Interview Series: Barbara Weibel of Hole in the Donut

How do you build a popular blog? What should you focus on? And why is branding oh-so-important from the outset?

Barbara Weibel - the driving force behind Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel - knows what it takes to build a successful travel blog. In this interview Barbara reveals:

  • the *most* important thing to focus on before you start blogging
  • why “slow and steady” is the way to go
  • three things every new travel blogger must do

Enter Barbara…

How did you come up with Hole in the Donut?

I spent nearly 35 years working in corporate jobs that paid the bills but brought no joy. I plodded on because I thought that’s what was expected of me - to keep my nose to the grindstone and accumulate enough wealth to allow me live comfortably in retirement.

I was selling my soul, concerned more with what others thought of me rather than what would make me happy. I felt like the proverbial donut - solid on the outside but empty on the inside.

Eventually, I became extremely sick with Lyme disease, which was exacerbated by all the stress in my life. It was then I realized that all the money in the world was no good if I was never going to be able to do the things I had always dreamed of.

I vowed that if I recovered, I would walk away from my corporate life to travel the world, hoping to recreate myself as a travel writer and photographer, the only things I’d ever really wanted to do. I started a blog to document my travels and named it Hole In The Donut as an eternal reminder that I needed to be true to myself and follow my passions.

What was your first big “break” in terms of traffic?

I don’t think I ever had a “first break.”

My traffic has increased steadily over the years, as I added more and more original, quality content. It is possible to grow a blog faster than I have, but in the long run the slow, steady method is best.

In my opinion, the key is regular, quality, original content, combined with effective search engine optimization. Trying to “game” the system to achieve traffic and ranking always ends badly.

What was the dumbest thing you did when you started out?

Initially, I started my blog as a means for my friends and family to keep track of me when I headed out for my first six-month round-the-world trip.When I returned to the States, I rented an apartment in Florida and spent about 50% of my time traveling around the U.S.

During the times I was not traveling, my blog descended into a mishmash of travel related content and commentary about my day-to-day life in Florida, interspersed with musings about the politics of the States. Several other bloggers advised me to find a niche and stick to it but unfortunately I ignored that advice.

Eventually, I realized they were right and began restricting my posts to travel content only, however I still needed to narrow my focus. I had a really hard time deciding what my blog was about. Was it about solo travel, budget travel, backpacking, spiritual travel?

I tinkered with all these themes until I finally realized that the common denominator running through all my writing, and what I was most passionate about, was culture. I re-branded myself as Hole In The Donut Cultural Travel and have never looked back, but I wish I had taken that advice much sooner.

What three things would you suggest new travel bloggers do first?

First and foremost, learn to write well. Pay attention to grammar, punctuation, and employ literate writing skills, making sure that you have thoroughly researched the facts of your stories rather than just repeating what someone else has said on the Internet.

Second, buy your own domain name and get a self-hosted WordPress blog.

Third, educate yourself about Search Engine Optimization and employ good SEO techniques.

How do you monetize Hole in the Donut ?

Currently, I earn income through the sale of ads on my site. However that model is rapidly changing and there is a good deal of uncertainty whether this revenue is sustainable, especially in light of Google’s ever increasing campaign to identify and rout out paid text links.

I also earn a bit from the occasional sale of photos for publication and writing freelance articles for other publications, however the latter is difficult, as the blog takes up a good deal of my time. In the future I hope to develop alternate sources of revenue, including ebooks, a published memoir, and perhaps even public speaking.

Can other people write for Hole in the Donut ? If so, how?

All my content is reserved for first-person narrative articles about my personal travels around the globe, thus I don’t accept any guest or sponsored posts. This puts the onus on me, but I sincerely believe it is a big reason my blog is so popular.

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About adamcosta

Adam Costa is co-founder and Editor in Chief of both and TravelBloggerAcademy. He currently lives... um... somewhere.


  1. Wow, great post. Really thank you! Will read on…