Travel Blogger Archana Singh has been writing about her experiences for many years now. From her many skills to her financial uncertainties, to even the perks of being in this business, she spills it all in this very candid interview. By Charu Chowdhary
Archana Singh believes in experiencing a place first-hand before writing about it. After she quit her decade-and-a-half long corporate career, she has been travelling with a purpose and churning out stories that leave an impact and make you want to travel responsibly. She talks candidly about the uncertainties of having a blogging career, how she managed to carve a niche for herself, and which social media platforms help in driving the most engagement.
1. With massive followers on social media, what sets you apart as a travel blogger?
Whether you are a travel blogger or any other professional, it’s always your integrity, authenticity and uniqueness that attracts people. In my case, it’s my ability to share untold human stories from offbeat places in a relatable manner. Millennials today look for experiential and immersive travel instead of bucket list fulfilment, and that’s what I deliver. As the brand name Travel See Write suggests, I only write about places that I have personally experienced. I never tell a story, if I don’t have a unique one to share.
2. Take us through your journey.
While I have been a traveller since I was a kid, travel writing happened by chance. It was August 2014, and I was finally visiting Ladakh. However, my trip had almost gotten cancelled because the group I was to travel with had backed out. The trip wasn’t financially viable for the organiser anymore. I had two choices – join the organiser for a short trip to Himachal or carry on all by myself. It was a hard choice, but I went with the latter.
During my Ladakh trip, I had a life-changing experience that I felt compelled to share with others. What happened to me could have happened to anyone. Ladakh was beyond physical beauty. I experienced different faces of beauty – the beauty of the land and the beauty of the heart. I wrote a travelogue series – 11 days in Ladakh. 11 faces of beauty. The response to it was phenomenal. The rest is history.
3. What’s your process of blogging?
I usually plan my travels six-12 months in advance, keeping in mind the global travel conferences I wish to attend like Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS), Travel Bloggers Exchange (TBEX), and Women in Travel Summit (WITS), among others. Based on the conference schedules, I decide the offbeat countries and regions I want to visit. Mostly, my travels are long-term (one-four months), slow, immersive, like a local and with the locals.
I do some research before visiting the places and discuss potential story ideas with local partners. However, not everything is cast in stone. I keep my travels a bit fluid to uncover untold human stories from the fields of adventure, nature, culture, sustainable tourism and solo travel. After returning from the trip, I go back to my notes to find unique story ideas that aren’t written about much. My stories are backed by strong facts, expert interviews and personal experiences. Once I have a bank of good story ideas, I start drafting my articles or pitching to publications. I do SEO optimisation on my blog and promote stories through my social media channels.
4. How easy or difficult is it to constantly feed social media?
I don’t have FOMO or the desire to always be seen or heard. Therefore, I only share content on social media when I have something worthwhile to share. I keep a healthy balance of professional and personal content and I’m not afraid of sharing my vulnerabilities. In fact, that adds to the authenticity. Also, I engage with each comment I get.
5. Does blogging pay the bills or is it just passion that sustains you?
Earlier it didn’t and I didn’t even care as I had a full-time marketing job to pay my bills. But since 2017, this has been my bread and butter.
6. Perks and drawbacks of being a digital influencer?
- Building your own brand that grows with time in stature and income.
- The flexibility to set my own schedule – most of the time – and freedom to choose the topics, people, and brands I want to work with.
- Building and connecting with a dynamic and supportive community is soul-fulfilling. You don’t even realise when you become a role model to so many people.
- You make friends wherever you go. No place is alien to you.
- You become more confident, adaptable and evolved in your thinking.
- Financial adventure: No fixed income. Sometimes you can earn six figures in a month and sometimes you barely make ends meet.
- It’s not as easy and glamorous as it looks. We work 24/7 and continuously upskill ourselves to stay relevant and ahead of the curve. Even if the entry barriers are almost negligible in the field, there is also a strong chance of falling off the grid if one isn’t evolving with changing trends and tastes.
- Be the Jack of all trades – writing, photography, business pitching, finance management, marketing, HR, and everything else that goes in running a successful business. It’s not just hard work you put in, but also blood, sweat, tears and hustle.
- It gets a little lonely at times when you are constantly on the move. Difficult to find a partner that’s aligned to your career goals and life philosophy.
7. Top places in India you’d recommend to every traveller?
Being a huge mountain and wildlife lover, the craggy Himalayan peaks and the lush forests of central India are my all-time favourite places. I would recommend offbeat places like Sangla, Sanougi, Thanedar, Lahaul and Spiti in Himachal and Changthang in Ladakh. Also, Satpura National Park (in Madhya Pradesh) gives you the freedom to explore wildlife in different ways. Besides jeep safari, you can opt for elephant safari, kayak, boat trips, or even walk and camp in the heart of the forest.
8. What are your top three destinations in the world?
Hokkaido, Japan: The northernmost part of the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ is the least populated and rarely visited by tourists.
The high Tatras, Slovakia: The tallest range in the Carpathian Mountains bejewelled with plunging waterfalls, alpine meadows and more than 100 ultramarine lakes. One of the cheapest and best places to enjoy skiing, and health and wellness treatments in Europe.
Gerberoy, Northern France: Listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France, Gerberoy is a dream destination for flower lovers, especially roses. A walk in this well-kept medieval fairy tale village of just 50 residents is sheer joy.
9. Instagram or Twitter? Your favourite and why?
I love Instagram more than Twitter because it’s a fast, beautiful and fun way to share my travel experiences with my audience through a series of pictures. I treat Instagram as a microblogging platform where through creative visuals, well-thought-out captions and hashtags I tell stories that drive active engagement. Also, Instagram stories are a great way to engage live with your fans and followers and have 10x higher engagement than Twitter or Facebook. Out of all the social media platforms, Instagram delivers the most when it comes to doing paid campaigns, either through collaborating with brands or with fellow influencers.
10. What camera do you typically use while travelling? One tip for great photographs?
I use a Sony A7II, which has a full-frame, mirrorless camera. My only tip for taking great photos is to use your imagination; you don’t take a photo but make a photo. Instead of investing more on gear, invest in learning. Also, look around and try to compose the shot in [your] head before pressing the shutter.