Meet: Chris Christensen of Amateur Traveler

Chris is the creator of Amateur Traveler is a popular online travel website that focuses primarily on travel destinations. It includes a couple of audio podcasts and a blog. His travel podcasts got around 4 million downloads in 2018. The Amateur Traveler is 14 years old and they use the Amateur Traveler podcast to teach English at Oxford University and to test English proficiency for employment with the Thailand Foreign Ministry. Chris has won a Lowell Thomas Award, 6 NATJA awards, and a SMITTY Award from Travel+Leisure as the “best independent travel journalist”.

  • How would you describe your blog to a person that has never visited it before? Amateur Traveler helps you plan your next trip through blog articles and one of the oldest and most popular travel podcasts.
  • What made you decide to create a blog? The Amateur Traveler  podcast was actually created before the blog, in 2005. When podcasting started I wanted to create a podcast and after considering a number of possible subjects I had some friends over for a Memorial Day picnic and all the best stories were travel stories. Not long there after I started also writing blog posts not associated with the podcast as a way to get more traffic or to deal with issues not relevant for the podcast.
  • Was there a moment when you thought, “I could do this professionally”? If so, what triggered that desire/realization? I had that thought from the very beginning although the realization of it has also been a thing in progress for all 14 years of Amateur Traveler.
  • What fuels your passion for creating content? I love travel. I spend a lot of time thinking about travel even when I am not traveling. One of things that I love about travel is how it teaches me new things.
  • Are there any blogs or publications that you follow closely? What makes them successful in your opinion? I honestly don’t know that there are. Like most users when we are planning a trip we go out and look for good travel content and stumble across a different set of blogs every time.
  • What has been the biggest challenge in maintaining a successful blog? Making the donuts… that is doing the work regularly and consistently. I have been most consistent with the Amateur Traveler podcast which has averaged 47 episodes a year for the first 14 years. But I also do the This Week in Travel podcast which has managed less than 25 episodes a year because that one involves coordinating the schedules of 3-4 people. For the blog and the podcast it is amazing how many things have changed since I started. Remember that 14 years ago was before the iPhone or Twitter. It was before Facebook was opened to non-college users. Google was around but SEO was a very different thing and… to be honest… something I wish I had been more focused on. The rate of things changing has been dizzying.
  • What is your favorite post that you created? Why? I like all my new posts better than what I used to write. Probably the first post where I was more satisfied with the writing was a post about Blackwater Rafting in New Zealand.
  • How much does social media influence your writing? This might be a commentary on the posts you read or the way that you tailor your posts for those channels. Social media was a bigger influence on my site maybe 5-10 years ago, but these days I have given up on social media actually driving traffic (except Pinterest which I do focus on) so I use social media mainly to be social. It does mean I enjoy it more than I did at one time.
  • What is your favorite social media channel? Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, other? Why? Pinterest is my favorite for actually driving traffic. It is worth the effort. Instagram and Facebook are my favorite for staying connected with friends and Facebook groups for staying in touch with my community and the community of bloggers. LinkedIn is my favorite for staying in touch with former co-workers and Twitter is my favorite for news. I have different rules about who I follow on which platform for that reason.
  • Do you have any last piece of advice for aspiring bloggers? I think you should blog (or podcast) because you can’t stand not sharing. You have to enjoy the process. I was creating travel content for 5 years before it lead to any travel opportunities. That is better today because of some of the trails opened by those who came before. Don’t screw it up. Write for your audience. Don’t fake your numbers. Don’t be an ass when you work with companies. Don’t pee in the pool.
  • Lastly, what is something that you could share with us that we wouldn’t learn from reading your blog? I am nerd. I make my living as a software programmer/manager/executive. For a while I was the Director of Engineering for TripAdvisor Flights. I have spent 18+ years in Silicon Valley startups and am back at a startup again. I even have my own startup which helps bloggers connect with companies.