This week we spoke to Nikki Scott, founder and creater of ‘Backpacker International Limited’ which consists of South East Asia Backpacker Magazine, South America Backpacker Magazine and their brand new trip booking website, Backpacker Bookings.####
Why did you start South East Asia Backpacker?
I wanted to create the first and only magazine written ‘by backpackers for backpackers’ that would become a ‘travel diary for everyone’ - a place where all types of travellers could share their adventures. I wanted to capture the thrill of independent travel and encourage other people to hit the road!
What inspired you to pursue your goal?
The people I met! I met so many different types of people while travelling that all had a story to share. Most of these people were not writers, travel bloggers or even spoke English as a native language, but the passion they had for travel was infectious. I wanted to bring these stories together in a magazine that would be useful and inspirational to everyone.
Tell us your story
In September 2008, I quit my job working in an Advertising Agency in Manchester and set off on a solo-backpacking trip through Asia and beyond! I travelled Nepal, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia, having the time of my life! When it came days before my scheduled flight to Australia, I just didn’t feel ready to go back to the ‘real’ world yet…
With a love for both travel and writing, my ‘dream’ had been to end up in Australia and wing myself a job at Lonely Planet, based in Melbourne (a difficult task!). However, the more I travelled, the more my dream changed, as I became more open to opportunities that I hadn’t before thought possible...
I had the idea to create ‘South East Asia Backpacker Magazine’. With so much downtime spent on buses and trains, an entertaining travel magazine would be a great accompaniment to a guidebook and at the same time provide people with ‘real’ tips from fellow travellers at their fingertips.
I started the magazine in Thailand in June, 2009. The first issue was 44 pages and was sponsored by 18 companies through advertising, which included hostels, dive schools, restaurants and yoga centres. Over the past five years, the magazine became famous as the ‘voice of backpackers’ all along the South East Asia trail.
After the success of the print magazine, we launched a digital magazine for iPad and Kindle and created an online trip booking system (backpackerbookings.com.) to help travellers to plan their itinerary. We also have ‘Backpacker Ambassadors’ on the ground all over the world right now – who keep us up to date with everything related to backpacking – the newest festivals, secret destinations and new backpacker hubs!
Earlier this year – I travelled to South America to replicate the magazine in South America – a very up and coming backpacker destination. And, I am now living in Barcelona, Europe, where I hope to launch ‘Europe Backpacker Magazine’ in the New Year!
It’s been a crazy five years living and travelling all over the world to grow the magazine – no day is the same and I am still learning every day! I’ve met some interesting people and some strange ones too! What keeps me going are the emails I get from nervous travellers who have been inspired to travel after reading stories in the magazine about people just like them. Although it has been tough at times (try proof reading in a noisy dorm room full of drunken backpackers at 4am!) I can’t imagine going back to a ‘normal life of 9-5’. If you find a job that you love you’ll never have to work a day of your life!
What was your response to anyone who told you to give it up or it wasn't possible?
At the beginning of the magazine, a small team and I travelled throughout Thailand to try to get sponsors for the magazine. As the magazine would be distributed free of charge for backpackers, we needed a way to earn funds for the printing costs, so the idea was through advertising.
Although most of the responses we had from potential advertisers were positive and encouraging – a few of the business owners made predictions that we wouldn’t last long as they had seen many start-up magazines begin promisingly and fold within the first year.
I strongly believed in my idea for the magazine and although it made me wonder why so many magazines in Thailand before us had failed, I didn’t think too much about it. There had never been a backpacker magazine in South East Asia before and I conveyed this uniqueness passionately to possible sponsors.
When the first customer (Viking Divers in Koh Phi Phi) put the money in my hand for six months advertising I knew there was no turning back! I had to find more customers to help with the printing bill and I didn’t want to let anybody down (writers, customers or my team) by not going ahead with my plans.
What are your future dreams and goals?
I’m excited to be starting Europe Backpacker Magazine next year, as I am loving living in Europe, and (a little bit) closer to friends and family in the UK for the first time in seven years!
In the near future, I’d love to publish a novel that I have written about the whole experience sharing all of the crazy stories that have happened whilst running the magazine and all of the characters I have met.
What motivates you?
People’s emails saying that have been inspired to go to a festival, hike a mountain, learn to dive, volunteer, teach English, take a cooking course, learn yoga or embark upon a myriad of other adventures after reading S.E.A Backpacker Magazine.
I get a kick out of the fact that we’re the only magazine that doesn’t have a team of professional writers, but allows anyone with a good story and a passion for travel to get their name in print. That’s why we’re more real and more personal than other magazine out there! Compared to the first few magazines, where I wrote a lot of the articles, I only write the introduction now, and the rest of the magazine is written by enthusiastic travellers from all over the world, from 16-70 years old! I love hearing their stories!
What one single thing inspires you?
The thought that inspiring words can change peoples lives. You read an article in a magazine, a book or a travel blog about Thailand and decide to travel there… meet somebody while you are there, decide to get a job and move there or start a business, embark upon an adventure you never dreamed of… one single action can change your whole life! As Tony Wheeler of the Lonely Planet said – “All you’ve got to do is decide to go – and the hardest part is over. So go!”
If there was one message to pass on to anyone reading this what would it be?
Travel! (Of course!) No matter what business idea / project / dream you have – travel is one sure-fire way to shake you up and make you realise that there are so many people out there living their lives in so many different ways. Why not create the life you’ve always dreamed of? IT IS POSSIBLE! Travel will inspire you, teach you, overwhelm you, question your own social norms and values, make you see things differently and spark creativity that you didn’t even know you had!
Thank so mush Nikki for taking the time to share your story.
See if Nikki's sites can inspire your travels.