Ladies We Love is an interview series with women from around the world that provide us inspiration through their travels, their businesses and their personal stories. This week our founder Becky van Dijk got to know blogger Alexandra Baackes of AlexInWanderland.com!
I recently met Alex on a press trip and we immediately bonded over so many things, but most importantly our love of travel and wine! We spent the week laughing and getting to know one another, and some would say we had a girlmance (Alex is trying to make this a thing…)! Getting to know Alex I quickly fell in love with her personality, her positive energy and it got me thinking that she would be a great co-host for our upcoming Bali Retreats.
The Bali Retreat is for women looking for a retreat that combines a fun and active itinerary, an in-depth learning experience and meeting and travelling with an incredible group of women! This is our second year of running these retreats and we are delighted to announce that together with myself, Hannah Robinson our WATG PR & Collaborations Manager, Alex will be joining to share all her knowledge about the blogging industry!
So in case you don’t already follow Alex, or read her blog (if you don’t then you need to start!) in this interview you will get to know Alex, how she got started in travel blogging, her favourite dives and festivals around the world and her tips on how to become a responsible traveller, plus what she is excited to teach at our retreats!
1. For our readers who don’t know you tell us a little about yourself, who you are, where you are from, where you live now?
Hey Travel Girls! I was born and raised in Upstate New York, and dreamed my whole life of moving down to the big city. Yet once I did, I only set my sights further afield! I went on a solo backpacking trip to Thailand when I was nineteen, and it was the first time I was exposed to the idea of travel outside of a week-long vacation or a study abroad program.
I fell in love with a little Thai island called Koh Tao, where my mind was blown to meet so many people on months-long, or even indefinite adventures, working and living abroad! Something clicked and I knew this was the answer to questions I’d long been trying to ask without knowing how to articulate them. I returned to New York, finished my degree and worked a million jobs to save up some funds, and two years later, I flew back to Thailand on a one-way ticket and made Koh Tao my home. To this day, while I travel often for work and fun, it’s where I spend the majority of my year!
2. What can readers expect to find when they visit your blog AlexInWanderland.com?
I like to say Alex in Wanderland is from a different era of blogging. I’ve never really been one for writing top ten lists or big sweeping guidebook-like overviews of a place — I write blog posts the way some people journal. They are raw and real, and I know, because they tell me, that readers feel a very deep connection with that. Over the years my readers have come along with me as I’ve moved to new countries, fell in love, been heartbroken, tried new jobs, conquered various fears, and beyond!
3. You have been travel blogging for several years, can you tell us how you got started in this industry and how you turned it into your full time career?
I was studying Communication Design with a concentration in graphic design in New York. I started picking up work doing small design projects for various bloggers, and really fell in love with the travel blogging world. I was looking at blogs all day for work and for wanderlust reasons, so it seemed fairly natural that at some point I went, okay, why couldn’t I do this?!
I decided to take it seriously and though I was hard at work saving every penny I had to travel, I took the leap of investing in myself — I signed up for both an online travel blogging course and an in-person travel writing class at NYU.
4. You focus a lot on diving in your blog, when did you start diving and what have been your favourite dive experiences to date?
I learned to dive on that very first trip to Koh Tao, when I wanted to impress a cute dive instructor (I know, right?) It would be impossible to pick just one favorite dive experience, as I’ve been blessed with so many incredible ones, but I will say that one I haven’t been able to stop talking about lately was a cavern diving trip to Central Florida!
As a PADI Ambassadiver, I kicked off the trip with the PADI Cavern Diver course with an incredible female instructor in Tampa. The tec diving world is still quite male dominated, and it was important to me to take the course with someone who I could really express my fears openly to.
After the course, my dive buddy and I rented a camper and went on a camping and diving trip around some of the Sunshine State’s best freshwater diving spots! I loved getting to see one of America’s most popular tourism destinations from such a fresh new angle.
5. You also share many articles about festivals, whats your favourite festival and why?
Another near-impossible question! I love both local festivals like Mardi Gras in Louisiana and Batabano in the Cayman Islands and Yi Peng in Thailand as well as big organized music and art festivals like Tomorrowland and Bonnaroo.
That said, the festivals that have had the greatest impact on me are Burning Man, and most recently, Israel’s regional burn, Midburn. I’ve hear them described less as festivals and more as experiments in conscious planned cities, kind of a week-long exploration of what some people’s dusty utopia would look like. Burns are a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but one thing that’s ubiquitous? They are near impossible to describe!
6. We know that travelling responsibly is something that is important to you, can you share some tips on how our readers can start to travel more responsibly.
In 2018, one of the biggest things that surprises me is that more travelers aren’t using self-filtering water bottles. They are good for the environment (no more single use plastic!), they are convenient (you never need to run around trying to find a shop when you’re thirsty), and they save money in the long run.
I’ve been experimenting with dozens of personal filtration systems and water sterilizers over the years, and have seen the industry really grow and the technology improve. Personally, I’m currently obsessed with the Lifestraw Bottle, which filters out bacteria, chemicals and parasites and which I’ve used to drink safe, clean tap water in everywhere from Cairo to Koh Tao!
7. The blogging landscape has changed a lot since you first began your blog, with a lot of focus switching to popular social channels. Tell us why you think having an online blog is still important.
Don’t get me wrong — I love Instagram and think it can be a powerful tool for planting the seed of inspiration to travel! But when it comes down to digging into researching a place and booking a trip, people still turn to Google and Pinterest and end up digging into high-quality travel blog content.
I have found that brands are well aware of this, and while many are experimenting with working with social-only influencers, they are also still hiring bloggers to create content that will show up in search engine results a year from now rather than be scrolled by in a second.
8. Tell us what you have planned for the rest of 2018 so our readers can follow along!
This year is such an exciting one! After a few years of really focusing on building a home base again in Thailand, I feel an incredible injection of energy and wanderlust. I just got back from a six week trip through the Middle East — Kuwait, Egypt, and Israel, that I’m having a blast reliving while I blog about it!
Currently I’m in New York completing my yoga teacher training and falling back in love with summer in the city, and will soon be setting off to host my first series of retreats — a women’s dive and yoga retreat on Koh Tao, a photography and yoga retreat on Martha’s Vineyard, and our upcoming collaboration in Bali!
9. We are delighted that you will be co-hosting our 2018 Bali Retreats! A big part of the Bali retreats are the business, entrepreneurship and blogging workshops. Can you give us a sneak preview of some of the blogging tips you are excited to share with our guests on the retreat?
I’m over the moon about this collaboration! The biggest lesson I am excited to share is about longevity and adaptility. Blogging professionally since 2011, the ways I have earned an income have changed every single year and I’ve had to constantly be open to new ideas and adventures in a constantly evolving industry.
I’m looking forward to sharing that evolution with many color coded charts and graphs and number crunchings — because who doesn’t love a good color coded chart?!
Join Us In Bali
Travel Girls Getaways are educational group retreats, active trips and tours around the world for the adventurous female traveller!
Our founder Becky van Dijk will be your retreat host together with co-hosts Alexandra Baackes of AlexInWanderland.com and Hannah Robinson, We Are Travel Girls PR and Collaborations Manager. Together we will show you the best of Bali and teach you everything you need to know to kick-start or accelerate your business or hobby in our boutique business & blogging workshops.
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