Today on Testaccina we’re delighted to welcome Chris Sharpe, a talented blogger based in London whose travel, nightlife and culture site, Make New Tracks, is helping Chris earn money blogging, meet extraordinary people and enjoy exhilarating experiences along the way. London-based Chris is living proof that you don’t always need to be on the road to find great stories – some of his most glorious posts highlight adventures located on his own doorstep, although he’s also a keen traveller. He has over 10,000 followers on social media, and Make New Tracks keeps on generating interesting invites and helping him build a blogging community – not least due to his tireless work ethic! So, without further ado, over to Chris for a few sharp insights into the writing life…
Testaccina: When did you first launch Make New Tracks, and has the idea for the blog evolved much since your first few posts?
Chris: Make New Tracks in its current format has been going since about 2013, before that I ran another blog called Freshly Squeezed Travel. My first blog was just a bunch of inconsistent ramblings about my first backpacking trip. I didn’t know what I wanted to write about or what my blog should be known for. It’s taken a long time to develop the blog into a hub for all my interests: nightlife, UK travel, beer, quirky attractions and offbeat destinations.
T: Is it hard to keep generating new content, or are you an ideas machine?
Chris: I try to travel as often as I can, so developing new ideas to write isn’t usually difficult; finding the time to write them often is. The easiest way to plan out some awesome blog posts is just to think, ‘what would I want to read?’ and then write about that with all the passion and enthusiasm you can!
T: Is it important to have a writing community as a blogger? If so, who is your community?
Chris: A community can help everyone from beginner to pro, facilitating new opportunities and opportunities to learn from fellow bloggers. Travel blogging is lucky that is has such a strong community feel to it, no matter where you are in the world. In London, I often attend both Travel Massive and Traverse events to connect and engage with a ton of other passionate travel writers. I’ve made great friends in this community and its fun to be around a group of people who completely get that you don’t just start eating your meal when it arrives at the table, you have to take about 20 photos first, of course.
T: You’ve managed to amass nearly 10,000 followers on social media, which is pretty epic! Is this something you’ve worked at?
Chris: Every single day! Replying to questions, sharing other blogger’s work and just generally being active on social is possibly one of the most important aspects of blogging.
T: How important is it to have a following on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for you? If you had to advise a new travel blogger starting out, what would you say about these channels?
Chris: We’re lucky nowadays to have so many different types of communication, allowing us to reach fans in so many different ways. Whether you love sharing pics on Instagram, telling mini stories on Facebook or making a killer Pinterest wall, the most important thing is that you create an engaged audience and that you consistently engage with them! I don’t personally think having big numbers on all social accounts is essential, just build your fan base up on a medium that suits you, there will be plenty of people passionate about the same things.
T: If you’ve managed to transition to earning with your blog, what tips would you give newbies about making the jump?
Chris: Personally, I don’t blog to earn money, it’s an added bonus but I would never advise someone to do so as I don’t believe that starting your blog purely for money is sustainable. I blog because I love sharing stories and travel advice to my fans. My friends always ask me for advice so even if I wasn’t writing it all down on my blog I’d still be giving out travel tips! In recent years blogging has become very competitive, so it’s tough to earn a full time wage from it, but if you are really passionate about what you do, you can make it a reality.
T: What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever been invited to do / see with a view to reviewing it on your blog?
Chris: I’ve spent a night in a converted jail cell, a windmill and plenty more besides but my personal favourite was when Secret Adventures messaged me asking if I wanted to go on an adventure. They took me and a small group to a secret underground catacomb by boat. After exploring by firelight, we enjoyed a picnic and an acoustic concert with Cosmo & Merlin Sheldrake and Strangefruit; it was easily one of the most unusual and bizarre night’s I’ve ever had in London.
T: How important are pictures to your blog?
Chris: Pictures are the window that allows readers to visually experience what you are trying to convey, it’s an important part of blogging but I still regard my words as more significant. Photographers will favour a more image heavy blog, but as an English literature graduate, my joy comes from conveying stories.
T: Is travel writing a lonely life or the ultimate in freedom?
Chris: It depends. At the moment I travel a lot with my partner, who is also a blogger, so it’s very comfortable and completely different to when I travelled on my own. When I was backpacking solo I found moments of isolation quite hard, but other times I felt the total freedom was one of the greatest experiences of my life.
I know a lot of top bloggers who have also felt the negative effects of always being on the road, secretly wishing for a place of the world to call their own. For some people the nomadic life is a dream come true, but for most it’s just not plausible long-term.
Chris: I’m planning a big trip this year, so keep your eyes peeled for an antipodean adventure!