I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing the inspirational Becky Van Dijk! This girl is always on the go- between running the widely successful We Are Travel Girls Instagram account, dedicating her time to her own travels and managing her career, Becky took the time to talk to me to share her experiences about travel blogging and her own travel stories. I hope you all enjoy this interview as much as I did!
All photos were taken and generously provided to me by Becky Van Dijk. If you like what you see, join her 33K (and growing!) followers on Instagram here!
I just wanted to thank you so much for talking to me about your travels and your journey with travel blogging. I know how busy you are between running two blogs and your newest project the Beach Jar! For anyone not aware, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
No problem – I am always happy to chat with fellow travel bloggers! I was born and raised in Hertfordshire, England to Dutch and English parents. After university I moved to London and since then worked in wealth management for UBS. After a long (and tiring!) career in finance, I will be leaving London in a few months to spend some time in Asia before hopefully relocating to California. My latest trip was to Bali, my second time on this lush island and I am already dying to go back!
Can you tell me 3 fun-facts not everyone may know about you just from reading your blog?
1. Since I was little I have always had a terrified fascination with sharks, mostly great whites. This is making learning to surf quite challenging for me since I refuse to hang my legs over the board when waiting for a wave!
2. I have had several surgeries on both my feet, so extensive hiking when traveling is not really an option for me. That’s why you are more likely to see me closer to sea level than the peak of a mountain when you look at my Instagram!
3. I seem to be collecting Superhero celebrity spottings. I partied with Superman (Henry Caville), sat at a table for dinner next to Thor (Chris Hemsworth), was at a bar buying drinks next to Captain America (Chris Evans) and if Gerard Butler and Idris Elba have been superheroes at some point I met them too! I just recently realised this is a trend and I am hoping that Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is next…
Can you tell me a little bit about your personal evolution into travel blogging? Did you start with your blog Becky van Dijk, and then begin We Are Travel Girls? How long after starting your blog did you see it begin to take off? At what point did you realize you could take it on on a more full-time basis?
The evolution was actually a bit convoluted. I started to build the travel blog beckyvandijk.com in August 2015, but I had a terrible experience with a web designer who strung me on for four months, didn’t deliver and kept the money I had paid him in full upfront. The process wasted so much of my time and sadly took any excitement I had for the site away.
Frustrated I scrapped the whole site. However, whilst working on my personal blog I had also started the We Are Travel Girls Instagram account. We Are Travel Girls was initially a way for me to connect with other female travel bloggers once my personal site was established, and it started to grow really quickly. My original idea evolved and I decided I wanted to create a travel community where women could contribute their own travel stories, tips and advice to be published. Newly invigorated, and with my (very) basic coding knowledge learnt whilst trying to get the previous site up, I set about launching the We Are Travel Girls website and at the same time BeckyvanDijk.com.
The growth of the We Are Travel Girls Instagram, our largest social media following, was relatively quick and organically grew to over 100K in about 8 months. I decided recently to take this full time because I saw that if I wanted to make these projects a success I would need to dedicate myself 100% to them!
Photography is of course a big part of travel blogging. Your site We Are Travel Girls curates content from numerous travel blogs. What tips do you have for capturing amazing travel photos? How often do you rely on your smartphone to be your travel camera, or do you always travel with a professional camera?
My top tip would be to always try and be creative with your images and angles. If you need inspiration, it’s worth looking at your destination on Instagram or Pinterest to see what other travelers have done. This is a great way to find spots or places to take your photos from you may have otherwise missed!
I usually travel with my Nikon D7200 SLR for big outings or my smaller Panasonic LX100 camera if I want to throw it in my handbag. I also took a tripod on my last trip to Bali and it was great for low light shots or using a remote to take the occasional high quality selfie when no one else was around! I am buying a drone as well because the aerial shots provide a completely different perspective. I rarely use the iPhone for pictures that I would post on social media or the blog, though I am still in awe of how some people are able to take such great pictures on a phone!
I know your travel bug started when you finished university and spent six months traveling. More recently though, you quit your career and began traveling. How was that experience? Was it scary to quit everything and start fresh?
In 2014 I resigned to travel in South America with a guy I had spent one week with! The decision was so spontaneous I didn’t have very much time to consider the consequences and just went with it. Following our trip I re-joined the corporate world, but recently took the decision to resign and this second time has been incredibly nerve wracking. I am going against the traditional notions of a corporate job and financial security, but I am so excited for the prospect of creating a life I am in love with and not someone else’s idea of “normal.” And of course, the fear will drive me to work hard until I achieve my goals!
What advice would you give for someone looking to make a career out of traveling?
Travel blogging, and blogging in general, is considered a saturated market, but we still see hundreds of people each week starting new blogs and making them successful. My advice would be if you want to make a career through travel, make sure you really treat it like a career and not simply a route to getting a freebie hotel or beauty products. I touched on it earlier but you really need a passion for what you are doing to make it successful!
What is always in your travel bag?
One of my favourite pieces of travel equipment is actually my travel bag itself, which is a Lo and Sons O.G. overnight bag. It is super versatile and was clearly designed with travelers in mind. In terms of inside the bag, I never leave home without my Kindle Paperwhite. Whilst I love having a paperback to read, a Kindle really makes sense if you are traveling long term and want a huge selection of books to fill those long bus journeys or plane flights! I also always keep an external battery charger handy to charge my phone or camera in a pinch.
What has been your favorite travel memory thus far?
Definitely swimming with whale sharks off Isla Holbox in Mexico around 7 years ago. I still find myself describing the feeling of jumping into the water with only one other person as the whale shark, with it mouth gaping open, swam slowly around us. I am hoping to recreate this by swimming with whale sharks again in the Philippines this November!
Have you ever had a trip gone unexpectedly? Missed flight, last minute cancellations, etc… Do you have any stories of when a trip didn’t go as planned and how you were able to adjust and make the best of it?
Way back when I was traveling in South East Asia, I had planned to spend a month in China but a few weeks before there was an outbreak of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). Due to the severity of the outbreak, we decided to change our plans and I headed to Australia. A few years later I had booked a trip to Mexico and a couple of days before there was an outbreak of Swine Flu, but this time I decided (against government advice) to go anyway! My connecting flight from Miami to Mexico had 5 people on it but any uncertainty in whether we had made the right decision quickly vanished when we got to the empty beaches of Tulum. We were the only two people exploring the cenotes and were one of a handful of small boats able to swim with the whale sharks! Now I am certainly not advocating going against health warnings, and you should always check WHO and government travel advice and make your own choice, but for me I found sometimes by taking a risk you may be rewarded.
What are the top two places that you haven’t been to yet but would still like to visit and why?
I have hundreds! To narrow it down I would say Madagascar because I love seeing animals in the wild and am desperate to make it to the island! Number 2 would be Antarctica because it is such a unique landscape and it is being drastically affected by global climate change.
What would you say to someone who says they can’t afford to travel?
“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer!’’ Just kidding (kind of), but honestly it’s about priorities and for some travel is not a priority which is fine. When shopping I often look at things in terms of flight prices, so if a new handbag is £100 I think of where I could travel to for the same price. I am fortunate to live in London where flights within Europe are reasonably priced and we are centrally located to travel most places in the world. One tip is you can still travel without going too far from home to keep the cost down. For example, instead of visiting the beautiful Lavender fields in Valensole, France I could hop on the 30 minute train from London Kings Cross to Hitchin Lavender Fields for £9!
The world is becoming a more connected place and there are some great companies to help you find deals. I use SkyScanner to notify me of price changes on a destination I know I want to visit. Booking for off times, such as visiting destinations during low season or the middle of the week, can also keep costs down. For all inclusive deals, I personally love Voyage Prive. I recently took my best friend to Mykonos for £215 each for 5 nights in an amazing hotel plus flights, transfers and breakfast!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I hope to have made We Are Travel Girls into a successful business that truly connects travelers around the globe and is the go to resource for female travelers. I would love to eventually organise meet ups in various cities around the world so girls can connect offline as well as online. One of the most valuable lessons I have learned is it’s important to have a general vision of what I want to accomplish, but also to be flexible in changing that idea if a better one presents itself. After all, that’s how We Are Travel Girls was born in the first place!