Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott, the husband-and-wife digital storytelling and photography team behind Uncornered Market, talk to us today about getting their start in the travel industry and how they’ve developed their niche in the blogging world. Their story is certainly an inspiration!
Let’s start at the beginning. How did you pay for your first year of traveling around the world and when did you decide you weren’t going to stop?
We were living and working in Prague, Czech Republic for five years before starting this trip and saved enough money during that time by living simply to travel for around 12-18 months. Unexpectedly, about a month into our trip (late 2006/early 2007) some freelance writing and photography work fell into our laps through a friend of a friend. That’s when we realized that we could extend the life of the trip by continuing to travel simply and pick up some freelance work. Over time, the nature of that freelance work has changed as market rates for online content dropped and our blog grew.
There wasn’t an exact date when we decided we weren’t going to stop. It was more the realization that we didn’t have any obligations forcing us to have an end date and so we just kept pushing travel dates back until it became a lifestyle.
What kind of writing and photography experience did either of you have before you became full-time bloggers?
In full disclosure, not very much. We were working in traditional desk jobs in Prague without much creativity in our professional lives. To fill this void we took some photography classes and a couple of online and on location writing courses. One of the reasons why we embarked on this “creative sabbatical” of a journey was to better hone these skills and use our blog as a portfolio for this kind of work.
Take us through the progression of income: how did you first start making any money from Uncornered Market and how are you doing now?
When we first began our journey we didn’t think of making money at all on this trip, much less from our blog. We were fortunate to secure an advertisement/sponsorship project in early 2008 with Sony, but we didn’t focus on monetizing the blog and brand until later in 2010. After we built up a bit of an audience, we began taking direct advertising and sponsorship. More recently, we’ve started doing more consulting (e.g., with the United Nations Foundation-backed GSTC) and speaking engagements.
I know the “Wanderers in Residence” program that G Adventures set up has been a big success for both them and the participating bloggers. How did you get involved in that and how does it work?
In early 2010 we took a tour to Antarctica with G Adventures. It was a last minute decision and we paid for it on our own, but we contacted them to see if they would be interested in cooperating during the trip. We really enjoyed the tour and the cooperation with G Adventures. They must have had a good experience working with us and saw the return as they reached out at the end of 2010 to invite us to be part of the inaugural group of Wanderers in Residence.
The WIR program originally started out as a sort of select group of bloggers going on different G Adventures trips and blogging about their experience. In the last yea it’s changed into more of a brand ambassador program. WIRs are not only going on G Adventures tours but we speak at G Adventures events (e.g., Future of Tourism) and at conferences showcasing the program, and we work together on co-branded tours and projects.
Most long-term travelers who are working from the road struggle with time management and the social media demands of hyper-connectivity. Balancing full attention in the moment with online posting and communication. What advice do you give to digital nomads?
This is something we still have not perfected. If we’re going to stay in one location a while we’ll focus on doing work in the early morning and very late evening (depending on the time zone) with a healthy dose of exploration in between. We often take notes and photos while we’re exploring, but we’ll synthesize them and share them when we’re either back at our hotel or taking a break at a café. The goal is to interact online in dedicated blocks of time so that social media doesn’t distract us from observing and taking in what’s going on around us. Easier said than done, of course.
During my first trip around the world, my then-girlfriend (now wife) and I had to split up for a week at the 6-month point to give ourselves a break from each other. How do you keep from getting on each others’ nerves when you’re together 24/7 and have so many little decisions to argue about on the road?
We’re human, so we still get on one another’s nerves. When we’re in full on travel mode we do pretty well as we’ve developed some good habits and coping mechanisms, including sharing the burden of logistics planning (something we both don’t like to do) and finding ways to create mental space when there is no physical space. Where it really gets tough is that we are not only travel partners but also business partners. The trick is not allowing professional and personal lives to bleed together entirely, and to maintain individuality. Having said that, we believe that when we work together, the end product is that much better.
Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott co-own and run the blog Uncornered Market. They travel deep and off-beat, aiming to connect the world through people, food and adventure. Five years and 70 countries later, they are still going…and still married.
Interview conducted in September, 2012 by Tim Leffel and edited by Kristin Mock.