Travel Interview With Written From

We’re Megan & Luis, co-founders of Written From. We set up Written From as a Travel and Culture contributor platform for travellers and cultural storytellers, with the intention of making travel accessible by bringing the world to our audience, wherever they are. We say “at Written From, someone is writing to you from the other side of your world.”

The idea for this venture was cultivated throughout 2017 and was based, in its core, on a blog of the same name that we had started in 2016. The name came from the format of Written From the blog. Every piece of content was signed off with a unique ‘Written From… [location]’ signature. In this way, I think we were forced to be personal in our content and our readers, always at odds with the cold indifference of the screen, were forced to consider the very humanness of every published work.

The format itself was born of a feeling that I think may be familiar to a lot of travel bloggers: that the personal is all too often overlooked in mainstream travel media.

By the tail end of 2017, we had refined our concept and fully developed Written From the platform. We wanted to create something bigger than a two person blog, we wanted to create a community of people from around the world who were excited to share their stories, their experiences, their tips and recommendations and their cultures.

As of now, we’re travelling around Australia and also sharing our experiences on the platform. We’re proud to say that in 2018, the running of Written From has gone mobile – we purchased a campervan and hit the road.

What plans do you have in the future for your blog?

Written From is very much in its infancy and continues to grow everyday. Our immediate plan is to continue to connect with travellers and bloggers, spreading the word and providing people with a space to present their work. We’re constantly looking to grow our team of contributors.

As for us, we’re planning a Van Life diary series, which will document our trip from Cairns in the Tropical north east of Queensland of Australia to the Western Australia state, chasing the coast.

Further down the line, one of our ambitions is to work with organisation to create opportunities that give people travel experiences which they may not otherwise have access to.

Does your blog cover anything else other than travel?

Travel is the core of Written From, whether someone is writing about their hometown or their trip halfway across the world from where they live; whether someone is writing about their culture or their recommendations. We see travel as a means to learn and grow.

We have two sections of content on the site: Travel & Diaries. The former being for informative factual pieces and the latter for personal retellings. The great thing about being able to work with a team of contributors is that we can publish different styles of work that are great quality and voice different opinions.

We have had a wonderful piece recently by author Tyler Leung challenging us to apply what we may call the ‘traveller’s attitude’ to the known rather than the unknown. In that way, travel may be a lot closer to home than people may think (https://writtenfrom.com/national-geographic-traveler-has-it-all-wrong). We have also had wonderful contributions from Kate Goodbody recommending a day’s activities in Bruges (https://writtenfrom.com/what-to-do-bruges-belgium), and by Two by Tour who have written about the challenges of leaving the comfort of home for a far off land (https://writtenfrom.com/no-earthly-reason-not).

For us, it’s exciting working with our team. We get to see them and their journeys develop.

Do you have any travel tips or advice for our readers that might want to start a travel blog?

Yes. Our advice is quite simple and may seem silly or like a no-brainer, though it is often the hardest to follow.

Just start. And once you start, keep going.

You don’t necessarily need to travel halfway across the world or to a new destination every weekend to start a travel blog. Explore your culture, explore your immediate surroundings and explore yourself in those contexts. There are people who don’t live where you live and there’s always someone interested in different cultures and locations.

Most importantly, have fun.

writtenfromtownsville

What are some of the high’s and low’s of travel blogging?

The highs for us are, like we said, getting to connect with a team of like-minded individuals, seeing their success on Written From and getting to record our own adventures, thoughts and experiences. They will be priceless to us one day.

The lows are creeping and frequent, though not insurmountable. Creative ruts, frustrating analytics at times, the disingenuous culture of follow to unfollow and the battle against the mainstream ideal of travel (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/17/instagrammers-travel-sri-lanka-tourists-peachy-backsides-social-media-obsessed).

What type of traveler are you?

We’re nomads. We set ourselves a budget target in the previous year and then quit our jobs and packed our bags to follow a nomadic lifestyle in a van. Written From is our priority at the moment. We do photography and web design and development on the side.

What sites or other resources do you use to decide where and when you will go to a certain place or destination?

We base a lot of our destination decisions on what we want to get out of our travels. From there, we look to other travel blogs. We do take a look at a Lonely Planet book every now and then, but we want the insider knowledge, the real thing.

An example: we were recently looking for turtle conservation centres in which we could connect with a sense of great consideration and care for the natural world. Looking at travel blogs, we decided to take some to visit Bundaberg and the Mons Repos turtle conservation centre.

At the moment, as we’re constantly on the road, we’re using an app called Wikicamps, which is essentially a directory of campsites for travellers in campers in Australia. This helps us make informed decision about the destinations we will arrive at.

Do you have any favourite travel books you have read or use?

We read a lot culture and history focused books, which inform our desire to travel and learn about the cultures found at every destination. For example, one of my (Luis) favourites is The Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano, which really sparked an interest in the history of suppressed and oppressed cultures – like the indigenous and aboriginal cultures of Latin American and Australia. We now often look for the roots of our every destination.

What’s been some of your favourite destinations & why? 

Barcelona: whilst it’s a buzzing metropolis, the rush of city life is mixed with a relaxed beach culture. The result is a sense of an abundance of time in an incredibly rich city – most importantly, time to enjoy life.

Hong Kong: There’s nothing quite like being greeted at the city frontier by a fleet of boats and ships twinkling in the distance against a backdrop of darkness as your plane flies over the shores and onto the landing strip at Hong Kong international airport. Right from the outset of our first trip, Hong Kong was and is mystical, magical and beautiful, from the Island of Hong Kong itself, to the mainland and the surrounding islands (https://writtenfrom.com/what-to-do-on-lantau).

Our adventures in Australia are in still in the early stages, but we’re very lucky to say that we’ve been to some incredible places. Briefly, Queensland has opened our eyes and hearts to an aboriginal culture and history often overlooked, and to the one of the most beautiful and fragile ecosystems on the planet – the Great Barrier Reef.

writtenfromhongkong

What equipment do you use to blog or for your blog?

A lot of the time, we’re working together on the same content and document, reading or editing. One of the most helpful tools for this kind of hands-on collaboration is Google Docs. We can both access files and see each other’s input in real time.

As for our own pictures – both featured on Written From and our Instagrams – we use either a Panasonic G7 or a Canon EOS 550D. We then edit our pictures using lightroom.

Do you have any photography or making travel videos tips?

We have grown to realise that a lot of the really popular Travel photography, particularly on Instagram, are all starting to look the same. That’s just our opinion. Admittedly, we started wanting images like that: of us constantly on beaches, blue skies, in a dreamlike world. But then we realised that’s not why we travel, so why should our creativity be restricted to that.

We are trying to be more creative, think outside the box and stay true to ourselves, document our life in new surroundings, new worlds, cultures and people.

Take your time with your photography, take time to properly explore and get in tune with your surroundings. Don’t feel like you need to fit the stereotype, there is too much of that already. Most importantly, take time to create work you’ll be proud of, not work that offers instant gratification in the form of likes.

What’s the TOP blog posts on your page? 

https://writtenfrom.com/national-geographic-traveler-has-it-all-wrong
https://writtenfrom.com/7-historic-sites-to-visit-in-quito
https://writtenfrom.com/what-to-do-on-lantau

writtenfromhomeDo you have any tips or suggestions on how bloggers can earn an income from blogging?

There are a lot of passive modes of doing so – google adsense and affiliate programmes that you embed into your content. There are a lot of travel related affiliate programs with the likes of HostelWorld and Sky Scanner, to name a few.

We have recently tried to advertise opportunities for sponsored posts and featured content in line with set tariffs.

Top 5 Bucket-list Destinations?

In no particular order:

Cuba
Peru
Japan
Germany
India

Top 5 travel experiences you can’t wait to try out or do?

Climb to the summit of Machu Picchu
Watch baby turtles hatch and make their way to great blue ocean (we have, since having begun writing this, experienced this and we can’t quite put into words how incredibly special it was)
Working with organisations in educational programmes
Visit Tokyo during cherry blossom season
Complete the road trip drive from north east Queensland to Western Australia along the coast

Do you have a money saving travel tips?

First of all, we understand that not everyone has the means for travel, but that shouldn’t stop or discourage us exploring. We shouldn’t overlook our home surroundings, our city or town limits and ourselves in those contexts.

If you are going out of home, planning ahead always helps. You should have a rough budget. That gives you enough head space to know your rough base spending limits for tours, experiences or what have you.

For long haul flights, take a look at STA Travel blue tickets, which allows your to purchase tickets and pay in instalments as you earn if required (https://writtenfrom.com/afford-long-haul-flights). Be careful when you book with STA or any other third party travel agent. Make sure to read all the terms and conditions and check on the actual airline websites for rules and regulations, including baggage allowance. The reason we say this is because you aren’t dealing directly with the airlines, and if something should occur, the airlines would not be liable to you.

When you go to spend your money, work out what’s a necessity and what’s not. Remember, you don’t always need alcohol to have a good time and smoking kills.

writtenfromismobileDo you have ay funny or strange travel experiences to share? please state what happened.

The first time we travelled out of London together, we ended up in a small studio apartment in the Old Town of Nice. Little did we know that the bathroom, adjacent to the bed (the actual bed), adorned a beautiful brown and rugged curtain in place of a door.

First of all, you don’t get any more soundproof than that… Secondly, perhaps skip the all you can eat seafood platters that line the courtyard of the Old Town. We’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

Was there a place you visited that did not live up to your expectations & why.

We must say that we didn’t do as much weather research as we should have done before arriving in Australia. We imagined, sandy beaches and blue skies the majority of the time.

When we arrived in Cairns to torrential rain in middle of monsoon season and right in the middle of croc country and stinger season – where going into the sea is a serious risk – we took some time to adjust our mindsets and expectations.

Once we learned more about the tropical Queensland region, we began to open our eyes to the wonders of the rainforest and the wet, as it’s termed.

What’s in your travel bag? 

Camera
Medical Kit – Epipens, Piriton, antihistamines etc.
Phone with map of the area downloaded offline
Portable chargers
Books

What travel apps do you use and why

As we’re constantly on the road, the most important travel apps for us are Google Maps, Wikicamps and FuelMapAustralia.

Google maps is essential for getting from city to city, especially when we’re unsure of the roads and the signs. Wikicamps is currently our guide to accomodation. It’s a community app that lists campervan friendly campsites and rest stops around Australia. You can view peoples comments, pictures and see the price. Fuel Map Australia does what it says on the tin – it is a map of all the fuel stops around Australia with prices input by other users.

Airbnb and Skyscanner are the apps we use when starting to plan a journey. We use Skyscanner to determine the what the cheapest flights options would be before booking. With Airbnb we like to take a look at the prices in area before we look at hotels. We prefer Airbnb as we feel living with locals gives you a richer experience.

What are 3 things travelling has thought you?
Greater patience – somethings are out of our control, weather, flight changing, a country doesn’t quite get the seriousness of certain food allergies.

Greater trust – we come from a culture where everything is safeguarded, we wouldn’t trust a stranger with our phone for more than 2 minutes back at home, in London, this is the mindset we have grown up with. But when travelling we noticed that in the traveller community there is a massive amount of trust. People leaving phones charging in toilets because they are the only power sockets. We aren’t saying throw all caution to the wind, obviously, but you learn to become more trusting.

To take time to appreciate the here and now. Again, coming from London there’s a pace at which everything ticks, a lot of the time you find yourself inadvertently on auto pilot following to the pace of the city’s drums. When we were taken out of those surroundings, we had to remind ourselves to slow down, to appreciate the here and now.

writtenfromfoundersHave you encountered any travel mishaps or scary moments if so what happened?

We were recently on a snorkelling trip to the famous Whitsundays Islands off the coast of Airlie Beach, in Queensland, Australia. The boat takes you out to the borders of the outer Great Barrier Reef. Now, the boat isn’t allowed to station right by the coral to avoid causing damage to an already suffering ecosystem. We stopped a short distance away from the shallow waters of the coral, in the vast deep of the ocean.

What we weren’t ready for was the current of the deep waters. On our return swim to the boat, we were clinging on to a human chain, until one of our companions dropped a flipper and let go of the rope attached to the boat. A cluster of us were swept out and were quickly drifting into no-man’s-land in the middle of the ocean, the boat shrinking at every exhale. It’s harder than you think to swim against the current, especially when you take a pool noodle thinking you can just relax over the coral.

In the end, a small dingy boat had to pull us back. If you think we’re joking about the strenght of the current, the small boat, with 5 or 6 people holding was moving nowhere fast.

Do you have any recommendations for cities and beach places that you have visited and loved? What was good about these places?

We love Bargara, in the Bundaberg region. If you get there from around December – April you can be lucky enough to see ancient and wondrous natural rituals taking place along the beach. The critically endangered loggerhead turtle arrives to the shores of Mon Repos to nest. In about 8 weeks time, you can witness tiny hatchlings emerge under the cover of dark and race to the ocean. It’s a unique and very special experience. During the day, you can find little egg shells scattered across the beach. The coast itself in the region is wonderful.

Where do you see your travel blog in two years?

In two years, we see Written From with a significantly larger community and with the ability to pay our regular contributors.

writtenfromtravellingfreedomPlease share one travel quote you love or one you have made up?

One of our favourites is from Two by Tour, a Written From contributor.

“The world is a complex place, and travelling brings a perspective that refutes the simplicity of broad strokes.” (https://writtenfrom.com/no-earthly-reason-not)

See More From Written From Here:

Instagram:

@luis_carrillo13

@_jmegan

Facebook:

https://facebook.com/writtenfrom

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