An Interview with Diana Laskaris

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Diana is the co-founder of The Food Travelist, a new blog dedicated to food cultures around the food. Not new to the culinary food and travel niche, Diana will be speaking at TBEX Cancun in September about building culinary food travel brands–it’s sure to be a great presentations. Enjoy our interview!

How did your blog,The Food Travelist, get its start? What was the inspiration?

My Co-Founder, Sue Reddel and I had a previous website (PoshPorts.com) that was more general in nature. Out of that we found that people were most interested in food and travel. We learned more about the culinary travel industry, earned our certifications as Certified Culinary Travel Professionals and decided to focus exclusively on this arena.

On your blog, you say that your mission is world peace through food. Could you elaborate on this a little bit more for us?

I believe that when people get to know one another, the barriers to understanding can be overcome. Food is our common ground and sharing a meal is a great way to get a conversation going. In fact, we wrote a chapter in Have Fork Will Travel, the World Food Travel Association Handbook, specifically about food and drink as communication.

What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned since you started blogging? What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you started?

I think the most important lesson I’ve learned is that nothing happens overnight, with few exceptions. It takes a lot of work, persistence and continued effort to make headway. I went to a conference recently where almost every blogger/speaker talked FT-logo-betaabout how much they do without compensation. I wish I knew how difficult it is to get actual money from brands and sponsors. Everyone thinks that you work for free product or travel, which is nice, but it doesn’t pay the bills.

Where do you see social media going in the next 5, 10 years? What advice would you give to bloggers who are just “starting out” and who don’t know much about using social media?

I think social media, like all technology is constantly evolving and changing. What may be the most awesome platform for you today may be useless in the future. Find out where your audience is and keep your dialogue going with them. You will start to see the changes in what they want as they are happening and not be caught off-guard if one platform or another ceases to be useful. Don’t expect things to stay the same, and if you’re starting out, keep that in mind.

You’re going to be speaking at TBEX Cancun 2014 in September. Can you give our readers a little taste of what you’ll be talking about?

Sure! I’m honored and thrilled to be speaking at TBEX. My topic is for people who are interested in culinary travel as a blogging niche. I’ll show them the ways they can capitalize on the boom in this area, whether they want to focus on a specific aspect such as the cuisine of a specific destination or add culinary highlights to their already existing blog. People are interested in learning about the food culture of different destinations, getting authentic recipes, and discovering tips on the best spots for local fare. And food diana3photos are always fun.

You recently returned from a trip to Cuba. Tell us about some of the highlights from the trip!

It was an extraordinary trip for me. The people I met were absolutely amazing. We visited a church where our hosts cooked not one, but two meals for our group of 13 in addition to our guides and translators. The food was delicious, extremely simple to make, using mostly citrus marinade with garlic and few spices. Beans and rice are their everyday food, but they made sure we had meat at both meals, which I know was a big treat for them. It was humbling and exciting at the same time to watch them in the kitchen.  There’s nothing quite like someone cooking the food of their culture that they hope you enjoy. It brings us all closer together.

Diana Laskaris is Co-Founder of FoodTravelist.com, which launched in 2014 as an online publication and network connecting food travelers around the world with brands, destinations and experiences. Recently expanded, Food Travelist will begin hosting global tasting events offline in the fall and launched #foodtravelchat on Twitter, which garners more than 4 million timeline impressions per week. Diana is an accomplished culinarian, a professional member of the James Beard Foundation, Les Toques Blanches Du Monde, and The World Gourmet Society. She is the Chicago Ambassador for the World Food Travel Association and an active philanthropist in the areas of hunger and food insecurity as well as food waste management.

Interview conducted in August, 2014 by Kristin Winet.

A Conversation with David & Veronica James

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David and Veronica James set out to “break the empty nest rules” after their kids left home and haven’t looked back since. They started their blog, Gypsy Nester, and have their first book, Going Gypsy, coming out in February 2015. In our interview today, David and Veronica talk about finding the courage to start their blogging journey together and what they will be talking about at TBEX Cancun 2014! Enjoy.

You started your blog, The Gypsy Nester, after your kids “flew the coop.” Can you tell us a little bit more about the inspiration for the blog and how you got started?

Like most couples, we had a big “now what?” moment when our youngest child was ready to fly from the nest. We were living in The Caribbean – in the U.S. Virgin Islands – so with all the kids on their own we thought it was a good time to go back up to The States and reconnect with family and friends. Ten thousand miles in a beat-up old motorhome we bought on eBay later, we had another “now what?” moment in Mexico and decided we liked the lifestyle, so we kept going.

We had already started documenting our adventures on a cheesy little blog – mostly to keep loved ones up-to-date. Our oldest daughter, thinking we might be on to something, dragged us – kicking and screaming – into social media. Once we got the hang of it, we loved it.

It’s a blast to share our lives with the world!

What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned since you started blogging? What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you started?

Maybe the best lesson has been to allow things to go the way they want to go. By that we mean to be open and not try to force things. We never had a grand scheme, no big plan as to what we wanted GypsyNester.com to become; we just kind of followed life as it led us. We’ve become way more flexible than we used to be.

Did either of you have experience in writing and publishing prior to starting your blog together?

David sort of did. He was a staff songwriter for several music publishing companies in Nashville when we lived there. There are definite similarities that have helped him make the transition, a feel for words and conveying ideas.

Veronica owned one of the first web design firms in Nashville; there was copy and technical writing involved with that. She was also editor and publisher of the print news magazine gypsynester2and website for the school that our kids attended in the Caribbean.

Looking back though, we see our early GypsyNester posts and generally cringe, so the best experience for us was jumping in and doing it. Practice, practice, practice, write, write, write.

Where do you see social media going in the next 5, 10 years? What advice would you give to bloggers who are just “starting out” and who don’t know much about using social media?

We don’t even know what social media is going to look like tomorrow! It’s a dynamic, ever-changing medium mapped out on the fly by users and their preferences. The added element of what we expect to be an explosion of technology in that timeframe makes things even more exciting.

Our best advice for the newcomer is to be yourself and be social. It’s called social media for a reason. YOU are what makes your blog unique and keep that vibe going when you are interacting with folks. Trust us, it wasn’t until we found the guts to be ourselves that our site began to take wing.

You’re going to be speaking at TBEX Cancun 2014 in September. Can you give our readers a little taste of what you’ll be talking about?

Of course! The idea for Veronica’s talk was spawned from the #1 topic that comes up when we get together with fellow travel writers: Dealing with haters, flamers, and trolls.

Fear of cyberbullies can hold folks back from starting a blog and even seasoned bloggers (ourselves included) are constantly stunned by some of the mean-spirited comments flying at us on a regular basis. The first one is especially hard—Veronica’s came when she was called an emotionally bankrupt shell of a person.

I’ll be discussing how to deal with haters, flamers, and trolls on your blog and social media, as well as how to cope with the emotions inevitably felt when you are on the receiving end. You’ll learn when – and how – it’s proper to defend yourself, to let it go, to delete or – yes – even thank someone who has offended you.

And no interview with you would be complete without a congratulations! Your book, Going Gypsy, is coming out in early 2015! Tell us about the process of writing, editing, and publishing the book and what readers can expect.

twittericon_400x400Wow, it’s a long process! Going Gypsy is our first book, so we didn’t really have any idea of what we had gotten ourselves into. Writing for a blog and writing a book are two completely different animals.

It’s been about three years from when we first thought, hey, wouldn’t it be cool to write a book? Our first draft ended up being completely reworked over the span of about two years. Then the whole process of finding a publisher can take quite a while – nearly a year for us, which, from what we gather, is actually fairly fast. We feel very lucky that it went as quickly as it did, and that we found a publisher – Skyhorse in New York City – that turned out to be a perfect fit for us, and our book. We signed our contract in November of 2013, have gone through another round of edits, and now have six months until our publication date. We are trying really hard to be good and patient, but the suspense is killing us!

Going Gypsy is the story of how we faced that “now what?” moment by pulling the ripcord on our daily grind, quitting our jobs, and going gypsy in a beat-up old RV found on eBay. On a journey of over ten thousand miles along the back roads of America (and a hysterical, error-infused side trip into Italy), we conquer old fears, see new sites, reestablish bonds with family and friends, and transform our relationship with our three grown children from parent-child to adult-to-adult. Most importantly, we rediscovered the fun-loving youngsters who fell in love three decades prior. Going Gypsy is coming out in February of 2015, but it is available for pre-orders now at: GoingGypsyBook.com

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David & Veronica are experiencing the collision of Baby Boomer and Empty Nester. Upon sending their youngest out into the big, wide world, they set out to break the empty nest rules by selling everything and hitting the road. To become more than empty nesters, to be gypsies, GypsyNesters! Along the way they rediscovered the couple who fell in love years ago and chronicled their journey in a new book, Going Gypsy: One Couple’s Adventure from Empty Nest to No Nest at All. Read more about their escapades at GypsyNester.com. Connect with The GypsyNesters on social media: Facebook - Twitter - YouTube - Google+ - Pinterest  - GoodReads - Instagram 

Interview conducted in August, 2014 by Kristin Winet.

An Interview with Chris Christensen

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Chris Christensen, the host of Amateur Travel podcast, has a lot to say about the travel industry. Before he started doing podcasts, he built and ran online communities and events for companies like TripAdvisor and the History Channel. In our interview today, Chris talks about transitioning into podcasting and what he will be talking about at TBEX Cancun 2014. Enjoy!

Chris, tell us a little bit about the inspiration between the Amateur Travel blog and podcast.

The Amateur Traveler podcast came before the blog and my love of podcasts came even before that. Shortly after listening to my first podcasts in 2005 I decided that I wanted to create one. I thought about doing a tech podcast, and I thought about doing a religious podcast. But, we had some friends over to our house for a Memorial Day BBQ and I found that all the best stories were travel stories. The first episode of Amateur Traveler followed about a month later.

Your first podcast went live in July of 2005. Now that we’re in 2014, walk us through how your approach to blogging and podcasting has changed since then.

When I started the show I thought it would be about my travel stories but the math did not work out. I was working full time with about 4 weeks of vacation and I was trying to publish 48 podcasts a year. I was rapidly going to run out of new stories. It did not take long before the show became primarily an interview show about other peoples’ travels.amateurtravelerphoto

If someone close to you wanted advice on starting a travel blog, what’s the most important piece of advice you could give them?

My first thought is don’t quit your day job. I do Amateur Traveler mostly for the love of travel, which is where the title came from. If you don’t love content creation it will get pretty tiring pretty quickly.

Most of our readers are interested in making blogging more than just a hobby. How do you support yourself with your blog, how has that income stream changed over the years, and what do you foresee in the future in terms of changes?

I don’t. I did try and quit my job and live just off the blog for a while but didn’t sell our house and move to Chiang Mai which would make more sense financially. Not only did I burn through savings but I also missed my work in software. I now am working on building a new company called BloggerBridge.com which helps companies find bloggers to work with which I hope will make it easier for people to turn blogging into a career. I support myself by contracting half time as a programmer with my old employer TripAdvisor.

tripadvisorlogoYou’re speaking at the upcoming TBEX conference in Cancun. Can you give us a sneak peek of what you’ll be talking about?

 Ha, as it turns out I am talking about just this subject. The talk, which I am doing with David Brodie, who runs a PR firm in Vancouver, is called “Don’t Quit Your Day Job”. We are hoping to talk about some of the advantages of a day job and how to craft the right balance for you of mixing a career and blogging.

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Chris is the host of the Amateur Traveler, a popular online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations. It includes a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog. He was formerly the Director of Engineering for TripAdvisor’s New Initiatives group, the EVP Engineering at LiveWorld where his team built and ran online communities and events for companies include eBay, HBO, TV Guide, Expedia, Marriott, A&E, History Channel, the NBA, NBC, ABC, Disney, Microsoft, WebTV and American Express. Chris now owns and runs BloggerBridge.com which is a new startup connecting bloggers and industry contacts. 

Interview conducted in July, 2014 by Kristin Winet.

Summer Round-Up: Best Travel Writing Advice So Far This Year

As we reach the halfway point of 2014, we couldn’t help but go back through many interviews we’ve conducted so far this year to see where we’ve been and where we’re going. The travel industry is changing (there is no doubt about that!), and these writers, editors, and publishers have given us insight into how to make it in the travel industry. So, as we plan for the upcoming TBEX conferences, take our much-needed summer vacations, and do what we do best (travel and write), take a few moments to sit back, relax, and enjoy this round-up of the most interesting travel writing quotes we’ve gotten so far in 2014. And, let us know in the comments section what you think about what our experts have to say!

Happy continued writing,

–Tim & Kristin

P.S. Also, if you’re not subscribed to our newsletter (which always features a round-up of our most recent interviews!), sign up here. No spam, no selling, and no sharing–just a friendly newsletter every once in a while.

Don’t Play It Too Safe

“Wearing your heart on your sleeve can bond you with your audience in ways that “Everything is awesome” pampic2can’t…..Bloggers totally play it too safe. If you want to be invited on press trip after press trip or get paid day rates by PR, it pays to be safe. You have to have a lot of nerve to bite the hand that feeds you. But it depends on what your goal is. If you want to have a career as an independent writer, you’re gotta put your incisors to work. If you want to trade work as a marketing hack for luscious vacations on someone else’s dime, carry on. But no one says, “I would like to read a travel story about someone who’s having an awesome time on a meticulously managed experience, especially if they are writing to please the host.” – Interview with Pam Mandel, Nerd’s Eye View and Passports with Purpose

lucasDon’t Let Social Media Drain You

“I think it’s important to be judicious in your use of social media, or it can become a big drain on your time and not necessarily garner the results you’re seeking. As of mid-2014, I still believe there are lots of good paying print markets out there. You just have to find them and then consistently deliver the goods for your editors.” – Interview with Lucas Aykroyd, freelance writer

Newsletters Can Be Your #1 Assetevelyn

“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.” – Interview with Evelyn Hannon, Journeywoman

Short Blog Posts Aren’t Always Your Friend

“My most popular post on the Cheapest Destinations Blog is 4,803 words, for example. There are e-books for sale that are shorter than that. But don’t take my word for it. In this awesome (long) post from AppSumo founder Noah Kagan, the analysis of more than 100,000 blog posts showed the longer the post, the more it got shared.” – Advice post from our very own Tim Leffel

Know What (And Who) You’re Writing For

bender“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.” – Interview with Erin Bender, Travel with Bender

Travelers Today Don’t Travel Like They Used To

“Digital media has made a huge impact in the industry and opened up a gap for new ways that travelers can get information. This was crucial for opening the door for this new wave of world travelers, who don’t necessarily travel like their parents once did.” – Interview with Cacinda Maloney, Points and Travel

robgossFake It ‘Til You Make It (Really)

“Don’t be afraid to act like a professional, even if you don’t feel like one yet. Be reliable, meet deadlines, and deliver exactly as briefed. Overcome any shyness about communicating with your editors. Good editors don’t get annoyed if you ask for guidance. It shows that you care.” – Interview with Rob Goss, freelance writer

And, Of Course, Don’t Quit Your Day Job (Yet)

“We’re now in the ‘golden age of free content’ which means many writers end up giving away their work for nothing, especially in the early days as they try to build a reputation. It’s very hard to move from writing for free to writing for a living but the sooner you start to make this transition the better. I would suggest starting by keeping your job and writing on the side; then transitioning to part-time work and paid writing assignments; then moving – if possible – to full-time paid writing. But it isn’t easy and there are no short cuts.” – Interview with John Lee, freelance writer

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Round-up collected in July 2014 by Kristin Winet.

Join Us at TBEX 2014 (+ Free Registration Giveaway!)

 

Want to rub shoulders with the best in the travel blogging business–for free?

We thought so. Read on.

TBEX North America and TBEX Europe are coming up later this year and our very own Tim Leffel will be joining 750+ attendees to talk about travel, adventures, writing, photographing, blogging, and making a living with the combination. This year, to kick things off, we’re giving away one free registration to TBEX Europe in Athens, a $247 value. All you have to do to enter is answer one question below in the Comments and you’re entered!

TBEX Athens

You’ll see plenty of the writers, bloggers, and editors we’ve interviewed here on the Travel Writing 2.0 blog at both TBEX conferences this year, including Max Hartshorne, Sheila Scarborough, and a host of other names in the business. Click below to see some of the interviews we’ve done with this year’s speakers:

TBEX Cancun (September 11-13, 2014):

TBEX Athens (October 23-25, 2014):

To enter our giveaway, simply respond to this question in the Comments section: What has your blogging journey been like and what do you want to learn at TBEX? Be as creative and insightful as you can!

Rules: one entry per person; no writers who work for Tim or any of the above websites are eligible. Deadline is August 8, 2014, and the winner will be announced on August 11th!

This prize is non-refundable or transferable and must be used at TBEX Europe in Athens. It is for registration only and does not include travel expenses or lodging.