"You should optimize your blog."
I wasn't sure what they meant, but after a brief explanation I realized they meant monetize my blog. Using affiliate marketing. Ads.
It didn't sit right with me and I dismissed the idea.
But then I heard it from someone else. And another person.
So, I looked into it. I talked to several people with blogs similar to mine and they explained how easy it was to make passive income. I decided to try it.
It still didn't sit right with me. I felt a little yucky inside, but I ignored the feeling. The idea of passive income while out pursuing my passions seemed so good. Not to mention I had control over ads, links, etc and could make sure that they were only for products I fully endorsed.
To be clear, I don't have a problem with advertising on blogs, or affiliate marketing. Everything from Google to Facebook reads your text messages, calendars, searches, browsing history, etc to tailor advertisements to you. I'd rather choose to click on ads on a blog of someone I trust, knowing they may get a portion, than to blindly let the megalithic behind-the-scenes marketing algorithms attempt to influence my spending habits.
I put the affiliate marketing in place before I left for the AT. I let it do it's thing for 3 months. In the end though, I still felt uneasy about it.
When it came right down to it, when I was absolutely, completely honest with myself I had to face up to the fact that, while I don't have negative feelings toward the concept...
I wasn't being true to myself.
Utilizing affiliate marketing, or marketing in general doesn't suit me. I'm not a salesperson. Trying to be one, even in a passive way, wasn't authentic.
I never intended to make a living off of hiking. I never intended to be famous. I never intended to be a brand ambassador for anyone. I never intended to become an advertisement.
And guess what? I still don't.
I'll never make a living off of hiking because I'm not interested in, or willing to do the things that would allow me to do so.
I don't care if I'm famous. Hell, I deliberately try to keep my plans secret because I like being by myself. My goals, adventures, and trips take place because I want to do them. If no one cares about the route/peak/trail and what I'm doing on it...Guess what? I don't care. I'm doing it anyway. I'm not in this for glory, I'm in this to live my life to the grandest, fullest, most maximal capacity I can. And whatever catches my fancy next, I'm going to go after with the same ardor and dedication that I have brought alternately over the years to writing, thru-hiking, running, climbing, and FKT's.
I use the products I want to use because I like them. I've turned down offers of gear, ambassadorships, and freebies because I didn't want them/couldn't use them/thought they were crap. I'm not going to start cooking my food because someone wants me to use their stove and cookware. I'm not going to stop wearing a dress because a company wants to cover me in their apparel.
I will tell anyone and everyone exactly what I think about the products I use. Good or bad. Pluses, minuses, pros and cons. I will do so with integrity, and tact, but it's going to be honest. And if a company cannot deal with that, then I will politely decline to be affiliated with them.
I took down the affiliate links on my blog. I still review items I think people would be interested in. I try to note the things I received for free to review, but in reality, that doesn't affect the content of the review.
As far as passive income goes...I am working on a series of e-books that can be downloaded for a nominal fee. I'd rather sell my expertise and information than try and turn my blog into an advertisement. Because, that is authentic and genuine...
That is being true to myself.