Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

Changes and a New Focus

71

Kate in Durban

I’ve decided to make a number of changes on this site.

A huge reason for that is my most recent South Africa trip.  I’ve raved about this trip so much already, but it was more than a fun time — it showed me exactly the kind of work that I need to be doing, exactly the kind of trips that give me the best content, and exactly the kind of travel that I need to be sharing with you.

Beyond that, it really made me think about where Adventurous Kate has been heading lately.  Some of it has been great; some of it, not so good.

Here’s what I’ll be changing:

Lion's Head, Cape Town

A Renewed Focus on Budget Travel

I know my audience perfectly, and I’ll talk any company’s ear off about who the typical Adventurous Kate reader is (female, 25-34, university-educated, US/UK citizen, urban-living, travels internationally at least once per year…)

However, there was one aspect that I always shied away from, and it was the price point.

Not all of you have the same budgets.  Many of you are shoestringers; many of you wouldn’t be caught dead in a hostel.  But one thing’s true above all: you love value.  Most of you fall into the category of budget travelers.

You know what?  I love budget travel!  I would much rather stay in a private room in a really nice hostel than a nondescript hotel room, I’ll eat at a street cart every chance I can get, and I’d much rather spend my money on cool activities than fancy lodging.

I also go absolutely giddy about getting a deal.  Did I mention that I got flights from Dubai to Tokyo for just $280 each?  SCORE!

Still, I like to splurge once in a while, especially for special occasions.  I’ll write about more expensive travel on occasion (like my upcoming 29th birthday trip to Dubai), but know two things: I plan to cover more expensive travel from a value perspective, and I plan to maintain at least 80-90% of the content related to affordable travel.

More Details

In the past few months, I’ve been adding more details to the “Essential Info” box at the end of each post, including prices in the local currency and US dollars.  The response has been outstanding.  From now on, I’ll include much more comprehensive information so you can plan your trip more easily.

Some people have asked if I can go into my old posts and add the information back.  My thoughts?  Eek. More than three years worth of posts — and a LOT information has changed since then.  Some of my favorite guesthouses have since fallen into the lake and in one sad case, burned down (RIP, my beloved Monkey Republic).  Keeping that information current and up to date would be a full-time job.

If you’re looking for quick information from my past travels, like where I stayed in a certain city, the best way to get a quick answer is to tweet me.

But for future trips, all the information will be included in each post.

Hermanus

Fewer Group Press Trips

I turn down about 80% of the trips that I’m offered — primarily because I’m not interested in them.  I mostly accept trips to destinations I really want to visit.  However, I’m going to be even more discriminating in the future, as I’ve noticed lately that a lot of my coverage of press trips has been flat and lifeless.  Not every press trip is like that, but it’s starting to make a noticeable difference in my content.

I’ll still take press trips (and I have some lined up), as they are one of the ways that I make my income, but I’ll be prioritizing the awesome ones.  The best press trips are trips where we do things rather than see things, and I’d like to stick to trips focusing on activities rather than sights.

One example of a great press trip?  Blogville Emilia-Romagna.  It’s like the un-press trip.  At Blogville, you go stay in an apartment in Bologna (my favorite city in Italy!) for a week with other bloggers, and while there are some organized events, you are largely left to your own devices to explore the Emilia-Romagna region the way you love to travel.

I’ll be there in both June and October.  You’ll find me in Parma, eating ALL OF THE HAM and ALL OF THE CHEESE.

More Awesome Press Trips

The best press trips of all are when I get to work directly with DMOs (destination marketing organization — think tourism board or destination bureau) and work with them to create a trip that fits my style.  Cool cheap lodging; interesting food experiences, from budget to expensive; fun and interesting adventure activities.

Those are the trips I’m trying to create now, and I think the coverage will be better for it.

Kate Surfing in JBay

A Slightly Broader Focus

Since the early days, this site has focused on solo female travel.  Encouraging women to travel solo is something that gives me immense joy.  But I’d like to broaden my focus.  From now on, the focus of this site is independent and solo travel for women.

What does independent travel mean?  Basically, any kind of travel that requires conscious planning beyond booking a cruise or a stay at an all-inclusive resort.  (While both cruises and all-inclusives are incredibly fun, I don’t write about them here.)

I’m about to travel for a year with my boyfriend, and that isn’t exactly the best trip from a branding perspective for the solo female travel girl.  But even so, I will always be a solo female traveler, taking trips on my own; I will always work to help solo female travelers; and I will always cater to solo female travelers on this site.

I’m going to continue writing about the travel issues that women face, especially in the Ask Kate feature. But this goes for all women, whether you travel with your partner, your family, your friends, or by yourself.

Still: I Need More Solo Travel

The other day, Mario pointed out that I haven’t done much solo travel since we started dating eight months ago.  To a degree, he’s right — while I’ve traveled solo in Paris, Edinburgh and spent most of my time in New York on my own this winter, it’s definitely been minimal compared to past years.

It’s time to get back to my roots — solo female backpacking.  I have an opportunity and I’m ready to take it!

Lake Ohrid

The Next Solo Trip: Macedonia and Bulgaria

I have roughly two weeks of unscheduled time in between Istanbul and Dubai.  Mario has long planned to be in South Africa; I’ve considered lots of options for myself.  After much consideration, I’ve decided to travel to Macedonia and Bulgaria!

Two new countries.  Backpacking solo.  The challenges of Cyrillic script and less travel infrastructure. The joy of Eastern European prices.

And something new:  zero comps, zero freebies.  I think that it’s important for me to let my feet touch the ground a bit and travel without the benefits of my site.  (Despite the fact that I know Bulgaria’s PR team and that they would hook me up if I wanted to.)  My friend Janice of Solo Traveler does one trip paid out of pocket each year, and I think that’s a great idea for many reasons.

So if you have any suggestions in Macedonia or Bulgaria — OR Kosovo, OR Bucharest, Romania, where I’ll be flying from at the end — please let me know!  I’m flying into Skopje and have thirteen nights before I fly out of Bucharest.

What do you think about these new plans?

photo by: V31S70

Comments

71 Responses to “Changes and a New Focus”
  1. DebbZie says:

    Macedonia and Bulgaria! I can’t wait to read your post about those countries I’ve never been before. Oh! and a birthday trip in Dubai ? Have a blast 😀

  2. Alex says:

    All very exciting news! 🙂
    And I am so happy you are coming to Parma! Eeek 😀

  3. Judith says:

    I like your new focus, curious for the next months!!

  4. yliharma says:

    This post is the answer to the doubts I’ve had about your site lately…I’m a budget traveler and I can only dream about some of the destinations you described here…and while I like dreaming, I’ve felt sort of…disappointed?
    So great decisions and good news! Have a nice trip in the Balcans!

  5. Katrinka says:

    Hey Kate, when are you going to be in Istanbul? I would love to meet up with you, if you have time.

  6. kami says:

    oh, I’m so looking forward about your posts from Macedonia! Just the other day I’ve decided to head there in autumn (and probably to Albania and Kosovo as well), also solo, and I just couldn’t find much blogs that covered this area to get myself prepared!

  7. Sounds like a wonderful plan! I’ve enjoyed reading your blog over the last few months and am looking forward to reading to continuing.

  8. Sounds like a good plan. Have fun (and lots of wine!) in Bulgaria and Macedonia!

  9. Wayfaring Panda says:

    Good move Kate… I love that you are honest about what is comped and have your own opinions, and I think information about value and cost will only make your blog better by benefitting those readers who would pay for the same experience.

  10. Rob says:

    Good move Kate and definitely take the trip to Kosovo from Skopje, it’s worth it.

  11. Dana says:

    Go to Old Downtown area in Bucharest! Nice party zone there!

  12. Megan says:

    Love the ideas you’ve got for the future of the site Kate.
    I cant wait to read about your time in Eastern Europe. When will you be in Bulgaria and Macedonia? I’m heading there later this year and your posts have always been a great help when I’ve travelled somewhere you’ve written about.

  13. Michelle says:

    Love these new plans!

  14. Looking forward to the new focus! I am definitely a budget traveler and love getting great deals on things. Excited for what you have to bring to the table! 🙂

  15. Helen says:

    Hey Kate,

    I think it’s great! Your South Africa post was really informative.

    The one thing in life that’s inevitable is change, and as you go through life you adapt to different life stages. I’m married and still consider myself a solo female traveller and even went to work abroad for two months straight after our wedding!

    I’m sure everyone will enjoy reading whatever you write about!

    Helen

  16. Arianwen says:

    Great changes Kate! People love the essential info – and I can see why going back through previous posts would be a nightmare task!

  17. Debbie says:

    I loved visiting the Black Sea Coast in Bulgaria. Burgas and Varna are nice seaside towns with mostly locals. Sunny Beach is a cheesy but fun party town and a good home base. To escape the cheesiness, there is chilled out beach club called the Green Life on Smokinya Beach near Sozopol which was gorgeousl Or you can visit Nessebar one afternoon and stay for sunset and dinner. It’s cute and touristy, but a UNESCO world heritage site for good reason. Plovdiv made for an interesting stopover and helped break up the trip between Sofia and Burgas. I also hear the mountains are beautiful. Look forward to seeing the changes on your upcoming posts. Happy travels 🙂

  18. Karisa says:

    Nice update, Kate! I’ll be interested in hearing about how your travels with your boyfriend are different from your solo adventures. Happy travels! 🙂

  19. Jennifer says:

    All sound like great changes, Kate! You’re a woman with a plan and that’s important. I’m looking forward to following along in Macedonia. Tim has a goal to visit every country in Europe and Macedonia is still on our list.

  20. Valerie says:

    I’m so happy to hear this! I fell in love with your site while you were traveling in Asia. You were inspiring because you made it clear that it was something anyone could do. With all of the press trips you have taken in the last year, it felt less accessible to the normal person. So glad you are changing your focus back to where you started! I am so looking forward to reading about your upcoming adventures!

    • Kristen says:

      Definitely agree with this. I also started reading while you were in Asia and I LOVED it, but started to feel a little disappointed recently with all the press trips (although I get you have to make money somehow!). To me, you were adventurous because of the things you would do spur-of-the-moment or that were just plain wacky – like drinking snake blood in Vietnam or going to a party in the Cambodian countryside – and not because you would do a comped surfing lesson or something. So I’m definitely looking forward to seeing hopefully more Kate-centric and Kate-put-together itineraries for your upcoming travels!

      • Ciara says:

        I definitely agree with the above, I loved the website back then, started reading when you were in Asia, checked daily for a new post and read all of the archived posts! Lost interest when it seemed more like the posts were based around the links within them, looking forward to reading some old style posts especially about Eastern Europe, love Bulgaria!

  21. Jenna says:

    Looking forward to reading about your upcoming adventures over the next year and especially Macedonia! I think the new focus and plans will be great–I always love getting a deal as well, and it’s nice to hear more about the essential information!

  22. Julika says:

    Great changes! I’m looking forward to reading about new destinations and many budget travel options!

  23. Jen says:

    You can add to your audience……22, didn’t go to university, Australian citizen, not travelling this year but leaving for 2 years next year! How’s that for diversity to your usual audience haha. Love your work!

  24. Sophie says:

    This is awesome! Great idea (especially the eat all the cheese and ham part) lol

    Can’t wait to read all your posts and hear about your Australian trip in the future!

  25. Kate, I think this is an awesome direction you’re going in. When I read that you’re going to be off to Macedonia, I was a little confused as I thought you’d already been there, but then realised I had it muddled up with Montenegro. Really excited to see what you make of it, as it’s a place I’d love to go to, but there’s not too much information on it out there.

    Prior warning, though – you *may* get some angry comments from Greek citizens who insist that it shouldn’t be called Macedonia as there’s a whole ridiculous fight between the governments of the two countries about its name. Oh well, could make for some entertaining comments 😉

  26. Lindsay says:

    I think it’s a great idea to do 1 out of pocket trip a year! Looking forward to these posts!!

  27. Amy says:

    I like the sound of these changes.

    I have to admit, I was losing interest in the blog slightly with all the sponsored press trips. Not saying that you weren’t reporting honestly or that your adventures weren’t interesting, but I don’t really find organised trips that interesting to read about. Especially when they’re group trips organised for travel bloggers, so I end up reading about the same trip on multiple blogs. It does seem that when a blogger becomes successful enough to get press trips offered to them, sponsored trips take over the blog a bit. And while that’s cool for you and for people who are interested in organised group travel (and I’d never dream of trying to dictate to you what you can write about!), I personally found it a bit offputting. I love reading about independent travel, and your plans sound great!

    I guess to some extent I missed Adventurous Kate who was off planning things by herself, making mistakes, meeting new people who weren’t all travel bloggers and having unique experiences that weren’t on other blogs. Sounds like she’s going to be making a reappearance, and while I never lost interest in the blog to the point of not enjoying your writing, I’m excited by the changes you have planned!

    • Thank you, Amy, and I really appreciate your honesty. And I have been making a number of mistakes on this trip. Stay tuned for a post where we almost got kicked off an Italian train…

  28. Cheryl says:

    Sounds great Kate! I really enjoy reading your blog and have actually laughed out loud on more than one occasion, but I’d love to read more about independent and more importantly, budget travel. While I’m a bit older than your average reader (47) I’d like to think that I have more energy and sense of adventure than some 30 year olds. I usually travel with my husband but am seriously considering my first solo trip this year. Bologna is next on my list ..I admit, I’m going for the amazing food too.

  29. Amanda says:

    I think all the things you’ve laid out here are perfect for you, Kate. I’m glad you’re able to look at your site and its direction with a critical eye – I think your new focus is spot-on for you!

    I’m also SUPER excited to hear you’re going to Bulgaria! I spent about a week there last summer, so if you want some tips/suggestions, let me know! You MUST go to Rila Monastery. I also know a great little village in the mountains if you’re interested.

  30. Ann says:

    Monkey Republic burned down?!! oy. best wishes for evolving your site. i was in Macedonia for about a week last Sept after the Busabout Croatia sail; really enjoyed my time there.

  31. Karina Rodrigues says:

    Kate! Nice changes!

    I’m brazilian and I really enjoy your blog! If you need any tips about Brazil, just ask me! I think you would love Rio and other parts of the country =]

    Maybe it would be interesting to write about the U.S. too!

  32. Kim says:

    I read many backpacker sites in order to gain information on how to maximize time in a city/country on a budget. But all I have been reading lately is comps for higher end hotels and excursions.
    I would welcome one of you to go back to grass roots and let the rest of us know how to travel light on the wallet.
    Thanks,
    Kim

  33. Maddie says:

    Great move Kate!! I was just saying yesterday that when sites start focusing purely on press trips and comped activities it can’t help but make you question the validity of their reviews. Completely understand they allow you to travel and are a source of income but it will be great to get more of a balance, you’ll be appealing to your entire readership which is great. Good luck with your RTW, I can’t wait to read about it!!

  34. Emily says:

    Awesome about the changes. I’m excited to see more budget information!! That’s a huge priority for me since I travel but don’t get anything comped. Good luck on your new adventure! 🙂

  35. Wendy says:

    I love that you’re being so upfront and honest about sponsored press trips creating flat writing – I’ve noticed this big time on other blogs, and I’m actually quite offended when I read something that sounds like it’s coming straight from the pages of a pamphlet, or when the trip description sounds more like a job to get through than an inspiring adventure. Good for you for noticing this and taking action to keep your readers interested!

    • CeCe says:

      I completely agree! I have had to remove some blogs from my rss feed because I felt like it was all about press trips. It seemed like I was reading the same thing on ten different blogs. I am glad your content is geared towards your readers aka fans. 🙂

    • Hi, Wendy — again, it’s not every press trip. My latest South Africa trip was sponsored, yet filled with so much joy and adventure. But a lot of the press trips turn flat easily. Especially on blogs that are nothing but sponsored trips.

  36. Brittany says:

    sounds like a great plan! I would love reading tips on budget travel. The more I save the more I can travel 🙂

  37. Jennifer says:

    Good decision, I think you know your audience and they certainly want budget travel and not expensive trips to south africa

  38. Very exciting. I think it is important to only take part in travels that suit your style and not because they are free. Your blog will be much more authentic as a result I think. Can’t wait to follow your new adventures!

  39. jennifer says:

    I just got back from Bulgaria a couple of weeks ago. It is so wonderful there. The nicest people I have ever met, no matter where I went.

  40. Molly says:

    I think all your ideas sound great!

    I would love to check out the blog of your friend Janice, however, I don’t believe the link is accurate. You have it linked to http://www.solotraveler.com. I did a quick google search, is she at http://www.solotravelerblog.com?

  41. Emma Spires says:

    Hi Kate,

    Excellent article, well laid out and informative. I am really looking forward to reading your up coming articles about Bulgaria and Macedonia – two places that I would love to go to. Safe travels!

    Em

  42. Jackie says:

    Thanks for sharing your revelations. Looking forward to seeing these new changes!

  43. lizeecheng says:

    i LOVE this! as many might have already mentioned – i love your new focus. the one thing i love so much about this blog is that you open me up to so many places that i’ve never even THOUGHT of travelling to (and i’ve traveled quite a bit myself. =P) and with all the information that you are giving, it makes the planning easier and the possibility of going to this strange land more realistic. so thank you. thank you for doing this 🙂
    -Liz

  44. Jesye says:

    I love this- I’m just starting my European travels (based in Italy- I’m moving to Milan for 3 years!) and I’ve been combing through your blog for weeks, looking for ideas and inspiration. I can’t wait to see what you do next!

  45. Hannah says:

    Certainly all changes for the better 🙂

  46. Darcy Latta says:

    Posts like this one are one of the reasons I enjoy reading your blog so much. You always include your readers in your thought process, and you’re hyper aware of who your readers are and what they’re looking for. Thanks for all of the great reads!

  47. theresab says:

    I agree less sponsored trips would make for a more authentic blog. They say when fundraising on social media, only 1 out of 10 of any type of post should be related to getting donations. While I understand the need to make money, keeping only one in ten of your posts a sponsored trip promotion would keep your site more conversational and interactive, because those are the experiences your audience relates to.

    As for sometimes covering more expensive travellllI’m in my early thirties and have found I’m happier with slightly more comfort sometimes while traveling. This usually means for me spending the night of my birthday in a $75 hotel over a couch somewhere, and having the occasional indulgent meal or bottle of wine. And allowing myself to have some privacy when I need it even when it might cost a little more, it keeps me sane and productive on the road. So I can appreciate the occasiona post about a splurge, rather than imagining a wealthier, less adventurous audience.

    That said, I don’t care how old I get, I still won’t enjoy organized trips. I’ve tried before when they made financial sense, but I need to structure my own travel to really get the most out of it, so that’s the type I like to read about.

  48. Sista Voyage says:

    Hiya Kate!!! Your new plans sound awesome and I ESPECIALLY appreciate you encouraging women to do more independent, solo traveling. I know for me, I started on cruises, ‘upgraded’ to resorts then I found myself in hostels and even in the homes of locals for lodging overseas!!! Independent solo traveling provides you with a sense of independence and more of a genuine crave for the country you’re visiting.

  49. I love this post! For the first time, I really feel like we are on the same page. Like you, I do budget travel. However, my motto is “travel passionately, spend wisely, experience more.” It’s been that way ever since I started. Why? Because I don’t believe that everyone has the same budget. I believe people need to get the most out of the money they have to spend. And like you, I will splurge for things I love – like sporting events. However, I’ll cut back on things that don’t matter as much – like food and where I stay.

    I’ve also taken a different approach with press trips. I tend to work one on one rather than group trips. I don’t like them because I travel differently than most. When I went to Niagara, I went hiking and played golf. I don’t want to do the same things as other people. I want value, experiences, and off the beaten path places. I’m not going to write the same story or focus on the same things as other travelers. And that is what makes so many of my trips unique.

    So excited to see you have more of a focus. I am the same way now. Have fun this summer in Europe. Eastern Europe is my favorite area of the world to explore!

    • Thanks, Jeremy. Budget travel means something different to everyone, and it’s incredibly diverse. You won’t catch me splurging out for a sports event. 😉 Well, maybe a Red Sox-Yankees game at Fenway Park…you know, for cultural reasons…

  50. Blogger says:

    Good moove Kate 🙂

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