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Category Archives:Thought of the Day

What I’ve learnt from 3 years travel blogging

Veiw of Castries St Lucia

I’d like to take you back in time for a moment. 3 years ago, on the 29th of May 2014, I published my first blog post. It was short, it told you nothing about anywhere, but it told you a little about me and what the blog would be about.

This was the first blog post published under The Backstreet Nomad name. It is still up for some reason, and if you want to know what one of the first iterations looked like you can see it over on my old wordpress.com blogsite. The posts that are left up are ones that didn’t quite make the migration over to this one.

Anyway, the article looked like this:

A lot has happened since then

I upgraded to self-hosted WordPress to give me more control over the design and functionality of the site. That’s been a roller coaster of stress, learning, passion, and fun, and I’m so glad I made the jump at a reasonably early stage of my blogging life. I’ve never looked back.

As I worked to figure out my voice as a blogger and who I would be on the noisy internet, I changed my blog name to Anti Travel Guides. Anti Travel Guides came about because I was presently writing a guide book for Sydney called the Anti Travel Guide to Sydney. I thought this could be my “thing” and base the blog around the book series to promote it.

But further e-guides never eventuated and soon enough the name became irrelevant and somewhat embarrassing. So I changed back to back to Backstreet Nomad, a name I still don’t love but have come to terms with. Like many names, 3 years on it’s still a placeholder until I find something better. Though it was so much work to change brands and I don’t really feel like going through that again.

I’ve learnt a lot about blogging, travel blogging, digital marketing, SEO, social media, and all that fun stuff that comes with giving 165% to growing any website from nothing. These are skills I have actually applied to my real job, which is in a small finance firm.

I’ve met a lot of amazing people, both virtually, and IRL. And had a lot of fun with them along the way.

Blog squad cruising Bali in a VW convertible
Just a few of these awesome people

I’ve learnt that nothing worth doing is easy, and success, especially success in growing a blog does not happen overnight. Hell, this blog still has a long way to grow, but I am so proud of its consistency, and growth to date. (Yes, that’s purposefully vague).

Firsts

As with any project, there were a lot of firsts along the way. And I think it’s important to recognise these firsts in the context of where the blog was at the time, otherwise, they can seem small in hindsight.

I remember the first time I ever interviewed someone on the blog. I was so incredibly stoked when I got their response back. It was as if someone had taken note of me, and wanted to be featured on my site, even though it was a mere microcosm of the internet. I read the entire transcript with a massive grin on my face and published it as fast as I could. And I’m pleased to say that she is still blogging as well.

I remember the first time I was nominated for a chain award. It was the Inspirational Blogger award, not unlike the Liebster Award (the bloggers will understand). I was stoked at first because again, someone had recognised me! But later I learnt that these are essentially a link building tool and it’s actually harder to find someone who has not already been nominated. Still, the post is still up on my old site (it didn’t make the transition).

That massive grin made a comeback the first time I sold my first Amazon Kindle-published travel guide on Sydney. Well, the first person who wasn’t related to me anyway. I put so damn much effort into that guide; 50+ pages including photos and maps. It even got a few reviews on Amazon, which I got a real kick out of. Overall I didn’t actually make that much

Overall I didn’t actually make that much from it, about $120. In fact, I’ve recently taken it down because it became out of date and didn’t have time to update and republish. I plan on repurposing all the content for free on the blog.

Chapel street Melbourne graffiti with BML

I remember the first time someone reached out to me saying they have a hotel lined up for me to review. That was in Melbourne almost a year ago and I’ve been lucky enough to have a few more comped stays since then.

Then, of course, there was my first media trip to Indonesia last year. An incredibly fun trip, but the achievement that it signified to me was more about inspiring me to keep going, suggesting that I’m onto something good here. The post that I wrote on the last night of that trip was probably the most honest thing I’ve ever written.

Sunset in Bintan Island with a grounded ship

I’ve shared about this before, but that trip was such an eye opener for me. Firstly, it showed me what was possible as a travel blogger, but I was also rubbing shoulders with bloggers and Instagrammers who were already hyper-successful. It inspired me to become a better photographer (see above), and while I believe it’s a long journey, I’ve still come a long way in the last 9 months alone.

Travel blogging takes up a lot of time and there are a lot of moving parts to consider every day. Thankfully, this hobby is something that I love and am really passionate about. If it wasn’t, I definitely would have stopped by now. When it’s a labour of love it never feels like a chore, there is never an end in sight, and the only way to go is up.

 

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10 ways to get off the beaten track

There is an ever-present, yet largely unspoken discussion that goes on with travellers. It’s the traveller vs. tourist mentality where a tourist is there to tick a box, read the guide book and follow other tourists, and the traveller is more up for adventurous, serendipitous experiences.

While these two types of people definitely exist, I think it’s a little pretentious to think one is better than the other (and I’m definitely talking to past me in this instance). Different people are just up for different types of experiences. Regardless, if you want to get away from the crowds and create your own unique experiences, let these ideas inspire your creativity. Continue Reading

How to ensure every New Years Eve lives up to the hype

As a kid, my family always went camping over New Year’s Eve. We’d have a big party with a few other families, let off some sparkler bombs and we’d all have a great night of wholesome fun.

When I graduated from family holidays over the New Year, the night became more about going to parties with friends, beers, and if I was lucky (read: organised), we might go up the coast somewhere.

From about October onwards the question would be asked frequently “what are we going to do for New Year’s?”, which would be met with a few great ideas being bounced around, most of which weren’t acted upon and we’d end up doing a party at someone’s place. Sometimes this was a hit, other’s not so much.

Some of my favourite end of year shindigs have included getting a house in Forster with a huge bunch of mates, overnight camping on the Stockton sand dunesstaying on a boat moored at Hamilton Island, and having the best view of Sydney Harbour fireworks with our own personal grassy space. These were all well planned and well executed and the company was excellent too.

Hamilton Island Beach on New Year's Eve
Hamilton Island Beach

They also weren’t overhyped.

The few underwhelming ones that I’ve had were either because I tried to see too many people at too many parties, or I went fireworks chasing in a big city.

Trying to over-party sucks because you end up spending your whole night driving instead of chilling. And it also means one person with you has to drive and spends the whole night being overly cautious about how many appletinis they’ve had.

Fireworks chasing sucks because, well, I’ll be honest here, and I realise I’m probably the minority, I’ve always thought fireworks are a bit overrated. I mean, they have to be absolute world class for me to feel compelled to discuss them when all the oooh’s and aaaah’s have finished.

Sydney Harbour Bridge Fireworks New years eve
Genuinely world class fireworks. Surely the best view, in our own grassy, fenced area.

I go along with it because everyone else seems to like them and I don’t actively hate them, but unless I’m actually the one setting them off or someone else is letting them off with me in the bush, the beach, or someone’s backyard, they often seem anticlimactic.

This is especially true if you’ve spent your whole night (and potentially day) camping out to get a good spot to see them. A few years ago some of Kynie and my best friends rented an apartment over New Years Eve in Melbourne. We had a fantastic few days, and even New Year’s Eve was great, up until we went out to watch the fireworks.

View from the Shrine of Remembrance Melbourne
Melbourne skyline from the Shrine of Remembrance

Maybe it was the spot we chose, maybe it’s the fact that Melbourne isn’t situated on a harbour like Sydney, but the four of us were all disappointed by the fireworks and weren’t impressed by the amount of people we had to jostle with.

So, for those of you playing along at home, are you sensing a theme here? What’s the one constant through all the good parts of New Years Eve?

Your buddies!

At the end of the day (or rather, year), New Year’s Eve is just another party. Who do you like to party with? Friends. Or at least people you like (family included).

For me, NYE isn’t about having the biggest night of the year, or seeing the biggest fireworks of the year. And it’s especially not going where thousands or millions of other people will be gathering because this means you’ll be crowded all night and you’ll probably be in lame alcohol free zones.

For any given New Year’s Eve give me anywhere with people I like in a place I like with beers that I like. And if we happen to be somewhere new or out in nature, that’s good too.

Fireworks at Hamilton Island Marina
Fireworks at Hamilton Island Marina

This year I’ll be enjoying an entirely new experience for New Year’s, celebrating it at sea aboard a Caribbean Cruise. I have no idea what to expect, but I’m sure they’re going to put on a good show for us.

What will you be doing for new years? Let me know in the comments below. I’d also love to know if you agree with me or if you’ll be chasing the crowds and fireworks as well.

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The Six People in Every Airport That Make You Facepalm

We’ve all been there: in the airport, ready to relax and begin our vacation. We’ve got our coffee, our book is out, headphones are in and it’s all going to plan. That is, until other people happen. They are everywhere, inconsiderate and self-absorbed because theirs is the only holiday that is important.

I thought it would be funny to point out these people so we can all have a laugh at their expense to lighten the mood for next time we’re in an airport. I was right: it was funny.

Just don’t laugh too hard because chances are good that you (and I) are one of these people as well.

The Town Crier

There’s a good chance I’ve been that guy before but it still goes on the list: that person at the gate (or the plane before the seatbelt sign is on) that is having a 50-way conversation between himself, the person on the other end of the phone, and everyone else at gate 43.

Don’t get me wrong, talk on your phone as much as you want, just use your inside voice. No one wants to hear about the kid you might be adopting or your mum’s persistent rash.

Checking our phones at Vihara Avalokitesvara Buddhist temple

The Power Monopolist

Airports are getting better at providing power points, but they are still in generally limited supply and high demand. What a perfect opportunity for me to plug in all 8 of my devices that all need to be topped up from 95% to 100% before the plane!

Meanwhile, the rest of the plane sits back, quietly seething, their gears grinding as that angry, yet quiet Snapchat is sent, depleting the last of their phone battery.

I mean sure, if this is the middle of your journey and you depleted a lot of battery on the previous flight then yes, you might want to charge some things. But have a bit of forethought and consideration. Rather than plug in everything to individual power outlets, pack a power board, or just plug USB’s into your laptop.

Jamaica beach, Negril

The Gate Lounge Coloniser

How about the person who gets to the gate early and sets up camp ensuring that they have the most room possible? They place as many bags and items on as many chairs as possible to make it seem that he is “minding” them for the entire population of Tasmania.

Come on mate, who are you fooling? You don’t have that many friends.

Getting off the plane at Labuan Bajo airport Indonesia

The Neck Pillow

Yes, those people that are so afraid of falling asleep wherever they are, they feel it’s best to take precautions to ensure they don’t break their neck in the event of spontaneous slumber.

Obviously, that’s not the real reason, but do you need that many things in your carry on that the neck pillow won’t fit? Or can it not be tied on?

I mean, this one doesn’t annoy me in the slightest, but it is a bit of a facepalm moment. These people are up there with the people that wield iPads at the Pyramids of Egypt in place of a camera.

I know it’s an airport, but you look ridiculous.

Pyramids of Giza, Cairo, Egypt
Thankfully iPads weren’t a thing when I visited the pyramids.

The Over-packer

This one gets me every time. These people are just simply not following the airline rules. You see them walking through the airport, then the aisle of the plane, backpack on, shopping bag in one hand, wheelie bag in tow.

There is no way that that carry on is under 10 kilos and constitutes “1 bag plus personal item”. I’ve even seen some people with large wheelie bags trying to cram them into overhead compartments. What are you thinking? And who is letting you on with that?

If it didn’t impact those around them I wouldn’t bother wasting any thought processes on them. But when I get on the plane and there’s no room overhead so my bag has to go elsewhere: not okay. Stop being a tightarse and check something if you have that many pairs of underwear to take.

When I visited Indonesia there was a flight where we actually had to be that group. We weren’t able to take our suitcases because we were going onto a phinisi boat where space would be limited. So we had to pack enough for 4 days as well as all our camera gear into carry on. And for most of us travel bloggers and photographers… that’s quite a bit of gear.

Here’s Phoebe of Little Grey Box with all her gear, looking really pleased about it.

Phoebe Little Grey Box overpacking for our trip to Labuan Bajo

The Lazy Bones

This is a pet peeve of mine in general, but especially at airports: who are these people that see a travelator (or moving walkway) and think “Oh good, it’s going to move me automatically so now I don’t have to put in any effort”.

NO!

This should speed up your ability to get from one place to another, otherwise, standing still will actually slow you down because while they are quick, they aren’t that quick.

And besides, ever watched yourself walk down the moving walkway in reflective glass? It looks very otherworldly as you move much faster than the steps your are taking should allow.

Ok if you are old or somehow mobility impaired, I get it, have a rest that’s fine. But everyone else who is able bodied, stop being so lazy. Or at the very, very least…move over to the left!

View from the Shrine of Remembrance Melbourne

Cheapflights actually did a bunch of research into the airport behaviour of Aussies. After reading it, I was really surprised at how much we spend in airports while waiting. Mainly because I barely spend anything except for maybe a coffee or beer, depending of the time of day.

The “airtiquette” guidelines on how to not piss off  your fellow travelers was what actually inspired this post. You can see this below.

What Aussies do at the airport

I’m sure I’ve pissed some people off with this article (and probably in an airport too) but that’s fine, I’ll survive.

So what do you think? Who are the people that grind your gears in the airport? I’m sure I haven’t even scratched the surface here so I’d love to know your thoughts as well. Leave me a comment below.

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Reflections on my first media trip and how it evolved me

On my final night in Indonesia last week, I wrote this to log my thoughts and reflect on what has been an exceedingly fun, fascinating, and at times frustrating whirlwind trip.

One month ago I had never heard of the Trip of wonders in Indonesia. In fact I hadn’t even really considered visiting Indonesia except for the occasional conversation with Kynie that we should visit Bali soon. Conversations which we will continue to have.

I’d never been on a media trip before this and my blog is hardly monetised, but Ryanni Djangkaru, an Indonesian TV personality and activist reached out to me on behalf of Indonesia Travel and invited me to apply for the trip. I of course did so and no less than two weeks later I was on a plane to Jakarta. To most people in the real world this is absurd and unheard of, and the looks of awe and disbelief as I tell people since returning confirms this, but this is pretty normal for trips such as this.

Trip of wonders tshirtunderwater

Over the last 12 days I have been on no less than 11 flights with 4 different airlines, 2 boats, and innumerable long bus rides as Indonesia Travel carted us around to experience some of the best their country has to offer. I have not only visited some incredible places but I have been blessed beyond measure with the friendships I have formed in such a short time. The type of friendships where it is obvious it will be the lasting kind.

To be able to relate to people on the first day, then talk and laugh non stop for the entire trip like old buddies can make any unforeseen circumstances (of which there were many) seem more than tolerable.

From obscure Simpsons references to conversations that cut to the core of our identity as people and as travel bloggers, the topics of conversation were many and varied.

Most liberating though, was learning that I actually share with someone a very psychologically similar approach to blogging and fear or sharing it with people who know me. Sometimes the knowledge that someone else is in the same boat is all you need to feel normal so if this is you, leave a comment at the end.

Mangrove Tour on the Sebung River in Bintan

Further still, the opportunity to actually talk with people with the same mindset – being that of a blogger – is something I rarely have back home (probably because I never bring it up). Because it’s such a a personal thing being a creative, there’s an element of thinking “it’s easier if only strangers see my work, they aren’t real, they’re just a number in a graph”. This way of thinking may or may not be logical, I’m genuinely not sure, but damn if I didn’t feel validated when I learnt I wasn’t the only one who thought like that.

This sort of thing – discussions about irrational fears – kept happening every day for two weeks.

The shared passion that we all have for blogging is what drove a lot of the conversations I had, and to be honest, I probably talked more often, more honestly and openly about my blog to people on this trip as I have to people back home in the last 12 months.

Even now I still get a bit weird when friends – even close friends and family – bring up my blog, or even just mention “Backstreet Nomad” (you may have noticed if that’s you). But by spending 2 weeks with other talented creatives and seeing what’s possible when you put your heart into something, I learnt just how important it is to feel proud of your work, which I do. And if you’re proud of something you should feel comfortable talking about, which I’m still working on.

And since being back the trip and blog has no doubt come up numerous times I’m glad to say it feels little more normal every time. So if you’re wondering why it’s taken me so long to tell you about my blog, that is why. I hope we can still be friends.

Friends in a VW convertible in Bali

Being on tour with such a diverse group of people – in terms of cultural background and in terms of their platform of influence – it was incredible to see the conversations often turn to helping each other, impromptu photography lessons, informal discussion on why Google Plus shouldn’t be ignored, and how to Instagram better.

I was also immeasurably fortunate to be on the receiving end of priceless advice on managing a travel blog – a topic I thought I was pretty good at. These particular topics lasted anywhere from 15 minutes after dinner to entire bus trips and goes to show that when you bring together passionate people in the same industry, you never know what you might learn.

The trip has been tiring, and at times frustrating, but I wouldn’t change anything for the world. The experience I have gained, the amount of Indonesia I have seen, and the new friends I now get to visit have made this an experience I will never forget and has opened my eyes to a whole new way of existing online.

I cannot wait to get home to reflect and fully absorb each place I visited in full, and share with you my thoughts.

But above all else I can’t wait to make my way back to Indonesia to explore much more deeply. The local people have been so friendly, the food delicious and unique, and the scenery some of the most beautiful I’ve seen.

Thanks to Indonesia Travel for making it all possible and the pals that made it unforgettable.

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