I can hardly believe it has already been a year and a half since my travel book, World of Wanderlust, hit the shelves. Publishing a book had long been a dream of mine, though if I’m completely honest I never thought that dream would come to life until the moment I received my first copy in the mail.
Blogging has truly changed my life inside and out, so I wanted to do a little throwback post to share my story – how I came to blogging, how my blog became my full-time job, how I came to publish a travel book with Penguin Random House and a behind the scenes of what that journey looked like!
How my Travel Book Came to Be
I was just thirteen years old when I embarked on my first international adventure. I had been selected to join a group of kids my age to visit Hong Kong, sing at a movie premiere (in a choir – oh the joys!) and experience the city sights for nine days.
Prior to this trip, I had absolutely no exposure to cultural experiences. This was a time when international travel was still relatively expensive, my parents had never left the country, nor had they ever endeavored to do so.
I landed in Hong Kong all starry-eyed, felt like a kid in a candy store, and left with a strained neck from constantly looking up towards the skyscrapers (the tallest building in the town I live in is four stories high. Its a department store).
After that trip, I was desperate for adventure. I spent all of my spare time reading about foreign places and soon after the trip, discovered the wild world of the interwebs. My active mind went into overdrive and as travel became more affordable, I saved my pennies from my first jobs (McDonald’s, later a supermarket) and began planning a lifetime of adventures.
Fast forward to the day I decided to start a travel blog.
I was at the end of my second year of law school, completely burnt out from working 45-60 hours a week alongside full-time study. I had been living in a new city in a small dormitory room, passing up a social life for Torts & Contracts, slowly seeing my creativity die in a pool of essays and assignments. What did I do? What any gypsy would! I booked an impromptu two-for-one flight deal to Thailand and invited my mum to join me.
I was constantly being asked by friends, family and friends of family “where should I stay in this destination?” or “what should I do in this city?”
My responses were often long and in-depth, ranging from budget options through to my personal recommendations off a restaurant’s menu. There was no other option: I had to streamline my tips, place them online, and proceed to send email links to the information to anyone who asked for my tips.
World of Wanderlust was born.
How I Taught Myself Photography
The other love in my life (the first being travel) was photography. I’m a firm believer of experiences only being real when shared, so I spent a lot of my time, energy (and life savings) on developing my photography skills.
I figured if I was going to spend all of this time and money on travel, I might as well be able to remember it well, through the magic of a photo which I believe allows you to return to a place, feeling, or memory.
I didn’t always have an Olympus camera, having read and researched camera options online and (incorrectly) concluding that the most expensive choice must be the best.
A few years back as I was sitting in a cafe in Bruges (Belgium), a photographer convinced me to sell my Canon camera and lenses to re-invest in a cheaper, lighter, and more compact option: a mirrorless camera. I haven’t looked back since (especially considering Olympus look after me so well with gear!)
After travelling for 6 years solo, I’ve learned the below camera equipment is necessary:
Knowledge to use all of the above
Sure, there are many other items I use and would recommend, but these are the bare necessities (you can check out my entire gear list here).
The final point is the most important because no matter what you buy if you don’t know how to use it, what good is it to you anyway?
As a firm believer in Google (and that anything you want to learn is googleable), I spent years using the search engine to answer my questions regarding photography if and when an issue arrived. I taught myself about lighting, composition, how to shoot in manual, how to edit my photos, workflow, and so much more. What helped me most was finding blogs with the information I required, so if you want to read any more of my photo tips, check out the photography section for a little more detail.
Who Takes your Photos?
Hands down the most asked question of the better part of the last decade for me has been “If you travel solo, who takes all your photos!?”
Me – I just published a new video explaining how I take the majority of my solo travel photos with a camera,a tripod, and remote control.
Friends & Family – Every year I try and take a family member on a trip somewhere new and for friends’ birthdays I usually wind up on a wild adventure somewhere new to both of us. Whenever I have a friend or family member in tow, they’re bound to be asked to take a snap or two!
Strangers – Avoid. At. All. Costs. I don’t think I’ve ever had a stranger take a decent photo – not that I’m complaining – what do they care about my blog!?
For my book, many of the photos were taken by friends and family, so I wanted to take a moment to thank them and provide a little context on these scenarios.
Photo by: My mommy!
Location: Prague rooftop
This photo was taken on the rooftop of our hotel, where I dragged my mum up the stairs to see the view I had snuck up to discover a few hours earlier.
Photo by: Stef
Location: A private jetty we snuck onto in Venice
This photo was taken by my dear friend Stef who I met as a reader of my blog and went on an adventure with throughout Italy. This is also the cover of my book for the Dutch publication!
Photo by: A complete stranger
Location: Machu Picchu, Peru
This photo on page 141 is an example of a photo by a stranger – not too shabby! I find the best practice when asking people to take your photo is to give lots of direction:
a) “I want to be in the centre of the frame”
b) “I’m going to face away from the camera and look at the view” (if I had a dollar for every time a stranger didn’t take a photo because they were waiting for me to look at the frame…..)
c) Set up the shot with the lens zoomed to your preference, hand them the camera and tell them where the button is (also, if I had a dollar…)
The Process of Publishing my Travel Book
I was in the midst of a two-hour drive in Tasmania (home) when I received an email from an editor. The editor was calling from Penguin Random House. I could hardly believe it! She flew down to Tasmania two days later to meet me.
The process of publishing a book is a lot easier when you already have a presence online. The publisher had already seen my blogs, photos and social following, which is what led them to approach me.
From there, it was a long 12 months before my book came to life (and I had to keep it secret!)
After accepting the offer comes a lengthy process of contracts, negotiations for an advance, detailed planning, writing, editing, more editing, and finally, a book.
I submitted my “manuscript” on the deadline (I was given 2 months) with an abundance of ideas for what I would like to go in the book – less than half was actually published (partly because I sent them SO MANY IDEAS.
From there, I travelled to Melbourne to see the pages of my travel book in paper form. Once there I made my final edits and approvals. I also just loved visiting Penguin’s headquarters!
Evolving & This Year’s Plans
Since starting my blog 6 years ago, publishing a travel book was definitely the ultimate highlight of my career. None of these experiences (publishing a book, staying in five-star hotels, flying business class) would have been my reality if it weren’t for this blog, my readers, and the people who have believed in me over these years as a creator.
Photography is still my number two passion (first being the art of exploring), but this year I want to spend more time working on video content and creating a unique experience for my readers and viewers to follow along on adventures and feel a part of this crazy life I’m living.
This week I fly out to Dubai. Afterwards I’ll be touring Europe (France, Italy, Spain, Iceland), before returning to my spirit city: New York. I plan to spend a good deal of this year living in New York (between adventures) and seeing where city life takes me.
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From the bottom of my heart, thank you. To all my readers, friends, family, readers-turned-friends-and-family and everyone in between who has shared the past six years on this wild ride. Here’s to another year of craziness & jetlag.