Blogger Interview: Julie Cao

Blogger Interview: Julie Cao

I had the pleasure of interviewing another travel blogger, who has a unique perspective on travel as an expat in Canada, a freelance travel writer and full-time travel blogger. Check out her travel blog and get to know her in my interview below.

When and why did you decide to become a travel blogger?

I initially set up my blog five years ago to provide a journal for myself of living in Hawaii, and to show readers the reality of living in paradise. I wrote a post on the things I learned after living in Hawaii, and readers and my friends in Hawaii told me they loved my post and could totally relate to what I wrote about.  This inspired me to share more of my island life.

In the About Me section of your blog, you say: For me, living abroad is the best way to get to know a country. What do you think you learn from living abroad that a tourist cant learn during shorter travel? 

Living abroad has given me an extended period of time to explore my host city and country, and get to know some aspects of a place other travelers are not aware of. For example, after living in Hawaii for a few years, I realized it was not all paradise. It also has many negative sides – too expensive to live, very limited job opportunities, island fever, and has the second worst traffic in the USA (behind Los Angeles). One cannot notice these parts by just going there on vacation. 

Hawaii Kai

Youre a full-time travel blogger and freelance travel writer. How did you transition your passion for writing into your full-time job?

I did not think much, I just decided to do it full-time because it would be the best to combine my profession with my passion for travel and sharing stories. When I just started out, I had no experience in travel writing. I joined the MatadorU travel writing program to hone my writing skills and get myself exposed to the travel journalism industry. There are support groups, valuable resources and work opportunities in the program that helped me transition as well.

What are you most proud of that you have accomplished so far with your blog?

One of my favorite parts of blogging is being a part of the supportive travel blogging community. I have met many bloggers and we have been very supportive of each other. You know the feeling when you get to know someone and totally understand what you are doing?

What are you still hoping to accomplish?

I still want to finish the MatadorU travel writing program. I signed up for the course three years ago and I am still only halfway through it. It is a huge commitment and it’s easy to get distracted, but I am determined to finish this course so I can step up my career.

What has been your favorite place youve visited, and where do you still want to visit? 

Alaska. It is the best place to visit in the USA if you love natural beauty. I have been to Alaska five times and I still want to return. 

I also wish to visit Churchill Manitoba, the polar bear capital of the world with 300 days Aurora Borealis every year and only 3,000 residents. 

North Douglas Island

What is the biggest lesson travel blogging has taught you?

Always be kind and generous. The world is very small and the travel blogging community is no exception. Everyone loves working with those who are nice and easy to work with. 

What are some of the things you are most grateful for in your life right now?

Having the opportunity to live abroad and travel around the world. I have seen poverty and people struggle with daily life and it makes me feel privileged to live the life I want in a developed country and be able to travel.

Who are some of the women (both in your personal life and famous people) who inspire you the most and why?

Julia Dimon, co-host of Word Travel, gave me the idea for travel writing in the first place. Her travel show revealed that it is possible to travel around the world full-time. She is quirky and practical, and you can tell she is very intuitive and smart.

I am also grateful to have met my travel blogger friend, Emily Luxton, when I just started out. We collaborated with each other and she invited me to her Facebook group where I had the opportunity to meet and collaborate with other travel bloggers. She offered me valuable advice on blogging and encouraged me to work with tourism boards when my blog was just five months old. Thanks to her, I was then offered a self-organized press trip to Winnipeg early this year despite my blog being so new.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start a travel blog?

Focus on creating high-quality content, and try not to look at the numbers and your blog statistics. I used to obsess over social media, blog statistics and comment pods, but I found it very time-consuming and can only get me so far. If you offer something readers really need and write from your heart, followers will come and ask for more.

What is one thing most people dont know about you? 

I do not like most sweet foods and desserts, but chocolate and ice-cream are exceptions.

 

Make sure to follow Julie on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to follow along with her exciting travels.

 

Table Talk Tuesday With Jenny (Glam TravelGram)

Table Talk Tuesday With Jenny (Glam TravelGram)

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of chatting with Jenny from the awesome travel blog Glam TravelGram over Skype. Jenny is such a sincere person, and her passion for travel and writing really inspired me to put even more work into my blog. I know you all will get just as much out of reading her responses to my questions, as I did with talking to her.

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Why did you decide to start a travel blog?

I have a passion for travel, and it’s something I get to do a lot in my career [as a conference planner]. Throughout my career I’ve seen the beauty of travel, and with this passion I wanted to do more. I was always posting on social media and writing memoirs about my experiences. I found myself almost over-posting on social media, but my friends liked it, and they were always asking me for advice.

One night I was talking to my brother on the phone, and I said I had been thinking of starting a blog for a while, but I wasn’t sure if I should start it because there are so many travel bloggers out there, and I didn’t know if I could succeed. He said he thought I had the talent for it, and I should try it and just see how it goes. That same night, I started my blog!

I like what you said under ‘Why I Travel’ in the About section of your blog: “Every time I leave my home, I come back to it a different and better version of myself.” What exactly is it about traveling that you think makes you a better version of yourself?

I’ve met people from all walks of life, and seen people who live in much harsher environments than myself. Seeing people from different religions and customs has really widened my scope of knowledge about the world we live in, and makes me realize how blessed I am in my own life. After seeing so many people from different backgrounds, speaking different languages, I realized we aren’t so different. We all speak the same language of love. We all want to be loved and we all want to love. The world is so connected.

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What is the biggest lesson traveling has taught you?

Being present, in the moment, and really seeing what’s in front of you. I wasted a lot of time taking photos and being on my phone while I was traveling, and now I’m trying to focus on seeing things with my own two eyes, and actually recording those memories in my head so I have stories to tell instead of just photos to show. 

What are you most proud of that you have accomplished so far with your blog?

I’m proud that I got to learn some of the technical aspects of blogging. I like to go behind the scenes and make sure that I’m tuned into my website as a whole, to make sure it is running properly, and that it’s aesthetically pleasing to my readers. I want to know the ins and outs of everything.

But what makes me most proud is that I’ve been able to really explore my creativity and my writing skills. One of the articles I wrote recently on the Mojave Dessert, I would call my masterpiece, because I put a lot of thought into that. I hope to continue writing like that and really exploring the kinds of things I can do with my writing.

What are you still hoping to accomplish?

I’d like to grow a steady readership, which I think is the most difficult part in blogging; building a loyal audience. My blog is still only 3 months old, so I’m just hoping I can keep a steady readership from here on out. To gain followers I’ve been doing what I did from the beginning, which is promoting on social media. Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are my main portals, and they’ve all been doing fairly well, Instagram being at the top.

It sounds like you have a lot going on in your life from your career to your blog to your extensive traveling schedule. How do you balance everything in your life? 

Having the support of my husband has helped a lot. He is constantly reminding me what’s most important in life, and helping me prioritize. I’m also a very organized person. I plan out my days and set goals for myself which helps me accomplish everything. But I wouldn’t be able to do all of this without the support of my husband. He understands and supports me. So no matter what, I make time for him because he is my priority.

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Who are you most inspired by in your life, and why?

My main inspiration is my mom. She’s Super Woman and I don’t know how she gets everything done. I look to her and I think “okay, I want to be like that.” So she definitely inspires me in a lot of ways.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start a blog?

My biggest piece of advice is to not give up. After about a year, a lot of people decide to stop blogging. So I say, push through it. Get through that year. Keep going no matter what. One of the biggest lessons blogging has taught me is to have patience.

What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

I’m a hardcore perfectionist, from the way that I dress to the way that I write. It takes me ten times longer than most people to do things because it’s never perfect, and I want to produce excellent things. My dad taught me growing up that you have to always be striving to be better than you were yesterday. And those have become the words I live by. I can’t even help it, it’s in my blood! A lot of people don’t know that about me, but I guess now they’re going to know…


Don’t worry, Jenny, your perfectionist secret is safe with us! 🙂

I hope you all enjoyed this interview. Please take a moment to check out Jenny’s awesome travel blog and social media accounts (linked below), and as always please get in touch with me if you’d like to be featured on my interview series!

My email if you’d like to collaborate: shelly@shellyray.com

Table Talk Tuesday With Imelda Green

Table Talk Tuesday With Imelda Green

I can’t believe this is already my fourth Table Talk Tuesday interview. I’ve been having so much fun getting to know other bloggers through this blog series! Hopefully you all are enjoying reading these conversations so far.

For today’s interview, I’m very excited to introduce Imelda. I was immediately enchanted by her blog, which features her creative handmade products, as well as step-by-step guides to creating your own masterpieces. She is definitely an inspiration to me, and I’m sure many others, when it comes to following your passions.

Without further adieu, let’s jump into the interview so you can see what I mean:

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Can you tell me the story of how you decided to start your blog, and what your blogging journey has been like so far?

I was nearing the end of my engineering studies when it finally dawned on me that this was not my path in life and that if I wanted to pursue a creative career. Without disrespect for theoretical knowledge, I think that art and design is a profession that you master mainly by doing instead of pouring over books. So I decided that starting a blog about my creative journey would motivate me to do regular work. And so it has, for over a year.

What is the most important thing you think someone should know before starting a blog?

Know your passion. Blogging takes a lot of time and hard work but that all feels like a game when you write about something you are really fascinated with. If you blog about a topic you only choose for market (or whatever other) reasons, you will lose interest in the end.

You mention on the About section of your blog that blogging helped you not fall into the trap of laziness, because it pushed you to keep creating things. What are some other ways you stay productive and motivated?

The beauty of the creative field is that there are many different aspects of the work I do, so I don’t have to be productive in the same field all the time. Fed up with writing blog posts? No problem, time to illustrate! Been painting for days on end? It’s okay, I can spend my energy on building a community around my blog. But I also allow myself to be unproductive at times, those are the moments when I re-charge my batteries, which is crucial when you are a creative. 

You also talked how you realized during your time at university that you didn’t want to spend all of your life doing architecture/engineering, when your true passions were in design and beauty. What made you finally decide to pursue your passions? 

I think that creativity is something that bursts out of you; it finds its way to the surface, unless you repress it. For the moment I am doing engineering as well as designing, which is demanding but I find I’m really lucky because I have a comfortable job, which I am choosing to do as well as a designing career, which comes naturally, and which I will eventually do full-time. So I guess I never made a very conscious decision to pursue my passion, I just acted on the natural impulse. 

“I think that creativity is something that bursts out of you; it finds its way to the surface, unless you repress it.”

What three things are at the top of your gratitude list right now?

That is definitely a hard one, as I have a very long gratitude list and I don’t normally rank them, but here it goes: I am incredibly grateful to my grandmother for introducing art to me from a very early age, to my blogger friends who keep encouraging me even when blogging seems pointless and to Mr Mozart for his genius music, which cheers me up in every situation.

What is one of your favorite inspirational quotes?

There is a quote above my desk that I learned from Thomas Frank’s youtube channel: “’I don’t feel like it’ is a matter of choice”. It is very tempting – especially in the creative field – to only do work when you ‘feel inspired’. But inspiration is something you can actually control and the difference between amateur and professional artists is that professionals don’t wait for the perfect moment, they do it anyway. It might not be perfect, but a first draft is always better than an empty piece of paper.

Who is your biggest “girl crush” in terms of female entrepreneurs, celebrities, or any other woman you look up to, and why?

Uh, that’s another difficult one, I have so many. I’m really thankful for all the things I learned about running an online business from Melyssa Griffin, she is amazing, and I always find artistic motivation when I watch the youtube channel of Holly Exley.   

What is the best advice you have ever received from someone?

Better done than perfect. I have seen/heard this advice so many times and I honestly think that perfectionism sabotages our actions just too many times. It won’t be perfect, but it will get better with time. And better and better…

What is your greatest achievement so far in life, and what is one thing you still hope to accomplish?

I’m really proud of getting over the world constantly telling me I am not good enough and following my own path in the artistic field. I am hoping to continue this journey until I can run my business full time.    

“I’m really proud of getting over the world constantly telling me I am not good enough and following my own path in the artistic field.”

I have to throw a fun one in here to wrap this up. If you could have one super power, which would you choose?

Well, I would definitely be grateful for the ability to teleport. Travelling can sometimes be stressful in a big city, especially when it’s cold and dark outside (hello February :). I also have some good friends abroad whom I’d love to see more often at slightly less expense.

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I just loved everything Imelda had t0 say about creativity and how she got to where she is today. My favorite part about these interviews is hearing everyone’s stories. Please be sure to check out Imelda’s blog and follow her on social media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/imeldagreens

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/imeldagreens/

Pinterest: https://hu.pinterest.com/imeldagreens/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/imeldagreens

Tumblr: http://imeldagreens.tumblr.com

Liebster Award Nomination

Liebster Award Nomination

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Yesterday I got some news that just really made my day, and the timing was quite perfect. After spending a lot of the day giving my blog a bit of a makeover and planning some of the posts I hope to publish soon, I got the notification that Jen from Strictly (Personal) Business had nominated me for the Liebster Award! I want to thank Jen for making my day and really giving me the confidence boost I needed to devote more time to my blog this year.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this award (as I’ll admit I was before receiving my nomination) here are the rules:

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So let’s get started with 11 random facts about me:

  1. I studied abroad in Seville, Spain for a semester
  2. My two biggest fears are snakes and heights
  3. I played violin and piano when I was younger, but stopped after middle school
  4. I was in theater and choir in high school, and I was in a jazz choir for two years in college
  5. I have never broken a bone
  6. I was an extra in a TV show once in high school
  7.  I have lived in 8 different houses all within the same city (my parents love to move)
  8. I am extremely indecisive about almost everything in life
  9. I am a self-proclaimed Harry Potter nerd
  10. I have a major sweet tooth
  11. My spirit animal is a deer

And now for the questions Jen gave me to answer:

  1. How long have you been blogging and what made you stick with it? I started blogging two years ago (almost to the day) to document my semester abroad, and picked it back up last summer. I have had trouble sticking to it at times but I always come back to it because I love writing and I love the community of bloggers I have found here.cropped-1502199_10152141523637410_1361037174_o-5.jpg
  2. What’s your favorite social media platform? Right now I am really loving Instagram because it is so simple but still allows for plenty of creativity.
  3. Do you prefer books or movies? I love both. I definitely prefer reading a book before I see the movie.
  4. What is your favorite quote? I like Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote “Do one thing every day that scares you.” That is something I hope to embody this year.
  5. Who or what inspires you? I am inspired by a lot of people, mostly my family and friends because I feel like I do a great job of surrounding myself with awesome people.
  6. What’s your favorite thing about blogging? I love that it allows me to express myself and share my thoughts and opinions with others.
  7. Where do you wish you could live? Lately I have been really missing Seville. I loved living there for the semester I was there, and I would definitely live there again (or at least visit). cropped-img_1126.jpg
  8. What are you currently reading? (Book, blog, magazine, etc.) John Green’s book An Abundance of Katherines. 
  9. What’s your favorite food? I’m a sucker for tortilla chips
  10. What’s a piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to start a blog? Don’t overthink it too much. It’s easy to start second guessing yourself, but if it’s what you want to do you should just go for it!
  11. What’s the number one thing that you want to do in 2016? Be more fearless. I will be posting a New Years Resolutions blog soon that will explain how I intend on doing this, so stay tuned for that!

And now for my nominees!

These are people that I enjoy reading and chatting with through comments. Not only do I think they have great blogs, but they have shown support for my blog in some way, big or small!

  1. Confetti and Curves 
  2. Ashley Nicole
  3. look_itsLaura
  4. Lisa Tiller
  5. DreamerSince98
  6. Within Reality
  7. Lainey Loves Life
  8. gojenbefit
  9. Away With Fairies
  10. Brooke’s Blog
  11. The Frosty Perspective

Questions for my nominees:

  1. What was your first ever blog post about?
  2. Do you have any routines when blogging? (Certain music you like to listen to, place you feel most comfortable blogging, etc)
  3. If you could travel anywhere in the world where would it be?
  4. Besides blogging, what are some of your hobbies/interests?
  5. If you could travel back in time, what year or decade would you choose to travel to?
  6. Do you prefer watching movies or TV shows?
  7. What types of blogs do you most enjoy reading?
  8. What animal best represents you and why?
  9. What is one of your resolutions for 2016?
  10. What was your dream job growing up?
  11. How do you hope to change or improve your blog this year?

I really hope my nominees consider spreading the blogging love and writing a post of their own about this award. Thanks again, Jen, for nominating me! 🙂

 

 

Book Review: The Circle

Book Review: The Circle

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We are not meant to know everything, Mae. Did you ever think that perhaps our minds are delicately calibrated between the known and the unknown? That our souls need the mysteries of night and the clarity of day?

I’m back with my second book review (check out my first if you haven’t already).  This time the book is a novel, and is much more serious and thrilling than Amy Poehler’s book, though there were some humorous aspects as well. The book is called The Circle, and is written by Dave Eggers. Quotes including “chilling”, “prophetic” and “powerful” adorn the cover, and I couldn’t agree more with those descriptors.

The story does not include any specific dates, but I imagine it to be set 5 to 10 years in the future. Mae is a woman in her mid-twenties, who has finally landed her dream job at the biggest and fastest growing technology company in the world: The Circle. The company has invented a completely new social networking site called Zing, which has replaced all other social sites and is basically a combination of all of them. You also only have one online persona; one username and one password for everything from banking to email. This eliminates the possibility of cyber bullying because there is no more anonymity. No more fake profiles. Sounds pretty nice, doesn’t it?

My sister Caroline (who actually read the book this summer for college and recommended I read it) put it very nicely. She said: “All of the ideas and concepts in the book make sense and are brilliant ideas, until you look more closely at them and learn more information.” This is exactly right. The plot is a bit slow at first, and you are given a lot of details that seem pointless, but towards the middle everything starts to build and suddenly you realize that this company is not at all what you thought it was. Small details jump out as red flags from the beginning, and then by the end you want to scream at Mae to wake up and realize what is happening!

So what is happening, you may be wondering? Well, in an effort to not give any major spoilers and ruin the entire book (because you really should read it) I will talk about one of the main themes in the book and how it plays out through the story, leaving out specific plot points and just talking generally. That theme is privacy. From fairly early on, it is apparent that privacy concerns as we know them today have vanished, at least at this company. The Circle seems to be a bit obsessed with being open and transparent online. Two of their slogans are: Privacy is theft! and Secrets are lies! 

We all have that friend on social media who shares way too much information, whether that is the status updates about her breakup, Instagram photos of every single meal she eats, or frequent angry tweets about her political views. By all means, share as much or as little as you’d like, but we all know that person who seems to go over the line, am I right? Anyway, imagine that instead of this being one person, it is now the majority. That’s right, everyone has drunk the cool aide and transformed into classic over-sharers. And what’s more, people seem to think it is normal. 

oversharing

The idea of over-sharing and lack of privacy translates onto the video medium as well, and although there is no YouTube anymore, it reminded me a lot of vloggers on YouTube who share intimate details of their life for millions of viewers to see. Without giving too much away, imagine that the idea of vlogging caught on to such an extent that everyone, from an average person to a Congressman, was sharing their life through video, except that they were live streams and not edited the way vlogs are today. The two slogans I mentioned become increasingly important, to the extent where people are expected to share their life with everyone else at all times, with no secrets and no privacy. Ever.

This book really made me think about how addicted we all are to social media and technology, and how realistic it actually seems for the events depicted in this novel to come true. Why is it that we feel the need to share so much with the world? And why do we love to learn so much about others? I am just as guilty as the next person. I love watching vlogs, and I can feel a sick obsession growing inside me to learn more about the people behind the camera. And I obviously like sharing stories from my own life online, because I have a blog.

However, could it be that we are robbing ourselves of fully living in the moment, if all of our days are spent thinking about the best status update or the catchiest caption for a photo? I went to ACL Music Festival this past weekend, and the whole time I could feel my hand itching to grab my phone and take a picture or send a snapchat; something to prove to the world that I had been there. But then I thought “why not just enjoy it and save the memory in my mind rather than online?” And believe it or not, I didn’t end up taking a single picture or video. I am oddly proud of my restraint.

 

Let me know what you thought of this book if you read it, or any of your thoughts on the themes of privacy, social media addiction and over-sharing! I’d love to hear your opinions. And as always, follow me if you enjoyed this blog, and connect with me on social media if you’d like! Yes, I do see the irony in this statement. 😛