Holidays are a hot topic at the moment, with lockdown-weary Britons daydreaming of the day when it is safe to explore the beauty the world has to offer. While 86 percent of Britons take some form of holiday each year according to ABTA, these can often be lead up to with months of hard work and saving. The idea of being paid to travel may sound like a fantasy to many, but for one world explorer, it is his reality.
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Tom Bourlet, 32, is the driving force behind blog SpaghettiTraveller, and he says there are still times when he has to “pinch himself” when he realises his career.
He spoke exclusively to Express.co.uk and shared insight on what it is really like to travel for a living.
Tom explained that his career was something he accidentally fell into.
“I was working in marketing for a travel company when I decided to go on a three-month road trip across the USA with a group of mates,” he said.
“The stories I took home and the experiences I had, from being stung by a stingray to partying in New Orleans, losing my passport in Miami and being surrounded by coyotes, were easily some of the most fun and bizarre moments of my life.
“Once I returned home, I wanted to write the stories down so I wouldn’t forget, while I also wanted to learn HTML and CSS, so I decided to set up a blog.
“I would stay behind in the office each day till 8pm and work on the blog, however, I didn’t expect it to pick up and become such a big part of my life.”
As you might imagine, the opportunities that unfolded were enough to keep Tom pushing forward, despite long hours behind the computer.
From luxurious stays to encounters with wildlife, his newfound career has brought with is some one-of-a-kind experiences.
“My greatest ever stay was in the Ammatara Pura Pool Villas, easily the most luxurious stay of my life. I was pinching myself every five minutes,” he said, recounting his trip to Koh Samui in 2017.
The opulent gift saw Tom enjoy a stay in one of just 18 exclusive villas evocative of traditional Thai palaces.
From private pools to fresh fruit baskets brought daily, Tom’s job was to relax and enjoy the five-star service, before sharing it with the world.
However, he is not afraid to get active either, and has been known to climb to some epic peaks in order to divulge eager travellers in the experience.
“My best moment has to be trekking to the top of Machu Picchu, the views will stay in my mind forever,” he added.
It isn’t just the jet set life that being a travel blogger offers.
As Tom points out, it opens a lot more doors closer to home, too.
“One of the best parts is local events,” he said.
“It is great fun being invited along to restaurant launches or private functions, plus the free alcohol is also a winner.
“The other part I love is being able to see the other side to events.
“Instead of attending a theme park, they might invite you along for a time when it is normally shut, walk you through the history of the park, the facts many people don’t know and allow you on the rides (who doesn’t love a queue jump). It’s these ‘behind the scene’ moments that always intrigue me.”
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Surprisingly though, regardless of the freebies and adventures, it’s the relationships he has formed that have truly made the hard work worth it.
“Top of it all is the community feeling amongst travel bloggers, I’ve met hundreds of them and we talk regularly and meet each other at numerous events and conferences all over the world,” he says.
Despite the excitement, though, Tom’s career isn’t always the free and frivolous holiday you might expect.
“Who can say no to a free holiday, however as shiny and exciting as it sounds, there is a lot of work that goes into these trips and I spend most of my time glued to the laptop or taking photos,” he explained.
“We recently flew to Kenya on a two-week safari trip and the cost was close to zero, however, I found myself doing seven hours work each day after a full day safari, so it never feels like a holiday, I often come back more tired than when I left.”
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Even with so much experience behind him, Tom says that he still has a lot to learn.
From photography and video editing to software and marketing skills, there is more to the job than simply boarding a plane.
“I’m lucky that I already have a strong knowledge of marketing which often helps to put Spaghetti Traveller in a strong position, however, the educational aspect is a constant battle and means a lot of heavy weekends revising and training,” he says.
Indeed, to become a travel blogger is seemingly not for the lackadaisical.
Tom says success depends on “patience, commitment and an ability to write even when you don’t want to”.
“The sacrifices you have to make, such as working all weekend and in the evenings when you get home from work, will be draining and most bloggers quit within the first three months,” he continued.
“If you are interested in becoming a blogger, my main recommendation would be to write 12 articles before you try to build the blog.
“This way, once the blog is live, you can schedule them to go out once per week and then focus your time on building your social channels, improving the appearance and functionality of your blog and being featured where ever possible.”
Of course, there are also unpredictable moments, like the current pandemic, that can make the job more difficult.
“My client work has dropped by 70 percent, while my advertisers through Spaghetti Traveller have dropped by 85 percent, so it is a bit of a scary time,” he explains.
Taking positivity where he can, though, he has used this time to bank up content and focus on other projects – including an impressive three additional blogs and hosting a marketing conference.
Productivity, drive and lots of sacrifices are key, but for Tom, it’s all worth it.
“It’s all a bit manic and no day ever seems to be the same,” he says.
“I think it’s the bizarre moments I experience that makes my job like no other.
“These are the moments I’ll look back on and laugh at.”
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