Sustainability Blogging and the Nomadic Lifestyle: Is it all sunshine and beaches?

Sustainability Blogging Digital Nomad

I woke up this morning in Auckland, a new city. I have been here for about a week. My head was full of flu, and getting out of my little pod no larger than a jail cell to use the communal bathroom. All for a hefty New Zealand price tag. The image I posted on social media is of my Macbook at the café next door overlooking the beach.

Being mindful that the image does not portray the whole picture, the post is more of gratitude rather than showing off my situation. I feel grateful to be able to work at the coffee shop, more precisely, Takapuna Beach Café and Store, and all I need is my Mac and Sony noise-cancelling headphones. I feel grateful for my freedom. But it all comes at some cost. Yesterday, and many days, I contemplated getting a regular job with a regular income. But ultimately, most days, it is more a state of groundlessness, not knowing what tomorrow will bring.

Sustainability Blogging and Nomadic Existence

Sustainability blogging did not bring me to Auckland or this nomadic existence I now live. My children did. My ex-wife moved to New Zealand from South Africa a little more than a year ago. I came here last year to visit for three months, feeling blessed with the freedom my work situation provides me. The planned work period ended up being more of an extended holiday with my blog results suffering, and oh, how you can burn through emergency funds in an expensive country like New Zealand.

Making a Living with Sustainability Blogging

Ok, let’s be clear. Sustainability blogging does not provide me with enough income to support my kids and for me to live yet. In any way or form, even on the cheap. Conservation Mag was started in 2019 as a passion project during my PhD in environmental management studies. Today, it is still a passion project. But my focus has slightly shifted to turn it into a consistent income stream. You can be part of my journey in this way.

My primary income is from a research consulting business, iFeedback, which I started as a part-time gig while working in corporate. I provide data collection and research advisory services to many universities, primarily based in South Africa, but also internationally, one I brag about, Harvard University. This research project income is sporadic, like many project-based gigs.

Ultimately, many independent bloggers develop some income other than their blogging in the form of consulting, speaking and providing advice to other bloggers on how to make money with blogging, which digresses away from the blog's original intent. It evolves as you realise what provides an income, what people want to read and what you can stomach to do every day.

Here are some of the lessons I learned

I think starting with the end in mind is essential. This is the kind of advice you give your children. You can choose the career that pays. Don’t do the art. Unfortunately, life does not work like this. We pursue our passions. Start something on the side. Have hobbies that turn into businesses. Or, like some of us, enjoy punishing ourselves with topics that are not on the money-making list. If you are in it for the money – look at the pay trends and follow some making money with blogging advice – they come with many years of learning and maybe suffering.


Hosting is critical! Hosting has been a constant bugbear not only for the blog magazine but also for my research company. More for the research company that needs to deal with online surveys. All the bloggers out there put this first on their list. It is so important. Could you call someone when the website does not work? You need a system that works, and that reduces your learning curve. I found Scala Hosting to be the best—instant 24-hour service. A managed server based where I want it. And a SPanel that is simple to use.

Where all the sheep are, the grass is usually sweeter. As a Joomla enthusiast for many years and specifically for not dealing with learning curves, I decided to use Joomla rather than WordPress to develop my blog. This has disadvantages, specifically in the monetisation of the blog. The monetisation tools are primarily developed for WordPress. It comes with advantages; the website is different. The site provides a slightly different feel, tools and solutions. But ultimately, my life would have been immensely easier using the system all the other sheep are flocking to.

The 80/20 rule is very real in blogging. 20% or even less of your articles will deliver 80% of the traffic. Focus on those. Look for the keywords that matter. Sometimes, you can spend years writing stuff that does not gain enough traffic. Expand articles that are performing well. Improve your SEO to focus on those keywords. But be open to writing other stuff, too sometimes you will be surprised by what people search for. I use Ubersuggest to research keywords and track my site's SEO performance.

The world's obsession with growth and numbers is a factor in the environmental problem, as is the global human drive to survive and thrive. Get growth and more money. Get more customers. The blogging role is no different. Large media houses paying for advertising and associate income providers need large numbers; they will screen you out if you do not have enough readers. Unfortunately, you will need to focus on traffic first.

It takes time. In Neil Patel's latest post on how long it takes for websites to show the results of SEO optimisation. Two years is the sweet spot. However, getting a blog to be profitable and meaningfully contribute may take a lot longer, especially if your objective is to make a meaningful difference rather than money, as mine with Conservation Mag. This game rewards the patience and persistence of those who stick it out. Stay the course!

Dr Adriaan Buys
Dr Adriaan BuysEnvironmentalist, Speaker & Consultant
Adriaan Buys, the founder of, is a researcher, environmental consultant, speaker and wildlife photographer. With a passion for inspiring change, he tells the stories of nature's plight. Contact him at

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