Happy birthday to The Wanderfull Traveler! March makes for six years of writing, photographing, filming, travel and life here at TheWanderfullTraveler.com! When I first started this website it was to ensure I kept a creative outlet after university. It is still a way to express myself through writing and photography. It has also become an occasional secondary income, a place to experiment with video and a place of connection with readers all over the world.
It has also allowed me to interact with travel brands that have made some of my travel experiences possible. Below I start from the beginning all the way to the end of 2016. If you’re thinking of starting a blog or maybe you’re doubting why you started one at all I hope this post reveals the realities of a part-time blogger. I have a full-time job and this site is my passion project that preoccupies me one or two evenings per week. I write, I edit, I photoshop and edit some more. But, just like writing, I am always looking at “the story” of every experience whether it be visiting a winery or traveling to a new destination. I am actively looking at the various angles asking myself, what’s the most interesting way to get this story to my readership?
If you don’t have a passion for stories – written or visual – then keeping a website is going to be more difficult and perhaps even tiresome.
Where it all started – Italy
In 2010 I traveled to Italy on a study abroad program learning about the Renaissance in the Venetian Empire. Over 4 weeks of traveling from Capri to Venice, I returned overflowing with stories and wanting to share my (beginner) photography. My first post featured the ENTIRE story of getting to Capri and then back to Rome. It was a lot for a beginner traveler to experience but a lot of fun.
My first real story – Mission Hill Winery
In my first year of blogging I wanted to write a story about my favourite winery, Mission Hill. It is also where this “iconic” image from my website emerged. You can read the first story here and see the picturesque landscape and food from 2011! Back when Urbanspoon was still around and I was on e-blogger rather than WordPress. This is when I first met head chef Matt Batey and covered The Terrace restaurant at the Mission Hill Winery for an online magazine called Vécu. It has since stopped publishing but you can still check out the stories online for free here.
Pay to Play
In 2012 I thought blogging might be able to bring me free dinners and show tickets in Vegas. How foolish I was. I set the bar high and spoke to a Bellagio Hotel representative. All it got me was a very pricey and overrated dinner at Picasso and two free tickets at the art gallery in the hotel. I learned that Vegas is a tough scene to break into for a blogger. You’ve got a better shot signing up for a players card and waiting for the hotels to offer you free rooms. My friend, Laura at The Culinary Travel Guide taught me all about it. She loves Vegas just as much as I!
Although this experience wasn’t one of the best, as a blogger I was learning and that’s never a bad thing.
Meeting Like Minded Peeps
When I first started blogging in and about the Okanagan I felt like I was the only one. Then I discovered that was far from the truth. Three ladies in particular have been very supportive and provided a source of inspiration – Dina of Olive Oil and Lemons, Laura of The Culinary Travel Guide and Val of More Than Burnt Toast. All three love to travel, eat and cook – three topics you have to enjoy if you want to be my friend. But most important of all, we all champion the Okanagan Wine Valley, our beloved adopted home (like Dîner en Blanc pictured above). I am always discovering more and more Okanagan based bloggers, if you’re one leave a comment below with a link!
Other than bloggers, I also had the opportunity to speak with published writers. As someone who graduated with a double major in creative writing and art history, speaking to a published writer (that wasn’t one of my professors) was thrilling. One such writer was Mark Haskell Smith. He provided me with a copy of his book before it was published and I was so appreciative for the opportunity.
Learning from the pros
Looking back at over 320 blog posts I can really notice a shift in my travels come 2013. This was the year I attended the Navigate Media BlogHouse Ireland. It was an intensive 4 day course learning about blogging professionally from the professionals. At the time I wasn’t sure what I wanted from blogging and I considered becoming a full time blogger. Nowadays, I’ve discovered what I really want is to become a writer so I am working on my novel. This website is a viable place to sell and promote that book once published (fingers crossed). It is also a place to advertise and write about my food tours that will be offered during the summer. I am still in the workshopping process but what I am getting at is that your blog can be a secondary income – a revelation I learned at BlogHouse Ireland.
I also stepped up my photography game in 2013 and there’s been nothing but improvement since (aside from the odd dark indoor restaurant scene of food).
Persistence is key…and TBEX helps too
Over the course of 3 years I entered three contest hosted by GowithOh to win a week in Europe at one of their apartments. 3 times I lost. But a stoke of luck occurred while I was a TBEX in Ireland in 2013. I ran into my contact at GowithOh, Sara Robles – who has since branched off on her own. We got to talking and started what would be our #GwOGourmands campaign. In the end I covered travels and their apartments in Venice and Paris.
I don’t frequent the travel conferences much anymore. My priorities have changed to keep within the Okanagan and the occasional food tour abroad. But if you’re starting out and looking to work with tourism brands, hotels and more then you should definitely attend conferences. Be prepared with hundreds of business/website cards and a media kit!
In 2013 I also attended the Wine Bloggers’ Conference held here in the Okanagan. In my own backyard I met the local tourism managers, local celebrities and came face to face with the vintners that made my favourite wines. I also had my first experience with Joy Road Catering who would go on to cater my Okanagan wedding 3 years later!
Keeping it local
I received some good advice that I didn’t decide to follow until late 2015, two years after BlogHouse Ireland. It was from one of the mentors, Michael Hodson of Go See Write. He told me to scrap my tales of going abroad and instead re-brand focusing only on the Okanagan. Just last year I approached Golden Fox Design to redesign my website in my budget focusing on the Okanagan. I don’t completely abandon the European/USA travels but rather focus mainly on the Okanagan wine valley that is growing in popularity around the world. The advice may have been followed long after it was given and it still may need some fine tuning but it inspired me to keep writing during a time I was doubting whether or not I should continue the pursuit of my website.
Passion gets noticed
Championing local Okanagan wineries and restaurants gets more attention than you might think. My “iconic” Mission Hill Winery photo from my first real story at the beginning of this post was recognized my the (at the time) head chef Matt Batey. He appreciated my passion so much he invited me to participate in an all day cooking course at the in-house state of the art kitchen. It was a learning curve for sure that gave me some much needed confidence in the kitchen. Mistakes were made. Lessons were learnt and I had a blast in exchange for coverage of the course. You can read about the experience here.
Other than Mission Hill I have also worked with the Naramata Heritage Inn, Sandrine’s Chocolate and Patisserie, and even made a nostalgic return to Prince George with Tourism PG exploring the food scene. I am especially proud of my coverage of the historic British Columbian trading post where I spent the night ALONE in an 1880s cabin in Fort St. James.
A life documented
When I first began my website my husband and I had been dating for almost 3 years. I was one year away from graduating university. I had only been living in Kelowna for 4 years. I had caught the travel bug and taste for culinary self-education. As I have looked back over my 320 blog posts I see moments with family and friends that I can keep and truly share with over 4000+ visitors per month. When I first started I never expected anyone other than my grandparents to read my posts!
Six years later I am married to the love of my life, was able to go on a few food tours for our honeymoon thansk to this site, own a home, have an adoring pup, and still have my supportive family (that never really understood my desire to keep writing on my blog in the first place). I keep writing because I love it and the mere fact that people read it at all. It keeps me analyzing and thinking. It keeps me curious about where I live and the new things I can cover at home and away. I may not be rich from it, in fact I need to pay that monthly bill to my host! But I’ve both achieved and gained more than I ever thought possible without having to give up my life and commit full time to my blog.
Because of all this I write my blog and I keep going.
Happy 6 Wanderfull years to me, myself and I!