Hustle chat with Sonya Lai of The GlobaLite
I have to say one of my favourite things about being a blogger is connecting with incredible people around the globe; people who are pursuing their passions and owning their hustle.
I stumbled upon The Globalite AKA Sonya when I was scrolling through some endless travel inspo, and guys, SHE HAS GOT IT! I sent her a message about how much I was drooling over her feed and the conversation started there; I had to share her with you!
Hi Sonya, thank-you so much for doing this interview! Tell us more about you and The Globalite?
Hi, Annika! Thank you for the interview:) I am American, grew up across the border. My background is in Economics and Tech, but also have journalism and fashion experiences. The last official place I lived in was New York City. For the past few years I have become an avid traveler. (At one point, I had top level status on all the major airline alliances 😉 ) My friends are all big travellers; in part because many are European but go to school or work in the US. I also had a couple long distance relationships so I flew transatlantic to see them. I got used to hopping on a plane from the East Coast (Boston, DC, or NY – since I lived in all three in the past few years) to Europe even for a weekend!
I started the City Guide site, the Globalite (theglobalite – which will be relaunched) since so many people ask me for recommendations of my favourite cities. It aims to showcase a curated list of hotels, restaurants, and things to do in up and coming cities (i.e. Muscat, Oman) and of course classic destinations (i.e. Paris). The target audience are people like my friends: young professionals who are educated and international.
Sonya, I feel like I can totally relate! Of course I am sure the reader’s of Fernweh Society can as well! Let me ask you, how do you fund your travels?
Right now I am in crossroads figuring out exactly this! After my last job at a Tech startup, I have been taking a break. Previously, I paid for my travels through my job. I also acquired multiple airline statuses and miles that help defray the cost of plane tickets; especially last minute or over the holiday trips. (Booking 11 months in advance for holiday tickets usually lets you lock in peak times for a standard amount of miles.) Traveling with people can also reduce the cost of accommodation. There are also some destinations that are cheaper than daily life in the US – such as all over SE Asia, so if you can rent out your apartment or forgo rent, it is actually money saved, say, to be sipping a coconut in Bali 🙂
This said, increasingly, I get free accommodation and other perks when I travel because of my Instagram account, but this is not easy to come by especially in major, popular cities. ‘Making it’ as a travel influencer is super hard. Most start out paying for travel on their own. Of course, there are exceptions, but the overwhelming number start out as paid guests. If you want to be a travel influencer and have limited funds, start with your own neighbourhood. Explore your hometown, write excellent articles in your own blog or post gorgeous photos on your Instagram and branch out from there. Travel does not have to be exotic. The best, informative writers are those who can tell a story even in the most seemingly-ordinary places!
Great advice Sonya, it is important to take one step at a time. Okay, so here is a toughy; what is your favourite place you visited so far and why?
This is a hard question for me to answer. I have many favourites and I never want to say that I will not return to a place. In general, I like places with history, especially with majestic monuments. I was recently in Jordan and loved Jerash, an ancient Greek city. It amazed me that it was built so long ago. Of course, I loved Petra as well, but I tend to like the less frequented places! Be sure to take the hike up to see the Monastery in Petra, it’s larger and more dramatic than the famous Treasury.
Sri Lanka is also an incredible country. I like that it’s raw, the land is lush-tropical, and so rich in culture. Kandy is my favourite city there because it’s a rare place that you can walk around without a driver and experience a bit closer to everyday city life. Plus, the Temple of the Tooth is phenomenal. This said, it can be a bit dysfunctional so if anything goes wrong on your trip, do not expect that “Customer is always right.”
Since I love the beach, two favourites are Tofu Beach in Mozambique; expansive white sand beaches lightly discovered by tourists, and the sandbars in the Exumas, Bahamas. You cannot imagine how white the sand is there, and dotted by starfish!
For cities I normally frequent, there is no place like Paris.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE PARIS 🙂 Anyone who knows me can attest to that! So where is high on your bucket list; is there anywhere you haven’t been 🙂 ?
Cuba is super high on my list, and since it has opened up to Americans I need to go sooner than later because its change is accelerating. Yesterday will never be the same as today. Plus, a guide to Havana would make a fantastic addition to the Globalite.
Tell us more about your Instagram! Firstly, it is so beautiful and really gives me some #travelinspo! How did you grow your following?
I started @theglobalite Instagram end of April 2016 as part of social media for the Globalite site. Since then, it’s taken on a bit of life of its own. Consistency is key to growing an account. Post regularly and within theme – don’t post photos of family if you are a fashion account, for example. Also, the more you engage with other accounts, the more support you will get. Look at the accounts you admire and see what hashtags they are using. For travel girls, #wearetravelgirls and #dametraveler are popular hashtags; use them enough and soon you’ll be in the circle too. Do not give up. In Instagram, you are only as good as your last post … sometimes a great post will bomb and engagement will wane, but keep going. The big winners are ones who have been there for a long time.
Good points, I think we can all takeaway some lessons learned 🙂 Can you give the readers of Fernweh Society a few tips for curating their Instagram and growing their audience?
Think in terms of themes. What do you want your Instagram to be known for? Stick to that theme. Be consistent. Then find other accounts in that theme. Grow along with accounts at your stage. One thing I have noticed is that some accounts grow faster than others because they are so tightly networked around other accounts that end up being superstars, so they show up under “recommended.” Build you own community. Although you should try to engage with bigger accounts, don’t worry if you do not get attention from them – you will soon enough! Building a community from early stages will reap rewards later when everyone’s account starts growing. The stars of the future are starting now, right where you are!
What should we expect to see from you in the next year Sonya?
Hopefully more travel! I have plans to visit Maldives, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong, and always adding to the mix. I am increasingly working with fashion and lifestyle brands to create more editorial photos. Also, stay tuned for the relaunch of theglobalite.com, where I will be adding more cities and stories of my journeys. I am always looking for collaborators (photographers, writers, designers, and Instagrammers) so feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks so much for spending some time answering my questions Sonya!
Thank you very much for the opportunity to meet your readers! I love the community Instagram brings. Have a great day!
Guys, is Sonya not the best? RUN or scroll over to her Instagram and site 🙂
All photos from TheGlobalite