Every year, more and more Vietnamese go abroad to travel, study, and work. Popular destinations like China and Vietnam’s neighboring Cambodia received the most traffic in 2017, with Europe and American destinations continuing to gain Vietnamese visitors yearly. It is projected that by 2021 the number of outbound trips from Vietnam will fall at over seven million.
Vietnamese travel blogger Ly Thanh Co started Venturology in 2014 and has used his website to share travel advice, anecdotes, and breathtaking photos with his readers. At only 25 years old, Ly Thanh Co has already visited about thirty different countries and is the author of a new Vietnamese-language book encouraging young people to pursue their passions.
Vietcetera met with Ly Thanh Co to discuss travel blogging as a career, content creation, and compile his best advice for fellow travelers.
Out of college with little foreign travel experience, how did you first get into the travel blogging scene?
In 2014, when I was about to graduate university with a job secured at an advertising agency, I decided to reward myself with a trip to Hong Kong. Before then I wasn’t aware I had such a love for travel. But this trip opened up a new world to me, and I spent the next year visiting a different country every month.
After fielding a lot of questions from friends and family about visa applications, paperwork, sightseeing, photography, and dining, I decided to record and share my experiences via my blog. That’s how Venturology began.
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Now that you’ve found this passion for travel, how have you managed to pay the bills?
Since finishing school, I’ve written freelance PR articles, taught English, done agency work, and saved a lot. By working hard and being smart with my money, I’ve been able to fund my international travel.
Lately, I’ve been collaborating on my travel blogging work with airlines and travel companies. I’ve also done branded content for beverage, cosmetics, and fashion companies. This goes toward trip costs, but is not always enough to serve pay for any given trip.
When I went to Europe last year, however, I made enough in sponsorships to cover my flight ticket, smartphone costs, and camera. My work on that trip helped build my relationships with airlines and hone my online image.
Keep in mind that travel blogging is a project I do primarily out of love for the subject matter. I have never been in it for the money.
How do you usually prepare before a trip?
Because of my work through Venturology, every trip is a mix of business and pleasure for me. That means that I have to schedule days off and make arrangements so I am in good health when I do my work, all while balancing my finances responsibly.
Travelers may not always think of health as the first priority when planning a trip, but I’ve had a few experiences that taught me to consider my wellbeing every time I go abroad. For example, I once had to spend two weeks in the hospital in Japan due to drastic weather changes from Tokyo to Hokkaido. If I had been more informed in my transition between two different climates, I may have avoided the ordeal altogether.
I advise everyone to take the time to research weather—and proper clothing for such weather—before going someplace new. Exercise, pay attention to your dietary needs when trying new foods, and get vaccinated if the doctor recommends it.
Another way I prepare for travel is by doing lots of sightseeing research. I look up key locations in any given city, use maps, other blogs, and word of mouth to set my destinations. Something I do often is search for a city’s hashtag on Instagram to visualize what the scene is like and discover activities I may not have known about.
Finally, in addition to supporting relatively detailed travel plans, I also fully support setting time aside in a dense schedule so that you can wander freely. Oftentimes, the best things come at unexpected moments. Being too strict about a schedule can keep you from making the most of a trip.
Describe your travel style.
I focus on culture wherever I go. My favorite activities are going to museums, enjoying great foods, and meeting local people to learn more about their lifestyles. I try to learn from everyone I meet. If I’m lucky, some of the people I befriend while I’m traveling will invite me into their homes where I can experience locals’ daily lives and values.
Tell us about your favorite destination so far.
France. My relationship with France is a real “histoire d’amour”, or love story. I’ve been there four times but, each time, there was a completely different mood to my travel. On my first trip, I was stunned by the beauty of French architecture and the countryside, while later on I felt satisfied exploring for short amounts of time while resting and eating French food.
Most recently I visited France to take a course offered by ESCP Europe and IAE Sorbonne University. I didn’t want to leave. After only two weeks, the neighborhood I stayed in became familiar to me. I got to know the metro lines, the little shops on my street, and the restaurants that served food I wanted to learn to cook.
My experience with France has shown me that I need to spend more time in a place before I feel comfortable there, and that, even weeks in one city will only pique your curiosity about a destination rather than answer all your questions.
For the sake of fellow young people interested in international travel, could you tell us how your experiences have impacted you? Were there challenges you faced at first that you’ve since overcome?
Like any young college graduate, I started out feeling compelled to work and save money to buy a house and a car and affirm my position in society. I was more focused on material things, and this made it challenging to dive into travel at first.
Since starting Venturology, I’ve realized that traveling makes me very happy and have chosen it over material success. The benefits I can reap from a trip, from time to myself or on new streets with only a suitcase, are more valuable than a home or car to me.
Today, thanks to my experiences so far, I’ve broadened my worldview and become more positive. I used to worry more about little things than I did appreciate them. But now I live with as little social media use as possible, appreciating local cultures and the beauty of nature while I travel. I’ve become more understanding, more open, both at home and abroad.
What is the secret to your content curation?
To make your content stand out, you must work from a place of passion. You cannot enter this industry with commercialization as your first motivation, or you will give up too easily. A lack of early readership is not discouraging as long as you love what you do and are not simply waiting for the cash to flow in.
Focus at first on building a small and loyal community of readers, then watch which posts are most popular and replicate these. Consider your target audience and address them—which for me means I give travel tips and advice for fellow wanderers looking to visit the same places I’ve been to. Ask yourself who you picture reading your blog, and imagine their needs when you work.
Your blog should also have a consistent voice. For me, that means being reflective even when I face difficulties and sharing my emotions with readers. I’m very open and I believe readers value that.
This last point is for anyone who relies only on social media: make sure to create your own website. It’s easy to post on Facebook or Instagram, but posts become buried and you have less control over how you present your content. Build a website, and you’re in control of how your portfolio appears to the world.