After more than half a decade of blogging, I've begun to get certain questions about my site and lifestyle over and over again from readers, friends, and complete strangers alike. So here are the answers to (hopefully) all your burning questions!
How did you start blogging?
I launched this blog back in 2010 while I was working full-time as a copy/design editor at a small newspaper in northwest Ohio. To be honest, I started the blog partly because I would get bored at work while waiting for stories to come in and needed something to do to pass the time. And the other part of my motivation came from the fact that, while I've always loved to write, my editor job didn't offer much opportunity for me to do that.
So A Akatuki5 started as a creative outlet. I barely wrote anything for the first six months, though, and had roughly zero knowledge of how to actually run a travel blog. It took nearly a year for me to get into the groove of things and get serious about it. But, once I did, the rest is history.
What's with the name?
The name of my blog – A Akatuki5 – comes from one of my favorite Tolkien quotes:
It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to.
When I was toying around with names for my blog, all of the standard (read: boring) ones were already taken. So I started thinking of some of my favorite quotes and eventually landed on this. It doesn't really scream “travel blog,” but it says something about me personally, and I also think it makes a good story. And everyone loves a good story, right?
What did you study in school?
I've known since I was maybe 8 or 9 that I really liked writing – and I've also known since about that age that I was pretty good at it. When considering my college major, though, I wanted to be realistic – I didn't want to get the standard creative writing or literature degree because I was under no delusions that I was about to write the next great American novel. So I got a degree in journalism instead from a small, private school in Ohio (Ohio Northern University).
After working at a newspaper for nearly two years and discovering my love for traveling and blogging, I then decided to go back to school and got a master's degree from Kent State University in hospitality and tourism management. So, you know, if this whole blogging thing doesn't work out, I guess I can run a hotel or get a job in tourism development…
(But no, you definitely don't need writing/travel degrees in order to run a travel blog. It just so happens that those are two of my passions, and work well with me being a travel blogger!)
Where did you learn to take photos?
I do not have a background in photography, and with the exception of one basic digital photography class in college, I don't have any professional training. A lot of what I've learned about travel photography I've just learned from trial and error – and from taking lots of photos!
If you're looking for a good overview course about photography basics, my friend Laurence has a great that you should check out.
What kind of camera do you use?
I get this question much more frequently than I ever expected I would. The answer is that I currently shoot with an with a .
I've been shooting with an Olympus mirrorless camera of some sort since early 2012. I started out with their smaller PEN series cameras, but upgraded to the OM-D line in mid-2015. I like these cameras because they take great photos, yet are still small enough to fit into a roomy purse.
As for post-processing (i.e. photo editing), I don't do a lot. I used to just use iPhoto on my Mac for color correction and cropping, but switched to for editing a couple years ago.
Read more about my gear here: A Peek Inside My Camera Bag: My Favorite Travel Photography Gear
How do you make money to travel?
It's a question I am asked all. the. time. And it's fair – I would be curious, too, if I was on the outside looking in.
I actually wrote a whole post about how I make money, which you can read here: How I Make Money as a Blogger
In short, though, I do a lot of different things. I make money from my blog through selling ads/the occasional branded posts, and through affiliate links. I also do things like freelance writing and other contract work on the side, and recently launched with Travel Blog Success.
Where have you traveled?
As of early 2017, I've traveled to more than 45 countries. If you want to see where all I've been (or, at least all the places I've blogged about), check out my Destinations page.
Where's your favorite place you've been?
It's SO difficult to choose my favorite place. I like different places for different reasons.
Some of my favorite countries include New Zealand, Scotland, Iceland, Norway, Vietnam, and Romania. Some of my favorite cities include places like London, Budapest, Barcelona, Savannah, Chicago, and Wellington.
If I HAD to choose one overall favorite destination, though, I would have to be New Zealand. I studied abroad in Wellington for a semester during college, and have made four separate trips to the Land of the Long White Cloud. New Zealand has held a very special place in my heart for more than a decade, and it's the country I've spent the most time in other than the US.
Here are some of my favorite NZ posts:
- The Ultimate New Zealand Bucket List
- 15 Things You Might Not Know About New Zealand
- DOs and DON'Ts for a New Zealand Road Trip
- 5 Middle-Earth Locations You Can Visit in Real Life
- My Favorite Spots in Wellington
Don't you get scared traveling solo?
I'll admit that I sometimes get anxious when I travel. I worry about delayed flights and lost luggage and language barriers and figuring out public transport. Eating alone isn't my favorite pasttime, either. But I don't really get scared about traveling solo.
You can read more about why I don't find solo travel scary here: Why I'm Not Afraid to Travel Alone
And you can read more about solo travel in general here: Top 9 Questions About Solo Travel Answered
What kind of luggage should I take to X?
Packing can be one of the more stressful parts of planning a trip for many people. And I totally get it – you never truly know what the weather will be like, how many pairs of shoes to take, or whether you really truly need all those new accessories and gizmos you bought for the trip. Deciding on which type of bag to pack your stuff in can also be confusing. Here are my suggestions:
Rolling luggage – If you're traveling in the U.S., Canada, Western Europe, Australia, or New Zealand, then rolling luggage is fine. It's extra-fine if you're traveling on an organized tour with transport already arranged for you. But you don't want a ginormous suitcase in any situation. My choice of rolling bag is the (I have the 25-inch/60 liter version, but there's also a larger ). It's extremely sturdy and well-made, and is big enough to fit all my things, whether I'm traveling for 10 days or 5 weeks. (Remember, when you travel for a long time you can always do laundry along the way!) The Sojourn also has removable backpack straps in a separate compartment at the back.
A backpack – For other part of the world like Southeast Asia and Central America, a backpack is slightly more suitable to travel with. This is because you'll likely have to be taking your bag on/off buses and boats and tuk-tuks more often, and a backpack is much easier to do this with than rolling luggage. For my own trip to Southeast Asia, I traveled with a . It's on the small side, yet has lots of pockets for organization and was perfect for all the modes of public transport in places like Thailand and Cambodia.
Carry-on-only – For shorter trips (and/or for people who are happy to travel light), going carry-on-only is often the way to go. It means you don't have to wait around at a luggage carousel or ever worry about your stuff being lost. There are SO many different carry-on bags out there to choose from, from small spinner luggage to backpacks. Some of my favorite bags include the and the .
For more packing tips, check out my Packing Lists page.
How do you decide where to travel to next?
The answer is pretty simple: it's based on where I want to go! I usually have a running “bucket list” of destinations, and usually go by what's at the top. Other things like cool events, the weather/seasons, and where someone else I know is traveling can also sometimes influence my decisions. I also occasionally get invited to visit places by PR companies and tourism boards, and usually schedule those around other already-planned trips.
How do you manage to juggle travel and working?
I'm still trying to figure out the perfect balance. I don't travel full-time, but I still travel roughly 25-35% of the year. And, when you're trying to make a living AND travel, you definitely have to try to find a work-travel balance.
These days, I work 100% online. This is great, because it means I can work from anywhere with an Internet connection. But it can also be challenging, because it also means that I'm always working *while* I'm traveling, too. I have to balance exploring new destinations with finding time to write new blog posts, edit photos/video, post to social media, etc.
I manage this in a couple of ways. First of all, I always look for accommodation with good wifi so that I can work in the mornings/evenings from my room. I upload/edit photos just about every evening so I don't fall too far behind. I also usually add an extra “work day” or two into my itinerary. Setting aside time for work is essential – I would never get anything done otherwise!
What do you do about your phone when you're traveling abroad?
Many bloggers will tell you to buy local SIM cards for your phone when you travel, so you can easily use data and apps no matter where you are. But if you're based in the U.S. (and spend any amount of time in-country each year), there's an even easier way. I have my phone plan through T-Mobile and use their Simple Choice Plan. It only costs about $50 per month, and includes unlimited data and texting when you travel in more than 140 countries around the world.
When I go to a new country, my phone simply connects to a local mobile network and I can use it like normal. The data speeds aren't the fastest, but I'm always able to check my email, get directions, and send texts. (And calls only cost 20 cents a minute.) I've successfully used this plan in countries like New Zealand, Iceland, Norway, Canada, Ecuador, and more!
This saves you having to buy new SIM cards (and getting a new phone number) in every country you visit, AND is pretty easy on the wallet.
(And no, I'm not getting paid to mention this – I honestly think this plan is great for travelers!)
What are your thoughts on travel insurance?
When it comes to (i.e. insurance to cover everything from lost luggage to catastrophic accidents on the road), I'm definitely an advocate. I don't buy travel insurance for *every* trip, but I do get it for most of them because you just never know. I know travelers who have had some seriously awful experiences abroad (including in the middle of the Amazon jungle), and I would never want to be in a similar situation without at least basic coverage.
My pick for basic travel insurance is . I've never actually had to file a claim with them (thankfully), but their coverage is some of the most affordable out there.
Have a question that isn't answered here? Feel free to leave it in the comments below, or to email me at adangerousbusiness [at] gmail [dot] com!
*Note: There are a few affiliate links in this post, meaning that if you buy/book something through one of my links, I may make a small commission (at no extra cost to you, of course!).