This week I’m really pleased to be featuring a Q&A with the travel writer, travel author and founder of Life Beyond Borders blog, Rebecca Hall. I first properly met Rebecca at this year’s World Travel Market. A fellow travel addict and member of the British Guild of Travel Writers, we had lots to talk about. And when I heard about her self-published novel Girl Gone Greek, I was dying to feature her on the blog.
But for now, find out more about Rebecca, what it’s like living in Greece and what you can read about on her travel blog Life Beyond Borders.
Over to you Rebecca…
Guest travel writer Q&A | Rebecca, Life Beyond Borders
Tell us about yourself
I’m Rebecca (Bex) and I run Life Beyond Borders Blog, dividing my time between my home country of the UK and Greece. I initially moved to Greece in 2008 to teach English after volunteering abroad and working in various countries. After one year there, I found myself falling in love with the place; its food, people and for the first time, I felt some sort of affinity with a country, an anchor. So I stayed. I still work part of the year in Greece and love it.
Why did you set up your blog?
I started Life Beyond Borders in 2010 to document my travels around this beautiful place and also to share my past travels. It really started taking off into a more serious realm in 2012 when Greece started to hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. I guess you could say I was in the right place at the right time because peoples’ perceptions of Greece, through negative headlines, were challenging their decisions to come on holiday to the country.
I continued my site, in a more professional guise by moving it to WordPress, adding a new logo and connecting with groups of bloggers for advice and support. I really wanted to promote this country – MY Greece and destinations beyond what the headlines showed, to challenge them. I wanted to take people beyond the borders of geography and their minds – as my byline for my site states. And it’s grown from there.
Tell me about your typical week…
I don’t really have a typical week. I am fortunate that I get to work part time as a student counsellor in Greece; helping university age students to prepare their personal statements to apply to University in the UK. This is only for part of the year and I feel very lucky that it gives me variation in between working alone with my cats!
In 2014, Rough Guides also employed me as a guidebook updater. So at least once a year, I try to go abroad for them to update any books. So far, I’ve updated chapters of Greece and the Greek Islands twice, plus Portugal.
Aside from that, I spend some of the year travelling to new destinations to highlight them on my site. I especially like covering places that people may not know much about, as well as Greek destinations that allow people to see the true country.
It’s this very passion that compelled me to pen my debut novel ‘Girl Gone Greek‘.
Tell us about Girl Gone Greek….
Girl Gone Greek is a fictitious account of a girl who comes to Greece to live in a remote village and teach English (guess who?!). The story is interwoven with all the quirky characters and traditions of the country and region she encounters.
My aim was to show, through a fun, light-hearted way, that Greece isn’t all that bad – especially as I am by no means a political writer…and I think it’s working.
I’ve been invited on cruise ships around the Mediterranean, some hotels and Literary Festivals in the UK and also schools to give talks about my writing. I want to prove to people that they need to give Greece and, by extension, the world a chance rather than listening to negativity – to ‘go beyond the borders of geography and their minds.’
How did you find the process of writing and publishing your own book?
I self-published Girl Gone Greek in 2015 on Amazon (Kindle and Paperback) and it took me 6 years to complete. I was teaching at the time, so I’d teach during the day, then come home and write at night.
It was a very emotional process and it was based on my own personal experiences in Greece. I was motivated by anger to write it; anger at the way Greece was being portrayed. Motivation wise, I had no problem!
In order to write a story that people will want to come back to, you need a back story and I needed to show the readers why this character ended up in Greece in the first place. That meant having to almost go through a form of therapy and look at myself, my past and create tension through the book. It wasn’t purely fictitious (ie; the character was me, effectively), so it meant really going through some difficult stuff privately. But don’t worry! It’s not a psychological self-help or victim book! It’s primarily about Greece and the funny, quirky people who live there.
Would you recommend self-publishing rather than traditional publishing?
Yes. Being self-published meant I could choose my own editor – someone who understood me and my quirky style – and I was so lucky to find mine (through a LinkedIn group). More importantly, self-publishing allowed me to choose my own book cover. I ADORE the design my graphic designer came up with (he gave me a choice of seven different ones!) and I feel really proud of the outcome.
Can readers expect a sequel?
It’s hard when people ask me when the next book’s coming. It is a huge emotional investment and I need to feel that burn, that ‘anger’ again. Yes, there will be another book – it’s just a matter of when. Plus; I’ve been concentrating on my travels and blog – and let’s face it, daily life takes over.
I prefer quality over merely writing a book for the sake of churning one out. It’ll come when it’s ready.
What do you love most about travel writing?
I love the opportunity it gives me to explore different aspects of a country and really discover whether a place is worth recommending to my readers. To go beyond my borders.
Do you think that more travel writers are also moving into blogging these days?
Well, it’s a different style of writing. Blogging can be more personal whereas travel writing is much more about the facts, etc. There’s room for both, and I like undertaking both.
I like the research aspect for Rough Guides publications and exploring different hotels, restaurants, sites, etc but I also love digging deeper for my blog.
What kind of content can readers expect from Life Beyond Borders Blog?
I cover a variety of content on Life Beyond Borders: from interviews and guest posts with expats, to interviews with film directors on location (so far in Greece). You’ll also find travel products and hotel reviews, luxury places to stay in Greece and abroad, plus cultural activities across various destinations.
I don’t just limit my blog to Greece – I didn’t start out as a travel blogger to make money; rather I collated my travel experiences worldwide because I enjoyed writing. It was then I realised the potential to make it a professional site.
I hope you enjoy it!
Tell us something about yourself that people may not know..
My dad was a merchant mariner and in 2013, I decided to understand a little more about his lifestyle. So I took a voyage as a passenger on a container ship from Athens to Hong Kong for 37 days!
I was interviewed by NPR Radio in the US, twice, about the experience – NPR is the BBC’s equivalent of Radio 4 – and I would go back and do it again in a shot. The friendships developed with the crew, the sunsets at sea, the way they felt protective of me, I’ve never felt that kind of ‘care’ outside of my own family. In fact, it’s different and more intense than your own family.
Now I feel I understand my father’s calming nature: the sea has that effect on people and the ones that have to work with nature and the sea have to respect it, and be certain types of people.
I have a section about it on my blog under Alternative > Container ship travel
What are your favourite travel blogs?
I love blogs that are quality focused and honest…show the true side of tourism or living in a place. To that end, I love sites such as Travel With Kat and WanderlustingK who both approach travel in their own unique way.
I feel like I have to say you too! (Gee, thanks Rebecca!) I’ll be honest, I’ve only just started following you – and actually, I love your style of hitting the right tone with information, pictures and personal feelings. I particularly enjoyed the Colourful Seaside Escape to Whitstable article and the photos definitely make me want to go – especially as I am a fan of beach huts!
What are your top 3 tips for travel writers thinking about starting a blog?
Think about why you’re starting it. In all honesty, are you doing it just to make money because I don’t think that approach works (it didn’t for me).
What have you got to offer that other travel blogs don’t? And you don’t have to be in competition, find your unique voice on a similar subject.
On the subject of competition, it needn’t be! Learn to work with other bloggers and how you can collaborate.
Thank you to Rebecca for featuring on the blog this week! If you’d like to keep up with her travels, follow her on twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook and of course, via her blog, Life Beyond Borders. You can also purchase her book Girl Gone Greek via Amazon, Kindle and paperback.
All images provided by Rebecca
If you’re a travel writer or established travel blogger and you’d like to feature in my guest blog Q&A series, get in touch.