Geraldine DeRuiter is the voice behind the Everywhereist, consistently ranked as one of the best travel blogs out there. In our interview today, Geraldine and I discuss how she learned the mechanics of blogging, why she doesn’t take sponsored trips, and what advice she has for traveling with a spouse (spoiler: it references a classic 1980s movie). Enjoy!
Geraldine, you started your blog, the Everywhereist, after you started traveling with your husband. How did you “get your feet wet” in blogging? What did you have to learn when you first started?
I had actually been blogging professionally for a little while, on behalf of the company that employed me. So I had a little bit of background in the mechanics of blogging, but I only knew how to write for other people. I hadn’t developed my own voice. That was one of the most important things I had to learn when I started the Everywhereist – what my personal style and tone of writing were. It’s something I’m still working on.
The nice part about blogging is that even the people who are so-called experts have only been doing it for a little while – so even if you are just starting out, you aren’t that far behind.
If someone near and dear to you wanted to start a travel blog today, what would you tell this person?
I’m actually asked this question so often, that I wrote a blog post of tips for beginning bloggers! But the most important thing I’d tell that person is this: write about what you love. Because creating a successful blog takes a lot of patience and luck – an audience won’t show up overnight. Most successful blogs out there were unsuccessful for years. So you need to be internally motivated. You need blog because you love what you are doing, and what you are writing about.
You’ve said that you don’t like to take “freebies” because you believe it would separate you from your readers. Can you often tell the difference between blogs that are highly subsidized by free trips and blogs that aren’t?
Sometimes I can, and sometimes I can’t – it depends entirely on the writer and how they treat the situation. But I know that I, personally, could not be objective if I was taking a trip for free. I’d be too excited and thrilled that it was free – I love free stuff.
I once played a ski-ball game at an arcade, and the coin got jammed in the machine, and so I just got to play game after free game of ski-ball. IT WAS AMAZING. To this day, my husband jokes that it was the happiest day of my life. And it sort of was. So I know that I can’t be objective – but lots of other people can be.
Related to the last question, what advice do you have for bloggers wishing to “make it” in the industry but don’t have the financial capabilities to pay for their trips themselves?
I would highly recommend that they look at other successful bloggers who do take free or sponsored trips, and see how they do it. Some folks feel like a paid endorsement, and their blogs read like commercials. But others – Pam Mandel and Gary Arndt come to mind – are able to maintain the integrity and honesty of their blogs and their writing voice, even while taking sponsored trips.
I’d also bloggers to reach out to sponsors who are a good fit for them – think about your demographic, and which sponsors would want to reach those consumers. One great way is to look at products that you actually use, and start with those companies.
Once you are able to secure a sponsorship: make sure you know what the company or organization expects of you beforehand. And be honest to them about what you are willing to deliver. Don’t put yourself in a position where you’ll be comprising your values. Oh, and be sure to disclose to your audience that a trip was paid for – I find that readers appreciate it when you are up-front about those things.
How do you spread your time between traveling, blogging, writing, and interacting with social media? How can one person balance it all?
Ha! Come on – my life is a piece of cake. I get to travel around the world with my amazing husband, take photos, and blog about it. And I have an amazing audience of readers who actually seem to care about what I write! It’s crazy.
I’m incredibly, absurdly fortunate – Rand and I are in a financial position where I can devote my time to the blog rather than try to pull together freelance gigs or a full-time job. Honestly, I wake up every day trying to suss out how, exactly, I got so lucky. I definitely don’t deserve this much awesome in my life. It’s more than any reasonable person could ask for.
Lastly, what tips do you have for traveling full-time with a spouse or significant other?
It’s the same piece of advice I have for traveling with anyone, and for life in general: Be excellent to each other. (Thanks, Bill and Ted.)
Geraldine DeRuiter is the founder of Everywhereist.com, a travel blog for the accidentally adventurous. Her blog has been featured on TIME, Forbes, Conde Nast Traveler, and other reputable sites (this is consistently surprising to her). She is currently working on a travel memoir that will be due out next spring. In the meantime, she’s stalling. She can be found on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Interview conducted in October 2014 by Kristin Winet.
When Tim told me about another content marketing website and suggested I take a look at it, my first thought was this: Oh no, I do not need another site I have to keep up with. As a one-woman team, I can hardly keep up with all the ones I already have!
But now, I think I’m a convert. Check out Contently.
For one, my current portfolio page is really, really uninteresting. It’s a list of titles and publications with clickable hyperlinks or downloadable pdfs. No pretty pictures, no scrolling option, just, well, a list. I guess I was ready for an upgrade.
Secondly, Contently is really cool–it’s a free portfolio site for showcasing “your story;” i.e., your freelancing life online. You input a number of urls for sites you’ve written for and Contently scans them and uploads the material it finds attributed to you. Then, you get a customizable url that’s easy to remember. Tim’s, for instance, is https://timleffel.contently.com/ and mine–which I just made yesterday–is https://kristinwinet.contently.com/.
What do you think, fellow travel writers and bloggers? Have you used Contently? Got any other recommendations I might have missed?
You’re the editor-in-chief behind Travel Mamas. What gave you the inspiration for the site and how did you get it off the ground?
When I became a mom, I looked for a book with practical and fun advice for traveling with babies and children but had a hard time finding what I wanted. I asked practically every mom or dad I met for tips on traveling with kids. After a few trips of my own, I decided to write the book I wanted to read.
Eventually I signed with a literary agent for my book, “The Travel Mamas’ Guide” and she told me to get some articles published and start a blog. I knew so little about blogging that you couldn’t even make comments on my site at first because I didn’t use a blogging platform like WordPress. Rather, I used the more cumbersome and difficult Dreamweaver and eventually had to convert to WordPress.
I attended blogging conferences like Type A Mom (now Type A Parent), BlogHer and TBEX, which really helped me learn so much about building a successful blog. The sessions were great, but meeting and building relationships with other bloggers was key to the success of Travel Mamas. Blogging can be such a solitary endeavor and having someone with whom to brainstorm and from whom to get advice is beyond valuable. There’s no way I’d still be blogging if I didn’t find the blogger friendships that I have today.
How did you get into writing and blogging in the first place? What led you to where you are now?
I had been taking writing classes for years but had never submitted anything for publication. I decided to write an article on how to travel with kids to submit to magazines. But after writing, and writing and writing, I realized that I had started a book. That book is what led to my website.
I wanted to create the website that I wished had existed when I first started traveling with my kids. I included printable packing lists, travel tips, reviews, and narrative pieces to inspire travel. The Travel Mamas Team also publishes stories about romantic retreats and girlfriend getaways because parents deserve a break sometimes too!
It’s so hard to say because the rules and practices of blogging, journalism and social media keep changing. I teach blogging classes and I have to update my curriculum for each session because things transform so rapidly in digital media.
I focus less and less on freelance writing because the pay is typically pretty horrible. I make money from my blog with a blend of sponsored posts and giveaways, standard ads, an Amazon store, and Google
Adsense ads. Lately I am focusing my efforts on #KidsNTrips Twitter parties to help brands build buzz along with my partners, LA Times Columnist Jen Leo and USA Today/10 Best Contributor Katie Dillon (a.k.a. La Jolla Mom). I am also trying to grow my resume as a public speaker and broadcast media personality.
I have started a second book too. This one is much more personal; it’s a memoir about how travel has influenced my life. It includes stories that, I hope, will cause tears and laughter and inspire others to live their best lives.
On your site, you say that witnessing your children’s pure joy in the journey makes traveling with kids worth it. What other advice do you have for parents who worry about the expense, time, and effort it takes to travel with kids?
It seems crazy to me to put off traveling until your children get older or move away or until you have more money. None of us knows how long we have on this planet so I advise people to make the most of their lives with their children today. Kids learn so much from traveling too. They learn about how other people live, eat, and talk. They learn about art and beauty and nature. They learn about how they fit into this big crazy world. It would be such a shame to rob your children of those experiences. You don’t have to go far or spend a lot of money, either. A camping trip is just as beneficial as a trip to Europe, in my opinion.
What advice do you have for a new blogger who is trying to create a niche and grow a readership?
Write about your passion. Don’t try to figure out what people want to read. Write good stories and people who have the same passion as you will want to read your blog. Blog readership is based on three things: good content (well-written stories, great photography, and maybe video) plus good search engine optimization (if they can’t find your blog, they can’t read it); and good social media (this is freePR for your blog and leads to more page views and paid opportunities).
You’ll be speaking at the upcoming TBEX conference. Can you give our readers a sneak peek of what you’ll be talking about?
I am leading a session on Building a Vision Board…for a blog, writing career, desired travels, or life. I will help people define what they want to draw into their lives and provide the tools, time and assistance to create a physical vision board they can bring home with them. Envisioning positive things has been proven to have just as positive an effect as experiencing positive things. The process will help attendees define goals too. If you want to get somewhere, you need to choose a direction. As Franklin Roosevelt said, “To reach a port, we must sail—Sail, not tie at anchor—Sail, not drift.”
Colleen Lanin is the author of “The Travel Mamas’ Guide” and the founder/editor-in-chief of Travel Mamas. She teaches blogging classes and gives presentations on how to travel with babies and children. She has given travel tips on television, radio, and as a paid video blogger. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. Her stories have appeared in such publications as the “Today” show’s travel section on NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, Expedia.com, Working Mother Magazine, and more.
Interview conducted in September, 2014 by Kristin Winet.
Laurel Robbins is a travel blogger and Twitter aficionado–and with good reason: she’s got over 45,000 followers! In our interview today, Laurel talks about the value of learning how to properly use social media, what she’ll be talking about at the upcoming TBEX conference, and what she wish she’d known starting out. Enjoy!
Laurel, you say you’re a “Conversation Starter, Twitter Aficionado and Social Media Time Optimizer.” How did you get into social media and how did you see its value early on?
I was into Facebook from my first day of blogging, but it took me months to get into Twitter. I thought it was a complete waste of time and didn’t see the value. Then I figured out it wasn’t Twitter, it was the way I was using it. Since changing the way I used Twitter, it’s become my favorite social media platform and my #1 source of sales referrals.
What inspired you to start Monkeys and Mountains? What has that journey been like for you?
When I moved from Canada to Germany I asked myself what my dream job would be if I could do anything, and the answer was “travel blogger”. I had no idea what that meant, but it sounded like a lot of fun! Turns out I was right! It is a lot of fun, but it’s also a LOT of work – way more than I had anticipated. Like any career journey, it’s had it’s ups and downs, but the positives far outweigh the negatives.
What do you wish you’d known about blogging when you started?
That it’s very difficult to make a living solely from Google AdSense and affiliate marketing – especially when you’re just starting out. That was my income generation strategy, which needless to say was not successful and needed a complete overhaul.
In your opinion, where is the use of social media heading in the travel industry in the next 5, 10 years?
I think there is a tremendous opportunity for real-time targeted engagement with travelers, i.e. reaching out to them when they’re on a trip and offering them an incentive for a particular tour or service while they’re in a particular destination.
What advice do you have for bloggers wishing to “make it” in the industry in terms of how to spread their time between traveling, blogging, writing, and interacting with social media? How can one person balance it all without sacrificing, let’s say, the quality of the content?
Find your unique selling point and hone it like crazy. You can not be amazing at everything, so pick one thing to really excel at – something that will make you stand out from the thousands of other travel bloggers. It will save you a ton of time – since you will be really focused on one thing not 10 things. It’s fine to be just “good” or even “OK” at some of the other stuff, as long as you’re really good at one thing.
The other thing is have digital detox days. You need it more than you realize. It’s easy to think that you have to be connected 24/7 and that your followers will miss you if you disappear for a few days. In reality they probably won’t and if they do well hey, they’ll be really happy that you’re back! It’s important to be real and remember that we’re travel bloggers – we’re not saving people’s lives.
You’re going to be speaking at TBEX Athens in October. Can you give our readers a sneak peek at what you’ll be talking about?
I will be sharing practical advanced Twitter techniques that can help you grow your followers and make Twitter your #1 source for client referrals. I realize that bloggers and the travel industry are already using Twitter so my presentation doesn’t cover the basic stuff, but the more advanced tips and techniques that most bloggers/travel industry professionals are too busy to investigate or implement. I’ve tested my presentation on a few bloggers already and they were really surprised at how much they learned given that they’re active Twitter users. That’s what I’m going for – really practical tips that bloggers and the travel industry can implement quickly to get better results in minutes a day!
Laurel Robbins is a social media time optimizer and Twitter aficionado with over 45,000 followers @Laurel_Robbins. She’s also the founder of Monkeys and Mountains, an award-winning outdoor and adventure blog. When not tweeting or traveling, you can find her in the mountains, which is most weekends!
Hello fellow travel bloggers and readers!
Because TBEX Europe is coming up soon (October 23-25, 2014), we thought we’d highlight some of this year’s speakers that we’ve interviewed over here at Travel Writing 2.0 to celebrate the upcoming conference. This year’s lineup, which includes our very own Tim Leffel, is sure to be pretty amazing.
Click below to read the interviews we’ve done with some of this year’s TBEX Athens speakers:
Bret Love of Green Global Travel blog
David Farley, author of An Irreverent Curiosity
Laurence Norah of Finding the Universe blog
Michael Collins of media consulting company Travel Media
In the coming weeks, we’ll be publishing more interviews with the TBEX speakers, so make sure to check back regularly!
**And a big congratulations to Jessica Dawdy for winning our free TBEX Athens registration contest! You can connect with Jessica over on her blog Ways of Wanderers or on Twitter @waysofwanderers.
Tim & Kristin
To read more about the TBEX Europe conference, check out their homepage to see a list of speakers, workshops, trips, and get registered.