When I launched my reader survey in September, fellow bloggers told me I’d be lucky to get 100 takers. Imagine how blown away with love I was by the over 300 thoughtful, detailed responses I received. It took me a while to compile this post as I wanted to start to implement some changes first, in order to show you how seriously I take your feedback. Appropriately, today is my birthday — appropriate because I feel the time you took to take this survey, as well as the time you take to read this blog, are the most fantastic gifts I could ever receive. Last year on this date, I posted twenty-three things that made me happy at twenty-three. This year, for twenty-four, I want to add one more — you guys.
Who Are You?
• 85% are female (this surprised me, perhaps because I have pretty active male commenters).
• 50% are between 25-34 (though there were respondents from 18-74!).
• 61% identify as independent travelers, 28% identify as backpackers, and the rest identify as luxury travelers, cruisers, organized-tour takers, and resort-goers. Many self-identified budget travelers confessed they occasionally splurge, as one respondent put it, with “backpacking with brief moments of luxury.”
• 25% travel 3 times per year, 24% of you travel 5+ times per year, and almost 9% are fully nomadic! Only a single respondent said they travel 0 times per year.
• 20% confessed their trips are typically weekend getaways, while 32% carve out a week. Percentages decreased from there, with 22% taking two weeks and less than 1% taking 6-12 months. Many of you noted in the comments that you take weekend jaunts to break up periods saving up time off and money for bigger trips.
• 32% of you keep travel related blogs!
Where are you going next?
• 55% Europe
• 47% Southeast Asia
• 47% North America
• 34% South America
• 24% Central America
These were the top five responses. I probably should have clarified in my question that I was mostly interested to see how many of you guys were heading to places I’ve written about in the past or will be writing about in the very near future, as I received many indignant comments regarding the lack of Africa and the Middle East on the list. Come on, I never said it was all-inclusive!
What keeps you from traveling more?
• 23% time
• 47% money
• 23% obligations like kids, business, etc.
• 2% are nervous or don’t know how
• 3% travel enough and don’t need to travel any more (congrats!)
Many commented to say they were being kept put by studies (stay in school, guys!), while some pointed out the difficulties of traveling with a “problem passport”, family expectations, paying off debt, or waiting for a travel partner (this has inspired me to write a dedicated post about solo travel!). I was happy that many noted they really loved their jobs, though I was sad to see many felt limited by their minimal vacation days (as an American I did have a little chuckle at the respondent who complained of only seven weeks of per year!)
How did you find Alex in Wanderland? 40% of you found me via another blog or website, 7% were recommended by friends (melts my heart!), 23% through a search engine, and 8% through social media (shocked it’s that high considering my neglect of Twitter and lack of a FB fan page!). I was surprised by write-in answers that mentioned a newspaper article (uh, please send that my way as I’ve never seen it!) and a personal recommendation by my cousin Ashonda (please send her my way also as well as I’ve never met her!).
I write quite a bit about diving here, and I’ve always wondered how that sat with my land-loving readers. The survey revealed that 72% of you are not divers, though out of the 28% that do dive have certification, levels range from Open Water to Master Instructor! I was relieved to read that 82% of those that don’t dive themselves still read my diving content! And to the other 18%, I’m not offended — promise.
I wondered if any of you had taken a recommendation from something I’ve written on Alex in Wanderland — 38% of said yes! Many mentioned specific destinations you visited because of my coverage — Iceland, Hawaii, and Thailand got a ton of shoutouts, as did more obscure spots like the local ferry down the Bosporus in Turkey and a little ice cream shop I sought out in Camden, UK. A few confessed to planning entire trips based on my recommendations! Some of you wrote in that you bought diving gear, makeup products, and cameras that I’ve recommended which actually surprises me as my affiliate sales for these items are fairly low — perhaps I need to do a better job of politely asking readers to use the links I provide. A few told me that my posts on certain activities like biking around several Southeast Asian ruins inspired them to ditch a tour and DIY, and others mentioned signing up for the credit cards I use, or staying in hostels and hotels I’ve written about. Most meaningful were the dozens of respondents who said that my posts inspired them to scuba dive for the first time (specifically at Roctopus in Koh Tao!), and the person who told me that they cancelled their elephant riding reservation after reading my post about what the elephants go through. For me, these the most rewarding responses in the survey.
I asked what you guys think about my US travel posts, as these are often low-traffic times for me. Many admitted they aren’t exotic enough, though many others pointed out that US travel is quite exotic to them, as they are halfway around the world! It will be a good challenge for me to win the rest over for my big chunk of domestic travel starting in March.
I asked about sponsorships and partnerships. I was pretty nervous to read these responses, as many of my blogging buddies tell me this is their number one source of negative feedback. All I can say is, you guys rock. Out of 255 of you that wrote in answers to this question, 250 were positive! Why? You guys appreciate my honesty and that I show both the positive and negative sides of everything, including a comped hotel stay or a tour I take for a freelancing gig.
Reading through the responses I was very touched that every other commenter seemed to say how happy they were for my success and how they understood that I am running a business (best summary comment, caps lock preserved: “GET IT GIRL!”) Many as well recognized it’s a symbiotic relationship where I have more travel opportunities, companies have more exposure, and you have more reading material and frank reviews. Have I mentioned you guys are awesome?
I had a write in question asking what you guys love about Alex in Wanderland — what I’m doing right. And guess what. You guys made me cry. The most common adjectives I found mentioned over and over again were personal, honest, and open. It can be challenging and emotionally draining to share the lows along with the highs of the rollercoaster that is my life, but reading those comments reminded me it is a cathartic experience as well — for you and for me.
Other things you guys love? Copious and quality photography, a unique writing style, quirky and self-deprecating humor and my ability to laugh at myself (someone may have mentioned sometimes lame jokes — they must have taken the wrong survey), down-to-earth reader engagement (you love that I respond to all reader emails and comments), and Mean Girls references. Other common threads included a frequent posting schedule, a clear passion for travel, enthusiasm about environmental issues, and, somewhat unsettlingly, many comments about my appearance (they were positive, which is nice, but let’s just say I’m going to keep a tight eye on my blog traffic should I ever decide to go brunette.)
When I get home, I’m going to print out this section to re-read when I’m going through a tough day or week.
I asked you guys what rubbed you the wrong way about Alex in Wanderland — where you thought I could improve. The responses to this question were sometimes hard to read.
One thing I accepted early on as the answers rolled in was that there would be no way to please everyone. Some of the responses to this survey were just comically contradictory. The positive comments overwhelmed the negative, but this is a little sampling of the two directions I feel tugged in: Your posts are the perfect length! Posts are a little wordy. Post more photos of yourself! Selfies are annoying. I love that you are having so much fun! You’re partying too much. Your posting schedule is perfect! Please post more often… and one vote for posting too much. You are so humble and down-to-earth! You’re a bit arrogant and self involved. I love hearing about your love life! Shut up about boys already. I love how personal you are! I don’t want to hear any more about your mental problems (Yes, that’s an actual quote).
Generally, though, your requests were fairly consistent, and the good news is I’m working on them already! Here’s what you guys asked for, and how I’m working to make it happen.
• More real time posting. As you may notice, I’m currently in Peru — and posting about it! I can’t promise that I’ll always be this close to real time, but I have made a concerted effort since the survey to make it happen.
• More videos. You guys are in luck. Current travel buddy Zoe blew me away this birthday by gifting me a GoPro! I’ve already started making some small Peru movies, the first of which you’ll see this week. I’m overwhelmed by the generosity of my amazing friend, and excited about what this means for Alex in Wanderland.
• Less repetitive travels. Some complained that my blog content was repetitive (too much diving, too much Southeast Asia.) Unfortunately this is a reflection of the way I travel — slowly, and focused on one region for long periods of time. That said, I will try to make an effort shake things up with different topics, features, etc.
• Better editing. I struggle to balance work, blogging and travel and sometimes spelling and grammatical errors slip through as a result, which I’m embarrassed to see you guys notice! (My mom and self-appointed editor Steve are clapping.)
• Photography and blogging tips. This is one request I’m not sure I can deliver, as I don’t feel qualified to give photography lessons and I think it’s a bit irresponsible to promote blogging as viable income source. However, the many many comments along this vein prompted me to start my Earning Abroad series, and I hope to ask a photographer to do a guest post at some point.
• More practical info. Many of you requested more information on prices, transportation, accommodation, etc. This is a great idea, and I’ve tried to work it in with an “Essential Info” box at the end of new destination posts such as those on Iquitos and Lima.
• More posts on X. There were requests for posts on a myriad of topics, from budget breakdowns to hotel and accommodation reviews to gear and product roundups to goodie giveaways and to more personal posts. New post recommendations included country guides, a day in the life post, RTW trip tips (unfortunately can’t do as I’ve never really done one!), and posts on how to dress in various countries.
• Better navigation and design. I am SO excited to tell ya’ll that this — the most frequent complaint from the survey — is being rectified. Your feedback helped me bite the bullet and make the major financial investment of hiring a web designer for a total rehaul of Alex in Wanderland. I can’t wait for the final design to be unveiled!
I can’t thank you enough for your help in taking this survey! If you missed it, feel free to leave feedback below or shoot me a message. Happy travels!