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How To Be A Travel Influencer

Our travel editor and the incredibly stylish founder of it’s beautiful here explains how she ended up in the world’s most enviable job (according to us!)


Georgia Hopkins

A few years ago, I stayed on the remote and rugged Satellite Island, a tiny verdant outcrop off the coast of the better-known Bruny Island, near Hobart. My photographer friend Lucy Laucht and I had the entire 34 hectares to ourselves. Although it was winter, our boat house on the jetty was cosy. We scooped wild oysters off the rocks and ate them fresh with lemon, while drinking local sparkling wine (which we’d been chilling in a makeshift cooler in the sea).

As night fell, we sat around a fire, wrapped in blankets under a gazillion stars, and cooked our sausages, listening to the sounds of the wild. We slept with the boathouse roller door wide open all night and when morning came, we made cups of tea to drink in bed, watching as the day lit up around us.

It was magical. And in that moment, I did wonder how on earth I’d been so lucky in living my greatest passion. Because truth be told, I never set out to be an ‘influencer’. Even now, it’s a word that makes me feel slightly uncomfortable.

 

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Rowing the good ship Pearl off Satellite Island

Looking back, the life-changing moment was quitting my corporate job in investment banking. I had been in the game for seven years and although it was fun for a time, the pace was intense and I didn’t feel the values shared were quite so in line with my own.

I had been promised a transfer to our New York office, but as it kept being delayed, I decided instead to quit my job and make the move myself – with no real plan for when I got there. I was 32, I had just ended a long-term relationship and the time was right. What was pulling me to New York wasn’t work, but a desire (again) to travel and be immersed in a foreign place. I had some savings, so I knew I had the freedom to travel for maybe six months before returning to the “real world”. But that never happened.

I landed in LA to visit some friends and fell in love with California, instead. The light, the slower pace, the happy people, the healthy lifestyle, and the ever-present feeling of opportunity – it all seemed too good to be true. I decided to stay awhile.

Without a visa, however, it meant I was leaving the country every few months on rather wild and random solo adventures. I lived in Tel Aviv, and a tiny town in Mexico (San Miguel de Allende), spent a few weeks in Colombia, and even ran drugs (well, medication) down to a family friend in need in Costa Rica.

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Me in Sri Lanka - so beautiful there

So it’s beautiful here was born almost by mistake: an Instagram account and online journal to share photos and document my adventures for my family and friends. But as more people started to reach out for travel advice and tips, the more I started to realise that my off-the-beaten track travels appealed to others. More and more people started to follow along.

The response was lovely. I was surprised. I had felt quite nervous initially to share snippets of my life and my travels on such a public forum (‘Who the hell would care anyway?, I thought), but it has always been less about me and more about the beauty I find in the little things, the local people I meet, and their stories.

I was pretty clueless when it came to social media, but gradually taught myself how to use Instagram, and then I built a simple website using Squarespace. I would just jump on every now and then and update content. There was no particular rhythm or plan.

I have never studied photography, but have always loved being behind a camera, and I guess I trust my ‘eye’. In terms of content, I learnt very quickly that blue is the world’s most beloved colour – in whatever form that might take. Oceans, blue sky, or swimming pools – my beach and island shots were always the biggest winners, for sure.

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Admiring the endless blue on Lord Howe Island

It took a long time for the it’s beautiful here community to grow. I remember feeling excited to reach 1,000 followers after one whole year. It felt monumental! It further reinforced the idea that there was a real hunger for genuine travel advice and people wanting to discover places not found on the standard tourist path. Inadvertently, I’d tapped into that zeitgeist desire for bespoke, individual experiences.

And the thing is, travel has always been hugely important to me. We were lucky as kids to travel through most of Australia with our parents. I went on my first solo adventure (three months living in Japan) when I was just 15, which was life-changing – I loved feeling completely out of my comfort zone, in a new culture with different traditions and language. I think it really shaped me, and it was probably in that period I realised (consciously or not) that travel would be a huge part of my life.

I am lucky that my work as a travel influencer now supports me financially, but it took a few years for that to be the case. I am earning now probably a quarter of my income in banking, but it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I feel so much more fulfilled and happy with this lifestyle and again, the freedom it provides. I wouldn’t change a thing.

I loved feeling completely out of my comfort zone, in a new culture with different traditions and language. I think it really shaped me

Most of my income comes from editorial – freelance writing for other travel publications – and customised itineraries that I plan for clients (a very personalised and curated list of travel recommendations for their next trip). When we relaunch our new website next month, our travel guides will also be available for sale.

It’s not always roses, though. I sometimes think people might look at my lifestyle (and other travel influencers) from the outside and think it seems quite glamorous, but there’s obviously a lot more to the job than lying on a sun-bed in an exotic location (although there is a bit of that!).

I spend about half of every month on the road and, on average, 365 days (!) researching and planning trips, editing photos, and writing. I feel lucky to have the freedom to choose where I go and when, and how many trips I take on, based on the places that are really speaking to me at the time. Sometimes I choose a destination and then pitch story ideas from there to secure the editorial; other times, I am approached by tourism boards, airlines, hotels, and brands to collaborate, and if the destination is of interest, then I definitely consider that as well. I rarely sign up for big media ‘famil’ (familiarisation) trips, though, as I prefer travelling with very few plans, and solo or in a very small group, if possible – preferring to stay open to the wind!

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Toby and I on the South Island of New Zealand

Being on the road does mean a lot of time away from your loved ones, which can be really tough at times – but I guess it just makes you appreciate home that much more. I do quite a lot of the trips on my own – but where there is room for a plus one, I always take along my partner, sisters or friends. I never feel lonely on the road. I actually love traveling by myself. I feel you are so much more open to unexpected situations and meeting new people. The most challenging times are often the times spent in transit – flight delays, visa issues, lost passports – all the boring stuff.

But I love the freedom and spontaneity that comes with this kind of lifestyle. I am curious by nature and love the unpredictability that comes with travel and the way it encourages you to stay open and receptive to different cultural ways of living. I think this is what helps us to grow and evolve, and helps us take stock of what is really important in life.

For me, family, friends and freedom is what is most important. And of course my hometown of Melbourne, as well. I love calling Melbourne home, but while my list of places yet to discover continues to grow, I know I can also feel just as home on the road, and that wherever I am is always exactly where I am meant to be.

Visit ItsBeautifulHere or follow Georgia on Instagram

 

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BY Georgia Hopkins

Georgia is the creator of it's beautiful here and PRIMER's travel editor

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