Each week 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 and succeed in the world of travel blogging, video, writing, or photography then consider these interviews must-read material! This week we are featuring Joan, a member of the Business of Blogging course. He blogs at Against the Compass.
Tell us about yourself!
My name is Joan and I am from Catalonia, Spain. I’ve been living in Dubai for the past 2 1/2 years. I was working in the marketing department of a big corporation, but I resigned to focus exclusively on my blog and travels. My blog is called Against the Compass, and as you might imagine from the name, I write about off the beaten track destinations. It’s a bilingual site and it’s less than 3 months old. I am a super beginner.
How did you get started traveling?
It was 7 years ago. One day, I got a scholarship to study in Finland. It was in that precise moment when I realized that my english was awful and I needed to improve it before beginning my courses.
I still had 6 months before moving to Finland, so I decided to travel to the USA. I backpacked in California for over two months. It was my first time outside of Europe. At the beginning it was hard, since I was always the only person in any hostel who didn’t speak english properly. But after some time, I started to become more fluent. I met loads and loads of interesting people, too. That trip changed my life and since then I’ve become a travel addict.
What have been some of your favorite destinations?
So far, Iraq and Lebanon. These are two real off the beaten track destinations with a long and vast history. The two oldest cities in the world are located in these two countries. Besides that, Lebanon is the most liberal country in the Middle East with the best nightlife and food! And Iraq is home the most stunning mountains and landscapes in the region.
How did you get started blogging? How did you choose your niche?
Like many other bloggers, I started a blog with the only objective of keeping my family and friends updated. By that time, I also started to follow other travel blogs and I began to realize that many of those bloggers were actually making a living off their website, so I thought: “Hey, if they can, why shouldn’t I?’’
I enrolled in Matt’s course and one of the first lessons was to decide your niche. In that unit, Matt tells you: You need to blog and write about that topic which you are expert at. I‘ve always been traveling to off the beaten track destinations, so why not focus on that? That was the topic I was an expert at! In addition, I also knew there wouldn’t be a lot of competition because not many bloggers travel to these sort of countries. The niche was also big and interesting enough, so I didn’t have to think much further!
What struggles did you have when you started out? How have you managed to overcome them?
I have so many struggles and issues. But two of my biggest ones are:
1) Time. I just don’t have time. I want to do so many things and I don’t have the time for all of them. The list of things to do is infinite. If I wanted, I could spend a whole week just focusing on social networks. I have a bilingual site and that’s a shit load of extra work, too. I have an endless list of articles to write and I feel that I’ll never be able to write all of them.
How do I manage to overcome it? In the end, I have to choose. You can’t do everything, so focus ONLY on those KEY things that will help your site better and faster.
2) Writing in English. I am not a native speaker. I’ve learnt English traveling, watching movies and reading books. I’ve never learnt grammar techniques and I am perfectly aware of my grammar mistakes. My non-native readers can’t see my mistakes, but I know that Americans, Brits, and Australians do. One day, I realized that, if I ever want to get featured in important magazines or newspapers, my writing would need to be solid.
How do I manage to overcome it? Very simple. I have hired a professional editor. She charges me between $10 and $20 per article. It’s expensive, but I see it as an investment.
As a new blogger, what are your ambitions and goals when it comes to blogging?
I’ve always been very ambitious and that’s why I would like Against the Compass to become one of the travel blogs of reference in Spanish language. Of course, I would like ATC to be an English blog of reference as well, but I know that this is an almost impossible battle.
But regardless how popular my website becomes, my long term objective is that I don’t want to ever go back to the corporate world. I want my website to pay for my life and travels.
Do you have any specific goals for 2017?
I am targeting 10,000 sessions because I know one blogger who blogs in a similar niche as I do and he’s already making some money after 10 months of blogging (with 10,000 sessions per month).
How do I plan to get to this figure? Nothing specific but mainly I will work hard on my SEO, spend hours on Pinterest, and try to write a lesser number of articles in order to increase the quality of them.
What are some of your favorite travel blogs/books/magazines?
Without any doubt, my blog of reference is Nomad Revelations, by Joao Leitao. This Portuguese guy is a real path finder and I love all his articles about extreme off the beaten track destinations. I like his photography and his approach. I would like my blog to become like his.
I also enjoy reading Wandering Earl. He travels to off the beaten path destinations and his stories are honest and very entertaining.
What apps do you use when you travel?
For traveling, I don’t use any specific app besides maps.me. It’s the best app for maps out there. I don’t even use Google Maps anymore.
For managing my blog, is there any useful app out there? I want to know them!
What camera gear do you travel with?
I travel with a Nikon D300 and have a wide angle (12-55mm). But I’m going to upgrade it this month and will buy the Nikon D750 and a 20-80mm lens.
Has blogging changed how you travel?
How blogging has changed the way I travel can be defined as “the dark side of being a travel blogger.” I think that many bloggers experience a similar issue. For me, the worst part of blogging is that sometimes I am so focused on thinking how to find the proper travel story that I just can’t enjoy the moment. That sucks.
What have been some of your blogging milestones?
It seems that since a few weeks back I have regular traffic coming from many different sources, including Google and Pinterest. I am getting an average of 60-70 sessions per day! I know it’s not a lot, but step by step!
Why do you continue to travel?
Like anyone else who has been traveling for many years, the list of highlights can be endless. But, if I had to mention two things, I would say:
- Traveling makes me wiser and wiser every day
- Traveling has made me become more tolerant to any other culture
What are your travel plans for 2017? Any bucket list destinations?
In march, I am going to the TBEX Jerusalem. I will be traveling around the country for 3-4 weeks and then, I will head to Central Asia: Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.
What advice do you have for new travelers and new bloggers?
My advice to new travelers (and also new bloggers): travel slowly. Since I quit my job and began to travel slower, the quality of my articles has improved a lot. I have better quality information and more local insights. My stories became more solid and entertaining. You need to keep something in mind: no one gives a shit about how many countries you’ve been to. People care about what you write. So slow down.
My advice to new bloggers who speak a second language: Do make your site bilingual:
- Blog in English to catch a larger audience
- Blog in your mother tongue because there’s way less competition, hence, the chances of getting featured are much higher. After only 2 months of blogging, I already got interviewed in a top provincial newspaper. It’s a small newspaper, but thanks to this, everyone in my province knows about my blog. Now, most of my readers are from my province. If I blogged only in English, that would have never happened.
Where can we find you online and on social media?