Hello, Julia from Epic Adventurer!
1. First of all, what are your website and social media links?
2. How did you come up with your website name?
It’s a phrase I used to use a lot: “It’ll be an epic adventure!” It worked especially well when I had no idea if the “adventure” would actually be fun—it was a way of bucking up some courage and convincing friends to come along.
3. What more can you tell us about your blog? What are your goals or intentions for it?
I started The Epic Adventurer with the goal of talking about budget travel, which was an exciting world to me when I was fresh out of college. I’d done plenty of low-budget traveling, solo traveling, and hostel-hopping, and felt very much the expert. Well, after trying for a long time to shoehorn my website into a “budget” category, I realized that I actually don’t care much about what people spend—rather, I care about helping people genuinely enjoy themselves, and for me that meant focusing on independent travel.
I want to not only encourage people to get out there and try a new destination, but also think deeply about all the social issues surrounding travel: race, privilege, commodification of cultures, the environment, immigration… There’s rich food for thought if you really start digging into why we travel, not just where or how. The last thing I want my blog to become is a pile of “top ten things to do in…” lists, because that assumes we’re all traveling for the same reasons to begin with.
4. Can you provide us with a Throw Back Thursday picture of one of your favorite travel memories with an explanation?
This isn’t a long-ago throwback, but it is one of my favorite travel memories. In 2013, I went to Calico Rock, Arkansas, my father’s very small, beautiful, and friendly hometown—which I hadn’t visited in about a decade. It was really precious for me to catch up with so much of my family that I don’t often get to see, and spend time lounging around my family’s house on a bluff overlooking the White River. It was Independence Day weekend, and we set off fireworks (a novelty to this Massachusetts resident), grilled, went for walks, but really did very little that required leaving the immediate vicinity. It was a really important trip, because my father died fifteen years ago, and I wanted to get to know the place he came from better alongside my sister; I also got to hear lots of stories about him. This photo is of my feet as I sat on the bluff at my family’s house and looked down into the river.
5. Which are your favorite and least favorite cities you’ve traveled to? Why?
I can’t give a least favorite! I mean, I could, but the way I figure it is that if I don’t like a place, I probably just don’t know it well enough and need a local to show me around. That attitude is actually part of why I started my living like a local series, so I could get real people to show me what they love about their cities.
As for favorite, we’ve got a multi-way tie… I live in London, which is my mother’s hometown, so I have an emotional connection to this place as well as a love for its bustle and culture and beauty. It really is the best place in the world for art, if you ask me, whether you love ballet or modern sculpture or performance art or opera—anything, really. And pub culture is the best; I love being able to duck into a pub, have a drink, and not have waiters buzzing around me or people trying to make small talk. It’s so peaceful and cozy.
I also fell in love with Bangkok during a trip in 2010, and am dying to go back. It’s a breathtaking city, and you can feel it trying to figure out how to meld traditional ways of life with the super-modernity of urban Asia these days. Plus, the food is unrivalled—we had to get up at 2am to catch our flight out of town, and I made a run to a street noodle stand for one last taste to bring to the airport!
And Boston, you’re my home.
6. What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten? Where?
Oh geez… crocodile in South Africa, ostrich in South Africa, an ant in Bogota, plenty of unidentified seafood in Japan… I’m basically a vegetarian in my regular life, but when I travel I make an effort to eat whatever’s local. It’s a major part of the experience for me.
7. Who are your travel idols?
My mom. She immigrated to the US from England decades ago, in a time when it was really not that easy to stay in touch with your people back home. My recent move to the UK has put in perspective for me just what a big deal that was! Plus, she always travels independently, and does a great job maintaining friendships around the world.
8. What’s your best travel tip?
Expose yourself to a little risk. People often pay through the nose for high-tech gear or fancy hotels or insurance to make themselves feel a bit more secure, but in my experience, most of that is a waste. Don’t insulate yourself from local life; try packing less, eating local food, and staying at a lower-price place. I’m a big fan of independently-owned guesthouses—cheap hotels can be terrifying and grimy, but nice hostels and guesthouses will be at least as cheap, and in much better shape.
9. Which is your favorite post you’ve written?
I think it has to be this ode to my Kilimanjaro guide, Happyson. I summited the mountain with no experience, while much tougher folks didn’t make it—and I give Happyson all the credit.
10. What advice would you give to someone new to travel blogging?
Don’t expect instant success. I’ve been doing this for five years, and it took me three to even get the layout of the site to a place where I felt it was functional and clean and still expressed what I was about. Don’t sink any money into it, either—the failure rate is high, and I’ve seen newbies pay for logos and webhosts for a site they ended up just ditching by the roadside. Blogging is not for everyone.
Pick up digital skills, such as HTML, CSS, SEO, social media marketing. You don’t need to necessarily take a course, but take serious ownership of your website so you can function independently—and they’re not bad skills for a resume, either.
Most of all, respect your audience. Proofread your writing, don’t steal photography, think about what you would actually want to read, and clearly label any advertisements or sponsored posts. Respecting your audience means not assuming you know who they are, or that they’re just like you. In the world of travel writing, you want to treat all cultures with respect and admit when you don’t understand something; your readers are as likely to be part of that culture as to be part of your own.