The first time I met Melissa was during my studies in Passau (Germany) when we both participated in a Lomba Pidato (speaking competition in Bahasa Indonesia). I remember being impressed by her poetry slam in Bahasa Indonesia :) A few years later I started writing a few blog posts Indojunkie. Indojunkie is now the most famous travel blog for Indonesia in the German-speaking region with lots of travel tips and cultural insights. I am super happy to interview Melissa and share with you her answers about her life as a digital nomad, about travel blogging and her future plans. She has lots of good advices, personal insights and interesting thoughts to share... but read it yourself :)
How did you come up with Indojunkie?
After spending almost two years in Indonesia, I wanted to share my experiences somehow. I collected so much information, memories and really special moments, that I desperately needed a platform to gather my thoughts in one place.
I fell in love in Bali (twice!) and experienced black magic on the island of gods. I worked in a diving school in Lombok and became a part of the authentic Sasak culture and the Indian Ocean. I travelled through Sulawesi to create a documentary about the people of this huge underrated island (which turned out to become a printed book instead). And I lost myself on the roads of Flores and Java.
So I started a blog about Indonesia with the slogan “On the road and inside Indonesia” to combine travel and culture stories. Today, seven years later, I still come up with new ideas for articles every week since Indonesia is such a diverse and interesting country.
Why did you focus on Indonesia with your blog?
When I started Indojunkie, I never thought that this blog would be my main job one day. So I didn’t start a niche blog on purpose. A travel blog that focuses on a niche has lots of pros and cons.
I wrote an article about this topic once: Are niche travel blogs the future?
during your journey with indojunkie, what where your ups and downs?
During the last seven years I had lots of ups and downs. The highlights were definitely all the people I were able to meet (thanks to Indojunkie). During our research in Sulawesi and Bali, we found so many special places and spoke to so many special people, we would have never visited otherwise.
To point out some favorite moments: Spending a whole week in an authentic bajau village on the Togian Islands on Sulawesi. Interviewing local street musicians in Makassar and Manado. Or dancing on countless weddings all over Indonesia.
Publishing our first book was definitely another highlight. The loving feedback of my community is still making me happy every day. I am also very thankful, to be able to support locals and their businesses with my articles and books. And another important highlight: Indojunkie enables me to live a relatively free and location-independent life.
Of course blogging isn’t always „peace, love and banana pancakes“. Blogging is hard. It takes lots of diligence, endurance and knowledge.
The hardest thing though is keeping the information up to date. Indonesia is changing so fast (especially Bali). So I am constantly busy with updating existing content instead of writing new content. It’s actually impossible to be up to date with a travel blog nowadays… That’s why I want to publish more timeless articles (for example about food, culture and language).
blogging isn't always "peace, love and banana pancakes"
Did you ever think about quitting? if yes, what made you continue?
When I started to become more environmentally conscious, I began to regret that I fell in love with a country that is soooo far away. I thought about quitting and to start all over again. Nowadays, I am more in peace concerning this topic. I kinda found my sweet spot.
Last year I also experienced burnout symptoms. I wanted too much for too long concerning my business and my private life. Corona forced me to slow down. Today I feel much more in balance.
how does a typical day in your life look like?
I don’t really have a „typical day“ since every day looks different in my life.
I sleep in - most of the days. I live my life very intuitively. I usually skip breakfast and start my day with a cup of coffee and some hours of work. I try to workout (either Yoga, running, surfing or fitness) five times a week since I have chronic back problems (scoliosis surgery) and moving my precious body is the best medicine. I love people, nature, cafés, good conversations, good books and time with myself. I change my location every two or three month :)
Where do you live at the moment? Did you ever consider moving to Indonesia?
Currently I’m in Portugal (due to Corona). As soon as foreigners can enter Indonesia again, I am planning to go back for half a year (or longer).
I never really moved to Indonesia because it kinda never happened. I like the mix out of the humid tropics and the wild Atlantic. I like to experience new places and also go back to familiar places.
The good thing: Indojunkie isn’t about my life and my travels, so the blog doesn’t depend on me being in Indonesia. I have amazing content creators and writers living in Indonesia though.
What does "home" mean to you?
Home means „not wanting to be somewhere else“…
how does the concept of a travel blog work? What is the main source of income?
We are also working on a bahasa language course currently that will be (hopefully) released this year. Thanks to my Indojunkie members, I can finance my authors.
Do you have any advice for people who'd like to become a travel blogger?
Find a niche. It’s super hard to compete as a general travel blogger nowadays. And focus on one specific environment in the beginning (podcast, social media, SEO etc). You can not feed every platform without ending up having a burnout.
Forget security, but welcome opportunities.
And as I mentioned before already, you need lots of diligence, endurance and motivation to keep on learning forever. Forget security, but welcome opportunities.
If you seriously consider to start a travel blog, I do work as a mentor for future bloggers. You can send me an email anytime.
How are you currently dealing with the covid-Situation?
First I was kinda relieved. Finally I had a reason to take a long break from blogging. I created my own sabbatical to recharge my batteries and think about the new normal.
After two month I came up with so many ideas. I shifted my topics from travel to food. First I just published recipes as articles (nasi goreng, sate ayam, tempeh or gado gado) with Sanita, who lives in Bali. The feedback of the community was amazing. So we decided to create an Indonesian cookbook.
I thought if we can’t go to Indonesia, we can welcome Indonesia to our kitchen. We donate 1 Euro per book to Bali in order to help families that lost all their income due to corona.
My newest project is an online bahasa crash course, which is also detached from travel and will hopefully be released this year. I also got so many ideas for storytelling books like an autobiographical novel about my Balinese love story :)
If we can't go to Indonesia, we can welcome Indonesia to our kitchen.
Do you have any advice for people in a similar situation?
Take a break. Breath in and out. Do not wait for something (like the life before corona). Get involved in the here and now. What do people need RIGHT NOW? Then shuffle the cards in your hand and play the right card which fits to the new deck on the table… :)
What do you wish for the Future? For yourself, Indojunkie and the world?
For myself I hope for less back pain. Pain sucks but it also motivates me everyday to live my life right now and don’t postpone plans.
For Indojunkie I hope to be able to create more timeless projects and to find more amazing people to work with. Currently I have a great team of authors and content creators. I am very lucky.
And for the world: We all owe more smiles to our lives.