I’m thrilled to today be interviewing Samuel Jeffery. You might know him better from his highly successful travel blog Nomadic Samuel.
What is your name?
Which country do you come from/call home?
I’m from Gold River – a small village – located on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Are you a backpacker/long term traveller/business traveller/live and work abroad?
Since I packed my bags in 2005 and moved to South Korea to teach English, I’ve worn many hats on the dusty trail. It’s hard to believe I’ve now been living as a nomad for eight consecutive years. From teaching to backpacking to working online I’ve snapped up as many jobs/roles as possible in order to pursue this kind of lifestyle.
How do you fund your travel (savings/work whilst travelling/other)?
In the past, I more or less would save as much money as I possibly could while teaching English in South Korea and then backpack until my back account was nearly depleted. These days I’ve transitioned to being a digital nomad. Although, I’m now continuously on the road it’s a different form of travel than it was during my carefree backpacking days of my youth. I recently wrote an article outlying the struggles of finding the proper balance of travel and working online; honestly, I don’t think I’ve yet found the magic bullet. There are times when I work way too much; conversely, I have stretches where I’m playing (traveling) too much.
What is the first trip you remember taking and how old were you?
I’m lucky in the sense that I’ve been traveling most of my life since I was a child. My Mom was a school teacher and my father a professional forester. They both received generous vacation time in the summer which we spent traveling around Canada and the US. One of my most memorable trips was a road-trip across the Midwest with my father as a teenager. We watched lots of baseball games, frequented roadside cafes and blasted tunes in the car.
Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?
Dhaka, Bangladesh. When I crossed the India-Bangladesh border via Kolkata I had very preconceived expectations about travel in this seldom visited nation. I was of the mindset that my brief stay was more of a strategic border crossing and just another stamp in my passport; however, I was so pleasantly surprised by the kindness/friendliness of the locals that I left wishing I had budgeted more time. I’m anxious to return.
Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling?
I’ve been robbed and suffered numerous cases of food poisoning. During my solo backpacking days I can’t think of anything worse than when I’d get a horrific case of food poisoning – bed ridden, alone and suffering.
Do you have any funny travel stories?
Recently, I had a meeting with the Hong Kong tourism board at a fancy hotel in which I showed up wearing casual shorts and sandals. I had no idea our meeting would be taking place at a Michelin Star dim sum restaurant. A waiter expediently led me to the washroom with a pair of house pants and shoes to put on. I came out wearing a pair of trousers several inches tight around the waist with pant-legs dangling down half way down my calves. With no socks I was still showing a lot of skin. I looked absolutely ridiculous.
Which is the worst place you’ve been to and why?
I’ve never visited a country that I’ve hated or would never return to again; however, I have to admit that after backpacking around most of SE Asia, I was underwhelmed by Brunei. There wasn’t a lot to see or do, the food wasn’t fantastic and it was relatively expensive compared to neighboring nations.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
Every year my favorite country changes. In 2010, I was enamored by Argentina. India captured my mind and spirit in 2011. This year I’ve had my best travel experiences in Vietnam and Finland.
Do you have a bucket list? If so what is on it?
I don’t have a detailed bucket list; however, I definitely have certain travel goals. This year I’m really keen on experiencing travel in Europe. I’ve traveled extensively around Asia and done quite a comprehensive journey in Latin America. I’ve yet to cover Europe.
Can you imagine life without travel?
No. I most certainly can’t. It’s such an important hobby/lifestyle/passion that I would feel lost without the anticipation of another trip.
If you were not travelling what would you be doing instead?
I would be working in a position (such as teaching or in the foreign service) that would allow me to continue my nomadic ways.
What is the name of your travel blog and the url?
My travel blog is Nomadic Samuel: http://nomadicsamuel.com
When did you begin your website?
I launched my site on Canada Day (July 1st) 2011. I only wish I had started it sooner!
Your site has grown rapidly to become one of the most popular travel blogs in the world. What do you think has be the key to your success?
Thank you! I still think I have a long ways to go before I can be included with some of the best travel blogs. I really focused on pushing my blog in the early stages doing guest posts, link exchanges, commenting and trying to get my name out there any way I could. I think having a lot of travel experience under my belt (and a massive photo gallery) was an advantage I had even though I was relatively late launching my site compared to more established travel blogs.
You offer a lot of video blogs on your site. Do you find that this engages more readers than just a text and picture post?
I think video is a great way of sharing and expressing your travels. If a picture can say a thousand words, a video can allow your reader to feel as though they’re tagging along right beside you.
You frequently compile the “Top 100 Travel Blogs” list. It looks like a lot of time and effort. What gave you the idea to do this?
Thanks! It really is time consuming. I decided to create a list for several reasons. Firstly, a few lists that existed at the time were not updating frequently nor were they taking new bloggers who scored highly in the metrics being measured. Secondly, a number of really interesting metrics (specially Domain and Page Authority) were not being covered on other lists. Thirdly, I grew up playing fantasy sports obsessing over player statistics. This list is in many ways an extension of a childhood hobby of crunching numbers in a strategy game.
Why do you write (for money/connecting with people/therapeutic/fun)?
All of the above. I started off writing for fun. I found it therapeutic in many ways. These days, I’m trying to pursue the lifestyle of a digital nomad, so I’m juggling a number of niche sites, video channels and other projects in addition to my blog. In many ways, I miss the good old days when I had hours to write lengthy posts. These days I definitely feel time constraints and I’m always behind on projects.
What makes your site so unique and why should people read it?
There are a lot of great travel blogs out there. My blog appeals more towards those who are interested in travel photography, videos and stories. Although, I do offer travel tips and ESL advice, my primary focus is on sharing my experiences on the road.
You are also involved in some other websites, please tell us about those?
I run a number of niche sites. Smiling Faces Travel Photos and Backpacking Travel Blog are two sites that I work on with my girlfriend Audrey Bergner of That Backpacker. Backpacking Travel Blog is a site where we share our travel videos and create travel guides for specific locations. Smiling Faces is a travel photography site showcasing images of people wearing a grin from around the world.
Do you have any products or services to offer?
Currently, I’m only doing freelance projects. In the near future I’m hoping to release several e-books.
What has been your most successful blog post to date and what was it about?
From a comments standpoint, my post on how to create a successful travel blog in your first year of blogging did relatively well:
What has been your favourite article to write?
I like to write personal travel stories. This is a recent story from India:
When do you think you will go home and settle down permanently?
What is your favourite mode of transport? (plane/train/boat/car)
I hands down prefer train travel; however, recently I was involved in a train derailment from Bangkok en route to Chiang Mai that shook my confidence a little bit. I’ve always associated train travel with safety. These days though I feel nervous when the train makes a sudden skip on the track or change of direction. I’ve always felt nervous flying or being on the road. Now I feel slightly nervous being on a train.
Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring travellers?
A lot of my friends and family back home want to travel someday. Someday rarely manifests into the present moment. Instead of wanting to travel ‘someday’ start making concrete plans to travel in the near future with a fixed date in mind.
What has travel taught you?
I’ve learned to be more patient and less materialistic. I used to be obsessed with deadlines, dates and being punctual. Nowadays, I’m used to transportation delays, cancellations and other unforeseen circumstances. More importantly, I handle these types of situation better now. In terms of possessions, I’ve got everything I need in my backpack. When I do temporarily base myself somewhere (such as when I teach English in Korea on a one year contract) I don’t feel the need to suddenly start filling my place with clutter.
Quick fire questions:-
Favourite airline? Turkish Airlines
Favourite country? India
Favourite city? Chicago
Favourite beach? I don’t like beaches 😉
Favourite food? Mediterranean
Favourite language? Spanish
Samuel Jeffery is the wizard behind the curtain pulling the strings of Nomadic Samuel cultural travel blog. He’s also the lesser half of Backpacking Travel Blog which he runs with his girlfriend Audrey Bergner of That Backpacker. You can connect with Samuel on his YouTube travel channel, Twitter and on Google+.