Chris Backe is the author of the One Weird Globe blog and over a dozen books and itineraries. He’s working on two books set to be released in March: The One Weird Globe guide to Thailand with over 100 offbeat destinations, and a book about Thailand’s hell temples.
Please tell us something about yourself. Is travel blogging your profession or just a hobby?
It’s something I’ve taken seriously since 2010, though I first started blogging in 2008. I make money off of it and attend conferences in the travel blogging universe, so it’s definitely a profession.
When did you get an idea to launch your own blog and how important is it for you to be online?
December 2007 – I had made the decision to move to Korea to take a job teaching English. My friends all wanted to know what Korea was like. After promising to e-mail them, I later decided to start a blog so I wouldn’t have to e-mail dozens of people! I shared the blog address with them, then moved to Korea.
I think it’s incredibly important to be online and tell your story – however you decide to tell it. That might be as simple as a Tumblr blog or as complex as a custom-designed WordPress theme. How you opt to do it is up to you.
Did you have someone help you make the website or did you do it by yourself?
Myself. I learned how to use WordPress, then played and experimented until I got the website I liked. Over time, I learned how to do some custom coding and get geeky with some of the fancier features.
The right domain name is important. How long did it take you to come up with the domain name for your blog?
I started with chrisinsouthkorea.blogspot.com – a free domain name, but a long one that wasn’t entirely under my control. In 2010, I picked up chrisinsouthkorea.com until I left Korea in 2012. I moved to Thailand, and became chrisinthailand.com… and then I took trips to Laos, Malaysia, and realized I didn’t want to manage all these different websites!
I rebranded to One Weird Globe (oneweirdglobe.com) in 2013, moving all ~1,400 posts and I-don’t-even-want-to-guess-how-many photos to a new server. That’ll be my main travel site for the long-term, and I’ll be using that same branding for my books and itineraries going forward.
What kind of Theme do you use on your blog and what are the “must have” plugins for a blog?
I’m currently using Divi, a WordPress theme available from Elegant Themes. I’m actually working on a post offering a more complete list of plugins and tools I like, but for now, here are my favorite five:
- Akismet, W3 Total Cache, and WordPress SEO by Yoast – they’re three of the most used plug-ins out there, and for good reason: they all rock. Akismet handles comment spam, W3 Total Cache creates static HTML pages from your dynamic WordPress pages, which speeds up loading time. WordPress SEO adds in a lot of tools to make each page and post more SEO-friendly.
- Default Post Content is what I’ve used for a long time. After activating, type or paste the text or photos you want to start every post with. It uses the same interface as a WordPress post itself, so you’re already familiar with how to do it. When you create a new post, it automatically enters that text and photos for you.
- Pretty Link Lite helps you create user-friendly forwarding to your site. In essence, the plugin creates a redirect from the short link to the long link, just like bit.ly or is.gd. I use one to send people from oneweirdglobe.com/published to https://www.oneweirdglobe.com/about-2/publication-list/
What CMS (Content Management System) do you use on your blog? How hard is it to navigate within your CMS (making a new post, inserting images, moderating comments, etc.)?
WordPress all the way! There’s a bit of a learning curve when you first get started, but it’s getting easier and easier to do the usual blogging stuff.
How much time do you spend blogging?
On average, each post will take between 3-5 hours to write. That sounds like a lot, but I make it a point to offer really good directions, along with GPS coordinates, awesome pictures, and so on.
How do you promote your blog? Do you use social media channels to attract more visitors to your blog?
I’ll usually share new posts on the major social networking site: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and sometimes Instagram. I’ve been meaning to find a better system to share posts, but auto-posting doesn’t seem to be as effective as posting yourself…
Is there a way to monetize (make money) through a blog?
Sure – affiliate systems, display ads, sponsored posts, and exchanges of value (e.g. a free hotel stay in exchange for writing about it).
Would you encourage other people to make their own blogs?
It depends. Ask yourself why you’re blogging – just for a hobby, or because you’re out to make it a profession. Just a hobby? Great – have fun with it, and don’t take it or yourself too seriously. Making it a profession is a paradigm shift – you go from writing what you want to write about to writing about what your audience is looking for. That’s not always a huge difference, but there’s definitely a different style at work here.
Please give us some advice for new bloggers and for people who are still not sure if they need a blog of their own?
Sit down. Have a beer, glass of wine, or whatever beverage you like. Write down the titles of 50 blog posts you can write about from your own first-hand experience. Don’t worry about getting them all in the same niche, just write whatever you know.
Done that? Great. Spend at least a few days thinking about a good name for your site. Maybe it’ll come to you as you’re writing those titles, which is cool. Maybe it’ll come to you out of the blue, or by seeing what’s available. (Protip: aim for a .com name, no hyphens, and make it easy to spell. One common test is called the ‘radio test’ – if someone says a domain name over a radio, could you spell it correctly just by hearing it?).
Photos ©: One Weird Globe