Diana Edelman turned 30 and decided she wasn’t living the life she wanted to live: She was single, had no children, didn’t own any property, and had decided that her career in PR wasn’t quite right. To try and find some answers, she took off to Europe and Africa by herself, eventually landing in Thailand, where she discovered elephant conservation. A freelance writer and blogger, Diana now focuses her time on raising awareness of elephant conservation in Thailand and works to inspire people to travel both ethically and mindfully. In our interview, Diana talks about how she’s grown her blog and her freelance career.
Diana, you started your blog, D Travels Round, almost four years ago. How has the travel blogging world changed since then, and what do you wish you knew then that you know now?
The blogging world has changed a lot in the past four years. More and more people have gotten into the mix and have been sharing their stories. And, more and more tourism bureaus and companies have begun to work with us and take the travel blogging world seriously. What do I wish I knew then that I knew know? You know, when I first started, there were a handful of established bloggers that helped me out a lot and shared their insight into the world of blogging. I think they really helped guide me in my first year. The most important thing I took from them was “do it because you love it, not because you are in it for the money or the free trips.” I’ve held that wisdom close.
I’d love to hear you expand on what you call your “30 Life Crisis.” Do you think a lot of women experience this, and how has travel helped you “solve” (or at least work through?) this crisis?
When I turned 30, I realized the life I was living was exactly the life I had dreamed of living, but no longer the life I wanted to live. My priorities, somewhere along the way, shifted from the stereotypical American dream to my own dream of seeing the world and taking the most from my life through my experiences. I am sure other women experience this, particularly those without things tying them down to a particular place or a particular person. For me, I had nothing holding me back, so I leapt and followed my heart. Travel doesn’t solve anything, it is you that solves your own problems. For me, travel allowed me to get more in touch with my desires and allowed me to share my stories, which is all I wanted. It opened me to new experiences, opened my mind, opened my heart. At the end of the day, to me, that is perfect.
How has your income mix changed over the past few years and where do you see it going in the next 5 or 10 years?
When I first started, I was getting offers for next-to-nothing on my site. Today, as my page rank has gone up and my freelancing work has increased, I am able to make more money. I am also able to work with tourism bureaus and companies who are kind enough to include me on trips. In the next five or 10 years, I can see more and more bureaus and companies around the world really taking bloggers seriously and working with them to build their brands and share their experiences with their readers.
What advice do you have for new travel bloggers who are trying to get their first big break?
It does not come over night. It takes a lot of time to build up an audience, to make those connections. You have to do it because you simply love to write and love to travel, not because you just want free trips places. If you go in with that attitude – that free is what you are after and you are owed free things because you write – you will not get far. Always be kind. Network. Get your name out there with guest posts on other blogs, try your hand at freelancing for publications. The more you get into the mix, the better chances you will have at growing your own blog.
Tell us about some of the freelancing work you have done in addition to your blogging. How did you get started as a freelancer and how do you balance the workload?
I have done a lot of freelance work over the years. I have been in the journalism world for a long time. I started writing at a local paper in high school and then went to college to write for the paper there. During that time, I decided I wanted a career in PR, which is very writing-heavy, and from there, I started getting more work published. The more I realized I wanted to actually write for a living, I began to reach out to publications and websites and tell them about my experience, send them links to some of my writing and ask about work. I’ve had long-term gigs with CheapOair, OneTravel, Viator and others, and have written for The Huffington Post, local Vegas publications and Mandarin Oriental’s international magazine. When I returned from my long-term travel, I was lucky enough to land a part-time job as the director of communications for a restaurant group. I was working 20 or so hours a week in that position, and then writing the rest of the time.
Diana Edelman is a travel writer and expat currently residing in Chiang Mai, Thailand. In 2010 she quit her job in PR to go on a solo backpacking adventure and tackle her 30-Life-Crisis. After seven months abroad, journeying throughout Europe and Africa, she returned to America and relocated to Las Vegas. Following a year-long stint back in PR, she once again quit her job to follow her dreams; this time her journey took her to the elephants and Elephant Nature Park where she is involved with raising awareness about responsible elephant tourism. Recently, Diana was named a finalist in the Destinology Travel Bloggy Awards for travel writing. She was a regular contributor to Viator and recently served as the Las Vegas contributor for OneTravel.com and CheapOair.com. Her work has appeared in print and online, including The Huffington Post, Matador Network, Travel + Escape, Vegas Seven, World Nomads and more.
Interview conducted in September, 2013 by Kristin Mock.