How a 27-year-old turned her travel blog into a side gig via TikTok

  • Nabila Ismail works at GoodRx by day and blogs about travel by night.
  • Its side business started to pick up speed once the brands reached out to partners.
  • She hopes to make solo travel more popular, especially for people of color.

When 27-year-old Nabila Ismail disconnects from her 9-to-5 job as an engagement marketing manager at GoodRx, her thoughts immediately turn to travel – reflecting on past trips, tracking travel advisories from the Department of American State and planning future excursions. .

Although many other workers do the same, Ismail’s motivation has an additional layer: she is the creator of Dose of Travel, a platform dedicated to showing how women of color can travel alone safely and affordably. With an audience of over 24,000 followers on TikTok and 14,000 followers on Instagram, she connects with women around the world to answer questions about where to go, how to do it on a budget and why diverse representation in the travel industry is so important. .

Even though Ismail has been creating travel-based content for nine years, she said she only started making a significant income from it in 2019, when she gained a few thousand followers on Instagram and TikTok and started to attract brand partners.

In addition to creating social media content, she has also branched out into freelance writing, consulting, and speaking engagements. “I didn’t make a lot of money until I took it seriously as a business,” Ismail said. Since the start of COVID-19, she has earned around $13,000 and filed for Dose of Travel to become an LLC in November.

She shared how she got her start and how the pandemic encouraged her to turn to a new business model.

The desire to travel alone

Nabila Ismail in Morocco

Ismail in Morocco.

Nabila Ismail

Ismail didn’t get bit by the solo travel bug until her freshman year of college in 2012, when she traveled to Belgium over winter break to visit her best friend, who worked as an au pair. Seeing her friend’s lifestyle inspired her to become an au pair herself, she told Insider, and the following summer she booked her first solo trip to Spain.

It was the first time she had met other solo travelers and felt comfortable exploring on her own. “This summer trip to Spain reinvigorated travel like what I would do whenever I have free time,” Ismail said. “Every time I had a break between school, I would take a flight,” she added. By the time she finished college and graduate school, she had traveled to 36 countries, including 31 solo trips.

Dose of Travel originally started as a fashion blog due to Ismail’s passion for style. It stayed that way until her trip to Spain, when she started posting travel content and noticed how much it resonated with viewers.

She said that because there weren’t many active travel blogs at the time, most of her audience found her through Google and social media. She also had a mailing list of business contacts, friends and family members to whom she emailed her blog.

As her platform grew, Ismail said she started getting free invites to restaurants and events in her hometown. “Living in Buffalo, New York allowed me to be part of their blogging community, and it gave me insight into how this could be a career that I could earn money from. was easier to come up with a name for myself because it was a small town,” Ismail said.

From hobby to pandemic turmoil

Her big breakthrough, she said, was landing a brand partnership in 2017 with Victoria’s Secret Pink as a stylist. “That moment was what changed everything for me. I started thinking about how I could work with so many other brands,” Ismail said.

According to Ismail, COVID-19 forced her to divert Dose of Travel content from chronicling her personal travels to what it is now – a community for South Asian women to talk about solo travel.

The shift began in March 2020, she said, when her travel plans, like everyone else’s, were cut short. She used the time during quarantine to reflect more on what her audience wanted and recalled how often followers commented that she was the first South Asian woman they had seen who traveled solo. and how empowering it was. She decided to lean into that content by creating a TikTok focused on the need for more South Asian representation in travel. The next day, she says, she woke up to thousands of new subscribers.

Since growing his platform, Ismail has worked with brands such as Marc Jacobs, Club Feast and The Pill Club. She asked brands to reach out to her on their own, but said creators should be proactive and pitch directly to PR agencies and brands using a media kit that includes stats and experience. of work. This is how she said she had landed several collaborations.

Ismail is also using a new TikTok trend – making calls – to strike up partnerships, and said that’s how she was able to work with one of her favorite brands, Free People. She saw an open casting call they posted on TikTok and submitted a video explaining why she wanted to partner up.

“Anything that doesn’t look authentic doesn’t work. I only work with brands I believe in or use,” she said.

She added that creators, especially those of color, shouldn’t curate their content too much and should just post. “Be yourself. Representation is important, and just talking about the things you’re going through helps more people than you know,” she said.

Make traveling alone attractive and more affordable

Nabila Ismail in Mexico

Ismail in Mexico.

Nabila Ismail

In addition to posting about the benefits of solo travel and why more South Asian women should do it, Dose of Travel also focuses on affordability, a topic particularly important to Ismail. “Nobody told me I could travel on a budget. It was always considered a luxury in my head,” she said.

While in college and graduate school, she said she self-funded any solo travel she took by working any part-time job, whether at her college library or at music festivals. Even now, she said she saves money from her corporate job so she can travel or supplement her expenses on a press trip. “Sometimes budget travel doesn’t sell or market as much, but it can still give you the same experience you’re looking for. So I want to be that person to say, ‘Here’s how you can do it.’ on a budget, ‘especially for people who think they can’t afford it,’ she said.

Even though the world is still battling COVID-19, Ismail is optimistic about the future of solo travel. “The travel industry has taken a hit, but I think it’s going to bounce back. I think solo travel has exploded more now because you have to distance yourself and limit social interactions,” Ismail said.

She is now focused on expanding Dose of Travel by offering group travel – her first will be to Bali, Indonesia in June 2022 in partnership with Trova Trip. She said the response so far has been great and if all goes well she will work independently to plan future trips with local hotels and partners.

She also hopes these trips are the start of encouraging more South Asian women to travel alone and not wait around for others. “If I had waited and looked for the right opportunity, I might not have gone there,” she said. “Solo travel is about empowerment and independence. If you really want to do something, you have the power to do it. You have control.”


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