Each month we feature an interview with a member of the Superstar Blogging community. These interviews highlight the ups and downs faced on the road to success, illuminating helpful tips and tricks along the way. If you want to get inspired to succeed, then consider these interviews must-read material! This week we are featuring Sander from Ars Currendi!
Hey Sander! Tell us about yourself!
Hi! My name is Sander and I’m a 21-year-old university student, born and raised in Belgium. As of right now, I’m working on obtaining my master’s degree in multilingual communication studies, majoring in Dutch, English, and Spanish.
These days, my biggest hobby is my blog. Whenever I have some free time and I don’t need to catch up on Game of Thrones or Black Mirror, I find myself going to my blog’s homepage and thinking about what could be improved. I also hit the gym a couple times a week, just to stay in decent shape as well.
How did you get started traveling?
Honestly, my family and I have been travelling for as long as I can remember. I’m not talking about travelling full-time. I had a normal childhood; I went to school in my hometown and I didn’t feel like I had a life that was different from the lives my friends were living.
However, my parents, my sister and I have always taken small trips during school holidays. I went skiing for the first time when I was four years old, we went to places like France, Italy and Spain with friends of my parents and I started getting the hang of travelling when I was about 17 years old. That’s when I started taking travel more seriously.
I took my first solo trip abroad when I was in my first year at university, three years ago. I went to Dublin for five days and that was one of the most life-changing trips I’ve taken so far. I learned how easy it was to make friends as a solo traveler and how liberating it was to travel around without having anyone to answer to for your decisions.
Ever since then, I’ve been travelling pretty regularly. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What have been some of your favorite destinations so far? Why?
By far my favourite place I’ve ever visited is Japan. My parents, my sister and I went there for two weeks last summer and we saw the most breathtaking things. Think about this: megacities like Tokyo and Osaka and their neon lights flooding the streets, ancient temples showing the essence of authentic Japanese culture, delicious local foods like ramen, sushi, and gyoza…the list goes on and on.
Visiting Japan as someone who was born and raised in a western country was overwhelming, to say the least. The culture shock we experienced was unlike anything I had felt before.
But the thing is, I don’t feel like I’ve seen enough of Japan. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, and if I somehow find an opportunity to go back there at any point in the future, I won’t hesitate to do so.
Besides Japan, I’ve also fallen in love with one specific city in Spain: Salamanca. I spent five months studying abroad in Salamanca last year and I absolutely loved every second of it. If you get the chance to study abroad, I would highly recommend it.
What places/activities are still on your bucket list?
Every time I look at my travel bucket list, it seems to be growing larger instead of smaller. I have a document saved that syncs between all my devices, and whenever I need some travel inspiration, I take a peek at this document.
Rather than filling the bucket list with general countries, I decided to take a different route: my bucket list consists of rather specific experiences in specific places. Here’s a taste of what’s still on there, as of right now:
- Volcano boarding in Nicaragua
- Hiking the Milford Track in New Zealand
- Chilling with quokka at Rottnest Island, Australia
- Hiking along Taroko Gorge, Taiwan
- Visiting Zhangjiajie Forest, China
Where are you heading in 2019?
I’m very excited about my travel plans for 2019. I’m going on a 3-day city break to Edinburgh with two friends, and then I’m going on a tour to India for three weeks. Earlier this year, I also visited Berlin by myself.
I love how much I’ve been travelling recently, and I have no plans of slowing down any time soon.
Have you had any misadventures on your travels? What lesson did they teach you?
I’ve had a few , yes. I once forgot my skiing pass on the first day of a ski trip, I went the wrong way and got lost countless times, I forgot to book a ticket for a jail tour when I was in Dublin, I miscalculated the time it would take to walk to Vintgar Gorge in Slovenia, I had my travel adapter stolen a few times, airport security took a few of my cans of deodorant. The list goes on and on.
The main thing that all of these things taught me is to be prepared for anything that might happen. Travel has a way of surprising you by throwing you into the situations you’d never expect to find yourself in. Reading up on things that could go wrong and how you can avoid them is huge.
What’s the most important lesson travel has taught you?
That it can change everything. Travel can change your whole life. My solo trips have made me a more confident traveler, and, by extension, a more confident person. I’m no longer afraid to talk to strangers because I talked to people I had never met in catacombs in Malta.
Solo travel, in particular, has the ability to make you more independent since you can’t fall back on anyone else to help solve your problems. And when you do end up fixing whatever needed to be fixed, you’ll feel much more fulfilled than if you had just been a bystander.
Tell us about your blog!
My blog is called Ars Currendi. I write about budget solo travel: I have blog posts that show aspiring solo travellers how they can visit specific places on a budget, I have interviews with other budget travel bloggers, and I also have more general posts about what it’s actually like to travel on your own.
I try my best to incorporate the good and the bad, taking care not to romanticize solo travel, but also not to discourage potential solo travellers from taking the leap. At times, that can be a thin line to walk.
I started blogging as a way to keep friends and family up to date about my preparation for, and subsequent adventures on my first solo trip to Dublin. After I came back from Dublin, I just kept going. At the time of writing this, that trip was two years and three months ago.
Has starting a blog been what you expected?
For one, travel blogging has changed the way I travel. I’ve started thinking about specific aspects of my trip that I could write a blog post about, for example. Personally, I feel like that’s a good thing: I get to experience things that may or may not be great, and then I get to tell my audience about those things.
Other than that, I have to say that running a blog takes a lot more time and effort than most people realize. You don’t just write the words and publish them. You have to do maintenance, marketing, networking, photography, editing, social media, research, and much more.
You’re not only the writer, but you also play every role there is to play. When I say that running a blog is a lot of work, I’m not joking around, and I wish more people would get that.
What is 1 thing you wish you knew before you started?
That marketing your content is just as, if not even more important, than writing it. Of course, you need to put in the time and actually write your blog posts, but if nobody sees it, it won’t get you anywhere.
Many bloggers outside of the travel sphere have talked about the 80/20 principle: as a blogger, you should spend 20% of your time writing content and 80% of your time doing everything else. Social media marketing, advertising, SEO, maintenance, responding to emails, etc.
When I was just starting out, I just wrote blog posts, published them and then wondered why I wasn’t getting more than 3 page views a day. I wish I knew about the 80/20 principle back then.
What are some of your biggest successes so far?
Thanks to a stroke of luck, I stumbled upon a tweet by TourRadar that said they were looking for contributors to their online travel magazine. I replied to this tweet and got in contact with the content manager at the time. This turned out to be some great networking on my part.
Eventually, this led to me writing two articles for TourRadar and one article for Topdeck Travel’s online magazine. I’ve gotten to know some great people because of that one tweet, and I have learned a lot about travel writing.
Another one of my great successes would be my travel videos. They might not be as good as the big ones in the game, like Sam Kolder and JR Alli, but I have a lot of fun creating my videos and it gives me great joy to see how impressed my friends and family are when they watch my videos.
My favourite videos I’ve made so far are my 2018 roundup video and my first Japan video.
What is something you’re struggling with as a blogger?
I often struggle with actually finding the motivation and concentration to work on blog posts. I have no problem telling friends and family about my adventures, but I somehow can’t always bring myself to sit down and write about them.
This is not specific to blogging, though.
I’ve always had some kind of problem with concentration, like when I’m supposed to be studying or doing homework (sorry if you’re reading this, mom!).
Other than that, some of my biggest struggles include coming up with things to write about and not progressing as much as I would have liked to. Sure, the numbers go up, but they go up slowly for me.
What are your blogging goals for 2019?
First and foremost, I want to stop multitasking as much as I am right now. Somehow, I always end up spreading my attention over a few different projects, all of which have to do with my blog somehow. Setting up a Facebook content calendar, writing a new blog post, replying to comments, keyword research…for me, these all seem to go hand in hand, which means that I never give my undivided attention to one specific thing. I want to change that.
I also want to write another ebook. I wrote my first ebook last year. It was about cheap solo travel and I’ve been using it as a lead magnet, but it hasn’t been very successful. I’m either going to update this ebook and add more content to it, or I’m going to write a new ebook about a new subject.
What 3 tips do you have for new bloggers just starting out?
1. Don’t worry too much about the numbers. It’s very likely that you won’t get a lot of traffic when you’re just starting out, but don’t worry about that. It will come over time.
2. If you want to take this blogging thing seriously, start looking into search engine optimization and email marketing right off the bat. You won’t regret it.
3. While it’s important to take SEO seriously if you’re not just blogging for fun, remember that you’re writing for other people, and not just for the Google crawlers.
Where can we find you online/on social media?
First and foremost, you can check out my travel blog, Ars Currendi. I’m also on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube.