Every day, I get asked quite a lot of questions via email and through the comments on this blog. Some of these questions are one-offs, but for the most part, the same kinda questions come up time and time again.
So here is a rundown of answers to my most commonly asked questions.
What prompted you to start a blog?
When I first started travelling I was incredibly diligent about writing in my travel journals. I absolutely treasured my journals and found that they were a great way to jot down all my memories, details of adventures, names of people I had befriended and a boatload of strange thoughts that one has while travelling.
One day, on a train in Italy, I had been writing in my journal, but somehow, forgot to put it back in my backpack and left it on the train. When I realised what had happened, I was absolutely devastated. I felt so saddened that in just a split second of carelessness I had lost a huge amount of thoughts and memories.
Not too long after, I started the blog with the intention that it be a kind of electronic travel journal, one that would be safer from my own forgetfulness.
Over time, the blog has grown and changed – I try to write articles and posts that could be helpful and/or inspiring to my fellow travellers, but this blog has always, and will always, retain its original sense of storytelling and reminiscing.
Did you always have an interest in writing?
As a child I loved creative writing – especially in the ‘horror’ genre – largely due to my newly divorced father not knowing that letting an 8 year old watch C.S.I probably wasn’t the best parenting, although I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love it!
As a teenager, English classes in high school were some of my favourites, and essay-writing seemed to come fairly naturally to me.
Before blogging, I had never had an interest in writing professionally, but it is something that I had always enjoyed.
Are your trips sponsored/paid for?
It’s about a 30:70 split.
Around 30% of my trips have some sort of sponsorship. This may come in the form of a discount or FOC trip in exchange for an honest write-up on the blog. I only accept sponsored trips from companies I am genuinely interested in, and always make sure that I accept such trips only if there are no restrictions on my writing – I will always be honest when writing about a trip.
The remaining 70% of my trips are self funded.
Do you reach out to companies or do they reach out to you?
This is about a 60:40 split. 60% of the time companies approach me, the other 40% I am approaching companies I am really enthusiastic about and would like to partner with.
What steps did you take to build an audience?
Growing my audience has been a long term commitment. I have been blogging for a couple of years now and have enjoyed slow and steady blog growth with a committed following of readers who return back to the blog every time I post. Such a loyal readership took time to build, but it happened organically.
I read other blogs, engaged with other bloggers, and wrote and wrote and wrote. I eventually started using social media to increase my engagement, mostly through Instagram and Facebook, but also to a lesser extent Snapchat, Twitter and Pinterest.
What blog topics do you find perform best?
When considering only destinations, I have definitely noticed that my writing about the Philippines, the Maldives, Iceland and Greenland are my most read posts.
However, the topics and posts that seem to perform best are my packing lists and my travel guides – my regular readers seem to enjoy my personal travel stories and accounts, but anything designed to be useful for other travellers will always get more hits.
How do you make money from blogging?
Short answer – I don’t – at least not much! I occasionally earn some loose change for guest articles or blog posts, but mostly, blogging allows me to travel much more cheaply.
Sure, I could probably monetise this blog – I get a decent number of hits and have a substantial following, but I hate advertising and affiliate links on websites, so I have no desire to put such stuff on my own site.
Instead, I choose to work with brands and companies that I am personally really excited about and/or really believe in – allowing me to travel cheaply or freely in exchange for me giving my honest opinions about them.
For me, this works well. It may not be the ‘dream’ for everyone wanting to become a full time blogger, but it suits me, and anyone wanting to start a blog will have to find a way to earn money that suits them too. There is no ‘one size fits all’ way of staying afloat as a travel blogger.
How do you travel so much while keeping a separate full time job?
I must admit, when it comes to juggling travel and my work as a midwife – I have things pretty good. In the NT (where I work) nurses and midwives are entitled to seven weeks of paid leave per year, not only this, we are able to negotiate to take this paid leave at half pay – meaning that I can get decent chunks of time off work each year.
Working shift work is also a big help. I work mostly 10 hour night shifts, so it doesn’t take too long to work my 152 required hours per month – meaning that I can often get 7-9 days off at a time – without using any of my paid leave. Living in the NT also places me in extremely close proximity to many Asian countries, I can fly to Bali in less than 2.5 hours and to Singapore in just over 4 hours, so I can do a lot with a week off work!
Aren’t you scared to travel alone?
Not at all! I know firsthand that shitty stuff can go down while travelling, but I also know that horrible stuff can happen to a person within their own homes, from the supposed safety of their own home cities.
Life is unpredictable, stuff can go wrong at any time, in any place and to any person. To let fears hold you back from travelling is a real waste of opportunity.
As for the ‘being alone’ bit – I absolutely do not feel any safer when I am with people. I trust my own judgement, I trust my gut and I am almost always on guard.
Midwifery or travel – which do you prefer?
Oh god, now this is a tough one.
Midwifery and travel are my two loves, and I love them both for so many different reasons. Honestly, gun to my head, if I had to choose only one to do for the rest of my life, it would most likely be travel. However, I really don’t think such an existence would suit me. If I never had a break from travelling I truly don’t think I would appreciate it quite so much! Midwifery grounds me and travel frees me – they both work to keep my life balanced, I really wouldn’t want to give up either!
What camera do you use?
I use an Olympus OM-D E-M1. This is a mirrorless 4/3rds, not a true DSLR – and I use this camera for several reasons.
Firstly, the camera body is ultra lightweight. For the quality of the image it produces, it is seriously compact.
Secondly, it is simple to use and allows you to set up your own ‘presets’. Eg, I can set up the perfect settings for shooting the Northern Lights and save them, so that the next time I want to shoot under similar conditions, all the settings are there, ready to go.
Thirdly, this system is very well priced, far more affordable than other popular systems.
Fourthly, it is seriously weather proof. Mine has sustained knocks, bumps, freezing conditions, more rain than I care to admit, sand and a heck of a lot of dirt. It is small but sturdy and can put up with incredibly harsh shooting conditions.
Lastly, the range of lenses that accompany this camera system are bloody top notch. I use the M. Zuiko 12-40mm f2.8 and M. Zuiko 7-14mm f2.8 lenses and not only are these lenses just as sturdy and well made as the body, they are also incredibly bright, let a tonne of light and colour in and produce pictures with perfect clarity.
I could keep going on forever, so I am going to stop myself and continue spouting my love of Olympus cameras in a completely separate post.
I have very little money – where can I travel on a tight budget?
South Africa! SA was hands down the cheapest trip of my life – if you are tight for money, you could survive for $25-$40 per day easily. If you were seriously strapped for cash you could honestly make do on a budget of $20 per day.
Top 5 favourite places you’ve travelled to?
At the time of writing, my favourite countries to travel to are Greenland, South Africa, Scotland, Japan and the Philippines.