Anyone can blog but only a handful knows the right way to monetise it. Ask Nicola Easterby from Polkadotpassport and you’ve asked just the right person.

This award-winning and awe-inspiring Australian travel blogger in Australia is a force to be reckoned with. From self-funding her travel for two years to speaking at Traverse last month – a blogging conference in London, she’s certainly made it big.

When it comes to travel blogging, Nicola has put herself on the map (pun intended) after having been to over 35 countries. While always being on the road may take its toll on her, it did little to waver her zeal for travelling. We managed to have a little chat with her, where she dishes out some pretty wise words and foolproof photography tips for all shutterbugs out there.

What inspired you to start blogging?

In 2014, I went on a six-month long volunteer trip. During this time I started my blog simply as a place to share my photos and stories without spamming everyone on Facebook.

Not only did I begin to really enjoy sharing my adventures, I was receiving a really positive response from people, so I kept going and eventually my blog gained traction!

Photo courtesy of Nicola Easterby.

As your trips were self-funded initially, we are curious to know how did you support yourself financially while you were on the road?

My first two years of travel were entirely funded by the money I saved from working multiple casual jobs during the week and photographing weddings on the weekend.

I would save every penny I earned for the first half of the year and then travel the second half of the year. I tried to (keep to my) budget as much as possible and although there were times I came close to running out of money, I vowed to never go into debt on my travels.

Could you tell us some of the highlights thus far in your amazing journey as a travel blogger?

Last year I got invited to Sri Lanka for TBC Asia, the world’s largest travel blogging awards, where I was nominated for an award for best upcoming blogger.

This was both my first blog trip and the first award I received for my blog, so it really was a massive honour and gave me a lot of confidence moving forward.

Another highlight was just last month, where I spoke at Traverse, a blogging conference in London. It was my first time speaking at an event so I was extremely nervous, but it ended up going really well! It was so rewarding to share my knowledge on blogging and Instagram with a crowd and is definitely something I want to do more of.

Photo courtesy of Nicola Easterby.

Have you encountered any obstacles along the way and how did you overcome it?

The biggest obstacle I’ve faced is the struggle of being on the road all the time. Don’t get me wrong- travelling is incredible, and I wouldn’t trade my job for the world.

But there are some harsh realities that come with travel which don’t come across in a picture-perfect Instagram feed. Take getting sick, for example. If you are at home and get sick, you simply go to the doctor, get some medicine, and take a few days off to rest.

When you are travelling, you can’t do any of these things. Navigating foreign hospitals and doctors is never easy, particularly when you don’t speak the same language! It makes me appreciate these little things when I am back at home.

Photo courtesy of Nicola Easterby.

What goes on in a regular day – be it in Australia or on the road – for you?

I wake up, get out my laptop and catch up on the billion emails that have come through overnight with a nice cup of tea and probably some muesli.

If I’m travelling to a new place, I’ll try head out fairly early to make the most of the day. I would have done my research on the best places to see, photograph and eat, so I’ll make sure I have them all saved on offline maps and then I’ll go exploring.

Photo courtesy of Nicola Easterby.

At lunch time, I’ll try to find a café that has wifi and a PowerPoint so I can do some more work on my laptop – normally writing a blogpost or more emails. The afternoon will continue with exploring and photographing.

In the evening, I’ll load all my photos from the day and settle in for the rest of the night for editing and drinking more tea. Unless, of course, I’m travelling with friends or have met some cool people during the day.

In that case I’ll probably go out for a sneaky glass of wine and then the night will be a write-off!

Photo courtesy of Nicola Easterby.

Given that you travel so frequently, what do you do to combat jetlag and burning out? Many travel enthusiasts or frequent fliers will certainly find this useful.

In terms of combating jet lag, my biggest piece of advice is to adjust to the timezone you are flying to. When I arrive in a new place, I will not nap or go to sleep until my normal bedtime. I’ll also try to get out into the sun as this really helps to combat jet lag.

In terms of preventing burn out, just give yourself a day off every now and again.

When we travel, we all feel this urgency to do and see everything and we feel guilty if we take a day off. But the reality is, travelling is exhausting, and every now and again your body NEEDS time just to rest. Just because you are travelling, doesn’t mean you turn into a super human.

Having been to over 35 countries – super impressive, by the way, which is the next country you’d want to visit?

Iceland has been on my list forever. I know everyone is going there now but I still can’t wait to visit. Natural beauty beats out anything when it comes to travel experiences, so I know I will love it there.

Photo courtesy of Nicola Easterby.

When it comes to travel photography, we reckon you have one of the most stunning photographs. Do you usually use a DSLR or just a phone camera?

I wish all my photos were just taken on a phone camera but unfortunately there is thousands of dollars of heavy equipment behind those shots!

I personally use a Canon 6D with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens for most my photos, as well as a GoPro for action and underwater shots. Obviously, you don’t need a DSLR to be a great photographer, but this is what I was trained on and what works for me.

Photo courtesy of Nicola Easterby.

What are some photography tips you’d give to shutterbugs?

Here are a couple of my top tips:

1. Shoot mainly at sunrise and sunset when you can as you’ll always get the best light during these times (and less people in your shots if you wake up for sunrise)

2. When travelling solo, carry around a joby gorillapod… This mini tripod will allow you to jump into your shots and also will give you the ability to do long exposures at night

3. When you go take photos somewhere touristy, always see if you can find an alternative viewpoint. Often it takes five seconds of research or walking around to locate a spot free from selfie-sticks obstructing your shot! You can check out some more of my photography tips on my blog.

Photo courtesy of Nicola Easterby.

Are there any wise words you’d give to travel bloggers or bloggers in general, as they attempt to monetise their passion or hobby?

My biggest advice is to get business savvy. You can have a great blog that has great content and receives lots of hits, but still not make much money from it, and vice versa.

Diversifying your income is really important, so look at how you can get money from different income streams – think affiliates, brand partnerships, sponsored posts or selling your photography, video or writing services.

Be patient and realise that making money from blogging takes time. Honestly, if you are getting into blogging for the money, you are pursuing the wrong industry!

Photo courtesy of Nicola Easterby.

If this whets your appetite in knowing more about the top bloggers, keep an eye out for more interviews to come in our Top Blog series. Next up, we cast the spotlight on Riaan George from urbaneye.in 

You might also want to check out the interview we had with the top food and travel blogger in Philippines, Anton Diaz  as he shares with us, how he gave up a high-ranking position as Chief Information Officer at P&G to pursue his passion.