Aspiring Travel Writer of the Week: Ivan Kralj

Ivan’s website is Pipeaway and launched in 2017.

Bio: Ivan Kralj is an award-winning Croatian journalist and cultural producer who in 2017 took a leap into the unknown. He embarked on a long-term traveling journey and started reporting about it for Pipeaway.com (website in English). Mapping the world’s most extraordinary places, passions and people took him across continents and cultures. He documented it via words and images on the blog, but also via sound for Croatian Radio.

Here is Ivan’s Q&A About his Life as a Travel Blogger and Photographer

aspiring travel writer of the week

Ivan Kralj

Do you consider yourself a travel blogger, travel writer or travel or photographer?
I’d say travel blogger and photographer. Even if I am not formally trained in photography. Then again, I AM trained in journalism, but the most significant chunk of my journalistic work was created BEFORE I gained the diploma. So I strongly believe in forming oneself by doing!

Part-Time or Full-Time Blogger/Writer/Photographer? Full time.

How long have you been a blogger/writer/photographer? My blog is exactly three years old now! Happy birthday to Pipeaway, haha! But I started writing and working as a journalist in my teen years, which is now two dozen years ago.

Where do you call home? Croatia, if we need to be formal. This is a country where my passport was issued, where I pay my taxes, have some belongings, and so on. However, in the last three years, my life became quite nomadic, so the idea of home became less relevant. I could equally be considered Croatian or homeless. Homeless with some small assets in Croatia. Well, this is also the place where I currently spend my self-isolation in the times of COVID-19.

How many countries have you been to? 48

How many continents have you been to? 6

Top 5 destinations on your travel to-do list: New Zealand, Myanmar, Peru, smaller countries in the Pacific, Central America and the Caribbean.

Earliest travel memory: The first travels I remember were the ones to the Croatian coastline. Almost every summer, we would head to the Istrian peninsula by car, and I remember my sister and me competing who would see the sea first, and then shouting “Seeeeeaaa!”. In my earliest childhood, I was suspicious about the concept of other world countries. As in Truman’s world, I thought there surely cannot be anything behind the borders of Croatia; that it was all a hoax. Of course, my first international travels broke that childish illusion instantly. So I can somewhat relate to how Flat Earthers feel!

Favorite Travel Blogs or Websites: Frankly, I have a hard time visiting travel blogs and websites on a regular basis. That being said, I am on certain mailing lists, and I do find myself visiting Matador Network articles the most often. I think they are a great example of what captures the attention of the readers and how something many bloggers could learn from. About the names, I have no favorites, but I’m always open to discovering new colleagues, mainly in Facebook groups. Now I remembered that in my early blogging period, photography of Jackson Groves from Journeyera was quite stimulating for extending the interest into the exotic world locations.

The trip that turned you from a vacationer to a traveler: I don’t think I was a vacationer before. OK, maybe in times when traveling was a family matter, a regular summer thing to do. As soon as I started traveling on my own, I think I had a traveler’s mindset, with open itineraries and unlimited readiness to explore.

The trip that turned you into a travel blogger/photographer: Even if I managed to visit many parts of the world as a cultural producer, it always felt much more formal. There was always this awareness that I was arriving with a workload on my back, walking around with a laptop and other working materials, often experiencing the feeling of tiredness. I believe the real shift happened in 2017, when I embraced traveling as a lifestyle and jumped head-first into the idea of being away from home for, let’s say, 5 months.

At that moment, it was a question of staying healthy, dealing with an extraordinary amount of stress connected to event management, and prioritizing my well being which was often pushed into the background. I pushed myself into faraway travels as a sort of therapy, and I’m extremely happy I did. The experience brought many useful insights on a personal level, enabled mental restoration, and opened me to many valuable experiences, meeting new people and exploring unknown horizons. I know it could sound vague, but I try to write about it with deeper insights on my blog.

Ivan’s first steps to becoming a travel blogger & photographer: I knew I wanted to take a break from cultural production I was building a career in for 13 years. I also knew it would be easy to assert my workaholic and seemingly easily restorable brain that everything was ok, and that our superpowers would make us invincible in the future too. That we can push boundaries once again! The breaking point was when I canceled my doctor’s appointment for examining a lump as a potential tumor, due to the fact that I was in the middle of organizing a grand festival. Using work as an excuse and shuffling my priorities quickly reminded me that I’m not thinking clearly and, a few nights later, I bought myself a one-way ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Tokyo.

It was a silly thing to do, as I lived in Zagreb, Croatia, which was miles away from each of these Asian cities. But I knew that buying such a ticket would push me to organize my itinerary before Malaysia and after Japan. I would not forget my need for restoration after my brain cooled down from stress, which eventually always happened.

In the beginning of 2017, I planned it all out and left my home country. Pipeaway.com was not the first website I built, so I knew things I needed to do, more or less. Reporting on travels was my self-prescribed medicine. Pretending I have a job, even if non-paid, but a job that would occupy my workaholic brain in activities that would not let me lose my ground. I just started writing, taking photographs, reporting and being accountable only to myself.

Do you plan your own travel or look for media trips? I mainly plan my own travel. It would be great to extend into the field of organized media trips, but I’m not working actively on this. If any media trip organizer reads this, I’m expressing my flexibility for changing the ratio between my own travels and media trips!

The social media platform driving the most traffic to my site: Facebook, then Pinterest.

My top tip to use (above social network) for traffic: In the long run, creating content that is well-optimized for search engines will create greater traffic than any social media post could do with its mainly temporary effects. Explore keywords thoroughly, incorporate them in your texts seamlessly, and your first steps are correct!

My favorite tool/app for social media: I post directly to social media.

My favorite WordPress plugin (and why): I try to have only necessary plugins, as they have a negative effect on site speed. The one I do use for every post I create is Yoast (free version).

Favorite Travel Blogger Facebook Group: The Aspiring Travel Writer.

If only I had the time, I’d… I know I need to post more frequently, and actually I have a lot of content waiting to be published. Hopefully, this coronavirus quarantine is a perfect opportunity to infuse travel blogs with new content! But I also started another, local website, so time could never be too abundant!

My top tip for aspiring travel writers and bloggers!

Ivan Kralj

I found that the instructions on travel blogging I was reading when I started doing it myself were not always reliable. Maybe it’s not valid to say it was all wrong, but I found that other people’s truths are not necessarily the only way to achieve one’s goals. For any kind of job connected with public consumption, confidence is needed. So my advice would be: stay confident, follow your path, learn from YOUR mistakes!

Success in life is not always about the quickest path from A to B. If you just want to become rich, there are easier ways to achieve that. If you enjoy doing things your way, do them! Online instructions about travel blogging can be quite demotivating for a beginner. You might feel so lost that you think the only way to get through obstacles is to pay other people to solve your problems. But one can still start with basic available tools and grow slowly.

Invest in a nice WordPress theme, get a good camera, and just start writing and publishing. Have some money saved so you can invest yourself in this journey with less worries. This doesn’t mean you will necessarily find a golden hen this way, but one also doesn’t need to go bankrupt first with a promise of a hen that might never be hatched anyway.

Best travel tip for travelers: Read travel blogs! Organize trips yourself to save money and have freedom! Don’t stress yourself with ‘must-do things in…’! If you do not plan to die tomorrow, you also don’t have to do all the things from ‘things to do before you die’ list! Leave an incentive for coming back to a certain destination!

Connect with Ivan!

Website: pipeaway.com

Social: TwitterFacebook | Pinterest | Instagram 

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