As a world traveler the thought of living and working as a travel blogger has crossed my mind as the ultimate dream, so you can imagine my excitement when an opportunity arose to interview a successful travel blogger and influencer from Little Things Travel blog, Marissa Sutera. If you know travelers – and I mean real travelers – you have probably experienced the group as easy-going, open-minded, ambitious, highly creative, adventurous, incredibly resourceful, dripping with inspiration. Marissa is no different than the average traveler, so if you aren’t ready to be injected with some serious inspiration, skip this post and move on to the next. Not to mention, she has some great travel hacks.
ZJ: What gave you the courage and inspiration to a) start to travel and b) then write a blog about traveling?
MS: I’ve been traveling since as long as I can remember on family trips mostly around the US, Mexico, and the Caribbean. However, it was my study abroad program in the UK that sparked my wanderlust. That also happens to be when I started blogging — it began as a way to tell my family and friends back home about my journey and to help me recall my study abroad experiences later on.
ZJ: How do you decide where you will travel next?
MS: My next destination tends to be someplace where I am already visiting for an event or conference as I always try to extend my stay in those places when possible to explore the area. Other times I just happen to get a great airfare deal, or I will also travel to places for certain activities, like ski trips around Colorado.
ZJ: Are your travel plans free, or based on brand-sponsored articles (paid trips)? Please explain for our readers.
MS: It’s a combination of both. Sometimes I travel specifically for a sponsored campaign, but most of the time I am incurring my own travel expenses and will have a few sponsored activities mixed in, like a tour or hotel stay. My community can tell the difference at the bottom of my posts where there will be a disclosure if any portion of the trip was sponsored.
ZJ: When did you begin to gain a massive amount of followers, and what did you think?
MS: My following started to grow more rapidly when I officially transitioned to running my blog as a business versus a hobby. It was, and still continues to be, a reinforcement for keeping me motivated and on track to provide the most value possible for my community.
ZJ: Do you ever write about things other than traveling? Like, what happens if you are tired and don’t want to travel, for example?
MS: Everything I write is centered around travel in general, but not always about traveling to another place. Sometimes I write about travel-related tips, and I am also a strong advocate for “traveling” wherever you are. Travel is all about stepping outside of your comfort zone and breaking free from routine, and that’s something you can do even when you’re at home.
I can’t see myself ever not wanting to travel at all, but there are times when it’s necessary to slow down. Those are the times to take advantage of playing tourist in your own hometown!
ZJ: Where do you see the direction of your blog moving in the next 3-5 years? 10 years?
MS: I have recently been moving towards a new focus on giving back through travel (see question 16 for more detail) and in the next 3-5 years I aim to spread more awareness of the importance of connecting with local communities and how travel can be used as a driving force for positive change.
Ultimately, in 10 years and beyond my hope is that more people will see the world in a new light and that we are all humans who call the earth home.
ZJ: Is the blog your only source income? If not, what else do you do?
MS: No, I also do other freelance work although it is generally all within the travel industry and helps me to keep my blog content fresh, keep up with trends in the market, and build relationships with other brands that sometimes lead to partnerships with my blog down the road.
ZJ: Do you see yourself as a marketer? What about as an influencer? What does that mean to you?
MS: Yes and yes! My formal background is in marketing, so I was actually a marketer before I was a blogger. One of my favorite parts of blogging is the marketing! I definitely consider myself to be an influencer as well. My community keeps coming back because I write about my own personal experiences and opinions, which has shown to be more trustworthy than traditional advertising. I take that influence very seriously, which is why I only work with brands that I use and trust.
ZJ: What inspires many of your posts – the things you want to write about, or sponsorships by brands driving the content? If it’s a combination of both, what percentage of your content is sponsored by brands?
MS: Only about 15 – 20% of my content is sponsored. My posts are inspired by where I have traveled to recently (sponsored or not), lessons learned while traveling or planning travel that I can share to help others save time and/or mistakes, people I meet along my journey, and other current events topics that are relevant.
ZJ: When did you begin to land brand-sponsored content, and how did that happen for you?
MS: This was a gradual process, but it began around the time I started treating my blog as a business when I started pitching hotels, tour companies, and other brands that I knew I would be using for my upcoming travels. It took a lot of work (and a lot of no’s), but once I got those first few “yes” responses, I was better able to show examples and results to other companies I wanted to work with.
ZJ: What is your favorite thing about writing a travel blog?
MS: I love being able to inspire other people to travel, and to do so more often. I think it’s so important for each one of us to have as much connection as possible with different people and places around the world. Otherwise, the destinations mentioned by the media become just another point on a map.
ZJ: What do you love to do outside of blogging?
MS: I can’t get enough of the outdoors. Hiking, biking, reading, and skiing tend to take up most of my time when I’m not blogging or traveling!
ZJ: Your biggest dream in life?
MS: To leave a positive impact on this world.
ZJ: You have some great quotes on your website. What is your all-time favorite quote?
MS: “There are no little events in life. Those we think of no consequence might be full of fate.” -Amelia Barr
ZJ: Whom do you admire the most in the world, and why?
MS: Malala Yousafzai. She is an inspiration to young people, especially women, around the world to stand up for your rights in the face of fear.
ZJ: Upcoming events or announcements you would like to share with us?
MS: I am launching a new project through my blog called #littleBIGthings that will show how travel can be used for good anywhere in the world, and that you can always find ways to give back and connect with the community. It will officially launch in 2017, but keep an eye out for some upcoming interviews with experts in the field throughout the rest of this year!
Photo cred: @marissasutera