Christina Guan from @happytowander is one of my top fave people on Instagram, hands down. Her humorous travel tales, gorgeous photos, distinct editing style, and amazingly helpful and inspiring blog are just some of the reasons I love her. (Yeah, this just turned into a public declaration of a girl crush, HI CHRISTINA!) She recently moved from Canada to Munich, Germany to live there for a year (how cool is that?!)
Side note: I am currently working my way through her and Lia Garcia’s Blogtoberfest series from their new site, Slaying Social, which is full of no BS social media guides. Every time I open one of their emails, I am blown away by how helpful and thorough all of the information they’re sharing is (and even more blown away that they’re giving it away fo’ free). While registration for the Blogtoberfest email course is now closed, a bunch of the awesome resources they have on Slaying Social are still up and available to everyone, so I highly recommend checking those out!
All in all, Christina is basically just a super badass lady traveler (and writer and photographer!), and I think you’re about to love her just as much as I do. Read on to learn more about her, get some bonus tips for new bloggers, and find out her favorite place(s) in the whole world!
Q & A
The world is such a big, beautiful place and really, the idea of having regrets is what motivates me to keep traveling. I’m not going to be young forever, and eventually I’ll want to settle down and have a more stable homebase. Until then, I want to make sure I make the most of my time and milk the most out of my days!
What are you currently reading/watching?
I’ve been binging a lot on Netflix recently since I’ve been reunited with good WiFi. I’ve just discovered the glory of Black Mirror (SO SO good and relevant, a must watch) and on a lighter note, I recently polished off a few angsty teen dramas like Riverdale and 13 Reasons Why haha. OH, and I’ve been rewatching Arrested Development too – one of my favourite shows of all time.
Sooo I'm as sick as a dog which means plenty of reminiscing + trip planning (while in a blanket burrito, chugging soup like it's boxed wine 🍷). Throwing it back to happier days when my biggest concern was whether to eat my pretzel first or take a photo of it. Obviously the bite won. 💁🏻 Welcoming all voodoo tips on how to get over a cough right now, so I can make sure I'm healthy for some hiking in Austria this weekend!! Any tips? Cute dog gifs also welcome. 👌🏼
Do you guys ever feel SO limited by what "works" on Instagram? What I mean is these days, sometimes travel content on IG seems to focus solely on what's pretty and photogenic, to the point where we put less importance on the equally cool "unphotogenic" experiences. While in Indonesia w/ @indtravel, I did some SERIOUSLY cool things like visiting cave cemeteries, learning how to make batik fabric and trying (horribly) at traditional dance. These were the highlights of my trip, yet ironically I don't think they "fit my feed", so instead it's this cliched infinity pool pic that has ''made the cut". Maybe I'm rambling, but I'm curious to know your thoughts! Are we too focused on chasing "photogenic" experiences when we travel? At what point are we too obsessed w/ constructing the perfect photo vs. living in the moment? 🤔 Anyways, on a semi-related note, I've rounded up my favourite cultural must-dos from my time in Indonesia (unphotogenic ones included 😏). Link in bio! #TripOfWonders #WonderfulIndonesia
Here's my crazy sleep deprived thought of the day: how WILD would it be if Instagram photos came with the sounds from when the pic was taken? This dreamy shot for instance would have been accompanied by the sound of wailing children playing tag, me muttering to my friend "please just take this quickly ermagerd did you take it? I'm so embarrassed just make it quick" and you know, the subtle sound of me sharpening my knives because this train was running 9 HOURS LATE. Think that'd be a cool glimpse into the non-curated reality hey? 💁🏻💁🏻✨
What equipment do you use for capturing your travels?
I keep it really basic! My DSLR is the camera I use for everything and it’s just a beginner level one, a Nikon D3200. I also use my iPhone 7+ for videos sometimes but that’s really it!
What inspired you to start your blog?
Like most 20-somethings who backpacked for the first time, I suffered from seeerious ‘special snowflake syndrome’ after I came home from 6 weeks in Europe. I thought I had so much unique, powerful advice to share, so my silly blog was born. I didn’t take it seriously for a very long time, but after I scored a sweet internship as a cruise blogger/photographer, I realized travelling for a living was possible, and that’s how this crazy blog monster (meee!) was born.
What is the soundtrack to your travels?
I’m such a Spotify girl now. I usually just choose a random playlist (it’s basic, but I love Top 40 and Tropical House) then go to Groovetown. *lame dance moves*
HAPPY CANADAAA DAY!! 🇨🇦🇨🇦 I mean you can say you love your country, but do you "haul a flag to a very public place and risk humiliation for a nice photo" love it? Didn't think so. Today I shall drink red and white sangria in honour of our country's beloved flag, and will spend the day roaming the streets apologizing profusely. Check out my story for a new video btw, freshly released 🤓Comment below if you're Canadian and I'll spam you with IG love! ❤️
My face when I see free WiFi. 🤓 I have to admit, I've been slacking majorly in the past month blogging-wise, but I've FINALLY had the time to write something about my time in Bucharest. This city is so full of random little secrets, like this adorable cafe with its umbrella canopies & free watercolours for you to paint with (while eating cake). My insider's guide to hidden Bucharest is live – check it out in my bio! 📸 @travelonthebrain #ExperienceBucharest
Who has tips for London?! Got here a few days ago and quickly learned that it's as unpredictable as it is gorgeous. Today, while taking a stroll in my white sundress, eating the best grilled cheese sandwich of my life, a giant grey cloud decided to roll over me and create a vicious downpour that sent my friend and I wailing like babies as we scrambled for shelter. 3 min later, it was sunshine & rainbows. I'm not sure I can get used to this wacko weather but I suuuuuure can get used to the FOOD! RIP wallet 💸💸
Who are your favorite Instagrammers at the moment?
So tough to choose! After having the awesome chance to meet many blogging friends in real life, I now mostly use Instagram to keep up with what ‘my friends’ are up to. That said, I think if I was looking at purely visual inspiration, @taramilktea is still one of my favourites.
Can you name one place you’ve traveled that surprised you the most, and tell us why?
There have been a ton, but I would say Bosnia & Herzegovina really blew me away, from its unspoiled natural beauty to its brutally sad history that I knew nothing about. Travelling here really hit me hard, and I can’t wait to go back sometime to see more of it.
Do you have any trip planning tools or packing tips?
Tons! Now sounds like a good time to shamelessly link drop, but I’ll refrain, haha. (Editor’s Note: Inserting shameless link drop here to a recent packing post since Christina won’t!) I’m not an amazing planner when it comes to trips as I like being flexible and spontaneous, but I think the #1 packing tip I have is to buy packing cubes. Seriously, they’re life changing. Oh, and roll your clothes!
What is your favorite quote about traveling?
After a few years of being in the online travel world, I’ve become a mean, jaded person and now have a serious haaaate for cheesy travel quotes. That said, the classic “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” is the one that makes me the least nauseous haha.
One piece of advice you’d give to an aspiring traveler. Go!
Don’t be afraid to go alone. If you spend forever waiting for others to be available, you’ll never go. Solo travel is amazing, and speaking from experience, you WILL meet amazing people along the way, and you’ll get all sorts of challenges thrown at you but you’ll come out stronger because of it. Stop waiting for others – give solo travel a try!
Sometimes I take "Living life on the edge" a little bit too literally 😶 who's got a cure for the post-travel blues? I'm missing Indonesia badly today, which meant some serious Nutella-spooning and productive blog writing. If you're headed to Bali anytime soon, check out the link in my bio for a cultural bucket list filled with epic must dos 💁🏻 #WonderfulIndonesia #TripOfWonders @Indtravel
Ahh, never not dreaming of beautiful Florence ❤ Can you imagine a more scenic backdrop for wine sipping and spaghetti slurping? I can't. Now thanks to the folks at Centro Machiavelli, I have a new shiny dream – learn Italian in this magical city! And while this is stiiill a wild pasta-fuelled fantasy at this point, I've partnered with these language course pros to bring you a list of factors to look out for in the ideal Italian language course. Check it out in my new post – link in bio! #Ad #LearnItalianFlorence #ItalianCourseFlorence #CentroMachiavelli
Who else is a total awkward turtle when it comes to photos? 🙋🏻 honestly, something about cameras just makes me forget how to be a functional human being. You could be like: "just walk down the stairs" and I'd be all "oh noooo I've forgotten how to use my legs". That said, when you get 'ambush makeover'd into wearing a pretty Balinese dress, then made to frolic around the Ubud Royal Palace, you gotta put awkwardness aside and take some glam photos. 💁🏻Thanks @cupoftj for posing me!! This palace was one of the coolest stops so far on #TripOfWonders (and was where we even got to have tea with Ubud royalty, sooo…) 👌🏼✨#WonderfulIndonesia @indtravel
Where to next?
I’ve just recently moved to Munich, Germany, so I’ll be based here, developing my beer belly for the next year! I just went to Slovenia last weekend, but will be in England next week for a family thing, then Austria for a hiking weekend after that. I feel so spoiled being close to all these places again!
You’ve recently had some great success on Facebook with video! (Woohoo!) Can you tell us more about what you’ve learned from that experience?
If you’re not using Facebook video, you’re missing out! I started doing them about two months ago and my organic reach, likes and engagement have really skyrocketed. The thing about Facebook video is that there’s just so much viral potential. As soon as people start liking, tagging friends, commenting, etc., everything begins to snowball. Plus, most of my target audience uses Facebook on a daily basis, so this is my best way to reach them. I highly recommend jumping on the bandwagon because this is really the new “big thing.” Editor’s Note: since Christina won’t toot her own horn here, I’ll do it for her! Check out her super helpful tutorial on how to create square Facebook videos.
How do you maintain a consistent blogging and Instagram posting schedule? Any favorite tools or tricks to keeping on top of everything?
Hahah I wouldn’t exactly call my schedule consistent, but I’m slowly working at it. For me, one tool that has really saved me so much grief is Trello. I use it to organize all my crazy scatterbrained ideas, and make lists of different deadlines, posts and to-do items. I then categorize them into “TO DO RIGHT NOW” “TO DO THIS WEEK”, etc. and drag/drop them as I move through each item. This has helped me so much in terms of staying organized!
Give me mountains over the beach any day 💁🏻Who agrees?! I'm SO excited to be back in the mountains this weekend doing some epic hikes in Austria w/ @visitvorarlberg. One of them is one where you literally eat & hike (it's called culinary hiking, and you hike from course to course). If any activity was ever MADE for me, this is it 👌🏼I'm so excited! Can't wait to share the photos with you. Anyone else have exciting plans for the weekend?
Do you guys ever think about how many pics you've photo bombed in your lifetime? While having coffee at this ridiculously beautiful spot in London, I must have been photographed at least a hundred times… Luckily I activated camouflage mode and was clearly just a floating head and set of arms 😂 #blendingin
Have any of you guys run a marathon or half before? ✨ Hold your horses for the most shocking news you'll hear all day… I'VE officially signed up to do the Vienna half marathon next month! That's right – meeeee! The doughy potato with legs! I guess there are uglier places to run 😏 Please leave your carbs for me at the finish line. #Carbs4Christina
If you could give a new blogger 3 tips to growing a successful blog, what would they be?
1. Be different. In order to stand out, you need to hook onto what makes you unique. There are way too many bland bloggers out there… don’t be one of them!
2. Know your goals. In blogging, it’s too easy to get distracted by all the things you’re meant to do – social media, writing, SEO, etc. It’s impossible to make big things happen unless you have a sharp focus on what it is you want to achieve. So, I say pick one goal, whether that’s pageviews, monetization, popularity or whatever, and then reverse engineer your action items from there.
3. Learn to see your blog as a business! If your blog is just a hobby, that’s fine, but if you intend to grow it as a business, be sure to treat it like one. Create a business plan, write down your action items, invest money in your growth and outsource the tasks that you don’t personally need to do. Doing all this will allow you to speed up your progress like a superhuman 🙂 I promise!
What keeps you sharing when you’re tired and feel like quitting?
This is a little lame, but I have a warm fuzzies folder on my phone and in my Inbox of all the lovely comments/emails I’ve gotten from others. They really help me remember why I do what I do and lift me up when I’m feeling down! My personal favourite is a message I got from a reader telling me that my blog inspired her to get a passport. That had me smiling for days!
What is your favorite place in the whole wide world?
Impossible question! I have a few: Iceland is just impossibly beautiful, but Cinque Terre is up there too for the fresh seafood, gorgeous views and all the great memories I’ve made there.
Trying to dance through my jet lag like…. 💃🏻✨🙋🏻 Guys – I need your help! I'm exploring the beautiful country of Indonesia for the next two weeks but I'm always half asleep because of jet lag! Send me your best tips for getting over this ridiculousness cuz it is straight up 3am here and I just woke up from a "NAP". Besides that though, this country is blowing my mind on the daily with its vibrancy, culture and *clutches belly* fooooood. Can't wait to share more with you on this #TripOfWonders! #WonderfulIndonesia @indtravel . . PS: I'm here with 9 other awesome influencers from around the globe! Give them a follow to see more of what we're up to (bonus is they're hella attractive and talented 💁🏻 @cupoftj @shershegoes @jonesaroundtheworld @traveltomtom @backpackerbanter @satyawinnie @_febrian @maketimetoseetheworld @saltandsandals
Thank you for sharing this week, Christina!
Follow along on her adventures:
For more interviews like this one, check out the archives, featuring Q & A’s with travel blogging pros like Helene Sula and well-known Instagrammers like Leah Shoup! If you’re interested in being featured, get in touch!