We are back again, after a long break of 3 months.
In our series of interviews with travel blogger and influencers across the globe, we look for travel influencers and digital nomads with interesting lives who can share some inspiring stories and useful advice from their experience. This week we have La Carmina, who runs a Goth Fashion & Travel blog.
Tell us a bit about yourself :
I’m La Carmina – I’ve been blogging professionally since 2007 on my “La Carmina Blog.” I specialize in reporting on alternative subcultures around the world, especially in Japan – such as Goth, punk, and underground music / fashion / nightlife. I’m passionate about sharing stories about fringe creators, whether they’re extreme body modification and tattoo artists, experimental chefs, or edgy fashion designers. I’ve traveled to over 70 countries to date, and had the opportunity to speak worldwide at TEDx and tourism conferences. I’m also a freelance travel writer (for publications like Time Magazine, The Daily Beast, Fodor’s, CNN), and the author of 3 books (with Penguin Random House). I also work as a travel TV presenter and production coordinator for networks worldwide such as NBC, Travel Channel, Food Network, ABC, National Geographic, TLC, Fuel TV, Discovery Science, NHK Japan, and German’s Pro Sieben.
What’s your biggest achievement as a Travel Blogger?
My travel blogging has led to jobs in travel television, which resulted in plenty of adventures as a TV host and fixer. I love showing viewers the eccentric and little-known sides of cities, especially in Japan. Perhaps you’ve caught my appearances on “Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods” and “No Reservations Anthony Bourdain” on Travel Channel, “World’s Weirdest Restaurants” on Food Network, Discovery TV “Oddities,” National Geographic “Taboo,” and “Roam,” and many other global programs. I’m also honored to have received a journalism award (for a personal travel essay about exploring Brazil with my late friend Elizabeth Wurtzel) from the Society of American Travel Writers.
You have an unlimited travel budget for 24 hours. Give me your itinerary.
If there were no pandemic restrictions, I’d blow my budget on flying my closest friends to Tokyo for 24 hours. We’d hole up in a luxurious hotel – I’d nab the penthouse – and live it up like it’s 1988. I can envision a Gothic high fashion shopping excursion, followed by omakaze sushi by a Michelin-starred Japanese chef. Then, we’d throw an absinthe-fueled all night Goth party at a club with performances by mistress DJs, drag queens, a Satanic band, and other Japanese underground artists.
How do you fund your travel?
I’m a professional travel blogger and journalist, so I collaborate with tourism boards and travel companies on individual press trips and other paid projects. I’ve worked with airlines, tour companies, trains, rental cars, hotels, restaurants and others worldwide. I’m fortunate to be able to cover my travel expenses through these partners.
What is the single most effective strategy that a blogger can use to bring traffic to a blog?
Focus on quality travel writing and photography that brings value to readers. I discourage bloggers from basing their articles on keywords or other tactics simply to drive in clicks. For a true audience and long-term engagement, create the most helpful and meaningful articles that you can for your audience’s niche.
What tools do you use to monetize your blog? Which works best for you?
I work with companies on paid partnerships, as long as their mission is a good fit with mine (such as a Gothic indie fashion designer, or a tour company for younger travelers). I also use affiliate links, and sell personal items from my wardrobe on @lacarmina Depop. My La Carmina Blog has also led to other significant work, such as writing books, travel journalism and TV hosting / production.
What is the first trip you remember taking and how old were you?
I don’t remember it because I was only a year old. My parents took me from Vancouver to Hong Kong, which is where they’re from. I hear I was mesmerized by the neon lights and bustle of the city!
Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?
I did a Huffington Post travel show that brought me to Wisconsin. I thought Milwaukee would be a rather dull destination, but I ended up meeting friendly locals and discovering whimsical attractions — like the surreal House on the Rock, and a kitschy themed hotel with space and bondage-themed rooms!
Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling?
I’ve sadly experienced some racist attitudes and comments while traveling. Passersby have also sometimes reacted negatively to my friends and me, simply because we look a certain way (we dress in Gothic and alternative fashion). However, this is but the smallest sliver of my travel experiences, and won’t dissuade me from exploring the world.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
Japan remains the country I’ll return to over and over. Some of my most formative experiences took place in Tokyo’s subculture, and I made many of my closest friends here. As soon as Japan opens up to travelers again, I’ll be back to get my “fix” of Japanese food, avant-garde art, Buddhist and Shinto temples, onsen (hot springs baths), Goth fashion, and other favorites.
Do you have a bucket list? If so what is on it?
I have yet to travel to Russia – I’m intrigued by the wild art scene in St Petersburg, and I’d love to see Moscow. I had a trip to Russia planned for April 2020, but the pandemic forced me to postpone it. I hope I can make it there as soon as it’s safe.
If you were not travelling what would you be doing instead?
During the pandemic, I switched my focus to writing, especially freelance travel journalism. I also wrote about Satanism, architecture, Goth jewellery, Zen design, and other topics that interest me. I’d probably be doing something along these lines if travel wasn’t possible.
What has travel taught you?
Over and over, I learn to let go of the “story” I tell myself about who I am. Travel leads to new perspectives and flexibility of mind, which helps to break down our illusions of a fixed self that cause so much unneeded stress.
Who, in your opinion, is the most successful travel blogger? Why do you think that is?
Although he certainly can’t be defined as a blogger, I loved the blog-style travel articles Anthony Bourdain wrote for Travel Channel and CNN, which accompanied his travel TV episodes. He had an inimitable voice, and his perspectives on food, culture and people changed the way I perceive travel. I know many out there feel the same way… Bourdain is sorely missed.
Do you prefer solo travel or with someone else?
I always travel with at least one person. I enjoy sharing the memories with someone, and visuals are key to my travel coverage so it’s great to have someone around to help with photography.
If you could swim with dolphins or go shark diving, which would you pick? and why?
First, I strongly urge travelers to educate themselves on the ethics of swimming/diving with dolphins and sharks. Many of these tourist attractions are run in ways that are unethical and cause the animals to suffer. Please research the company and its practices, and only engage in these activities if they take place in a responsible manner. For instance, the “swim with dolphins” programs that let children touch dolphins in shallow pools are horrific – but if you’re snorkelling or scuba diving responsibly and a dolphin swims up to you, then that’s a different story!
What is your dream travelling experience?
There are still so many places I’d love to go. Antarctica is the only continent I haven’t stepped foot on, and I’d love to do a luxury boat trip there to see the penguins!
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