Originally from a small village in Holland, Tom Grond has since branched out from his roots by travelling solidly since December 2012. To date, he has visited a total of 83 countries and has become an internationally recognised Adventure Travel Blogger and ‘Influencer’, under TravelTomTom. I caught up with him on his first visit to London for a mini Q&A.
What did you do before Travel Blogging and how did you make the leap?
Before I started blogging, I always admit that I was just travelling. I was a full time traveller. I explored the world for 3 years solid and then decided ‘ok, I’m starting to run out of money, I need something to stay afloat.’
How were you travelling full-time for 3 years prior?
I worked full time after my degree and had savings. I had a job as a process analyst for the welfare department of the sickness act in Holland.
What has been your best experience travel blogging?
Well blogging aside, I had a pretty cool experience doing shroom shakes on Gili T this year.. Otherwise I’d say my trip to Turkey in February. I was invited as part of the World Tourism Forum. Career-wise it was really inspiring and is what kick-started my move from traveller to professional travel blogger. I met so many amazing people that helped me actually get going.
And your worst experience?
I don’t have that many, I have to admit. One thing that comes to mind is recently being at the airport and realising I’d forgotten my MacBook… I cancelled an entire trip around the Greek Islands. Although I got so many messages on my socials from people offering to help out, there was an upside because I got to go back to Amsterdam for a festival I’d been sad to miss out on with my friends.
If you couldn’t do this, what would you do?
Good question. I have no idea. I’m good at dealing with people and I understand numbers and technology really well, so maybe something to do with that.
In what country is your biggest following and why do you think this is?
Blog and socials-wise it’s the USA. I think it’s because, not only is it a big country, but its the birthplace of things like Instagram and Facebook, plus my blog is in English even though I’m Dutch. Americans like to travel through other people’s eyes – they get 10 days off a year they don’t have the time to do it themselves!
Do people recognise you sometimes and did you ever expect that?
Yeah and its funny. I especially love it when it’s other people in the industry. I really spend time with people that do because I am super motivated and touched by it. I cant believe that people really follow me around the world.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
Teaching myself SEO and marketing, going from having a non-existing blog to having quite a well respected one. I’ve met so many other people in the same industry that have seen it, which is so cool. It’s a cliché answer but it’s not easy, so I’d say this is my biggest accomplishment.
Where have you not yet visited, that is high up on your bucket list?
Mongolia as I’ve never been. All the ‘stans’ – Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, I really want to go to Pakistan, I’d say that ones probably top.
Do you think there need to be stricter rules and regulations when it comes to working with bloggers?
No not really. I think brands and clients need to do their research better. So many of them are just all about the numbers, but some people with smaller followings can be way more influential because they have a more dedicated audience. Clients have to understand why people follow someone.
What advice would you give to wannabe travel bloggers starting out?
Its cliché in blogging but content is king. It literally is. I’m not staying in amazing places because all my followers are going there next, its because the content I create is wanted by the resorts, they see good value in what I can invent for their media. I’m digital content, advertising, photography, marketing, management all in one.
Also just to truly love it and be engaged. I reply to everyone that sends me a picture on snapchat and I’m always super active in getting my blog noticed.
What would you say is the future of social media and blogging?
A lot of people in the industry always say that blog posts are going to be taken over by video content. I disagree, I think blogs will always survive. People would rather scroll through a post and pick out what they like, than have to sit through a 10 minute video where you can’t even see what’s next and what’s going to be worth your time.
I think anything creative in general will always survive, robots can’t take over creativity in the same way as other jobs. Plus Google will always have a record of your content and it will just keep ranking higher over time.
In terms of Social Media, I hope someone comes up with a more popular version that doesn’t have an algorithm. I don’t like the algorithm.
I’m intrigued by what’s to come for web 3.0, especially with decentralised social platforms… Do you hire anyone to help you?
I do everything myself. My sister helps me a bit doing a few bits and pieces like Pinterest traffic.
Do you have any inspirations or mentors?
I don’t have any mentors but I have a lot of inspirations. I once listened to a talk by the Two Monkeys Travel Group in Turkey, that’s when I really started taking the idea of creating a travel blog seriously. They gave an honest insight into their finances and explained how they made it possible to have a minimum, baseline income of over 10,000 dollars a month, just from the affiliate marketing. They were also so nice and huge motivators.
I also use numbers as inspiration – I check my google analytics every freaking day. I studied econometrics and I have an analysis background so setting goals, reaching page numbers and targets, that motivates me.
What’s your favourite platform?
Not Jumla – that’s the worst thing.
Have you ever done anything that cost you followers?
No I’m not too controversial.
How do you stay in touch with friends and new connections?
I can show you my Whatsapp – it’s one big fucking mess.
The thing is I have really understanding friends. I may be on my social media every day, answering to people I don’t know but they understand and are happy to wait a week or so for a reply, or an update. It sounds a bit stupid now I say it but that’s the way it is I guess. I think you need good friends like that!
Top books on your reading list?
Da vinci code…? I only really read articles related to SEO! I have a friend who works for an SEO company and she sends me the stuff she gets for work.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I haven’t seen a huge amount of it yet but I really like London. Also Barcelona. It’s in a good position relative to the rest of the world, good climate 10 months a year, football, affordable, historical, amazing vibe, good food.
And siestas. How do you stay inspired and enhance creativity?
I like to work late at night. I hate working during the day, I’m really productive and inspired when its dark. I’m just more efficient at that time and get less distracted. I also really love what I do, like editing beautiful photos and listening to other people’s stories.
Do you have a motto?
If you don’t have a destination, you can’t get lost… Go completely the wrong way and find cool things!
What have you learned from all your experiences thus far?
I value experiences over possessions. Before blogging I’d used 2.5 years worth of savings for the sole aim of travelling non-stop for 3 years. I don’t care about stuff any more but I was the opposite when I was younger, I was insecure and only had branded items.
I own my experiences now. It’s priceless.
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