While there’s a lot of discipline and hard work required to build a blog, passion is what ultimately sustains it. Divyakshi Gupta, founder of The Quirky Wanderer, reveals what the life of a blogger entails, beyond the obvious. Her obsession with doors wherever she goes not only lends a unique angle to her work, but has also landed her some of the most lucrative projects of her blogging career. By Charu Chowdhary
1. How old are you? When and how did travel blogging happen for you?
I am 30. My blogging journey started in 2006, when there was no social media to amplify a blog’s content. There were several factors that fuelled my love for travel; spending summer vacations in a Himalayan hamlet where my grandparents lived post-retirement, my passion for reading, the thirst to know more about the length and breadth of my country, and its diversity that changes every 50 kilometres or so. However, the brand ‘The Quirky Wanderer’ was founded only in 2014, which marked the beginning of professional travel blogging for me.
2. How rewarding has your journey been so far?
It has been a roller coaster ride. From wondering if anybody really reads what I write to scoring an internship at an advertising firm due to my blog, to even being the first Indian travel blogger to be interviewed by WordPress, and bagging the role of a ‘Door Consultant’ for Tata Steel’s ‘Doors of India’ campaign, it’s been a great journey so far.
While accolades like newspaper mentions, interviews, press trips, brand collaborations have happened too, the most gratifying reward has been that of genuine readership.
3. What have been your major struggles?
The biggest struggle has been to juggle two jobs. While I had left my advertising job way before The Quirky Wanderer was founded, I was fully involved in my family business while simultaneously building my blog and it did get overwhelming at times.
Another struggle was to be constantly motivated despite algorithm changes in social media. It takes a great deal of motivation to churn out quality content consistently, especially in a world that is driven by numbers. Therefore, growing organically has been a huge struggle but has been truly rewarding as well.
4. The blogosphere is quite a saturated space today. How do you create your content differently so as to carve a niche for yourself?
I think everyone has their own unique voice and a distinct narrative style that they can hone to build a USP. If it’s done consistently over a period of time across mediums, it helps a blog become a brand. For me, it is my unique perspective plus a relatable and lucid style of writing that people identify with. I mostly focus on off-beat or lesser-known places and find unique stories in touristy places and that has helped me build a niche for myself. That, along with consistent, well-curated and meticulously designed content across all my social media channels.
5. What’s your favourite social medium to interact with the readers?
It used to be Facebook but currently it’s Instagram. Instagram is a great medium to narrate stories through pictures. I plan my content well in advance to give the viewer an aesthetic sense of the place when they land on my profile. Perhaps, that’s why you will not see random brand placements on my Instagram feed; it’s sacrosanct for me. It is also a great medium to interact with users across the world who can reach you just through a DM.
6. Can you name a few places in India that every traveller must explore?
India offers really distinct experiences without burning a hole in your pocket. Andamans is on top of the list. It is so much more than just Havelock and Neil Islands; from the clear blue waters of Jolly Buoy Island to the evergreen forests of Chidiya Tapu, it is a great destination. Then there’s Shekhawati in Rajasthan mostly known for its ornate havelis with intricate architecture scattered across unpretentious villages. The southern forests of Annamalai, Parambikulam and Valparai are great treasures especially if you’re interested in diverse fauna and flora. While people mostly flock to Kodaikanal, a trip to Valparai instead is a better option; courtesy the tea gardens there and the possibility of spotting a Nilgiri Tahr up close.
7. How do you fund your travels?
I spend whatever I earn through travel blogging on travelling. I have a dedicated travel fund for my travels. I take guest lectures, conduct travel blogging workshops and offer social media consultancy so as to be able to earn more alongside blogging.
My tip to aspiring full-time bloggers is to have multiple sources of income. Money from only blogging is not a viable, long term option. You must think out of the box and link your passion to travel with creative business ideas. If you have a job, keep it. Earning through travel blogging is sporadic and uncertain, and often leads to anxiety and frustration.
8. If you had to recommend three budget foreign destinations what would they be?
It’s safe to start with neighbouring countries. They are accessible, easy to navigate and inexpensive besides providing a sense of familiarity.
I highly recommend Bhutan. It has everything: rich architecture, vibrant culture, delectable food, and picturesque landscapes. Second on the list would be Nepal for its intricate Newari architecture and festivals like the Indra Jatra. Also, Nepal’s idyllic villages like Bandipur and Nagarkot offer the most stunning mountain views.
Third would be Myanmar. While most people flock to Thailand, Myanmar with its rustic pagodas and gorgeous countryside takes you back in time. The pagodas in Bagan are a must-visit as are the monasteries in Mandalay, the villages built on Lake Inle and the charming colonies of Yangon.
9. Is it safe to say that there are changes, however small, in terms of eco-tourism and sustainable travel (both in India and abroad)?
Definitely. In fact, more than the hospitality industry, it is the travellers that are creating more awareness around it by talking about it. I recently stayed at the Accor’s Movenpick Kuredhivaru, a green hotel in Maldives that had zero usage of plastic. They had glass bottles in the room and provided absolutely no single-use plastic toiletries.
Similarly, in Sikkim, eco-tourism is practiced with great flair. Even the local homestays are aware of sustainability and you can see it in the efforts they make. Responsible tourism isn’t a fad, it’s the need of the hour.
10. What’s next in the pipeline for you?
There are a couple of trips coming up, mostly in India. After Rann Utsav in Gujarat, I am planning a trip to Odisha. A lot of content videos are also in the pipeline: from the quirky wanderer favourites series, to videos on Greece, Hampi and the Maldives.