This summer, I put out a call for you guys to ask me anything — and ask you did! Today, I’m excited to share my answers… and turn some questions back on you for a bit. I’d be honored if you’d take my reader survey at the end of this post — I hope it will make Alex in Wanderland even more fun for all of us. Let’s do this!
• What is your go-to motivational quote to get yourself back on track when you’re feeling overwhelmed or feeling homesick? — Marni B
I love this question because I am, in fact, a personal mantras junkie. One that I’ve been repeating to myself for years is actually the lyrics from a favorite Alt J song, “the fear has gripped me, but… here I go.” It reminds me to stay brave and adventure on no matter how lost I might feel – metaphorically or literally! – in a particular moment.
Another favorite is the title of a favorite book, the road is life. When I’m feeling homesick — usually over missing a certain event or a particular person back home – I repeat this to myself to remember that regardless of whether I chose this life or it chose me, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
• What are the top five countries on your wish list that you’ve never been to but really want to go? Mine are: Turkey, Iceland, Peru, Egypt and Sri Lanka — Bronte L
Fun question! Brazil was the head of my list for a long time, and now that I’ve ticked that off I have to think about what country will get top billing. I do know that currently capturing my imagination are, in loose order, Uruguay, Jamaica, Mexico, Mozambique, the countries of Scandinavia, Australia, and Israel.
• What do you use to carry your DSLR and multiple lenses when travelling? – Ashley
I’m not into bulky camera bags or cases, but I have a lens pouch that I carry my long lens in when I’m not using it, and a camera sleeve that I use when I’m in transit with my dSLR. I either carry them in a carry-on Eagle Creek Afar backpack or more recently, a roll-on Lipault Foldable carry on.
• Did you visit Philippines yet? If yes… which of the thousands of island is your favorite? — Ericson M
Yup, I have! If you’re ever curious about whether or not I’ve been to a certain country, state or city, check out my Destinations Page, which has a map and detailed breakdown of all the places I’ve been. My favorite spots in the Philippines were Batad and Malapascua.
• What IS your favorite color? What about country (other than Thailand)? — Kendal K
My favorite color is yellow or teal – my site design might have given that away! — and my favorite country apart from Thailand is a six way tie between Cambodia, Greece, Iceland, Panama, Nicaragua, and Bonaire. (Come on, you had to know I wouldn’t be able to narrow that down to one!)
• Now that you’ve been so many places, if you were to honeymoon or have another family girls’ weekend, would you go somewhere entirely new, or somewhere you already went and loved? — Marni B
For trips with family and friends, I’m less fussed about the destination and more so just grateful that I managed to wrangle multiple of my favorite humans into one trip.
For my hypothetical honeymoon, however, I would like to go somewhere new. That said, I’ve always thought it would be really fun to let my hypothetical fiancé plan the entire thing and not know the destination until we get to the boarding gate. (My little sister would be in on the surprise and pack for me, of course – I might trust a man to plan me a trip, but never to pack me a suitcase.)
• How can I meet more friends while traveling solo? – Cate
My life as a solo traveler has been so filled with new people, new friendships, new obsessions. Personally I really enjoy my own company and recharge when I’m alone, so I’m happy to ride the waves of spontaneous friendship and quiet solitude as they come when I’m traveling alone. But if you find a stretch of solo travel that’s a little too heavy on the alone time, there are definitely ways to increase your chances of making a new friend, whether for an afternoon or a lifetime.
If I see someone else with a backpack on waiting for a cab at an airport or bus station, I ask where they’re headed – I met Leah of The Sweetest Way that way in Peru and we’ve been friends ever since! And I’ve split many a cab fares in Bangkok using the same method (in Bangkok, anyone with a backpack is probably headed to Khao San Road.)
Sit in the communal space at your hostel and smile at everyone. Generally I like private rooms in hostels but if I’m craving conversation I usually switch to a dorm where it’s easy to meet others commiserating over a loud snorer or a creaky fan. Brace yourself with bravery and ask a new group if you can sit next to them. Travelers are, overall, one of the friendliest bunches you’ll ever meet!
Try signing up for free walking tours, activities arranged through your hostel, and adventurous activities like diving and hang-gliding, where you’re sure to bond with your fellow adrenaline addicts. Go to yoga classes and chat to people before and after class. Get unconventional! I signed up for Tinder when I was solo traveling in Nicaragua in order to meet people to hang with (and flirt with).
• How come travel within most of Europe doesn’t interest you much? I find it interesting because there appears to be a strong trend among American’s of ‘Doing Europe’ and it seems so popular, you’re one of the few that doesn’t seem as keen! — Sarah
I love this question because I get it a lot and it’s a sharp observation, though I don’t really have a clear answer – and my mother lamented the same thing many times when I was a nineteen year old demonically obsessed with backpacking Southeast Asia. I have truly enjoyed parts of Europe I’ve traveled to, though they’ve been mostly Mediterranean (Greece, Malta, and Ibiza in Spain), Nordic (Iceland), and part of the United Kingdom (Scotland, England). The only really Western Europe, could-have-visited-on-a-Eurail pass country I’ve been to is Belgium, which I visited in order to go to a crazy little music festival called Tomorrowland.
Why? The weather is a big factor. My happiness is directly correlated to the amount of sunshine I’m absorbing and the proximity of the nearest ocean. I realize Europe is bright and sunny in the summer, but it’s also crowded and pricey – which brings me to my next point, cost. I’ve always been a fairly frugal gal by nature and I love the bang for my buck that I can get in other regions of the world.
Yet the simplest answer is that other places (predominantly Latin America and Southeast Asia) have always just captivated me more. I would like to visit more of Europe someday; I guess that it just seems like a safe bet to save for when I’m older. Traipsing along the Mexican coast with a backpack on seems more urgent to do while I’m in my twenties, going on a river cruise down the Danube seems like something that will be even more fun when I’m in my sixties. And this travel obsession? I have a feeling its for life.
• Do you ever see yourself getting married and having kids in the traditional house with a white picket fence kind of way? I’m always torn between wanting to live a life on the road and wanting a nice home and husband. — Bronte Librizzi
I feel ya, girl. I’ve never really wanted kids, though I do tend to joke that the right guy might be able to talk me into them someday. The older I get the less I feel that parenthood will be part of my life path, but who knows?
I would, however, love to own a home someday, be it a house, an apartment, or a luxury yurt (okay probably not that.) I’m addicted to arts and crafts and DIY projects and I can’t wait to be let loose on a place of my own.
As for the husband thing, we’ll see. It’s pretty cliché for a twenty-something child of divorce to be skeptical of marriage and there’s nothing I hate more than being a cliché. That’s as good a reason as any to get hitched right? (Ha ha just kidding maybe.)
• If you ever decide to take a break from the wandering and wait for the wanderlust to nudge you out again, where will that be? IE: Where is home now that you have seen so much? — Jeff Wallen
I feel blessed to have quite a few places that feel like home, mostly because they literally have been my homes at some point or another – my hometown of Albany, my adopted city of Brooklyn, my family’s cottage retreat on Martha’s Vineyard, and the island of Koh Tao, the one true north my compass keeps pointing back to.
Internationally I can see myself settling down in Bangkok or Koh Tao, Thailand (duh!); Phnom Penh, Cambodia; San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua; Bocas del Toro or Panama City, Panama; Bali, Indonesia; Bermuda; or somewhere in Mexico I’ve yet to discover.
Within US borders I think about setting up basecamp in Maui or Oahu, San Diego, Miami, and of course New York (though I’d have to winter somewhere else!)
• Do you think you could move back to the USA and live there, when societally you have grown into an international individual? – Janice
I partially answered this above – there are a couple US destinations I’d consider moving to! However, I do want to address the second part of your question – could I identify full as a US citizen and resident as opposed to an international individual, as you say?
I think I could. I love my country and feel passionate about its politics and policies. My family is very politically involved and I would love the opportunity to join them in being a more civic-minded individual, were I to reside stateside again.
• I would love to know what obstacles you overcame this year. Whether it be little things like missing a flight. Figuring out your visa’s while traveling. Or some mental obstacle. Was there anything that popped up that caught you off guard (good or bad). – Michelle
I had quite a few travel obstacles this year — getting my Brazilian visa from a remote Thai island, finding out I didn’t qualify for the eye surgery I wanted, readjusting to a new pace of life, and finding a way to love spending the holidays abroad and away from my family. I also almost got arrested on a flight to Reno! (Did you know it’s illegal to drink out of those travel-sized liquor bottles on an airplane? I do now.) And of course I faced a million challenges in being a solo entrepreneur.
But I feel blessed to say that once again, the good far outweighed the bad and I have some great new stories for future dinner parties!
• You’ve been very candid about personal relationships (family, friends, significant others) on your blog — to what extent does knowing that those people might be reading your blog (probably are reading your blog!) affect how you write and what you write about? — Anna Lignell
The first thing I ask myself is, “is this my story to tell?” I’m a pretty open book and would actually share a lot more if it was only my story on the line — but when other people come into the picture, I have to respect their limits as well. It can definitely be tricky to balance sharing my authentic experience and withholding information that others wouldn’t want shared.
When it comes to sharing negative events and experiences, diplomacy is key. My desire to write in a way that is fair to all parties involved really forces me to look at things from different perspectives, and walk in other people’s shoes. And that’s healing. It’s really cathartic to try to step outside yourself and see things from all angles! I almost always feel a huge mental release after “writing though” a challenge or troubling memory.
• What was the process for selling your first photo to National Geographic? Massive congrats on that one, by the way. — Camlan Leitner
I sold a stand up paddling photo taken in Florida to National Geographic for their blog (not quite as exciting as print, but I’ll take it!) They approached me and told me the price, and I sent over the signed contract and the file. And that was that!
• In the beginning of your blogging career, how did you balance working your side hustles with working on your blog? I am overwhelmed just trying to make enough money to sustain traveling, and I feel like my blog consistently falls by the wayside! — Eva Casey
In the first few years of Alex in Wanderland, blogging was my side hustle. Whatever earned me actual income was my first priority out of necessity. Luckily I adored blogging and so doing it felt like fun rather than a second job, but yeah – I didn’t turn down shifts at the store I worked at in Brooklyn or opportunities to babysit or bartend in Thailand in order to do something that was, at the time, more or less an unpaid internship.
Basically, I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself! Carve out hours for your blog when you find the time and energy, and don’t apologize for clocking in on something that is earning you the money that funds the travels that fuel your blog.
• What do you use to edit your photos? Do you shoot in RAW? Any general photography tips for taking better travel photos? Thanks! 🙂 — Eternal Expat
I shoot in JPEG – I know, every photographer reading this is gasping right now! – and use Adobe Bridge and Adobe Photoshop to edit photos on my Macbook Pro, and Snapseed to edit photos on my iPhone. I just recently put up one of my first ever posts of photography tips here!
• How would a newbie blogger with little stats prepare for a conference like TBEX or similar? Should they bother with a media kit or with approaching brands they’d like to work with if their stats are low due to just starting out? Or should they be more focused on connecting with the other bloggers? — Joy
I’ve kind of gone in cycles with my conference attending. The first few travel and diving events I attended including the NYT Travel Show in 2011, TBEX Keystone in 2012, and Beneath the Sea in 2011 were just for fun, learning, and putting feelers out into the travel industry and blogging community. The next cycle of TBEX Toronto in 2013, The New York Travel Festival in 2014 and Beneath the Sea in 2012 were a little more focused – I was networking, strategizing on what I wanted to get out of the events and catching up with now old friends. My third round, to Beneath the Sea in 2014, the PRSA in 2015, and to TBEX Bangkok in 2015 were about stepping to the other side of the podium and working on public speaking, sharing what I’ve learned with other bloggers, and of course, hanging out with industry amigos.
Definitely prepare a media kit and business cards, but if you’re not yet in the position to offer a significant return on investment to a brand, I’d focus on absorbing information at the sessions and connecting with other bloggers and just making friends in between.
• I would love to know how you found a management team / how to pick the right people to grow your business. – Sher
They found me, actually! I had started to hear from other bloggers and influencers I respected that they were thriving by signing on with agents and managers, and my ears perked up at the idea of handing over an aspect of my business I was so bad at to someone more qualified.
So I was thrilled when someone I’d worked with in the past from the other side — they’d hired me for projects with travel brands they were representing – told me they were experimenting with representing content creators. I enthusiastically signed on for their “trial period” and so far it’s been smooth sailing – we are all thrilled!
Since this kind of arrangement is relatively new to travel blogging, I’d say hold tight and you’ll be approached when the time is right. If you’re eager to get the ball rolling, you might consider hiring a management team that you pay a flat monthly fee to as opposed to a commission on work.
• Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, what are your strategies for overcoming it? – Ashley
Ugh, absolutely. I always have a million things on my to-do list, so if writing just isn’t flowing on a particular day, I try to just let it go and switch to whatever I’m feeling inspired to get done, whether it’s photo editing, prepping and uploading, inbox tackling (lol I’m never feeling inspired to do that) or nailing down the details on upcoming trips. With some exceptions, working for myself means having the flexibility to switch gears when my brain isn’t cooperating with my goals for the day!
• How do you manage to stay present and live in the moment when you have to constantly capture every aspect of your travels? – Ashley
It is not easy. Sometimes – when I’m in New York, for example – I pretty much shut down blogger mode and just function like a normal human who eats meals without photographing them and briefly admires pretty sunsets without breaking multiple cameras to capture their beauty. It’s always a much appreciated mental break in the moment, but I always regret it later when I want to reminisce about those moments or even share that time on my blog.
In general, I think traveling slow really helps. If I’m in a particular destination for forty eight hours, much of them will be taken up trying to cover my basic bases of jotting down notes, grabbing blog photos and covering my social media bases. If I have a week, I can also build in some true traveler chill time.
Blogging is a unique profession in which its tricky to parse out your professional and personal lives. I get very frustrated when I don’t feel I’ve been able to capture the essence of a place on camera, and can feel inadequate when I don’t have a unique story to tell. There can be a lot of tension between what I want to do on a personal level and what I feel I should do on a professional one. Personally, I love going back to the same destinations over and over again. Professionally, how many posts are my readers going to want to read about Martha’s Vineyard? I definitely wrestle with these questions.
And now onto some questions for you!
This is the first reader survey I’ve done in years. It’s something I think about a lot but haven’t followed through with because I wanted it to be the perfect time, the perfect questions, be in the right headspace to get negative feedback, etc. This week I finally said, it’s time! I’m excited to hear from you guys. As statistics show the overwhelming majority of readers do not comment on blog posts, this is a great way for me to get feedback from you all on what’s going on in Wanderland.
If there’s a post you’ve been dying to read, a change you’ve been dying to see or a compliment you’ve just been saving up for the perfect moment (what? stranger things have happened!) than this is your moment to shine. I make real changes based on this feedback.
This survey is all about you — how you travel, why you travel, and what you like to read about here on Alex in Wanderland. This survey is totally anonymous, so let loose! You can open the survey in a new window by clicking here, or take it below. I truly cannot thank you enough for taking a few moments out of your day to share your thoughts with me (and I tried to say thanks by making it fun!) Let’s do this!
Note: If you left one of the comments above and have a blog you want linked to, just leave me a note in the comments and I’ll edit that in! Thanks to everyone who contributed!