Nellie Huang is a professional travel writer and editor with an eye for adventurous and unconventional destinations. In her quest for adventure, she has climbed an active volcano in Guatemala, skydived in Spain, watched wildlife on the Galapagos Islands and dived the depths of Borneo, Malaysia. With her love for travel and words, she started WildJunket to chronicle her experiences around the world on her own blog as well as contribute to other publications such as CNN Go, National Geographic Intelligent Traveler and Travel+Leisure Asia.
WildJunket is a travel blog with a focus on adventure travel, created to inspire others to get off the conventional trail and seek out extraordinary experiences. In 2012, she launched a digital magazine with her photographer/designer husband. WildJunket Magazine has a similar focus on deep travel experiences and inspirational stories and has now garnered a loyal following with active travelers.
Nellie will be speaking at the Getaway Travel Blog Conference on Saturday 4 August in Cape Town, along with other international bloggers Keith Jenkins from VelvetEscape, Matt Long from Landlopers and Melvin Boecher from Traveldudes, about ‘Writing that drives traffic’.
To book a spot at the event click here or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
I caught up with Nellie just before she arrives in South Africa for the Getaway Travel Blog Conference to find out more about her epic adventures across the globe, and why travel blogging is her true passion.
How did you first get into travel blogging?
Four years ago, when my husband and I returned home after a four-month volunteering stint in Tanzania, I was miserable and lost. I found myself a high-paying job analyzing data at a world-renown bank; it the worst job I’ve ever had. I became a regular nine-to-fiver, wishing time would fast forward to the day we set off for my next jaunt. I missed our life in Tanzania terribly, I thought about it every single day, but still I felt my travels dissolving as each minute passed. So I began to write. I bought a domain name www.wildjunket.com and I started blogging. After a few months, I started connecting with other travel bloggers and I learned so much about writing, marketing and other technicalities of blogging. I also started writing for other magazines like CNN Go, Food&Travel, Wend etc. Over time, my blog grew – way beyond my wildest imagination. Now I blog and write full-time, my husband has also joined me in the venture, and we’ve even launched our own digital publication, WildJunket Magazine.
What do you love most about being a travel blogger?
I love the freedom and flexibility – as a blogger, I run my own business, I don’t write for a publisher or editor, I write for my readers. Like other business owners, I feel like I control my own life now. Of course I also love being able to combine my two passions: travel and writing. Being able to get paid to travel has always been a dream and I’m one of the lucky few to be living it.
What’s the secret to creating a successful travel blog?
I think that there’s no one secret but more like a combination of many that contributes to the success of a travel blog. Firstly, a travel blog needs to have the key elements that get a reader’s attention: an area of specialty, interesting content, catchy headlines, and personality. A travel blogger also needs to be versatile and adaptive – readers’ needs and market trends are constantly changing especially in this era, and you need to keep up with these changes in order to stand out.
How do you get your blog noticed amongst the millions of other blogs out there?
There is no short cut – you need to know which area or type of travel you’re good at and passionate about, stick to it, and work at it for years. Do research on the topics people like to read, communicate with other bloggers, learn from blogging websites and just keep writing. You also need to be proactive in approaching travel companies to build relationships with them. There are years of hard work and perseverance involved but at the end of it, you’ll be doing what you love most, which makes it all worthwhile.
What advice would you give to fledgling travel bloggers?
Don’t do it for the money or to travel for free. You need to love what you do and write about what you love most. Don’t care about pitching to companies until you have attained a certain level of readership.
How do you fit in blogging while on the road?
I live quite a hectic life, it’s difficult to juggle travel and writing at the same time, not to mention running a magazine. But with discipline, good time-management, and obviously a love for travel, it’s possible. We just returned from six months of intensive travel through Asia and although we had to work (like crazy) along the way, we had the best time!
What’s your most epic travel story?
Sailing to the Arctic was an incredible journey – we navigated through enormous icebergs, glaciers and vast ice fields; saw a polar bear walking up to the bow of our ship (5m away from where I stood); witnessed hundreds of walruses groaning and yawning at their haul-out site; and even took a polar plunge in the -2degC Arctic water!
What is your favourite destination so far?
Too many! I’m a huge wildlife buff so most of my favorite places are wildlife hot spots like Madagascar, Galapagos Islands, Alaska, Tanzania, Iceland and of course South Africa. I was just in South Africa last year, where I had some of the most incredible experiences of my life like cage shark diving, paragliding over Cape Town, and sand boarding at the Atlantis Dunes – I loved it!
What are your top gadgets that you always take travelling?
My iPhone and trusty Canon 450D (my husband’s the photographer but I still love snapping my own shots).
What’s your favourite phrase in a foreign language?
Insha’Allah, if God’s will.
Would you ever do any other job?
Hell no. If I had no choice, I would still continue blogging and writing as a sideline just because I love it too much.
What’s next on your bucket list?
We just went to North Korea, which was high on my bucket list and it definitely did not disappoint. I’d love to go to Antarctica, New Zealand and West Africa next!