A Conversation with Lisa Niver Rajna

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Lisa Niver Rajna started WeSaidGoTravel.com to inspire others and create awareness about the world through blogging. With experience in both freelancing, journaling, and memoir writing (check out her book, Traveling in Sin), Lisa talks to us today about making it work in the travel industry, where she hopes her income mix will go in the next few years, and what advice she has for new writers. Enjoy!

Lisa, how did you get your start in travel blogging? What’s one thing you wish you’d known when you started that you know now?

I have always been a journal writer. Whether I was working on cruise ships or backpacking in Asia, I was always writing things down. After a year sabbatical in Asia and writing Traveling in Sin, I read books about what to do with a manuscript. Everyone wrote about having a platform and I decided to start a blog.

When I was a new blogger, people told me that my plan to only publish once a week on Sundays would never work. They said, “You will never get anywhere.” So I said, “I am already nowhere so I am going to just try.” I always tell new bloggers make a commitment and stick with it. I published once a week for two years. It does not matter if you do once a week or once a month or once a day, it matters if you are consistent and that you have quality content. People will find you.

You say on your blog, We Said Go Travel, that your primary purpose is to bring global awareness to your readers. Could you elaborate on this?

For me, traveling is an education. I have learned so much by meeting people from around the world. With We Said Go Travel, there are now articles from every continent. We have had over 1000 people from seventy-four countries share on the site in our travel writing contests. I met Iram from Islamabad, Pakistan through her entry and invited her to share more. When she wrote about Murree, Pakistan being a hot vacation spot, it was a paradigm shift for me. I grew up in Los Angeles and was always told negative things about what the people of Pakistan wanted for the Jews of America. I had not realized until I read her article that I never thought about how the people of Pakistan fell in love, got married and went on honeymoons in their own country. Building bridges to peace starts with hearing about how other people live and who they really are. I love the story of a 16 year-old Uzbekistan girl seeing Istanbul for the first time or a young man from Nigeria talking about his future hopes for his country.

Tell us a little bit about the process of writing Traveling in Sin.

Traveling in Sin is the story of how George and I met online and decided to travel together for a year in Asia. It is told in both our lisa2voices and starts with the actual email letters that we wrote to each on the dating site. During our sabbatical, we kept journals and when we returned to Los Angeles, we used them to write the memoir.

We often get asked by our readers how they can make a living in travel blogging. What advice might you give to others who are interested in pursuing this career?

My best advice is from my cruise ship days, Sammi, my cruise director, used to tell passengers to use the “F” word—Flexible. I remember when we used to call home from the ship on the satellite phone and used the radical device: PocketMail! It sent emails from a pay phone with sounds like a fax machine! For traveling and travel blogging, you need to be patient, persistent and network.

How do you see your income mix changing in the next 5 years? 10?

I recently did a webinar for the University of Pennsylvania on “Exploring Exotic Burma.” I think that speaking will be a big part of the next 5 years as well as video. I was just in Puerto Rico filming with Richard Bangs, Orbitz and the Puerto Rican Tourism Board. If you search our tag, #RBQuests or go to tagboard you can see many of our adventures. I have to admit Puerto Rico surprised me: the world’s highest zipline at Toro Verde was fantastic, the underwater world at CopaMarina was spectacular, some of my best dives ever! I cannot wait until the ten video segments are ready to share.

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Your articles have been recently featured in publications such as National Geographic, the Guardian, the Huffington Post, the Jewish Journal and the Myanmar Times. How do you manage your blog with the freelancing life? What advice do you have for new freelancers?

Honestly some of the best advice I ever read about writing and traveling was in Tim’s book, Travel Writing 2.0.

That book inspired me to start the Travel Writing Contests. I had just finished the book and was thinking I wish I had read this before I started the site! I was in Konark, India at the 30th annual Sand Art Festival. I met Randy who was one of the sand artists and had a show on the Travel Channel.

I said to myself, “30 years ago someone said: ‘Let’s have a sand art festival.” And I figured someone else said, “Are you crazy?” but they did it. That day, I decided to have a Travel Writing Contest. My advice is to go with your gut instinct! Start a contest or a blog.

Interview conducted in April, 2014 by Kristin Winet.

An Interview with Anubha Momin

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Anubha Momin became a travel blogger after moving from Toronto to the Canadian Arctic  and starting her blog Finding True North. She is also a contributor to a number of online publications and recently spoke at the Women’s Travel Summit. In our interview, Anubha tells us how she learned to blog by studying and reading others’ blogs, discusses what she hopes to do in the future, and gives us a sneak peek into her presentation at the Summit. Enjoy!

Anubha, you were born in Bangladesh, raised in Toronto, and now live in the Canadian Arctic. Tell us a little bit about how you ended up there and how the area became your blogging muse.

In October of 2012, I left my hometown of Toronto, Ontario (pop. 2.5 million) to move to Iqaluit, Nunavut (pop. 7000), a remote Arctic community in Canada’s newest and largest territory. Two forces inspired this somewhat spontaneous life change: love, and adventure. In regards to the former, my partner, Justin, was offered a job in Iqaluit, which he accepted with little hesitation. As I helped Justin prepare for his big move, I learned more and more about life in Iqaluit, and, after more than a month of researching, well, I didn’t want to be left out (or behind!). You can read more about my move to the north in my blog post, From Toronto to Iqaluit in 8 Easy Steps.

As for the adventure, Iqaluit is one of Nunavut’s 25 fly-in only communities; this means there are no roads connecting us to each other or to the rest of Canada. This is just one of the ways that Nunavut is really different from the rest of Canada (for more on what makes Nunavut unique, check out That Awkward Moment When Your Life is a Canadian Stereotype), and it is the inimitable nature of Canada’s north, as well as the rarity of being one to experience it, that inspired me to document my experiences. I partner up with my fellow Iqalummiut, Sara Statham, and together we started Finding True North, as an exploration of and homage to our life north of the treeline.

Your blog, Finding True North, documents your life living in the Arctic. What is tourism like up there in Nunavut?

It’s amazing just how many travellers I have met in the year and a half that I have been living in Iqaluit. For a place that is wtssomewhat difficult and expensive to visit, there is a growing tourism industry that attracts outdoor enthusiasts from around the world. There are a few different tour operators in Nunavut, mostly operating out of Iqaluit, which offer packages to fulfill all your Arctic adventure dreams, from dog-sledding to whale-watching to cultural experiences. That being said, I think a lot of touring in the north is still done through word-of-mouth-based self-guided exploration, and for this reason, northern Canada attracts a whack of brave-slash-zany explorers.

Did you have any experience with writing or photography before starting to blog? Tell us a little bit about how you “learned the ropes.”

I have been always been a writer, starting with school newspapers as a middle and high school student. In university, I was a guest blogger for the student blog, and from there began working as a contributor on various other websites. All of these experiences have definitely influenced the way that I blog now, but most of my learning comes from being an avid consumer of blogs and social media. As I scan headlines and 140-character tweets, I am taking in information about trends in formatting, content development, and photography. I apply what I have learned to my blog posts not only to attract more viewership, but also to challenge myself to keep up with the mutable world of digital publishing.

You also write for Go Girl. What advice do you have for new writers who are trying to get their feet wet in the freelancing industry?

gogirlI’m still learning the method myself! I know what has worked for me: defining my niche topic (example: living in and writing about Nunavut), choosing an umbrella genre (example: travel and tourism), connecting with others who share your vision (example: Go Girl Travel Network), rounded out with a good dash of shameless self-promotion (hashtags: they work!). All the while, keep honing your craft – you learn to write by writing, so get at it! A self-published blog is a great way to keep yourself in practice, try new styles of writing, and get feedback. There is no substitute for good content, for a potential employer, and more importantly, for your own satisfaction as a freelancer.

How do you see your income mix changing in the next 5 years? What will the impact of digital media be on the travel industry?

I am currently transitioning from full-time employment to a mix of contract, freelance, and permanent part-time work. For me, having that part-time salary is a great buffer until I have a better idea of what my freelance income flow can be (my advice is to find a part-time position in a field that will improve the skills you need to work as a freelancer, like public relations or social media). Digital media provides a lot of opportunities for established or burgeoning writers or photographers to reach a wider audience, connect with other professionals, and learn new tricks and tips. For those in the travel industry, I don’t think anything, other than maybe travel by plane, has drawn in the borders of the world as much as the evolution of digital media. in the coming years, I expect this will amplify and expand, making it even easier for us to share our stories (and deepen our wanderlust!).

You are leading a session at the upcoming Women’s Travel Summit, the inaugural women’s travel blogging conference. Can you give us a sneak peek at what you’ll be talking about?

The title of my presentation was On Becoming Badass by Accident: Why You Should Visit the Canadian Arctic, and the crux of my thesis was that living in Nunavut would turn even the most non-hardcore among us (ie. me) into bona fide (accidental) badasses. To find out more, you have to visit the blog, or even better, come on up for a visit!

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Anubha Momin is a sexual health advocate and freelance writer whose home base is Iqaluit, Nunavut. She chronicles life in a remote Arctic town on her blog, Finding True North, and as a contributor to the Go Girl Travel Network. Anubha’s work has also been featured in Canadian Geographic, Up Here Magazine, and various online publications. You can follow Anubha on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Interview conducted in March, 2014 by Kristin Winet.

A Conversation with Erin Bender

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High-school sweethearts Erin and Josh decided to embark on a one-way journey around the world in 2012–and they haven’t stopped yet! Their blog, Travelwithbender.com, which started out as a way to communicate with friends and family, has steadily grown over the past two years into one of the premier family travel blogs. In our interview, Erin talks to us about blending her marketing background with Josh’s web design background, life lessons she’s learned on the road, and how they decided to create an app that helps keep readers up-to-date on all of their travels and posts. Enjoy!

Erin, you started the travel blog Travelwithbender.com in 2012. Tell us a little bit about this process and what the journey has been like so far in terms of blogging, traveling, etc. What did you have to learn in order to get started?

We decided late 2011 that we wanted to commence nomadic travel. Someone mentioned to me that I should write a blog so they could follow our adventures. I took a Facebook status poll of my family and friends on who would read it and after conclusive results I thought it sounded like a great idea. It would save me having to tell the same stories to my Mum, Dad, brothers, sisters, family and friends and it would be a great record for my kids when they got older.

One day while I was at a Chinese street festival in Malaysia I heard someone yell, “Bender!” I turned around bewildered, as a little lady ran towards me. She took a few breaths and then gushed, “I can’t believe it’s you. I’ve been following your blog since Hong Kong and now you are here!.” It was in the shocking moment that I thought; wow this is much bigger than just my friends. I checked my numbers and realized there were more strangers following my blog than people I knew. I changed my writing style to less personal and more informative and it’s been steadily growing every month.

I started reaching out to other bloggers, joined some Facebook groups and learnt that blogging was a huge thing, not just a personal online diary. Since then I have been learning and writing and travelling all at the same time. It’s one of the best jobs I have ever had and I love it. We have now been travelling for over 700 days and the blog is still going strong.

What’s been the most surprising life lesson you’ve learned about writing, travel, family, etc. since you started blogging?logo

These questions are always so hard for me to answer. I’ve learned so much, so what is the most surprising thing I’ve learned? I guess it really is just the fact that you can make blogging into a job. You can earn an actual income, you can receive free stays and sponsored activities. I never knew there was a whole side of blogging other then just the writing and reading. I’ve also found it surprising how well my marketing degree marries with running a blog, and even how much my husband’s web design and online marketing skills marries into it as well. It’s like our all previous jobs were leading up to this.

With regards to family travel, I’ve been surprised at my coping mechanisms. They say people who travel do it for something to do, not for nothing to do. There is so much involved in travelling with your family, from choosing destinations, finding accommodation, transport, food, nappies, etc. It’s been surprising to me to see how deep my resources really are.

You have a Travelwithbender app. What gave you the inspiration to create your own app, and how did you develop it?

iPhone-4S-black-3views-mockupMy husband has made apps before and enjoys making them. We made an Australian animal game for our kids when we noticed their accents were turning slightly American from the apps they were playing with.

When we thought about how we could reach our readers better, the app was a great idea. It seemed like a natural progression and helped take our blog to a new level of professionalism. We didn’t want to leave anyone out so built an iPhone and Android version. Josh utilized a development tool from a startup company based in Europe which made the development process fairly fast and didn’t cost too much (whatever that means).

What advice do you have for aspiring bloggers who aren’t sure how to get started?

We just wrote a new post on how to get started with a blog, you can read it here. I think the more important question is how to continue. Getting started is just a series of technical steps that are easy to complete, continuing is a passion, an understanding, a love affair with writing and photography and social interaction.

I find the key is deeply caring about what you’re writing. But more importantly is to have a clear purpose for creating a blog. Its an easy thing to overlook for newbies, but it will help determine what are the right steps – is the blog about making money, or a hobby or promoting a social cause? If a blog is primarily about making money, then it will need to be the focus front and centre. For us, we started the blog as a hobby and it has grown into a small business which are excited about building further.

There’s a lot of misinformation on the Internet about how to create and run a blog so it’s easy to get confused. Try to find 1 or 2 reliable mentors who can help guide you. But if your primary motivation is making money then invest in yourself and spend a little time and money on training to help get you where you want to be.

How do you see your income mix changing over the next 5 years? 10 years?

We are really working on building our residual income stream. As we continue our travels we would like to be less dependent on trading hours for dollars and better able our focus on our passions and helping others.

Our income mix has already changed a lot over the last 2 years and Josh is always working on new income streams and building up his team. So I have no idea how things are going to look in 2 years time let alone 10. But a few things are for sure, it will be residual in nature, it will be connected to the Internet and it will be fun and exciting. Our travel blog has never intended to be our primary income source and I’m not planning on changing that. It also means we don’t have to sacrifice quality in the name of making a quick buck and gives our readers a better experience.

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Erin & Josh have been travelling with their 4 & 5 year old since May 2012. Their journey has taken them from the jungles of Bali to the beaches of Thailand through the cities of Malaysia and then a giant leap to the other side of the world where they traversed the roads of the US, played in the cenotes of Mexico, discovered the ruins of Guatemala, walked the sacred grounds of Israel, hot-air ballooned in Turkey, road-tripped Southern Europe, survived the tube with a stroller in London and slid with sharks in Dubai. And they are still going! It’s an open-ended, unplanned, round-the-world trip discovering amazing places for kids that you can share by visiting their family travel blog, following them on Facebook, or catch them tweeting on Twitter.

Interview conducted in March, 2014 by Kristin Winet.

An Interview with Evelyn Hannon

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We feel so lucky to have had the chance to interview Evelyn Hannon this week, the founder of Journeywoman.com, the largest online resource and gathering place for women travelers. In our interview today, Evelyn talks to us about celebrating International Women’s Day through travel portraits, what she’s going to be talking about at the upcoming inaugural Women’s Travel Summit (she’s the Keynote Speaker), and what her journey has been like.

Evelyn, you’ve been recognized by both PEOPLE Magazine and TIME Magazine for your dedication to the needs of female travelers. TIME even named you one of ’100 Innovative Thinkers of this Century’ for your amazing contributions. Did you ever imagine that you site would do so much to change travel for women?

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that the mandate I took on in 1994 – to inspire women to travel safely and well – would blossom into what it is today. We now are definitely a force to be reckoned with and the travel industry and society in general truly gets it.

What do you think have been the “keys” to your success?

The key to our Journeywoman success is so very simple. I owe all the inroads we’ve made to the women who joined and continue to join the Journeywoman Network. We are a grassroots movement. We never spent money on advertising.  We never had to. From the very beginning young and older women embraced our philosophy that to be able to travel is life-affirming and life-altering. To go out and see the world is a gift. Why shouldn’t we be able to do it safely and well? Women are incredible networkers.  It was simply women telling women, telling women, telling women until the Network circled the globe. Imagine my surprise as I received invitations to speak in Australia, Italy and the University of Seoul in Korea. And, one more very important thing. I will forever be indebted to the internet. Once women had computers in their homes there was no stopping them and us.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, you collected and posted a beautiful photo gallery of women’s portraits to commemorate women and their lives around the world. What was curating this gallery like for you, and for those travel photographers out there, what makes for a good portrait?

One picture is worth a thousand words. This was the second year in a row I chose to honour women worldwide through the use of images.  I have travelled the world – I journeywomancould have used all my own photos. However, I called on my peers in the blogging community to submit their favorite images so we could see the uniqueness of women from 30 different points of view. And oh, what a great collection it is and what fun it was for me to curate it.  If you missed it, you can still see it at: http://bit.ly/1bITc2I

At the beginning of our online exhibit, I wrote:
We live in very different parts of the world
And come in diverse shapes and sizes.
We’re blessed with features that are unique.
And come in skin tones of assorted colors.
Yet beneath that skin and in our hearts
We are all absolutely the same.
Wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, girlfriends – FEMALES.

Today we celebrate all WOMEN all over the world. International Women’s Day 2014.

How did Journeywoman.com actually get started? What were your original goals for the site and how have those goals changed?

After 23 years of being married and travelling with my husband, we divorced in 1982 at a time that women just didn’t travel on their own. I bucked the system and took my first five-week solo journey when I was 42. I cried for most of that trip but I came back a changed (or changing…) person. I had no mentors for that journey and I learned as I went along. The Journeywoman site was created to help other women who had their own reason for setting off on their own. I hoped to be their mentor. It was never intended to be a business. But, oh my goodness, 20 years later look what happened. The site has grown but my mandate has not – to inspire women safely and well and to connect women travellers internationally.

What advice do you have for women travel writers who are just trying to get their feet wet in the industry? How is the industry different for women?

wtsThis question begs a full workshop but in a nutshell … What a perfect time you have chosen to come into the industry. The initial work has been done. Women travellers and solo women travellers are an accepted and sought-after part of the travel industry. Tourist Boards now understand the value of the blogging community. Choose a niche – something that you know a lot about. Use this as a way to differentiate yourself from the crowd. And then write, write, write. Build up the inventory of unique pieces at your site. Use social media to tell the world what you can do. From there you are on your own. How you approach readers and the industry with what you have to offer will be up to you and in your own style.

Journeywoman’s newsletter is read by over 70, 000 subscribers in 100+ countries. For bloggers who are thinking about adding a newsletter to their outreach, what is the secret to getting and keeping subscribers and what advice do you have?

I think newsletters are your number one asset in reaching out to readers. Keep them short, keep them sweet and make sure they are interactive so that readers can give you feedback on what they do and don’t like. From there it is your particular style (and don’t be afraid to let that show) which will spell success or not.

You are the Keynote Speaker for the upcoming Women’s Travel Summit, the inaugural women’s travel blogging conference. Can you give us a sneak peek at what you’ll be talking about?

My talk will be 50% inspirational – talking about how Journeywoman started in 1982 and where we are today. The other 50% will be taking questions from the floor. I’m going to call that part, ‘Ask Me Anything.’ Should be fun! For more information about the Summit: witsummit.com

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Evelyn Hannon is the editor of journeywoman.com, the largest online travel resource for women. At 74, she is known as the Grandmother of Women’s Travel. Evelyn lives in Toronto, Canada but her travels have taken her to all seven continents. She has been in China to receive her adopted granddaughter, interviewed an African Chief in Ghana, march in a parade in Australia and sailed on a three-month sea voyage that circumnavigated the globe. She attended the circus in Russia, studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and played with the penguins in the Antarctic.  Evelyn still hopes to dance in a grass skirt in the South Pacific.  You can find her on Twitter @journeywoman and her Facebook page: Facebook.com/Journeywoman Website: journeywoman.com

Interview conducted in March, 2014 by Kristin Winet.

A Conversation with Jodi Grundig

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Jodi Grundig knows that a writing career is all about balance. As a mom, a travel blogger, a social media strategist, a PR consultant, and a business brand strategist for bloggers, Jodi is certainly one busy woman. In our interview today, she tells us what a typical day in life of a blogger is like, how she got her start and developed her niche, and what advice she has for new bloggers. Check out Jodi’s personal site to learn more about her. Enjoy!

Jodi, you are a family travel expert, social media and blogging consultant, and freelance writer. First, what’s a typical day for you like (if there is such a thing!)?

Things definitely vary-but I have a pretty regular structure to my day. I start out in the morning by checking email and social media accounts. After bringing my kids to school, I get started on my freelance assignments. Since I often have to interview sources during business hours, I make that priority during the day. While in between assignments or waiting for someone to get back to me, I plan out and write blog posts for my own two blogs.

After I pick up my children from school, we head out to their various activities. I bring along my laptop and work on easier tasks like editing photos, creating collages, and responding to emails. I do much of my work at night after everyone goes to bed and usually use that time to get caught up on social media, writing, and emails.

How did you get your start as a freelance writer? What have been the keys to your success, in your opinion?TMOMlogo_Web

After I quit my full-time job, I wanted something to keep busy. I created my own blog as a part-time business and started freelancing shortly after that. To succeed, it’s been important to stay very organized and have excellent time management. Contacts and referrals are also essential.

What do you wish you’d known when you started writing that you know now?

If I had known how useful they would be, I would have attended conferences earlier in my freelance writing career. I’ve made so many contacts and learned so much from blogging conferences. TBEX, TMS, and TMS Family Travel have been my favorites this past year.

Let’s say a friend of yours wanted to become a travel writer. What advice do you have for this friend in terms of using digital and social media?

Many newbies think in terms of comps and freebies, but the majority of my content comes from tips I offer or family vacations that I’ve completely paid for. If someone wants to be a travel writer, I recommend starting with vacations they are already taking. Articles with tips and tricks to traveling are also a great way to establish an audience.

logo Social media presence is increasingly important, especially Pinterest. But things are always changing, so anyone in this space needs to keep up on the latest trends.

As a writer and blogger, I’m curious to know how you see your income mix changing over the next 5 years. What will we expect to see in terms of digital media content and the travel industry?

Most of my income comes from freelance writing and consulting. My blog does make some revenue, but it’s really more of a platform that I’ve used to establish myself as a freelance writer. I’d like to see more sponsorship for individual blogs and bloggers in the future, because I’d prefer to continue building my own platform. But, the freelance writing helps me gI_83245_jg-family-travel-magazine-logo-noname“keep the lights on” for my own blog.

How did you establish your niche as a family travel expert?

I’ve always enjoyed traveling, and having kids didn’t stop us from traveling and going on vacation. I quickly became the “go-to” person in my community for anyone looking for advice on how and where to travel with kids. It became a natural progression to start blogging about it.

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Jodi Grundig is a Boston-based family travel expert, social media and blog consultant, brand advocate, and freelance writer who combines her inside knowledge of social media with her traditional MBA and corporate background to help clients utilize new media in most optimal manner for their business.  Jodi has traveled extensively with her children and has served three years on the popular Disney Parks Moms Panel. Jodi specializes in travel, finance, and family products.  She teaches classes on blogging and social media, has spoken at several blogging and PR conferences, and has served as a social media consultant for several companies.  Jodi has appeared on New England Cable News and Fox Boston, and her work has appeared in such publications as Credit Sesame, Fox Business News, TLC’s Parentables, MiniTime, and the Huffington Post.  

Interview conducted in March, 2014 by Kristin Mock.