In the latest of our series of Q&As with the winners of the 2020 Travel Media Awards, we speak to Paul Healy, who along with Mark Barnes runs the Anywhere We Roam blog, about building relationships, finding adventure through difficult times and introducing readers to off-the-beaten track destinations
What did it mean to you to win the Blogger/Vlogger of the Year Award?
Our focus has always been on delivering quality rather than quantity, so winning the Travel Media Award is great feedback that we’re on the right track. We spend a long time developing our content so that it’s clear, informative, entertaining, and visually pleasing. The digital media industry often values volume, so we were thrilled to be part of a process that looks at other criteria.
What’s the story behind the creation of Anywhere We Roam?
Prior to Anywhere We Roam, we were both working busy jobs with limited time for travel. Our trips needed to be carefully crafted to allow us to fit in everything we wanted to do; find adventurous activities, get outdoors, and visit remote or historically interesting places. We also wanted to do this independently, so we could spend more time doing precisely what we wanted.
On a trip to South Africa, we took a friend to explore the incredible Drakensberg Mountains. He was surprised at how much we squeezed in and how much of his home country he was discovering for the first time.
This experience made us realise we had a method of travel that other people might appreciate. We took a punt that there was still room in the market for a blog that caters to time-constrained people who want to get off-the-beaten track and have adventurous experiences. As a result, Anywhere We Roam was born.
What do you think blogging offers that ‘traditional’ media doesn’t?
Blogging provides the opportunity to build a strong relationship with the reader in a way that’s very different to traditional media. It’s an avenue for readers to access content that’s designed more around personal taste, rather than trends or hooks. At Anywhere We Roam, we cover destinations and experiences that hold a particular interest to us, and in doing so, seek to build a community of like-minded travellers.
How do you divide the work of the blog between you? What does each of you bring to the table?
With a background in financial modelling, Mark looks after the analytical side of things including SEO, reporting and analytics. He also takes care of Instagram and does all the trip planning. I do most of the writing, maintains the website and nurtures the Anywhere We Roam look and feel.
Both of us have strong opinions on the photography which normally means we have twice as many photos as we need after a trip and spend far too many hours editing them.
How have you dealt with the challenges of creating content in a time where travel is very difficult?
It’s been a very difficult time for many people in the industry, us included. One thing we are proud of over this period is that we didn’t pivot away from our core niche. Anywhere We Roam still focuses on outdoor activities with a mildly adventurous twist, just on a more domestic stage at the moment.
We developed content on wild swimming in the Thames as soon as we were allowed to drive for exercise; we found some interesting walks in the Cotswolds and we tackled a few scrambles in the Lake District.
What do you think makes Anywhere We Roam stand out?
Anywhere We Roam aims to combine the best a place has to offer, while also getting away from the crowds and finding unique spots to explore.
We introduce readers to places a little off the beaten track, such as the incredible drive up to the highest pub in Africa in the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho. But we also cover famous places, hopefully with a unique perspective, such as exploring seldom-visited valleys next door to the uber-popular Lago di Braies.
We do this by providing useful information that will enhance our readers’ travel experiences, combined with high quality writing and beautiful photography.
How do you think the Covid-19 crisis will affect how you approach travel in the future?
The Covid-19 crisis has strengthened our appreciation of travel and opened our eyes to experiences that we might have previously overlooked in favour of more exotic locations. We will definitely travel more locally and seek out interesting adventures in our home country.
During lockdown we took the opportunity to become vegetarian, so this – in conjunction with Covid – will also shape our approach to travel. We expect we’ll self-cater more, stay longer, continue to explore more remote destinations and bring stories to our readers that invoke a sense of under-stated wanderlust.