Andrew Dobson, who will be speaking at TBEX this week, started his blog dobbernationLOVES to document his three year adventure around the world–a trip which ultimately took him to over 50 countries. He moved to Toronto in 2010 to “settle down” and began using his blog as a means to showcase his adventures while sussing out his new home. Today, we talk about how travel bloggers should market themselves and carve out a niche. Enjoy!
How did you get started in the travel blogging industry? Did you have any writing experience before starting your travel blog?
In my final year of university I did a research project on Global Culinary Tourism Best Practices that had me adventuring through Europe for a Spring/Summer. I wrote my first Culinary Tourism journal during this time which was fairly academic. As it turns out I caught the travel bug and once finished my studies spent the next three years traveling around the globe to over 50 countries. My travel writing for this period was written at hostel computers and internet cafes. These stories all sit on my blog today.
Tell us a little bit about the tagline on your site, Dobbernationloves.com: “Demanding silence, assembling a private narrative and wishing you could see this…” What does this evoke for your readers?
I actually have two taglines! The first being, “Eat Well, Travel Hard, Live Better” which I’ve been using since I first created my blog. I really like this tagline as it sums up the evolution of my blogs content from the very moment I decided to purchase a domain name and get busy in the blog world to present day where I run the blog full time. The evolution of my blog started as a travel blog as I was on the road. Moving to Toronto three years ago it became more of an adventurous food blog as I ate up the cities best eats. Today I write a lot of lifestyle pieces which also cover art galleries, museums, theatre, concerts and design.
My second tagline that you quote above is a bit of a joke which points to the fact that I am a chatterbox and do about 10 things at once. I get distracted easily so this one liner is a reminder for me when traveling to find a quiet place and make my own observations. Of course, “wishing you could see this,” is my way of letting my family, friends and readers know that I wish I could share my experiences with them on the road. It can get lonely!
If someone near and dear to you asked you for advice on starting out in the travel writing industry, what would you tell them?
I have people come up to me all the time asking me, “should I start a blog?” I always suggest would-be bloggers to first see if they even enjoy writing. I instruct them to write out a mock three month editorial calendar based on what their plans are for the next few weeks so they can see what kind of content they would be able to create through their experiences. I then suggest they write five blog posts in a word document just so they can see how much time is involved in the writing process. I would say that 50% of the people that take this advice discover they love the planning and writing process. The other folks learn that they aren’t disciplined enough to move forward and perhaps discover that writing is more of a chore than a passion for them.
In terms of travel writing specifically, I’d ask them “what is your brand and how do you differentiate your tone, writing style, photography and video from the other travel bloggers out there.” Many people have been to Paris for example, why would anyone want to read about your visit specifically? I have defined a niche for myself as a lover of life who is funny, well traveled and has a penchant for food and beverage.
What are you hoping to do with your writing in the next few years and how do you see your income stream changing?
In the next year I am hoping to venture on at least one press trip a month to ensure there are always interesting new adventures and stories to showcase to my readers. My goal is to continue to create culinary tourism destination guides for DMO’s.
I’ve had the opportunity to act as an Ambassador for several great brands and will continue to do so with some new and exciting ones being announced soon. I regularly feature sponsored posts on my blog and will be working more closely with tourism boards in the future to ensure a more strategic approach to my visit.
Over the past year I’ve also been busy “behind the curtain” developing a TV show about how I run my blog which will most likely focus on my press trip adventures. Getting myself into a whole other ball game as I transition my brand from the digital space to television.
What will you be speaking about at TBEX?
I will be speaking with Rebecca LeHeup, the Director of the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance about the culinary tourism niche. Everyone has to eat when they travel! I’m specifically looking forward to showcasing a few examples of how I have collaborated with brands during press trips.
Andrew Dobson is based in Toronto and runs dobbernationLOVES, a daily lifestyle blog focused on inspiring the world to “Eat Well, Travel Hard, Live Better.”
Interview conducted in May, 2013 by Kristin Mock.