Recently, I decided to start a new series where I interview people who are doing extraordinary things with their lives. First up was JP Livingston, who retired with a net worth over $2,000,000 at the age of 28. Today’s post is about Caz and Craig Makepeace, a married couple from the Central Coast of Australia. They have lived in five countries and traveled to 52 of them. They blog about their travels at yTravelBlog.
Just seven years ago, they had no idea what they were doing with their blog, and since then, their blog has grown to be one of the biggest travel blogs in the world.
In this interview, you'll learn:
- The obstacles they had to overcome getting started.
- How they afford to travel extensively with their family.
- How they have become such successful travel bloggers.
- What an average day is like for them.
- Tips for traveling with children, and more!
They have traveled extensively, including an 18-month stint traveling through Australia with their two daughters. They recently came to the US and are road tripping here.
They've been featured on Forbes, The Today Show, have been invited to the White House, and more.
- How This Couple Bought an $11,500 RV, Traveled To All 50 States, and Built A Thriving Business
- How I Saved $45,000 In Three Years To Create A Life Of Travel
- How I Run A Business While Traveling 365 Days a Year
- How To Travel On A Budget And Still Have The Time Of Your Life
- 30 Incredibly Easy Ways To Be Happier, Wealthier, and More Successful
I asked you, my readers, what questions I should ask Caz and Craig Makepeace, so below are your questions (and some of mine) about being a traveling family and how they earn a living through traveling. Make sure you're following me on Facebook so you have the opportunity to submit your own questions for the next interview.
Tell me your story. I'm a huge fan but my readers may not know – Who are the two of you and what do you do?
We're travel addicts and entrepreneurs and the founders of yTravelBlog.com. Somehow we managed to turn our love for travel into a full-time business. We travel the world and share our stories to help others travel more and create better memories.
We're both from the same town in Australia and formed a bond over our common love for travel. I played a professional sport (rugby league) and then worked in construction after an injury forced me into early retirement. In our former lives, Caz was a primary school teacher and began her career teaching in one of the roughest areas in London.
We took off three days after our wedding in 2002, for what became a 5-year working honeymoon. We lived in Dublin; Bangkok; Raleigh, North Carolina; and various places in Australia. Our travels in between working took us backpacking through Africa, road tripping the UK, and exploring South East Asia, China, and the USA.
We returned home and felt lost without travel. To our surprise, we had fallen in love with Raleigh and were desperate to return. Caz managed to get a similar teaching position and we returned.
It was during this second stint in Raleigh that our entrepreneurial spirit started to kick in. We were never really job people and we’re always looking for a way to continue our life of travel. We had exhausted all of our working holiday visa options so we had to find another way.
Meanwhile, we were going through a huge financial disaster at the time that basically sent us into bankruptcy. It was during the GFC crisis and we had purchased an investment property in Raleigh that went bad, and we literally had to walk away from it. It was unfortunately financed via a line of credit from our investment property in Australia which we lost as well, and we also donated about $50K to the stock market trading options. On top of that, we ended up in about $30k of credit card debt. You can read about all that in depth here.
Whilst all this was going on, one day Caz was surfing around on the internet and discovered a few people writing travel blogs. I was working for Delta Airlines at the time at Raleigh/Durham airport and I remember her calling me up at work all excited saying she's finally found what we are going to do for the rest of our lives! “Craig, there are these people on the internet blogging about travel and sharing travel tips and making money. We can do this, we've been traveling for years and have plenty of tips and stories.”
I'd never heard of blogging before, and I said, “Ok, so we're going to go from a situation where you're writing in your private journal that I'm not even allowed to read, to blasting our life all over the internet. Yeah, let's do that, lol. That will get us out of this mess!”
So in March of 2010, yTravelBlog was born out of our apartment in Raleigh. We had no idea what we were doing but hustled our asses off for the first six months building our site and brand before our visas would expire and we had to return to Oz. I would stay up until midnight working on it, get up to go to work at the airport at 4.30am, and Caz would put in similar long hours. But we loved it. And still do.
Fast forward seven years to today, and we've become one of the biggest travel blogs in the world and have created our dream life. Things really took off for us when we decided to jump off the hamster wheel and travel around Australia for 18 months with our two daughters. We are now replicating that journey road tripping across the USA.
We've been featured on Forbes.com twice, The Today Show, Travel & Leisure, been ambassadors in a YouTube campaign for Garnier, done video campaigns for Skyscanner, and probably the most amazing thing was getting invited to The White House to attend the first ever travel blogger summit on Study Abroad and Global Citizenship.
We've also partnered with some of the biggest brands in the world including Qantas, Ford, Canon, and Tourism Australia.
It's been a crazy ride.
Did both of you want to make the switch to traveling or were one of you the driving force?
Caz got serious about traveling and living overseas from listening to the stories her brother used to tell, who had previously left Australia to move to London and explore Europe. And my passion for travel really started to take off during my sporting career after going on a few overseas tours to play games in South Africa and the UK.
But for both of us, the spark essentially got ignited when we were young and taking trips with our parents growing up. Travel has always been the thing that makes us feel most alive, and still to this day. It's what gets us so excited about life and continues to shape who we are. We've learned so much about the world, and ourselves, from all our adventures.
Travel is addictive, but a good addiction, and I think we'll always have itchy feet to hit the road in some capacity.
What are some big obstacles you had to overcome getting started?
From a blogging perspective, not having any background or experience in any aspect of blogging. We were clueless when we got starting in 2010, and whilst there were other bloggers and some tools available, the industry was way different and smaller to what it is now as far as available courses, conferences, tools, and even social media channels.
We are generally tech challenged and whilst you don't need a ton of money to start a blog, we basically had nothing to invest, so we built the first two designs of yTravelBlog ourselves, which was just horrible as far as branding and navigation goes. We also had no internet marketing experience, no contacts online, and didn't have much of a clue of how to promote ourselves, which can be daunting to put yourself out there.
From a travel perspective, relocating to another country and working jobs within different cultures and systems comes with its own unique challenges. It can be nerve wracking. You don't have the safety net of friends and family to call on for support, and you just have to find a way to make it work.
Fortunately, we had each other to lean on. But when Caz first moved to London alone with no money or friends, before we were together, she wondered if she had made the worst decision of her life.
But it's these experiences that allow us to grow and shape us.
Family travel bloggers – that just sounds so interesting! What was your first big trip with the whole family?
Ahh, family travel, definitely interesting, lol.
We are forever grateful that we have created this lifestyle around travel that affords us the freedom to spend so much time with our kids. And that was a HUGE motivation for us in creating a portable online business, the time freedom!
But ask any parent who takes a vacation with their kids and that can test the strength and patience of the best of us. Ever heard the statement “I need a vacation after the vacation??” Throw on top the fact that we are running a full-time business and currently homeschooling our kids, and we are juggling many hats. But, we chose this life and it's what works best for the dynamics of our family at the moment, and financially too!
Our first trip overseas with our eldest daughter Kalyra was to a friend’s wedding in Fiji, which was easy from a logistical standpoint.
But Kalyra was only 10 months old when we moved back to Raleigh the second time which was a little nerve wracking. The first time we lived in Raleigh pre-kids we were fancy-free and partied a lot, so we wondered how life would be moving back with a young daughter and if we'd still love living in Raleigh.
We also had the challenge of finding childcare as we both went back to our full-time jobs and didn't have the luxury of our parents being around to call up for babysitting. But it all fell into place, and we loved living in Raleigh and taking Kalyra to our favorite travel destinations on the east coast of the US.
When we moved back to Australia our youngest daughter Savannah was born, and at just six weeks old we took a two-week road trip on the north island of New Zealand. Caz was speaking at a conference in Rotorua so we decided to incorporate that into our first family of four trip overseas, and it was then that we fell even more in love with the idea of taking road trips as a family being the most practical and cost effective way for us to travel.
Where do you live now? What are your plans for the next year or two?
Five months ago we moved back to the US.
We were fortunate enough to be granted a O1 Business Visa by the US Government due to our extraordinary ability in travel blogging. I'm not saying it like that to brag, that's the term they used and we had to prove that we were “extraordinary” in our field to be granted this visa. It's a similar visa that foreign actors and actresses, or sportsmen and women come into the US on.
We went through an immigration lawyer based in Nashville and it took us over 12 months to go through the process (with a 500-page application EACH) and cost a lot of money, but the investment is well worth it. You can read all about the process for getting the O1 business visa here.
From a business perspective, we felt like we'd done all we wanted to do travel blogging wise in Australia, and the US opens up a much larger market as far as campaigns and sponsorships go. And there is so much content we can create around the US, plus our main demographic of readers are from the US, so they are super excited we are exploring the states!
Plus, the US is where we love being, and we are currently back living in Raleigh, yay!
Australia is obviously our birth home, and we are very proud Aussies and forever grateful for being born in a wonderful country, but Raleigh and the US feels like our soul home. It still amazes us, and many other people, that after traveling to over 50 countries and living in 4 other countries, why we chose to be in Raleigh.
There's just something about the place, it's hard to explain. It's not a tourist destination by any means, but as a place to live, it's fantastic. We feel Raleigh is America's best-kept secret, but I think the secret is out as it's been booming here for years and continues to evolve in a great way.
So over the next three years of our visa, we plan to use Raleigh as a base as we explore the rest of the country. It's our goal to visit all 50 states and to discover the REAL America on a journey we are calling America Unplugged. We plan to unplug the hidden secrets and go beyond the main tourist destinations and use our community to help shape our journey.
How do you afford your lifestyle? How do you make a living even though you travel? Can you tell me more about how you earn an income through your blog?
We make money via our blog in various ways.
One of our main income streams comes from partnering with state tourism boards (DMO's) on marketing campaigns, meaning we visit a destination and create blog posts, YouTube videos and live social media updates sharing our experiences in the region.
We also partner with various travel brands that align with our story to create sponsored content.
Affiliate marketing is a major focus for us now, and thanks to Michelle's awesome affiliate marketing course that stream is growing nicely. We mainly focus on affiliate income via the Amazon Associates program, accommodation providers, rental cars, and other travel related products and services. We love affiliate income in that you do the job once and get paid over and over for it.
Our earliest income stream was probably sponsored posts, and whilst we still run those our main focus in on longer term ambassadorship type roles.
We recently joined the AdThrive network, which is an ad optimization and management service which has been excellent so far and is growing monthly.
Freelance writing is another income stream. We currently write for Skyscanner on a monthly basis with other more temporary gigs.
Caz has spoken at several blogging conferences and events which she has been paid for, which also grows our brand and networking opportunities.
And the fact that some of our travel is hosted, and considering we travel for a living which is expensive especially for a family of four, a dollar saved is a dollar earned as they say, and for the most part, it's cheaper for us to be on the road than live in one place.
You have a huge following! What tips do you have for someone who wants to become a travel blogger?
Be in it for the long-haul. I've always said to others, if you want to start a travel blog be online two years from now. Blogging is like any business, it takes an investment of time, and resources, to make a living out of this.
You can do it quicker than that, especially these days as Instagram and Pinterest weren't around when we started, and everyone comes into this with different backgrounds, skills, networks and financial situation, but for the most part, blogging is a marathon, not a sprint.
It took us two years before we started making decent money from our blog. We first focused on building an audience and building a community. Once you have enough eyeballs you can think about monetization.
As for travel blogging, yes it is becoming saturated like most niches, but the internet is still a fantastic way for creatives to build something. And each of us is unique and have our own stories, and it's the stories that can sell. There is only one Caz and Craig, there is only one Michelle Schroeder-Gardner or John Doe, so what angle or perspective can you bring to a topic?
But my biggest tip is don't get into travel blogging just to get free trips. It really is an unglamorous way to travel – no matter what those Instagram photos show you. There is no such thing as free. In travel blogging, free is in exchange for an intense amount of work – up from sunrise to way beyond sunset shooting photos and video and documenting your travels. That's even before you've begun to write, format and edit your content. Then comes promotion and building an audience. It's a lot harder and way more time consuming than it looks – we are definitely not sitting around a pool drinking cocktails all day!
What's an average day like for you? How many hours do you work a day?
We have no normal day. Every day is different. And it depends on whether we are at home or on the road.
At home we get up at 6am, Caz goes for a 45-minute walk around the lake, does meditation and journaling. And I do something similar. Breakfast is followed by 1-2 hours of homeschooling the kids then it's onto various aspects of blogging. Our day is broken up by taking the kids to a park or activity downtown, and then after dinner we're online again until say 9pm.
If we are on the road or doing a marketing campaign, we are usually out and about all day engaged in activities, doing live social media updates, and taking photos and creating YouTube videos to be published once the trip is finished. And sometimes we are doing traditional media interviews on location. It's exhausting and crazy but fun!
How do you manage a healthy balance – traveling, raising children, and working?
Ask me an easier question!! We are still figuring this out after seven years, ha ha. The challenge is mainly that we don't have a typical schedule because we travel so much, so routines have never been our thing.
But like I said, we are fortunate that we get to spend so much time with our kids, but that comes with challenges.
Living out of each other's pocket's 24/7 means all four of us have very little separation from each other, so often we'll take turns of taking the kids out for a couple of hours during the day whilst the other one works on our business.
The good thing about homeschooling is we have the flexibility to travel whenever we want, and can fit the lessons into any part of our day. Normally we like to do the schooling in the morning, but if we have a blogging activity then we can do it later.
How is it like traveling with your children? What tips do you have for that?
Often we get emails from our readers or have conversations with people we meet who express that once they have kids their travel days are over!
Not true. You just travel in a different way. Family travel is possible and need not be a hassle and can be one of the best experiences you have as a family!
We don’t travel like we used to pre-kids, but you just evolve the style of how you travel. Kids are very good at adapting to situations, and the younger you start them the better.
Our top tips for traveling with kids would be:
- Plan it Together – sit down with all members of your family and talk about your trip. The best way to get your kids interested and excited is to have them involved in the travel planning process. Memorable trips are those where each member of your family gets to experience something they love. We have a family travel planning toolkit to help you do this.
- Choose a destination that has a balance between adult and kid stuff. If either of you gets bored because there are not enough relevant activities, it's not a good recipe for a fun vacation.
- Slow Down – plan for a slower pace than you would if traveling solo or as a couple. Be realistic about what you can accomplish, especially when traveling with toddlers. The less you feel you have to see and do, the more enjoyable and stress-free for everyone.
- And 99% of the time your child will be irritated, cranky or screaming because they are either:
Solve those 3 key essentials and you will have a memorable trip!
What do your children do for education?
As mentioned, we currently homeschool our kids in the US, and it's been helpful that Caz is a former elementary school teacher, but we don't always plan to homeschool, it just fits our lifestyle at the moment.
Apart from that, our kids learn so much about the world and gain many “life skills” from all our adventures. Instead of learning from a textbook, a lot of their learning is hands on and location based. Not to mention all the social skills they get from meeting so many new and interesting people.
What has been the most challenging and what has been the most rewarding?
The most challenging initially was going from a “job” mindset to an “entrepreneur” mindset, especially when it comes to income and not having the guaranteed paycheck at the end of the week to speak for your time and efforts. Even now we can have BIG income months and then quiet income months which can be a little nervy, and it takes discipline and faith to allocate our finances accordingly.
The most rewarding is knowing that we are creating so many priceless memories with our kids. Our motto is “accumulate memories and moments, not just possessions,” and we like to do that through travel.
What has been your favorite place to visit so far?
Always a tough question. We like different places for different reasons. Our 5-month backpacking expedition through Africa has been our biggest adventure so far, and Cape Town is one of our favorite cities – an incredible place!
In Australia, we loved visiting Uluru and the Outback. Yes, we have many incredible beaches in Oz, but for us, it's the Outback that is so unique to Australia, and Uluru is the spiritual heart of our country. A very moving place and visually stunning!
South East Asia offers great value for money with incredible food, weather, beaches, vibrant cities and friendly people. We especially loved our 6 week trip in Vietnam in 2003 and look forward to returning.
And we love the diversity of the US. From the big cities to the small towns, the National Parks, the classic road trips, the food scene, the sports scene, the music scene, and everything in between. There really is something here for everyone of all ages, budgets, and tastes! Our fave places in the US so far would be Southern Utah and all the parks there, Savannah and Charleston, and Nashville.
What three pieces of advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on a similar journey?
- In regards to blogging, don't wait until everything is perfect before getting started, otherwise you'll never get started! We are constantly tweaking our website design, our content strategy, learning new SEO tactics, changing the way we create videos etc. Do the best you can from where you are with what you have. Just put yourself out there…1, 2, 3 jump and learn to grow your wings. You'll make mistakes, everyone does, and that's how you learn.
- Be true to yourself and know that you'll never please everybody. From the content you create to the choices you make with parenting, schooling, travel destinations, and LIFE – opinions are the cheapest commodity on earth and everyone has a truckload full of them. Live from your own values system!
- Choose the name of your website and brand carefully. Go with something that can evolve with you and your business, e.g. if you're getting started in family travel, don't call your blog “travels with a toddler.” What happens when your kid grows up? And be careful of using names like “budget” or “backpacking” or “solo.” I can almost guarantee you that your style of travel will change as you age. Rebranding your site is costly and time-consuming.
And if you get started in this business with a view to selling your blog or website, don't call your site MyName.com, as it will be difficult to sell a personal brand.
What other questions do you have for this traveling blogging family?
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