This week on The Traveler Series meet Monica Stott of The Travel Hack. Monica is a full-time travel blogger from the UK who began blogging in 2009 when she took two years to travel around Asia and Australia. Upon Monica’s return to London, she studied Multimedia Journalism and worked as an editorial assistant for a travel website, which helped her make the leap into a full-time travel blogger. Here, Monica shares her inspiration for traveling and her best advice to budding bloggers.
What inspires you to travel?
I’m inspired to travel by a fear of missing out. I hate thinking that there is something on the other side of the world that is incredible and beautiful and I may never see it. There are so many amazing places in the world and I want to see as many of them as I possibly can. The world won’t come to you so I think you have to get out there and see it.
My travel style has evolved over the years and as I’ve grown older and my budget has changed. I began as a budget backpacker but I’ve always loved staying in nice hotels so I like to splash out when I can. The tag line for The Travel Hack is ‘the stylish adventure blog’, because I like active and adventurous travel combined with gorgeous hotels and nice restaurants and bars.
I like to spend my days exploring and experiencing as much as I can. I like being active and outdoors and would rather learn about a country through meeting locals than through a museum. After an adventurous day I like to return to a nice hotel and eat in a stylish restaurant where I can enjoy local food. I don’t necessarily opt for 5* hotels but I like somewhere that is memorable and stylish. Boutique hotels and glamping are my favourites.
How do you afford your travels?
I’ve funded most of my travels myself simply through working hard and saving. I’m not the type of person to sit around and watch TV so I never minded working two jobs to save for my next adventure.
More recently I travel on press trips or solo trips funded by tourism boards or travel brands.
Where has been your favorite destination?
My favourite destination is always the place I’m in at the time. I pretty much fall in love with almost every place I visit so I couldn’t pick just one. At the minute I’m in Dominica in the Caribbean and it feels like I’m in paradise. Dominica is a hidden gem and all the guests here feel like we’re in on a secret. You won’t find the typical white sandy beaches that you’d normally associate with the Caribbean but it’s so lush and green and relaxing that you can’t help but love it. I also love Iceland for that rugged, natural beauty. I found Vietnam really interesting and Venice is my favourite city for a weekend away. I think New York is really exciting and I was surprised at how much I loved Morocco as it’s so beautifully diverse.
The thought of settling down in one location for the rest of my life freaks me out. It’s a big world out there so I wouldn’t want to settle in one location forever. If I had to choose, I’d say London and that’s purely because London is a great hub for international and European flights.
I do love London too. I love the way it evolves so quickly and you could do something different every single day for the rest of your life.
What’s the funniest or weirdest cultural idiosyncrasy you’ve either witnessed or experienced?
That’s a toughy. I found it funny in Hong Kong when couples wore matching outfits. On the beach the guys will wear board-shorts while the girls wear the matching bikini. It’s cute but it’s kind of weird. I also find the Japanese love for karaoke hilarious. Grown men getting drunk and singing pop songs will always crack me up but they seem to be having so much fun
What keepsake do you have to get at all your destinations? (Whether it’s something free like ticket stubs or brochures, or something you have to buy)
I actually don’t keep any object from my travels. I always find that something can seem cool and unique when you’re in the destination but once you get home it just feels like another tacky souvenir that clutters your shelves.
What I prefer to do is to take photos of everything and I have my favorite ones printed onto small canvases. My walls are covered with pictures from my favourite places which bring back great memories and have a personal touch.
How about the one thing you cannot travel without?
I can’t travel without my iPhone. I do everything on my phone from taking photos to blogging, keeping in touch with friends and family, answering emails, working, reading guide books, listening to music or just playing games. I don’t know how I ever traveled without it.
What is the best piece of travel advice you’ve picked up over the years?
I have two pieces of advice:
- Pack light
- Don’t worry
I used to be a worrier when it came to travel. My head would be filled with ‘what if’s’ and things that could go wrong but after awhile you realize that everything sorts itself out.
In some ways, every country is very different but in most ways we’re all very similar. We all take taxis, we all want to eat nice food, we’ll all look out for someone that looks lost.
Why did you begin your website? And how did you come up with your website name?
I started blogging in 2009 when I was working for my local newspaper. I left to go traveling and they asked me to write a blog for the paper’s site. There were other blogs on there like from a local chef, a teacher, a mum, a councilor etc. When they removed the blogs a year later I just carried mine on.
I wanted to be a journalist so I used my blog as an online portfolio in the hope that it could lead to other work and showcase my writing. What I didn’t know was that it would eventually become my full-time job.
I chose the name ‘The Travel Hack’ in more of a journalistic sense than a travel hack sense. I was writing for a website called ‘Wannabie Hacks’ which was aimed at trainee journalists (a hack is another name for a tabloid or investigative journalist). There was talk of starting ‘Fashion Hacks’ for fashion journalists and I wanted to start ‘Travel Hacks’ but no one else was interested so I did it alone.
What is your one piece of advice to budding travel writers looking to start a blog or website?
My advice is to just do it. Too many people get obsessed over the little things like naming their blog, picking a design, creating a logo, networking with bloggers, building a social media following and learning about SEO. This is all great but if your website isn’t chock full of interesting content then it doesn’t matter. Just start blogging! Whether you write or take photos or make videos, blog every single day for six months and then worry about all the other stuff.
At the minute I’m in Dominica. Next week I’ll be speaking at Food Bloggers Connect – the biggest food bloggers conference – so I’ll be around London for that. I’m then going to Cyprus for a healthy well-being trip which involves lots of spa trips and hiking. I have a few city breaks planned and at the end of August I’m taking part in an iron man in Austria so my summer will be filled with running and exercise.
Keep up with Monica & her travels here:
Blog: The Travel Hack
Twitter: The Travel Hack
Facebook: The Travel Hack
Instagram: The Travel Hack