Thursday 23 November 2017

Four Irish women reveal what it's really like to be a travel blogger - and it will surprise you

Four Irish women reveal what it's really like to be a travel blogger - and it will surprise you (L-R) Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham), Tara Povey (@whereistarablog), Nadia El Ferdaoussi (@nadia_dailyself) and Siobhan McAuley (@they.wanderlust). Images: Instagram (see brackets)
Four Irish women reveal what it's really like to be a travel blogger - and it will surprise you (L-R) Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham), Tara Povey (@whereistarablog), Nadia El Ferdaoussi (@nadia_dailyself) and Siobhan McAuley (@they.wanderlust). Images: Instagram (see brackets)
Amy Mulvaney

Amy Mulvaney

While the life of a travel blogger may seem idyllic, it's not all sun, sangria and sea, as these four Irish women have revealed.

The term "travel blogger" may not have existed even a decade ago, but now you can't scroll through Instagram at any given hour without seeing someone's perfectly poised leg stretched over a sun-lounger with an exotic cocktail in hand and the sun setting in the background.

The difference between these photos and snaps from the two weeks of annual holiday you take to the Canaries each year is simple: these glamorous women and men get paid to soak up the sun and see the sights of the world.

Along with the rise of beauty, fashion and food blogging came their worldly sister: travel blogging. Paid-for flights and accommodation in jaw-dropping locations  in exchange for social media exposure and reviews has become the source of income for a niche group of self-employed writers around the world - and we all want to be them.

However, just as we know that social media shows us the highlight reel of people's lives, so does travel blogging. Behind the lust-worthy locations and dreamy trips is long hours, delayed flights and a host of other problems lurking in the shadows of the scorching sun.

Nadia El Ferdaoussi was working as a beauty editor for a magazine when she went on a press trip in place of her editor, leading her to landing freelance work and then creating her own website, thedailyself.me.

Now, Nadia has just returned from Marrakesh and is heading to London. While it may be surprising, Nadia told Independent.ie that despite her line of work, she isn't on a constant holiday.

"Obviously, work and holidays are two very different things. We never switch off, I'm constantly trying to find shade so I can work on my laptop, look for wifi to upload blog posts, take and edit photos. It's not as though we're lounging by the pool cocktail-in-hand all day (although I will admit there's an element of that, I'll take those perks!), that's what holidays are for.

"A lot of the time travel bloggers might not show a lot of behind the scenes stuff but I don't think that's something you should hide. My Instagram stories are very real, you'll see everything about flight delays, bad weather and traipsing around with loads of luggage - the stuff that's really involved in travelling. But of course, people want to see nice photos, it's a form of escapism, so they're the ones we post."

Janet Newenham, from journalistontherun.com, agrees that being a travel blogger means she's "switched on" 24/7.

"The biggest misconception is that many people think I'm on holidays 365 days a year, lying in a hammock sipping on a cold coconut cocktail. While I do get to travel to some of the world's most stunning travel destinations, in reality I am always switched on and working. From getting up at sunrise for photoshoots, to editing photos and crafting social media posts throughout the day to doing interviews with locals, filming and editing video and of course writing up all my articles - there is hardly ever down time.

"Having your own travel blog is essentially akin to being an entrepreneur - as you create itineraries, deal with brands, manage writers, manage your budget, book flights, find new ways to make money and work harder than you have ever worked before. I'm essentially a one-woman startup except I have to battle loud noises from the party my hostel is hosting, abysmal wifi connections and working from buses, trains and planes."

Tara Povey, who started her blog whereisTara.com in 2014 as an online diary to keep her friends and family updated on her travels, says that being a travel blogger isn't as simple as taking pretty pictures.

"People think all I do is take pretty pictures, write a blog post and people give me free trips. It's not like that at all. They think that anyone can do it. Again, not true.

"You have to love travel, love writing, love taking pictures, love social media and be willing to take the time to develop your site, learn constantly, bare your soul and build an audience. It is a very, very hard job if you plan on doing it full-time, but it's 100pc worth it."

As it is in many professions, Tara says it has taken time to increase her salary, and she even made "quite a big loss" in her first year.

"It takes a long time to make decent money. In the beginning you pay for all your own trips and write about them to get content for your blog. Then you might get offered free stays but transportation or food won't be included. And honestly, when you're starting out, you can't expect much else because you have no value to offer brands.

"In my first year I technically made quite a big loss because what I had coming in was much lower than what I spent on my website and trips that year. It's normally in the second year that people start to make money and get invited on fully comped trips."

Siobhan McAuley, from theywanderlust.com, works full-time as a travel blogger - but she doesn't work alone. Unlike many travel bloggers, Siobhan travels the world with her husband Byron and 2-year-old son Mason, adding a whole other dimension to the already hands-on process.

"Travel blogging is extremely hard work . We work around the clock shooting and filming for hotels and tourism boards," says Siobhan.

 "Let me tell you, it is not easy managing itineraries, being creative, shooting and filming with a baby who goes though the motions. My husband has Mason in one arm, the camera in the other and a bag of props on his back! This is juxtaposed with extreme heat, having to avoid guests in your shots and getting footage.

"In between the shots is when time-keeping and editing takes place. We barely have a warm meal, because we have to shoot it and we have to take turns to entertain Mason who wants to run free!

"After we return home, it's then managing social media, administrative work, negotiating and planning the next trip - all while trying to maintain a healthy marriage and parenthood! We recently took the longest break we ever have since we began last August because the beginning of the year was just so busy with traveling and working in the Maldives twice and Zanzibar, with my husband being in NYC, Chicago and LA  in between!

"When we got back in March, we just decided we needed a break. Tomorrow we are traveling to NYC and working with the Aruba tourism board, so it's back to work we go! We are very excited for it, as it took a lot of time to organize and it's a place that has been on my bucket list!"

However, despite the long hours, manic schedules and multiple misconceptions, each woman agrees that they wouldn't change their job for the world.

"My favourite thing about being a travel blogger? Seeing the places I have always dreamed about with my family by my side," says Siobhan.

"And the sheer fulfillment of accomplishing and doing something I absolutely love! It's a dream come true for me to be able to do what I do , and no matter how hard it may be at times, I always know how blessed I am for the opportunities that come my way. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy!"

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