Warning: Silvia Lawrence of Heart My Backpack is going to have you itching to book a ticket to anywhere. She's lived in seven different countries and has visited over seventy covering five different continents. Needless to say, there's plenty of opportunity to catch a case of wanderlust on her blog.
Silvia once had ambitions to land a prestigious job and work the traditional 9-5, but a spontaneous trip changed all of that. She started blogging about her adventures abroad in 2014 and has since amassed quite the following.
Here's what she has to say...
Tell us what you do in 2 sentences:
I essentially have three jobs. I blog at Heart My Backpack, which follows my travels and life as an American expat in Norway, I write freelance articles for a bunch of different travel publications, and I work part time at a supermarket in my new home in Norway (the perfect way to learn Norwegian!).
At what point did you decide that the traditional 9-5 might not be for you?
After university I taught English in Japan for two years, which I hate to say I was mostly doing because I thought it would look good on my resume. After that I volunteered at a Burmese NGO for 9 months, which I thought was my dream career but I quickly realized that I was more in love with how it sounded as a career than the reality of it.
What did you do next?
I still had money saved from working in Japan, so I backpacked through the Stans of Central Asia for four months, which then turned into a solo backpacking trip through Iran and the Caucasus, a trip through the Balkans, and well, I still spend a lot of my time on the road.
At the start of my travels I began a blog to keep track of my adventures, but eventually I started earning a solid income from blogging, which let me travel even more.
I loved your blog post about how traveling killed your ambition. Can you talk a bit about how a nine month, resume building volunteer position transformed into a life of travel?
Basically I realized that a traditional desk job just isn’t for me.
I had always felt a pressure to get into a “good” career (whatever that means!) but when I was working at what I had thought would be my dream job but not enjoying it I realized I really had to reevaluate things.
So I took some time off to travel, and seeing how many different ways there are to live in the world and be happy I realized that pursuing a career in the traditional sense really wasn’t important to me anymore.
Now you’ve been to over 70 countries and five different continents. That’s so impressive! How do you plan for your travels and keep your business running smoothly in the mean time?
I guess the positive about writing about travel is that going on adventures sort of is my job. It’s definitely a juggling act to keep my blog running consistently, especially when I’m in places without Internet access, but if I plan out my blog posts and social media far ahead in advance I can stay on top of everything.
You’ve amassed quite the social following during your time blogging - do you have any tips for online business owners who are trying to do the same?
I’m sure you’ve heard this over and over, but it really is so important to be a real person on social media! If you share things you’re genuinely interested in (not just your own work) and open a dialogue with people then you can create a really strong community that’s so much more valuable than a bunch of random followers or website clicks. Plus, that’s what makes social media so fun!
You’ve got a Pinterest Course hosted with us on Teachable, what motivated you to create an online course?
I’m a huge fan of learning and think courses can be such a helpful way of kickstarting a blog’s growth, but there weren’t any courses in the travel blogging community that I loved. I found a lot of the advice to be a bit stale, largely because they came from people who started blogging years ago, when things were quite different.
So I wanted to create something a bit more up to date that even the newest bloggers could see immediate results from, and Pinterest seemed like the obvious choice, especially as so many bloggers seem so confused by the platform. I had taken several courses on Teachable myself and loved the layout, so of course I wanted my course to be on Teachable too!
What did the course creation process look like for you?
I love that the school part is all totally set up by Teachable, so really all you have to worry about as a Teacher is creating your lessons. All I had to do was upload my lesson videos and I had a clean, professional course ready for me to start marketing. So easy!
Silvia also has a free course for those of you looking to find success in blogging! Check out Silvia's free, 5-day video course to learn how to grow your travel blog!
What other models have you used to monetize your online business?
I monetize my blog with some ads, sponsored posts, and affiliate links, but it also serves as a portfolio for my travel writing and now I often get approached by travel sites for writing projects. My blog income allows me to be really selective about the freelance projects I take on, so I love getting to write for different outlets now and then!
What advice would you give other aspiring entrepreneurs looking to create a career for themselves outside the 9-5?
I think the most important thing is to be very clear with yourself where your passion lies and why you don’t want to do the 9-5 thing. Running your own business is going to take a lot more time and effort than your 9-5 job (at least in the beginning) and it will become a huge burden if it’s not something you’re truly passionate about.
I think it’s also helpful to remember that there are so many ways to earn an income, both through a bunch of smaller projects or one big one.
For about a year my sole income was coming from my blog and I felt like my world was blogging. So when I moved to Norway I got a part time job at a local supermarket, which gives me the perfect escape to not think about blogging for a bit each week, interact with real live people instead of my computer screen, and work on my Norwegian.
And now when I do sit down to work on my blog I’m so excited about it! It’s all about finding the balance that works for you, and thinking outside the box to do so. I mean, we’re taking an alternative career route here, so there really are no rules!
What are your plans for the future?
I definitely see myself staying in Norway for the foreseeable future, while also taking a lot of time to travel, but beyond that I try to stay really flexible with my plans. My favorite thing about working for myself is that I call the shots, so I can let my career path grow and change with me, instead of sticking to the rigid rungs of some corporate ladder.