The life of an Indian travel blogger looks glamorous from the outside. After all, I get to travel to exotic places and the bill is footed by someone else! I am immensely grateful for the opportunities too. But travel alone does not pays my bills and therein lies the rub.
There is another aspect of the travel blogging life and relates to making money or even getting those sponsored trips. A lot of my interactions with PR/Digital agencies are thoroughly professional. But that is not the topic for today.
When I am in a mood to laugh, I call them fun interactions. But when I am not in a mood to laugh, this is what an Indian travel blogger’s life looks like!
Recently I was talking to a young person who represented a portal. The conversation went like this-
Guy: “I can give you one way ticket to any destination in India!” I initially thought I heard it wrong!
Me: “One way you said?”
Me: “No, this won’t work as I need to get back home too!” After all I can not walk all the way back home after flying one way, right?
The actual conversation was a bit longer but what I quoted above was the crux of it.
Most of the digital agencies which contact me for paid assignments also have a particular pattern. It goes something like this-
PR Person: “We have this digital campaign … can you give me the blog post (or whatever else it is) by tomorrow?”
Me: “OK but when will you pay?”
PR Person: “We pay after 90 days!” And most will pay after 90 days and several reminders later! There are only a few exceptions (one actually) who pay on time and I value them a lot.
Then there are mails that invite me to participate in contests. One went like this-
“Dear Influencer, Great news! You have been invited to the Instagram contest…”
I don’t like contests at many levels. But the voting based ones top my hate list. Do a Google search for ‘buy FB votes’or for that matter on any other platform. I know it, the participants know it, the organizers know it, so who are we kidding? I do not like contests at another level too. I have so many people offering me the same thing (a trip, phone etc) without any contests, so why would I take part in one where whether I win or not is not even certain! But it is certain that the organizers will get free publicity!
There, after this rant I already feel better. I have often shown the glamorous aspects of my life as a travel blogger, I thought it was time to show a bit of the other side too!
The first time I attended SATTE it was 2013! Gosh how time passes by! I attended it again in 2014 and 2016. In 2015 I was out of town. So what is SATTE? It is a leading trade event for tourism. In 2017 35 countries and 28 tourism boards participated in the event. The next logical question is if 2017 was a trade event, what is there in it for a travel blogger? SATTE 2017 New Delhi was held at Pragati Maidan (added after reading the comments from Joe and Jyotirmoy).
I too pondered along the same lines. In 2013 I was invited by Malaysia Tourism Board! After meeting them I had no clue what to do, I must have walked around and turned back! Even last year, I reconnected with the people I worked with in the past, might have made one or two new connections. If I said I was a travel blogger to new people many would give me a quizzical look and move on.
But this year things felt different! A lot more people showed interest when you told them you are a travel blogger! And of course, in the meanwhile I have worked with a few more tourism boards! So I had many people to meet at SATTE. I also felt more bloggers attended SATTE this year! The event is colorful too, with live dances and music thrown in!
On another note, the topic of making money via blogging comes up again and again. I surely make less money than my salary, but I have definitely traveled more than I did when I used to work full time. But then I was already blogging for 10 years before I quit my job. I was aware how much money was there in blogging. I think it is growing, but I did not quit my job thinking I will make tons of money after quitting my job. To anyone out there who wants to quit their jobs, give blogging a try part time first!
SATTE 2017 was extra special for me, because Israel Tourism Board used three of my pictures as posters in their booth! It was a first for me, it was a high! By now I feel at home at SATTE and I look forward to the next edition in 2018.
PS. I was invited by UBM, the organizers of SATTE to attend the event.
Read blogging advice and finding a travel blogging niche ranks up pretty high! Yet I refuse to find a travel blogging niche and here is why.
I used to be an academician before I became a full-time blogger. My travel patterns were defined by who I am, before I became a full-time blogger and blogging became a bread and butter question. I am someone who loves to go to the beach but I love the mountains more than anything else. I am happy to explore an old fort but I am happiest when I am exploring the open desert! I have visited small villages but then I have visited Disneyland Hong Kong too!
And if you look around, people mostly travel to nice places, anything that catches their fancy! I have not looked at a study but if someone did it, chances are they will find more people with eclectic travel interests rather than travel niches.
There are two exceptions to it that I have come across in my life. One is a British friend from academics, all his vacations, okay all his major vacations, are diving vacations.
And then there is my husband Seshadri, all his big vacations are trekking vacations! You can find him sometimes in other places too but when he has to spend his money and the substantial chunk of it, he will do it on a trek. Now it will make great sense for both of them to have a niche travel blog, because they have a niche travel interest. But they are not bloggers!
Other than that I find people around me happily visiting a monument, then going to the beach, after that to a mountain and everything in between. If you would ask me, I would like to go to New Zealand, but I would equally like to visit Rome, then Antarctica, Kalahari Desert, Himalayas, Alps and what not. I am happy exploring a desert, I am happy doing river rafting, I am happy just sitting by the river! I mean you name it and I am happy to explore it! I have loved soaking up experiences from a remote Island in Indonesia to the malls of Dubai via Dubai Metro and I have to say I have no plans to change anytime soon. I am not a niche traveler and that is why I refuse to find travel niche for blogging.
It probably makes perfect sense to have a nice in terms of revenue earning opportunities from the blog. Imagine if I only wrote about bird watching and I had a successful blog, then it would be easy to partner with everything related to bird watching. But is that the only reason we should find a niche? For me the answer is no.
So unless I discover something and turn into a niche traveler in future, I am happily traveling wherever my blogging takes me next. And who knows what the future has in store for me!
I started blogging a long time back, on 10th June, 2005. At that time I was between two jobs. I had a month before I would join another. I was sitting at my sister’s home and they forced me to start a blog. OK they didn’t actually force me but then they gave me no peace either till I started blogging. Even then I knew with a lot of clarity that I could only write about travel.
Ten years later, I have quit my job. I am sitting at my sister’s home again when I am writing this post. Blogging milestones seem to coincide with me quitting my jobs and being at my sister’s place!
If I had to say one thing for each year of blogging, here are the ten things I would share with you. It remains to be seen if I learned anything or not in the end. But oh boy it has been so much fun!
You don’t have to explain social media to anyone these days! But ten years earlier people very commonly dismissed it. I was one of them actually. I would tell my sister and brother-in-law that no one would read my blog. I was the reluctant blogger.
Blogging and social media have come a long way since then. I would actually like to gaze into the future and see what is in store for me ten years later! This is the post, which launched a couple of thousand of more posts later! I have edited it over the years though!
My excitement knew no bounds when I was invited to visit the Shervani Hilltop Resort. I was so unsure about how these trips worked that I requested them if I could come with a companion! My younger nephew went on that trip with me. I am still in touch with the PR company who gave me my first trip. We still do trips together!
I resisted digital cameras for quite sometime! Photography grew slowly on me. My first digital camera was a Nikon 3200 and I took it on a life changing trip to Ladakh in 2005.
I used to sleep through the sunrises before I became interested in photography. I still sleep through a lot of them but with a guilty conscience!
In the year 2012 I was invited to Malaysia by the tourism board! I went back to Malaysia the same year again. They will always remain special for me! The second trip was a 1000 kilometer journey with police escorts for our 30 car cavalcade. The journey was flagged off by the tourism minister of Malaysia. Traffic would stop for us. I could not resist getting a picture with the police team!
From ‘who reads your blog’ to getting invited to Jordan to cover Pope Francis’s visit in 2014 has been some journey. Not even in my wildest dream I ever imagined that I would be covering the Pope’s visit!
We travel in odd combinations as a family. Before we adopted Chhavi, my husband and I used to travel together! After her, we travel in odd combinations! Seshadri and Chhavi travel together. Chhavi and I travel together.
My younger nephew Sunil (also know as Brat 2, the one who behaves like a piece of luggage) and I went to Sri Lanka and Maldives together. My elder nephew Dilip (he is the original brat, Brat 1) and I trekked together in Spiti last year. Seshadri treks with friends. Sometimes the stars get aligned and the three of us, Seshadri, Chhavi and I travel together! I sometimes travel alone. And then I get invited to travel as part of a media group! And we love it that way!
Traveling to a foreign land with two kids (also known as Brat 3 and 4) alone was not an easy decision. But when my daughter’s passport arrived, I wanted to take her abroad. It was a first for my niece too. My husband immediately backed out saying, “you do it”! He was not interested in Disneyland!
I hope the kids will remember me whenever they think about their first trip abroad. What did they enjoy most- the hotel! My daughter was telling my husband recently that we should sell the house in Gurgaon and move to Hong Kong. She now wants to live in Hong Kong! Adopting her has been the best decision of our life. Traveling with the brats is a lot of fun!
“I have to go back with Chhavi and you,” I have said this way too often to my husband after coming back from a trip! A lot of countries have made a deep impact on me. And everywhere is on my wishlist.
People who read my blog are truly kind to me. I have hardly ever been dragged into controversies. I very quickly get pushed into the category of ma’am and I like staying there! There are also a few people who do not blog but have probably read my blog since year one. Nilesh are you reading this?
I feel immensely happy that I could keep at it for 10 long years! And as far as I can see, the plan is to keep blogging about travel for the next 10 years too!