Meet Ellie Cleary
Ellie Cleary runs the excellent site Soul Travel Blog. Ellie’s journey travel blogging began when got a job working in the travel industry. It was an office job in the UK but it was changed Ellie’s life because it exposed her to many different travel styles and
, most importantly it developed her love of travel. After working in the UK’s travel agency she got a job working for an online travel company where she moved to the Netherlands. After doing some traveling in Cambodia and seeing first hand how damaging travel can be on the environment and local culture. Ellie realized she wanted to share more about sustainable travel and how easily it can be done. She uses her blog as a resource for sustainable travel. Enjoy our interview I know you’ll learn some excellent travel tips!
Tell me about a day in your life currently and before your blog became popular. What are your favorite and not so favorite changes?
Probably one of the best and worst things about being a travel blogger is the fact that: there is no typical day! Depending on whether I’m traveling (or not) my days look very different. When not traveling I try to get up early, work long days and get as much done as I can while I have reliable internet access. On the road, it really depends – often I’ll get up early to explore the place I am while the light is good and rela
tively few people are up, before settling in to catch up on blogging in the afternoon. The biggest change since my blog has grown is the increased number of emails – I’m not complaining! 🙂
How do you find your freelance jobs? How did you get started freelancing?
I started freelance writing by seeking out publications that were focused on responsible and sustainable tourism and started guest posting (writing without pay) for them. It was a great way to get practice in and make some new connections. Then over time, I started reaching out to more paid publications.
What is one of your favorite travel stories to tell?
Well… for pure shock/entertainment value it’s probably when I spent the night in a railway station in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India. I turned up for my train (scheduled to depart at 1 am – quite normal for India) only to find it was 10 hours late. By that time it was already midnight, I couldn’t take a tuk-tuk by myself in the dark, no hotels were answering the phone, and so I spent the night in the station along with others. It wasn’t fun at the time – but it was certainly an experience! Lesson Learned? There are apps to check if your train is running on time before leaving for the station! The story definitely gets some wide-eyed reactions.
Where is your favorite place that you have visited? Why?
That’s got to be the hardest question! 🙂 Probably Slovenia. The country has stunning landscapes and scenery, is affordable (compared to western Europe / UK at least) and has a tiny strip of stunning coastline. It’s also the country that has won most awards for its green measures and is a delight to discover in a sustainable way!
What was your big breakthrough moment or the moment that you realized you had a really successful blog?
Getting comments and emails from readers I don’t know personally who tell me that my blog has helped them. That’s all the motivation I need. Blogging is demanding and a lot of hard work, but knowing that the information we provide is helpful is the best feeling ever!
What is your biggest piece of advice for women who want to travel solo but are nervous to do it?
Do it. Seriously. Just do it. Of course, we need to do our due diligence but there is far too much sensationalist nonsense out there about the risks of female (solo) travel. Anything can happen anywhere. Whereas putting ourselves a bit outside of our comfort zone (whether it’s going for a day trip by ourselves, taking ourselves out to dinner by ourselves, or going solo around the world for months) is the most wonderful opportunity for self-growth, meeting new friends, and growing our confidence.
Is it difficult for you to manage your time between traveling, blogging, and working? If so what are some techniques you developed to manage everything?
Definitely still learning with this one! I try to set aside days for different things, and always keep up to date to do lists of smaller tasks. So, for instance, Mondays and Thursdays are my blog posting days, another day I might do freelance pieces, and on another day I might do consulting work. I try to take at least one day off per week where I don’t open my laptop.
I saw from your blog that after you went to Cambodia you became very focused on sustainability. What during your trip to Cambodia inspired your move to sustainability?
In Cambodia, I experienced “voluntourism” at its worst – in short paying to volunteer for a company that was profiting instead of benefiting the country. The story is a lot longer than that, but it really showed me how tourism and travel can have negative influences – despite the best of intentions – as well as the good. I spent 10 years working for tourism companies in the “mass” market and again saw how mass tourism impacts all of the places we love. It took until 2 years ago for me to set up the blog, but I’m glad I did it. The aim is simply to provide clear advice on how we can travel and create more of a positive impact.
What are three must-have items that you bring on all your trips apart from the necessary items like passport, visa etc?
1 – I swear by my Clean Kanteen water bottle. Plastic bottled water is such a menace for the environment and filtered water is so often available freely where tap water is not safe to drink.
2- My sleeping sheet. I have an Egyptian cotton one which is so soft and comforting – it’s great for overnight train rides or hostels that don’t provide proper bedding – or just anywhere you want to sleep in your own sheet!
3 – Dr. Bonners Organic 3-in-1 liquid soap. I love this product! It’s dilutable so lasts super long, is organic so you aren’t polluting the earth or yourself with nasty chemicals, and it smells delicious! I have the lavender one.
You have done a lot of backpacking yourself do you have any budgeting tips or financial hacks that you use when you are traveling sustainably?
I love backpacking because I think it often brings it closer to local life and local people when we travel. Open windowed busy train or private AC car? Not only is the train 100x cheaper but it’s likely to be far more fun!! I’ll admit I’m not the best spendthrift, but I would recommend always having a reserve, and don’t skimp on travel insurance. Personally, I like to plan an allowance per day and take that out in cash, so I can keep tabs on what I’m spending easily.
If you could pick a movie that represents your life what would it be?
Well, it’s definitely not Eat Pray Love haha 😉 Something with a train in it!
What are some tips you’d tell your best friend (and our readers) about how to run a successful blog and freelance business?
Put yourself out there, show up, be consistent and be patient. Travel Blogging is definitely NOT a way to get rich quick! Think about how you can offer unique value to your readers. When it comes to working with companies, think always in terms of what value you can offer them as well as yourself. If you stand out and provide useful content, you’ll get noticed.
What are your go-to best kept secret resources for sustainable traveling and blogging?
For sustainable hotels I always check out https://bookdifferent.com – they show all hotels with eco-labels as well as their carbon footprint. Couchsurfing can also be a budget-friendly and great way of connecting with locals! I also love homestays which you can find on a number of sites including https://i-likelocal.com
Visit.org is a wonderful platform packed with responsible travel experiences from Paris to Panama – I always try to check what’s on offer
If there was one thing we can all do to start sustainable traveling, what would it be?
There are so many things! Just one example though is carrying a refillable water bottle and avoiding buying plastic bottled water. If we all did this just think of the difference it would make to the amount of plastic waste in the world! If you are interested in learning more sustainable travel trips feel free to check out this blog post.
I really enjoyed meeting Ellie. We met in Madpacker’s Hostel in New Delhi. She is a very inspiring woman. I loved hearing her travel stories about her recent trip to Iran. Her pictures were incredible! When I travel I do try to focus on sustainablity, but it’s always been more of a sidenote to my big adventure. After speaking with Ellie, I’ve realized that I need to make sustainability more of a priority and I have found her blog very useful as I plan my future trips. I also love her organic soap idea! I’ll have that on all of my next trips.
Let us know what you thought of our interview by leaving a comment below! What did you learn? Did this interview change the way you will travel or your perception of sustainable travel? We can’t wait to here from you!