Today I am pleased to publish my Interview with Natasha Amar, the biggest travel blogger in Dubai. It was a pleasure to meet her at Arabian Travel Market 2017 ( ATM Dubai ), at the Bloggers’ Speed Networking event. From everybody I met and exchanged cards with, the first thing I noticed is that she had the most attractive business cards (Yes that is supposed to be plural). Every business card she gives has a different photo from her travels on it. Natasha is also a UAE Correspondent for Forbes Travel Guide.
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do
I am a travel blogger, content creator, and writer based in Dubai. I’ve chosen to combine my love of travel and storytelling to make a career out of doing the things that I enjoy most. Other than writing on my own blog, TheBohoChica.com, I am also a contributor and local expert for clients like Marriott Traveler and Hilton Explore, and a UAE Correspondent for Forbes Travel Guide. I work with tourism boards, DMOs, hotels, and other travel brands to promote destinations and travel products and gear.
I began blogging when it still hadn’t occurred to me that I could in fact make this my profession. Back in the day, way before Instagram and Facebook made celebrities out of bloggers, people blogged because they had something to say and most didn’t think about fame. I’m still like that when I keep my head down and work hard on a daily basis- it’s because I want to share travel stories of the world, looking outwards rather than inwards. In my narratives and work, the focus is on the places and what makes them special versus on me as some kind of inspiring/ picture-perfect traveler or Instagram model.
How did you started with travel blogging?
I started traveling quite late in life. It was only in my early 20s that I discovered my own love of intrepid travel and somehow I found that the more I wanted it, the more I made it work, even while working jobs and studying. That made me realize that travel does not have to be some impossible dream for people who didn’t grow up with it or aren’t very rich or don’t have anyone to go with. I ticked all three boxes- I went anyway and mostly traveled by myself. I started blogging so I could share these stories with people like me and my natural love of writing took me in that direction.
What’s your travel style?
While I do occasionally enjoy luxury experiences on my travels, that is not the focus of my travels or blog. I am more of a mid-range and budget traveler looking to spend my money on unique experiences that bring me to a greater cultural immersion and understanding of a people.
What are your favorite travel experiences so far?
There are so many micro-moments that are part of my favorite experiences but I will recount a few here:
Road-tripping through Iceland in winter with my best friend is one of my most memorable experiences- Iceland is magical in winter, with lesser crowds, incredible landscapes, hot springs, and the mesmerizing Northern Lights. I haven’t been anywhere else that is as wild and remote as some places in Iceland.
I also enjoyed the days I spent on tiny islands in the Stockholm Archipelago last summer. From solitary hiking trails to remote beaches, glorious sunsets, and charcoal cliffs, it was all kind of like being in a movie.
My earliest days of travel involved volunteering while on my trips and I did this in Bangladesh and Vietnam, both experiences are special because I really connected with the locals and got to see the heart of the places I was in.
What was your worst experience?
I haven’t yet had any experiences that I hated but whenever I’ve rushed through a country like I’m on some kind of crazy mission, I’ve come away less than impressed.
Can one make a living out of blogging?
The short answer is yes. Every blogger’s path might be different to making money, depending on their skills, interests and goals, but it is totally possible to make a living out of blogging.
Why did you start traveling? What made you fall in love with it?
I was curious about the how’s and why’s of people’s lives in places that were different from my own hometown and to experience that, to me, seemed like the most valuable thing I could do with my time. The only way to do this and truly see the world (see, not just glance at) is to go travel somewhere where you don’t know the culture and where they don’t speak your language. Maybe, where they don’t even dress like you and their food is different from everything you know.
Somewhere, as you navigate unknown streets and languages and beliefs, you begin to empathize and appreciate new lifestyles and cultures. When that started to happen, I fell in love with the dynamism of it all, the unpredictability and the ability of travel to shake me up and say, “Hey, this is real. You’re alive!” That was fantastic and I was hooked.
Honestly, how do you manage expenses? Can you give me a practical day to day example of your costs involved?
Like any other person, I have a travel budget for a trip that I set before I leave and then stick to it during my trip. My day to day travel costs differ depending on where I travel of course. If I’m somewhere that’s known to be expensive, than I forego eating at fancy places and skip the nightlife, choosing instead to spend money on adventure experiences.
Do you have travel insurance? how did you pick one?
Yes, I always have travel insurance with WorldNomads because they’re especially great for adventure travelers. They’re my most trusted choice since my early years of travel.
How do you manage to get perks/upgrades/etc based on your traveling lifestyle?
I haven’t ever gone out of my way to bag perks or upgrades in my traveling lifestyle. But as a professional travel writer and blogger, I sometimes get upgraded and I’m always grateful.
Have you ever fallen in love on the roads? Tell me about it
I’ve only ever fallen in love with places on my travels, and though I’ve developed great many friendships on the road, love hasn’t been on my mind, what with an amazing man back home who is now my husband.
Have you ever come face to face with a particular extra-ordinary experience? What was it ?
There have been a couple but seeing the Northern Lights and hiking on a glacier in Iceland were both surreal ones I’ll never forget.
Do you feel burnt out by constant traveling? If Yes, then how do you deal with it? If No, then how do you go about it?
Constantly traveling is not something I do- I always have downtime between trips to rest and recharge. There have been times when I have zipped through a country in four or five days and that leaves me with serious burnout- I need weeks to slow down and cope with that. Constant travel, for me, takes the joy out of it. Even when I travel for weeks or months, I usually go slow- I have spent a month in one tiny mountain town in Vietnam, a place you could see on foot in a day!
Can you share some of your traveling hacks, which may not be generally not known by people?
If you’re traveling on a budget or want to live like a local in new cities, something I love doing, consider Airbnb apartments (link gives you a $25 discount) instead of hotels. You’ll stay in an actual home, maybe even have access to a kitchen to make some meals or breakfast, and know what it feels to live there versus being a tourist.
When it comes to taking trains and buses in new cities, instead of buying a one-time point to point ticket, ask for a week (or few days) long pass, every city has one and turns out to be much cheaper.
Always learn a few phrases in the local language- this really helps to break the ice with locals. If you can get a local to warm up to you, you can ask them for tips and recommendations and those will always be better than what you find in a guidebook.
Pack light. I learnt this over years and I always thank myself for packing light on long trips because it’s a great feeling to be able to carry your own luggage easily over flights of stairs or cobbled streets. Remember, you can always find a place to do your laundry, because people in every city or village in the world do it. So there is no need to torture yourself with heavy luugage.
How many times a year do you go on travel trips?
Again this also depends from year to year but on an average it’s between six to eight trips a year- could be for a few weeks or months.
What’s your advice for those aspiring travel bloggers who want to start blogging?
Just like anything else in life, you should start travel blogging if you have a real fire in your belly to tell stories, whatever form you choose, photos, writing or videos. Your content is of no substance if it doesn’t help people or make them feel something. And know that travel is different from travel blogging and you might actually like the first but believe you like the second because everyone seems to be doing it. Running a successful blog is hard work that doesn’t always pay off immediately, so do it for the right reasons.
You can follow Natasha on social media platforms, Links are given below!