Each week we will be featuring an interview with a member of the Superstar Blogging community. These interviews will 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 and succeed in the world of travel blogging, video, writing, or photography then consider these interviews must-read material! This week we are interviewing Brian, a member of the Business of Blogging course. He blogs at Hawaiian Brian.
If YOU ant to be featured in our interview series be sure to email our Community Manager Christopher, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tell us about yourself!
I am Hawaiian Brian and I live with my wife and 4 cats in the tropical paradise of Columbus, Ohio, USA. I am a full time accountant and part-time world traveler for only 3 weeks of the year. My travel style is value oriented, so I always travel on a budget. I stay in budget accommodations, but I don’t mind splurging on once in a lifetime experiences. The main objective for my blog is to help people like me, with full time jobs and too little vacation days, to get the most out of their precious time in order to have a freaking awesome vacation!
How did you get started traveling? What inspired your wanderlust?
My wife and I started traveling about 10 years ago and I realized how much fun I had on vacation. Who doesn’t, though? Anyway, one of my life goals is to be happy, and everything about traveling makes me happy. I deeply enjoy researching and learning all I can about my next vacation destination, and upon arrival to my destination I love the cultural immersion. The vacation itself is a reward for the hard work I do for my day job, and while on vacation it’s rewarding so see all of my research come to life and have an unforgettable trip.
What are some of your favorite places you’ve been to? Any particularly memorable experiences or highlights?
I visited Alaska, USA this past summer and it was amazing. Everywhere I looked natural beauty abounded. There were so many new things to experience and one of my favorites was hiking Flattop Mountain. Unfortunately, this excursion was a spur of the moment decision and it wasn’t carefully planned. My wife and I soon realized we weren’t wearing the appropriate footwear and we didn’t pack enough water. The trail gains about 1,300 feet in elevation and the last couple hundred feet require rock scrambling (using hands for grip and stabilization). It was so challenging that we almost gave up before the rock scrambling part, but we were glad we didn’t. At the apex of the mountain we had climbed higher than the clouds and could look down at the city of Anchorage from an elevation of about 3,500 feet. The journey was unexpected, but the reward was more than worth the effort, and we can now say we literally climbed a mountain!
How long have you been blogging?
I officially launched HawaiianBrian.com on June 30, 2016, but I’ve been thinking about creating a blog ever since my trip to Italy in May of 2015. Italy is one of my favorite places because I had never before experienced such a rich blend of modern and ancient cultures, and I wanted a way to share my adventures with my family and friends at home. Instead of just posting a selfie in from of the Colosseum on social media, I received greater satisfaction out of explaining where I was and why it was significant. Providing this extra bit of information allowed me to electronically transport my friends and loved ones with me. The Hawaiian Brian travel blog is just an extension of this practice. I ultimately want to inspire others to travel.
What struggles have you had during your blogging career? How have you overcome them?
Generating traffic to my site is the biggest struggle I’ve had thus far. I’m trying to utilize the power of social media, including Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook. I’m starting to gain some traction, but I’m hoping the snowball effect will commence in the near future. Right now Pinterest seems to be driving the most traffic to my site, so I’m concentrating on perfecting my Pinterest skills.
Can you share a few of your successes with us?
My biggest success has been my Top 10 Free Things To Do In Las Vegas article. It constantly drives the most traffic to my site, which is great because these readers are sticking around to read some of my other articles. Also, when I first posted my Top 10 Free Things to Do In New York City article it was pretty popular. There’s definitely a correlation here — I guess my readers like free things!
What do you enjoy the most about blogging?
I love helping people and hearing from readers who enjoy my articles. It’s satisfying to know I’ve helped someone get the most out of their vacation, inspired them to go somewhere new, or even give them some articles they’ve enjoyed reading. Blogging is also a challenge that sometimes pulls me outside my comfort zone (like forcing me to learn some computer coding that I had no idea how to do before), but I’m learning a new skill and growing every day.
What is one thing you wish you knew when you started blogging?
I wish I knew more about WordPress and how to make a website in general. I knew what the end goal was for creating a blog, but I had no idea how to achieve it. The learning curve has been pretty steep because picking out a good template to use for my website, learning a little HTML coding, and discovering how to optimize my Google analytics were completely new concepts for me. I spent a lot of time re-doing things because I really had no clue what I was doing at first.
In addition to this course, what other resources do you rely on for help/information?
Other bloggers have provided advice on generating traffic including how many times to Tweet during the day and to join group Pinterest boards. YouTube has been invaluable for website design as well as the creation of my monthly newsletter.
How do you stay focused/effective? How do you schedule and manage your time for blogging?
Setting goals is extremely important for achieving success and I have set specific goals for my blog. I constantly remind myself of these aspirations, which helps me maintain focus. I manage my time for blogging by pretty much blocking out my schedule. It’s currently a hobby, but I treat it like a job so that I take it seriously and not blow off my self-imposed deadlines. Each evening I work on marketing for at least an hour, and each Sunday I work on posting an article in the morning while the house is still quiet.
Why do you keep blogging?
Even though blogging is a lot of work, it’s something I enjoy. Rather than look up cat videos on YouTube, I fill my leisure time with productive things like pinning on Pinterest or Tweeting on Twitter. It’s become a goal for me to make my blog successful, and I’m encouraged by a recent increase to my site traffic. I know that eventually it will pay off if I continue to market my site and provide meaningful content.
What apps do you use that make your blogging career easier when traveling?
The Buffer app helps me schedule my Twitter posts in advance so I don’t have to constantly Tweet while I’m traveling. I also use OneNote to document all of the things I learn while traveling so I can easily reference my notes when I begin to write about my trip.
What is one thing you can’t travel without?
It might sound sappy, but I can’t travel without my wife (and no, she didn’t tell me to write that).We really make a good team while on vacation. She works on logistics, orchestrating the itinerary and how to get from point A to point B. I recall the history and details about the locations we visit. With each new place we visit and experience we have, our relationship strengthens.
Do you have any blogging regrets?
Before I started blogging I didn’t have the blogger mindset – take pictures of everything, write down every detail, etc. Therefore, as I begin to write articles about past trips I’ve taken, there have definitely been times I wish I had a photo that was never taken or had written down an amazing fact that I can’t seem to recall any longer. Thank goodness for the internet, because it can usually fill in most gaps in my memory or photo album.
What photo/video gear do you travel with?
The camera I use is a Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS50. It’s a compact point-and-shoot, so I can take it anywhere and feel like I’m incognito. It has a great Auto feature that produces beautiful pictures without having to manually program the camera, and there are special modes that give me some creative shots if I want them. Also, I always travel with my phone, which is a Samsung Galaxy S6 because the cameras on phones are improving significantly, so it works in a pinch if I don’t have my camera with me.
What are your blog goals for 2017?
I would like to be cash flow positive and have 20,000 unique visitors per month. I plan on achieving this by continuing to utilize social media to gain loyal readers.
What one piece of advice you’d give to a fellow blogger?
It took me about 6 months to get my blog good enough to start marketing. During that time I tried 3 different templates for my website, which was a lot of wasted effort. Each website rebuilt taught me something more about what I wanted and didn’t want, but now I’m happy with the way my website looks. I could have given up after the first or second attempt, but I was persistent. I would say that’s the best advice I would give to fellow bloggers: be persistent. Blogging isn’t a cake walk. It takes time and dedication to create an appealing website, a good reader base, and write good, meaningful content. Most bloggers give up, but the persistent ones will reap the rewards.
Tell us about your blog and where we can find you on social media.
My travel niche is traveling while still maintaining a full-time job. I’m only able to travel about 3 weeks per year and want to get the maximum value for my time and money, and I want you to do the same!