By Robert Schoolmeesters of Traveljunks.nl
Who are you and where are you from?
I am Elisa from Alkmaar, The Netherlands. In daily life I am a marketing manager and in my spare time travel blogger. I love to travel, write, take pictures and share my experiences and expertise, which is why I started my first travel blog in 2006. At that time I mainly wrote about my student life in the US. About 4.5 years ago I started my current website Flitter Fever, where I post articles about various destinations and share travel tips. Flitter Fever revolves around my endless urge to ‘flitter’ around the world, like a bird, going from place to place.
Where did your first (long) trip go to?
New Zealand, which is almost 20 years ago. One and a half years ago, I went back and it was fantastic! The first time I went with mother, stepfather and older brother. We stayed with family who lived in Auckland. I was just 18-years-old and was such a travel baby! Zero preparation haha. That same year I decided to travel to the US as well, I was hooked! The 2nd time to New Zealand in 2018/2019 I was also able to visit the South Island too, absolutely beautiful! Definitely an unforgettable trip that I would recommend to everyone, even if you only have about 3.5 weeks or so, just do it!
What type of traveler are you?
Nowadays I prepare my trips well. It also depends a bit on the destination, and whether I travel alone or together with someone else. But I usually book flights, accommodation, etc. in advance. Since several years I keep an extensive notes archive of potential destinations around the world. If the opportunity arises to go there, I already have a basic list to get started with, what I could do and see there.
It is not like I have to tick off all boxes, but I like knowing a bit where I will end up, and don’t waste unnecessary time on the spot, when you would still have to sort everything out and have no idea what to do there. I prefer to sort that out at home, on a rainy Sunday afternoon, while sitting with my laptop on the couch, cup of tea or wine with it, perfect! The preparation of a trip is already part of the pre-travel fun and usually results in a holiday full of beautiful moments. It gives me the feeling that I will make the most out of it.
When I travel with my boyfriend or a friend who is not such a travel addict like me, the pace is usually slower than when I travel solo. Destinations outside of Europe are mainly on top of my current to-do list, so that is a bit tricky with Corona now. It makes me wonder: am I going to spend my precious holidays on so-so-trips nearby, or shall I wait and save them a bit longer to see what happens? The Netherlands is beautiful and I can enjoy a trip to Drenthe intensely, but do not I necessarily need to go there every month, you know what I mean?
When traveling, I like a mix of active and relaxing, a bit of luxury, good value for money, to do and see awesome things. I check reviews and such beforehand, for example because I think a good night’s sleep is important. I also like spotting wildlife and visit wineries during my travels.
What does traveling mean to you personally?
The world. Traveling (and blogging) is an all-absorbing hobby that I enjoy a lot. It is really a passion that is in my heart and mind, and keeps me busy whenever I have time. For me, traveling is strongly related to freedom. Being able to do and see what I want. Fortunately, I am in the privileged position of being able to afford to travel frequently. Before Corona broke out, I was traveling almost every month.
Nowadays I mainly travel private, and not so often for business any more. I worked hard to get where I am now. My parents were struggling to get by, nothing came easily, but headwind made me strong. I have always had summer and after-school jobs, worked during my studies a lot, etc. and I have worked hard to build my career. I am a self-made woman and quite proud of that.
Since that trip to New Zealand at the age of 18, I have loved traveling, although I did limit myself for years during a previous relationship. When a friend of mine passed away during her honeymoon trip more than a decade ago, that was a turning point for me. It made me thinking and stimulated me to get more out of my life (as in: go my own way and travel more). You never know when your last day has arrived.
My urge to do what I love doing most (traveling) has boomed. So far I have visited 63 different countries. I don’t really feel the urge to go traveling for months in a row though. I love my own bed too much for that haha After a few weeks of traveling, I often have so many new impressions that it feels good to be back home again. To process everything in my head and for my blog. In reality that never really works though; my boss expects me to be fully focused, I have a busy, high demanding fulltime job. It keeps me with both feet on the ground, back to reality.
What traveling brings me mostly, is variety, new experiences like seeing and taste new things, etc. Experiencing a different culture than back home in The Netherlands. Routine is killing for me, too boring. Of course, now that I have been sitting at home for months because of COVID-19, I have made the best out of it. With my FOMO it made a difference that no-one could travel for a while. I still have enough to write about and I am renewing my website, so I will not get bored! The Netherlands is also beautiful, although I secretly hope that we can travel outside of Europe again later this year. I really need some sunshine in winter!
Nowadays it happens that I get the remark (with an accusing tone) that travel is so bad for the climate. Sure, flying is not good for the environment, but many roads lead to Rome. Recently I wrote an article with tips about what you can do to travel climate-friendlier. Although sometimes I think: you may not travel that much, but you do have many children and a diesel-guzzling car. I travel more often but I have no children and drive an electric car. Live and let live, to each his own. Traveling is not only just for fun, I also travel to learn things; about myself, but also the history and the culture of a country, and such. I have the idea that traveling makes me appreciate my own country more.
Why did you start with Flitter Fever?
As a child and teenager I wanted to become a journalist. I wrote so much that I always walked around with ink stains on my fingers, although my interest at the time was mainly with music. Years in advance I registered for a student room in Utrecht, close to the College of Journalism. However, when the final moment of choosing my Bachelor studies came closer, I started to doubt. Is my writing good enough? At the time, the career prospects for journalists were already not so good. And I felt like I did not really fit in between the type of students I saw walking around there. So I decided to study marketing instead, and that turned out to be a smart choice.
During my Bachelor studies I had already set up a travel website myself and I was for example an international correspondent for the school newspaper for a while. When I started traveling more and more, people around me started asking for tips about destinations I had been to. At one point I thought: I should put this information in a central place, then it will be more useful for more people. The first few years I was less serious about my blog than I am now. It is really nice to see people from all over the world reading and appreciating your information online. Although I am not yet satisfied with my visitor numbers. I enjoy writing about my favorite subject, and with blogging, I kind of relive my journeys for a bit.
When I mention to people that I am a travel blogger in my spare time, sometimes I get the comment “you must be making good money on that”. It makes me laugh, what an illusion! At least, when speaking for myself. Now with COVID-19, things have obviously collapsed anyway. It is really just a small group that can make a good living out of blogging. I blog because I like doing it and learn new things from it, not because it makes so much money. Blogging is really just a poorly paid (but fun) part-time activity in addition to a busy full-time job for my employer. That is to say: I need to accept that I don’t have enough time to do everything perfectly.
My favorite travel blogger makes a six-figure income out of her blogging, but I notice that my interest for her articles started to subside. Because she is so busy, she started to hire other people to write articles for her website. But those articles do not touch my heart, or even annoy me, it’s a pity. I would also like to remain objective; when you are expected to write a positive article about for example a hotel, simply because they have invited you, while you actually don’t like the place at all. I don’t want that, then I’d rather pay for my stay.
Have you started traveling differently or choosing destinations because of your blog?
In terms of destinations, I don’t think so. I go somewhere because I want to go there and think it is an interesting place to visit, not because of my blog. Before my previous job as an international sales trainer, I often came to the same destinations, so I wrote about those more often, mainly in Eastern Europe. My preparation per trip has increased in recent years, although I think that also comes with the experience and age. This is how I try to make the most out of my vacation days. No vacation day “wasted”, I spend them all on traveling.
I’m guessing that – compared to the average tourist – I think more about the photos that I want to take during a trip. That already happened when I started making photo albums. You already have that picture in mind, how certain pages could look-like, a bit of thematic photography, so to speak. Nowadays I also photograph practical things more often and take notes on the way, of tips and details that I want to share in my blog. More often I take my laptop with me when I travel abroad. For example during my solo trip through Japan two years ago, I was able to write on my laptop during the rides on the high-speed train.
Do you have a personal bucket list of places you want to visit?
Hell yes! See my website haha Yeah, you would think that the more you travel, the bucket list gets shorter, but in reality that is not the case. The list gets longer. Some destinations that are high on my bucket list include Antarctica, Uganda and several countries in Central America, such as Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Mexico. Papua New Guinea and Suriname also attract me.
Earlier this year we were supposed to visit Georgia and Ukraine, both trips got canceled due to COVID-19. I hope to be able to go there next year. Iceland is still on the program for August, let’s that trip can proceed. I already have My Google Maps ready with everything we could and would like to see on Iceland. Although not all countries are on my bucket list, like North Korea.
Why did you decide to write in English?
Good question. I’ve been wondering about that myself lately. The number of English-language blog sites has increased enormously over the recent years, which means the competition has become much bigger. That means it has become even more difficult to stand out of the crowd, especially given Google’s ever-changing algorithms. Ideally, I would have a bilingual website, but that’s even more work, which I simply don’t have the time for. Therefore I have this Translate button on my website. I started writing in English because I simply like doing that, and my potential audience is as big as possible (compared to Dutch). Since my blog is in English, my audience is quite diverse and receives visits from many different countries all over the world. I like that idea.
What was your absolute travel highlight so far?
I find that a very difficult question because I cannot really pick one. My solo trip through Japan felt really special because I wanted to do that for so long and after at least a decade of wishing and wanting I finally went. My trip to Namibia and South Africa, together with a good friend who lives in America, was pretty awesome. Two beautiful countries, wild animals, such fantastic adventure and great company. The trip to New Zealand 1.5 years ago was fantastic, such a beautiful country! Every corner you turn looks-like a new postcard. Photos don’t really do justice to it. Very nice to visit my family there and to celebrate New Years’ Eve together with them.
In terms of specific travel moment, I think about the husky sleigh ride through the fairytale, snowy landscape of Finnish Lapland. Tears of happiness sprang into my eyes when we took off with these enthusiastic, fluffy creates in front of us. The Iguazu Falls, at the borders of Argentina and Brazil, really made an indelible impression. Nevertheless, I can also really enjoy the little moments while traveling; a delicious glass of wine at a beautiful vineyard, socializing and drinking cocktails with friends in Prague, or a beautiful view for example. Oh and to travel Business Class for work, that still feels great.
Which country would you like to visit again?
I would like to see more of Japan and Indonesia. Japan because it is just such a fabulous and intriguing country, and I have an endless list of things I would like to see there. Indonesia because of the orangutans and my family history. I have only been to Bali so far, but of course the country has much more to offer. My grandmother was born and raised there and an uncle of my mother was buried there.
Last winter I also enjoyed Thailand a lot by the way, I will definitely go back there, but probably next time in combination with Laos or something. I am a frequent visitor of London, Prague and New York City. Paris, Naples and Malta are places that I do not wish to visit again, for various reasons, but that’s very personal of course.
Do you have any tips for new travel bloggers?
Think again before you start! If you want to make a lot of money with blogging you should not listen to me haha Do not start a travel blog because you want to make a lot of money quickly, or because it “just seems fun to you”. Travel blogging is certainly fun to do, but it takes a lot of time and does not make a lot of money, especially not in the beginning. That is why many blogs disappear or bleed to death after about three years. You really have to be a go-getter, a blog requires dedication. After all, you can only spend your free time once, and what do you want to do: friends, sports or blogging?
I would recommend to have all your website set up by a professional from the beginning. It is worth the investment. Now, after years of doing everything myself, and lots of hemming and hawing, I recently hired my first professional help. I should have done that earlier. Weigh carefully what is important to you: write what you want (hobby) or more commercially with the main goal to deliver traffic and money. The two are hard to combine. Stay authentic and only do things that really support you and make you happy. Find a niche that suits you, and come up with an original name for your blog.
This is an English translation of the interview with Elisa of Flitter Fever that will be published in Dutch on Traveljunks.nl very soon.
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