AUSSIE ON THE ROAD
INTERVIEW WITH A TRAVEL BLOGGER
Chris Walker-Bush is a renown travel blogger from Australia. He always has a new post coming out about some great travel destination. His travel website is named Aussie on the Road. I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions.
Aussie on top of the world
I first met Chris at a Christmas Party a few years back. We worked together before we officially met. I used to check into our work site on the social App Foursquare using a pseudonym, and Chris checked in with his real name. I knew who Chris was, but he did not know who I was. I had been a follower of his blog for a while. At the Christmas party after a few beers I let the penny drop and let him know I was the ‘mayor’ on Foursquare of the coveted work site ‘iiNet Sydney’ and introduced myself. The idea that he had a travel blog was great and he was the first person I had met who had their own website. I knew I was going travelling and Chris and his blog showed me what was possible and, dare I say it, inspired me to document my travels.
Chris, is that how you remember the story of how we met? What is your version?
Haha, that is pretty close to the mark! I was constantly being thwarted by this ‘Marlin’ character and my boss would hint that he knew who it was but wouldn’t tell me. Of course, you failed to mention that you would later become my boss and actually helped pave the way for my hurried exit from the company when China came a calling.
So Chris, how long have you been writing about your travel adventures and tell us how you got started. What was the biggest hurdle to getting your site started? How much traffic do you get? How hard was it to monetise your site?
I got the idea to start doing a blog back in mid 2010 when my then girlfriend was sinking a lot of her free time into a healthy living blog. I’d been kind of a net nerd for a long time but hadn’t done a website since high school, so thought it’d be a good way to pass the time and keep my creative juices flowing in between ill fated novel ideas.
At first it was a bit of a learning curve reading about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and figuring out how to choose the template that suited me. It still is, really! But the hard work has paid off and the site is averaging 1,000+ hits on any given day and I’ve managed to turn it into something profitable. Nothing I could retire on, but it has nicely padded my travel savings over the past twelve months.
What travel destination is your favourite and why?
I’ll always have a soft spot for South Korea, as it was the first place I ever visited outside of Australia. It’s more than just that, though. I love the culture and it’s sometimes uncomfortable fusion of western and eastern culture. I’m addicted to the food, the people are nice, and it’s nice and close to other major Asian destinations.
I’ve also loved both of my visits (total three months) to the US. I’ve traveled a lot in the States, but I’ve yet to hit all of the places I’d like to. The food, the cheap drinks, the girls who adore my accent, and the wealth of tourist spots make it such a fun place to visit and revisit.
Travelling the world
What is the most rewarding thing about having a blog and travelling?
I think it’s hearing from people who have been inspired by something I’ve written. This happened quite a bit when I wrote my piece about my battle with depression. I had emails and texts and Facebook messages and comments pouring in – from old friends, current friends, and strangers alike. It was really gratifying to know that my story touched and influenced people.
On a more selfish level, it’s very gratifying to be asked to review a place or a service. I was lucky enough to get this opportunity during my time in the States – visiting the San Juan Islands, renting a car, and spending a day on San Francisco all without having to spend a dime. Nice life if you can get it, eh?
What have you learned about yourself while being on the road?
So much! Too much to quantify, really. I recently posted a truly horrendous photo of ‘2005 Chris’ on Facebook and I could barely recognise the guy. Not just physically, but also the person he was and the things he was doing with his life. I’m just so far removed from that shy, insular, short sighted, and naive kid who bagged groceries at Bi-Lo in Newcastle.
2005 Aussie on the Road
More than anything else, I’ve learned that I am capable of far more than I had ever given myself credit for. I’ve come into two countries completely fresh to start a new life, I’ve had relationships with wonderful (and out of my league) girls from multiple countries, and I’ve made a genuine difference in the lives of students in two countries now. I never would have thought that possible before I stepped onto that plane to South Korea.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to get into travel blogging?
Write about yourself first and everything else second. In the long run, Google is going to direct people to you for information – but early on, it’s going to be your personality that people will be attracted to, and they’ll always come back for that personality. Don’t fall into the trap of writing like a generic Lonely Planet reporter. You’ll wear yourself out and struggle to find a long term readership.
If you could offer a traveller one piece of advice what would it be?
Try anything once. Twice if it feels good.
Run us through how the blogging calendar got started?
It was a bit of a weird start, to be honest. I was compiling an article about fifteen travel bloggers I had ‘crushes’ on – which was code word for ‘wouldn’t mind sleeping with’. Except for the guy on the list. That was tongue in cheek.
Anyway, as I trolled through pictures for ‘research’ purposes, I got to thinking that there are some damn good looking people in the travel blogging racquet and maybe those good looks could be directed towards a good cause. What started out as a calendar full of pretty girls soon morphed into two calendars. We had uPrinting come on to print it for free and selected two charities (VSO Bahaginan and Mitrata Nepal) and now it’s just a matter of getting them all shipped out to the people around the world who have donated their money.
Where in the world haven’t you been that you would like to visit and why?
There are waaaay too many places to list! Europe still sits very high on my travel list, as does South America and South East Asia. If I got to choose one place to go tomorrow and had to make the call right now – I’d say Spain. I’ve got the basics of the language down and I’d love to see a La Liga game live.
What’s an RSS feed in layman’s terms?
It’s basically a standardized way to distribute your content. People can register for your RSS feed through any number of programs, but it appears the same across all platforms. It’s a good way to make your site content accessible wherever a person might be.
A bit of down time....or is he working?
Do you get many freebies because of your blog?
As I mentioned earlier, I got a few free things during my recent trip to the States: a week’s car rental in California, a night in a hostel in San Francisco, a day of biking in SF, and a day long whale watching tour in Seattle. There’s also been a few eBooks and apps along the way as well. I’m not on the level of full blown press trips or awesome giveaways yet, but hopefully some day.
Do you prefer solo travel or with other people?
I’d like to say solo travel because – frankly – people annoy me when I have to spend too much time with them. I want to be able to eat when and where I want to, sleep in when I feel like it, and not feel rushed when I want to take my sixteenth photo of that waterfall.
But then I think about how I do love to talk and tell jokes and venture down dark alleys, and all of those things are just a little bit creepy when you do them on your own.
How do you afford to be a constant traveller? How expensive is travelling?
I don’t ‘travel’ constantly, but I am away from Australia most of the time. I’ve found that teaching abroad is an excellent way to get overseas, put yourself in a unique environment, and also fund your travels further down the line. Two and a half years in Korea and coming up on a year in China – I’ve learned far more about these countries than I would have in a 2 or 3 month visit.
Traveling from country to country can be pricey, but I’ve yet to do it for any consistent amount of time. There are far more educated serial travelers out there than I on that subject.
Your your best travel story about a time when you nearly got in trouble for something?
I almost got into a full blown fist fight with a pair of Korean guys when I was living in Gwangju. We were all at this arcade style shooting gallery and they were in front of me. One of them dropped their wallet and I (for no sane reason) decided to tuck it back into his pocket rather than just telling him. His friend caught me with my hand on his wallet looking as if I were stealing it and got angry.
Rather than have my Korean friend explain, I arked up and started cussing him out in Korean. I was quite a bit bigger than him and had a mean drunk on – but instead of swinging at me he swung hard and laid out my Korean friend. He then ran away before I could retaliate, leaving his friend (the one who’d dropped the wallet) absolutely confused as to what had happened.
Any travel regrets?
I always regret this lifestyle when the holiday season comes around. Growing up, Christmas was a huge part of our year and still is a wonderful time to spend with family. Even though in the past I’ve done interesting things on Christmas (went street luging in Rotorua once and will spend this year on the beach in Hainan), it’s just not a patch on spending the day with my family.
I’ve also missed seeing my youngest brother grow up, missed the funeral of my grandmother when she passed away this year, and missed the birth of both my nephew and my niece. It’s a hard sacrifice to make sometimes, but I have to remember that this is what I choose to do and what usually makes me happy.
What is your favourite dish to cook? Do you cook much? Are you a good cook? What’s the strangest food you have ever eaten? Are you an adventurous and eat the local cuisine in the places you visit?
I’m not much of a cook, to be honest. My poor girlfriend rolls her eyes whenever I announce I’ve cooked my black bean and lentil burritos again. They’re delicious (I’m told) but they’re basically all I ever cook. I’ve just splashed out on an oven for my apartment though, so hopefully that’ll mean I get a little more adventurous.
I love to sample local cuisine and try and get a bit of street food in my life as often as possible. This has lead to eating some rather weird stuff including:
– Boiled silkwork larvae in Korea
– Still moving octopus tentacles
– A live sea cucumber
– Dog soup
– Deep fried grasshoppers
– ‘Drunk’ shrimp (still alive but in an alcohol coma)
Do you ever get homesick? How do you combat it if you do?
Not as much these days as I used to. I remember needing weekly calls from home when I first got to Korea – and that was with a yearly visit from the folks to keep me sane! These days, it’s more of a coming and going thing. I’ll read a status or chat with a sibling and it’ll make me wish I was home, but this has become my life now. I don’t get to visit home as much as I’d like, but I don’t feel that much farther from them than I did living an eight hour train ride away in Sydney.
As for combating it – I keep busy. I go out and do things, spend time with friends, lose myself in a video game, or watch a movie.
What’s coming up in the New Year and travel plans.
I’ve already mentioned my four day hit and run on the beaches of Hainan in southern China, but the next really big trip will come during the Chinese New Year. My girl and I are headed to South East Asia – although we’re undecided on specific locations so far. Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines are all on the agenda.
After that, when our teaching contracts are up, we’re thinking of a 3-6 week tour around China to hit the major spots before a brief return home to see the family.
I daresay I’ll end up back in China, but you never know. I’m a mercurial lad.
Chris teaching English in China
Anything else you would like to add?
Nothing springs to mind. If you’re at all geek minded (that is; you like video games, board games, RPG, fantasy, sci-fi, comics, TV, movies, or art) you should check out my new Multiple Nerdgasms site (http://www.multiplenerdgasms.com). It’s not quite as busy as Aussie on the Road yet, but I’m hoping to someday get it there.
Thanks for the interview!
No problems Chris and don't forget to check out his website Aussie on the Road