After a few recent days and nights of fun together in New York City, I got the couple behind the sustainable travel blog Drink Tea & Travel to talk about life on the road, blogging with a partner, and the unusual side hustle of owning a hotel. Read on to see our interview.
How did you two meet and how did you first get into travel blogging?
We met back in 2008 while in university in Canada, well before the idea of traveling the world was ever on the horizon for either one of us. We dated briefly in University but after graduation in 2008, we went separate ways. Max decided to pursue a Masters Degree in Australia and I jumped into a 9-5 job in Toronto. We stayed friends and saw each other once a year over the course of the next few years until in 2012, after leaving Canada and spending a year in London and in Shanghai, I decided to move to Australia.
We rekindled our relationship and lived together in Brisbane, Australia for the next 3 years. The blog started in 2014, as a hobby for me, as I shared some travel tips and stories about my life abroad. In 2015, we decided to quit our jobs in Australia and take 4-6 months to travel and blog on the road. Six months turned into the next 5 years. And we haven’t looked back since!
How much of your time are you on the road? Do you have any kind of routine that helps you stay on track with work tasks when you’re on the move?
We spend about 9 months a year on the road and the other 3 months visiting family in Canada, Costa Rica, and in the US. We usually take three or four month-long trips and take one month off in between to catch up on work and plan the next leg of the trip.
While on the road, we try to keep a good work/play balance. Mornings and evenings are usually our work time and our days are spent exploring. When things get really hectic and we fall behind on work, we slow down for a week or so. We get an Airbnb, we relax, we cook our own meals, we do our washing, and we recharge. We find these little breaks to be crucial for keeping us sane while on the road.
How do you divide up tasks between the two of you?
I (Oksana) deal with the admin and editorial part of the blog, including managing our team, writing, and working on our content schedule. Max focuses on video production and is our SEO expert and IT guru!
I’ve interviewed a lot of people on here who had some kind of side hustle, but I think you’re the first that has a physical hotel. What’s the story there?
Yes, we own the Drift Away Eco Lodge, a boutique eco-hotel in Costa Rica. About 2 years ago, we were looking for a new business idea/investment and an old run-down hotel was for sale 200 meters from where Max grew up in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. It was an area we knew really well and the price was right so we jumped on the opportunity. The hotel was in bad shape and needed a lot of repairs, but we had a vision to completely renovate the place and turn it into an eco-hotel, using all the ideas we’ve learned from staying in eco-hotels through our travels.
It took 8 months of hard work and lots of sweat, but when we opened the hotel’s doors in September 2018, it was all worth it. We learned a lot from the experience and are still learning more every day, so it’s been an exciting adventure. We love the lodge we have created and we are proud to say that our stellar reviews are a testament of how much our guests love it too! For a behind-the-scenes look at the lodge and to read more about the story of how it came to be head here.
What are your main sources of income and how much do they fluctuate from month to month?
We have our eggs in many baskets. We earn income from our blog, from our content production business, from our hotel, as well as from our investment properties. About 70% of our income is recurring, meaning that it does not fluctuate from month to month, and the rest is variable.
What advice would you give to a new travel blogger entering this hyper-competitive space right now?
If you are going to start a blog, make sure you have a very tight niche and be prepared to put thousands of hours of work into your blog before you see a single penny of profit. Don’t quit your day job unless you have some other source of income, because becoming an overnight sensation is a lot harder these days than it was 10 years ago.
Any big projects or goals for the coming years?
Yes! We this year we are on a mission to visit the World’s Top Sustainable Destinations. Last year, we spent months doing research to narrow down the list to our top 50 and this year we are excited to visit many of these destinations first hand. We’ll be covering our visits on our blog, social media channels and creating videos on each destination. On our list are some off-the-beaten-path spots like the Faroe Islands, Palau, Azores in Portugal, and Malta. We can’t wait to visit these spots and share our discoveries with our followers!
Oksana and Max St. John are co-founders of the award-winning, sustainable travel blog called Drink Tea & Travel. They are travel bloggers, photographers, and videographers on a mission to promote responsible travel practices and to inspire their followers to make a positive impact on the destinations they visit. Check out their blog and follow them through these links on Facebook and Instagram.