Interview: Alex In Wanderland

Interview: Alex In Wanderland

Alex is the blogger behind the exciting and adventurous blog Alex In Wanderland.  She left her job in New York in 2009 to pursue a life of diving and underwater videography.  She has traveled extensively through South East Asia and has been diving in such countries as Thailand, Malaysia and the Cayman Islands.  Alex was kind enough to answer some questions about her unique lifestyle.

When you first left New York for South East Asia back in 2009, did you imagine you would be leading the sort of lifestyle that you are now in 2011?

No way! While I always wanted travel to be some part of my life, I never thought it would be my whole life. At the time I thought my future involved business suits and a big time job in New York City. But I traded in the business suits for swim-suits and I’m pleased with that exchange.

Recently, I let my readers decide what country I should go to, Vietnam or Laos. It was so spontaneous and so fun to put the control in my reader’s hands. It’s something I can’t imagine my former control freak self putting up with!

How did your family and friends react to your decision to travel as a lifestyle?

They all sobbed hysterically and begged me not to go, claiming they couldn’t live without me. Or at least that’s what I had pictured happening. In reality they were super supportive and encouraged me to go live my dreams. Jerks, right?

Traveling and working on a blog can be quite exhausting. How much time do you spend on your site during an average week?  How much would you spend on the business side of things? And on the travel side?

I estimate (and I will insert the caveat here that I am the world’s worst estimator) that I spend about 20 hours a week on my blog. At the moment I’m living in an apartment in Thailand, so I have a nice routine to my day. The first thing that I do when I wake up in the morning is respond to comments, answer emails, and check out all the blogs in my Google reader. Then I move onto photo editing and uploading, doing research, writing, marketing and promotion, etc.

When I’m actively traveling, like I was for most of October and November, all bets are off. I try to wake up earlier than everyone and stay up a bit later and just try to sneak in work whenever possible. Getting posts up is my first priority, so during these times my self-promotion kind of falls to the wayside.

Any regrets about your decision to take your life in such a unique direction?

It’s not necessarily a regret; but more of a downside: I miss my friends and family immensely. I spent 22 years building deep and cherished relationships with people that I’m now halfway around the world from. It stings, and I’m still trying to find my way with how to handle this one.

Like any other small business owner, you must have learned from your previous mistakes. Any you might be willing to share?

The first time someone approached me about advertising they offered me about 1/5th of what I currently charge. I was so star struck that someone wanted to give me money, any amount of money, that I ended up agreeing to a deal that was totally not worth it for me. So my advice is, don’t feel the need to accept every offer that comes your way. There will always be another one around the corner.

Also, don’t give up. Overnight success is the rare exception, not the rule.

Have you gotten any advice or support from other nomads while you were getting your feet wet in the travel industry?

I have been incredibly lucky in the blog-mentor department. Along the way I’ve made friends with Matt of Nomadic Matt, Andi of My Beautiful Adventures, and Kristin of Camels and Chocolate. Each of them has given me advice and helped me in some way or another, and I feel so appreciative that these “cool kids” on the travel blogging scene took the time to help out someone just trying to break in.

I don’t really have any specific advice nuggets to pass on from them, but it has shown me in general how important it is to have people supporting your ambitions.

Have any long term ambitions for AlexInWanderland.com?  Do you imagine traveling as a lifestyle for the rest of your career for example?

That’s a tough question considering I don’t know where I’ll be a few months from now! Doing more press trips is one of my short-term goals. In the long run I would love to see Alex in Wanderland grow and become my main source of income.

I’m pretty all over the place though- it’s hard to imagine I won’t always have my hands in a few things at once. At the moment I run my blog as well as doing freelance design, writing, and editing, and also work as an underwater videographer.

You describe on your blog the fears you had about your initial trip but stuck with the decision to go. Tell us more about those fears. A lot of people have fears of long term and solo traveling.  What advice would you give people to get over their fears of traveling.

It’s true. I spent the latter part of my goodbye party for my first big solo trip sobbing my eyes out! For me, the biggest fears are not about what I’m heading towards but rather what I’m leaving behind. Before I leave on a big trip I’m always afraid of being homesick, of being forgotten, of life moving on without me at home. But some of those things are inevitable. It helps to remind myself that I tend to romanticize the past, and life in New York did start to wear on me. The grass will always be greener on the other side, so you might as well go out and see some grass on the other side of the world!

What one piece of advice would the 2011 version of you give to the 2009 version of you?

Well, I think the 2009 version did pretty well, all thing considered. I would tell myself to write down the address of my hotel for when I step off the plane though! That was a pretty big blunder for a terrified first time solo traveler.

Also, I would remind myself not to worry about being lonely. I don’t think my dreaded fear of eating a meal alone came true the entire trip. People on the backpacker trail are friendlier and more welcoming than I ever could have imagined.

Any big projects in the works? Anything you might be able to share?

I must admit, this question is making me feel a bit inadequate! Just kidding. At the moment, I’m actually focusing on the small stuff. After months on the road I have a long list of blog updates and edits, lots of guest posts I’m working on, and many advertisers to get back to. So at this point, I’m playing catch-up!

I have had one ongoing project that I love, my Photo of the Week project. Unlike many travel blogger’s weekly or daily travel photos, mine is one that’s been taken within those seven days. It’s been fun and challenging to try to sum up my weeks with one single photo. Lately I’ve been a bit indecisive- I post my top four and let readers vote instead. I love seeing if my pick wins-it rarely does!