By Nora Canby and Chelsea Fernando
For seven years, Andi Fisher has expertly combined travel, food, French culture, and fun in her delightful blog “Misadventures with Andi,” which was named one of USA Today’s top ten food and travel blogs in 2014. “Misadventures” has turned Andi into a working travel writer who gets to travel to exotic locations on other people’s dimes. She now serves as AFAR Magazine’s Ambassador and Local Expert for San Francisco.
Andi will pass along her blogging wisdom in her one-day class, “So You Wanna Be a Blogger: A Blogging Workshop” (on Saturday, October 10), offered at the Pad’s new San Francisco location. We sat down with Andi to talk about her favorite travel destinations, restaurants, and ways to keep your blog fresh and interesting.
1. What inspired you to start blogging?
In 2003, I transferred from my job in the San Francisco Bay Area to Europe. I was working in Switzerland and living in France. It was my first time living in a foreign country on my own (I had lived in Panama and Spain with my family), and I was committing tons of faux pas. I would write my friends and family a weekly email missive describing all the lessons I was learning (usually the hard way) and I titled it Misadventures with Andi.
When I moved back to the U.S., I began working in San Francisco and took a creative writing class in the evenings. It reminded me how much I loved writing. I became aware of blogs and blogging and decided it was the perfect creative outlet for me. Before then, I didn’t consider myself creative. Now, I can’t imagine life without blogging!
2. How do you think blogging differs from other forms of writing?
I think blogging allows for a lot more freedom than other types of writing. There are rules, which are really more best practices, and you can literally make it what you want.
3. How do you keep a balance between your private life and public persona?
Well, I am pretty out there. Given that I also am a social media practitioner professionally, there is a lot about me that is public. But having said that, I still keep some privacy. My husband is French, and they are generally very private and suspicious about sharing personal information, so I have never mentioned my husband’s name or shared a photo of him anywhere publicly. I keep super personal details about my life off the blog, but still share quite a bit. Readers want to be able to relate to the person behind the blog and know they are not a robot!
It also depends on where I am working. I spent 5 years at Dolby doing social media that entailed going to the GRAMMY’s, Oscars, film festivals, movie premieres which just screamed to be shared on social media. But now I work at a bank, and there are a lot more regulations and legal implications. I just don’t do the same type of events, etc. So I share less about that.
4. How did you get into travel blogging? Is it something you always wanted to do? Do you have a method for making sure that you’re writing something that transcends tourism?
I grew up living all over the country and all over the world. My Dad was in the Army. My family picked up stakes every two to three years and moved. Every time we landed in a new spot, we took full advantage of the things around us because we knew we wouldn’t be there that long and we wanted to maximize every moment. When I began traveling as a young adult, and even today, I try to take advantage of the unique aspects of every place I visit.
Every year for the longest time, I wrote a massive Christmas letter about all my travel adventures and that really was my first foray into travel writing. My first years of blogging I was a bit all over the place (which I why I wish I knew some of the things I am teaching in my blogging workshop when I first started out), but as my husband and I are travel addicts a lot of the content was related to travel and I eventually began focusing on that.
5. How do you publicize your blog? What’s the best way to attract readers?
Comments and community support. Comments are the currency that makes the blogosphere run. By supporting other bloggers, you get to know a lot about them, their styles, their stories, etc. This will gradually help you build a network of support, but it will also lead other bloggers back to your own blog. You have got to give to get.
6. Do you have a favorite travel destination?
Paris. Always Paris. When I was living in France, I lived 5 hours away and I would go as often as twice a month. Now we go about once a year and I never stop discovering new things to love.
7. How did you start blogging for AFAR? Is that something that came out of the blog?
One of my blogging friends lives in Paris and started writing content for the AFAR.com website; she became a Local Expert for Paris and recommended me as a local expert for San Francisco. I started writing content about San Francisco and other locations that I traveled to. As I had been reading the magazine since it launched, I was a huge fan, and my dedication was noticed when AFAR rolled out their Ambassador program.
8. In addition to blogging and freelancing, you’re also a social media director for First Republic Bank, and you worked in marketing for many years. How do you find time to write? Do you have any advice to share with writers who are also balancing other careers? Does your social media work inform your blogging?
The amount of time I have to dedicate to blogging fluctuates; some portion of my weekend is dedicated to writing. An editorial calendar keeps me on track and organized as well as a few other tools I will be sharing in my workshop.
If you think about tightrope walkers, they are balancing the wire the entire time they are traversing from A to B. You never stop trying to find balance, once you accept that, you decide your priorities and somehow make it work. Blogging is not life and death and you have to keep perspective.
My work in digital and content marketing in general definitely informs my blogging and my social media. I will share the things that I’ve learned professionally in this field along with my seven years of blogging experience in my workshop as I hope to save others time, effort, and maybe a few tears!
9. You’ve been blogging several times a week for seven years now. How do you keep generating new content?
My problem is not generating new ideas, but rather finding the time to convert them all into blog posts. Some of the methods I will share in my workshop will make generating new content a snap!
10. What kinds of travel experiences make for the best blog posts?
Personal ones. I feel like if you can’t share your personal experience with a place, tie in what it means to you, what you experience, why it touched you, etc. then why bother writing about it? Anyone can pick up a brochure or buy a guidebook and get the generic version of how to get to X, what to do in Y, but I certainly don’t read blogs for that type of information.
11. You’ve written about quite a few San Francisco restaurants. Do you have any must-visit recommendations?
That is like asking a mother to choose her favorite child! I am a huge fan of dim sum and I love Yank Sing. There are many dim sum places in the city, but this is one of my favorites. I also like Tadich Grill, San Francisco’s oldest restaurant, for its local classic ciopinno. And we have a fantastic food truck scene!
12. What can students expect to learn from your class?
Lots! Things I wished I knew when I was starting out. How to find a focus. Generating content ideas. What goes into a blog post. SEO. Social media. And tools to pull it all together.
13. Do you have any final words of wisdom for aspiring bloggers?
Read other blogs. Find a support network and blog for yourself, not for the numbers.
Thanks so much for the helpful advice, Andi! Be sure to grab a spot in her Blogging Workshop on Saturday, October 10th before it is sold out!