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.
When do you find time to blog?
There’s never enough time, but prioritisation is critical. I usually designate 1-2 Saturdays or Sundays a month to spend the majority of the day working on the blog. I used to try and write 1-2 posts a week, but inevitably, life got in the way.
Having designated days to write, design and work on the blog forces me to focus on monthly goals.
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 March 2019, I decided to take a sabbatical. It’s not a true sabbatical in the sense that I won’t be returning to the job I held prior. But, talking about it as a sabbatical is the easiest way to explain what I’m doing to people from different walks of life.
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 weeks/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 really focusing on this blog take a lot of time, energy and resources. I’m learning so much doing these things, and experiencing new cultures every day, and just so grateful for this time in my life.
Will you go back to the advertising world?
Yep, likely. I enjoy digital marketing, I liked the jobs I’ve held at agencies.
But, at 31, I needed time to reassess what my priorities were in life and realign my focus.
At the moment, I’m freeing up more time to teach so that I can be flexible in when I go back to the working world and selective about what comes next.
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.
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. There is a lot of work that comes with all of the above, plus considering things like travel vlogging.
For the foreseeable future, Yale Wanders will remain a passion project (meaning I don’t depend on it for personal 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, etc.).
Do you have a favorite airline or hotel chain?
Nope! 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.
In Asia, I love visiting Anantara and Banyan Tree properties, but would consider a stay there to be quite the splurge. 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. I strayed away from them in 2017 and 2018, and it really impacted my health. 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.
Traveling makes me better as a person and at my job. And, sharing that with my friends and followers inspires me even more.
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 for a few weeks in each- though, I don’t know I’d do longer than a month or so.
When I think about what’s ‘next’ if 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 without question Japan. 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 (from what I’ve seen so far), 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.