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My name is Matt Hulland and when I quit my career of 15 years to travel, it woke something up inside and changed my life. I now have a job I love, released two books on Amazon and run The Travel Blogs, an interactive travel blogopedia. Ask me anything . . . about blogging, travelling, digital marketing, anything really, let's have some fun!

Matt Hulland
Dec 4, 2017

After 15 years working in the hotel industry, I had had enough. Enough of the unsociable hours, the poor wage, the guest (not all, but most), I was burnt out. I had a good career behind me, working my way up in prestigious properties in both the UK and the US, but I was done.

I saved and saved and saved until one day I could finally run away. My first solo trip was through Africa doing some volunteer work along the way. Once that was over I picked up a job at home as a barista and started saving again. A year later I was off again.

When I returned I had no idea what I wanted to do but was ready to give anything a go, as long as it wasn't hotels.

In between trips I had undertaken a charity challenge to raise money for a school building project in Africa. As part of it I released my travel diary as an advice book on Amazon. Called How to Clean Your Underwear in Africa, it sold well with the proceeds going to the charity.

It was this new found creativity that led me to my new job in digital marketing and creating The Travel Blogs. It is a site that I share blogs from undiscovered talent as well as known bloggers and my own writing.

So that's where I am now. Free free to ask me anything about travelling, whether stories or advice, digital marketing or just say hello!

Find me here:

web: thetravelblogs.com

FB: facebook.com/thetravelblogs

Twitter: Twitter.com/thetravelblogs

IG: instagram.com/thetravelblogs

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Conversation (48)

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How do you earn in this blog?

Dec 8, 8:42PM EST0

Hi. Good question. At the moment I don't, it is purely a passion but the goal is to do so in the future. I think anyone who is getting in to blogging purely to make money will probably fail. The problem is there is so much out there is can take years of hard work to stand out and get the traffic you need to monetise.

I have a three-year goal to reach that stage, I have a proper job as well to make money. So far I am one year into it and I am starting to see the opportunities. I have experimented with a few adverts, although you need lots of traffic to make that work, and I have also been offered up to $100 for a company to put a sponsored post on my site. At the moment I am refusing as once you start accepting sponsored posts you start to lose editorial control, but it is nice to know the opportunities are there.

The third way to make money is through affiliate selling, where you suggest things to buy and get a cut when people purchase from your site. So a great way to do this is suggesting tours or Christmas gift lists, that kind of thing.

So, in summary, if you are wanting to make money blogging, just remember there is a lot of hard graft before you get to that stage. When you do, your best options are:

a. Affiliate selling

b. Accepting payment from companies for them to add posts to your blog

c. Adverts

Of course, depending on your niche you can also get some cool free stuff if you want to do product reviews.

Dec 9, 5:05AM EST0

Which destination in the world you would not recommend and why? What visitors should avoid? 

Dec 8, 4:08PM EST0

I don't think there is, at least not one that I have visited. Every country has stories to tell and a history, that is what makes somewhere worth visiting. 

Obviously, at the moment, there are many high-risk areas, such as North Korea or Syria, but in time I hope they will settle down. I also worry about the political situation in Myanmar at the moment. I visited Myanmar a few years ago and fell in love with the place, but if what is going on now was happening then, I would have probably gone somewhere else. I guess letting politics affect where you travel is a decision for the individual, but I like to think I wouldn't spend my money in countries that suppress their people.

Dec 8, 5:43PM EST0

What have you learned from all the travels you did?

Dec 7, 7:57PM EST0

That there are many more good people in this world than bad. I met so many amazing people who have nothing themselves, giving all they have to help their communities. The sad thing seems to be that the more someone has, the less they give.

I also learnt that no matter how bad my day is, the fact that I have a roof over my head, running water and easy access to food, I am waaay better of than a large proportion of human society. I find it is easy to forget that, but based on the luck of where I was born, I remind myself whenever I can.

Dec 8, 5:34PM EST0

How financially rewarding is blogging so that you can go on an almost endless vacation?

Dec 7, 11:01AM EST0

At the moment it is not at all. I have a full time job and work on my site almost every hour in between. That's not to say it can't be. I have been working on my blog for a little over a year now. It is possible to get to the stage where you can make a living from it, but unless you are exceptional or incredibly lucky (or both) then it is unlikely you'll make much in your first three years. 

The other thing is many of the people who do travel and blog full time, it's important to realise it is still work.

The number of hours that go into those sites can't be underestimated. They have to write content, good content, proofread, and again. Then they have to know about SEO, have strong social profiles and much more. It will have taken years and years to get to the stage they are.

Although it looks like life's a beach, often it's a small cafe and a laptop. Still, not a bad way to live!

Dec 8, 5:10PM EST0

Are your books your number one source of income these days? If not, what is?

Dec 7, 8:39AM EST0

I wish! They make me next to nothing but they are a good incentive for digital marketing campaigns. It seems as my blog grows, book sales grow, but it really is pennies.

At the moment I am not making an income from my blog. I have set myself three years to grow my brand and then set about monetizing. Frome the research I have done, affiliate selling seems to be the best followed by sponsored posts and then adverts. But for all of them you need one key thing, traffic. That is what I will spend the first three years building.

Dec 8, 5:05PM EST0

What is your world's yummiest food?

Dec 5, 2:49AM EST0

I love everything! If I had to choose a dish that stands out in my memory, it has to be the first time I tried Amok, a Cambodian curry. I also really like Massaman curry. Both of which tend to be a nice medium spice made with oodles of coconut milk!

Dec 8, 4:59PM EST0

Which country did you stay the longest and why?

Dec 4, 6:05PM EST0

While travelling I didn't really stay in any of them for a super long time. If you would ask me which one did I wish I could have stayed in for longer, then it would be Cambodia. I fell in love with the people. To go through what they did as a nation as recently as the late 70's and still have such an optimistic outlook on life is amazing.

One man in particular sums it up for me. Jimmy is a local in Siem Reap who tries to make a living in the hyper-competitive world of offering tuk-tuk tours to Angkor Wat. What little he does make he invests in his evening school where he teaches English to street kids who don't get the chance of a proper education. You can read more about Jimmy in this past, it's such a cool project. Discovering Jimmy's School in Siem Reap

Dec 8, 4:56PM EST0

How to clean your underwear while in Africa? Why that title?

Dec 4, 12:20PM EST0

Haha. A bit of fun and a bit of reacting to a trend.

While doing some research I figured the best selling books are 'How to' books, so I thought that was a fun idea, and I couldn't think of anything else. So then I though, How to what? I didn't want to do something like How to travel or how to backpack through Africa, although there is travel advice, it's not the main point of the book. Then I remembered the time I was left with no clean clothes and a long bus ride looming, I set about cleaning my undercrackers in my hotel room. Luckily I had a universal plug and a couple of bungee cords for a makeshift clothes line, two things now I always carry!

Dec 4, 12:29PM EST0

What makes African food exotic?

Dec 4, 5:18AM EST0

Spices! Tasty spices. Much of East Africa were stops on the spice route that ran from India to Europe, and have such have much of this influecne of their food. Also the use of fruit in dishes. Especially in Northern Africa, they loved to used apricots and raisin for a touch of sweetness. Now I'm hungry!

Dec 4, 9:38AM EST0

Who is your most favorite travel buddy?

Dec 3, 11:52PM EST0

Anyone who is willing to put the phone down, drink a beer and swap travel stories and advice in a hosel bar. It's so easy to get caught up in a mobile phone, checking Facebook and seeing what's happening at home, that you forget you are on the otherside of the world. Find a friend, grab a drink and celebrate that fact.

Dec 4, 9:25AM EST0

What is so fascinating about Africa which made you decide to visit it first?

Dec 3, 10:36PM EST0

Hmmm, good question. I guess I have always been interested in the Africa. Growing up, the only news you see in the UK about Africa was always about famine or diseases. The images would be that of malnourished children, or people in remote villages. I guess I just wanted to see it for myself.

I don't really know what I expected but I was pleasantly surprised how developed the areas I visited were. It wasn't anything like I was used to seeing on the TV, but then again, I wasn't in the poorest areas.

I'd love to return and explore further. 

Dec 4, 9:22AM EST1

What was your career for 15 years and what made it so hateful that you dreaded working for it?

Dec 3, 6:53PM EST0

I was working in hotels and restaurants.

The job has always involved unsociable, long hours. While most people are out, enjoying their evenings, you are the one looking after them.

It never used to bother me, but something happened, people changed (I blame it on the economic crisis and rise of food related shows on TV). It seemed that everyone was suddenly thought they were an expert. They had watched a few cooking shows they thought they knew more than a chef who has been paid to cook for over 20 years.

Then Tripadvisor came along. As much as I love it for some things, it has made it too easy for people to be hypercritical online, while rarely daring to do it face to face. I used to like it when people would complain, it meant they had an issue, they told us, we sorted it, by the time they left it was over. Not anymore, people will happily tell you everything was fine then drive home as fast as they can to write about their awful experience online. The really sad thing is, a couple of bad reviews about issues that could have been sorted before the guests left can ruin small, independent business.

That said, there are a lot of crap restaurants out there that probably deserve what they get.

Anyway. In answer to your question, either people changed (or more likely) I just got older, grumpier and less able to not let people get to me.

Dec 4, 8:08AM EST0

Africa is a hot country and you came from a cold country. How did you adjust to the extremes of temperature?

Dec 3, 2:13PM EST0

With a lot of sun cream! Throw in the fact I'm fair skinned it was quite a change. In all honesty, it didn't really bother me too much. If ever it did, I just took a moment to think to myself 'I'm in Africa and I'm not dreaming, freaking unreal'. It was so strange to be there, that once I reminded myself of that fact, I could cope with anything.

Dec 4, 7:41AM EST0

What will be your best advice to a new travel blogger?

Dec 3, 11:40AM EST0

Oooo, good one. I'm still relatively new so I'm not sure I'm the best person to ask, but I'll try.

Have a goal - Do you want to make a business or just write nice stories for friends and family to enjoy. Depending on this depends on whether you chose a blogging platform or purchase a URL and self-host.

Be ready - it is waaay more work many people think. Not only do you have to write, but you need to become knowledgeable about SEO principles, web design, social media, digital marketing.

Persistence, don't expect to have an audience overnight. If you can do all of the above then you will have an edge on many, however, it still takes years to stand out. Be prepared to put in a lot of effort for no return.

Be careful comparing yourself to others. One day you'll be thinking 'My blog is awesome, I'm rocking it'. The next day you'll have seen someone has done something cool and you'll suddenly hate everything you have created. It's normal to have doubts, but that's when you need to reflect on your own goals, not compare yourself to what others are doing. Keep on going!

Finally, write what you enjoy writing. As I said earlier, in the beginning, you will be spending a lot of time writing stuff that no-one will read, so you may as well enjoy writing it.

Dec 4, 7:36AM EST0

Have you travelled to Asia?

Dec 2, 11:54PM EST0

I have travelled to South East Asia but Asia is so big. I would love to visit some of the stan´s in the future, Kyrgyzstan looks amazing, and I have to visit India. Travel blogging seems really popular in India and I have come across some really good ones, hopefully, I can connect with some of them when I go.

Dec 4, 7:15AM EST0

What are the essentials that need to be in your backpack every time you go on any trip?

Dec 2, 9:38AM EST0

Hmmm, good question.

Nothing out of the ordinary really. A few recommendations would be I find travelling with soap as opposed to any kind of gel is easier and less risk of spillage. I like to spread a few tumble dryer sheets, or something similar, though the backpack to try and keep things smelling fresh. Also, a universal plug (as in the kind for sinks) is always handy when you need to wash your underwear and a couple of bungee cords so you can make a washing line wherever you go.

Dec 4, 7:11AM EST0

What made you decide to leave Africa and where did you go after?

Dec 1, 9:17PM EST0

The plan had always been to just travel through Africa, although I really want to return and spend more time there. I bet almost everyone who has been would say the same thing.

After Africa I came home, worked as a waiter and earned money to travel again, the second trip was to South East Asia and beyond.

Next up, so many choices. The hardest question is always, do I go back to a place I know I like and explore further, or do I go somewhere I have never been? Kind of like in a restaurant you go to a lot, do you order what you know, like and will enjoy or risk something new?

Dec 4, 7:05AM EST0

What has been your most difficult trip? How did you overcome the challenges?

Dec 1, 9:15PM EST0

Difficult can be on so many levels. Physically, emotionally, when you get yourself into stupid situations that somehow you have to get out of.

The first thing that springs to mind is while in Borneo I found out that my mum had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I was only halfway through my trip but I decided to go home and worry about that later, some things are more important than money or travelling.

Luckily I had a flexible ticket, so all of the flights I had booked I could change free of charge (up to a year) and I was able to change the dates of all of my future planned flights and go home for three months before picking up later where I left off.

As a bonus, I was also able to claim back the cost of the flights from Kuala Lumpur to home and back from my travel insurance.

So I guess it's fair to say, with regard to your question about overcoming, just be sensible and understand anything can happen at any point. Have travel insurance and sometimes paying a bit extra for flexibility on long trips is a good thing.

In the end, my mum had chemo and has been given the all clear. Happy endings all round.

Oh, there was also the time I lost my wallet, passport and phone by leaving them behind at a security scanner in Dubai airport. I had three hours until my connecting flight, and I was a little ill and lost my voice. All covered in my book, you can get a free digital copy here: https://www.thetravelblogs.com/sign-up - #shamelessplug

Dec 4, 7:01AM EST0

Do you need to hire an expert in digital marketing when running a blog?

Dec 1, 12:21PM EST0

Hi George. It depends on a lot of factors, mainly what you want to get out of your blog. If you are running it as a hobby, as a passion and you want it to be an outlet for your thoughts, then not really.

If you want to turn it into a business at some point, then I would definitely get some insights from a professional or invest in some digital marking classes yourself.

People often underestimate blogging. Not only do you have to create content that people want to read, you have to put it in front of them. Sadly, as the internet is so congested, it's no longer a case of write it and they will come (unless you are exceptional). You will need at least a basic understanding of SEO principals, how to use many different social media channels effectively and then decide if you want to spend any money on digital advertising.

Once you have that, it takes on average about three years to build up a following. Again, unless you are exceptional.

Finally, if you want to turn it into a business, comes monetisation. Most people find affiliate selling to be the best way to monetise a blog. Adverts are another way, or selling sponsored posts. It's down to you to juggle that balance. If you fill your site with sponsored posts then your audience may switch off, same with too many adverts.

So in summary, when starting a blog to make a business, expect it to be a marathon, not a sprint. However, a digital marketing professional can be like the energy drinks or carb supplements that give you the edge to keep on going. A great help, but not essential.

Dec 4, 6:34AM EST0

Do you also travel buddy with other bloggers?

Dec 1, 6:43AM EST0

I haven't in the past, but it is something I would love to do. I currently live in Madrid and love the idea of spending a day exploring with another blogger, writing our posts independently and showing how different two accounts of the same day would be.

One day I'll make it happen. Know anyone?

Dec 4, 6:38AM EST0

What is your most favorite African dish?

Dec 1, 6:42AM EST0

My favourite dish was actually cooked by a safari guide and called Muboora. It's a dish consisting of peanut butter and pumpkin leaves.

I only had it the once, but in answering this question you have prompted me to find a recipe for it, so here you go - http://www.zimbokitchen.com/delicious-traditional-muboora-pumpkin-leaves - now we can both have a go a recreating it!

Dec 1, 4:11PM EST0

What was the compelling reason which caused you to finally take an exodus from that job?

Dec 1, 6:34AM EST0

Hi Faye,

Probably the changing scape of the hospitality industry. I'm not sure if it was the growth of online platforms such as Tripadvisor, an increase in popularity of cooking and hotels on television or me getting older and grumpier, but I feel people changed.

When I started in hotels our guests came to have a good time but at some point, it seemed that suddenly everyone was an expert. Because they have watched Gordon Ramsey on TV they knew how to cook better than our qualified chef. Because they could review the hotel on Tripadvisor, their voice was suddenly more important than a hotel review guide, and as a result, those people just weren't that fun to serve anymore.

I used to find a lot of satisfaction in my job, but as soon as that went, the other demands of the hospitality industry, such as long unsociable hours, were no longer worth it.

The final straw was when I was checking some guests out and I enquired if they enjoyed their stay, they said they did, everything was fine.

Two days later I was pulled into the owner's office to explain what had happened during this guests stay as they had just left a scathing review on Tripadvisor. They were not willing to give a chance to fix any problems they had, just wanted something to moan about online.

My focus changed to earning to travel with no plan after that, and I'm happy to say I was able to make it.

Dec 1, 4:08PM EST0

Most people would love the opportunity to travel to different places. You've had your share for 15 years. Don't you feel privileged?

Dec 1, 5:15AM EST0

Yes. 

I wasn't travelling for 15 years (a dream) but I have done more than many people and having travelled I recognise how lucky I was to be born where I was, to the parents I have.

That said, the majority of the money I travelled with was earned working as a waiter. Travel is more accessible than people often think. They'll look at pictures and think 'I wish I could go there'. It's possible if they are willing to work, cut back on unnecessary expenses and be brave. The hardest thing was leaving that security blanket of having a job and not knowing what you'll come back to.

Dec 1, 3:59PM EST0

Knowing what you know now, would you do anything different? 

Also would you agree that a two story sports bar in Chiang Mai is the easiest place to meet Australian backpacker lifelong friends?

Nov 30, 4:09PM EST0

I wouldn't have gone into a two-tiered sports bar in Chaing Mai!

But for real. It's funny, I was always proud of how little I planned and how I liked to rock up and see what's going on. In hindsight, although not planning still something I like, a little extra research wouldn't have gone amiss.

I'm never going to be one for micro-planning, I see some get so into it, what to do every day, but maybe at least knowing a few of the places to see before arriving would have been a good idea.

But then again, if I had planned where I was going for dinner I wouldn't have bumped into that awesome guy in a Chaing Mai sports bar. Sadly he didn't hang around long, so I was left to chat with you.

Dec 1, 3:49PM EST2
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