State of the Savage: October 2011

by Keith Savage · 36 comments

The Traveling Savage Standing on Casks at Bruichladdich Distillery

As the first frosts come to Wisconsin, I’m reminded that in five days it will have been one year since I left my corporate job. That’s a major milestone and cause for a reality check. But first, a celebration of all the traveling I’ve done in the last year!

I kicked off Traveling Savage by spending five weeks in Argentina in November and December of 2010. It was my first time traveling solo, my first trip to South America, and a million other firsts that resulted in greater cultural and self awareness. I split time between Buenos Aires and Salta all while sharing meriendas and asados with ex-pats and locals. Argentina was revelatory, difficult, exuberant, and transformative.

I returned to Wisconsin in December with everything I’d learned on that trip and tweaked Traveling Savage’s mission. I decided to focus on Scotland and becoming a destination expert as I believed that course to be a smart business decision. In March of this year, I jetted over to Edinburgh where I spent three weeks exploring Auld Reekie. In between hiking up Arthur’s Seat and meeting likeminded travelers, I had the opportunity to explore my love of Scotch whisky and share a pint with author Ian Rankin. This trip renewed my love of this city of contrasts, and I felt I’d made the right decision with Traveling Savage’s new mission.

Just a month after returning home from Edinburgh I was back in the air for another five-week jaunt around Scotland that included stops in Shetland, Speyside, the Cairngorms, Black Isle, and Skye. Shetland’s folk festival left me deafened and sleep-deprived and all the better for it, while my countless stops at distilleries on the Malt Whisky Trail will be memories I’ll always carry with me. Sarah joined me for the latter half through the Cairngorms, Black Isle, and Skye and reminded me just how important a travel companion can be.

I returned to Scotland for a third time this year in September for three weeks spanning the Inner Hebrides. I tackled the small isle of Arran and spent a week each on Islay and Mull before returning to Glasgow for a three-day refresher. The trip centered on Islay’s whisky industry and the outdoor paradise that is Mull: two places I’d never previously visited.

In between all of these trips I also squeezed in jaunts to San Antonio, Vancouver, and San Francisco. It’s been a year of contrasts, of periods of busy travel followed by slow days at home in Wisconsin. As far as trips and budgets, it’s been a successful year.

On the other hand, Traveling Savage is nowhere near being a sustainable business. I am traveling on startup money we saved prior to leaving my job, and I’ve learned that I’m not willing to do the things I would need to do to make money with a blog (i.e., content farming). If I’m honest with myself, I drank the “make a living from your blog” juice to make leaving my old job easier.

At the moment, I’m Scotland’s best pro-bono cheerleader ever, but I do need to make some tough decisions in the coming months that might mean changes to my personal goals and Traveling Savage. Stick around, I’ve got a lot more to say!

Plans & Happenings

I recently returned from an awesome long weekend in San Francisco hanging out with my brother and his fiancée. The food scene there has got to be one of the best anywhere, and I went on a Burmese and Korean BBQ bender. The next few months look placid as far as travel goes. I’ve got a week in Florida around Christmas but that’s it until next year, which is sure to be loaded with trips.

I’m currently planning for the next official Traveling Savage trip to Scotland, which looks like it will be sometime in the March-May timeframe. I’d really like to hit the Spirit of Speyside whisky festival (I missed this year’s by being in Shetland), but I’ve got a lot to think about (suggestions welcome!). Who knows, I might even have a travel companion this time as my dad may accompany me.

Finally, I’ve also started the ball rolling on a short visit to Nova Scotia. I’ve always wanted to visit, and, after meeting some excellent NS ambassadors at this year’s TBEX conference in Vancouver, the timing could be right soon. We shall see.

Parting Blow

It can be tough knowing when the time is right to make tough decisions, entrepreneurial or otherwise. How do you know when to make these decisions and when to wait and give the project more time to grow?

lucinda (singlewithluggage)No Gravatar November 3, 2011 at 9:25 AM

Hi Keith – It’s been a long time since we’ve communicated, and since I’ve followed up on your travels and writing. Just spent some quality time with your blog. I can’t comment on the money making aspect. But I can comment on the writing and contents. I love reading your blog. I don’t really care where you travel, its not about that. I feel inspired when I read your posts – it’s the language you use, the ideas you share, the musings, the observations, and the way you bring it all together. Your writing is interesting, generous, and oh so smart. You say you’re facing some decisions about your blog. Whatever they are, I hope you keep writing and traveling. You’ve created something of such quality, it is inevitable that it will turn into exactly what you need it to be. Good luck!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 3, 2011 at 10:41 AM

Hey Lucinda, how’s it going? Thank you for the kind comments. It’s highly doubtful that I will stop blogging at this point. What might change is the way I do, the frequency, and things of that nature. It’s always nice to hear feedback like this. Thanks a ton!

ClaireNo Gravatar October 31, 2011 at 5:05 PM

I personally would like to hear more about the Burmese and Korean BBQ bender!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 1, 2011 at 11:02 AM

SF has one of the greatest foodie scenes I’ve experienced. Burma Superstar is a delicious place with long lines at all hours of the day. There are a ton of Korean restaurants on Geary north of Golden Gate Park. I think we stopped at one called My Tofu House. It was my first experience eating both Burmese and Korean (and kimchi) and I enjoyed everything.

AyngelinaNo Gravatar October 29, 2011 at 4:29 AM

Do you have dates for Nova Scotia yet. I hope I am around then.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar October 29, 2011 at 11:24 AM

No dates yet, but I’m thinking sometime first quarter 2012. You going to be around then?

Jools StoneNo Gravatar October 28, 2011 at 2:24 PM

Stick at Keith, you write better than most freelancers – and you prob know a damn sight more about Scotland than I or many other locals do! VScotland are a funny bunch. Like most big govt bodies they’re abit unfathomable, but there’s more than one way to skin this tartan kitty. Keep in touch for contacts – and moral support sharing. I’m struggling myself and been at a seemingly perennial crossroads all year.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar October 28, 2011 at 4:26 PM

Hey Jools, thanks for the support. I’ll be in touch – I foresee a return to Edinburgh next year.

Traveling TedNo Gravatar October 25, 2011 at 12:57 PM

I just recently took a full time job as I could not wait forever for my blogging to make enough money to be sustainable. I do not feel like this is giving up because I am still working on it on the side and hope in a couple more years to be in a better financial situation in order to travel more and write about it. I hope that your cheerleading eventually pays off.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar October 25, 2011 at 1:04 PM

I hear you, Ted, and the choice you’ve made has passed through my head as well. It was great meeting you at Meet, Plan, Go. Best of luck with your ventures!

AdamNo Gravatar October 25, 2011 at 10:41 AM

Nice to see you’re continuing to follow your passions and make the tough decisions. After travelling round-the-world for the past 16 months or so, I settled into a short-term job in Europe but am now making yet another tough decision. This time, it’s to go freelance while continuing to play out my dream of living in Europe…..

Here’s to the next season!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar October 25, 2011 at 11:05 AM

Hey Adam, good to hear from you. You seem to be making your lifestyle work, so congrats on that! Absolutely, here’s hoping 2012 rocks!

JoAnnaNo Gravatar October 25, 2011 at 10:37 AM

Do what you love and the rest will follow.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar October 25, 2011 at 10:42 AM

Hey JoAnna. I have been doing the closest thing to love I can find, but it can’t just be that. Your comment has been my mantra – and still is – but the rest won’t follow unless you make it follow. My struggle at the moment is learning how to do the things I need to do to make it follow. If that makes sense. 🙂

wandering educatorsNo Gravatar October 25, 2011 at 9:43 AM

first, congrats!! i’ve truly enjoyed following along on your journeys. THANK YOU!

second, next time you head to scotland, you’ve GOT to go to glen affric and see the coolest people in the world. – it was one of the highlights of our time in inverness.

third, i’d poke around and find some sponsors – visit scotland? whisky companies? you sure are an excellent brand ambassador. i’d TOTALLY Love it if you had more time (and got paid) to explore an area deeply, and report back on the awesome cafe, deli, pub, shop, library, etc. in an area. one thing i noticed when we planned our trip to ireland and scotland was that there were tons of sites on ireland, and not so many on visiting scotland. YOU are changing that! bravo!

and yes, echo the comment about contacting lara. she’d be able to give you a few pointers, at the least, on where to go next in terms of making this a real business.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar October 25, 2011 at 11:04 AM

Thanks for your continued support, Jessie. I have visited Glen Affric – it’s really gorgeous country there!

I have starting looking for sponsors though Visit Scotland seems to be quite obstinate and unwilling to sponsor, much less return my emails. Good ideas here nonetheless – thank you! Glad I’m able to provide a useful Scotland-focused site.

ErinNo Gravatar October 25, 2011 at 8:19 AM

Ah, making money is tough. We aren’t reliant on our blog for income, but even though Simon has solid, bankable design and development skills we are still rubbish at running a business! We really need to focus on that these coming months too.

Your skill is writing so you should focus on that. Have you pitched Scottish and English newspapers and travel magazines (Wanderlust for example)? And American ones for that matter. You could contact all the whisky companies about writing for them. I don’t really know anything about travel writing as a profession but Lara at might be able to answer any questions. I know having a niche is a good thing so you have that advantage. Most internet sites pay pittance so it’s probably newspapers and especially magazines that you need to focus on.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar October 25, 2011 at 11:00 AM

Hey Erin, thank you for all the suggestions. I have not pitched to print periodicals because the barrier to entry seems much steeper and the portfolio of print writers seems to be established. Yes, lots of “seems” in there, but I also don’t see print being the way of the future.

Lara has been very helpful and open with her information. In fact, she’s even contributed a couple of times to Traveling Savage! Check out this interview I did with her last February:

Jason CastellaniNo Gravatar October 25, 2011 at 2:56 AM

I completely understand where you are coming from Keith. It’s very strange that you just wrote this on the 24th. I wrote my article on the 24th too and it has a similar message. It won’t release until Tuesday, a few hours from now, but I find the connection and timing funny.

I guess we haven’t found what it is we need to be doing in our lives yet. There is still plenty of time, but I think I would rather spend that time saving a lot of money rather then depleting my savings trying to stay afloat while blogging. Eventually we will find the right job. One that pays the bills, allows us to continue to travel and a job that is inspiring to have and excel at. Good luck!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar October 25, 2011 at 10:49 AM

I hear ya, Jason. The period I’m in now – the testing of Traveling Savage – followed a long period of saving for an attempt at an inspiring job (i.e., this). It took me three years to dream up a job I felt comfortable taking a big risk on. I don’t know if I have another cycle like this in me for a different dream job.

Heading over to read your post now…

JuliaNo Gravatar October 24, 2011 at 4:56 PM

I think you have a great skill, particularly when describing whisky and the things you love. Stay with the dream and it will come one day. Freelancing may not be a bad thing to get your work out there to begin with and am sure you are getting lots of people who will endorse and spread the word around. You have a talent and at the end of the day it is your decision on how to make it work. Will maybe see you in Spring if you are here for the Festival and am sure that you will make the most of your visit to the area once again.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar October 24, 2011 at 6:35 PM

Thank you for the kind words, Julia. A little encouragement never hurts!

I think I recently had a revelation, and that was that I want to work in the Scotch whisky industry. I don’t know what particular job (I don’t think it really matters) or how that would work, but passion is always the secret ingredient in what makes someone great at their job and you can’t create it in others. I have a real passion for whisky.

If I’m in Speyside next year you can believe I’ll make a stop at the Cluny Bank Hotel. Please give Franklin my regards!

CandiceNo Gravatar October 24, 2011 at 4:00 PM

Nova Scooooootia! Let me know when you’re there, I’ll be visiting intermittently over the next few months. Pop up to Newfoundland while you’re there, will ya? We need some more bloggers up in here.

Can’t believe Traveling Savage is just over a year old. You put my 3-year old blog to shame.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar October 24, 2011 at 6:25 PM

Hey Candice, I will indeed let you and Cailin know if/when I visit Nova Scotia. I’ll do my best about Newfoundland.

To clarify about the age of Traveling Savage: I’ll soon celebrate my first year on the road, but I’m nearing my two year anniversary since I created Traveling Savage. I wrote it for a good 10 months before I left my old job.

CandiceNo Gravatar October 24, 2011 at 6:57 PM

Ah, I was thinking I must have been reading you for longer than that. We’re like old fogeys in the travel blogging world nowadays. Sweet, keep me posted!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar October 25, 2011 at 11:00 AM

Indeed, old timers here. I’ll let you know about NS.

Raymond @ Man On The LamNo Gravatar October 24, 2011 at 3:58 PM

I left my corporate job in July, and am just starting to get some money trickling in through my blog. I think Phil has the right idea — multiple blogs to leverage advertisers, and some freelance work to top it up. I’m with you though — where to begin? 🙂

Keith SavageNo Gravatar October 24, 2011 at 6:19 PM

The multiple blogs angle is just something I’m not interested in doing. To do it right and in such a way as to make a livable income here in Wisconsin I would need to have many blogs and I’d spend most of my time grinding out articles about subjects I don’t care much about. At least, that’s how it looks from where I’m sitting. Then there’s the whole quandary of basing a business on a practice generally out of favor with other companies and frowned upon by Google (i.e., selling ads).

KenNo Gravatar October 24, 2011 at 3:04 PM

I completely agree with Phil regarding your writing skills. Whatever the future holds, I hope you will continue to write. Nova Scotia sounds like a great place to see. My paternal great great grandparents came to the U.S. via Nova Scotia in the 19th century. Read Alistair MacCloud’s Island: The Complete Stories.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar October 24, 2011 at 6:16 PM

I think I’ve got that book hiding around here somewhere 🙂

JennaNo Gravatar October 24, 2011 at 2:45 PM

I love that you decided to focus on one place that you love. I’ve been trying to figure out my own focus, but it’s hard to balance the places I can and do travel a lot in (California and Brazil) and the places I really want to be traveling in. I’m also glad that you were honest about the income difficulties and your interest in not selling out. Sometimes I wonder how travel bloggers can manage to make a sustainable income. I hope to keep blogging as much as I can for now until my life opens up time for me to write and travel more. I look forward to seeing what the next year brings you.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar October 24, 2011 at 3:33 PM

Thanks Jenna. The downside to sticking to my guns is that I’ve made little headway toward being a sustainable business. Over the last year living outside my comfort zone, I’ve lain bare many of my weaknesses and many seem are detrimental to being a successful entrepreneur. I think the key is to adapt so those weaknesses don’t sink the ship. We’ll see if I can do that.

PhilNo Gravatar October 24, 2011 at 1:26 PM

I agree with you (and Jeremy). I was writing for demand media for a while. It was easy money, but so unbelievably soulless. I’m finally getting into a sustainable zone with my online business, but it has taken 3 blogs and I still do a fair amount of freelance writing in addition to managing the sites. Thankfully, I am now able to do assignments I appreciate. It’s also helped that I don’t need significant income to be sustainable. I have had free housing and cheap meals while in the US and very low travel/living costs while in West Africa. Are you doing any freelance writing, Keith? You’ve certainly got the chops.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar October 24, 2011 at 3:24 PM

Hey Phil, I’ve thought about freelance writing but I’m ashamedly clueless as to where to start. Most gigs I see pay such small amounts I’d need to pump out 100s of articles each month to make the kind of money I need to make. Props to you for making it work in West Africa – I think that’s amazing. I’d appreciate any freelance writing tips or suggestions you might have.

Jeremy BranhamNo Gravatar October 24, 2011 at 12:38 PM

While I haven’t had the chance to read as much as I would have liked, I enjoyed your trips to Scotland. It’s a country that is high on my list of places to go.

As for the entrepreneurial/making money part, I know how you feel. I will do some things to make some money but there are some things I just won’t do. It’s been a learning process but I know what I am comfortable with and what I am not. You have to do what is right for you and what you feel comfortable with. I know some people make choices for different reasons but I applaud you for not selling out for a few bucks to do things you aren’t comfortable doing.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar October 24, 2011 at 3:19 PM

Thanks for the thoughts, Jeremy. There came a point where I realized I could hack together a network of content farming sites, bust my ass paying for links and grinding out posts, and make half of what I made at my previous job doing work I don’t like. That’s not why I left my previous gig. I’m trying to stay on track toward doing something I love while making a living from it. It’s admittedly unclear how that will work at this point.

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