I love it when y’all send me questions here via comments or email, or through Instagram Stories (@yalewanders). Often, I get the same travel q’s time after time (which I never tire of answering), and thought it’d be fun to share what they are, as well as my responses.
What inspired you to start a travel blog?
I’ve always loved writing and travel- even as a kid, I remember checking books out of the library about places I’d only seen on a globe- India, Egypt, Russia, Japan, Brazil. I was fascinated by reading about other cultures, traditions and lifestyles. When I started traveling on my own, I had the idea of documenting and sharing my tips and experiences for years before I actually put it into action.
In 2014, I started working for VaynerMedia. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a digital agency led by serial entrepreneur, Gary Vaynerchuk. Long story short: Gary produces a lot of content that discusses business advice, all of which is inspirational in nature. In one Q&A that was recorded on a podcast several years ago, someone asked him what motivates him, and he responded with four simple words: “You’re going to die.”
Those words really sunk in, and a few weeks later, I finally started writing my first posts. Even though this blog has only been in operation for a little over two years, I already can’t believe how gratifying it’s been- I love looking back at my adventures now and can’t wait to do so years from now. And, of course, every time a friend or follower tells me how much they enjoy what I’m doing, or how helpful a particular post was for them, it’s the ultimate feeling.
At first, this blog started as a way for me to document my travels. As I kept writing and traveling though, I realized a gap in the travel blog market- the vast majority of bloggers aim to inspire through sharing beautifully edited photos and videos, or pithy captions. Very few provide the details, tools and advice needed to actually empower others to travel, or help plan a trip.
You won’t find over edited photos or professionally produced videos here. No one pays for or sponsors my trips, and like most of those with the ability to travel, I travel on a budget.
Here, you’ll find destination guides, weekend getaways, can’t-miss-experiences in cities around the world, and inspiration to explore the beautiful world we live in. And, most importantly, comprehensive content to help you plan a trip too.
When do you find time to blog?
There’s never enough time, but prioritisation is critical.
Every week, I list out what I want to accomplish and then divide things up by days- writing days, post editing/photo finishing days, promo days, etc. Having days dedicated to focusing on certain elements of my blog makes it easier for me to get in the right mindset and get to work.
And, while I’m not working full-time at the moment, the question of ‘how I’m able to travel so much with a full time job’ is the one I get the most often- you can see my answer here.
Glad you mentioned that, you aren’t working anymore?
In spring 2019, I decided to take a break from the ad world to teach English and collect passport stamps.
Currently, I’m traveling Asia. During the morning/afternoons, I usually sight-see, relax or work on the blog. And, in the evenings and on weekends, I free myself up to teach English online. I need to teach consistently for a few months to getter a better sense of how sustainable it is. For now, the plan is to teach and travel through summer 2019.
I may not be working full-time at an ad agency presently, but teaching and turning this blog from a passion project to a more serious endeavor takes a lot of time and energy.
Will you go back to the advertising world?
Yep, likely. I enjoy digital marketing, I liked the jobs I’ve held at agencies.
More than that, in mapping out what I see for myself in 10 years, I’ve realised going back to an agency for a while will help me move closer to that vision. There are skills and resources I’d have access to at an agency that you simply don’t have as a freelancer or consultant.
What’s your goal for the blog?
First and foremost, it’ll always be to inspire others to explore the world, wherever they are and with whatever means.
Second, it’s to enable you to travel, too. That’s why I spend a lot of time writing posts with details- the times things open, how much things cost, tips for how to get from point a to point b, and so on.
Presently, I’m working on turning this blog from a hobby to a more serious endeavour. That means cracking down on SEO, design, promotion, affiliate marketing, presence on other platforms to drive traffic, etc.
For the foreseeable future, Yale Wanders will remain a passion project (meaning I don’t depend on it for sustainable income), but one I’m openly committing to.
Are all of your photos really iPhone only?
Yep! I’ve circled the notion of buying a DLSR many times, but never gone through with it for several reasons. In December of 2017, I upgraded to the X, and recently, I bought an XR. Now, I truly don’t see a DSLR being a future purchase anytime soon.
If you’re shooting with an iPhone, these are my top tips for taking better travel pics.
However, I am very interested in a GoPro, and almost bought one for my trip to Asia. Love the idea of using it for video, as well as a greater variety of shots (underwater, adventure).
Do you have a favorite airline or hotel chain?
I fly some United States distance carriers (Southwest, Delta) for points but will always book on another airline if the cost difference is significant enough. Instead, I have two travel reward based credit cards that help make me feel less guilty about flying different carriers if I need to.
And, hotel wise- I love a few chains when I’m in the mood to splurge, notably Scandic properties (Haymarket in Stockholm is gorgeous), The Hoxton in London/Paris/Amsterdam, the Ace Hotel in NYC, and Citizen M properties worldwide.
Lub ‘d is my favourite design hostel (aka poshtel) brand, with locations in Thailand, the Philippines and Cambodia.
9 times out of 10, you’ll find me at an Airbnb. Great deals are to be found all over the world, and I love experiencing life like locals.
What’s the one travel app you couldn’t live without?
Just one?! My top five are below, but Custom Google Maps are a total game changer in terms of finding your way around a city / making the most out of a city break or holiday.
- Custom Google Maps (read more about how to make one here, but these are essential- I make one for every trip)
- XE Currency (quick currency exchanges)
- Google Translate (type text or scan a photo to easily translate, you can also download languages ahead of time so they’re available if you don’t have wifi)
- WhatsApp (essential for international check-ins with family and friends)
- Foursquare/Yelp (the best for finding quick restaurant/coffee/drink recos on the go)
It seems like you’re always on the go, where do you find the energy?
The basics are important. What do I consider to be a ‘basic’?
Drinking enough water, working out 5-6 days each week, getting 7-8 hours of sleep every day, eating as clean as possible whenever able, allocating enough ‘me’ time, & starting every day with meditation and from a place of gratitude.
And, the other thing I try to always remember- tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. That in and of itself is all the motivation I need most days.
How do you stay inspired?
Inspiration is all around us. Sometimes just walking down the street inspires me to write a post or plan a trip somewhere.
If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
Until recently, living in London was a dream of mine I’d pursued for nine years. Forever grateful I was able to live in the city for two and a half years while working abroad.
Amsterdam, Austin, Tel Aviv, Hong Kong are all places that left a lasting impression on me, and cities where it’s easy for me to envision living for extended stints.
I’d love to return to Chiang Mai, Luang Prabang and Ho Chi Minh City or Da Nang for a few weeks in each to get a better feel for what they’re like to live in, versus visit.
When I think about what’s ‘next’ if/when I go back to advertising, I’m open to just about anywhere, but particularly interested in Dublin, Amsterdam, Berlin, Singapore, Sydney, Hong Kong or potentially a move back to the US.
And, even though I never wanted to move to New York, I did enjoy life there for so many years- it’s a city whose energy is unmatched.
Favorite trip you’ve ever taken?
Hard to choose, but Japan is the first place that comes to mind. It’s a place that exceeded any expectations I could have ever dreamed.
Until recently, I felt Japan was unparalleled. After spending a month in Vietnam, it’s not only my favourite country in SE Asia, but also a place I’m keen to return to and spend more time seeing.
PS. My must-haves for travel, including luggage and packing picks, apps I use to edit photos, and tools I rely on to plan trips.