In our series of interviews with travel bloggers and influencers across the globe, we look for travel bloggers and influencers with interesting lives who can share some inspiring stories and useful advice from their experience. This week we have Nicola Lavin from All About Rosalilla
Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Nicola Lavin. I am a travel blogger living in Galway on the west coast of Ireland. I have always loved traveling but I got into blogging quite by accident. You see after a trip to Montauk, New York almost 20 years ago now, I was bitten by a tick and developed Lyme disease. I became severely ill and even developed heart failure all because of one little insect bite. I could no longer travel and I actually became so ill that I could no longer even leave my room. I spent 5 years confined within four walls and spent my days on Instagram making a virtual bucket list of all of the places that I would travel too when I got better.
I became my own doctor and researched a treatment that I knew would help me. I travelled to Germany for revolutionary stem cell treatment and 3 months later I was climbing mountains in India. My life was transformed. I now spend my time travelling the world and ticking off all those places on my virtual bucket list. I explore the world with the wonder of a child and I am so grateful for every little thing. I blog about my journey as a way to document all of the places that I have been and my followers really enjoy coming on the journey with me.
What’s your biggest achievement as a Travel Blogger?
I think being selected for the Kerala Blog Express at a time when my blog was just starting out. It was a huge achievement for me because it was the first time that I did anything independently for years. Before that I had to rely on my husband for everything! He had to wash, dress and even spoon feed me. I couldn’t even take a trip to the bathroom without his support, so to travel the whole way to India on the merits of my blog was a massive achievement for me. I am not going to lie I had many moments on that trip where I shed tears of joy looking back at how far I had come.
You have an unlimited travel budget for 24 hours. Give me your itinerary.
Oh this one is easy. Number one in my bucket list has always been to see the Northern lights dance across the sky in Iceland so I would fly to Reykjavik and with an unlimited budget I would probably stay somewhere cool like the Reykjavik Igloo Domes. I am sure that apart from chasing the Northern Lights I could fit in some hot spring swims and glacier hikes. Iceland is a country that has always appealled to me and it has been top of my bucket list for a very long time.
How do you fund your travel?
I am not the type of girl who spends money on superficial things like daily takeaway coffees or getting your nails or hair done. Every €50 is the possibility of a flight somewhere so I would much rather save my money for that. Having said that I am very lucky to collaborate or be invited to almost every place I visit. I work hard for both hotels and tourist boards providing them with unique content, photography and videos that they can use to promote and I very often feature them in my blog too. I only ever choose to work with hotels, travel companies and tourist boards that I already love. Trust with my audience is so important to me so I would never say that something is amazing just because I didn’t have to pay for it.
What is the single most effective strategy that a blogger can use to bring traffic to a blog?
Ranking on Google is a must so I am going to say SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). What is the point of writing an epic blog post if you are never found for it. I use Keysearch to help me come up with some long tailed keywords that I can rank for. Pinterest has also been bringing huge traffic to my blog All About RosaLilla so I am sure to take some time every day to work on that.
What tools do you use to monetize your blog? Which works best for you?
I am still working my way up towards being accepted by Mediavine but affiliate links and google ads have been workin
g well for me. I get a small commission each time someone buys from a site that I recommend but I am really careful to only suggest brands that I honestly love. The biggest thing for me at the moment is getting the opportunity to travel for free. After spending 18 long years ill with Lyme disease I have so many places in the world that I want to see and I could never afford to do it all on my own. I am still paying off years of medical bills so to be able to provide value to the hotels I work for in exchange for staying in some amazing places is truly wonderful for me.
What is the first trip you remember taking and how old were you?
Growing up in 80’s Ireland meant that travel was a luxury that most families just couldn’t afford. I remember falling in love with travel at a really young age. My Dad had bought me the book “I am David” where the title character escapes a concentration camp and trave
ls through Italy on a mission to find his Grandmother. The way the Italian countryside was described had me falling in love with this country before ever stepping foot in it.
Our first family holiday was when I was 14. It was a package holiday to Lanzorote and we have some incredible memories from that trip. I honestly don’t think I left the swimming pool the entire time that I was there.
Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?
I remember being super excited to go to Morocco. It was before I got too ill to travel and I was a single Mum. Morocco always felt so exotic to me so I brought my Mum and my baby without doing much research. I got a lot of abuse from local men there for not having a “husband” and I found the entire experience extremely intimidating. I was just naive and really wasn’t prepared for the attention I would get as a young single Mum. I would definitely like to go back there but older and wiser this time!
Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling?
My first solo trip with my son was when he was two years old and we went to Salou in Spain. The night we
arrived was a hurricane. People lost their lives and I watched out the window, as a terrified new Mum as half the beach got washed away. Our apartment became seperated from the main apartment complex as the road became a river. It was a tough few days not being able to get out for supplies, especially with a toddler. After everything dried up though we had a wonderful time exploring that region of Spain.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
Italy will always have my heart. As I mentioned above I fell in love with it without ever having seen it. It is the one country that I keep returning too. In fact, myself and my husband always say that we will retire there, preferably in a Tuscan Villa with its own vineyard!
Do you have a bucket list? If so what is on it?
I do! It’s huge! Number one is of course seeing the Northern Lights and I think I would preferably like to see them in Iceland because Iceland has always been on my bucket list. After that I have always wanted to travel Asia because I have never had the opportunity to do that before. I would love to return to India and have more time to explore and Bali, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand are all on my list. There are parts of Europe like Croatia and Montenegro that I am still dying to explore and I really want to return to Romania and do a roadtrip through the Romanian countryside.
South America and Japan are on my bucket list and I have always wanted to experience Dia de los Muertos in Mexico, Carnival in Rio and Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
If you were not travelling what would you be doing instead?
I am a big nerd and a trained medical scientist.When I got very ill five years ago I got to the point where I couldn’t work and I had to give up the career I loved. That is when I turned to blogging to keep me sane and to feel like I was somehow still contributing to the world while in isolation. Last year I felt well enough to return to working in the hospital laboratory and I am so grateful. I decided to only go back 3 days a week so that I still had 2 rest days every week which means that I can still save energy for the other love of my life, travel.
What has travel taught you?
You can learn so much from travel and it has honestly made me the person that I am. Despite my health issues it has taught me to be extremely grateful of the priviledges I have. It has made me more empathetic to people and situations having seen the poverty and political climates of some countries. It has also taught me that our planet is the most beautiful place and that it really deserves us to look after it.
Who, in your opinion, is the most successful travel blogger? Why do you think that is?
I know that the one that I look up to most is Helene in Between. I just love how real she is and she is the first one that made me believe that I too could carve out a career as a travel blogger. She taught me the value of building your community and the importance of engaging with your audience and forming genuine interactions with them. My community is honestly one of the strongest because of this.
Do you prefer solo travel or with someone else?
While I am grateful to have my independence back I honestly can’t imagine exploring the world without my husband. I call him Mister Lavin on both my blog and my Instagram and my followers LOVE him! He takes all of my photographs and he is the only person I feel comfortable with in front of the camera. I get extremely shy when anyone else points a lens at me! With him I can just be myself. He is my best friend and we both enjoy a lot of the same things and we travel at the same pace. I honestly couldn’t imagine experiencing the amazing things that I do without him by my side.
If you could swim with dolphins or go shark diving, which would you pick? and why?
Em…..dolphins because getting eaten by sharks is not on my list of things to do 😛 Only messing. I think that by going through a severe illness you become so grateful for life that you don’t ever want to risk anything going wrong again. I used to be so adventurous and have a “YOLO” attitude but I have definitely become tamer and my travel has become much more slow paced because of my illness. Travelling with disability or chronic illness is wonderful but not always easy.
What is your dream travelling experience?
I think I may have experienced one already. During my illness I would spend hours on Instagram looking at the amazing pictures that travel bloggers had taken in Cappadocia, Turkey. I had never heard of this place before and had no idea how to get there. After my treatment I turned 40 and I just knew where I wanted to celebrate my birthday. It was a truly powerful and emotional moment to wake up on the morning of my 40th birthday and watch the hot air balloons fill up the sky as the sun was rising. It was a real pinch me moment!
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