Ladies We Love is an interview series with women from around the world that provide us inspiration through their travels and their personal stories. This week we got to know Becky van Dijk, Founder/Editor of We Are Travel Girls.
If you’re reading this then you’re most likely a travel girl who knows a bit of the We Are Travel Girls story, so you have undoubtably heard of Becky van Dijk. Becky is one of the Founders of We Are Travel Girls, and a travel writer for BeckyvanDijk.com. Becky is currently stationed in Bali planning the We Are Travel Girls Bali Retreats, but this week she took some time out of her busy schedule to answer 15 questions for us about her life as a successful travel writer and entrepreneur.
1) For our readers who don’t already know you, can you tell us a bit about yourself. Where you are from, your family, your passions and travel style?
I am originally from England, but my mother is Dutch – hence the Dutch surname so I spent alot of time visiting the Netherlands when I was younger. My father is a pilot (actually still flying at over 70 years old) and my mother was an air stewardess in the 70’s where they met. A love of travel is definitely in our family so I feel it was natural for me to be an adventurous person and always be dreaming of my next trip. The way I travel has changed over the years, when I was much younger backpacking I planned less and always tried to take the harder roads, as I have got older (and we now have internet instead of an old copy of a Lonely Planet) I plan more and mix up staying in budget places, with more luxury and unique accommodations.
2) You have been blogging at BeckyvanDijk.com for several years, can you tell us about how you got started travel blogging and some of the important things you learnt along the way.
I actually started my blog because I was considering different start-up businesses. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, but when I met Vanessa she mentioned to me that a 1/3 of the traffic to her swimwear line came from her blog. She suggested that I start a blog that I could later use as a tool to market a business or product that I created. So I got started on a travel blog, as naturally travel made the most sense for me.
I very quickly realised that it would be hard to stand out in the travel blogging space, and as someone who had spent most of my time behind the camera instead of in front of it – a more appropriate thing for me was to start a community that helped other women get their blogs noticed. So I got working on We Are Travel Girls and BeckyvanDijk.com in tandem!
3) As well as your blog, and being a founder of We Are Travel Girls, you also had a successful career in finance for over 10 years. Can you tell us what motivated you to leave corporate and go solo?
I would love to say that I had the courage to quit my job and follow my dreams as so many people are doing now! But honestly, the reason I left my job in London last year was to finally live in the same place as my boyfriend Ryan after we had already spent over three years long distance from LA to London. But that did give me the push to leave my job and pursue a career in travel, which was actually something I had wanted to do since I left University.
I used to dream of writing for Lonely Planet or Wanderlust magazine, and attended so many travel writing seminars. Back then travel writing was a far less accessible industry and only open to print journalists and writers. The blogging industry changed that and gave me the opportunity I had been looking for for several years.
4) Why was creating We Are Travel Girls important to you?
Before I met Ryan, I used to travel solo or with friends. But I often found my friends could not travel at the same time as me, perhaps did not have the budget I had to travel frequently or didn’t want to visit the destinations that I did. I searched for female travel groups or ways to connect with other women to travel together, but there was not really a community like this several years ago except for older retired women. I did some trips solo and also with GAP Adventures, but I found that the groups on those tours where such a varied mix of people that they didn’t gel well together.
Creating We Are Travel Girls was important to me to answer a need that I had, to meet likeminded women who wanted to travel, experience new cultures and learn something along the way. I also wanted to create a community that could support each other, and help one another grow and be successful.
I was quite surprised when I started in this industry to find some of the so-called “female bosses” and women who advocate female empowerment actually were less than supportive of one another than you would expect. So it became very important to me to support other women, help them to pursue their goals and to connect with as many girls in the travel space as I could! Collaboration over competition!
5) In less than two years you successfully grew the @WeAreTravelGirls Instagram account to what it is today. Can you please share with our readers some of your tips for successfully growing your IG following.
Start 2 years ago! Sorry, to say it but honestly I think we were lucky that I started the account before Instagram changed the algorimths making it harder to reach your own audience of followers. I did spend a huge amount of time building our following organically. The main ways to do this were pretty simple, engage with your audience and post great content. Despite there being thousands of articles claiming to have it, there really is no magic formula to suddenly reach 100k. Well, unless you do a looped giveaway and gain that many in 48hrs….
But my advice would be to avoid techniques like that. They may gain you followers, but sites such a Social Blade will show PR agencies, tourism boards and brands that you did something to gain your following overnight, and they will probably assume you bought followers.
When I am mentoring girls who are starting their blogs I focus on goal setting, why do you want to grow you following. Is it a vanity metric or do you want to earn money from it? Then we can decide the best methods for growth. I also advice girls to focus on their blogs and their email list, whilst Google does make changes to search algorithm’s the work you do on SEO may well be far more valuable than time spent on Instagram in the long run!
6) Tell us about you favorite travel experience to date and why?
Swimming with whale sharks in Holbox, Mexico and cruising through the glaciers in Alaska. The whale shark experience was just so cool, and it was several years ago before you saw everyone on Instagram doing it so it was a really unique expereince. I also loved that it is an ethical experience in Holbox, where the whale sharks are protected and there are very strict rules about snorkelling with them. This differs to Cebu in the Philippines where sharks are baited and not protected (where most of those nice Insta images you see are taken). You can read about my experiences in Holbox on my site Why You Should Swim With Whale Sharks In Isla Holbox, Mexico.
7) You have stayed at some really cool eco hotels. Can you tell us about your experience with sustainable travel and why it is important to you?
As I mentioned above sustainable travel is important to me. Honestly it is not something I thought about alot when I first travelled on long backpacking trips. At the time blogs didn’t exist and there was less readily available information and education on the topics. As I have become more educated about small ways to make steps to more sustainable travel it has become more and more important to me.
In terms of hotels, I much prefer to stay in a hotel that has a social impact. Whether this is small or large. I have been fortunate to stay in many places that are doing a huge amount to help local communities and to be able to bring more attention to them through my blog. I think readers are generally more interested in places that are unique and have some way of giving back.
8) You travel with your boyfriend Ryan (an awesome web developer at Salty Collective). Can you share with our readers any useful tips for traveling with a significant other?
Thank you for mentioning Ryan and his new business! Luckily he and I travel really well together. For those that don’t know our story, I met him on Yacht Week in Croatia 4 year ago (note this is not the place you are supposed to find your person) and after avoiding him for a week on the last day we spent the day together and got on really well. Since he was from California, our relationship started long distance, so after Croatia I flew out to LA for a week and we had so much fun that we decided to quit our jobs (I was a banker in London and he was a lawyer) and travel to South America for six months together! This was a bit of a risk since we had only spent 1 week together, but it worked!
So our relationship started by travelling together. Whilst we never have issues travelling together, I would tell others doing this to have patience and find one another’s travel skills for planning. Ryan is great at researching, so he plans all our flights, hotels, transport, restaurants and I focus on our day to day activities and places we want to see. This works really well so not just one of us is responsible for all of the planning.
9) What’s your favorite couple’s destination?
Ryan and I are really not a couply couple! We had one of those romantic dinners on the beach in Bali, that looked something straight out of The Bachelor and we just laughed the whole way through. For some people that is a dream, but for us we would rather do something more relaxed and less luxury than that. So in place of a couples destination, I will share one of my favourite things we did together that was quite romantic which was a cruise through the glaciers in Alaska. On one of the days we did afternoon tea with a bottle of rose on the back of the boat in front of Hubbard Glacier. It was a pretty special once in a lifetime moment. (Sadly, an hour later we both got noro-virus and were confined to our cabin for three days….)
10) Whats on your lifetime experience bucketlist?
I would love to kayak with killer whales in British Colombia and swim with tiger sharks.
11) What are the biggest lessons you have learnt during your blogging career, that would help others who want to start their own travel blog?
That success comes to those who work hard. Some people may have found some shortcuts, or been lucky to grow a following without having to work hard at it. But honestly, the only way I can see (from my own experience) that you can turn blogging into a real career where you get paid, is to work your a$$ off. I spend 7 days a week working. I could probably do less if I just managed my blog BeckyvanDijk.com, but I also run a company that organises events, takes girls on Travel Girls Getaways, edits, publishes contributed content and is big on all social channels and so much more. This is a HUGE amount of work. I urge people not to believe what they read and think they can be successful travelling the world and doing a few hours work a week on a blog, this is simply not the case. So speak to others in the industry, network and work hard.
12) What tips would you share with our readers to help them pursue their own entrepreneurial, blogging, travel and life goals?
I worked at UBS Wealth Management for ten years heading a team of client advisors. My biggest piece of advice for girls looking to become entrepreneurs is to be patient and to get some experience in a corporation first. You will learn invaluable skills that will help set you apart from other female entrepreneurs and bloggers. The girls I have met since starting in the travel industry that have impressed me the most, have presented themselves professionally and been successful have come from some sort of corporate background.
The influencer and blogging industry is an amazing place that has allowed many men and women to create their own businesses and pursue their dreams, but we should also be mindful of the message this sets to the younger generation and to their own goals. I have had far too many emails or conversations with young girls who tell me they want to finish school and that they don’t want to work, they just want to get paid to post on Instagram. Don’t be that person – think bigger and look beyond the influencer opportunity, what business can you build that leverages Instagram, but also looks beyond it.
13) What’s next for We Are Travel Girls?
The next step for We Are Travel Girls is to expand our Travel Girls Getaways. These are trips around the world hosted by myself and co-founder Vanessa Rivers and will each have a different format and focus, whether that is workshops or activities. Our first retreats are in Bali in October and November and are sold out! After those, I will head to Japan with Lisa of TheWanderingLens.com to host a week long photography and blogging tour (there are a few spots left!). Next year we will be running more Bali retreats, a trip to Mexico, a charity trip to Africa and much more! So make sure you are subscribed to our email list to be first to hear when bookings open!
14) How can our readers get involved with We Are Travel Girls?
There are loads of ways to get involved with the community so we recently wrote an article 16 Ways To Get Involved With We Are Travel Girls since we receive lots of enquiries about this. But I think the best ways are to join us on a Travel Girls Getaway or to attend or host an event in your city!
15) To end with a fun question – Ryan Reynolds or Ryan Gosling?!
I would have to pick Ryan Reynolds, or if my boyfriend is reading this, then of course I pick you Ryan Rappeport. Although, I think he would be quite happy if I took off with Ryan Reynolds so that he could comfort Blake Lively!