On a whim the other day I asked you guys on Instagram and Twitter whether you had any questions for me. You know, one of those basic bitch Q&A thingys, and to be honest I hadn’t really expected anyone to reply. Like, who do I think I am?
But oh hey baby look at all these questions pouring in! Big ego-boost, I’m not gonna lie. Glad you’re reading this, bae.
A lot of you asked me the same kinds of questions so I’ve combined a few on here, I hope you don’t mind. So here are all of the As to your Qs, enjoy!
Questions about my travels
What’s your favourite place in the whole world? (Deniz, Instagram)
This question is from Deniz but I received a LOT of variations on this one. I guess that’s the go-to question you ask a travel blogger right?
Well it’s a pretty hard question to answer but other than answering “at home in my bed”, because that’s a boring answer, I’d have to say Italy. I’m still thinking about my trip in 2015 to Cinque Terre and Florence and Genoa – it was just a dream. It’s beautiful, the food is easily the best I’ve ever had on my travels and I had lovely weather. It’s the best. I have to get back to Italy this year, for sure.
What is your favourite city? (Scott, Instagram)
Well, I have a few faves. I mean top 5 are New York, San Francisco, London, Barcelona and Sydney. But if I had to pick one… probably San Fran. I just fell in love with it. The vintage shopping, the hills, the skyline, the Golden Gate bridge, the nightlife and the unpredictable weather – I just adored it all. God, I need to go back there too…
What was your least favourite destination and why? (Hayley, Twitter)
This is probably quite controversial but I didn’t like Phnom Penh in Cambodia. I think it’s the fact that the sights are so sad, like S-21 and the Killing Fields. Plus I didn’t feel very safe in my hostel. And I was having weird dreams as a side effect of the malaria tablets I had just started taking. But yeah, wasn’t my fave.
I also didn’t like Pisa in Italy, touristy hell.
Where are your favourite beaches around the world? (Lulu & Chloe, Instagram)
This is a damn good question. I mean, who doesn’t love a beach? Here are my utter faves:
- Nha Trang, Vietnam
- Gordon’s Bay, Sydney, Australia
- Gili T, Lombok, Indonesia
- Cable Beach, Broome, Western Australia
- Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
- Mission Beach, San Diego, USA
- Brighton, UK
- Monterosso, Cinque Terre, Italy
Yeah there are a lot.
If you could put a swing anywhere in the world, where would you place it and why? (Ria, Instagram)
I can’t say I would’ve predicted this question, but it got me thinking! Probably in the rice terraces in Ubud, Bali. It’s such a gorgeous view so a swing in the shade overlooking all the beauty would be a pretty sweet place to take it all in.
How nervous were you when you first went travelling all those years ago? (Ricki, Instagram)
I’m not gonna lie, I was scared AF. Like I seriously think that is the hardest part of all. Not living on a budget or making friends travelling or dealing with the hiccups that come up along the way – it’s the actual getting on the plane part that’s the hardest. When your mum is crying in departures and you walk through security like – WTF am I doing right now! This was all a terrible mistake!
It fizzles out as soon as you get to the destination and remember why you’re doing this. But the airport was horrible. Glad I didn’t turn around now though…
What’s your favourite thing to do in your hometown? (Sara, Instagram)
Love this question! My favourite things to do in Milton Keynes are:
- Going to the ice hockey on a Saturday night with my best pals, a jug of beer and a pizza
- Walking around Willen Park in the summer then going for a boozy lunch at The Navigation Cosgrove
- Sledding Campbell Park when it snows
- The annual Stony Stratford Zombie Pub Crawl
Which other travellers inspire you the most? (Sam, Instagram)
This is such a good question! There are so many other Travel Bloggers and Instagrammers that inspire me on the regs. Here’s a few of my faves:
Questions about blogging
Is travelling your full time job? (Laura & Greta, Instagram)
Laura and Greta both asked me this one on IG, and the answer is no. No, it it isn’t. If only it was… But right now my blog doesn’t generate enough income for me to throw caution to the wind and pack it all in. I’d love to be able to do it one day but right now I fit my travels around my work, one annual leave day at a time.
How do you earn money from your blog and how did you start? (Connie, Instagram)
The question every blogger wants to know – how other bloggers are managing to make dollar dollar bills y’all from their URL. I’m pretty sure it’s a different ratio for all of us but generally we earn money from the same things. For me, I earn the most from brand campaigns and sponsored posts (1 or 2 a month) with a few sponsored Instagrams thrown in for good measure. I do get a bit of pocket money from affiliate schemes but they don’t massively work for me tbh.
In terms of starting? I guess it happened gradually. Like I just started getting emails about sponsored posts one day and they gradually became more often… It’s not a great answer, but for anyone looking to get paid I’d say just do you, keep on trucking and growing your social following. It’s also a good idea to sign up to blogging platforms that hook you up with brands (although they’re a bit hit or miss), and work on your SEO! If your SEO isn’t good, no-one’s ever going to find you!
Your favourite and least favourite parts of blogging? (Bethan, Twitter)
My favourite parts of blogging… well I’d be lying if I didn’t say the freebies. Obvs. Free trips and free clothes are the icing on the cake but it’s not actually the reason I do it (no, really).
The best part is the feeling I get when I recommend something and then a reader tells me they did it/bought it/went there after reading my post. It doesn’t matter if it’s something small like they bought something off of my Christmas Gift Guide or something big like they visited a destination on an epic trip on my recommendation, either way I feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
Also, I’ve gotta mention the friends I’ve made through blogging. Travel blogging in particular has a really nice community and all the people I’ve met either IRL or online have been awesome.
My least favourite part is probably the comparison thing. As this is such a weird and random industry I often look to other bloggers to see what are ‘good’ stats or how much I should get paid or how many brand collabs everyone is working on. And as they say – comparison is the thief of joy. So it makes me feel like shit. But that’s something I need to work on. Imma do me.
When did you start blogging? (Llama, Instagram)
I actually started blogging in 2010, just before I set off on a big adventure to Southeast Asia and a working holiday in Australia. That lil blog was just one to keep in touch with people at home to keep them up to date on my adventures. But when I returned I realised I actually really liked doing it! I also had a lot of opinions on backpacking and female travel that I wanted to get across to people (like you’re allowed to take a few luxuries and stay true to your personal style even when you’re slumming it!), so I started Heels In My Backpack in 2012. It’s been nearly 5 years but I still love blogging. Best hobby in the world, for sure.
What camera do you use? (Rhanna, Instagram)
I use a Nikon D3300 to take most of my blog and IG photos but I also take a few snaps on my phone (Huawei P9) when a big DSLR isn’t really appropriate. I also use my GoPro Hero 4 Session for all of my videos and some of my photos.
Also do you ever think you’ll start vlogging your trips? (Nicole, Instagram)
YES. I currently create ‘travel highlight’ videos of my trips on YouTube, which are just montages of a trip in 2-3 minute vids. But I definitely want to start doing full-length vlogs of my trips that are more like 10-15 minutes long. Because I know I’m addicted to watching other people’s. So what the hell, I’m going to give it a go this year.
Questions about Instagram
This is what I got the MOST questions about. I’ve got a pretty decent Insta following and I guess people want to know what the magic secret is… Well…
You’ve got such an awesome following! How did you find it when you first set up your blog? Was it hard to get followers initially? (Vaish, Instagram)
How did you grow your Insta so well? (Valerie, Instagram)
What are your top tips for Instagram? (Olivia, Instagram)
Ok for starters, check out this post I wrote last year with some Insta-tips – A Travel Blogger’s Guide To Killing It On Instagram.
Although things are a bit different now with the whole Instagram algorithm change so you don’t have to post at a certain time anymore. But you do need to try to improve your engagement. One way to do this is to ask a question in your caption to encourage comments. Another is to get yourself into a Comment Pod. Comment Pods are a group of influencers beating the system by always commenting on each other’s posts to boost engagement and make sure Instagram rolls out the photo to more of your followers. It’s a win/win.
What would you say is the biggest tip for Instagram success? (Elle, Instagram)
BE ACTIVE ON THERE. I know so many people that are constantly asking me why their Instagram following isn’t growing but it’s because all they’re doing is logging on, posting a picture and waiting for Instafame to come to them. That’s not how it works. You need to be present on the platform, respond to comments, comment on other people’s photos, like other people’s photos, follow people that inspire you, use Insta stories… You get out what you put in, folks.
What do you think of the follow-unfollow culture of Instagram? (Christina, Instagram)
To be honest I think everyone sees through it these days. I mean if someone follows you then unfollows you straight away, you’re going to do the same and unfollow them back. So it doesn’t really get them far. And even if it does work, when it comes to working with brands they always have a quick check to see who’s following you. And you can always tell if it looks a bit shady. Moral of the story? Don’t take a shortcut, just grow your IG organically. It always works out in the end.
Questions about your travels
What are your top tips for Italy? (Scott, Instagram)
Italy! My fave! Well first, eat everything because it’s all delicious. Secondly, travel by train because it’s super cheap and easy for overland travel in Italy. Thirdly, pack a camera with a large SD card because it’s a bloody photogenic country. Have the best time!
What tips do you have for someone who really wants to travel but is shit scared of doing it alone?? (Nicole, Instagram)
I totally understand, it’s super scary the first time you go travelling solo. But you absolutely can’t wait around for someone to go with you. Like I said above, the hardest part of travelling is plucking up the courage to actually go…
So how about you plan a long weekend away in Europe somewhere to get acquainted with solo travel? It’s only 3 or 4 days, you’ll find out how you feel about solo female travel, and you might be surprised with how much you like it! It’s super liberating, you can do what you want and it’s just complete freedom. Do it, girl.
What advice do you have for planning a solo trip? (Samantha, Instagram)
Ok that’s hard to give an answer in a nutshell, I’m probably going to have to write a whole blog post. But here are the basics:
- Make sure your first night is booked so you can get your bearings.
- Take a few security essentials like a door stop, a cable lock for transport and a bra stash for your money.
- Book into dorm rooms or tours to make friends.
- Take a book to dinner for one in a restaurant.
- Don’t go anywhere alone at night unless it feels really safe.
- Have the best time ever.
Does my girlfriend really need a massive suitcase? (Scott, Instagram)
She probably doesn’t, it’s totally possible to put together a fabulous capsule wardrobe with limited space. But if it makes her feel good then let her have it, Scott. Although head up, she’s probably going to make you carry it.
Questions from my friends being dicks.
Why won’t you eat anything from the sea? (Josh, my boyfriend, Instagram)
Because I don’t like fish, Josh. Get over it.
How many new potatoes can you eat in one sitting? (Kate, my best friend, Instagram)
When I lived with Kate and was poor I once ate pretty much a whole bag of new potatoes for dinner with a tomato sauce and cheese. Because it was all that was left in the cupboard. From memory it was either 17 or 19 potatoes. No judgement.
That my friend is all of your questions answered in a nifty lil Q&A. Hope it enlightened you to the inner workings of my mind. If there’s anything else you wanna ask just go right ahead in the comments below or tweet me @HeelsInBackpack!