A series produced in association with P&O cruises
Jeremy Head interviews: Keith Jenkins from Velvetescape.com
Travel blogging is moving mainstream – fast. Forget the weekend travel supplements, its bloggers who could well be the future of travel journalism. People like my interviewee this time: Keith Jenkins
Keith set up Velvet Escape in 2008 after a five-month round-the-world trip – to share his travel experiences. Prior to becoming a travel blogger, Keith had a 10-year career in corporate and investment banking. Since then he has grown Velvet Escape into one of the most popular luxury travel blogs in the world, with readers in more than 150 countries. Keith is also co-founder of Global Bloggers Network, a travel bloggers forum, and founder of iambassador, a network of influential travel bloggers that creates and executes social media campaigns for destinations and travel brands.
1) What got you into the idea of travelling and writing for a living?
Circumstances, to be honest. I left my 10-year banking job in mid-2008 as I was on the verge of a burn-out. The plan was to travel around the world for several months, then find a job at another bank – there were plenty of offers at the time. However, halfway through my trip, Lehman Brothers collapsed. Quite literally from one day to the next, the job offers dried up and upon my return home, there were no jobs. I decided to focus on my two passions: travel and writing, and not long thereafter, Velvet Escape was born. As the blog became increasingly popular, I explored ways to monetise it. I created a business plan and identified various possible revenue streams. After about two-odd years of experimenting, discovering which streams were most viable and worked best for me, and building these streams, I was earning enough to make a comfortable living.
2) What’s the best thing about being a travel blogger?
Being a travel blogger is not only about writing and taking great photos. A travel blogger is a writer, editor, brand-builder, community-builder, marketer, administrator and more. The best thing about it is that I get to pour every ounce of my creativity, skills and experience into something I’m very passionate about.
3) And the hardest thing?
I’m often on the move and that’s sometimes hard for my loved ones at home.
4) What’s been the most memorable experience – best place you’ve visited to date and why?
This is a hard one to answer. I’ve had so many memorable experiences over the past few years. If I had to choose one, it would be Bora Bora in French Polynesia. It had always been my dream to visit Bora Bora – the name itself sounds so exotic – ever since I saw pictures of it in a magazine when I was in my teens. I never thought I’d ever get there considering how far away and how expensive it is. When I started to plan my round-the-world trip, I made sure I included Bora Bora. I spent four amazing days there – too few but it was all I could afford. The colours of the lagoon just blew me away. In the late-afternoons, I would sit at the edge of the deck of my overwater bungalow and watch baby sharks, colourful tropical fish and rays swim by, and I wouldn’t leave until the sun set. It was absolutely bewitching!
5) Which place or places do you still want to visit and why?
Antarctica – so I can say I’ve been to all the seven continents! Madagascar is also high on my list for its unique natural beauty. Oh yes,… and outer space! Sir Richard, if you’re reading this, it would be a huge honour to join you on a Virgin Intergalactic flight!
6) What’s your top tip for making your money go further whilst you’re away?
Pre-trip research is important as it gives you an idea of how much things and services cost. While travelling, talk to the locals and find out what they would typically pay. Simply striking up a conversation with the locals has saved me many times from being scammed.
7) What thing or things do you always pack when you go away and why?
My iPhone goes everywhere I go! I take many of my photos and videos with it, and I also use it to update my social media channels. It has maps, weather and travel info apps, a currency calculator and much more. It’s my single most important travel gadget.
8) What’s the craziest thing that has happened to you on the road?
I was sitting in a restaurant in Salta (north western Argentina) having dinner alone. I’d been travelling around South America for a few months and I was quite desperate to have a conversation in English. I overheard the couple next to me (an Asian girl and her German husband who were travelling around South America) speaking in English and I introduced myself. We hit it off and chatted for what seemed like hours. When we started talking about our origins and families, it slowly became clear to both of us that we were somehow related. We’d never met before as we grew up in different countries. Upon returning home, she called her mother and told her about meeting me. Her mother quickly confirmed that we are indeed cousins! That was pretty crazy!