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How Did I Become The Travel Mama?

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I never considered writing a blog until last year. I always kept a journal and I had been taking writing classes for about ten years. I even wrote a rough draft of a novel when I was pregnant with my first child. But up until last spring, it never occurred to me to write a blog. I didn’t read blogs regularly or even understand what a blog was, really. So why did I launch TravelMamas.com one year ago?


I’m pictured above with my daughter in Kauai, Hawaii in 2005 on one of my first trips as a Travel Mama

After my daughter was born in 2005, I was nervous about taking my first trip with an infant. I searched the Internet and bookstores for information on how to travel with a baby. There was surprisingly little information on the topic available at the time. So, I asked friends, family members, the ladies at the nail salon, and pretty much any parent I met for tips on how to travel with a wee one in tow.

After a few trips with my daughter and armed with loads of tips from other traveling parents, I jotted down ideas and stories about how to travel with children…and stay sane! Before I knew it, I had written three chapters of a book.

Then I got pregnant with my second child. I was physically and emotionally exhausted from the stress of a high-risk pregnancy. My writing was put aside. After my healthy baby boy was born, I was too busy parenting two young children to find much time to write.

A friend who was a new mom asked me if I had any tips on traveling with a baby. I emailed her those first three chapters. She told me I had to finish writing that book to help other moms and that she would be the first in line to buy it.

Newly inspired, I signed up for a class on how to write a book proposal for a non-fiction book. The teacher advised we take one year to write the proposal. I gave myself four months. I wanted to be ready for the 2009 SDSU Writers’ Conference, where I could meet real-live book agents and editors. I brought a one-page synopsis of The Travel Mamas’ Guide and discussed my book idea with three agents and one editor. Guess what? All four asked for my full proposal!

I was bubbling over with excitement and had to share my good news with someone. I kept sneaking outside between break-out sessions to call my husband and parents from my cell phone. It was one of the best days of my life.

The following week, I sent my book proposal to the three agents from the conference. One agent was ready to send my book out to publishers right away; one asked me to get back to her in six months after I’d created a blog and gotten a couple of articles published; another wanted to sign me right away but wait to send out the proposal to publishers until after I had built my platform as a travel expert. It was a difficult decision, but my gut told me to go with the third agent, Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary Agency.

I decided launching a website was the most pressing item on my platform-building agenda. I wanted to create the site I wished had existed when I first had a baby.

While I worked on writing the site’s content, I hired a graphic designer to develop a Travel Mamas logo as well as the overall look of the website. I then hired a web designer to put the initial site together. Then I wrote my welcome blog post, Why We Travel with Children. Less than two months after attending the writers’ conference, TravelMamas.com went live.

I had never submitted anything for publication before last year. I suppose this was half due to fear of rejection, half due to being utterly overwhelmed by the process. I had no idea where to start. I bought the Writer’s Digest Handbook of Magazine Article Writing to learn the ins and outs of submitting articles and queries to magazines. Soon thereafter, I landed my first paid writing job. My article, Have a Good Trip! Tips for a Hassle-Free Family Getaway was featured in Babytalk Magazine’s June/July 2009 issue.

It was official. I was a “real writer,” or at least I felt I could legitimately call myself a writer. If you are at a cocktail party or a playgroup at the park and you tell someone you are a writer, that person’s eyes get all squinty as they ask, “Have you ever been published?” What they’re really saying is, “Oh, really? You call yourself a writer. Well, I’m a writer too. I write memos at work all of the time. Anyone can write. You just have to string words together.”

I could now answer that question (maybe a tad smugly), “Yes, I have been published.” So there!

A month later my second article, San Diego Staycations, was featured in San Diego Family Magazine and shortly thereafter I landed a gig as an ongoing contributor to 101 Things To Do San Diego Magazine. Meanwhile, I was plugging along with the website. I sought out sponsors to provide prizes for contests to attract visitors. I even hosted a blog contest, for which the winner was chosen by my readers from three finalists. Meanwhile, I started teaching classes on how to travel with babies and toddlers. Then I discovered Twitter, which opened a whole new world of networking possibilities, travel information, and, eventually, friendships.

At first Travel Mamas wasn’t really even a blog; it was purely a website. There was no way to even make a comment on one of my stories if you wanted to. At the end of summer, I hired another web design company to integrate my blog posts into Word Press. Finally, people could make comments on my posts and feel like they are part of the conversation; it’s not just me blathering on and on into the ether.

In September I went to my first blog conference, the Type-A Mom Conference in Asheville, North Carolina where I met other bloggers and learned tips for monetizing my site and more. The highlight was meeting some fabulous travel bloggers. It was amazing to connect with other women who were just as obsessed with traveling, writing, search engine optimization, and checking Twitter on their iPhones as I was.

From the conference sessions, I learned to write differently for an online audience than I did for magazines. I started to post shorter stories with more photos (this post being a notable exception!). I began to read other blogs and comment on them. I had officially joined the blogging community!

Now I focus on blogging because I know my story will get published. I know that I can write about what I want to and that maybe my story will strike a chord with someone. And maybe a mom will stress less, enjoy more, and connect deeper with her family on her next vacation. That’s my goal.

I have spent one year building my platform as The Travel Mama. My agent will be sending my book proposal for The Travel Mamas’ Guide out to publishers within the next couple of months. Wish me luck!

I couldn’t be a blogger without a husband who supports my dreams. My husband, Phil, understands when I spend Sunday afternoons locked away in my office. He has gotten used to me sitting with a laptop across my knees while we watch “Survivor” and “How I Met Your Mother.” He knows that I will stay up until 1:00 am the night before my bimonthly newsletter goes out, and that he must therefore mind the baby monitor and get up with the children the next morning.

Phil is not a writer, but he gave me the best writing advice I’ve received all year. It was after he read my post, Give a Little, Get a Lot! He said, “This is how you should be writing. Sure people want to know which hotel pool is best for kids, but what will keep them coming back to your site again and again is when you write from your soul.”

This year, I will continue to write about the best family-friendly restaurants, hotels, destinations, and attractions. I will continue to give travel tips and interview experts. I will host giveaways and post travel trivia questions. I will review travel products and add them to the site’s resource listings. But I’ll try to write more stories from my soul too. I hope you’ll come along for the journey!

To celebrate the one-year anniversary of Travel Mamas, JW San Antonio Marriott Hill Country Resort & Spa will award one lucky family with a two-night luxury vacation package with goodies to pamper every member of the family. Learn more about this incredible resort and enter to win a luxury family vacation package.

Do you have any insights or questions to share about blogging, writing, or traveling? Let us know in the comments!

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments
  1. http://Colleen%20Lanin,%20The%20Travel%20Mama says

    Thanks so much for your sweet comment, Jody! It is so wonderful to have with friends like you with whom I share a love of travel and writing. It really means so much to know there are others out there who feel the same way I do – I think that’s why we love our blog conferences so much. I can’t wait to see you and my other travel bloggy friends at TBEX this summer!

  2. http://Jody says

    Awww, thanks for the mention. Since our oldest are the same age we began our quest at the same time- and for the same reason! I’m thrilled to call you my friend- as well as my fellow travel blogger. Congrats on one year and I can’t wait to see your book in print!

  3. http://Lisa%20@%20The%20World%20is%20Calling says

    Congrats, Colleen! It takes gumption and courage and stamina to plug along–I’m so excited about your progress already. I’m buying you a glass of champagne at TBEX!

  4. http://Sonia%20Saraf says

    What a beautiful journey Colleen. Loved your story. Congrats on achieving what you always desired. You inspire me. I loved the picture…its so cute 🙂

  5. http://Colleen%20Lanin,%20The%20Travel%20Mama says

    Lisa & Sonia – Thanks so much for your kind words! Both of you inspire me!

  6. http://Bridget%20Smith says

    Congratulations on your Blogiversary! We are going to need to get together in the future. The kids are still talking about our Legoland adventures. Thanks for sharing your story. It is fun to hear about the “woman behind the blog: 😉

  7. http://Colleen%20Lanin,%20The%20Travel%20Mama says

    Bridget – Thanks so much! Karissa & I had so much fun with you & your kiddos at Legoland! It was so great to be there with THE Legoland expert! We’ll definitely have to get together again!

  8. http://Colleen%20Lanin,%20The%20Travel%20Mama says

    And this message is for Mom Joni (My MIL who will never ever read this because there is no way she knows how to subscribe to the RSS message feed, but nonetheless…) Thank you Joni! It means so much to me!

    Love, Me

  9. http://Joan says

    You are truly a gifted writer! This was both interesting AND easy to read. I’m so proud of you and your perseverance!( did I spell that right?) Love you, Mom Joni

  10. http://Ellen says

    It has been a long, educational journey and you have done a wonderful job of getting all the information you needed along the way. I don’t know if your readers know how complex it has been, especially readers like me, your mom. Congratulations. I’m looking forward to your next chapter.

  11. http://Erica says

    It helps so much when husbands are supportive. My poor hubby has to go through the same thing – to the point where we just watch all our Netflix on his computer while I do my thing on mine.

    I’m glad you could find a niche that really needed help!

  12. http://Colleen%20Lanin,%20The%20Travel%20Mama says

    To Ellen (a.k.a. The Travel Grandma, and my mom):

    Thanks, Mama! 🙂 I so appreciate all of your support of my crazy dreams!

  13. http://Colleen%20Lanin,%20The%20Travel%20Mama says

    Erica – How wonderful that you have a supportive husband too! It makes a world of difference!

  14. http://Laura%20V says

    Hello! I stumbled across your blog/site and I am so glad I did! One of the things I most often hear from my friends without kids: “We want to travel before we have kids because we know we wont be able to after”. So not true… I have been traveling since the day I was named and I didn’t think that starting a family would stop me…..it has not but I think I am just more prepared and a smarter planner now! While as before a last minute fly with the wind type of event could have occurred, I am much more of a planner and resourceful with my family along!

    Nice to see other mamas out there seeing the world and bringing along the little ones to enjoy it too! I look forward to becoming a regular to the site!

    Laura

  15. http://Colleen%20Lanin,%20The%20Travel%20Mama says

    Laura – I’m so glad to you haven’t stopped traveling just because you have kids! Travel with kids is definitely different from travel without them, but both are so worthwhile. Thanks for your comment. I hope you’ll stop back & share some of your travel tips from time to time! 🙂

  16. http://Shelley%20Miller says

    Hi Prof,

    This is my first comment to a blog. I’m learning a lot in your class. Your “About” section is helping me to fashion mine.

    See you in class tomorrow night.

    Shelley

  17. http://Colleen%20Lanin,%20The%20Travel%20Mama says

    Prof – ha! 😉 Thanks for the comment, Shelley. And thanks for your kind words about my Blogging 101 class. I’m glad you’re finding it useful. See you tonight!

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