This week we're talking travel blogging and providing some advice from our own experience as we answer Simon Petersen's questions.
This week’s questions to the backpackers come from Simon Petersen at Man vs World, a new travel blog featuring weird and wonderful travel adventures backpacking primarily through Europe and South East Asia as well as useful travel advice – more often than not – learned the hard way.
His questions are all centered on travel blogging, so read on for some top tips and advice from the experts.
Let’s start with an easy one. What’s the secret to creating a successful travel blog?
Beverley: I don’t think there’s any big secret but one absolute must is to be yourself; be who you are online who you are offline and vice versa. People follow people!
Poi: Having a good back story would help, as much as people want to follow travel adventures they also want an interesting lead character. Someone asked a while ago what would you do differently if you could start over? Being a recovered heroin addict turned travel addict would be a pretty interesting back story haha (if you ignore the years of hell before of course but you get the idea)
Dan: I agree with Beverley, don’t be somebody else, just be yourself…. and try not to annoy people.
Chris: There is no secret – apart from hard work, heaps of time and a lot of networking… along with a good dose of luck too I guess!
What’s the best single piece of advice you would give a fledgling travel blogger?
Beverley : Jusy keep going, it gets better!
Poi: Don’t start something you don’t enjoy, if you hate writing informational posts don’t promise them, if you don’t enjoy writing them then I guarantee no one will enjoy reading them
Dan: Keep it simple. Doing too much too soon will probably wear you out and you’ll get fed up of blogging before you know it.
Chris: Be prepared to lose A LOT of free time!
There’s a lot of great travel blogs out there. How do I get mine noticed?
Beverley: Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing with their travel blog, concentrate on yours and be unique.
Poi: Write a post slagging one of the big boys off, be prepared for a fight though (this is terrible advice).
Dan: If you’re writing genuine stories and enjoying it then people will like your blog and start sharing it naturally. Failing that, create another blog with 6 other people and hope for the best.
Gemma: I don’t have my own travel blog but because of my work I regularly read other blogs. I’d say the best ones out there are those that incorporate an element of humour- mention both the good and the bad experiences and really show the person behind the blog. Also, reading itineraries (then we did this, then we did that) is pretty boring for a reader- make sure you bring the palce alive.
Chris: Network, network, network – guest post, tweet, go to meet ups…pretty much do everything I’m too lazy to sort out for myself! hahaha!
The word on the street is that most bloggers give up in the first six months. Did you ever feel like giving up?
Beverley: I’ve never wanted to give up, the reason I blog is because I love writing & I’d never want to not have a platform where I can get my writing out there and show people that you can travel the world if you really want to.
Poi: Did I? Don’t you mean do I? I always feel like giving up haha. I just like sharing things from our travels and unlike many bloggers I have no desire to be a writer or make blogging a full time job so while I’m enjoying it that’s great and I’ll probably always do it but it frustrates me often.
Dan: So many times I thought “yeah, I’m getting nowhere, I’m going to close this mother fcuker down tomorrow” but then a few minutes later I’ll find some reason to start enjoying it again. I just remind myself I’m not in it for the money, page rank or any of that crap people stress so much over – I enjoy it.
Chris: Nah – to start off I blogged because I wanted to keep my friends and family in touch with my travels. Don’t expect to start living off it straight away so simply make sure you’re enjoying it – else you might as well work in an office!
What do you get from blogging – besides fame and fortune? Have you ever gotten any free perks?
Beverley: If your aim is to get fame, fortune and free perks from travel blogging then you might be a little disappointed! It takes a long time and hard work to get to where the top travel bloggers are now. I’ve gotten a few free perks in the past (and some coming up in the future hopefully!) but it’s not the main reason I got into blogging 🙂
Poi: we’ve had a few things 😉 you’re gonna have to be patient though or have a very good pitch.
Dan: You mean we can get free stuff?! Ah man I’m missing out!
Chris: I’ve managed to blag quite a few things – festival passes, accommodation, free tours, discounts, travel kit… and even a pimping new travel hammock… sometimes you’ve just gotta be cheeky enough to ask.
How do you guys find the time to blog while travelling? It mustn’t be easy!
Beverley: It can be hard when you’re constantly moving about! I’ve been travelling really slowly, working a little bit along the way, and that definitely makes it easier 🙂
Poi: Not really an easy answer to this one but if you enjoy it and want it to work then you will make time.
Dan: I agree with Poi here. It’s a lot easier if you have your own laptop or something similar with you while travelling.
Chris: You have to make the time. Plane journeys, train rides and hangovers are my most productive periods though!
Any other advice you’d give? or any questions you’d like to ask?
We've got a new regular feature where you can ask us all your questions about travelling... The first one is from Dom who is just about to set off on his first backpacking trip
Because we’re super cool, awesome and generally nice people we wanted to make sure this blog wasn’t just about us. Taking this in to consideration we’re starting a regular feature where we’re going to pass on our knowledge to you on any questions you may want answering. We didn’t want to limit this to just travel bloggers and so we’re welcoming everybody to get in touch and to take part.
So without further ado, I hand you over to our first guest:
“Hey, I’m Dom Lovallo (@dlovallo1) 22 years old and from Peterborough, England. I’ve just finished studying business at Hull University and I’m now just working hard and saving towards the dream.
During University I decided that I cannot just get a job and work till I retire and needed to see and experience the world. Already fed up of the mundane life of work and routine, I want to travel the world to have one big adventure, try things i would never do at home, meet some amazing new people and cultures. This is also the first time I would have been away from England for longer than a couple of weeks. I’m planning on setting off around October 2012… looking to get RTW flights booked around April time.
I’m going to start off in India (Goa) to ease into the travelling concept then travel up-north. Then jump on a flight to china, travel down the east coast then through Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and ending up in Singapore. After that I’ll be flying to east coast Australia. I’m thinking about a bit of S.America but budget means might have to leave it to another time. I’ll hopefully be travelling for approx 8-10months… Hopefully longer.”
My questions to the backpackers are:
What size backpack have you used and what would you recommend?
Chris – I’d say smaller is better (I did Thailand on a 25litre for 3 weeks!) but in reality I’d say 70+20 …it gives you plenty of space so you don’t need to worry about creating a tetras tile packing technique and you can buy stuff on the road
Dan – I’ve got to agree with Chris. When I was leaving Australia (bearing in mind I had everything I own on me) I had an 80-Litre backpack which was far, far too big. Dragging it around was uncomfortable and just attracted attention. I felt the need to constantly keep checking it and having to move it out of people’s way. Having a backpack with a detachable day pack would be a bonus.
Beverley – I actually don’t have a backpack, I have suitcase instead! If I was always moving from place to place then I’d definitely have a backpack instead but because I’m travelling slowly and therefore more long-term it’s more feasible for me to live out of a suitcase than a backpack.
Monica – I had a 65litre backpack and found that this was just about right. Any bigger and I wouldn’t have been able to lift it onto my back and any smaller makes it tough to find anything. I’d recommend buying one that zips all the way open rather than a toploader. I had one that only opened at the top so anything that slipped to the bottom pretty much stayed there.
What travel essentials would you recommend to pack for a 12month RTW Trip?
Chris – travel adaptor (much needed), a hardcore pair of flip flops, some good tunes to entertain you on buses/beaches/planes and an iPad – I don’t know how I’d travel without one now!
Poi: I’d invest in a kindle, reading is a must to pass the time on long journeys and settling for books you don’t really enjoy from a crappy book shop gets frustrating.
Dan – Definitely an iPod of some sort to keep you entertained if you don’t like reading. A small first aid kit, mosquito spray, a backup way of accessing money. (How boring am I?!)
Beverley – Dan you’ve gone all grown up and practical on us, what happened?! I actually don’t think I could travel without my iPod, my iPhone, a large pair of sunglasses and industrial strength mozzy spray. But you also can’t go wrong with a small first aid kit and a travel washing line.
Monica – I agree with Poi – definitely a Kindle. You can buy virtually everything you could possibly need or want on the road so I wouldn’t worry too much about what you pack.
I’ve heard whilst travelling that plans can change quick, would you recommend investing in an RTW flight ticket or just winging it and buying just your first one-way flight?
Chris – it’s a difficult one! My experience from working at STA Travel says full RTW ticket – but make sure it’s a flexible one. You can plan a full RTW ticket to key destinations (i.e. into Bangkok and out of Singapore) and then bounce around as much as you like within that place depending on time and budget.
Poi: Don’t listen to Chris and just wing it, I planned on being in Asia for maybe half a year originally and I’m still here over a year and a half later. Who knows what you’ll decide to do once you’re underway!
Dan – Agree with Poi on this one – wing it! I know a lot of people who have decided to wing it as you may find you don’t like some places so want to leave early or you may like them too much and decide to stay longer.
Beverley – Definitely wing it because once you start travelling your plans with constantly be changing. Opportunities will come up, you’ll meet people along the way and all of a sudden the plan you’ve got set in stone doesn’t look so great anymore.
Monica – I think it depends what kind of travel experience you’re after. If you know for definite that you want to be back home after a year and there are 4-5 countries you definitely want to visit then go for a RTW ticket. If you aren’t 100% sure where you want to go or how long you want to go for just wing it. It might work out slightly more expensive but you aren’t restricted by a schedule.
I’ve heard that the general rule for budgeting is approx $1000 USA dollars a month. Would you say this sounds about right taking into consideration that majority of the months will be travelling in cheaper countries such as India, Thailand etc and maybe only 2-3 months in Australia, New Zealand etc.?
Chris – Yes, although I’d say £1000! Australia is increasingly expensive to travel and that $1000 will balance out in the long run. It’s always best to be pessimistic with money – worse comes to worse you come home with some cash in your pocket. Best case scenario….you simply travel for longer!
Beverley – – I have no idea about budgeting, nor have I ever budgeted per month for my travels so I’m probably not the best person to ask! 🙂
How do you budget your money whilst travelling?
Chris – I stick to the $1000 rule and break it down daily. I tend to take a week or so’s worth of cash out and stick to it if I can – especially for daily buying stuff. Things like tours and that need to be approached in advance though and if I know I’m intent on doing something before I leave I’ll factor it in.
Dan – Considering I lost my bank card and had no other access to money on my trip I’d say the best way to budget is live off the bare minimum unless you really want to do something. Towards the end of your trip you can go crazy with the money you have left 🙂
Beverley – I don’t. I earn shit loads of money working abroad, travel a bit more and then realise after a few months that I’m going to have to starve until I find work again because I’ve spent all my money. I realise this is hugely irresponsible and would not recommend taking this approach to your travels.
Monica – I’m the same as Beverley. I don’t have a budget I just try my best not to waste any money. When my bank balance starts to get low I stop travelling for a while and knuckle down and do some work for a few months until I have enough to start travelling again.
What advice would you give somebody thinking about and wanting to fund a RTW trip?
Chris – start saving ASAP! That way if you decide to go (which you should!) the moneys good to go. If not then you have some good savings – it’s win win! Kill you’re social life and look at things as if they were parts of your travel – that £10 meal out might not seem much but would I rather have that or a hostel bed, 2 meals and a beer in Thailand?!
Poi: Basically what Chris said, look at everything in terms of what it could get you somewhere else in the world. You don’t wanna avoid going out with friends because you’ll start to hate saving but just skip the expensive bits, don’t eat out but meet them after for beers 🙂
Dan – What those two said ^
Beverley – Sell everything you don’t need on eBay, do your research, book at least one flight or get a visa secured for somewhere so you’ve got something to aim towards and don’t let anyone tell you that what you’re doing isn’t a good idea.
Monica – Don’t bother saving in your home country – work abroad! Working around Europe, Australia and NZ is so much more fun and you can earn some decent money to fund your travels. I found it easier to save in Oz because I was surrounded by like-minded backpackers who were on a budget and you have more motivation to save your pennies.
Any advice on the best company to get travel insurance from?
Chris – Without sounding like a broken record it’s STA Travel again! I’ve worked for them and for what they cover they’re the best. I’ve dealt with people needing to be flown home or get treatment and the under writer is really good – I have complete faith that they’d be there if I needed them.
Poi: Our travel insurance ran out a while ago…oopps.
Dan – I use the price comparison websites. I think mine ended up being £20 for 12 months from Virgin Money Travel Insurance which included winter sports, baggage lost etc. I even got a nifty little credit card thing with all of the details on so I didn’t have to carry around heaps of paperwork.
What would you say is the biggest highlight and best place that youve been whilst travelling that you would recommend to others to put on their itinerary?
Chris – Anyone reading my blog will know that Byron Bay, Australia is going to be my answer! Although Montanita in Ecuador – where I’m currently based – is fast catching up!
Poi: Since diving on Koh Tao I can’t stop thinking about it, I’m desperate to go diving again, although I’d do it anywhere really.
Dan – Australia. Hands down Australia is the best place I’ve been. There’s no specific spot I’d recommend I just love that country! If I really had to choose I’d say the Gold Coast hinterland.
Beverley – The Great Ocean Road in Australia. Don’t let a tour guide take you down it though. Hire a campervan and do it yourself, it’s so much more fun that way!
Monica – The Gili Islands in Lombok. They’re easy to reach from Bali and absolutely stunning. The nightlife on Gili Trewangen is awesome and the other two islands give you a real Robinson Crusoe feeling.
Is it worth bringing a laptop/netbook with me whilst on my travels or would this be just extra baggage when internet cafes can be used?
Chris – I always carry my laptop and my iPad. If you don’t need the full capability of a laptop though just go with the iPad – it’s so portable you won’t even notice the extra weight.
Dan – I had my laptop with me on my travels but I did tend to get very protective over it where security was concerned and I needed it being a blogger. I’d say take it with you if you’re not mega worried about it and it’s not too heavy.
Beverley – I didn’t have a laptop for ages until I started taking my Blog seriously and knew the investment would be worth it so I bought one on sale in Australia. Honestly though if you think you’ll only use it to go on Facebook and email then it’s probably not worth it – every hostel I’ve been to have internet access and you don’t have to worry about losing or breaking your laptop.
Odds of having travelling flings in every hostel you visit?
Chris – In EVERY hostel!? Depends how determined you are!hahaha! Flings will happen though…don’t fret young hormone fuelled traveller!
Poi: Jesus man, you’re gonna have to sleep sometime you know haha. I praise your enthusiasm though 😉
Dan – I’m agreeing with the others… every?! Haha. I wouldn’t say every hostel but I know for a fact every hostel I’ve stayed in there’s been somebody having a romp in one of the opposite beds.
Beverley – I would say that odds are hugely increased if you concentrate on being friends with people and generally getting involved with a group and having fun rather than being that creepy person in the hostel who’s trying to get it on with everything that walks 😉
Monica – If you’re a hottie, the odds are high 😉
If you’ve got any questions you’d like the backpackers to answer, give us a shout!