“Travel gives me freedom and teaches me to be a better person”. This is the philosophy of life for Aurelia Teslaru, or, briefly, Aura, a travel content creator who gave a comfortable career in advertising for the wild spirit of traveling. What prompted her to take such a decision, how did the journeys to 40 countries enrich her personal and professional experience and how the coronavirus pandemic changed the tourism perspectives and her own plans, you’ll find in the interview below.
Hi Aura, tell us who you are, in a nutshell, when did you set up the blog, what led you to traveling from your previous job?
Hi, I’m Aurelia Teslaru but you can call me Aura. I’m the writer and content creator behind Daily Travel Pill. I’m 28 years old and I love traveling and ice-cream.
Daily Travel Pill started about 4 years ago, as a passion project. I was still working at my 9-to-5 job in advertising when I decided to create a blog where I could share all my travel experiences. I already had my Instagram for quite a few years and I felt that I’d like to share more with fellow travel enthusiasts. It wasn’t until I started traveling full-time that my blog really took off.
I’m really happy because now my passion is my job too. I try to create useful travel guides about all the places that I’ve visited during these past years and I want to inspire others to travel smarter.
My passion for travel started while I was studying for my Master’s Degree in Amsterdam. Living in Amsterdam for a year allowed me to explore the Netherlands and visit nearby destinations such as Bruges, Ghent, Koln, and others. I realized that travel gives me freedom and teaches me to be a better person.
How was the switch from a 9 to 5 job in advertising to the one of full-time traveler and blogger? What were the pros and cons that really made an impact?
I loved working in advertising. I haven’t quit because I hated my job, it was just that I felt the need to travel more while I’m young. When me and my boyfriend, Dan, realized that we saved up a substantial sum of money, we decided to travel the world instead of buying a car or paying an advance for a house.
I never really meant to become a travel blogger, it somehow came naturally. I started sharing my travel experiences on my blog as a journal. However, people became more and more interested in my experiences and the places I visited. This is what motivated me to write more and share more with my readers. In a few years, my blog grew from 0 to more than 130,000 monthly readers. That’s when I knew that travel blogging would become my job.
Looking back, I wouldn’t change anything even if right now, travel is heavily affected by this world-wide lockdown. It feels good to work for my passion and even if I loved my advertising job, I love my blog even more!
How many destinations have you ticked?
I visited 40 countries in total, 12 of them during my one and a half years of full-time travel in Asia – Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Laos, China, South Korea, and Japan.
What is your „top ten” that comes to your mind right now? Please, also give some reasons for your choices, in brief.
My favorite country is Myanmar. It’s authentic, not yet affected by mass tourism, and it has incredible sights. The temples of Myanmar are stunning and Bagan is simply magical. After Myanmar, comes China. I only visited Chengdu but I fell in love with the pandas and the Chinese daily life.
Then it comes Indonesia – Bali, to be more specific. I lived in Bali for 8 months and I’d go back any time! The Philippines are next, for their natural beauty and stunning beaches.
My 5th favorite country is Iceland. The landscape is breathtaking and I want to go back sometime soon to drive the Ring Road.
After Iceland, Portugal is next with the stunning Porto and Lisbon and then Thailand. The last three countries in my top 10 are Belgium (I fell in love with Bruges, its architecture and chocolate), Finland and its wild Lapland, and Croatia.
What was your initial budget for the first trip and how easy/hard was to obtain the funding for the next ones? What is the average budget for this type of trip?
We planned a budget of $1500 – $2000 per month and we managed to stick to it for the most part. An exception was Japan and South Korea, two expensive countries where we spent more than we originally planned.
However, in countries like Myanmar and Indonesia, we even managed to spend less than $1500. Long-term travel doesn’t have to be expensive. We only used our savings to pay for all the expenses.
We used public transport and buses as much as possible, we stayed mostly in guest houses, and we ate a lot of street food. We could have traveled for less money but we didn’t want to give up comfort.
Just to give you an idea, in Bali we paid $400 per month for a private room in a nice villa with a pool in Canggu, all utilities included + daily cleaning and drinking water. Eating at a local restaurant in Bali costs around $2.5 per meal and renting a motorbike costs $60 per month.
You named your blog Daily Travel Pill. Has traveling become a ‘bug’ in those days? Do we need travel like a narcotic to move forward, I mean is travel the new religion in terms of leisure?
I think we need to travel if we want to evolve as people. Travel teaches us to be more understanding, it teaches us that there are countless cultures, different than ours. People are different and they have different needs.
I think we need to travel while we’re young. I think we need to open our eyes and hearts and understand that our way of living is not the only way of living.
Travel should be more than just a “holiday” in another country. Everywhere I travel, I try to understand as much of the local culture as possible. I try local food, I talk to local people to understand their struggles, and I explore the local culture.
Traveling was skyrocketing in the past years, with more and more people affording to travel, with the airline industry becoming more and more affordable and plenty of offers and options in terms of accommodation and with the traveling blogging also reporting an unprecedented high. This has been turned upside down in just 3-4 months, when the coronavirus pandemic has hit the world. What’s the situation of tourism at this point, in your view?
The tourism industry has been hit the hardest. Many people from across the globe relied on tourism for their income. I’m talking about small business owners, people who owned souvenir shops, street food stalls, small guest houses, or tour companies.
Even if all the restrictions will be lifted tomorrow I think it will take a few years for the travel industry to bounce back at the pre-covid levels. I’m confident that travel will see an uptick starting with the beginning of 2021.
However, changes need to be made. Travel will change. I think that group tours won’t be that popular and people will avoid touristy places.
How has your lifestyle changed following the COVID-19? Have you been affected financially? Have you cancelled your travel plans this year or have you found a way to still do it?
My life took a 180-degrees turn. After we returned from our full-time journey in Asia in September last year we decided that somewhere at the end of this year we’ll start another adventure, this time in the USA and South America. We had to cancel our plans, given the current situation.
Also, people are not searching the internet for travel guides right now and that’s understandable. Travel should not be our priority but this means that my blog traffic is down. Therefore, my income is also lower than last year.
I don’t have any travel plans for this year. Most probably, I’ll explore more of Romania. I’d love to do a road-trip to Transfagarasan and Transalpina.
What other destinations are on your bucket list and what further plans do you have, personally and professionally?
Even though the travel industry is down, I’m focusing all my attention on my blog. I constantly update old posts and create new content. I’m also very active on my Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram account.
I’m confident that the travel industry will bounce back maybe somewhere next year. When it does, me and Dan plan to spend a few months in the USA, doing an epic road-trip.
Until then, we’ll explore as much of Romania as possible.
With social media impact nowadays, when a filtered pic can lure thousands of likes, what makes the difference in the end? The reality depicted in fine words or marketing photo shooting? (I mean there are situations when a tourist spot can be presented more advantageously than in reality through filters and editing).
There has always been a debate about whether Instagram or blogs are more impactful. In my opinion, nothing can beat a well-researched blog post, with all the information you need about a specific place. The average lifespan of an Instagram post is only 24-48 hours while blog posts will be read forever.
I think that they are very different platforms and they serve different purposes. Instagram is used more for inspiration while blog posts are there to provide you the information you need about specific locations and places.
Sometimes, Instagram can be deceitful. In an era when Photoshop is available for everyone, we have to be really careful about how we perceive reality.
For example, there is a gate in Bali called Handara Gate which is a very famous spot for photoshoots. Well, what nobody tells you about that place is that there is an entrance fee for taking pictures and most of the time more than 30 people are waiting in line to take that perfect photo.