Jo Fitzsimons enjoys a beautiful Hawaiian landscape. (indianajo.com)
Spend some time clicking through Jo Fitzsimons’ independent travel and adventure blog, Indiana Jo, where you will be inspired by and informed about things to do (and not do), foods to eat, and sites to see! Having covered fifty countries in four years, Jo has become an expert at having the adventure on a budget.
With helpful guides for specific cities around the United States like 3 Days in San Diego: What to See and Do, and What & Where to Eat in New Orleans: An Itinerary, Jo helps readers achieve their travel dreams. She also provides a particularly helpful insight into life as a woman traveling alone in posts like Best Destinations for Solo Female Travelers, and Is Uber Safe to Use: Meet the Faces of Uber.
Jo posts the most up-to-date information on her travels from rainbows and sunsets over her newest horizon to falling flat on her bum in the rainy streets of Milan, Italy. You’ll love following along as she makes her way across the world, one adventure at a time!
What inspired you to start a travel blog? Was there a specific reason or an event that made you decide ‘I’m gonna start a travel blog today’?
In 2010, I quit my job as a lawyer and decided I was going to travel the world for a year (a year that actually turned into 5 years, but that’s another story). I started my blog a couple of months before I left for South America and I just had one goal in mind – a blog space where I could upload my photos to reassure my family and friends at home that I was still alive. I didn’t quite anticipate that not posting daily would send certain family members into a spin, but we live and learn.
What have been the most challenging and the most rewarding aspects of running your blog and social media presence? Do you keep in touch with your readers?
First and foremost, I consider myself a writer – I’ve been dabbling in fiction writing for years and at first my blog felt like it was just an extension of that (apart from the urge to kill people – I kept that in my crime-fiction world. Promise).
However, the reality is that you need to be much more multifaceted than just writing if you want to run a blog. I’ve had to get to grips with running a website when the word HTML gives me shivers, I’ve had to up my game on the photos front, and then there’s the fact that the social media goalposts change weekly. After years of wrangling with what I find to be the least appealing parts of running my blog, I’ve learnt to focus on the aspects I think I can do well and either outsource or, a bit reminiscent of a 4-year-old, simply ignore the rest.
The bit I love the best is the response from readers. When I’m having doubts about my blog or I’m struggling to find time to fit it in, fate seems to deliver me a comment or message from a reader and I’m inspired all over again. Ultimately, being able to help even one person take their dream trip is one of the most motivating experiences. Last year, I corresponded with one reader for several months after she moved to Colombia to study Spanish. One of my articles had helped her make the decision and it was wonderful to hear updates and feedback on places I’d recommended.
What’s your favorite place that you have visited & what’s a dream destination that you still haven’t conquered?
I always find this question so difficult because my response usually differs based on where I am when I’m asked. At the moment I’ve been spending lots of time in cities, so beach destinations are likely to pop into my mind. That said, Mexico is one of those places where I’d drop everything and hop on a plane right now if the opportunity came up – maybe it’s the beaches, maybe it’s the tacos, most likely it’s both.
Hawaii also spellbound me – with most of the world’s climate across Hawaii’s islands, I can’t think of a better place to explore and Hawaii is on my list of places I’ll definitely return to. The biggest gap on my dream destination list is a continent rather than a place: Africa. But I’m not that concerned I’ve not been there yet because it feels like it’s just a matter of time.
If you had one piece of advice for people who want to travel throughout the U.S. and around the world but want to stay on budget, what would it be?
My main piece of advice for people wanting to take a longer trip on a budget is to abandon pretty much everything they thought they knew about travel. That may seem a little drastic but I was one of those people who was used to taking a one- or two-week vacation that usually clocked up thousands of dollars thanks to flights, high-end hotels and fancy restaurants.
I had to go right back to the drawing board and find other ways to make travel work. Fortunately, it didn’t take long to realize that there are so many decent budget accommodation options out there from homestays and apartment rentals to hostels. Ditching flights in favor of ground transport can be a huge way to save, too and with enough snacks and entertainment, it can be fun.
And speaking of snacks and food… eating at award-winning restaurants three times a day will obviously blow your budget out of the water. Most longer-term travelers swear by street food and food trucks. In fact, some of my best meals on the road have been cooked up by a little old lady packing just one pan and a bag of, quite often unidentifiable, produce. Just remember: if it smells good and the price is right, you don’t always need to know what it is!