Google PlusFacebookTwitter

5 Years of Travel Blogging: Yes you can be sued!

By on Aug 5, 2014 in Travel Coloumn | 0 comments

As I sit here in front of my trusty laptop, the third one I’ve owned over the last 5 years, I’ve realised that my travel blog has finally come of age and that I’ve done a complete circle. You see it was about this time in 2009 that I started my first travel blog to share some of my stories with friends and family. Don’t laugh but it was originally called focus2focus.net. Don’t ask me what it meant, I was young and dumb, and just went with it. I remember the first few months where blogging was at its purest form for me; the first page views, the nervousness when you released a post and the first comments. It was addictive! The more I read about blogging, the more I absorbed. Everything from analytics, SEO, CSS, PHP, WordPress, servers, RSS, social media and the list goes on. My website was evolving rapidly and it wasn’t long before I realised my domain error and re-branded as the Travel Project. It was about this time that Lonely Planet came a knocking. Back in 2010 Lonely Planet had a great blogger platform called Blogsherpa (now defunct), they chose a group of bloggers to connect their posts with their website and they selected me. Can you imagine the doors that opened when you told businesses you were Lonely Planet affiliated? I started earning money quickly from my site. It was something that I had thought of, yet never imagined was possible this quickly. I then got hungrier to the potential of blogging and began to explore how the best of the best were performing. The answer I quickly came up with was that content is king supported by a strong readership. Sounds easy right? Write a lot and connect with people. Well it’s harder than it looks as you can’t make people follow you and writing great content in a world where a blog is created every half a second is over whelming. I struggled to keep up with the pace of other bloggers, I started to get my first angry commentators who would pick on spelling mistakes and I started to become stressed with something that was meant to be fun. Eventually I stopped and asked the question “what am I doing wrong, it shouldn’t be this hard?” After trying so many different angles and styles, I eventually came to this conclusion: Write for yourself, be genuine and everything else will follow. With this one moment it changed everything. I realised I didn’t want to be the most visited blog out there, I was happy just being me and before I knew it, a steady amount of posts were being produced and businesses were approaching me for work. So although I’m not a Sherry Otts, an Ian Mallory, a Matthew Kepnes or a Melvin Boucher, I became okay with that. These guys work so hard to achieve their web presence and they have stood the test of time because of it. There will always be blogs that come, rocket up the chart and then disappear as their authors get tired or run out of material. However the best blogs run the marathon instead of the sprint. So with this in mind, I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned with you over the years   1. Blogging is a numbers game. Although blogging is as much about the writing and to some extent the travel (although it’s not as much as I’d like it to be), I’ve learned over the last five years that blogging is a numbers game. Don’t understand? Well let me explain. After you get past the honeymoon stage of your blog, where everything is exciting and you begin to get your first readers (and you will), the reality sinks in that to grow your readership base you need to find new ways to connect. Before you know it the number game begins. Google Analytics, page ranks, Alexa rankings, page views, unique page views, bounce rates, 6% keywords, klout score, the amount of followers, the list goes on. I reckon, although not everyone would admit it, every Blogger goes through this stage at one point or another. When analysis become obsession! You stop caring so much about the content and become more focused on getting that next follower or jumping up the ranking. Numbers are important however the golden rule is content is king and no matter what trick you use in the book, this one will always increase your readers.   2. Yes you can be sued! In 2013 I realised that blogging stopped being fun for me and that I had begun to over focus on the numbers, the money chasing and the stress of dealing with companies and media agencies. It all accumulated with a legal notice threatening to sue me if I didn’t change a certain article to put the company into a certain light, neither though it was a very positive article and I wrote it of my own accord (no payment). What was even more concerning was that I was also being threatened with legal action over the comments of other people on the post, which in my opinion was freedom of speech. I was subsequently asked to edit their comments. I refused of course! Ethics and integrity!! So as a lowly poor student who couldn’t fight it, I chose to refuse...

Get Your Mud on in Fiji

By on Dec 10, 2013 in Fiji, Pacific | 1 comment

There is no better way to make friends for life then to strip to near nakedness and rub each other down with mud. No, I’m not talking about some sleazy mud action, I’m talking about the Sabeto Hot Springs in the foothills of the Sabeto Mountains about 20 minutes north of Nadi in Fiji. Now I have to admit I’m not really a spa treatment type of guy, I love a good massage (hell who doesn’t?), but the idea of getting mud pushed into every crevice of my body for everyone to see wasn’t exactly something that I thought would be relaxing. So when I rocked up to the springs with two of my colleagues, stripped down to my bathers in a middle of a field (subsequently blinding everyone in the local vicinity with my overly pasty British skin) and was then unceremoniously slapped with buckets full of mud by a very friendly Fijian man, I thought my worst nightmares had come true. Then, I slipped into the first hot spring and my fears and anxiety melted away…       The process is rather simple: get muddy, jump into the first mildly hot mud spring and get even more mud thrust into places you never thought possible, jump into the second hotter spring and begin to clean mud off and then jump into the final roaring hot spring and ponder if your life with ever be the same again without daily hot springs and mud baths. By the end I forgot my concerns and awkwardness of mud bathing with people I hardly knew and somehow, miraculously, began to feel very chilled out. My muscles relaxed and my breathing slowed and I finally understood why hot springs were famed around the world for their healing properties, even if at the start I felt like a buffalo in a waterhole.       The Sabeto Hot Springs have been a favourite spot of the local community for years however only recently have they upgraded their facilities to attract more travellers keen to enjoy the natural benefits that thermal springs offer. However don’t expect the western idea of spa treatments, this is a very natural experience with minimal facilities and little privacy – which adds to the whole experience in my opinion. Plus you’re supporting the local community. The cost was about 50FJD for the treatment including a massage and you can travel there by taxi or bus.   Just a word of warning, it’s not a good idea to wear your best swimming gear as it probably won’t ever be the same again.   Posted from Western Division,...

Cruising Fiji’s Yasawa and Mamanuca Islands [Photo Junket]

By on Nov 18, 2013 in Fiji, Pacific, Photo Junkets | 0 comments

There’s paradises and then there’s Fiji! A truly beautiful place with the most welcoming peoples and pristine landscapes that look like they’ve come straight out of a national geographic magazine. These photos are from my recent trip cruising the Mamanuca and Yasawa islands in northern Fiji, a place I guarantee will leave a smile on your face long after you’ve returned home.       Fiji’s recent tourism promotion is something like Happiness Lives Here, I reckon they might just be right about that....

India Part 1 – I’m Getting Too Old For This

By on Jul 12, 2013 in India | 0 comments

As I laid in a gurney in Kuala Lumpur Airport’s emergency medical clinic shivering with intense rigors and screaming out in pain as a nurse dishonourably stabbed a needle into my bum cheek, I started to question why I went to India and for the first time in my life, I asked myself if I was getting too old for this shit? I asked myself if backpacking on small amounts of cash to some of the most deprived places in the world is all that it’s cracked up to be? Did it make a difference to the places I was visiting or was it just another passport stamp to me? It was also the first time that I made the realisation that I’m not Superman and that under the right (or wrong) situation, anyone can quickly fall incredibly ill. All these thoughts ran on repeat as Niki and I were raced across the tarmac in an ambulance heading for some major hospital in KL. Looking back it had been one of those days, in fact it had been one of those months and this is where this blog series starts. I had arrived into India just over three weeks before hand, in what now seems like an eternity ago with such high expectations. To me, India was going to represent a pinnacle of my travels and a place where culture and spirituality cataclysmically collided in a sensory overload. I held other travellers who had visited India as legendary in my eyes. You know the type: the old school type of travellers who had waist long dreadlocks, should have been born in the 60’s and took everything in their stride. This, along with the enticing heritage link that Niki’s Indian born Grandparents had with the continent, would make for a tantalizing travel adventure. However as my second day in Mumbai was coming to an end with us bee lining for a hurriedly booked “get me out of here” flight to Delhi and me throwing my money across the counter at an irate Indian hotel manager who had overcharged me for a whole lot of extras I never used, I started to wonder where the India portrayed in old travel literature and coffee table photos books had gone? It was about this time as I jumped in the taxi as fumingly irate as the hotel manager, swearing not to look back at a city that I never saw eye to eye with, that Niki followed after me hurriedly saying “Hold up, you paid the guy in Sri Lankan Rupees”. Whoops!   Mumbai whilst architecturally stunning with The Taj Mahal Hotel and the Gateway to India to mention two particular buildings of interest, the military presence (or at least when I was there), high level of homelessness and nearby slums provided a constant reminder that this not a place to mistake for some idyllic tourist touting city. It was a hard working city in a country that whilst moving progressively forward also has many social and security issues to deal with. The nightlife which I heard great things about, I unfortunately found little of as my hotel had a curfew for security reasons. Which all just added to my sense of uneasiness in Mumbai.   Needless to say I was suffering from culture shock and more so than that, I was shocked at the level of poverty within an urban setting contrasted with extreme wealth. It just didn’t sit well with me and I wasn’t conforming to India’s organizational structure. I was arrogantly rebelling as I tried to hold on to my Westernized way of how things should be done and letting the intense pressure of a large population get to me. Escaping to Delhi, India’s second largest city, for some reason seemed like the best option to me…clearly I didn’t know what I was thinking. To be continued. This is part one of  our India Blog...

My Five Favourite Australian Tourism Adverts

By on Jun 24, 2013 in Australia, Travel Coloumn | 0 comments

Having worked in travel and tourism here in Australia for the past fifteen years, I have always enjoyed when a new Australian tourism advert is launched. The campaigns often spark debate and with every launch, I wait with bated breathe to see if the marketers do Australia the promotional  justice it deserves. Over the years there have been some fantastic campaigns that have shown off Australia in all its glory and then, there was “Where the bloody hell are you?” – lets just forget about that one shall we?  An effective campaign can not only evoke emotion within us and a sense of curiosity, however ultimately it persuades us to holiday in one destination over another. So I wanted to share with you my five favorite Australian Tourism adverts from over the last three decades that for one reason or another, have left a lasting impression on me and makes me proud to call Australia home.   Say Hello Campaign   The Red Centre   I Still Call Australia Home   You’ll Never Know, If You Never Go   There’s Nothing Like Australia   Which one is your favourite or do you prefer one that I haven’t mentioned? Let us know...

Upstate New York in Summer

By on Apr 15, 2013 in North America, USA | 0 comments

If you are planning an upcoming trip from Australia to America, you may have thought seriously about visiting New York City. This metropolis is one of the biggest cities on the planet, and it is home to some incredible landmarks. Unfortunately, however, it is crowded, and hot and sticky during the summer months. Even the local residents get out of the city whenever possible, and they are usually seeking out the seclusion and peace of Upstate New York. If this sounds like the perfect holiday destination for you this summer, read on for more information on planning your trip and seeing all of the top destinations and attractions. Planning Your Trip to Upstate New York One of the key things to remember about Upstate New York in the summer is that accommodation can sell out quickly during peak weeks. Your best bet is to plan ahead and book flights and hotels as early as possible. Since international travel is such a big investment when you are coming all the way from Australia, be sure to spend that little bit extra for travel insurance. This will come in handy if you lose your luggage, have your credit card stolen or run into any other unforeseen problems that could otherwise ruin your holiday. Since it is so easy to find coverage now online, just compare the market for travel insurance and scoop up the best deal you can find. The final thing to remember about planning your trip to Upstate New York is that “Upstate” can mean a lot of different places. In essence, it is all of New York State that lies north of metropolitan New York City. Lake George Although Lake George is technically open to the public throughout the year, it is never busier than from June through August. Within a 45 minute drive of both Saratoga Springs and Albany, Lake George is easily accessible and popular both for camping trips, day adventures and full family holidays. Some of the most popular pastimes in and around Lake George include whitewater rafting, parasailing, boating, kayaking, horseback riding and golfing. The famed Million Dollar Beach offers free entry, and there is also an exciting amusement and water park called The Great Escape that appeals to both children and adults. Thousand Islands When most travellers think of New York, they don’t imagine a chain of islands. The Thousand Islands, however, are exactly what they sound like. More than 1,700 islands make up the chain close to the American and Canadian Border along the northern part of New York State. There are a number of interesting historical and colonial landmarks, but the real appeal is the opportunity for outdoor recreation. You can swim in the sea, enjoy boat rides to explore many of the uninhabited islands, dine at charming little cafes and stay in cabins overlooking the water. It’s also worth visiting Boldt Castle, which was built in 1900 as a luxurious retreat for a single family and is one of the most opulent buildings in America. Columbia County This county is primarily rural, which makes it ideal for foodies who love to get their food and wine right from the source. At Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, you can tour a traditional Shaker sheep farm and try their homemade sheep’s milk, yogurt and cheese. There are also several wineries worth a visit, and the number of organic local restaurants is staggering. Whether you want a vegan salad served al fresco or a full seafood feast in a formal setting, towns like Hudson and Kinderhook, both in Columbia County, can provide it for you. Albany As the capital city of New York, Albany is a bustling destination with lots to see and do throughout the year. In the summer, however, there are tons of free outdoor events and opportunities for recreation. There are free weekly concerts in Empire State Plaza, free plays in Washington Park, the Hudson-River Bikeway that is perfect for walking or cycling and lots of outdoor dining and nightlife. To learn more about the things you can do in this incredible city, visit the official visitor’s website. There is a lot more to New York than just the Big Apple. If you plan to visit during the summer, seek out as many of these destinations and attractions as possible in Upstate New York. Tripinion Verify code...