Carol Cain is a PR professional turned travel blogger. The goal of her site, Girl Gone Travel, is to inspire travel with friends, as a couple, or with family–and she does this through quirky blog posts, fun videos, and a lot of social media! She’ll be speaking at the New Media Expo in Las Vegas in January and recently spoke at TBEX Dublin on the topic of challenging bloggers to go against the ideology of what they think sells and tell the story that isn’t being told. Enjoy!
Carol, you run the travel blog Girl Gone Travel, a “grown up” version of your 2008 blog, NYCityMama.com. Tell us a little bit about why you decided to start blogging and what advice you might give other new travel bloggers.
I left a career in public relations to focus more on my family and as I searched for websites and information on things to do in NYC with them, I realized that most of the perspective was from people whose financial means and NYC reality was far removed from not only my family, but also many of the people I knew growing up in the city. There’s a tendency as travel bloggers to want to only tell the story of the extravagant retreat, or high end restaurant. We tend to want to showcase a lifestyle that, though amazing, is not at the reach of most people. My blog then and my blog now shares it all, the nice things you can do in NYC and beyond that might be something people save up for and the things that you might want to do with a partner or the family on a regular weekend day.
My advice to new travel bloggers would be to not forget that even those who can’t travel often need and want to be inspired to travel some. Not everyone can go around the world or vacation in Tibet, so also find a way to get regular folks, like me and my friends, to just travel somewhere by inspiring through the attainable and real.
Do you think that growing up in a Dominican-Puerto Rican family (and traveling between New York and the Dominican Republic) and your ability to speak three languages impacted your desire to and perspective on travel?
Yes. I never imagined my life without travel since I had been doing it my whole life and grew up with a father in the hospitality industry.
Having grown up bicultural and being able to communicate in different ways makes it easier to accept that the world is more than what people present it to be. It’s impossible to see the world as black and white when you grow up as I did and you can’t ever accept things as told by one source, because the way I grew up proved to me that stories are always different depending on who is telling it.
You have an impressive repertoire of freelance work, having written for such publications as New York Family Magazine, Matador, Expedia, and Forbes. How did you “get your feet wet” in the freelancing industry?
I did it through my blog. I put all I have into it. I never saw my blog as lacking the potential to stand on its own, though I myself am not some big shot writer, nor a celebrated journalist. I respect my blog and the content I put into it enough that it has been my greatest asset in getting work and my main source for contact with publications and brands. I give it the attention I would any other major publication. In my eyes, my blog is more valuable in that way.
I think that approach has helped me a lot. But, I have also been very fortunate in meeting and becoming friends with people who are not only generous with their guidance and advice, but also with their trust and faith in my work. I am not sure that I ever had the courage to ask for an opportunity to write for many people, but they find me anyway and many have been encouraging of my career. Despite my lack of aggressiveness in this sense, I manage to make friends with people who, to my luck, like my work enough to want to feature it. Not your standard approach, I suppose, and not one I would highly recommend to a starving writer.
As the travel industry continues to move toward embracing digital technologies, how do you see your income mix changing over the next 5 years? 10 years?
It has already changed dramatically in just the past two years. I see it becoming far more competitive and requiring something more than just the weight of a person’s degree or corporate publication title. It’s not enough to just want to get paid to write a piece or promote a product, writers also need to be social and have an ability to connect with their readers on a more personal level. Despite the fact that technology is changing and there are different ways to earn an income, say via social media networking and online outreach, at the end of the day the human aspect is still the one thing that connects you best to your readers, enough that they will support your work and promote it consistently to make you a valuable asset to any publication that is looking to hire you.
Without the ability to build a bond with your readers, through your writing, but also through your online conversations, it will be harder to build the type of loyalty that publications are now wanting. I have the best readers in the world, many of whom have been following me since 2008 and have celebrated many of my accomplishments with me. I think that as long as I don’t lose sight of how I got here, who helped me get here, and never sell out the trust that they have in me, I will always have their support which is where the true value of what I do lies.
Tell us a little bit about your session, Multicultural Travel Bloggers, at TBEX Dublin. For our readers who weren’t able to attend the conference, could you give us one takeaway from your presentation?
The overall gist of my presentation, and one I will expand upon more in the upcoming New Media Expo in Las Vegas this coming January, is that we all have multiple layers and cultures in who we are. However, in an effort to make it big, bloggers and writers tend to shape their voice and image to become more mainstream and appeal to what corporate media calls “relatable”. Which is why looking at the face of media today, especially in travel media, there’s really nothing different. Those who are “big” in travel all have the same look, the same message, and the same tone. I can open up a magazine right now, or turn on a travel show and I will see the same people, over and over again.
In my session, I challenge bloggers to go against that ideology of what they think sells and tell the story that isn’t being told. I challenge them to be different and break the mold. I encouraged them to use the power of new media to tell a different story and present a different face. And I promised them that in doing so they will find an audience that has been neglected for far too long who has been dying to be spoken to.
Carol Cain is a former public relations professional turned freelance travel writer and blogger. She’s the voice of GirlGoneTravel.com, a travel and food blog that looks to inform and inspire others to take on travel with or without kids in tow. She currently lives in New Jersey, but in her heart she will always be a girl from Brooklyn, NY.
Interview conducted in November, 2013 by Kristin Mock.