It’s time for another Superstar Interview! 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 Will from the Business of Blogging course. He blogs at Monkey Steals Peach.
Tell us about yourself!
My name is Will. At the age of 18 I decided to leave my home (northern England) to embark on an adventure to train martial arts in China. I’ve traveled all over China, training under various masters, as well as in Hong Kong and South Korea. Ten years later, I’m still here, currently living in Shanghai and doing a degree in Chinese.
How did you get started traveling?
As a teenager, I lacked ambition and drive; I didn’t have any inspiration or goals in life. However, the teacher at the Kung Fu school I trained at always said that in order for us to develop, we have to step out of our comfort zones. This idea planted a seed, although it was my mum who really got me thinking about going off to China. It was this first trip that took me through China, Hong Kong, Tibet, Nepal, and India for six months that totally changed me and got me hooked. I came back a different person and was infected with the travel bug. I knew I wanted to go back and train martial arts and really learn to speak Chinese properly, so I started working my ass off to save the money to do so.
What are some of your favorite places you’ve been to?
While China is my focus and I’ve devoted most of my time to studying and understanding its culture, as far as travel goes, I actually think I would say Malaysia and Bali. I experienced these places in very different ways. Malaysia I went to with my wife (we were backpacking). It was actually on our last night in Malaysia that I proposed to her on the beach in Langkawi! We both fell in love with Malaysia. The people, the culture — just everything. Bali was a very different experience. My wife and I took both our parents, and we stayed in a huge villa in Lovina, a quiet place in the north of the island. This was more luxury travel, we had our own cook, our own driver, and everything was catered for.
As far as China, I really love the southwest: Yunnan, Guangxi and Guizhou provinces. These provinces are where a lot of China’s ethnic minorities are concentrated, and there is plenty of amazing hiking opportunities to remote villages. It’s incredibly diverse; if you go to northern Yunnan it is very Tibetan/Himalayan in feel, whereas the south of the province in more like Burma/Laos kind of feel.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to move to China?
For those considering to move to China, I would say this: it’s not easy adapting to the lifestyle here. I see all too many bitter expats crowding into pubs, doing nothing but ranting about China and how much they hate it. The fact is, these people make no effort. Sure, China is far from perfect, and everybody needs to let off some steam from time to time, but if you make some effort on your part, you can thrive here. There are just so many opportunities! English teaching is very well paid (you can be making upwards of 500rmb an hour if you are savvy) and there are various business opportunities too (everything is made in China these days). But I do feel you have to be able to take some crap. You will get stared at in the streets, you will get people cut in line in front of you, taxi drivers take you around all the back streets and people in the market overcharge you. Also, most definitely try to learn some Chinese so you don’t always have to rely on others to get things done.
Finally, I’d say try to take regular trips out to the countryside. Things are much simpler there, and while poor, the people are always hospitable and all the crap in the cities will feel a mile away.
Where are you heading in 2017?
I got just back from a trip to Australia. In the summer my wife and I will go to Italy, France, and Switzerland. We also have a few small trips in China planned: Henan province to attend a friend’s wedding and we’ll try to spare some time to visit some historical sites there (it’s the cradle of Chinese civilization). Also, I will go to Shandong province for more martial arts training.
The trip I’m really looking forward to is still in the early stages of planning, but won’t take place this year. The plan is to do the ‘Stans: Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.
Tell us about your blog
My blog is called Monkey Steals Peach, which is the name of a Kung Fu move (many people say it’s a move for grabbing the balls, but in the style I practice its actually a move that grabs the opponents head and pulls it into your knee). It started off as just me reporting my travels and martial arts training to friends, but I started doing martial arts research and it began to grow. Now it’s a mixture of both travel and martial arts research. I try to make it interesting for both serious martial artists and casual readers, so there is a range of content on there.
What has been your biggest success so far?
Probably just actually getting my blog out there and having a decent following. My YouTube channel has close to 4,000 subscribers at the time of writing, and I have a good circle of regular followers who I maintain a good relationship with.
I owe my YouTube following mostly to the fact that, besides my own clips, I uploaded some documentaries from Chinese TV with English subtitles. These turned out to be popular and I guess had people going to my channel and then seeing my own clips. One particular clip I uploaded showed some Chinese police martial arts, and this somehow went viral. As of now it has over 600,000 views, and gets commented on almost daily. I’ve since seen it get reuploaded and shared by loads of other people. As far as followers to my site, I make sure to always take the time to reply to everyone who contacts me, and to really try to get to know them. When people trust you, they will be keener to follow you. I’d say gaining people’s respect, showing that you know what you are talking about while remaining humble and respectful is key here.
What struggles have you had during your blogging career? How have you overcome them?
Learning how to write well. This has been a big challenge for me, and it’s still something I’m working on. For this I am reading as much as I can to get the feel for what kind of style attracts me and what doesn’t.
What do you enjoy the most about blogging?
It’s hard to say, but I guess I would have to choose two aspects. First, I have been able to make so many new friends due to the exposure my blog has got me. It’s enabled me to travel to places and have somebody to hang out with and be shown around. For example, a couple of years ago I went to the Philippines. Through my website, I had made friends with a guy from Manila who ran his own Kung Fu school there. He helped me book a hotel, looked after me really well, and even had his students drive me around and act as tour guides!
I also love sharing my knowledge and experience with likeminded people. Besides just writing about my exploits in Asia, I’ve also conducted research on martial arts, translated documents, and interviewed masters.
Why do you keep blogging?
I love doing it, and I want to build up a top-class blog that can provide good, reliable information that reaches more people while providing me with some extra income.
What is one thing you wish you knew before you started blogging?
I wish I just knew how to actually do it! I started off with a free blog on blogspot.com, my writing very amateur with almost unreadable articles along the lines of “I went here, I saw this, then I went there.” Thanks to Matt’s course I’m now finally learning the ins and outs, and how to do things professionally which has been a huge help. If I did this from the beginning, my blog could be WAY more than what it is now!
What are your blogging goals for 2017?
I want my blog to look more professional, and I want to reach a larger audience. I’m working on improving the quality of the content as well. I hope to get some of my articles published in some larger publications, too.
Besides enrolling on this course, in order to reach those goals I’ve been learning the ins-and-outs of WordPress and I plan to find a designer who can tweak my site to get it looking more professional. I’m doing more networking with other bloggers, writing guest posts on other people blogs and inviting people to do the same on mine. I also plan to start to play around with Google AdWords and Facebook’s post “boosting” feature. Once I get all this down, I will consider ways of monetizing the site. I’m already using Google AdSense, but I am interested in affiliate marketing. Further down the line, I may consider working with a friend of mine to do run a couple of Kung Fu tours, where I take people to train with different teachers around China.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a new blogger?
Don’t do what I did and just write a load of crap with no plan or goal. Figure out what you want to focus on, what your niche is and direction is, and craft your blog that way. I would seriously recommend taking a course, or at least doing research about other successful bloggers and their strategies. Also, I would say get involved in forums and chat groups related to your niche and get yourself known.
What is one thing you can’t travel without?
I would say my MP3 player and an internet connection (either phone or laptop), as I need to listen to music on long journeys, and I like to keep connected to people via Facebook.
What camera/video gear do you travel with?
I use my iPhone 6 and recently I purchased a GoPro. Although, I think the iPhone is enough for what I do at the moment.
Where can we find you online?