We first contacted each other when you found my blog reviewing the annual Chiang Mai SEO event. You were deciding whether you wanted to attend, and, in the end, you did, and we met up in person.
After chatting I found out that you run a website that gives independent travelers advice from practical advice to detailed trip itineraries. With first-hand knowledge of the places, you write about I was keen to find out more about your lifestyle and how this got started.
Leaving the 9 to 5 lifestyle behind you now run this website full-time and enjoy a completely digital nomad lifestyle.
Let’s jump straight into the questions – thanks again for your time today Sofie.
1. Can you give us some background on yourself? Where were you born, education and what work you have done before.
Sure! I was born in the city of Leuven in Belgium but grew up in a small town between Leuven and the capital of Brussels.
I have a bachelor’s in Literature and Linguistics, a Master’s in Western Literature, and a Master’s in Cultural Management. Basically, I always knew I wanted to do “something with writing”. After graduating, I got a research job at the Belgian Press Agency Belga and when my contract ended there after about 16 months, I switched to go work for an international publishing house as a marketing coordinator.
In August 2012 I launched the travel blog WonderfulWanderings.com which became my full-time job at the start of 2015 and I’ve just launched a travel influencer vetting agency last January as well (influinspect.com).
2. I am curious to get your feedback on the Chiang Mai SEO conference. What was an experience and do you think it will be on your annual calendar to attend?
I actually already have my ticket for this year, so the experience was certainly a good one. I loved the diversity of the talks but for me, the real value was in the networking I got to do during the breaks and at the evening events.
As I use SEO to drive traffic to my blog, it was interesting for me to talk to people who’s business is SEO, rather than people for whom SEO is a tool to market their business with.
3. You’re a true location independent digital nomad running a successful website aimed at independent travelers looking for advice. How did you first get into travel writing?
I wasn’t happy with the kind of writing I got to do at my then job and was telling my parents how the kind of job I had always thought I wanted to be had turned out to be not so great when they suggested I’d start a hobby project.
I loved to travel and I loved writing so I just put those two together.
It purely starter as a hobby but I did quickly realize the business potential of what I was doing as so I started to educate myself on digital marketing and slowly turned that hobby into a full-time income earner.
4. Working independently without a boss is for most people the dream lifestyle. When did you realize you can ditch a full-time job for traveling and living on this?
I don’t remember the exact moment, but I think it was in the first year of starting my blog. Companies were contacting me for collaborations and through my research, I’d found out about people who were already doing this full-time and making a living out of it.
When I quit my job, I actually wasn’t making close to a minimum wage yet, but I couldn’t keep doing both either.
I was close to a burn-out and had to make a decision. That decision to give it a year and then evaluate. I honestly thought I’d have to go back to finding a job after that year, but I never did. Best decision I’ve ever made.
5. The pros of being location independent and well popularised but what are the negatives from living the digital nomad lifestyle?
I’ve only truly started this lifestyle in January in the sense that I’ve left my home base then but I have been traveling around 20 times a year for quite a few years now and I think traveling a lot and working for yourself the biggest downside is that it can get lonely.
It can get lonely having to make all of the decisions by yourself. It can get lonely that the people you most connect with are scattered all over the world. It can get lonely that as soon as you find a community you feel like you could belong to, you “have” to leave again.
There are lots of ways to connect to people on the road, both in a personal and in a business sense, but the nature of being nomadic and also just living a life of travel makes it so that every meaningful hello tends to come with a goodbye.
6. Do you plan content out meticulously or do you tend to be more spontaneous?
I’ve always used a content calendar, but I don’t put content out as frequently as I used to simply because I already have hundreds of articles and those require quite a lot of work to update as well.
Aside from that, 95% of my content is experience-based which means that new content comes from new travels and I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t always want to write about everything anymore.
The pressure to do so is there but for example, when I was in Chiang Mai, I was there a week before the conference started and I made the decision not to write about my time there and simply enjoy meeting people instead of running around trying to do all the touristy things.
7. What’s a typical day in the life of Sofie?
I’d say I have two “typical” days: the ones when I’m traveling for work and the ones when I’m staying put working.
When I’m staying put somewhere to get work done. I’ll get up, have breakfast, and open my laptop straight away. I’ll have a snack and lunch while working and I’ll carry on until about 3 p.m. Then, I go for a walk and I work out. I usually do some admin and light work after and then social activities in the evening.
When I’m traveling for work, I have my checklist of things I need to see and do and I’m usually out from breakfast until dinner time. I’ll then do some light work before bed in the evening but it’s usually things like email or going through the photos of the day.
While I keep my mornings for work when I’m not traveling for a job, my afternoons are pretty flexible though. I might also meet someone for coffee then or if I have calls, I’ll schedule them in the afternoon as well.
8. How are you looking to grow your site? Do you focus mostly on content writing or are you looking to go into more social, or both?
I used to do more social when I started but I honestly don’t enjoy it that much. I enjoy doing Instagram stories as they give me a spontaneous way to connect with my audience and I love the loyal follower base I have on Facebook, but I don’t feel like social media comes naturally to me.
I’ve focused mostly on SEO to grow the blog and now also want to focus more and more on my newsletter.
Thanks again Sofie, great catching up with you and hope to see you soon. Maybe at the next Chiang Mai SEO event!
Anyone looking for practical travel advice for independent travelling should check out Sofie’s website – https://wonderfulwanderings.com