Do you want to travel the world on a budget but still look good doing it?
Kara Caradas feels the same way. On her first backpacking trip she accepted life would be a little different and did everything the experts told her. Like leave your heels and makeup at home. She massively regretted it. Without these little luxuries, Kara just didn’t feel like herself anymore.
Undaunted, she decided to do things her way. On her next adventure, she packed whatever little luxuries she could fit in a small bag – and it made her feel a million times better. Since then, she’s travelled all over the world – in style.
Now, Kara is sharing all her “girly backpacking” secrets on her blog, Heels In My Backpack. In this interview, Kara shares how she got started, what challenges she faced along the way and how she deals with fear and self doubt:
1. What is your dream and how are you currently living it out?
My dream has always been to see as much of this gorgeous world as I can. It was never the plan to start a travel blog but in 2011 I went backpacking in Southeast Asia and Australia for 18 months and realised that all the advice I’d been given beforehand was totally wrong for me. Not everyone has to just bring the bare necessities travelling; lipstick and heels are allowed! So I decided to start a blog to give girly travellers on a budget some advice on what to pack and where to go. 6 years on, I still love blogging and am so grateful for all the travel experiences that have come my way because of my little old blog.
2. What steps did you take to get started in the beginning?
I honestly did everything wrong in the beginning! My blog was just my hobby and so I didn’t go about things the right way to set it up as a business. It wasn’t until a post of mine went viral (30 Signs You’ve Been Backpacking in Southeast Asia) that I even got social media accounts and a proper domain name for Heels In My Backpack! I guess that’s the beauty of blogging though, we all go about it a different way and there’s no set route for new bloggers.
3. What challenges did you face to pursue your dream and how did you overcome them?
Because travel blogging is such a new industry, you constantly find yourself having to explain yourself. Explaining to brands why working with content creators is good for their business, explaining to work colleagues why you’re off on a “free holiday” again or explaining to PRs why you’re not willing to produce 6 Blogs and 32 Instagram posts in exchange for a free travel pillow. But you just have to realise that it’s an education thing. They just don’t understand the industry, the ROI that brands can achieve through influencer marketing or the amount of hours bloggers have to put in to create content. I try not to get frustrated and put the effort in to inform them instead.
Do it because you love it, and don’t worry if something has “been done”. It hasn’t been done by you.
4. What mindset shifts did you have to go through to turn your dream into a reality?
I’m a natural introvert and I completely hate being the centre of attention. So a big mindset change for me was actually owning my blog, putting photos of me on there, and inviting my Facebook friends to like my blog page. There was something about it that just felt icky. I didn’t want people to know I had this side business, I worried about what they’d say about me. Having a blog is baring your soul to the world at times so taking that step felt like a really big deal to me. But something just clicked one day. I decided this was my life and other people’s opinions of me shouldn’t stop me doing what I want to do.
5. How do you deal with fears and self-doubt?
Having travel blogger friends is a massive help. We’re all in the same boat and can help each other out with advice on how much to charge for content or help with technical issues we may be having. Like I said, there’s a lot in travel blogging that can be a total mystery at first, so having that support system there that understands the industry and can put your mind at ease is awesome.
6. When did you realise you had made it?
Have I?! I mean I’m really happy with where Heels In My Backpack is at and there have definitely been some pinch-me moments over the last few years. I was shortlisted for Blogosphere Magazine’s Travel Blogger Of The Year in 2017 and went on to speak on one of their panels over Christmas, that was kind of insane! I’m also super grateful for being invited on some really amazing press trips to destinations that I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise.
7. What personal characteristic helped you the most in achieving your dream?
Probably being a control freak! There’s a lot more to travel blogging that just writing and taking photos. Things like SEO, web design, web hosting, PR, social media, editing video, networking… it’s a lot! But I think my natural know-it-all personality has pushed me to learn all of these skills and make sure I’m covering all bases.
8. Do you have any daily habits or rituals that have set you up for success?
Daily I just monitor my blog stats and emails, and carry around a notebook wherever I go in case I have any new ideas. On a weekly basis I schedule my blog content for the week, use the Preview app to plan my Instagram grid and use Hootsuite to schedule tweets. On a monthly basis I plan my travels and pitch to any relevant brands. Nothing ground-breaking but I think you just need these basics to be moving your blog forwards.
9. What are three lessons you’ve learned on your journey?
- Don’t compare yourself to others. I think that’s a lesson in life as well as in travel blogging, but particularly in this industry you can get fed-up when Wanderlust Wendy, Globetrotting Gail and Noah Nomad are on a press trip to the Maldives every week and you’re sat at your desk in Milton Keynes. But you have to remember they’re thinking the same when you’re working with cool travel brands and going to events. There’s enough to go around and you just need to focus on your own blog.
- Adapt to change. When working with brands and PRs, you have to be prepared that business objectives and campaigns can change. You can’t take it personally if they decide to go another way.
- Don’t put all your eggs in one social media basket. Social media platforms change the rules all the time. You can’t base your whole persona on being an Instagrammer or a Pinterester or a force to be reckoned with in the Twittersphere. Tomorrow they’ll change the algorithm and you’ll be lost. Your blog is the only thing you own and is where you should put the majority of your creative energy.
10. What advice would you give to other women who want to become travel bloggers?
To get started, write about adventures you’ve already had and make sure your blog name is available as a handle on all social media channels. Do it because you love it, and don’t worry if something has “been done”. It hasn’t been done by you, and that’s what’s important.