Question and Answers: January Edition

Posted: January 17, 2011    Categories: Q&A

I've been to Fiji several times now, and would gladly go back again

I've been to Fiji several times now, and would gladly go back again

Melanie Bishop Fine asks: How do you decide which place to visit next? Do you prefer to visit new destinations or return to ones you have visited before?

There are a small number of places in the world that I really want to visit. I’d could probably count them on my hands. These are high priority places that I absolutely want to visit. Antarctica is a good example.

There are a whole bunch of places that I’d be happy to visit and I have no problems going if invited. The vast majority of the world fall into this category.

There are a few places I have no desire to visit. There aren’t many of those and I don’t have to worry about going to the middle of Congo anytime soon.

Most of the trips I’ll be doing in 2011 fall into the middle category. Where I end up going will often depend on who invites me. It keeps my costs low and it adds a sort of random/surprise element to my travel planning.

However, I have an eye on those places in the first group. I will try to get to one or two of those places every year. I think in 2011 I may go to Antarctica or the Galapagos Islands. I really want to start doing more adventure travel. Something above and beyond visiting cities and historical places.

I would usually prefer to visit someplace new, but there are always new things to see and do in a place you’ve been before. I’ve been to Fiji, Thailand and Singapore multiple times and each experience is different.

Becky Park DeStigter asks: Okay, Gary – here’s my question: I’m always buying up travel guide books. Is there a travel company’s books you recommend over others or should I be looking online at a particular site?

The honest answer is….I don’t use guidebooks. When I first started my trip in 2007 I purchased my one and only guidebook. It was the Moon’s Guide to the South Pacific. It was expensive, it was heavy and much of the information was out of date. The author of the guidebook was a guy by the name of David Stanley, who quite honestly, is one of the foremost authorities on the Pacific. The problem was, years had passed between when he gathered the data and when I needed it.

This is true of every guidebook. Books take a long time to print and get updated.

I think you can get better, cheaper (and lighter) information online. Even if you don’t want to have to rely on websites, there are many companies, including Lonely Planet, who are now putting out guides for the iPhone and Android devices.

I think everyone would be much better off reading a history book before traveling to a place, than they would be buying a guidebook.

Charmine Srivastava asks: Gary, a travel blog needs pictures,but how do you protect those pictures from being copied? I have two blogs and some folks steal my pics.Well,text can be cropped out and the pic reused. Also,what do you do with all the travel pics ?Not all end up on the blog.

The short answer is: I don’t protect them. Once you put something online, there really isn’t much you can do to protect them. You could watermark your photos, but then you just make them look bad. I don’t like people using my photos without permission either, but you have to accept that a certain amount of that is just going to happen. I let people use my photos for free if they just provide a link back to my website.

As for the rest of my photos, I’d say about 80-90% of the photos I take are never uploaded. They sit on two, identical hard drives in my mothers house. I never delete anything. Now that I know more about photo editing,

Dru Stefan Stone asks: Packers…will they rout the Bears on the Bears home turf and are you going there to watch it happen?

Traveling and photography. Were you a photographer before you traveled or was mixing the two natural and how did you get started? Did you submit things to magazines? websites? I realize people are fascinated by travelers but somehow the impact had to come from somewhere, or was it everywhere?

I believe the Packers will be victorious in route to their 4th Super Bowl victor and 13th NFL Championship. Sunday I will be in Acapulco, so I hope I can find some sort of American bar that is showing the game.

I knew nothing about photography before I started traveling. I never read a book on the subject, attended a class or subscribed to a magazine. I subscribed to National Geographic, which is as close as I’ve come. In hindsight, it was pretty ridiculous for me to buy the equipment I did at the start of the trip when I knew nothing.

I took a lot of bad photos when I started and gradually started figuring out what made the good ones good and the bad ones bad.

The nicest tent you will ever sleep in, at the Mattanu Private Game Reserve

The nicest tent you will ever sleep in, at the Mattanu Private Game Reserve

Jacques Kriek asks via Facebook: I am very interested in knowing what we can do to create more awareness about our product and destination in terms of setting up a blog and some of the key elements that have to be present to make it successful and sustainable?

You’ve hit on the question every single hotel, restaurant and business in the travel industry wants an answer to. How do I get people to know about my business?

Just so everyone is aware, I met Jacques in South Africa when I visited his family’s game farm on a media tour. They have a great property: luxury tents with hot tubs, a great lodge, and all types of African game animals you can view. I was also able to witness one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen during my travels, a live capture of sable antelope, which included his dad shooting a tranquilizer gun out of a helicopter his brother was flying.

The first thing I’d do is to make sure your website ranks high for terms you think people might be searching for that would apply to you. Basic SEO (search engine optimization) type stuff. “South Africa Safaris”, “south africa game farms”, “Kimberly game farms”, etc. There are thousands of places around the internet to get SEO information, so I wont spend too much time on it other than to say you should get as many people to link to your website with using those phrases as possible.

The other thing you could do is to be active in social media. This might include Twitter but it also might include answering questions in places like the Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum. This is a long term project with the goal of getting as many people as possible, especially people who others view as authorities like bloggers, writers and travel agents, to know who you are and what your company is about.

The final options would be to just buy pay-per-click advertising on Google and/or Facebook. If the campaign is run smartly, you should easily be able to bring in much more per click than you would pay to either Google or Facebook.

There are entire books written about each of the things I’ve mentioned and there are people out there who are much bigger experts than me, so it is hard to provide a complete answer in a short space. Do as much research as you can, develop a plan, and then execute it.

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