Travel blogging is not just writing about your travel experiences. It is not just about where you went, how you got there or what you did. Blogging and indeed travel blogging is a pathway to finding great people with similar interests and experiences to yourself. For me this came to the fore last weekend when I finally met the people behind Etramping, Agness and Cez.
Who are Etramping and how did I find them?
This Polish couple are the best of friends and highly respected travel bloggers. In fact when I first considered blogging theirs is one of the first travel blogs I discovered. I was in admiration of their work and it inspired me. It inspires me even more today. Over the last 16 months or so I’ve followed their posts and seen their site grow to being the big success it has become. It is now in the Top 100 Travel Blogs as listed by Nomadic Samuel.
I’ve interacted with the people behind Etramping for more than a year. This first began when Cez Krol approached me to help him with a surprise birthday video for his co-blogger Agness. I was flattered to be asked and was keen to help out.
I’ve been in frequent touch with them both since. Cez and I have often talked of the three of us meeting up someday if the chance arose. After various delays in my trip planning I’ve finally made it back to China (where the writers behind Etramping are based.)
So last weekend I had an opportunity to make this happen. We were all very excited.
I left my hotel in Shanghai at 9:45am to make my flight to Guanzhou. Then it was a long coach ride before I first met Cez just after 6:30pm. Yes it was a long day travelling but worth it.
E-Friends to real friends
Through our regular contact via e-mail I felt as though I knew them both pretty well anyway, but at times you just never know. Anyone who has tried internet dating will know what I mean. Someone comes across as very exciting when you make contact via the web. You then meet them in person and they are nothing like you expect.
Well I’m delighted to say that the two people behind etramping are everything I thought they would be and a whole lot more. Not only do they come across as fantastic people on their travel blog but they are in person too. Very friendly, warm, intelligent, amusing, engaging and passionate about what they do. If you follow them then you know what I’m talking about.
However Agness did think I was about 50 years of age after seeing my picture! (Thanks Agness.) Cez was a lot more welcoming by guessing me at around 35 years of age.
After Cez helped me with a hotel reservation we met up with Agness and headed off for dinner. An authentic Chinese café meal with chop sticks and of course we had a beer or two.
A little gift
It was also at this point where I wanted to commemorate the occasion. I had bought T-shirts for the 3 of us celebrating the occasion. With “I’d rather be blogging” on the front plus the etramping and Flights And Frustration banners on the back it was a unique way to mark the occasion. I’m glad to say they loved the idea.
Talking of blogging
Talking to the etrampers was so easy. We were all passionate about what we do and it was exciting being able to talk about it face to face. We shared thoughts on what we’d done and wanted to do. We celebrated our successes so far and encouraged each other. This was a clear sign of the community that builds from blogging.
Other bloggers were topics of conversation too, it wasn’t all about etramping or flightsandfrustration. We discussed the other blogs we followed, often the same sites and the interactions we’d had with the people behind them.
We even had tales of some bad interactions with fellow bloggers which is a shame. Travel blogging can be a great way to interact with people and help each other. Sadly the 3 of us have experienced the opposite with some travel bloggers.
I was also fascinated to learn how much Cez has worked behind the scenes with so many travel bloggers I follow. Not only is he a fantastic blogger but he provides IT support and consultancy for many website owners.
We’d probably bore any onlookers but over the course of the Saturday night into the Sunday afternoon we spent many an hour talking on technical as well as fun things. Plugins, widgets, html, themes and so on. (If you don’t have your own blog you’ve probably no idea what I’m talking about).
Conversation also touched upon travel aspirations, experiences, the future, living in China and Saudi Arabia as well as politics. Also since they run etramping with an aspiration of travelling the world on $25 a day, they provide a great perspective on how to travel around the world on a budget.
Add to this their great first hand tips for travelling to China then you know they speak with great experience.
I was fascinated to discuss how much time they devote to blogging. I know for me it is immensely time consuming and I do as much as I can in my spare time.
Yet these guys seem to be everywhere. Especially Agness who seems to pop up on virtually every travel blog I see. There is even a guest post by Agness Walewinder here on Flights And Frustration. I’ve also performed an interview with Agness Walewinder on my other web site.
She guest posts in a lot of places and is always leaving blog comments. To date she is also the person to leave the most comments on this blog!
I was saddened to then hear that Agness was not able to join us for the start of the day on the Sunday. She was going to work on Sunday.
Both of them work at a school teaching Chinese children English. Yet my visit was during the time when they are both working at the school 6 or 7 days a week! They work really hard at the school then come home and work for many hours on their blog. Amazing dedication. How they don’t burn out I’ll never know.
Thankfully Cez was able to negotiate Sunday off so we were able to make the most of my visit.
A night on the beer and a visit to a gay bar
Since Agness had to retire early on the Saturday night (for school in the morning), Cez and I went on to share a drink or two. This was a most interesting experience.
I received fair warning from Cez that he was one of maybe 6/7 foreigners in this Chinese city of around 6 million people. As a result he was a big celebrity for the friendly locals.
Shortly after arriving in the first bar of the night people were coming up to him asking to have their picture taken with him. They also wanted to have drinks with us. Purely good natured and friendly with no ulterior motive. They maybe travelling around the world on a budget but this celebrity status can make it fun at first and maybe tedious later whilst in China.
We then moved on to some other bars which became quite interesting. Cez said he wanted try out some new places which he knew little about. We then entered one which immediately felt a little odd to me. I turned to Cez and asked “Have we just walked into a gay bar?” Hesitating as he realised my suspicion Cez quickly drew the same conclusion. We quickly left to head somewhere new. However I’ll retain that image of a group of guys stood across the room looking at us. One Chinese man with a big friendly smile was waving at us.
We did find some more heterosexual places and enjoyed the Chinese drinking game which involves the use of dice and a tumbler.
The morning after
After the late night it was a more gentle approach the next day. Cez took me to the city park, which was a popular setting for a Sunday. You may see elements of it in Agness’ post on etramping about her yoga fix.
Cez explained that there were not many attractions to the city they lived in and this was the highlight. I didn’t mind either way I just enjoyed the company and conversation.
Sadly Agness got tied up with school so was unable to join us for lunch before I left to return to Shanghai. It was a shame yet whilst we remain in touch I hope that we have an opportunity to meet again soon.
I had an amazing weekend with 2 incredible hosts and highly admired bloggers. I’ve experienced first hand the greatest reward in travel blogging. That is connecting with and sharing your passion with truly inspiring people.
To the people behind etramping, Agness Walewinder and Cez Krol thank you.