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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.

Go See Write_007_1

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!)

Peru Passport Filling up our passports…

The Blog

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?

The Good

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.

bloggingThe glamorous side of blogging. Not shown: the unglamorous side.

The Bad

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!

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59 Comments...
  • Ria
    November 6 2013

    Happy birthday!? I can’t wait to see your GoPro videos ((:

    • Alex
      November 7 2013

      First one hopefully coming up today — If I can ever get it to upload! 🙂

    • Ustinaa
      November 10 2013

      Hey Alex,

      I just wanted to say that I stumbled upon your blog a few weeks ago and I LOVE IT! I’m going to teach in southeast Asia and I find your blog truly inspiring. I was reading your “the bad” section, and for me I understood those “bad” comments or suggestions you got as “teachable moments.” Honestly, who cares if some people think you could of had better grammar; the teachable moments happen when those people who were curious about some part of the world, got their curiosity or wonder satisfied by YOUR blog and that’s a HUGE achievement! Keep up the amazing and authentic work!! Coming from a future travelling teacher, I think it’s so important to have blogs like this to inspire and motive others that travelling is a possible and achievable life path.

      • Alex
        November 12 2013

        Thank you so much for this wonderful comment! I love your perspective and will try to adopt some of it for myself. Good luck with your teaching adventures!

  • Morgan
    November 6 2013

    Keep up the awesome work! I found your blog while I was backpacking in SE Asia for a summer and definitely benefited from it and your quick response to questions in the comments. I enjoy reading your posts and wish you continued success.

    • Alex
      November 7 2013

      So happy to hear that helped Morgan! Thank you so much.

  • Kathryn
    November 6 2013

    Yeah, the occasional typo, misspelled word or grammar slip can leap out at the self-appointed writing police. But your writing continues to get stronger all the time. Given the prodigious volume of content produced without the benefit of a real-time editor I think your rate of grammatical accuracy is amazing.

    • Alex
      November 7 2013

      I appreciate that from one of my toughest editors! Really 🙂

  • Nadia
    November 6 2013

    Comments about “mental problems”, seriously? I know you are too kind to say it so, please, let me: “The internet is a big place. Find somewhere else to read”. I admire your strength and determination. Blog writer or not, we all know how vicious people can be with anonymity. You put yourself out there in such a lovely, honest way and inspire so many. Keep up the great work!

    • Alex
      November 7 2013

      Thanks Nadia — I am glad someone said it 🙂 Honestly that comment was so harsh and ridiculous it luckily didn’t cut too deep. There are a lot of things people can point out about me of that hurt my feelings a bit, but my struggle with anxiety is not one of them.

  • Jamie
    November 6 2013

    Aw I wish I would have seen the survey! I’m going to be getting my Open Water at Roktopus at your recommendation (and photos).
    Jamie recently posted..Australia’s Whitsundays and South Molle Island: A photo journal

    • Alex
      November 7 2013

      Enjoy Roctopus, Jamie! It’s the best — tell them I sent ya 🙂

  • Sam
    November 6 2013

    Wow, what great responses! Must be so nice to get so much feedback, and most of it positive. Regarding the sponsorships, this is something I’d be concered about from readers too, but it seems you’re doing it all right: rock on!
    Sam recently posted..Is Barranco Lima’s Trendiest Neighbourhood?

    • Alex
      November 7 2013

      Thanks Sam! I’d like to think it’s a combination of be doing something right and the people who read this blog being particularly awesome.

  • James
    November 6 2013

    Good to hear you’re glad with the results Alex! Happy to take part, nearly missed the deadline, keeping up with blogs when can…Think I recognise some of my answers above, won’t say which, not bad though! Hehe Good news on the video front. Looks like M83 might need to release another album to provide you with backing tracks…! Keep up the good work!

    • Alex
      November 7 2013

      Deciding on music is always nerve wracking 🙂 Better get over that fast!

  • Laryssa
    November 6 2013

    Somehow I missed the survey! Eep!

    So, here’s a non-anonymous comment:

    Your writing is VERY engaging and humorous, while personal these traits seem to get lost by a lot of travel bloggers after they’ve been on the road awhile!

    Plus, the pictures never let me down. 🙂
    Laryssa recently posted..When Life is Better than a Story (Finding My Family in Ukraine)

    • Alex
      November 7 2013

      Thank you so much Laryssa! Your words mean so much to me. I really appreciate it 🙂

  • Shaun
    November 6 2013

    Congrats on learning so much about your community. This is one of my favs so you are doing a lot of the right things.

    Can’t wait to see the new layout!
    Shaun recently posted..To the Edge of Space: So This Is How I’m Going To Die……

    • Alex
      November 7 2013

      Thanks Shaun! That is much appreciated 🙂

  • Laura
    November 6 2013

    So nice to hear that the survey results were so helpful and generally very positive! Good luck on implementing the results and on the new design!
    Laura recently posted..Memories of Lisbon

    • Alex
      November 7 2013

      Thanks so much Laura! We’re in the early stages, but I can’t wait to see the final results!

  • David
    November 6 2013

    Thanks for sharing this Alex.
    Great stuff and your response to it all is gracious and professional. Keep up the good work.
    Congratulations!

    • Alex
      November 7 2013

      Thank you David! Nice to know you are reading 🙂

  • Lindsey
    November 6 2013

    Congrats on such great results from your survey! Can’t wait to see the new design either. As to the bad comments… you gotta keep doing you – stay true to yourself!
    Lindsey recently posted..The Chasing the Wild Travel Philosophy

    • Alex
      November 7 2013

      Thanks for the support, Lindsey. I appreciate it!

  • Sarah Somewhere
    November 6 2013

    So true, you can’t please everyone! You are already a success, just remember that – everything else is a bonus! Rock on, Alex 🙂
    Sarah Somewhere recently posted..And then, I really lost my shit…

    • Alex
      November 7 2013

      That is incredibly sweet, Sarah, thank you! I wish I had the confidence in myself that you have in me 🙂

  • Erika
    November 6 2013

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! This blog is definitely one of my top favorites and I love it just as it is! That said, way to take this feedback and use it so well. How considerate! And I have to admit: I was a little nervous about the “negatives” — I hate criticism and I was worried about taking what other people said about YOU personally! Um, kinda weird but I guess it’s because I have no negatives about this blog and I honestly really hoped that people wouldn’t be negative because I don’t feel you deserve it at all. Funny how the feedback tended to conflict itself — you’re right, if you try to please everyone, you really can’t win. Anyway, I’m excited for the redesign (though I like this one, too) and yay!
    Erika recently posted..GRAD-ITUDE 101 LINKUP #11: A New Perspective

    • Alex
      November 7 2013

      Ha, that is so sweet Erika! I was nervous too — I had a knot in my stomach every time I loaded the results page! But the truly cruel comments were few and far between and honestly, mostly so bizarre that they were inoffensive. The rest were constructive and things I needed to hear!

  • Jade
    November 6 2013

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Hope you have a tremendous one 🙂
    And congrats on all the positive feedback, not that I expected anything less!
    Looking forward to the GoPro vids (I so want one!) and the new design!

    • Alex
      November 7 2013

      Thank you Jade! I’m currently struggling through my twentieth upload attempt (grrrr…) so lets hope you guys do get to see one eventually!

  • Andi
    November 6 2013

    300 that’s amaaaaazing!!!!! Happy Birthday dear friend! I wouldn’t change a thing about your site, because I love it. 🙂
    Andi recently posted..England & Scotland With Trafalgar: Day 1

    • Alex
      November 7 2013

      You’re the best! Thanks Andi 🙂

  • sameer
    November 6 2013

    Happy Birthday.

    I wish you progress and enjoy the world and the breathtaking beauty of the areas that will later you visit

    • Alex
      November 7 2013

      Thanks for the birthday wishes, Sameer!

  • Gaelyn
    November 7 2013

    Happy 24th! With all the mostly positive feedback you must be doing a lot of things right. Yet it’s also nice to be open to some changes as well. Sorry I missed your survey yet will say, I admire your style. And I’ve always liked the look of your site so will be interesting to see what changes come up.
    Gaelyn recently posted..Monsoon clouds in Grand Canyon

    • Alex
      November 7 2013

      Thanks Gaelyn! Actually this is quite funny…. one respondent made a lot of comments about my hiking posts — specifically how unprepared I am for them, ha! — and I wondered if it was you 🙂

  • Rachel
    November 7 2013

    Alex, I am a new blogger and I wasn’t going to say anything but after reading these reviews I had to: your site personal inspired me to finally start a blog more than any other. I was put off by some that looked like agencies and yours was so FUN to read. I’ve traveled for years, and can’t write for shit, but your site just pushed me to make a blog myself, so thank you! and I wouldn’t change a thing!
    Rachel recently posted..Diwali in Goa – Burn the Monsters!

    • Alex
      November 7 2013

      Rachel! That is so sweet and wonderful to hear! Congratulations on kicking off your blog — sounds like you’re having fun with it, and that’s the best advice I could give anyone 🙂

  • Diane
    November 7 2013

    Love that you posted the responses to the survey because as I took it, I was curious about what others were saying. Not sure if I mentioned it in my responses to the survey, but I love that you take the time to interact with your readers and aren’t afraid to be honest (like admitting your parents have paid for some of the travels, that you gained weight at one point, discussing your budget and anxiety troubles). You keep it real and have a great balance of personal stuff, destination info, photography and more. That’s why I keep coming back! You were born to do this!
    Diane recently posted..Fitness in France: barre3 online review

    • Alex
      November 7 2013

      Thanks Diane! Ha, yes, I remember so vividly at my first TBEX everyone was talking about their next trip and mine was to Iceland with my family. When I said so, the next question would inevitably be “Who is sponsoring it?!” My answer: “Uh… my mom.” That was a hit 🙂

  • Amanda
    November 7 2013

    Maybe for photo tips you could link to other websites/sources/software where you learned about it? I’m assuming you learned basic skills (what aperture is, etc) somewhere? Also could be a chance to include another affiliate link 🙂

    Also happy birthday!!
    Amanda recently posted..Dealing with guilt in Africa

    • Alex
      November 8 2013

      Thanks Amanda! Actually I never really turned to online sources for photography lessons (one of the few areas of my life!) I took classes throughout highschool and as part of my college degree, and also apprenticed for a photographer one summer (the wonderful Heather Holt, who is frequently featured on this blog!) I truly feel that photography is intuitive for me and rather than dedicated studies, any success I may have in it is the cumulation of a lifetime of aesthetic-ly inclined projects, if that makes any sense at all! So while I’m happy to write a whole post on the methodical way in which I chose my latest camera, I don’t know how I’d ever write a post on composition. When I look through the lens, I just know. And a lot of times, what I know is wrong — ha — I probably take nine fail photos for every decent one that ends up here.

      Basically, I’m going to try to get Heather to talk about it instead 🙂

  • Wes
    November 8 2013

    You’re a good photographer. Just effin deal with it yeah? Your writing and overall style has sufficient humility to handle the challenge of rapping on something you picked up by the by.

    • Alex
      November 12 2013

      Only you can make a compliment sound intimidating 🙂

  • Lou Taylor
    November 9 2013

    Darling – wish I had seen the survey as I never completed it. Great feedback and lots to take on board. My advice learn from the negatives – it will only seek to improve your blog and your work. But more importantly are the positives – build strength from the fact that 15,000 follow your life and your unique interpretation of the world. Never change your style and always stay true to who you are. That’s why we love and follow you. Cant wait to see the redesign. Big hugs. Lou xxxx

    • Alex
      November 12 2013

      Thank you so much for this sweet encouragement and wonderful reminder of the bottom line. You are priceless!

  • Kristen Noelle
    November 11 2013

    Happy belated birthday Alex! Been so busy that I haven’t visited in a while but I just wanted to let you know that jumping back in has gotten my travel gears a-churning, and now I’m re-inspired to pursue full time travel.

    I found your blog when researching for my Bangkok trip last year (specifically the Chatuchak (sp) market I believe) and this has been one of my FAVORITE sites (not just travel blogs) ever since. I love your complete honesty; diversity in areas visited, your chosen activities, and balance between posts on luxurious opportunities and practical experiences. Throw in the humor and you’ve definitely got a long time reader out of me!
    Kristen Noelle recently posted..Waistbeads Aren’t Just for Summer

    • Alex
      November 12 2013

      You are too sweet! I really appreciate your insight into why you are a loyal readers. I appreciate every read and comment!

  • Dan @ ThisWorldRocks.com
    November 12 2013

    The only thing I like better than reader surveys are posting the results of a reader survey. This is a great post and great idea. Keep it up!
    Dan @ ThisWorldRocks.com recently posted..50 Awesome Travel Blog Name Ideas

    • Alex
      November 15 2013

      Thanks Dan! It’s definitely a two way street… I had to share what I found, even when it wasn’t flattering!

  • TammyOnTheMove
    November 13 2013

    Loved reading the results. Some of the comments are so funny. I guess you can never get it right for everybody, but in my opinion you don’t need to change a thing. 🙂
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..What does adventure mean to you?

    • Alex
      November 15 2013

      Thanks Tammy, you’re too sweet!

  • Gabriel
    November 17 2013

    Hi Alex,

    Greetings from Singapore! I stumbled on your blog searching for a site that tells of one’s diving trips and experiences and I must say yours is truly the best there is on the Internet!

    I love diving and I planned a dive trip this Dec to see whale sharks because I saw your photos and all the fun you had.

    Whenever I’m sad and in need of some adventure (but sadly being stuck at home), I’ll visit your site. Sometimes I even reread your posts because they’re so witty and honest.

    Keep up your excellent blogging!

    Gabriel from Singapore

    • Alex
      November 18 2013

      Hi Gabriel! So lovely to hear from you! Thank you so much for your kind words — glad this site has provided some desktop escapes 🙂

  • Andy
    December 10 2013

    Awesome response to the responses 🙂
    One thought: I totally respect your decision to not post about photography tips, but I don’t think you need to feel that way. You may not feel qualified, but you certainly do have a lot of great photos and a person is quite literally telling you that they feel you’re qualified (make that 2 people now). If writing about photography isn’t of interest to you, then you don’t need to, but I just want you to know that people definitely feel you’re qualified enough. We love your work!
    Thanks for being awesome!
    Andy recently posted..Why Everyone Should Listen to the Feminist Mormons, or, a Lesson on Humanity

    • Alex
      December 10 2013

      I appreciate that, Andy. I thought more about this and I think I just don’t know WHAT I would write! Taking photos is pretty intuitive for me and I think it would be incredibly challenging for me to break it down into steps and words. But I do plan to ask my professional photographer friend to do just that for me 🙂

      • Andy
        December 10 2013

        Ok, I hear what you’re saying 🙂 I remember you once responding to a question I had about your editing workflow; that was helpful. I’m sure there will be more than a few that will enjoy what you’re professional photographer friend will say 🙂 Especially if they talk about the photos/style that you use, too.
        Andy recently posted..Why Everyone Should Listen to the Feminist Mormons, or, a Lesson on Humanity

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