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How the thought of travel was converted to the action of blogging and how we combine the process of travel and travel blogging.
This was part of the talk we gave at a travel meetup organised by the F5 Escapes.
Start of a nomadic life
Our first trip was our honeymoon to Coorg. During this trip, we realised we both equally loved travel and were enjoying each other’s company while travelling.
We used to wait for long weekends so we could travel and explore new destinations. During this time, we came across a site called TravelPod (now defunct) where travellers shared their journeys. We were shocked by their travel timelines. Most of them were Europeans. Some were travelling for 2 to 3 months at a stretch, some were on a sabbatical, travelling for 6 months and some others were full-time travellers.
We were introduced to a whole new world of travel junkies. That’s when we made the decision to take a break and travel for a year. “Let’s do an RTW (Round The World) trip“, we both thought.
We didn’t have the option of a sabbatical, so we quit our jobs. With some research, we came to a ballpark figure of 30 lakhs for our trip. Selling our house was the quickest source to generate funds. The market was sluggish, we couldn’t find a buyer immediately.
That’s when we thought of doing a trial run in India for our RTW trip. “Let’s practice nomadic life“. We packed our bags and left home. At the time, we had no plans but to keep travelling as long as possible. After travelling for 3 months in North India we were confident enough to take this plunge.
Travel blogging hadn’t even crossed our minds back then. We had never thought we’d create a travel blog that would have thousands of daily views. Turning into travel bloggers was totally accidental.
We had around 100 postcard images from our 3 months of travels in India. We started by posting an image every day on Flickr with a caption and note. Slowly, we started building our follower base. Day by day, the views increased.
We started submitting our photos in a theme based Flickr blog called Twitter Tuesday. We got a good response from Flickr editors. Flickr started featuring our photos on their blog. Some photos even on appeared on Flickr home page. All of this was quite motivating.
Yahoo then launched a promotional campaign in association with Flickr. Submit one photo daily to ‘Yahoo! Photo of the day’ group. Winning photo would appear on Yahoo homepages globally. The campaign went on for a few months and we were chosen winner 7 times. We were on the homepage of Yahoo globally seven times. Views were skyrocketing.
In this process, we mastered the art of creating a visibility for our photos. We have posted 400 photos on Flickr. We have crossed 9 Million photo views in less than 3 years. That’s almost average 10K views every day.
Tumblr was the next social network we decided to bank on. We started posting an image a day with a heading and caption on Tumblr. Tumblr took a notice of our posts and they featured us on their Homepage.
Showcasing our work soon became an addiction. That’s when we came across a blog post explaining how to “Convert Tumblr to WordPress blog”. We immediately signed up on WordPress, replicated all our content from Tumblr to a WordPress blog sandeepachetan.wordpress.com.
In just a few minutes our blog with around 50 photo posts was ready. We continued posting a photo a day on our blog. Back then, it was purely a photo blog.
We now had 3 channels to showcase our work – Flickr, Tumblr and our photo blog.
Yahoo then launched a promotional campaign in association with Tumblr. They spotted our photos on Tumblr and featured us on the Yahoo travel homepage. “Married bloggers Take a Photo Odyssey through India”.
We were overwhelmed by the recognition. That’s when we realised we had found our niche, “Travel Photography”
Sandeepa then wrote few stories about our travels and started sharing on our blog. She stumbled upon a website called Maptia. We submitted few our stories to them and they got featured on their website next to eminent travel writers like Pico Iyer and travel photographers from the National Geographic.
This motivated her to write more stories and ultimately we stepped into the world of travel blogging by creating sandeepachetan.com to publish our travel stories.
What worked for us in the process of extending travel to travel blogging was craving – for experience, conversations, beautiful images and unique local opportunities.
When we went to see the Dudhsagar waterfalls, the 4 WD route was closed because it was the monsoon season. Our only option was to go through the railway tracks. A goods train was just leaving and the motorman agreed to take us in. “You will have to stand outside the engine.”
Imagine our ride – standing at the edge of the engine, holding on to the railings, the wind in our face as we moved up the fresh green Braganza ghat.
I doubt we’ll ever get a chance to hitchhike on a railway engine again!
We were on the way to Thajwas glacier in Sonmarg. While we were busy taking photos when some Gujjar (nomadic tribe – mostly shepherds) kids approached us and started demanding ‘Bakshish’. Our instinctive reaction was to simply walk away saying no.
But then we thought, “let’s talk to these kids“. We tried to explain what bakshish meant. Bakshish is what you earned by showcasing some talent. When you just ask for it, it’s indirectly begging. That’s when they opened up and these Gujjar nomads showed us their talents. One of them started singing, another one recited number tables and the boldest kid showed us some dance steps. You can imagine the energy oozing from these talented kids. This photograph also won us an “honourable mention” in the International Photography Awards which are like the Oscars of photography.
A Beautiful image
We spent almost half a day inside the Taj Mahal complex. But our best image of the Taj Mahal was outside the complex, on a nature trail.
Whenever we visit a place we look at it like it’s our last chance to see the place. That motivates us to leave the comfort zone and push our limits to take more and more photos. We take extra efforts to have at least one unique image each day.
We were in Reshwari, with a tourism officer and his wife. They told us they were going to the peer baba shrine the next day. It turned out to be sadbhavna programme for locals of Reshwari, conducted by the Indian army. For ten days in a year, the army takes 7 jeeps to visit the shrine. The convoy of jeeps is guarded by army trucks in the front and back. We This road is dangerously close to the border and closed for civilians.
It’s the most beautiful road we have travelled on, with 101 hairpin bends. We saw places which are at war even today, the Indian and Pakistan pickets atop mountains facing each other. This was an extremely sensitive zone. It was a kind of opportunity even locals don’t get very easily.
When we visit any place we crave for at least one unique experience or striking conversation with locals or one good photograph or a local opportunity. This is our source to generate unique content.
Work like a journalist
- While travelling we take photos, shoot videos, do audio recordings, make notes, keep a track of expenses. This is our raw data -the source of information to later create content.
- We then go through the raw data and look at the quality and delete the unwanted photos and videos. The chosen photos and videos are then edited and processed.
- We share photos first because that’s what our readers are looking forward to seeing. We need to be consistent in our posting to keep our followers engaged.
- Then, we judge the response.
- After a few days, we write the travel stories.
- We maintain an inventory of the number of photos and videos we have, the social media posts we can create and the travel stories we can write.
- This inventory helps us decide the frequency of posting our content online. Say you write 4 to 5 blog posts every month. Then set a frequency of posting one post weekly. Same applies to your photos, videos and social media. Maintaining consistency and quality of content is the key.
- Post the content on the right occasion.
For example, you’ve visited the Kargil War Memorial on your road trip from Srinagar to Leh in the summer. Stories of the Kargil war have inspired you. You know you can write a good story of your experience. Go ahead and write the story while the experience is fresh in your mind. But maybe, not post it immediately. 26th July is Vijay Diwas. Schedule it to publish this story on Vijay Diwas. Patriotic sentiments are high on that day. Your readers will most likely resonate more with the story, then.
- After publishing the story, don’t just wait and watch. Start promoting this piece. Share it on social networks. Use appropriate tags. Write an email to your fans, submit your post to blog listing websites.
The response to your content will help you get your niche.
If you are an adventurous person. Obviously, you’ll have more to share on adventurous activities. You’ll be followed by travellers who are equally adventurous. They will connect with you faster.
Likewise, if your travel style is self-driven road trips then it’ll be a good idea to start a blog focused on road travel. Travellers who want to do similar road trips will ask you questions and you’ll enjoy answering them back. Your road journey will never. It’ll continue in your interaction. You will live moments longer.
Leisure and work
A question asked often when you mention travel blogging is – are you on vacation? The answer is a simple “NO“! For us, travelling is not a leisure activity. It is a mix of vacation and work.
It is a life of full-time workation.
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