The world of travel has officially opened up and for the first time in two years, it seems a return to travel is on the horizon. So with that, we’re following on with our interview series of the world’s best travel bloggers, travel photographers and travel influencers. Today we’re chatting with Michelle Halpern, an incredible travel photographer and blogger from California. Michelle’s blog, Live like its the Weekend, is a great source of travel inspiration and tangible tips. Here’s everything we wanted to ask her about creating her successful travel blog and making travel her career!
How did your blogging journey begin – do you remember where you were when you decided you were going to start a blog?
Deciding to launch Live Like it’s the Weekend came after I first decided to leave my corporate fashion marketing role and travel solo for a year. I don’t remember the exact moment when that decision came, but I know that there was a time period where I felt really unhappy and out of alignment with my career.
I knew I needed a drastic life change and I wanted to do something that felt a little terrifying and would put me out of my element. A coworker of mine had recently quit our company to travel around South East Asia for 3 months and when she returned back she seemed super rejuvenated, free and happy—not to mention she came home with a Dutch fiance! I remember kind of looking at that situation and saying to myself if she can make that leap I totally can too.
Once I had officially made the decision to go for it, starting a blog felt like a natural next step using the skills and interests I’d carried with me from my previous life working in fashion editorial and social media.
There’s a turning point in any creative’s career where you suddenly realise this is not just a passion, you’re discovering a viable business plan and career. Do you remember the first paid campaign you took part in?
My very first paid campaign was with Aveeno, and it wasn’t until I was already a year into blogging! I think I realized very early on though that this could be a viable career, I just knew it was going to take a LOT of hard work, sacrifice and perseverance.
Did you ever want to do or be anything else? Did you ever go to university?
I studied Magazine Journalism at Syracuse University and started my career off in fashion editorial and social media marketing for a few different companies before launching my own blog. I think in another life I’d also love to be a therapist!
Instagram is still in many ways considered the premier platform for our industry, why do you think that is?
I think in many ways it’s simply because it was the first photo platform to really get it right and connect strangers around the world, and it has the most users still because of it.
How do you make money? Break it down for aspiring travel bloggers!
I’ve made money in so many different ways since starting in this industry, from sponsorship campaigns with tourism boards, to selling my photography to brands, to freelance writing for travel websites, affiliate revenue and everything in between. The breakdown of how I get paid has changed over the years as my website has grown and evolved and as I’ve prioritized different revenue streams.
In 2021 for example, the breakdown of my revenue has looked something like this:
60% from affiliate sales on Livelikeitstheweekend.com
20% from brand sponsorships through the blog and social media
15% ad revenue from Livelikeitstheweekend.com
5% from product sales on my Editing Presets and Fine Art Prints
What do you have on your career bucket list?
Right now a photography trip all throughout Namibia is VERY high on my bucket list. It just looks otherworldly!
Do you find there is a difference between living in real time and living online?
Yes, of course. There is no question that living in real-time and living online are two very different realities. Since covid began, I’ve put a lot more focus into my personal life, wellness, and relationships and sometimes I have to remind myself to share some of these things online because I get caught up just living life and seemingly “disappearing” from my online life for a while. And honestly, I think that’s a beautiful thing.
Where is your favourite place you’ve shared on your Instagram?
Most recently, the Subway Cave in Sedona was such a unique location that looks like you’re in a portal to another world.
Was there anywhere so special that you ~didn’t~ share it online?
I think one of the downfalls of having this job is that I feel a lot of guilt if I don’t share something at all online, because you never know when you’ll have a chance to visit again! But the times I don’t share are less about where I am and more about who I’m with. Sometimes I love to just be in the company of friends, put my phone and camera away and be completely present in the moment.
Do you have a favourite city and why?
Cape Town is my favorite city in the world. It feels like a combo of home (LA) with a bit of Miami (where I was born) mixed in, but with the dramatic mountainous cliffs as a backdrop that make it unlike any other city. Plus, the people there are all beautiful. I mean, what more could you want?
Do you have a favourite country and what is so special about it?
There are too many to choose just one, but as cliché as it might be coming from an American, Mexico is a place I continue to return back and know I will love for life. There is so much variety to explore throughout the country from bustling cities, to surf towns to epic coastlines. The culture, the creativity, the beaches, the food. I love everything about Mexico.
If you were to drop everything now and fly somewhere, where is calling you?
Literally anywhere epic and tropical where I could scuba dive. Tahiti, Raja Ampat or Bora Bora sounds really nice right now.
What are your bucketlist destinations you hope to visit?
Probably top 5 I hope to visit in the near future are Namibia, New Zealand, French Polynesia, Oman, and Greece (I went on a family trip when I was a kid but haven’t been back since)!
Best book of all time?
The Celestine Prophecy is a powerful one that has stuck with me over the years—not necessarily for its writing—but for the incredibly profound underlying messages about the universe, life and the energy we give to one another as humans. Can’t recommend it enough.
Do you have a kindle or prefer real books?
I prefer real books, but I do have a Kindle and love it for when I travel. Plus, the dictionary and highlighting features are incredible if you’re really trying to get the most out each read. Still, there’s nothing quite like going into someone’s home and perusing their bookshelves to get a sense of who they are. It’s my favorite thing—so, books for the win all the way!