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.

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