When Pete Rojwongsuriya finished school, he went straight into the corporate sector in his native Thailand. But the hours were long, and the pay was low, so he started dabbling in entrepreneurship.
After selling a website he built for 5 figures, he tried to recreate his success with another site. When things didn’t go as planned, he decided to pivot and dedicate himself to his travel site, BucketListly Blog.
Ten years later, Pete has built his blog into a sustainable business, earning $10k a month.
But what’s even more special is that, according to Pete, he’s providing a much-needed unique perspective in an English-speaking travel blogging industry that is predominantly dominated by a Western perspective. And so, he’s helping inspire non-Western English-speaking people to pack their bags and travel, just like him.
Keep reading to find out:
What his first entrepreneurial projects were
What site he sold for 5 figures
How he initially funded travel for his blog
Where his income comes from
His main marketing strategy
The importance of SEO
His approach to keyword research and link building
How he creates content
How he grows his email list
His favorite resources and tools
His greatest challenge
His main accomplishment
His biggest mistake
His advice for other entrepreneurs
Meet Pete Rojwongsuriya
Hey, I’m Pete, the founder of BucketListly Blog, a travel blog about solo traveling and travel photography, 2 of my favorite hobbies. I was born and raised in Thailand, which is not your typical background for travel bloggers, especially within the realm of English-language blogs.
I have a background in computer science and, like most freshly graduated Thais, I went straight to the corporate world and started working as a web developer for an international company in Bangkok.
After working long hours earning merely $600 USD per month, I decided to quit and shifted my career into the design field, working at tech startups, before venturing on my own and starting all kinds of businesses.
As I was working full-time in a web application agency in Bangkok, I dabbled in entrepreneurship a few times. My first attempt was a t-shirt design business that sells unique graphics to be screened on t-shirts to design/fashion companies, but that eventually went nowhere and I ended up quitting after a year.
After the t-shirt business, I continued to work full-time at the same company, and while doing so, I started my second business, MyColorscreen.com, which was a community that allows Android phone users to share their home screens with one another.
The website was gaining crazy traction after 1.5 years of operation and before I knew it, a company in the US offered to buy the website and I sold it for 5 figures, which is a pretty huge sum of money for Thailand.
With the savings I got after I sold MyColorScreen.com, I decided to quit my full-time job and went on to start my third business, which was a web design and development freelancing business. It took me more than 3 months of working tirelessly before I actually landed my first client.
My first and only client found me on GitHub and he asked me to help him come up with new design ideas for his customer survey sass company.
I ended up working with him for more than 6 years as a freelancer, which kickstarted my journey as a digital nomad, as the work gave me the flexibility to work remotely from anywhere, and I ended up traveling around the world, starting my blog, while continuing to work for him.
With the safety net I got from the website sales as well as the continuous flow of work from my client, I went all in with traveling way back in 2013, and 10 years later, I’m still on the road, now, no longer freelancing but working full-time on my travel blog.
Why He Created His Website
The idea of BucketListly actually began in 2013 as a social network as I was fresh off from the successful sale of my previous website. I wanted to capitalize on it again and recreate a similar community for high achievers and travelers to share their bucket list ideas and achievements, hence the name, BucketListly.
BucketListly Blog was supposed to be a business blog for the social network, a marketing channel for the app to elevate my content marketing strategy as I continued to create inspirational articles and trip reports to drive people to use the app more.
Unfortunately, the app business went nowhere and never really gained any significant traction the way I hoped it would, so I had to eventually shut it down in 2019.
The blog, on the other hand, has gained a life of its own with a small community of solo travelers, mostly from English-speaking countries like Singapore and Malaysia, forming around it. I decided to go all in with the blog in 2018, quit freelancing altogether, and turn the blog from a hobby into a business.
Five years later, I now work full-time on BucketListly Blog and am able to live off it without having to freelance on the side like I used to. I’m earning passive income while traveling around the world, which is a lifelong dream of mine.
How Much He’s Earning
As of 2023, I am earning around $10,000 USD per month on average through 2 main income streams, ads and affiliates. I earned about 35% from Mediavine ads, and 60% from affiliates, with Amazon, Booking.com, and Viator, performing consistently well, while the rest is from business deals, preset sales, content creation, image and video licensing, etc.
Keep in mind that the income often fluctuates each month depending on the season. The end of the year is always a fun time for me as the income often peaks around the holiday season.
For example, I was earning about $12,000 USD per month at the end of last year, and then it crashed by almost 33% in January and continued to climb again each quarter as the year progressed.
I started BucketListly Blog as a hobby in 2013 so I was earning absolutely nothing for the first 5 years of its existence. It was not until 2018, when I decided to turn the blog into a business that I started gaining more traction to apply for an ad network like Mediavine and started earning a living wage.
Technically, my journey took me almost 10 years through trial and error, but in reality, I would say it took me around 5 years of working on the website full-time (while traveling the world) to get to where I am today.
At the moment, BucketListly Blog is getting around 164k unique visitors and around 263k pageviews.
Pete’s Top Marketing Strategy
My marketing strategy is pretty sporadic to tell you the truth, as I often try to adapt to the forever-changing algorithm of Google, which seems extra relentless lately with its shuffling of search results.
That said, my main goal remains the same: to focus on creating highly detailed content for my readers to help them plan their trip more effectively, so many of my articles are long-form with around 3,000 words minimum.
My niche is all about backpacking and solo traveling, with many of my travel guides written in a way that people can easily follow and adapt to whatever travel style each individual might prefer, all the while, saving a bit of money here and there.
I cover pretty much any destination in the world, but during Covid, I decided to shift my focus a little more towards traveling in Thailand. I started covering hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path destinations that a foreigner might not know about, which worked out pretty well as travel in Thailand rebounded after Covid.
Some articles can be as long as 10,000 words depending on how long the trip is, for example, a 3-month itinerary in Europe or a 6-month itinerary in South America, etc. My articles are often accompanied by a ton of photos that help our readers get the feel of the place before they go there.
My content usually does not sell the romance of traveling like most influencers’ content. I focused solely on providing practical information and useful tips to help make it happen to our readers, and that is what I often focus on when I write new content for BucketListly Blog.
I do not outsource any of my writing. I wrote around 99% of the content on BucketLIstly Blog with a few exceptions. I do accept guest posts sometimes, usually from the people I know or whom I interacted with online before, but that’s about it.
The Importance of SEO
SEO is extremely important, as 88% of the traffic coming into BucketListly Blog is from search engines. I mostly learned SEO through trial and error as well as reading up on the current trends on websites like SEOroundtable and the community over at Mediavine’s Facebook group.
When it comes to SEO strategy, I often switch between improving old articles and improving the user experience and the technical side of SEO like page speed, image load speed, rich snippets, etc. to keep up with the current SEO trend. I would often do these things at least twice a year and the rest, I would either spend most of my time traveling or writing new content for the blog.
I have tried a few tools to help with my SEO strategy like KeySearch, which helped me out quite a bit in the beginning as I had no idea how SEO worked.
I have also tried out Ahrefs and SEMRush, but I have yet to find a reason to invest more in them as I have been doing quite well without them. Maybe in the near future, I might invest more in those tools.
I will always do keyword research on my first-hand experience and the material I got from the place I visited. Once I know what type of content I can create from the material I got, I will use tools like KeySearch and Ahrefs to do a simple keyword idea generation, and then I start writing my content.
Sometimes, I will also go on Google and simply look around for relevant search queries, check out the competitors, see what I can do better, and start improving my content from there.
I know link building is still extremely important today, but as a solo entrepreneur and with all the travel and content creation I have to do, I rarely get the time to properly invest in link building, so I don’t do as much of it.
I might reach out or reply to very reputable outlets, but other than that, I rarely ever do link building on my blog.
Pete’s Content Creation Process
When it comes to writing for a travel blog, it’s important for me to have first-hand experience with a place before writing about it. First, I have to get to that location, take all the photos and notes I might need for content creation, and then I brainstorm ideas as I go.
Once the trip is over and I’m back home, I will start doing keyword research and begin writing content.
I often use Google Tasks to keep track of content ideas and I go through them one by one when I’m home. Unlike other bloggers, I work by myself, so all I need is a simple task manager and I’m all set.
Every day, I spend around 3 to 5 hours writing new content based on whatever is at the top of Google Tasks and I work my way down each day until I run out of things to write. Once I hit the end, I will start traveling again and the cycle continues.
When I’m traveling, I will have these newly created articles scheduled to be posted twice a week (8 articles per month) so I can fully immerse myself in traveling without having to work for a few months on end before I come back home and continue my content creation’s cycle again.
Basically, I’m traveling for half a year and working another half, which I think is the perfect work-life balance for me. Sometimes, I even have months where I don’t have to work at all thanks to all the articles I previously scheduled.
For example, as of August 2023, I already have articles scheduled on my blog all the way to next year, so technically, I wouldn’t have to write anything new for at least 6 months, which is why I can often take long trips like spending 6 months in South America, etc.
My work hours vary. For the half year of traveling, I often go out early in the morning and come back late, visiting all the places I have to write about, taking photos, and capturing videos. I alternate between a full day of doing that and resting days to have some time for me to relax.
For the other half of the year, I would spend around 3 to 5 hours on content creation 5 days a week, and the rest of the day, it’s a little hard to quantify as I would alternate between experimenting with technical SEO, trying out new tools, and catching up on SEO news and competitors, all the while relaxing and enjoying my downtime before my next trip.
At the moment, I have around 550 articles live on BucketListly Blog. When the articles go live, I often share them on Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) and I send out a newsletter to all my followers. I don’t do this for every newly published article.
I usually group them up and send them out about once a month. It does get some traffic but nothing compared to the traffic I get from Google.
His Email List
I have a semi-active email list of around 4,500 subscribers for BucketListly Blog and I send out around an email a month. I only grow it via a subscriber form at the footer of the blog by providing a free Lightroom preset on sign-ups, and that’s it.
I wish I could spend more time on the email list and growing it, but at the moment, I’m experimenting with improving the user experience of my blog as well as more content creation, so the email list is taking the backseat for now.
His Favorite Resource
YouTube is an infinite wealth of knowledge and you can learn almost anything on there, from creating travel photography to developing your own website. In fact, my blog is built on a CMS written in Ruby on Rails and YouTube is how I learned how to develop it myself and expand the feature I wanted.
I don’t have a specific channel, but if you want to learn more about WordPress development, travel photography, and more, YouTube is the way to go.
Also, when it comes to diving deeper into the nitty and gritty of online businesses, websites like Niche Pursuits have plenty of valuable interviews that shed light on how things really work in the industry that you can learn from.
You can also check out your favorite bloggers and search for income reports and other self-reflecting articles to learn from.
Pete’s Go-To Tools
My indispensable tools are:
Google Products: Gmail for communication, Google Tasks for to-do lists, Google Keep for note-taking, Google Drive for document sharing, and Google Photos for photography backups
Grammarly: I use Grammarly to help fix grammatical errors, which happen more often than I’d like to admit
Adobe products: Can’t live without it. All the travel photos on my blog have been edited with Adobe Lightroom.
His Biggest Challenge
Of course, as a travel blogger, surviving Covid was one of the biggest challenges my business has ever faced as website traffic and income were obliterated overnight. I earned less than the minimum wage in Thailand, which is extremely low, the first month after Covid.
Thankfully, the way I live my life, working by myself, having no debt, and making savvy business decisions, I was able to ride the Covid wave out without having much impact on me except mentally. I’m spending less than $30 per month to maintain my blog even now, for example.
Finally, Covid is over and BucketListly Blog is now performing better than ever before. There were a few hiccups here and there at the end of the first quarter of 2023, thanks to the AI revolution and the latest foray of Google core updates, but whatever comes my way, I will have to adapt to it, as all businesses do.
His Greatest Accomplishment
My greatest accomplishment is being able to create a like-minded community of people on BucketListly Blog who enjoy a similar way of travel, exploration, and a way of life that does not focus on excess and narcissism but, rather, on immersing oneself in the culture and place, and helping each other along the way.
I always appreciate when people come up to me and tell me that they enjoy the type of content I do, focusing on showing the place instead of making it all about me. That always warms my heart whenever someone says that and I consider that my greatest accomplishment.
One of the first articles that went viral on Reddit and got my blog noticed was the Traveling the World as a Third-World Passport Holder article, which shed light on how difficult it is to travel the world if you are not from the Western countries.
Another article that I am extremely proud of is On My Way to Everest, one of the longest articles I have ever written, with over 15,000 words, documenting my experience trekking to Everest Base Camp in Nepal independently for 15 days, every step of the way.
It doesn’t get much traffic and I doubt people actually read the entire thing but I can always look back at it, and be proud of my accomplishment, both physically and digitally. Hopefully, the article will inspire someone to do the same.
What He Wishes He Knew When He Started
I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self about all the SEO knowledge I have acquired over the years through trial and error.
Things like the importance of a well-structured blog, internal linking, using the right rich snippets, how to write well-crafted affiliate content, how to improve page speed and image load speed, how to write for the readers, not for myself, and so much more.
Basically, I went through hell before I got myself here and I wish there had been someone around for me to consult about this technical stuff.
Locally, it was impossible, especially in 2013, as the tech industry was still in its infancy in Thailand back then, and online content wasn’t readily available like it is now.
His Main Mistake
I wish I had focused on building a business with my travel blog right out of the gate, way back in 2013. I would have been able to grow my blog faster than I do now.
I was working as a freelancer back then so I didn’t really feel the need to work on my blog. Now that I’m working full-time, I have so many old articles that I have to fix as they weren’t up to my standard and are not providing any useful information to our readers.
If I could start over, I would have started writing for the purpose of helping other people rather than just writing for myself.
His Advice for Other Entrepreneurs
Trial and error is inevitable, and so the earlier you start experimenting, the faster you will see results. If you are planning to build an online business like a blog, set up a WordPress blog right away, start writing content that will help someone, go live, and test the water.
It can take years before Google starts sending regular traffic to your website and starts earning income. Don’t wait for the stars to align, start now, learn, and grow from it.