Heather Cowper has managed to build and maintain a successful blog on her travels as a part-time gig. Today she spends a few minutes with us explaining how it all started, how she manages to find time to travel despite her “day” job, and how she uses social media and videos to connect with her followers.
Tell us how you started writing and blogging and how you reached a point where it was earning you some money.
It all began with a life-changing three week trip through Ecuador, traveling by dug-out canoe down one of the Amazon tributaries with a couple of friends. When I got back I wanted to share these travel experiences beyond my friends and family and so I started Heather on her travels, first in Blogspot and then moved it to WordPress after a year.
At the start I was writing fairly randomly about whatever interested me but as the blog grew, my writing and photography skills improved. I discovered podcasting and video and I became more aware of engaging with an online audience outside my daily life. It was a couple of years before I started making some money from advertising and was asked to write for other online travel sites. Because I have a job outside blogging I don’t yet earn a full-time living from Heatheronhertravels.com but it’s certainly afforded me some incredible travel experiences.
You have good traffic and a well-known blog, so some people are probably surprised that this is a part-time gig for you. What’s your day job and how much time do you get to travel?
I combine my blogging with a job in project management and find that my blogging is a creative outlet from a world of budgets and plans. Although I might give the impression I’m traveling all the time, in fact I’m often stretching my holiday time over long weekends with a lot of UK and European travel. I take a few longer trips with my family or friends each year but I’ve never been a ‘lying on the beach’ sort of person, so I manage to pack in a lot when I travel.
In a world where ‘slow travel’ seems to be the preferred travel style I’m swimming against the tide, but I think I’m probably representative of many people who combine travel with their work and family commitments and want to experience the maximum in the short travel time they have.
If you’re traveling on your own, not on some organized trip, how do you find the good article ideas and research them?
I much prefer to plan my own trips and rarely take group press or blog trips. It must be the project manager in me, but I get excited about researching what there is to see and do in a new place. I’ll start with the tourism board website to understand the key things to see, then I’ll scour the web for blogger articles that will give me a bit more insight. I find that Google search is hopeless for this since the more individual articles are buried on page 10 below all the hotel and aggregator websites, but Pinterest is good for finding articles.
The key themes of my blog are culture, food, hiking and cruise so I’m always looking for interesting angles around these, combining hiking through vineyards with some wine tasting or a modern art museum that has a great café.
I try and plan a variety of articles that give both breadth and depth. For instance I might write an overview article of things to see in a destination but balance it with an in-depth interview of a chef who’s reinventing the local cuisine. Once I arrive in a destination I like to connect with locals who can give you the good stories and insights so I may contact local bloggers to meet for a coffee while I’m there.
You have done a lot of video over the years, which we all know can be rather time-consuming on the editing side. How has that contributed to your success?
I really enjoy shooting travel videos but they are definitely time consuming to edit. On any trip I may be writing notes for articles, taking photos and live posting on social media. If it all becomes too much work, I have to prioritize which trips I’m going to shoot video for and which I’ll focus on other media.
When I make video I will talk to the camera as I think it really increases engagement with my audience and I’m increasingly shooting short video snippets to post on Facebook which can get a lot of views. With Periscope and Snapchat, it’s becoming quite acceptable to have live video that’s a bit raw, unedited and ‘in the moment’ and I’m experimenting with these social channels as well as the properly edited videos for YouTube.
Where do you want to travel next year and why?
I’d like to explore more interesting destinations outside Europe. On my wish list I have some of the less developed Caribbean islands with gorgeous beaches, lush tropical walking trails and interesting stories in their history. I’d also love to get out to Canada as having done a lot of hiking in the mountains of Austria, South Tyrol and the Alps, I’m looking for those mountain landscapes on an even grander scale.
Heather Cowper is the blogger and editor at Heatheronhertravels.com and co-founder of TravelatorMedia.com a blogger collective that targets the 40+ UK Quality traveler. Heatheronhertravels.com is for the 40+ adventurous woman looking for an authentic travel experience with a little luxury, covering culture, food, hiking and cruise travel. You can find Heather on Twitter Facebook Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube.