Johannes Klaus has travelled to over 75 countries. His place of work is the world. We spoke to him about his life as a travel blogger.
The point at which an annual holiday just isn't enough came for Johannes Klaus in 2010. He quit his job as a graphic designer and went on a 14-monthtour of the world. He recorded his impressions and adventures for his friends and family but also himself on his Reisedepesche blog, as well as the multimedia story-telling portal The Travel Episodes. We took a look behind the scenes of what for many is a dream job.
Deutsche Welle: Four weeks in Thailand, two months in Australia, three weeks in New Zealand and then on to L.A. - more and more people are living the dream of taking a tour around the world. But not everyone manages to turn traveling into their job. Was it just a case of you being in the right place at the right time?
Johannes Klaus: When I was given the Grimme Award in 2011 it marked the beginning of non-journalists, like bloggers, occasionally being invited on a press tour of destinations by tourist associations, in order to write about their experiences. These group tours focus on tourist highlights and take you to destinations pre-selected by the organizers, which leaves very little room for personal experiences. I did however find this insight into the way this industry sector works very interesting. Often I was the only blogger among all these travel journalists. On the other hand my presence back then did irritate a number of travel journalists on these tours.
Why was that?
To be invited on these exciting press tours is a privilege for travel journalists. And they realized they'd also have to compete with travel bloggers for the few places (laughs). But by now we've got used to each other.
What is the difference between travel blogging and travel journalism?
For me a travel blog is more about recounting personal experiences. It is about more than just facts and figures of a place. I want to take readers with me and let them share my travel impressions as closely as possible.
And can you make a living from this?
You have to separate marketing and journalism. A certain number of bloggers will be paid for their work, turning it more into a marketing exercise. Others might find that their blogs result in them being commissioned to create reports or videos for the webpage of a tour operator. I decided to form a collective with other travel bloggers in order to be able to offer our partners a variety of coverage. I usually write articles after a trip meaning that I spend two-thirds of the year at home processing and recording my experiences.
As a blogger do you travel differently when on a private trip?
Not really. I never travel with the focus on "I'm going to go there because I want to report on that,"but rather I do whatever takes my interest when I get there. I do not set out with a finished story-idea in my head and I don't do any great amount of research beforehand. I often deliberately avoid cultural attractions that are listed in every travel guide but instead give myself lots of time to discover places for myself.
When you are officially invited to a travel tour, does that not mean that your opinion has been bought?
Being invited is the basis, the pre-requisite for me to be able to do my job: when my travel expenses are paid I can take in and experience a place which I can then later write about. Yet this does not mean that I will be writing advertisements for this travel destination. But I do think it is important that my readers know that I was invited to visit a place and also by whom. By making this transparent I give my readers the chance to place and interpret what I have written. I developed this principle together with other travel bloggers in 2013 and we made it part of the travel bloggers' code in order to create and maintain certain standards. As a signatory of this code I reserve the right as an author, if needs be, to also be critical, even if I was invited to the tour.
Your Reisedepesche page made you into one of Germany's leading travel bloggers. How has the blogger scene developed since then?
Of course there were travel blogs before 2010, particularly in the English-speaking areas, which I had looked at ahead of my tour of the world. In those days in the German-speaking realm there were only really a few private blogs, like my own. In 2011 suddenly a whole wave of German bloggers appeared and a year later the press discovered them. At the same time tourist destinations and tour operators began to realize how useful blogs were to them as well, and so that market grew at the same rate.
What happened then?
There was an ever-growing number of blogs appearing until in 2014 the scene became confusing. This also had to do with the fact that most people were attracted to the idea of earning money by traveling. I do believe though, that there is a difference between the old and new bloggers - mainly that a lot of the personal diary quality has been lost. Now self-marketing and the determination to earn money has become the priority. It makes a real difference whether you're simply writing out of a desire to share you experiences with the world, or whether you're trying to set up a business as quickly as possible in a very competitive market.
Once you've been to over 75 countries doesn't travel at some point lose its attraction?
Traveling is great - but it is just one aspect of life. If you travel a lot then you also take into account that it will put a strain on personal relationships. Thankfully I have a very understanding circle of friends, and a partner who is also a travel blogger.
Since our daughter was born we travel as a small family, but to carefully selected destinations. Would I ever consider giving it up? No, as there is just too much still to see.
Johannes Klaus with the Piper Verlag has recently published The Travel Episodes: stories of home sickness and freedom.