As a devoted reader of blogs and all things digitally printed, we often come across the ever-mysterious travel blogger. As we lose ourselves in a travel blogger’s post about their latest country of choice, decorated in pictures one can only dream of, we often wonder. How do you become a Travel Blogger and what is life like? We have so many questions!
WCIL: Nailah, We’ve been following your blog for years and have literally envied each post. How di you become a travel blogger?
Nailah: I started my blog back in 2009, but I wouldn’t say I was a travel blogger at the time. I only wrote when I travelled so the blog would often lie dormant for months at a time. I only wrote to remind myself of my trip and to share my experiences with my mother and a few close friends.
WCIL: Were you a travel blogger beforehand? How did you get into travel blogging?
Nailah: No, I never blogged before creating There’s So Much to See. I was actually inspired to start my travel blog by another friend. She had set up a basic website to chronicle her travels. I thought it was a great idea so I signed up to create my own. Before having a blog, I just used to write long emails to my mother to let her know what I was up to (and to keep her from worrying while I was on the road). I still have some of those old emails saved. Now I realize they probably could have been blog posts if I’d had a blog at the time. They were a guide on how to become a travel blogger!
WCIL: Where is your home-base as a travel blogger?
NaiIah: I call lovely Los Angeles home. As much as I love to travel and see the world, I am happy I get to come home to such a vibrant city.
WCIL: How many passports do you have? (which ones?)
NaiIah: I only have one US passport.
WCIL: How many countries have you been to?
NaiIah: I am about to head off to my 65th Country, Azerbaijan.
WCIL: How do you pick the countries you visit? Do you just have a long list of places you plan to visit?
NaiIah: I actually do have a long list and I get the inspiration to visit them from so many places. A great magazine write-up (Senegal), a friend’s stories (Lebanon), movies (Italy), music (Mali). Now that I’m starting to follow it, Formula 1 racing (that’s what is taking me to Azerbaijan). And let’s not forget my other passion, the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira. At least once or twice a year I visit a city to participate in a capoeira event. Being a travel blogger means I get to follow my passions and find out how to incorporate them into my travel blogs.
WCIL: How much time do you spend in each country?
NaiIah: Oh that depends on a lot of factors. I’d say typically when I’m working a 9 to 5 job, my trips are shorter. Maybe a long weekend or about a week tops. But when I am working remotely, I like to take advantage of the time and stay closer to a month or two. That allows me to take my time and live a little more like a local. That is how to really get into being a travel blogger.
WCIL: Tell us about a really cool experience you had traveling recently.
NaiIah: In 2017, I spent about 2 weeks in Israel, Palestine and Jordan. Experiencing places that I had only ever heard of in the Bible or in movies was thrilling, humbling and life-changing. Sleeping in a Bedouin camp, floating in the Dead Sea, seeing how religions co-exist and also clash, having the monuments of Petra appear before my eyes. Those are memories that will stick with me for life.
WCIL: Can you give us some advice on how a travel blogger should pack? For example, any tips on how to travel light?
NaiIah: For all the traveling I’ve done, I am surprisingly bad at packing. I’m always in a mad frenzy, wiping sweat from my brow as I hop into the taxi to the airport. Hahaha! But that being said, I am quite good at packing just a carry-on even for a 2-week trip. So, I guess I’ve learned a thing or two about how to pack for travel blogging!
The most important thing is to get the right luggage for your travel style and destination. If you’re aspiring to be team carry on, get a light bag that is as large as your airline will allow. Domestic and international flights have different size requirements so make sure to check where you are going.
Next, think about how you can limit your clothing by reusing pieces to create multiple outfits. Do you really need 5 different pairs of pants for a 5-day trip? Can a basic dress be dressed up or down with accessories to create two different outfits?
Also, save space and weight on toiletries. Do not pack that entire bottle of shampoo … find a sample size or a travel-sized bottle that you can fill. And will the place where you’ll be staying have the basics like soap, toothpaste, shaving gel? Does that mean you don’t have to lug your own from home?
The last tip, pack and then unpack. Pack your suitcase. When you’re finished, go back through and challenge yourself to remove 2 or 3 items that you REALLY don’t need. Or get a friend to help. When I was packing for my 5-month Around-the-world trip, a friend who also travels regularly came over and went through my bag. She asked questions like “do you really need 3 different pairs of jeans”?? (the answer was, of course, no).
WCIL: Tell us about someone really unique you met in your travels
NaiIah: When I was traveling in Kenya, I took a flight to the island of Lamu. I was by myself and didn’t know anyone. Somewhere I had heard about the island and its beautiful beaches and figured why not visit. I was backpacking around and Lamu Island is not exactly cheap, so I planned on staying at the hostel in town.
The flight from Mombasa to Lamu is a short one and as you can imagine the planes are not very large. I ended up sitting next to this man who was dressed in traditional Muslim Thobe. He turned out to be from the US and living in Germany. We struck up a conversation and before long he told me that he had moved to Lamu to open a boutique bed and breakfast and asked if I wanted to stay as his guest. The BnB was still a few weeks from opening so it wasn’t completely finished. This meant I would have my own room at no charge. He said that as a practitioner of Islam, it was his duty to help travelers so he would be honored if I would stay.
As a travel blogger, sometimes you have to trust your gut.
Now I’m not stupid. I realize that it may not be the best strategy to follow a strange man to his home in a foreign land, but my gut told me it would be OK and I went with it. By the time we landed on the island, we had decided that we would tell everyone that he was my Uncle so I’d be given special treatment and not bothered as a tourist.
We walked to the bed and breakfast from the tiny airport (there is only one car on the whole island) and it was just beautiful. Aside from my “Uncle” and the cook, I was the only person at the hotel. I had my own private suite, freshly made meals, and was taken around to meet many of the locals and Expat residents. I even got invited to a local wedding and had someone come to the house to do my hands up in henna for the occasion. And I didn’t pay one cent.
To this day I still keep in touch with my “uncle” and I hope to get back to Lamu to visit him in the very near future.
WCIL: You’ve been traveling for a long time. Have you noticed any trends in the tourism industry that have either allowed or constricted ease-of-travel?
NaiIah: Well, you cannot deny the impact that social media has had on travel. Certain locations like Greece, Mexico and Indonesia (especially Bali) are blowing up because all of the beautiful images people post from those places. Also, you see destinations “creating” Instagrammable experiences to entice travelers to come and take pictures and share with their friends. The cost of a colorful wall mural is a lot cheaper than a PR Marketing campaign. I don’t like the idea of experiences manufactured just for sharing on social media, but I can understand why destinations do that.
There is also a positive trend of reaching out to communities typically not targeted for travel experiences. Look at a travel magazine from 25 years ago and most of the people you saw in the advertisements or in the featured stories looked rather similar. Now destinations and travel companies are recognizing that people from all backgrounds, nationalities and races enjoy travel and are willing to spend their hard-earned dollars (or pesos or pounds or baht).
WCIL: Where are you going on your next trip?
NaiIah: Heading to Baku, Azerbaijan with a stop-over in Doha, Qatar. It will be my first time in Azerbaijan, so I’m super excited.
WCIL: What does it feel like when you are finally home?
NaiIah: I love living in Los Angeles and I have a great community here, so it is always nice to come home. But by the time I unpack, do my laundry and sleep in my bed for a couple of nights, I’m already searching for my next destination.
WCIL: Which country has the coolest airport and why?
NaiIah: That’s a great question. As a travel blogger, I see a lot of them! Hmmm – I was just in the airport in Siem Reap Cambodia, and I was pleasantly surprised. It is not terribly large. Having said that, it is new and has lots of great little shops and a quiet business lounge to hang out in before you board your flight.
For larger airports, I’m a fan of Heathrow and the Dubai International airport. You can’t get around the fact that these are large airports. With large airports come lots of annoyances, but there are great shops and restaurants and with flights arriving from all over the world, there are always great options for people watching. I find being surrounded by so many languages and styles of dress incredibly fascinating.
WCIL: Anything else you’d like to share?
NaiIah: The world is big and wondrous and at times a little scary. But it is filled with beautiful people, stories, sights and sounds that are waiting to be discovered. I didn’t know how to become a travel blogger until I got out and did it. From there it has been an amazing adventure.
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