve been at this online thing since 2008) it shouldn’t come as a surprise that people go into business without a plan. I did so myself in a brick and mortar business with a partner back in 1999 (“Hey, that sounds like fun!” seriously, that was all it took to get us going). But we soon realized then that organization and structure was a necessity in order to remain viable. And we also learned that sometimes you need to pivot when an initial strategy isn’t or stops working. Fortunately, learning from former experience makes PassingThru Enterprises a better company today.

behind the scenes at PassingThru

The lovely deck in Toowoomba, Australia where we held our annual meeting in December 2014

Each November or December, Pete and I hold a review and draw up a strategic plan as part of the annual meeting requirement for our LLC. This year the meeting was held in Toowoomba, Australia where we were house sitting. Other years, we’ve rented a conference room at a local hotel (and collected points and hotel status for doing so), sat by the pool with umbrella drinks on Kaua’i, or simply took a break and cleared our home office desks.

The value of an annual meeting is that we can be honest with ourselves. Plus, since we each work on separate areas within the business, it’s a great opportunity to bring each other up to speed. All good business requires is that we do more of what’s working and stop doing what isn’t.

Right now what’s working for us is a combination of activities that bring in diverse revenue:

While it may seem as though life as a location independent is all travel to fun places, sightseeing, eating and drinking out (and there’s quite a bit of all that! yay!), we do work hard behind the scenes. It was amusing to hear someone we’d recently met declare in surprise, “You work so much!” Um, well, yeah. Misconceptions about a travel-based lifestyle, particularly with respect to those of us who do need to work for a living, are pretty common. Since the beginning of the year, for example, we’ve:

  • Published a new self-help title
  • Launched a new niche website
  • Collected affiliate revenue from niche e-newsletter marketing and reviews
  • Collected monthly commissions and referral fees from three POD partners
  • Collected monthly revenue from two publishing sources on five different titles
  • Performed consulting work for billable hours

We’re probably working more hours than we ever did at traditional jobs behind the scenes here at PassingThru. Honestly? It doesn’t feel like that much. The difference is we do the work when we want to, and we like doing it. If we want a break, we take one. If there’s a need for downtime for a health issue, as there recently was for me, we’ve got the flexibility. And we’re learning not to plan too strictly, too far in advance. We know where we’ll be in the next couple of months but beyond that, there’s an open book awaiting.

behind the scenes at PassingThru

Got a few things done poolside in Kuantan before the internet went out

So what about these posts about difficult realities of online work and what you should and shouldn’t be doing? Well, some of them, the ones who are disappointed about working so hard and achieving unacceptable results, can be dismissed outright. Unfortunately, whether due to naiveté and lack of proper planning, these folks are in painful dues-paying mode and some are giving up way too soon. Most are taking a very short term view of what is a long-term proposition. We wrote about this eons ago in “Be the Tortoise, Not the Hare.”

night train from budapest to bucharest

At work in the semi-secret business lounge at Keleti Station, Budapest

Some holier than thou critics are paying too much attention, frankly, to what others are doing altogether in an effort to negate. Appointing yourself the hall monitor of a community and rapping knuckles indiscriminately is something that should have gone out in high school. Unfortunately, it lives on replete with self-righteous justification online. This is just a common hazard as old as the internet itself. If you’ve got the time and energy to do that sort of thing, wouldn’t it be better spent in a positive direction?

There’s more than one way to skin the cat, particularly in niches as huge as travel and making money online. We’re going to keep our noses to the grindstone here behind the scenes at PassingThru, continue with what’s working, avail ourselves of constructive opportunities and information, and lend a hand to others as best we can. What’s happening behind the scenes with you? :)

Comments

  1. says

    What’s happening behind the scenes with us? After our wonderfully long, for us, trip last year, we spent the fall finishing our new dining room addition, Karen continues with her quilting and blogging, and I worked on trying to build more Zazzle products, among other things.

    We’re not ever going to be location independent. I could do it easily, but Karen isn’t interested, so we compromise with travel that we both enjoy. Before late January, income wise, we weren’t tied down here, other than our house is paid for.

    However, in January, I went back to work as a contractor, basically doing the parts of my old job that I enjoyed, with fairly lucrative compensation for a period of time yet to be determined. Online income will go back to being mostly passive, from what I’ve already created, with little or no new work, at least in the near term. Time on the computer at will be refocused to things like working with my huge backlog digital photos and some amount of blogging — things that I enjoy doing the most.

    I do envy the travel that you’ve been able to do, but I’m happy with the compromises that let’s us do the traveling we’ve always planned for..
    Mike has an awesome blog post here: “Are you okay?”My Profile

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Mike – Thanks for the update! I’d say you’re rockin’ the lifestyle. You work when you want at what you want for how long you want, you and Karen travel when you want for how long you want, and it has all fallen into place nicely so that you can each pursue your interests. What could be better? :)

  2. says

    Thanks for sharing what works for you. I agree one size does not fit all and sometimes figuring out the best strategy for oneself can be tricky. I’m always interested in reading what works for other people. It’s good that you take time to do yearly planning and yet remain flexible.
    Donna Janke has an awesome blog post here: History Lives at Tubac PresidioMy Profile

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Donna – I, too, am always interested in what’s working for others. When you first begin, it can be difficult before you land on a good combination of things. When you have some time in, it can be difficult letting go of something that isn’t working. Ultimately, we muddle through!

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Irene – Thank you! Yep, one size does not fit all. We decided we were better off with a few irons in the fire. :)

  3. says

    Thanks for sharing your insights about whats working for you in travel blogging. I am with you on “Be the tortoise not the hare” and I am surprised (although I shouldn’t be!) at how many people start a travel blog and think they will be making a living at it in no time.

    From what I have read about the successful bloggers, multiple streams of income seems to be a common key to success. Looks like you are headed in the right direction and you are enjoying the journey!

    I look forward to meeting you two at TBEX Costa Brava!
    Susan Moore has an awesome blog post here: Serendipitous Moment at La Boqueria Market in BarcelonaMy Profile

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Susan – While it would have been really nice to make money right away, and it appears some people do, it wasn’t in the cards. I think diversity in income is actually the safer way to go. You’re not dependent upon just one thing, which could be a more fickle resource than we realize. Thanks.

  4. says

    This is the post that needed to be written. Yes, the keys to this business are definitely organization and structure and having a game plan – a game plan that is yours and not someone else’s. It is also about being true to yourself and not getting caught up in the playground dramas, “Appointing yourself the hall monitor of a community and rapping knuckles indiscriminately is something that should have gone out in high school” – well said.
    Paula McInerney has an awesome blog post here: Coffee – Weekend Travel InspirationMy Profile

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Paula – Yes, the drama can be tiresome. I always think of energy flow, good and bad. It has a way of doubling back on us, so remaining positive creates a better sense of well-being. Thanks!

  5. says

    Thanks for sharing – as usual you give clear and great advice. We are still working out the balance and have to decide if travel is our priority (we’re pretty sure it is…) or working madly on our blog and all the social media hoo-haa that seems to go with that these days! The whole point is, that if you aren’t concentrating on the experience, then there is nothing to write about – it’s a no-brainer!
    Yasha Langford has an awesome blog post here: Returning to Argentina: Lakes DistrictMy Profile

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Yasha – There is a lot of hoo-haa that goes along with a successful blog strategy, isn’t there?! It can be overwhelming, and you’re right, it can distract you from the experience, which is what you’re about in the first place. I think if you make experience the priority, the posts will get written and the other stuff will get done. You can’t do anything without the experience to begin with. :)

  6. says

    We learned long ago that success doesn’t come without an organized plan and good communication and that there’s ALWAYS hard work involved whether it’s apparent to others or not. Those blogs that oftentimes look the most elegantly effortless (like yours) are usually the ones that have involved hundreds of hours of thinking, tweaking, going with what works and discarding what doesn’t. You also make a great point that when you enjoy what you’re doing and where you are the work is fun! A great post!
    Anita @ No Particular Place To Go has an awesome blog post here: A Past Gone With the Wind: The Landhuizen of CuracaoMy Profile

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Anita – I often return to something David McCullough (an author I very much admire) said during a wonderful personal appearance we attended when “Americans in Paris” came out. It was, “People always ask me how long it takes me to write a book. Then they wonder how long it takes me to research it. But they never ask me how long it takes me to think about what I find.” Hearing that was just what I needed to give myself permission to think about what to write. And of course, as you point out, there’s the million and one things that get done in dashboard mode. We’re lucky to be able to enjoy what we do. Thanks!

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Patti – It’s so effective to have a written plan, and the structure you describe is exactly the one we use for our annual plan. Simple and effective. Thanks.

  7. Carol Colborn says

    Very helpful post. I have been blogging for 4 years, only because I wanted to write a book about our travels. Now that that is almost done, I have started to wonder how the blog can help us earn some money in other ways. Definitely I will publish more books. Getting some sponsored posts is another. Other than that I have not looked more. Thanks for this. And congratulations for your success!

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Carol – You’re so welcome. You have four years worth of content, which is a wonderful accomplishment. So many people quit so quickly. Good luck with your planning!

  8. says

    It’s always interesting to read what others are doing online. I agree that it definitely isn’t one size fits all.

    I’ve had a lot of blog issues this year, and I’m not sure that they have ended. Basically, I was being hit hard by spam bots, and my host kept taking me off line. I ended up having to lock the blog down, and almost nobody (including me) could access it. I think I finally have that figured out, and now I’m trying to get the traffic back.

    I’m finishing my current teaching job in August, and now sure what I will be doing job wise after that. I’m looking at online opportunities. I am in the throws of launching an amazon affiliate site. We’ll see how that goes. I’m excited!
    Nancie has an awesome blog post here: Chiang Mai: Opium at Doi Pui, Thailand for Travel Photo ThursdayMy Profile

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Nancie – Oh, sounds like you’ve been through the wringer! The tech issues can be so challenging. Fortunately, we’ve found a good team we can outsource the more difficult stuff to, and it’s worth it! An Amazon affiliate site, if properly done, can be very lucrative from what I’ve heard. I’ll be interested to follow you along on this journey. :)

  9. says

    Having reached the ripe old age I’ve reached, I’ve learned that “holier than thou” pontificating about anything usually means the pontificator is 1) either insecure, or, 2) somewhere on the Asberger’s spectrum. (BTW, mentoring and teaching is not the same thing as pontificating). My plan for my blog and other endeavors—-is to plan to have a plan. I am really looking forward to meeting you at TBEX.
    Suzanne Fluhr has an awesome blog post here: Montecristo Travels to Pisa — a Boomeresque Book ReviewMy Profile

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Suzanne – Great diagnosis! And I agree, mentoring is far different. I am looking forward to meeting you, too. It seems like we already know each other, though!

  10. says

    Thank you for unselfishly sharing your behind the scenes with all of us. There is “no one size fits all” scenario. What works for one, does not work for another. I think blogging has taken me way out of my comfort zone and I have tried many things I have never done before. Mostly successful, and I was paid real money! I do have written goals and will address them often. Thank you again for sharing your world!
    Suzanne Stavert has an awesome blog post here: My Newest Adventure: Discovering Simply Real HealthMy Profile

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Suzanne – I’m with you – way, WAY out of the comfort zone and exhilarating to realize there’s still life in the brain and people interested in what we have to say! :)

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Gypsynesters – Yes, there is. We often say if we’d have known how much, we may not have embarked. But we’re still on the journey.

  11. says

    The travel lifestyle isn’t all butterflies and rainbows, is it? I don’t know if we work more hours now while traveling full-time compared to when we working corporate jobs, but we certainly log a lot of them. I like the idea of a formalized planning meeting (even if it is required for the LLC) — we have both “family” meetings and “business” meetings regularly to review goals, plans and achievements, and it makes a huge difference.
    Sean has an awesome blog post here: How to Get to Know a New City – Digital Nomad StyleMy Profile

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Sean – Nope, no unicorns here! I think regular reviews and goal-tweaking are such great habits to get into, whether for personal or business reasons. Sounds like you have a system that works.

  12. says

    Thanks for giving us a peak behind the scenes at Passing Thru! As a newbie blogger I’m still trying to figure it all out, but as you say, it’s good to take a long term approach. It’s an inspiration to hear how you have carved out a wonderful life that works for you, and I love your positive approach.
    Shelley has an awesome blog post here: How to See Washington DC, Up Close and PersonalMy Profile

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Shelley – I have no doubt it will all fall into place for you in the way it is meant to. So glad to have “met” you. :)

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Lyn – Yes, the reasons are as unique as the individuals, and so therefore our plans and objectives will vary, too.

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Grietje – What an elegant analogy. I’m so clumsy in real life that I’d love to be thought of in this way. :)

  13. says

    I’ve decided I could have a mental breakdown if I thought too long and hard about blogging. Time is precious – so is travel. So I’ve cut back on both the writing and reading of blogs, no longer do I participate in those, ‘read me and I will read you’ for stats efforts. I read those writers who provide me education and entertainment.
    I travel and I write. I have a strong but small base of regular followers and subscribers. . .many who’ve become friends over the years.
    I left the world of work for a reason so don’t want to make this endeavor into a substitute world of work. 😉
    All that said, this is a great piece and I admire your focus and ability to take blogging to such a level of professionalism!!
    Jackie Smith has an awesome blog post here: Honolulu: Memories and Present-day MadnessMy Profile

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Jackie – Thank you so much. It can definitely be overwhelming until you get into a rhythm that works, and even that can go off kilter from time to time. And I agree, traditional work can be so not fun that I feel non-traditional work of this type should feel more like fun than work. Thankfully, it does.

  14. says

    Well said! Travel is a very personal thing and how (or even if) one incorporates their travel into a business is totally their choice. You’re right — some people are spending too much time scrutinizing what others are doing for purposes of criticizing their strategies and tactics. I’ve seen too much of that over the past few years, but it seems to have increased in the past several months.
    Cathy Sweeney has an awesome blog post here: A Day in Aix-en-Provence: Top Things to DoMy Profile

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Cathy – Yeah, this has been a particularly interesting flare. I think a lot of the criticism is really an exercise in self-definition, playing off of what Suzanne diagnosed above. That sort of thing doesn’t have to happen at the expense of others, even if their example has revealed what you do not want to do in your own situation. Thanks.

  15. says

    I’m feeling very inadequate! Other than some paid writing gigs I haven’t done anything to monetize my blog! I was thrust into retirement at 57 and assumed I’d get another job in my lifelong career but that was the depths of the recession and I didn’t. I started the blog as an experiment in deciding if anyone would read what I wrote and, if so, I would write a book. Well people (some anyway!) do read it but I haven’t started that book yet. I think you’ve inspired me to make an actual plan instead of just having one goal at a time which is what I’ve been doing. Thanks!
    Kay dougherty has an awesome blog post here: Prague – Castle Hill, Lesser Town and mistakesMy Profile

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Kay – You’re a wonderful writer and if there’s a book in ya, go for it! I think you may find zooming out from individual goals to a more big picture strategy a fine reveal. :)

  16. says

    Another wonderful post Betsy. I have bookmarked it and will no doubt return to it many times when I’m feeling frustrated with the food+travel blogging world. Although it’s only been a little over a year for me I have learned to focus on our goals and not get distracted by all the chatter that goes on. I really did enjoy learning all the nuts and bolts of what goes on behind the scenes for someone else makes me know that with hard work anything is possible. I just have to laugh when someone says – all you do is travel and eat – how do I get that job. If only it were that easy!
    Sue Reddel has an awesome blog post here: A Day in WisconsinMy Profile

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Sue – Well, yeah! Traveling and eating! The best part. Unfortunately about 15% of it all, right? LOL Chalk it up to success making it look glamorous! Thanks.

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Billie – Well, there was an ulterior motive. Marriott (and other hotels) automagically confer elite status and several thousand points if you book a conference room on their property. So there was great benefit, as well as feeling very professional. 😉

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Ale – Everybody’s timeline and comfort zones are different. You are doing a great job with your blog and I have no doubt good things are in store for you. :)

  17. says

    Wow, what a generous post this is. I’ve spent the last half hour going through all your links and wondering what rock i’ve been living under. Thanks so much, the wheels are now churning in all sorts of directions! I admire what you’ve done and how you have made it work, certainly demonstrating one size doesn’t fit all. Kudos and hope so much I get to Costa Brava and can connect in person.
    alison @GreenWithRenvy has an awesome blog post here: 10 Interesting Facts About CubaMy Profile

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Alison – Thank you so much. Please let’s do get together in Costa Brava. We’re big fans of yours, too.

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