UponArriving Turns Five (Here’s How It All Began)

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Five years ago today, I was living in a little English town called Banbury in the UK, commuting to school in London, and exploring new destinations in Europe for the very first time.

The travel bug had bitten me and bitten hard.  

I was taking tons and tons of photographs on each trip, and I knew I was coming up with a lot of ideas for travel content but I just didn’t have the right outlet for all the content.

Sharing random photos and travel thoughts on Facebook posts and getting likes from Grandma just wasn’t enough. I wanted to put myself out there in a way that brought real value to the world.

So I decided to start a travel website, but first, I needed a name (and not a stupid one). 

I spent some time trying to figure out a name for the new blog. I wanted something a little catchy and not overly used, but I couldn’t decide for the life of me what to go with.  

I tossed around many ideas. Mostly ultra-generic names that included variations of “Wanderlust,” “Globetrotter” – the usual go-to travel blog names you’ve probably seen. 

But nothing stood out.

And then “UponArrival” just popped into my head. I checked its availability online and across social media and to my dismay it wasn’t available but a close cousin was.

So with one slight alteration the name was born.

“UponArriving.”

I was stoked to finally have a name but then realized there was a much larger problem: I didn’t really know what the blog was supposed to be.

Everyone said a general travel blog was just too broad and that you needed to find a niche (which I still think is mostly true) but I had no clue what niche to pursue.

Adventure travel was the most appealing, but I wasn’t quite a true adrenaline junkie. Luxury travel was out of the question since I was basically broke and food/drink blogs seemed overplayed not to mention how unrefined my palate is. 

I just couldn’t commit to a niche.   

So I just started writing random articles related to my experiences like my first article: Northern Lights… from a plane!? and my second article: The Blue Lagoon in Iceland: 9 Tips for Having a Great Experience.

Then I watched as months rolled on and my ghost town of a blog got a whopping ten, maybe twenty views a day. It was fun writing travel articles but tracking my blog stats was flat out depressing.

I had a distant dream of some day making a living from my laptop blogging about travel one day but it was just that: a (very) distant dream.

I knew to get anywhere blogging I needed to find a niche. And I needed to find one fast.  

Fast forward about five months to March 27, 2015.

Brad and I were planning a visit back to Houston to surprise my mom after being away for about eight months. 

Our flight was BA0195 London (LHR) to Houston (IAH).  

My dad offered (very graciously) to pay for our flights and allowed us to splurge on British Airways “premium economy.”

I was absolutely stoked to be flying premium economy, as I’d never flown anything except normal economy and it was a long flight back to Houston from London.

As we boarded our plane, the scanner beeped and lit up when my boarding pass was scanned.

“Great,” I thought. There was probably an issue with my boarding pass. I immediately assumed I was headed back to economy and was honestly a little heart broken.  

But it wasn’t an error….

Instead, Brad and I had been upgraded to business class (Club World) on the British Airways 747!

As I made my way across the jet bridge and started looking for my seat, I was still very confused.

I’d never even seen a business class cabin up close before and when the flight attendant showed me our seats — my jaw dropped.  

I saw fully lie-flat seats, large monitors, and infinite leg-room. And this was going to be my home for the next 10 hours!? It just didn’t compute.    

First business class flight ever, all thanks to a random upgrade!.

What’s funny now is that business class on BA would be at the bottom of my list of impressive business class cabins but at the time, it may as well have been the Etihad Apartment!

Seriously, I was floored.

After that flight, I could not get that experience out of my head and replayed the flight over and over again. The free champagne, desserts, fully reclined seats, hot towels, jolly accents — I loved everything about it.

Suffice it to say, I never wanted to fly economy again.

Up to that point, I’d vaguely heard about people who fly business class and first class for pennies on the dollar but I’d never really looked into doing it myself. It just seemed like way too much work and those “travel hacking” people sort of sounded like nut-jobs (let’s be honest some still do). 

But that experience gave me the motivation to look more into that exciting world. 

And that’s when I knew I’d found my niche: travel rewards.

Little did I know that this niche would be the reason why I’d end up dropping my career as an attorney and pursuing my ultimate dream job of travel blogging, being my own boss, and earning passive income….

But what’s really crazy about it is that it all started with one unexpected seat upgrade. One completely random event altered the course of my life.

Now, there’s a lot that took place from the time of that upgrade to the time I went full-time on UponArrving. In fact, it took a full 3.5 years of some serious side-hustle grinding.

Balancing work as a full-time attorney and wannabe blogger wasn’t easy. There were lots of ups and downs and one point in December of 2017 when I was only a couple of months away from giving up on UponArriving entirely due to dismal stats.

I have plenty to say about the struggles during those times and everything I learned from them but for now I just wanted to share the story of how UponArriving came into existence.

It was a little bit of luck (thanks to British Airways), a little bit of spontaneity (thanks to my Dad), and a lot of hard work and sacrifice (that was made possible with support from Brad, my husband).

But it just goes to show you how important it is to always remain open to possibilities that come your way.

So once again thanks so much for reading and if you have any interest in doing your own thing online feel free to share and I’d love to offer any insight or advice that I can.

Two commenters below will also win a $100 AA e-Gift card.  

 

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93 comments

  1. Great story! I’ve always wanted to blog about my award travel redemptions but they pale in comparison. I’m probably 3/10 in mastery. How can I get started as a contributor ?

  2. Love the blog and admire the guts & determination it took to make it work. The points & miles game still confuses me. My partner and I take 1-2 big international trips a year. We splurge and go business class (like u, we “discovered” biz class a few years ago and are now spoiled for life). We don’t have loyalty to any one airline (whatever is cheapest at the time), and since we are flying biz, we get lounge access, early boarding, etc.. So, getting one of the “premium” $450/yr fee cards doesn’t make sense for us (I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Marriott Bonvoy Boundless). Any advice on strategy, or another card that compliments our situation and may allow us to pay for one of our trips using nothing but points/miles? Thanks for your insight.

    1. Yeah I totally get it. I would look at the Chase Ink cards if under 5/24 and then also look into AA Cards. Those usually have high bonuses, low annual fees, and are great for working to business class redemptions!

    1. Very true. They are appraised in diff ways but I usually go by a multiplier of annual profit, which can range from like 2x to 4x, depending on different factors.

  3. Love this blog. So informative. I hardly read blogs, but this one I do. I also “suffer” from the travel bug and have passed it on down to my kids.
    Congratulations and thanks!

  4. Congratulations for your 5th anniversary! Me and my girlfriend live in Spain, we have Iberia Icon and Amex Platinum. Which other cards do you recommend us? ( I tried some chase ones but the fact is I don’t have the possibility of having USA credit cards because I don’t have a US social security Number ).

  5. Congratulations and keep up the great work. I learnt a lot from your blogs and Youtube channel. Thank you for sharing the knowledge, tips and tricks.

  6. Congrats! My husband and I do take a few big trips a year, and my friends and family are always asking me to help with planning their vacations. I think it’s too late to start blogging at this point since I have nothing unique to offer, but I would love to create itineraries for people who hate planning their own trips.

    1. Congratulations! My family and friends always wonder how I end up traveling up front more often than not, and travel sites like yours are what taught me a lot about how to achieve this.

      My next goal is to book the new ANA J once the route I want is serviced by it.

  7. Happy anniversary! Your article(s) on the AMEX Platinum scored me the 100K offer, which I was then able to convert into 150K Marriot Bonvoy points! A tremendous help for our upcoming honeymoon to Italy. 🍝

  8. Congrats on 5 years! How much time did you spend working on your blog when you split time with full-time attorney duties? And now that it’s your main source of income, which are you main revenue streams?

    1. Hey, I’d usually spend about five hours a day on the blog squeezed in before work, lunch, and after work. Weekends were usually closer to a full 8 or more. I didn’t know what I was doing until 2018 so a lot of hours were spent “spinning tires.” I think a solid two hours a day would be sufficient if you had a road map. The main revenue streams are ads, affiliate products (around 7 diff sources, and sometimes sponsorships.

  9. Just started following a few weeks ago . I added to get notifications on my browser . Also subscribed on YouTube. Awesome advice for people who frequently travel. Congrats and hope for success for many years to come!

  10. Congrats! Love so much of your content, especially the thorough lists of the best small Marriott/Hilton luxury hotels and what unique qualities would cause you to use your points to stay at each of them.

    Your youtube videos are also great, looking forward to more of those when you have time and topics that benefit from video over blog format.

  11. Always love your travel tips! One of which allowed me to match and upgrade my Hilton Honors status to Diamond! Thanks so much and hope you have another great five years ahead! Best… Gary

  12. I would so feel the same way on business class for the first time. We started hacking a few years ago and fly so often we just do economy but we did economy from Dallas to Venice and it was torture! I would have loved to be in lie flat business!! One day!

  13. Congratulations on your success, Daniel! Your story shows that hard work and persistence pay off. Thanks for sharing the story of your travel blog and also for enlightening the rest of us wanna-be adventurers how to explore the world using both your tips and resources. Best wishes for continued success!

  14. While looking into Google Display Ads, advertising on https://www.uponarriving.com was one of the options. Noticed a pattern of buyers in the market for a family pet…paying with an airline credit card. Possibly high salary business men trying to make up for time away from their families(??).

    Anyway, if you have an experience with Google Ads or Facebook Ads, that would make a good YouTube video topic. Could tie it in to which credit cards have the best rewards for ad spend.

  15. Congrats on five years!! Loved hearing the background story. My wife and I would be just like you, so happy to fly premium economy because we’ve never flown anything but economy! Maybe someday we will we will redeem or upgrade to Y+ or J (dare I say F;) One thing I really love about your blog are the emails! They are easy to read, not filled with distractions. Your content is a pleasure to read and perfect in length to get the necessary info across without being too much. Keep up the great work, and thank you!!

    1. Thanks a lot. I put a lot of thought into what and how I send out content to make it easy on the readers so glad that it’s worked so far!

  16. Congrats! I always take a quick break at work to read your emails when they come. Looking forward to the app. 🙂 Here’s to another 5!

  17. I guess I’m something like 12-15 years older than you, so perhaps I was more perceptive of things when I met that young college student stepping out into the world in Oaxaca so long ago. Out of our group I said to myself “this kid will go far” and is “non-traditional” like myself (although I wasn’t sure if you knew that at the time). I’ve enjoyed seeing you grow and explore the world around you…and I’m glad that world travel has had a similar impact on you as it did me. Mazel Tov on the five year anniversary. I look forward to seeing where your adventures take you next.

    1. Thanks, Nick. I appreciate it and Oaxaca is definitely where it started. I actually started a travel blog while in Oaxaca but nothing ever came of it. I think I made one or two posts and then forgot about it — just wan’t quite the right time, I guess.

  18. I enjoyed reading the backstory to your travel rewards blog, ~Congratulations!~ on its 5th anniversary! This might sound crazy, but I aspire to regularly travel from the warm shores of Hawaii where I live to the UK where you live! It’s my favorite destination. I just returned last month from a 3 week trip (via AA) and am already looking forward to my next visit. Doing so without forking over too much of my hard-earned $ and without having to take two red-eye flights in economy class is a goal of mine! Reading your tips, advice, & insight will hopefully help me get to that point one day. Thanks!

  19. Dear Daniel!
    Gongratulations for you blog five years “birthday” and thank YOU for onest, inspired and educate videos and emails too!

    when I looking for net credit card and place of holiday in the end all of them is someway scam, YOU blog is reflexing exception! It’s give me options find bouth thing’s all together and what is best-onest way’s….. Ok, when every week come new tip’s for you driving me nut’s because I can’t make decisions!

    Keep up same way, because I’m sure that you story’s and foto’s inspitated people like me!
    Thank you and blog agen!

    All the best in future…
    Yours
    Jyri Jarvinen
    Ps. Sorry about my bad english, hope you get impression what I means!?!

  20. Congratulations on your 5 year achievement! I have yet to experience that first/business class feeling but I’m playing the points game now too so hopefully it’s only a matter of time until I get to experience that same feeling you had! Thanks for all the great posts!

  21. I’m really glad you stuck with it. I enjoy the blog and YouTube videos. Thanks for all the great advice and continued success in the future.

  22. Congratulations, Daniel! I too had a surprise upgrade to business class (this was on Emirates in 2014) and it has not been easy flying in economy after that experience. I’m grateful for the tips you share on your blog, because they help me and other readers fly in premium cabins using transferable points and miles!

  23. Congrats on the 5 year anniversary! Wish I would have found your blog (and travel hacking) earlier, but better late than never! Best wishes for continued success and upgrades!

  24. Hey Mr. G
    Congrats on the Blog Anniv.
    Does it make any sense in our digital age to become a Travel Agent for possible travel perks?

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