Creating a sustainable business with heart: an interview with yTravel
Creating a business that stands the test of time is no small feat! It’s a joy for us to celebrate major career milestones with AdThrive publishers as they become true icons in the industry.
In 2020, AdThrivers Caz and Craig Makepeace celebrated 10 years of creating content for their site yTravel — a travel blog that shares their family travel tips, guides, and inspiring adventures.
We’re chatting with Caz on their journey over the past decade and their secret ingredient to building and sustaining a successful business.
A decade of publishing is an amazing accomplishment! What has the journey been like?
When we started we were broke and unhappy, desperately searching for a way out of the dark. We had spent a life of travel — working jobs around the world. I was a teacher and Craig worked in construction and was able to live in many other countries on working holiday visas. Suddenly we were too old, and our travel options dried up.
We were devastated and started looking for ways to create our own business and income so we did not have to rely on visas. We chased a lot of quick rich schemes and got into a bad place financially. Eventually, we discovered travel blogs and saw they were writing about our life for the past 10 years — surely, we could do the same.
We had no idea how to turn that into a business, nor did we know if it was even possible, but we were determined. We didn’t start looking at it with Money Eyes though — we looked at it with eyes of passion and service. Because of that, and our expertise, we were able to quickly build a community around our blog and it grew from there.
It’s been a wild and magical ride full of many highs and lows as we figured it out. It’s been the best 10 years of my life as it has gifted us our dream life, and we get to share it with our two beautiful daughters — seeing and exploring this beautiful world we live in. It has helped us help thousands of people travel more and bring bliss into their lives. We’ve helped thousands more pursue their own dreams of creating their portable business.
And we’ve grown as much better humans who contribute to the world in a positive way. We now have multiple six-figure businesses and were recently granted a green card for our extraordinary ability in the art of travel blogging. It’s a long story, but we’ve been trying to get a green card for 14 years and it was an impossible dream. And then the travel blog happened and the impossible became our reality.
Always be open to the magic of possibilities. You may not be able to see it, but it doesn’t mean it’s not there waiting for you. You can watch my TBEX opening keynote talk that dives deeper into the hardship and magic of the journey we have been on.
What are some of the key steps that helped you establish a sustainable business?
1. Creating valuable content that inspires and informs
It has been said repeatedly — content is king. But it must be content that inspires and helps people act with trust and confidence — in not only your authority but themselves.
Our success is directly related to our unrivaled expertise. I say unrivaled because we have made travel our lifestyle, no matter what life stage we are in. Not only can we relate to many people, but we also show so many people what is possible.
I started traveling as a solo traveler living, working, and traveling overseas. Craig and I then traveled as a couple. When people told us our travel life was over because we had kids, we simply said, “You watch us,” and showed them it could be done. We’ve done full-time travel, short-term travel, ex-pat travel, and now owning an online business on travel that gives us the freedom to live anywhere we want. So, our content reflects this passion and commitment to this lifestyle and the wisdom we share with others looking to do the same.
Our readers know our family. They have been following our travels for years. They know our travel styles and interests, so when we visit an area and say, “We loved this,” generally they can trust they’ll like it too. We help people believe in the impossible and that THEY can make it happen.
2. Building relationships
Thankfully, years of travel have helped me learn that people are generally awesome with amazing stories to tell, and I just want to hear them. This means I love socializing and networking. I’m not afraid to meet new people and make connections. This has made building valuable relationships an easy and enjoyable part of our business, and one that has proved to be very fruitful.
Our success lies in genuinely wanting to connect with another soul first — NOT connecting just to get something out of it for ourselves. That is so transparent and does not create longevity. We have had wonderful long-term partnerships over the years and have built a solid reputation which gives us great referrals and testimonials to take to the next person we want to work with.
We have had so many opportunities come to us because of our relationships, and we have made incredible friendships with many other bloggers in the travel space (and other niches) who are a constant source of support, inspiration, and insights that help us to stay motivated and in the game.
3. Taking risks to walk our talk
Success involves risks and sacrifices. We’ve been able to leap when we had no wings and trust that we’d grow them on the way down. We HAD to. I knew if we didn’t, we’d remain stuck doing the same old thing whining and complaining about how the universe overlooks us for others. One of the biggest things we did was take the leap to travel full-time around Australia.
We did not have the finances to do it but went and spent the first three months living out of a tent. Eventually, it all came together and exploded our blog. It was instrumental to our success. Once we saw it worked, we leapt to do the same thing in the US. Again it involved loads of fear and obstacles and not a great foundation to do it, but phenomenal growth happened.
4. Consistent self-growth.
I am my business. I am at the center of my creation. Therefore, self-growth is on my daily agenda. If something is not working in my business I go within, not without. What am I missing? What can I improve? What am I afraid of? Why am I holding back? Why am I resisting? Where are my blocks?
We recently had a shock to our business with the latest Google update. I threw my pity party for a few weeks and then I got to work on myself. I uncovered a lot of places where I had become complacent and dropped the ball. I have spent the past few months working on myself and I can see changes already and new opportunities. We’ve broken through yet another barrier and moving up — all because I chose to do the inner work — the hardest work of all. Check back in with me in six months to see how it plays on. Change takes time.
How has the travel online content niche changed since you started your site?
It has become a LOT busier! There are so many more people now getting into the travel blogging field, and so many of them are now more equipped with creating online content effectively.
It’s becoming less about the voice of expertise and personal story and more about serving the Google Machine with SEO-rich content that answers questions people are searching for. There is nothing wrong with that of course — we do the same — but I miss hearing people’s personal travel stories and seeing them walking their talk.
So much content now seems to be collaborations and gathering of other people’s opinions, which for me personally, I have no interest in. That’s why we’re careful to remain true to our story as the ones who live and breathe travel and are sharing our expert opinion as a result of that. I also feel the community side was lost in blogs due to the rise of social media platforms and people sharing their stories there.
We’ve done our best to remain true to the essence and spirit of blogging that we fell in love with. We focus a lot on creating a community via our email list, which is quite the motivating and heartwarming part of our business.
I love it as I can connect more deeply with my readers. They aren’t afraid to talk to me as they know only I am reading it. I don’t have to worry about SEO, formatting, images, algorithms, and all that other draining stuff that blogging is now consumed by. It’s bringing back the joy of just sharing the message. It’s pure and simple.
So now I’d say much of the content that goes on the blog has a specific purpose for answering questions, serving useful content, and monetization. And the old-style inspiring stories and uplifting messages are given via email and social media.
How do your AdThrive ads play a role in your business strategy?
AdThrive is a very important part of our business strategy. It’s the reward for years of hard effort and growth building. Before, so much of our monetization relied on hustle and campaign contracts and work with a direct exchange of income. That was often quite draining and prevented us from creating content we loved and wanted to create.
Now we can, because the content will be monetized via AdThrive. And that content we did create for campaigns is still on our site, so while the contract ends, they continue to receive views — because we only create valuable content with longevity — and so we receive a second form of income.
It’s every person’s (not just business owners) dream to create passive income. This is AdThrive. It gives us the freedom and security to live a life that expresses our joy but to also create meaningful work for the world. It’s the set-and-forget blessing of our strategy. It’s the leverage we need to take risks and diversify our income in other areas.
What are some of your favorite memories from the 10 years you’ve spent building your business?
1. White House
Getting an invitation to the White House is not your typical experience! We were beyond thrilled to be invited as a top digital influencer to their first Study Abroad Summit in 2014. It was such an honor we flew all the way from Perth to attend, which is probably the furthest place in the world from it!
2. Traveling Australia
After years of exploring the world, it was a dream and so life-changing to finally see my own country. Many people say their own country is the best in the world purely because of patriotic pride, not from a place of knowing. I got to know my country. I got to see its diversity and beauty and explore every corner of her.
I don’t like to say “best in the world” as I think that shows arrogance and insecurity, but I can say Australia has an ancient and timeless spirit that speaks of adventure, freedom, joy, and beauty, and I hope everyone explores her more. I am so proud to be an Australian and there is not a day goes by I don’t honor that privilege.
One of my favorite memories happened recently on our road trip across the USA while hiking with my youngest daughter, Savannah, in North Cascades National Park. We planned to do a 7-mile return hike through the most spectacular scenery.
When we got to the turnaround point, the kids (there were 8 of us in total) heard about the glacier up ahead you could continue hiking to. They would not listen to a “no,” and you really shouldn’t say no to a kid’s enthusiasm for hiking like that. It was one of the hardest hikes of my life. We ended up hiking for 15 miles that day with an elevation gain of over 4,000 ft (and we saw three bears)!!!
While I was nearly collapsing in a heap, the kids continued to bound up the steep, rocky slope to finally touch that glacier. WOW!!! It was truly inspiring, and the kids just blew me away with their strength. Never underestimate what a child is capable of. To experience that with my daughter was a highlight of my life. And we touched a glacier!
4. Raleigh, NC
When Craig and I first moved to Raleigh in 2004, we both instantly felt at home. We knew after years of restlessly wandering, never feeling like we belonged anywhere, we finally found our place. We have loved living here on and off for six years creating wonderful friendships and diving deeper into an aspect of American culture — one that helped us believe in an entrepreneurial journey of service.
Our favorite memories are the ones we have just started to create as we have finally settled into our home with the permission to live here permanently. All because of the blog.
We love our home here and we can’t wait to explore it more in-depth and start our new passion project: our Raleigh blog and community.
5. Participate Learning
The most recent favorite is our recent partnership with Participate Learning here in Raleigh. They recruit teachers from around the world to teach in the US. Due to our blog, we have been given the opportunity to create a program that helps those teachers travel more in the USA. It’s an exciting project we can pour our passion and expertise into.
What makes it so memorable is that Participate Learning is the program I originally joined as a foreign teacher back in 2004. It was the catalyst for our love for the US and desire to live here permanently. It provided much of the inspiration for us to realize we had the power and potential to make a difference, and it was our blog that brought us back full circle. There is so much magic in this opportunity. I revel in it daily.
Be open to the magic of possibility — you never know what the universe has in store for you. Show up and give it all you’ve got.
Looking back, what advice would you give your 2010 selves when you were just starting out?
It’s all possible. Just believe in yourself. Show up every day with the intention to serve with honor, integrity, and passion. Commit to the sacrifices and doing whatever it takes. Enjoy the journey — even the hardships are blessings as they help you grow into the person who is ready for the dream. Soon enough you will be ready. But be patient.
Focus on the right things. There is so much noise telling you what works, what you should do, what formulas to follow, what rules to break. There is no possible way to make sense of the noise and see what fits your style, goals, and strategy. That is why you must work on yourself, so you develop the ability to filter through the noise and decide what works best for you. Only you know. Working on yourself is how you hear your inner voice most strongly. It’s the voice of truth guiding you to the perfect place. It’s this voice that has brought the successes and given us the faith to leap when everyone else around us told me we were stupid or shameful. The voice told me that only I know best and to leap anyway.
And if you want to get technical — focus more on SEO, build your email list, don’t be afraid to share your personality and bare your soul to your community, not just with your words in your posts, but with your voice on camera.
The world needs your light — let it shine.
Thank you for taking the time to share the story of your family and your journey with us, Caz! We are so grateful that you’re part of the AdThrive community, and we can’t wait to follow your adventures over the next decade.