VEERA BIANCA
Blogging Career

10 tips for a successful travel blog

After 10 years of travel blogging, the subject itself is the one I get the most questions on these days. Back ten years ago when it wasn’t exactly a career choice, things were very different. I started this blog solely for the love of sharing a story through writing and photography. Little did I know a travel blog could ever become my career and, well, my entire life.

I was probably the last one to join all the hip social media channels and I remember my class mates in university posting their coffee cups on Instagram when I still had no idea what it was all about. When I started my blog it was called Running with Wild Horses as I lived on a horse farm in Australia. Next I changed it to Wanderlust Expert because I felt like I had to. And a few years later I started to use my name Veera Bianca everywhere – in an ideal world your blog has the same name since the beginning.

Now this travel blog is the biggest part of my identity and a big part of my career. I make about half of my living through this blog and half through projects that I’ve gotten through it one way or another. I work in social media marketing, photography and influencer marketing, do some speaking and training here and there. And boy I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I never planned a career in blogging, because it wasn’t exactly an option back in the days. Things just fell into place because I never stopped doing what sets my soul on fire the most and that shines through.

But hey, without further ado shall we get to the point! Here are 10 things that in my opinion make a good travel blog;

start a travel blog

1. Be you, all of you

The first point might sounds a little generic, but it cannot be emphasised enough. If you look at the most successful bloggers out there what most of them have in common is an interesting bold personality. Sure what comes to travel blogging, we tell stories of destinations but we tell them through our eyes, which is the way we get people hooked on following exactly our journeys of the thousands and thousands out there.

So don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Lonely Planet is there if someone is just looking for destination information.

2. Niche is important, but only if it comes naturally

There was a time in the blogging world when everyone was talking niche niche niche. I remember stressing over this so much I lost days of sleep. Am I backpacker? But what if I also like luxury hotels? Am I a city girl but what if I also love the mountains? Later I realised that being myself is niche enough. If I enjoy travelling like this, why limit it?

Niche has a point, especially in this vastly rivalled world of travel storytelling but there is not point to stress over it. Travel in itself is sometimes niche enough.

Surely if you have a specific niche it may help you on your journey and bring you more opportunities even with a smaller audience.

These days I call my ‘niche’ value experiences, because I think life is boring spent in a 3 start hotel. I want to stay a night at the Four Seasons drinking champagne but I’m just as home at a quirky hostel dorm in Tokyo. Life should taste a little more like adventure.

tips for travel blogs

3. Write with emotion

Surely as a writer you gotta have some writing skills to start with, but don’t let bad grammar stop you if writing stories is what you love. The more you write the better you get. I know I make a ton of grammar mistakes both in Finnish and English, but I try not to stress over it when it’s my own blog – I’ll stress about it when I’m writing articles for other publications such as Matador Network or Expedia.

The most important thing is to write through your emotions. Facts can be googled. Bring some soul into your work.

4. Learn the art of photography and develop your own personal style

Bloggers don’t need to be professional photographers, but camera skills go a long way.

This doesn’t mean you will have to start by investing thousands of dollars into  a new fancy DSLR. A small mirrorless camera or even a good smart phone goes a long way.

My favorite camera to use on my travels has for years been both the Olympus PEN or OMD series with a 25mm f1.8 lens.

I’ve learned photography by taking photos (dah) but years of doing so have inspired me to sign up for a photography school from where I’ll be graduating later this year.

Editing is a big part of your photo game. Practise goes along way and helps you develop your own personal editing style. Lot of my photos might be the generic Instagram photos of me holding my hat and looking out into the horizon but they still look like my photos through the edits I make. Lightroom is your best friend and worth the money. On mobile, I often use VSCO, Afterlight or Snapseed – or even each one just for one photo.

travel blog photogprahytravel blog photos

5. Be present and engage with your audience in an authentic way

In today’s world of travel blogging everyone is just racing to the top to get the most followers to get invited on the most amazing adventures. But we have to take a step back and remember what all of this is about. We should remember to authentically engage with the people who have hopped along our journey. It brakes me to see the follow-unfollow games, automated liking and commenting, the not responding to DM’s and just the GAME.

Let’s forget pointless games and going after numbers. If we authentically spend time engaging with people, our channels will grow organically and be of more value for potential collaborations too.

I have met so many of my followers here in Finland and around the world. I even sent flowers to one when she got out the hospital a couple of weeks ago – treat everyone as a friend. That’s the magic of it all.

6. Network with other bloggers and the industry

Networks are your most important asset in any business. Get to know other bloggers through Facebook groups and events in your own hometown. Attend some conferences like TBEX, World Travel Market or ITB. Most of my friends these days are travel bloggers, because I’ve gotten to meet so many incredible people throughout the years on press trips and at events.

There are groups like Female Travel Bloggers, Girls vs Globe and Travel Blog Chronicles to help you mingle with your colleagues around the globe.

The question I get the most is how do I get invited on trips? How do I get to collaborate with airlines? And how do I get so many products sponsored? Well, it comes back to the networks that I nurture. I have met so many PR representatives at events and travel fairs and actually spent time to get to know them and their product. Most of the brands and destinations I’ve worked with want to work with me again and word-of-mouth goes along way too in an industry so small in the end – you’ll learn fast that everyone knows everyone, haha.

travel blogging networking

7. Learn some SEO 

Blogging comes with a lot of boring tech stuff too, which will be important to master if you are in it for the business of it. SEO is the way to bring traffic to your blog for years to come. Learn some. Let someone teach you. Watch Youtube videos.

About 60% of my traffic comes from Google these days which to me is a good number. I’m no SEO expert but you learn a thing or two in ten years.

8. Invest some money to get started with a professional website

If you are in it to win it – take some money in the beginning to invest into a good website. Let someone design it for you or purchase a theme from somewhere like solopine.com (my personal favourites). Get your own domain and decide on the name right from the start to build domain authority from day 1.

There are so many bloggers out there too who know how to build a website, so ask for some help in different groups and be ready to invest some hundreds!

travel blog

9. Master social media – but don’t stress about being in all channels

Social media has become more and more important in the blogging word. Many travel influencers might not even have a blog but just Instagram or Youtube. But at the end of the day the world of social media is ever-changing and your website is yours.

You don’t need to jump on all social medias at once, but master one. For me Instagram is most important and my absolute favourite channel even though the algorithm changes totally bug me too like everyone else.

For an English blog I would suggest to learn Pinterest or even hiring someone to promote your posts through Pinterest, it’s a great source of traffic especially in the beginning when your blog is not yet so well ranked on Google.

If you don’t follow me on Instagram yet, you’ll find me here.

10. Don’t give up if you don’t reach thousands of followers in a year

I started this blog 10 years ago from a passion to storytelling. Back then it wasn’t really a career option, so I did it for the absolutely love of it.

There are thousands of new bloggers every day and most quit in the first year of blogging. So many get discouraged for not reaching massive follower numbers or getting invited on great trips. I spent 7 years working on this before anyone ever reached out to me on business reasons. I’m not saying you can’t build a blog business in a year, but do know it takes W-O-R-K.

There are many easier ways to travel the world, but if you know this is what you’d love – then go do whatever sets your soul on fire.

tips for travel blogging

What are your favourite travel blogs? Would you add any tips?

China Hong Kong

Day trips from Hong Kong: Lantau Island

*Trip to Hong Kong sponsored by Finnair Holidays

Typhoons arrived a little earlier this year and I had to spend one day in my hotel room before exploring the magnificent city of Hong Kong around me. Lucky I was staying in my favourite hotel in all of Hong Kong; Hotel Icon.

At the end of my stay, I had a day trip on Lantau Island, which was part of my adventures with Finnair Holidays.

Lantau Island is the largest Island in Hong Kong, probably best known for Hong Kong International Airport. Lantau is covered in secluded beautiful nature and peaceful hiking trails from mountains to the ocean. Some famous places to visit on the island are Ngong Ping and Tai O villages.

The ferry ride from Central to Lantau during a typhoon was more of a roller coaster, but lucky most of us passengers mainly found it amusing.

The day trip can be booked as a part of your Finnair Holiday or directly from GetYourGuide. We were a group of about 15 travellers from solo travellers to couples and families.

I was picked up from the hotel early in the morning from where a bus took us to the ferry. Ferry took about 30 minutes and then we hopped on another bus again.

Our first stop on Lantau was Cheung Sha Beach, which I have no photos of as we got a good typhoon rain first in the morning.

Next we headed out to the historical Tai O fishing village, which is best known from old Cantonese movies and some Anthony Bourdain travel shows.

Tai O Fishing Village

Tai O Fishing Village is a glimpse into the proper traditional way of life in Hong Kong and shouldn’t be missed when exploring Lantau Island. Some call Tai O the Venice of Hong Kong because of it’s canals but other than that the vibe is definitely nothing like Venice. The first thing you will probably note is the not so inviting scent of fermented fish products.

Tai O was actually the busiest harbour in Hong Kong for over 200 years, but these days it’s far different from the busy city we all know Hong Kong to be. Fishing is unfortunately no longer such a profitable livelihood, so while there are still locals running after the best quality fish products, there are also tourists roaming around Tai O. The tourism is growing gradually in a sustainable way, so apparently the locals are pleased with it for now. There are still over 2000 people living in Tai O, making a living by the sea.

If you hop on a little boat ride around the village, note that Tai O is one of the very rare places in the world where the luckiest ones may spot wild pink dolphins – yes they are real. Like unicorns. I’ve been to the village three times and haven’t spotted any magical sea creatures yet, other than the dried blowfish I bumped into last time.

Most Lantau Island tours will include a trip to Tai O, but you can also reach the village with a bus from Tung Chung. To get to Tung Chung, you can take the MTR from the city.

Vegetarian lunch at Po Lin Monastery

Close to the famous big buddha is Po Lin Monastery, where we got to enjoy a delicious vegetarian lunch. I of course got lost on the way as I spotted some cute stray dogs on the way and was totally distracted. Some of them didn’t exactly want to make friends with me, but I tried.

The vegatarian lunch is served in a little restaurant inside the monastery, so it’s no fancy dining but a proper tradional experience. And there’s a lot of food. The meal is served in the traditional Hong Kong way where they bring big bowls in the middle of the table and everyone can taste a bit of everything – which I wish was the tradition in every country to be honest!

Ngong Ping Village & Tian Tan Buddha

Tian Tan Buddha is one of the biggest bronze buddhas sitting outside. The big Buddha is located in the artificial village of Ngong Ping. A visit to Tian Tan Buddha is also part of probably all Lantau Island tours. If you wish to travel on your own, get the cable car up from the MTR station of Tung Chung and enjoy some breathtaking views along the way.

Ngong Ping is an artificial village with souvenir shops and Starbucks, so it’s not exactly my favourite place itself. But it’s home to Tian Tan Buddha and the monastery, which are worth seeing and traditional as they should be. A tour or not, make sure to experience the Ngong Ping cable car back down. It takes 45 minutes and the hights might not be for everybody, but the view is worth opening your eyes for.

To get to the big buddha, your tour bus can either drive up or you can take the stairs and spot some local buddhists praying on every step, among the selfie clicking tourists. Tian Tan Buddha is open to the public daily between 10-5.30pm. The entrance is free unless you wish to go inside the Buddha too.

Don’t miss these when visiting Lantau Island:

  1. Tin Tan Buddha
  2. Tai O:n Fishing Village
  3. Cheung Sha Beach
  4. Po Lin Monastery
  5. Hiking trails

Have you ever been to Hong Kong?

Career Photography

My favourite travel camera gear

*In collaboration with: Olympus

I’ve been blogging for 10 years now, so photography has always been a big part of my life but only this year I decided to actually spend some money to get myself a proper education in the field. So I am very excited to say I will be graduating as a photographer by the end of the year – woop!

As my studies began, I splurged and spent a ton of money on a heavy DSLR gear that weighs around 10 kg – not so pleasant to hike around mountains with. So I’ve already come back to my tiny little Olympus mirrorless camera, which gives me the same high quality as an end result.

I participated in TBEX travel blogging conference last week in Ostrava, Czech Republic and I decided to focus on attending all the talks focusing on photography. Most of the speakers confirmed I made a good decision to get back to travelling with small camera gear. These days the technology is so advanced we just don’t necessarily need the most heavy duty gear to capture magical moments from the road.

These days most of the questions I receive from my readers are all about photography, so it’s about t ime to share my favourite camera and lens for travel.

So without further ado;

My favourite travel camera: Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

My first ever travel camera was also an Olympus, but mainly because it was cute and pink – which are totally legit reasons for choosing the right camera gear. I still remember my first solo trip with it in Switzerland and how I set the camera on a trash can and ran in front of it to pose with my travel hat – doing it for the gram, before the gram. Nothing’s changed since 2005.

During the years of blogging, I’ve used a few Canon and Nikon cameras along the way and have nothing to complain, but I always go back to Olympus and that’s why I am so happy to be their brand ambassador this year. I purchased the Olympus PEN e-lp7 two years ago when I was living in Thailand and it changed my photography game. Something clicked and I feel like my content found it’s style thanks to this little pretty thing.

This year I upgraded to the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III (who names cameras? I can’t keep up with these).

The photos of this post are taken both either with the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III or my good old Olympus PEN e-lp7, but all with the same lens that I’m obsessed with.

I’ve noticed these cameras make photos cripsy and sharp in all conditions. On the new one the camera has an easy touch-screen and when I’m lazy and use automatic settings, the results are still usually of high quality. Actually, I recommend to try the ‘P’ setting on your camera, which gives you power over the exposure of your photo but you don’t need to understand the appertures and depth of field kind of things.

Both cameras are also great for video, I’ve just become really lazy making any.

What I loved the most as a solo traveller is that the camera has a wifi and I can use my phone as a remote control to take photos of myself having the camera on a tripod. I can also use the Olympus app to directly transfer the photos to my phone and post on Instgram.

The one lens I use for everything: 25mm f1.8

The day I purchased the Olympus 25mm f1.8 lens, I’ve mainly used that for everything. Sometimes I drag the 12mm or 17mm along, but rarely find myself using them. If you are used to using full frame DSLR:s, the 25mm is same as  your 50mm.

25mm is a little narrow for capturing big landscape, but once you get accustomed to it, all things work one way or another. Most of the photos you see on my blog and Instagram feed are with this lens.

Surely tha camera comes with its kit lens which is good enough for most bloggers and Instagrammers, but there is still a big difference in upgrading to other lenses the brand has to offer.

Instead of filling this post with photos of the camera, I’ve just added photos taken with that lens – each and every snap!

This lens was a game changer to me and the big kick for me to start doing photos professionally. And also my fave travel buddy.

Olympus also offers Pro lenses, which I haven’t yet tried but hopefully can on my next adventure!

Blogging

At home with a travel blogger

*In partnership with Desenio

Ever since I moved back to Helsinki from Chiang Mai in January 2016 I’ve had requests both on Instagram and the blog to do a post just on my apartment. You’ve surely seen sneaky peaks on Instagram Stories and some posts, but it’s a bout time to share what this little home is all about. I’m never motivated to capture my apartment as the light is really low and there’s almost no natural light that comes in during the day – but thanks to Desenio, I finally managed to get this together to give you a glimpse of where I spend my time when I’m not exploring the world.

I’m addicted to interior design and have actually changed my home a lot in the last year due to the traumatic events that followed adopting a Romanian rescue dog and loosing it in a violent attack in my kitchen – it surprised me how haunted a home can feel after such trauma, but rearranging and purchasing new little things have helped me move on and make it feel safe and comfortable yet again.

But I’m not completely happy with my place, I’d love a new couch and to paint one of the walls and such, but I feel like I’m always ready for the next adventure and as I have no idea if I’m going to stay another day or another year, I don’t want to spend money on furniture. Lucky these new travel posters from Desenio yet again make the whole space a little different.

I even managed o dedicated one tiny corner just for meditation, which I’ve learned to enjoy after the horrific events of the past year – meditation has brought me piece of mind and also helped me make feel at home again.

I live in a 28 square meter studio apartment in Vallila, Helsinki and pay 800 euros of rent per month. Vallila is close enough to the city center, but still on the road to the airport making it the perfect location for me. I was never a fan of the neighbourhood but I’m learning to love it with all these new restaurants and cafes popping up. I’ve lived here for 1,5 years now which is actually a long time in my living history, so remains to be seen how long I’m still going to stay.

In my decor I guess it’s easy to call out my addiction to adventure based on the suitcases laying around and the posters on the wall. I actually just redid one of my walls, which was also published on Desenio Magazine over here. Take a look if you wish to get some of the same ones!

Shop Desenio products online here.

When I’m not travelling, I also work from home, so it’s important to have a nice working space. Among the busy days, I love those mornings when I have no meetings and can just wake up with the sun and make myself a cappuccino and slowly get to my emails and to do’s of the day. I currently spend about 1/3 of the year travelling and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The code “VEERABIANCA” gives 25% off posters* between 17th- 19th of July
*Except for frames and handpicked-/collaboration posters”.