Ø Who are you?
I’m Sofie, born and raised in Belgium where I still live. That’s right, I’m a non-nomadic traveler. I even have a full time job, but not for long anymore. I quit my job a couple of weeks ago and will be working full time as a freelancer starting February 5! Travel and writing are my two passions, as well as the reasons why I created my blog Wonderful Wanderings over two years ago.
Ø Where are you from/Where’s home?
Home has always been Belgium. I currently live in the university town of Leuven, where I studied for four years and where I met my boyfriend. We live just outside the center, a five-minute walk from a forest.
Ø What type of traveller are you? Backpacker, full time traveller, luxury traveller?
This question often pops up in interviews and I have to say it’s a difficult one for me because I’m more of a “middle-of-the-road” kind of traveler. I don’t stay in 5-star hotels, but I don’t sleep in dorms either. I love to explore cities, but lately I’ve been drawn more and more by nature and the quietness of the countryside. I have no problem going shopping on a busy boulevard one day and hiking in a National Park the next.
Ø Where was the first trip you took?
I must have been only three years old or so when my parents took me to the south of France. Living in Europe I’d already been to quite a few countries before I turned 18, the age at which my parents let me travel by myself. I immediately booked a ticket to Barcelona and had an amazing week there.
Ø Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling?
Just one, really. When I was about nine years old and my little brother was three, we visited the south of France with my parents. One night we drove down from our hotel to a little village to have dinner there and explore a bit. The evening was lovely, but when we returned to the hotel in our car we suddenly saw a large group of people coming right at us. We had been totally oblivious to the fact that that same night France had played, and won, the World Cup finale. When those French people saw our Belgian license plate it was as if something snapped. They lifted our car from the ground, started shaking it and tried to pull open the doors. I was terrified. After what had seemed ages my dad put his food on the gas pedal and they let go of us. I’m sure they didn’t have bad intentions, but we were all pretty scared.
Ø What is the worst place you’ve travelled to and why?
I know this will sound strange, but Lisbon was a total anti-climax for me. We ended our road trip through Portugal there and I had such high expectations for that city, but they weren’t met. Many people I knew raved about Lisbon, but it just didn’t do anything for me. I’m sure I’ve missed a lot of the hidden gems that only locals know about, but that’s usually the case in every city you visit for just a few days and yet no other city has disappointed me like Lisbon did.
Ø Where is your favourite place in the world?
Los Angeles County. The Californian climate the amazing dance schools and the vibe that anything is possible there make me want to go back. I know this might seem like a weird choice to many, but I’ve already been twice and I really feel like I could spend several weeks there.
Ø How do you fund your travels?
Because I’ve always had a full time job, it wasn’t hard for me to save money for travel. I’ve also been working as a freelancer for almost a year now and will continue to do so full time after I’ve left my job in February. When I’m not actively exploring a new place, I’m behind my laptop. You can ask my boyfriend. He thinks I’ll grow stuck to it.
Ø What is your most fond memory from your travels?
That’s a hard one as I have so many nice travel memories. Learning how to ski in Québec is definitely one of them. My boyfriend is very passionate about snowboarding. He does several trips to the snow each year. I, however, had never gone until last March. I have a fear of heights, had never skied before and dislike the cold.
However, I loved it in Québec. Not just because I turned out to be a natural talent on the slopes (true story!), but also because I finally got to share my boyfriend’s passion with him. It definitely brought us closer together.
Ø What would you be doing if you weren’t travelling?
Like, ever? Never travel? I don’t think I could do that. I’m constantly planning a new trip. I just can’t imagine knowing that there’s such a big world out there without exploring it.
However, if I knew that I couldn’t go traveling for a very long time, I think I’d go dancing much more often. I love taking dance classes but I’ve cut back on the amount of classes I take because I just can’t combine it with traveling, blogging and writing.
Ø Have you ever experiences any cultural faux pas?
When I was 16 my parents took my little brother and me on a road trip along the West Coast. Our final destination was San Diego, where we spent a couple of days at a hotel to relax before flying back home. One night my parents told us that they’d be going to the zoo the next day and that we could choose to go with them or sleep in and order room service. We chose the room service.
The only thing we hadn’t taken into account was that we would have to sign the bill and put a tip on it. Now I know this will seem like nothing for Americans, but in Europe we don’t tip like you do and I was completely stressing out because I didn’t know how much I should give but I knew that it had to be something like 15% but then my brain wasn’t functioning any more… I actually had to use my cell phone’s calculator to calculate how much tip I had to give the guy who brought us breakfast and I’m pretty sure I still didn’t do it right.
The fact that this guys was cute might have played a part in my completely chaotic way of dealing with this situation.
Until this very day I’m ashamed of that episode.
Ø What is your Favourite airline?
Brussels Airlines. I’m pretty sure they’re not the best airline out there in terms of comfort and extras you get on board, but when I travel around Europe (which has been most of the time, so far) I almost always travel with them and I’ve never experienced any problems.
Ø Where are you off to next?
I’m going to Finland in January to explore Turku and Helsinki and to attend the Matka Travel Fair. It’ll be really cold, but i’m very much looking forward to it!
Ø What is the name of your travel blog and why did you choose this name?
It’s Wonderful Wanderings and I chose it, basically, because I like alliterations.
When I started blogging I didn’t have a specific goal yet. I just wanted to combine my passions for writing and traveling, so I didn’t want the name to be too narrow as I didn’t know what direction blogging would take me.
Ø When did you start blogging?
I published my first post on August 12 2012, after about a month of preparatory work.
Ø Where did you start blogging?
I first created a Blogger account but soon discovered how limited that was. After a week or two I switched over to self-hosted WordPress. That’s where I published that post of August 12.
Ø Why did you start a Travel blog?
I’ve studied Literature & Linguistics and at the time I was working at a press agency, so I’ve always been writing. I wanted to have my own outlet though. Starting a blog had been on my mind for a while already, I just didn’t know about what until one day I was – again – telling my friends about a great trip I’d been on. That’s when I knew I wanted to write about travel.
Ø What are you tips for new Travel Bloggers?
Be patient and persistent.
If you just want to be a hobby blogger and keep a journal for yourself, friends and family, than it doesn’t really matter if you go about it. But if you want it to be something more than that, please realize that it won’t happen over night. Yes, there are some bloggers that get big quickly, but most of us don’t. I’m still not there and although I feel like I’m heading in the right direction, I also know that I still need time to grow.
This is 2014. Blogging isn’t new anymore. There are so may of us out there, screaming to be heard. You’ll have to be your best to jump out. Be your best and be patient. Don’t give up.
Ø Do you wish you did differently when you started out?
I wish I’d thought it through more before I launched Wonderful Wanderings. I wish I had thought more about what direction I wanted the blog to take.
On the other hand, I don’t think that at that point I would have been able to answer those questions. I’ve learned so much about myself and about blogging while doing it, an experience I didn’t have two years ago.
Ø What has been your most successful blog post and what was it about?
My most successful post so far was titled “You don’t need to sell everything to travel the world”. It’s a post about how, when I first started to read travel blogs, I felt like I had to become nomadic, like I had to want to travel all the time. It took me a while to realize that I actually liked having a home base and that that’s okay. I’m sure my travel style will still evolve, but it needs to evolve naturally, not by mimicking what others are doing.
With that post I want to inspire people to search for their own way to travel. Not to copy others because they think that’s the right way to do it.
Of course you can get inspiration from travel bloggers and guide books, but always ask yourself: “Do I just like to read about this, or do I really want to go out and do it?”. Always make a trip your own.
Ø What do you do to help make your articles successful?
I try to write them as well as I can 😀
Once they’re published, I promote them on my Facebook page, in several Facebook groups, on Google+, Twitter and Pinterest.
Ø What social media platform is the most helpful for you and why?
At the moment I’m getting the most social traffic from Pinterest, but it isn’t high quality traffic. Most people click on a pin, have a look at the page they land on and then leave again. I get much more engagement from people who come from Facebook or Twitter.
Ø Have you worked with any “big name” sponsors, if not who would be your dream to work with?
I’ve worked with The Québec tourism office, the Portugal tourism office, K-Way, Havaianas, Belgian chocolate brand Guylian, Mont-Sainte-Anne ski resorts and tons of others. I’m going to work with HouseTrip soon, which I’m really looking forward to as vacation rentals are my favorite kind of accommodation when I travel.
Ø Do you have any tips for new bloggers who want to work with sponsors?
Know what you want. Sponsors get a lot of requests so sending an email saying that you “would love to work together on something” isn’t going to cut it. It’s best to have a good idea of what you want to work on and what you can deliver.
Ø Which travel bloggers do you admire?
I love Dave and Deb from The Planet D and Matt from The Expert Vagabond. Both blogs have a clearly defined niche that they stay true to. They’re super recognizable and consistently put out good content.
Ø Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring travellers?
Be patient and persistent. If you want to make this work, it will take a lot of time, effort and ups and downs.
Ø What is your Travel Motto:
Travel your way.