meets the writers who have made a living out of going on holidays
If life is a journey, not a destination, surely no one knows this better than travel bloggers? Most of us live to travel, savouring the hard-earned holidays that punctuate our working year, but travel bloggers travel to live. And as a Forbes recent ranking of the most influential among them reveals, successful bloggers aren’t just eking out an existence; these self-styled digital nomads have the potential to make millions as they wander the world.
Though no Irish globetrotters made this year’s Forbes’ list, a new generation of industrious bloggers is building a following here; channelling their social media expertise into monetised platforms which allow them to live every travel lover’s dream: being paid to see the world. Inspired by self-made Irish blogging millionaire Johnny Ward, these bloggers are ditching the 9-5 to make a living on the go, but is the lifestyle all it’s cracked up to be, and what’s the reality behind that perfect Instagram façade?
One of Ireland’s top travel bloggers, Tara Povey credits her adventurous spirit to her mum, whose love of travel took her as far as New Zealand, where Tara was born. “I always loved hearing about her travels and I thought when I have kids I want to have my own stories to tell.”
At 29, she’s got more stories than most people will accumulate in a lifetime; her blog — whereistara.com — has taken her up a volcano on horseback, ninja training in Japan, and ice climbing in Finland. “I love adventure, but I would never have been brave enough to do that,” she says.
The blog pushes me to face my fears because I know my followers will love reading about it.
After completing her masters, pharmacist Tara backpacked solo around South America.
“A lot of people cautioned against it,” she says, “but I always had the urge in me. I never really thought I couldn’t do it.
“I had some of my best and worst experiences on that trip,” she says, and despite checking over 30 countries off her bucket list since, it remains her biggest travel adventure.
When she got itchy feet again in 2014, Tara quit her job to go travelling. “I started my blog so family and friends could follow me and see what I was doing,” she says. “I really wasn’t thinking of trying to build a following.” Nonetheless, it struck a chord with equally adventurous young women, and opportunity came knocking. When sponsored posts and writing content for travel websites earned her a modest blogging income in 2015, Where Is Tara’s potential became clear. By 2016 Tara “was starting to see proper, regular income coming in”.
“I realised I could make a living from it, so I decided to only say yes to quality projects that offered me a proper rate. It may seem crazy to turn down a free trip,” she acknowledges, “but I’ve learned you have to value your time and your content.”
A year working for online publishers Shemazing showed Stephanie Buckley the value of what she could offer travel clients via her own burgeoning blog, eatsleepchic.ie.
When she started it in 2014, Eat, Sleep, Chic wasn’t travel-focused. “Initially it had more of a lifestyle slant,” she recalls. “But I wasn’t a fashion blogger; and I liked beauty but it wasn’t my passion; so I started to write about what I really loved - food and travel.”
Before the year was out, Stephanie found herself representing Ireland in the global Big Blog Exchange. “They chose 16 bloggers from around the world, and I was paired with a Brazilian blogger, so she came here and I went there. I’d never travelled solo, but I flew into Rio and backpacked on my own for two weeks.
I was probably a bit naïve. People told me it might be dangerous, but I loved it,” she says.
Paragliding off Pedra Bonita in Rio de Janeiro was a particular highlight.
The job with Shemazing followed, and after landing a year-long campaign with Helly Hansen — learning to sail and competing in the Cowes Week regatta — in 2016, Stephanie made the leap and made her blog her full-time focus.
Despite her grá for Irish travel, she’s resisted adopting a niche approach. Her content varies from glam girls’ weekends to romantic couple’s breaks to outdoorsy family holidays with partner David and his son, Scott — the most magical of which was a trip to Lapland. “We stayed in glass igloos in Kakslauttanen; it was incredible, once in a lifetime stuff,” she says. “You learn what works for your followers, and that’s what works for mine. I’m 32, and girls my age have kids. They might not have the freedom to grab a backpack and travel the world, but they can take spa breaks and nice holidays,” she says, “and the variety means I’m open to more opportunities.”
For Stephanie Lynch, the opportunity to travel for a living was one she created for herself. Now 28, the enterprising Cork woman started her blog, ontheqt.ie, while studying TV and New Media in IT Tralee, and “a nugget of a business idea” formed.
“I loved to travel and I loved finding things that weren’t the typical tourist things to do,” she says. She realised she could merge her twin passions — travel and video production — to showcase hidden gems tourists might be missing out on, and UCC’s Ignite programme gave her creative vision some business grounding.
Though she started with Irish tourism in mind, On The QT began to cover international destinations, and far from taking the joy out of travel, it has given Stephanie her dream job.
“I get to travel and create videos — my two favourite things!” she explains. “I have a bucket list of places I want to see, and it’s allowed me to start ticking some of those off the list.
My favourite holiday was island hopping in Croatia — I love sailing, and to be there doing it as my job, making videos and sharing the experience was amazing.
At the same time, she says people don’t see the work that goes in behind the camera. “You are working. You have to find a different take on things; create the content; put it out there. You’re shooting video, Snapchatting, getting photos for Instagram -your brain never switches off,” she says.
Stephanie Buckley agrees. “You’re there to do a job for someone, so you’re always thinking about that,” she says. “You have to get a photo of your hotel room before anything gets crumpled. When your food arrives you have to get the right lighting, the right angles — it could be cold by the time you eat it. All my family and friends know: don’t touch your food until Stephanie’s taken her picture,” she laughs. For Tara, Instagram stories is where her 41,000 followers can catch fleeting glimpses of the reality behind her picture perfect life. “I try to be real about stuff in my stories,” she says. “It shows people I’m not just living the dream all the time. Travelling is tiring; you get rundown; I get bad colds if I do a lot of long haul flights. Obviously it’s a great job, but it is hard work.”
“You might travel for two or three days, but then spend ten days in the office writing posts and editing videos – people don’t see that side of it,” says Stephanie Lynch. “You could run up a mountain to capture a sunset — which I’ve done! — but people don’t want to see the sweaty mess at the top of the mountain,” she laughs, “they want the beautiful sunset. That’s the fantasy.”