Travel Influencer Interview: Judith and Mark a Creative Travel Couple on a Worldtrip
Bali, Kuala Lumpur, Nusa Islands, Philippines, Mauritius, Marrakesh. These are just some of the incredible places that the Couple of Travel Influencer Judith Dollevoet & Mark Schoenmakers of Travelmonster visited.
A creative Travel Couple who decided to leave behind an old life, to create a new one, which allows him to travel whenever they want and to visit beautiful places.
Where if not Instagram to share all their work? Find them with @travelmonster.nl
We had the pleasure of asking him a few questions, and an interview with interesting ideas came out.
Hi Guys, thanks for your participation in this new Top World Hotel format. Let’s start immediately with a question about you. How and where did you meet? Before becoming a Travel Influencer, what did you do?
This is kind of an average love story. Mark and I met in a Bar on a Thursday night in a city in the Netherlands called Tilburg. I was studying to become a teacher and Mark was already working fulltime, but decided to visit the bar at nights that usually are only for students (cheeky bastard). So that’s where we met, and after a few weeks of dating, Mark asked me on 1 January to be his Girlfriend just after the fireworks. This is now already more than 7,5 years ago.
Like I said, I was studying to be a teacher but I never became one. I started the study but after 2 years I realized that I liked my Sales job on the side way more. So I decided to finish my study to keep my parents happy, but in the meantime develop my sales skills. I then went on to work 5 years for a company called Kiyoh. It’s the marketleader in the Netherlands in online review marketing. I started there just selling on the phone and ended up as a Salesmanager with my own team of accountmanagers and cold calling team. So I think it’s time to let Mark tell his story, this is how it usually goes I start talking and I never quit 🙂
So here is the Cheeky Bastard (Mark). Still happy I was fishing on the Thursday nights those days because I have the best catch of all. Judith told you guys already that I was working full time at that time. I’m 7 years older than Judith (but ssstt nobody has to know she didn’t know either when she met me). Judith was able to keep her parents happy by finishing her study which I couldn’t. I didn’t finish university as no single study was really what I was looking for at the time. It forced me to start working and develop from there.
I started as a junior Data Analist and quickly moved on to be a senior Big Data engineer and was managing and overseeing big Marketing Intelligence projects in over 46 countries for Vodafone, Google and Volkswagen which was pretty interesting. I learned by managing these that I loved the consulting and sales part as well. I went into Consultative Selling and was approached to work for the biggest dutch company in Credit Management who were looking to build a Business Unit in Marketing Intelligence. I took on the challenge and we built a quite successful branche.
After a few years I got an opportunity to work for Dow Jones managing the Netherlands and worked with investors, banks and insurance and trust and pensionfunds to consult on potential investments and risk management. The job was great but pretty demanding and took almost 14 hours a day including transport to the office. Naturally, Judith wanted me to find something else which I did when I got in touch with Investors closer to where I lived. They wanted to build their number 3 market position in Energy Sales to a number 1. I started there as Marketing Director and after a year I became COO. We went on to become number one and bought the number 2 and 3 organisations to reinforce ourselves as marketleader.
During this period, we were both working a lot so we decided to spend al our well earned money on holidays to bucket list locations. This was always our shared passion but we just struggled with the 25 holidays each year.
When did you choose to become a Travel Influencer? Have you decided right away or is it something that has developed slowly?
We never decided so. Also we don’t really like the word Influencer. It sounds a little pretentious and we feel more like Content Creators with a loyal audience. We are just people who really love to travel and share it with others.
At the moment the best platform for us to do this on is Instagram. We have always loved to make good photos of our holidays because a photo is the best way for us to keep the memory alive. We started to post our pictures on Facebook and Instagram and we really read and investigate a lot before we plan our travels. It pretty much avoids dissapointment altogether. We realized there are a lot of people travelblogging but most are just sharing how they did it. Which unfortunately often isn’t great advice. But in fact we did the same and we just loved to help other people with their travels.
It was just a hobby for us but more and more we grew an audience because people really started to see we gave solid advice. But we started growing and like the sales & marketing people we are, we started to see possibilities to increase our efforts in travel and photography, and make an income out of it. As a plan B we created a Social Media company called Socialpaca where we help other companies with Social Media. The plan was to be able to travel the world while growing our savings.
After being breakeven profitable we decided last year it was time to leave our office jobs. So last March we stopped and start travelling fulltime ever since. It took us exactly one month of pursuing opportunities since then before our business actually became highly profitable because we could use all our hours to work on it.
Traveling as a couple for work and pleasure. Tell us some things you need to take into consideration when traveling as a couple.
You have to be a team. You have to know each others strengths and weaknesses and be able to really work together. Before we started travelling we were already most of our time together (only not when we were working) so we knew we wouldn’t run into trouble if we would see each other night and day. But if you are a couple but are not used to be together it can be challenging I guess.
We are stronger than we have ever been. When you do everything together you are ultimately relying on each other. We often don’t need words to know how the other is feeling. When one of us isn’t feeling well the other will take care of things.
This is a question that surely you have already received: Is it a full time job for you?
Yes we are travelling fultime right now. Our income is coming from both our own Instagram profiles as from our Social Media company.
It gives us the freedom to travel wherever we want to go.
Your Instagram profile says: “Creative Travel Couple on a World-trip“. By now it is no longer enough to be a Travel Influencer (only with many followers), but you have to be a creator of new and interesting content, and you have to be creative. What do you think?
Yes we agree totally. To be honest there are more and more people in the Travel Influencer Sphere right now who can make a good photo. But we also see a lot of the same content. Not everyone is creative, some just copy angles and other people’s work, which can give you success regardless if you have a good camera and some editing knowledge. But, and there’s a big but, we believe our inbox is full of opportunities because people can see the difference. We try to do something new where possible, find different angles, have a different Bali feed than the generic ones. I guess you have to love your job to always try to be creative but that’s what we love the most.
Also Because we also work for companies and doing their influencer management we really know both sides of the coin. We think it’s really important for companies to know what their target audience is and which values they have. This way, it’s way easier to find “Travel influencer” who are fitting instead of just looking at the followers. There are tons of Travel influencers with 500K -1 million followers who bring no value at all to a brand. We also believe you have to create your own niche. We are not focusing on traveling as cheap as possible etc. We are more in the luxury – adventure – sustainability and couple niche.
And we always say: Content is King and with content we mean the shot but also the storytelling in the caption & stories.
When you have to travel for work, and you have a precise destination, do you plan all the trip details, or start “an adventure”? Are you already planning all the content you’re going to create?
We do both actually. Of course, when we have assignments, we have to plan it upfront. But we are still liking to go on adventure so sometimes we have a week where we just explore and are looking for new places. We just love to find spots we haven’t seen on Instagram, and we will never share where they are because we want to encourage others to also explore for themselves and go on adventure.
How do you distinguish yourself and your photos/videos from the many travel influencer on Instagram?
What we love to do the most is using our own eyes instead of using other people’s pictures to create a shot. We love to use other creators their content as inspiration but never to copy a shot. In the last year we have had more than 1000 reposts and features which is way more than what we actually post. It also means that if your photo is distributed through a lot of Instagram feeds people will copy your angles and use your photo’s as inspiration. In the end we don’t let that bother us.
But definitely we believe that your own creativity is your brand. Everyone can build a Bali feed of the Kelingking beach shot – Underwater statues in Gili – Tegalalang Ricefield shot – Gates to heaven + a waterfall. And sure we’ve been to those places but we add a lot of different locations to the mix which requires more exploring, investigation and in general gives us more joy and uniqueness.
On Top World Hotel we visit, verify and review the top Hotels and Resorts in the World. We have seen that you enjoy staying in hotels and resorts during your travels. What are the best ones you’ve been to?
When you work with Hotels and Resorts, what are the requests made to you? What kind of content do you need to create?
Most of the Hotels are trusting us on our own creativity and we don’t get that many specific requests. It’s mainly some posts and stories and we offer additional packages in the form of photos and video.
What would you say is the biggest value professional travel influencer bring to Hotels and hospitality venues?
I think they need to know that Instagram nowadays is the platform where people decide where to go on holidays. People see a spot and just want to go there. Travel Influencer are the way to show your property to a big targeted audience. People who decide on Instagram don’t decide on price or a TripAdvisor rating. They want to go to ‘that place’ and grab their wallets for it even if it’s just for one or two nights and then get a cheaper place. But there are a million villa’s and resorts on the planet and still the ones we market are fully booked. That alone is all the evidence needed.
Influencer marketing is increasingly becoming a competitive business. What tips would you give to aspiring influencers looking to get their start in the industry (eg how can they set themselves apart from their competitors)?
It’s important to not fall into traps like buying courses how to be a succesful blogger and things like that. Buying presets isn’t worth it. They won’t work on half of your photo’s and you won’t learn to edit it on your own. Most important is to invest. Money makes money. Getting a pro-level camera and drone, buying that expensive hotel room (to build portfolio) and only use work from others as inspo. Work from copying that shot to creating your own versions because someone elses creativity made you work on your own.
And last but not least: Get into video. There is definitely space and budget in that market.
Ok, last question for you guys: What are you most looking forward to in 2020? Any travel goals?
Right now we have so many opportunities still in 2019. We will do some things we couldn’t even dream about because we didn’t know it existed. We can’t wait to show that. Things we are really looking forward in 2020 is expanding our Travelmonster team. We will expand with at least 2 content creators and can’t wait to help them grow.
Sharing is after all the best way to enjoy the lifestyle we worked hard for to create.
We Visit, Verify and Review the top Hotels and Resorts in the World.