Peter Welcome to our travel podcast. We’re specialist travel writers and we’ve spent half a lifetime exploring every corner of the world.
Felice So we want to share with you some of our extraordinary experiences and the amazing people we’ve met along the way.
Peter This week, we’re exploring the solitary world of travel blogging. What is a travel blogger, how do you become one? Wandering around the world and writing for your own publication with no demanding editors apart from yourself, while making loads of money at the same time…sounds like the ideal way of earning a comfortable living.
We met up with VickyFlipFlop, who over the past nine years has become one of Britain’s most successful travel bloggers. She’s got literally thousands of social media followers and has made enough money out of her one-woman business to buy her own three-bedroom house. Vicky, welcome to our travel podcast. Now, can you start by telling us the difference between a travel blogger and a travel influencer?
Vicky Well, I consider myself a blogger. I guess I do have the intention to influence people but it’s not my sole purpose. I want to inspire people and show people the adventures that I’ve been on, whereas I sort of think of an influencer as more taking a picture and they earn their money through persuading people to do things. Whereas I guess I’m more of a storyteller.
Felice So influencers wear fashion – it is more to do with fashion and things like that?
Vicky Yes, I think of it’s more and more fashion and makeup and things like that rather than the stories of travelling.
Peter So tell us first of all, Vicky, how did you become a blogger?
Felice When did you start?
Vicky I started blogging is almost nine years ago now, which was quite a long time in the blogging world. But I worked at a company called Hostel Bookers and part of my job was to try to get bloggers to stay at hostels. I started working there as a content editor but I’d never actually even looked at travel bloggers or knew the travel blogging world. And then I saw the amazing lives the travel bloggers were having and it looked great.
I also wanted to learn more about blogging. And it was kind of a bit of a trek to be a blogger and be one of them and then I could try and make friends with them from the other side, which was the intention nine years ago. And then, yes, obviously blogging has just got into this huge, huge thing now and I never could have imagined how big it would be. But I’m glad that I was in on the early days of blogging.
Felice So how many bloggers are there doing travel in the UK?
Vicky Let’s say, oh, gosh, I don’t know…thousands because it depends on whether you’re talking about bloggers that do it full time, or there’s a lot of hobby bloggers who just enjoy writing about their weekend travels and time off, which is how I started. I did it for three years while I still had a full-time job as I was building it up. I wouldn’t know if I would say thousands, but I felt like at the start of blogging I knew them all, especially because of my job. I knew all the bloggers. But now there is just way too many.
Peter And what the sort of level of which people become a full time blogger and make money out of it. It depends on how much social media you attract, I guess.
Vicky Yes. And I think it’s such a varied question because it depends on the time that you got in. So obviously when I started there was less competition, but there was also a lot less information. Now you can learn so much in courses and have all the tools and have all the knowledge in a very quick time. Whereas we were sort of working it out as we went along. I think now there’s definitely space for more bloggers, but I think you have to have a unique take on it.
And one of the big things that people suggest to new bloggers now as well, is to have a specific niche, rather than just being a travel blogger you need to write about travel with horses or, you know, just something random.
Peter You have to have a specialist market to it. I think it applies to all forms of journalism – if it is a form of journalism. Everything to do with the media requires you to have a level of specialisation. So us about your travels, how did it start? You then started travelling full time.
Vicky Yes. So then after about three years, I was doing two full time jobs with my work and my blog, and it came he time that I couldn’t take it on the road. So I did. And I went travelling for three years and worked my way around as a digital nomad, which was a new term then as well – just working from coffee shops and having fun adventures and travelling around Central America, Asia and Europe.
Felice So what’s it like being a digital nomad? Do you meet others doing the same thing?
Vicky No, so because there was the whole digital nomad scene…I went to a few conferences and met a few people who did anything, but travelled with it. And then there’s the travel blogger scene as well. So I would go again to conferences or maybe on press trips and I’d meet other travel bloggers that were travelling full time and made friends with them. And then also there’s obviously the travellers as well.
But as work got more intense and to write a blog post became much more than just writing a blog post – with all the SEO and special photography and video and everything – it just got quite a lot to try and work and travel at the same time. And because I’d been doing it for three years as well, travel is tiring, isn’t it?
So then I came back to England to get the best of both worlds and have home and travel as well. But yes, those three years were just incredible, I got to see so much and meet so many people. It was great.
Peter So, Vicky, can you tell us how you actually make money out of being a travel blogger? You talk about making a full-time living out of it, but who pays you for what?
Vicky So the main way that I make money travel blogging is to collaborate with destinations, with DMOs (Destination Marketing Organisations), and to work with them. And then they would pay me to go to a destination and then I would make videos or cover it on my social media and write on my blog or write on their blog. And so we work together to create some fun content for their marketing goals.
Peter Tourist offices around the world and tour operators as well?
Vicky Yes. And then anyone involved in travel sometimes gets in touch as well. Like car hire companies will want to work together, or clothing or anything to do with travel that wants to get into the travel market. So that’s one way to do it. And then another way is advertising on my site, which is with a company called Media Vine, and a lot of travel bloggers work with them and you’ll just be shown ads on the site, which was maybe a bit of a contentious issue at the start but I think so many travel bloggers have it now, and so many sites have advertising, that it’s just the way it is now. So that’s another way.
And then affiliates as well. So if people book hotels I’ve stayed at, or go on trips that I’ve been on then and I will earn a very small commission for doing that. So those are the three main ways. But then there’s a lot of other ways to make money as well, through courses or running tours or speaking events. And then social media collaborations as well, like people will advertise to be on bloggers’ social media.
Felice And are the photos, the pictures, more important than the words or is it equal?
Vicky I think that kind of depends on your set up. So some of my travel blogger friends have had huge success because their photos are so amazing that they’ve done well on Pinterest or the visual sites. But then if writing is your main thing…I’m a trained journalist, so writing has always been my number one, it’s what I studied at university and I worked in magazines in London before going online. So I’ve always been more of a writer. But if you’re more of a photographer or more of a videographer, then there’s definitely a place for you and that can be your specialism.
Felice So Twitter is your biggest social media, isn’t it?
Vicky Yes, it is yes.
Felice That’s probably more for writers, whereas Instagram is for pictures.
Vicky Yes, definitely.
Felice And one of your specialities is festivals?
Vicky Yes, until this year.
Peter Tell us about your travels. When you set off to travel the world, did you just go to one place and keep on rolling along or did you keep going back to the UK again?
Vicky A bit of a mix. The longest I’d be away at home is about three or four months and then I would come back for various things. I was in my late 20s, early 30s, and a lot of friends were getting married and things like that, so I kind of always had a reason to come back every three or four months. But I would travel consecutively in between.
Peter And one of the favourite places you’ve been to in the world?
Vicky I think one of my favourite places would has to be Japan, because I went for six weeks independently and travelled around on the trains and went to a few festivals and went to the big cities. And it was just amazing. And then I went again in January this year and December last year, and I would just go again as soon as I can, because it’s just so interesting, there’s just so many great things to see there and the country is so different.
So when I first when I went skiing for a week and a lot of people didn’t even know that you could go skiing in Japan is actually some of the best skiing. I don’t know if you guys have been?
Peter Well, we’ve been many times.
Vicky So, yes, it was great to explore that. And then the snow festivals were great. And obviously everybody is aware of Tokyo and the big cities and the sort of mad things that go on. I really like the food and the culture and the history. And the science museum in Tokyo was amazing. And it’s just an incredible experience to see Japan.
Felice I agree. I love Japan as well. The only thing is the language is a bit difficult – you can’t read the signs.
Vicky Yes, that is really hard. And despite going three times, I haven’t managed to pick up many words because you sort of forget them in between your trips, but I got by.
Peter Have you been to all the main islands?
Vicky Yes, but I would love to go down and go to some of the little islands in the south.
Peter Yes, me too. I’d love to get to the cherry blossom. Have you seen the cherry blossom?
Vicky No. And I feel like next year would maybe be a good year to do that because there’ll be less people travelling if it’s a good time and everything’s OK.
Peter So not for the moment; you’re grounded like we are here. You’ve been exploring the United Kingdom?
Vicky Yes. So in January, I decided to set up a new site about England because I actually planned to spend more time in England this year, which is a bit crazy considering how the year’s worked out. But I set that up in January and then lockdown has been a big opportunity to write for it and build it.
And in July, when the lockdown was lifted, the numbers were great. And the site’s doing really well – Day Out In England – because I wanted to have a site that was a bit more achievable, because on my blog I have done some incredible adventures and some of them have been very expensive, and it was only because for those three years I didn’t have a home base that I could afford to do the amazing things that I have done and through press trips and things.
But I wanted to write something that was a bit more that my friends could do and that I could do in the future, and that was a bit more achievable. And then this year days out in England have been the thing to do. So it’s been very on trend, really.
Felice So for people want to look it up it is Day Out In England.com
Vicky My main blog is VickyFlipflopTravels.com
Peter So where in England and I should say in the United Kingdom, what’s been the most exciting place? I see you’ve been camping in the Outer Hebrides?
Vicky Yes. So a few weeks ago, me and my friend drove up. I live in Portsmouth and so I drove up to the Outer Hebrides, which was one of the longest I’ve ever driven. And we decided to go wild camping. But unfortunately, we didn’t quite have the right equipment and the right tent, although it was beautiful sunny days, the wind was just ferocious.
We couldn’t even stand for long enough to put the tent up on the second night, because it was quite a high tent. And my friend ended up sleeping in the car. And I’d love to be taken to one-person bike packing tents and so I could sleep in that. So the sleeping wasn’t very successful, but the actual trip was brilliant. Outer Hebrides are so beautiful and there was barely anyone around and we just had these incredible beaches to ourselves. And it just felt even better, the fact that we’d been in our homes for six months and then just getting up there and getting out was just a really incredible experience.
Felice So what did you do when you were there? Hiking?
Vicky So we spent the week and we road tripped all the way up and then came back down through Skye. But it was mainly hiking because there’s not that much to do apart from hiking and road tripping. And what there was to do was closed. So it was just a really nice chance to be outside without the distractions of trying to fit in everything that you want to do on a holiday, because we just knew it was closed.
Felice So what sort of tent did you have and what should you have had?
Vicky I had a Coleman four-person tent, which is really good for festivals, because my thinking in taking it was that it was high and so if it did rain, we could have somewhere decent to sit inside. Because at festivals it’s really nice because it’s got two parts, one on each side and then a space in the middle. But yes, it was just too high. What we needed was another bike packing tent really, which was the small one I took, which was the Vango 100. Because then my friend Helen could have had a tent each and they were low, they sat low and they took five minutes to put up, whereas this one it was just too big, too big for the wind. And the fact that we were camping, it was just a bit OTT – you’re meant to be discreet and not as noticeable and we were trying to get all these guy ropes to stick in the ground. In the wind, too.
Peter We’ve all done it. It’s a horrible whole experience.
Vicky. Yes, it was. It was also quite funny.
Felice Recently you’ve been glamping in the New Forest?
Vicky Yes, glamping in the New Forest – there’s some great, great places to go there. I think obviously that’s something that’s taken British people’s imagination this year. You can spend a little bit more on your accommodation because you’re not paying as much to get there because people can’t get out of the country. So I think glamping’s been huge. There’s been reports of having to spend a lot of money for sites in Cornwall and the Isle of Wight. And I guess with less places to go, they’ve have been able to charge more.
Felice And they used to be a conference for travel bloggers, is that right, called TBEX?
Vicky Oh, yes. TBEX, yes. I’ve been to a few of them. It’s been to one in Minnesota and those are really fun, one in Dublin. I’m not sure if they’re doing them in Europe anymore, because now there’s one called Trava, which is run by two of my friends. And so I think a lot of Europeans go to that one now, because they did a fantastic one in Trentino in Italy last year.
Felice So anyone could go to that? Anyone who is a travel blogger or who would like to be a travel blogger?
Vicky Yes, anyone with any interest in travel blogging can go to that. And then you can learn from other travel bloggers. And one of the best bits is just the socialising with other people, because they also run press trips afterwards. I found in my travel blogging career that one of the best things is the people that you meet and then actually travel together, you just learn so much from each other on location, rather than sitting at home and trying to do courses or anything like that. It’s more learning off each other.
Peter And what sort of equipment do you need? I mean, you need a good camera, I guess, and a recorder and whatever.
Vicky Yes. I’ve been through a lot of equipment in the last nine years. So one of those all-gear-no-idea things where you think that you need to buy everything and then you get it all and then you just don’t know how to use it.
So I’ve also sold a lot and now my equipment is quite refined and I have an older GoPro for extreme things and then the Canon M50 camera, which is quite nice. I used to have a bigger one, but I was just travelling solo a lot and I just didn’t want to take out so much in public. And I felt like a showing off a bit in certain destinations and just carrying it around as well as it’s heavy. So that M50 is a nice size, it’s does good video and good photos. And then I have Google Pixel camera and my MacBook Air. I think that’s it. It’s not as much as some talk about but it’s enough for me.
Felice And you said in a recent blog post: ‘Should I retrain like the government wants me to, ride out the storm like my closest travel blogger friends suggest, or will I be sensible and find a job and accept it’s time to move on? Or lie in bed reading the news, waiting for it to blow over.’ Which one do you think it is?
Vicky I don’t know, because sometimes you get a glimmer of hope that things will come back or that there is a future. But then I worry. No one I know now is travelling at the moment, and I have a lot of friends who are keen travellers – whether they are travel bloggers or not, they’re definitely keen travellers and they’re not travelling. And so I just worry.
People will start travelling again and obviously when it comes back and people have more confidence, it’s just going to be huge because people have all these destinations saved up that they really wanted to go to, or they’ll have blow-out holidays or, you know, I mean, it’s going to come back one day in one way. So it’s just waiting till then. When I think of retraining, I just don’t know what else I would do. Nothing is as good.
Peter I like the attractive alternative of lying in bed and reading, to wait out the storm.
Vicky Yes, maybe I’ll just do that.
Felice How do you think travel will change after the virus? What will happen to kids clubs and hotel buffets and all that sort of thing?
Vicky Yes, I mean, it’s definitely going to change, isn’t it? I think people are going to look at the countries that have done well. That’s definitely going to be a factor in where you want to go. But it’s crazy to think that here in the UK we’re very high in infection and death rates. So it seems a little odd for us to judge other people, but that is just going to be a factor of of deciding on where to go on holiday and how they’ve dealt with 2020.
I think obviously hygiene is going to be a big thing. You know, even travelling in England, I’ve seen that people have got on the websites about their hygiene rating. And, you know, they’re trying to really enforce the fact that they are clean and that they’ve done everything that they can to prevent any spread or cases. And I think people are just going to want as much as much assurance as possible that they’re going to be OK. But people are still going to want to travel.
Peter Hopefully in slightly smaller numbers. I mean, the one plus side to this perhaps, is that a number of destinations like Prague and Florence have been suffering from death by tourism in recent years.
Vicky Yes, I think some destinations are going to see it as an opportunity to change their reputation, because places like I was reading about Kohphangan in Thailand and obviously it had full moon parties, and it’s a place for 18 year olds and young people to go and party. And so they can use this as a chance to pivot and to change the conversation around their destination. So it’ll be interesting to see if certain destinations do that.
So Prague obviously has got the whole reason why people go, like stag parties and things like that. And it’ll be interesting to see if they do manage to change the type of tourist that they get. And I think where people want to go will change as well, because people want a bit of solace, they want like the mountains and things like that.
Vicky But then we’ve seen from the UK, like Wales, the queues at the top of Snowdon to reach the peak. It’s not what they went to go and climb that mountain for, for those queues. So I think obviously the same amount of people, they’re going to move around and maybe we will need to have passes and permits and things that we haven’t needed to have before just to try and manage the amount of people that aren’t going on these big bus holidays or big all-inclusive holidays. You know, the map of where people are going, it’s going to change a lot and say that’s going to cause some problems, but it’s also going to cause a lot more problems.
Felice When this is all over, where’s the first place you’d like to go to?
Vicky I’m actually desperate to go to Peru, I really want to go to Peru and there’s that interesting story of the day of them opening Machu Picchu for that one Japanese tourist, I’m not sure if you saw that.
Peter I did indeed see that.
Vicky Yes, that was my big place that I wanted to go this year. Yeah, that’s my number one place that I want to go when we’re allowed to move around a bit more. And then I also really want to go to Jordan. I have this thing for Jordan, I can’t believe I haven’t been yet.
Felice I have. And I went shortly after some terrorism had taken place there. So it was completely empty of tourists, which was great, actually. And so I saw Petra with hardly anyone there. So you could get lovely pictures without people.
Vicky I think that’s something that some people will want to do with travel, like when it’s safe but everyone’s not travelling, there’s going to be that sort of sweet spot that a lot of people who want to see the big sites like Petra, you know, that’s the time to go really and see them.
Felice I’m sure it is.
Peter And there’s quite a few people in the world, people of my age who feel that they can go and then come back and if you have to isolate yourself for two weeks then it’s not so bad. We work from home anyway, so it’s quite easy. And people are out there travelling now.
Vicky Yes, some of my friends are off doing things. Right now, I don’t feel quite safe enough. And just because I want to see my parents and things like that, it’s not right for me right now, but in 2021 in the not-too-distant future. Also my brother and his wife are having a baby in December and they live in Barcelona. So somehow in December I need to get to Barcelona.
But it’s one of the things that’s so difficult at the moment, you just can’t plan anything. So obviously I want to be there at some point, but I’m not booking flights or anything like that because it depends on what the circumstances are in five weeks’ time. No one knows, do they? There just seems to be so many barriers to it at the moment that I’m just not doing it, unless it’s for my brother.
Felice So just changing the subject, how did you think up the name VickyFlipflop?
Vicky My surname is Philpott and at school some friends that would just call me Flipflop. It was just a kind of offhand. It wasn’t like my big nickname. Not everyone called it me, but it was just sort of a fond nickname that people called me at school.
So when I was trying to think of a name for my travel blog, I just thought it seemed apt. And it’s been a good name, I’ve liked it. A lot of my friends that started blogging when I did had to go through this whole brand name change because it just hasn’t sat well with them as they’ve got a bit older. But no, I really like my name. VickyFlipFlop works, I’ll keep it.
Felice It’s memorable.
Peter So all of this travelling, you’ve done this alone or do you have a partner?
Vicky It’s kind of a mix. When I went off for the three years, I went as a solo traveller which was great. And then on more recent adventures, I’ve gone with my boyfriend or friends or family. And then I am also a big fan of tour groups as well, I think that offers an interesting way to travel and maybe gives you access to places that you wouldn’t normally.
So I advocate all sorts of travel, really. It’s just a different way of travelling. And then, yes, as I say, tour groups can be great as well. So there’s not one type I think. But the fact that my travel blog covers nine years is quite a lot in someone’s life. So I’ve gone through all these different life processes and had my blog and it’s been a really nice record of achievement.
Felice And how many countries have you actually been to and blogged from?
Vicky I think at last count I think it was 75.
Peter That’s a pretty serious life of travel.
Vicky Yes, it’s a good effort.
Peter VickyFlipFlop, thank you very much indeed for appearing on our travel podcast and we wish you the best of luck and fun with your travels whenever and wherever that may be.
Vicky Thank you. It’s been great. Thank you.
Felice That’s all for now. If you’ve enjoyed the show, please share this episode with at least one other person! Do also subscribe on Spotify, i-Tunes or any of the many podcast providers – where you can give us a rating. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Stay safe and we’ll see you next week. Sign up for our e-newsletter at firstname.lastname@example.org
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