September 2017 Featured Journalists: Dave Bouskill & Debra Corbeil
Friday, September 08, 2017 12:00 AM
Debra Corbeil and Dave Bouskill of The Planet D

Deb and Dave founded ThePlanetD after cycling the continent of Africa. Since then they’ve been inspiring adventure in everyone through 106 countries on 7 continents. Forbes named The Planet D one of the Top 10 Influencers in Travel for 2017. They’ve won numerous photography and blogging awards including back-to-back gold medals for best travel blog at both the Society of American Travel Writers and the North American Travel Journalists Association. Their photography, story and writing has been featured in BBC World, Red Bull’s Red Bulletin, Adweek, Martha Stewart, Thrillist, National Geographic and Vogue India to name a few. They have spoken on five continents not only about the business of blogging and social media, but pursuing passion and living life to the fullest.

What got you into travel writing?

Before starting The Planet D, we worked as freelancers in the Toronto film industry. This gave us a lot of time off to travel between jobs. For nearly 10 years we travelled extensively every spare moment we had and soon found that we were more comfortable on the road than at home. Instead of planning what movie or project to work on next, we planned our next adventure. 
When we decided to jump in to making travel as a career, we initially focused on pitching a TV show about an average couple taking on extraordinary adventures around the world. We though that since we came from the TV world, we'd have a good shot of making a series happen. We then signed up for the Tour d'Afrique, the world's longest cycling race from Cairo, Egypt to Cape Town South Africa. We trained for a year and started our blog to keep followers of the race informed of our progress. In Jan 2008, we were on our way to Egypt getting ready to cycle the continent. When we returned, we had some interest in our TV idea, but it eventually fizzled. However, we found that people were starting to pay attention to our travel blog and readers were growing. 

We looked into travel blogging further to raise our profile and build our brand so that we could pitch our TV idea again in the future. Dave was the head of the lighting department for feature films and had an extensive photography background so transitioning into travel photography was natural for him. He focused on honing his craft taking workshops and joining photography clubs. I took a night class for travel writing to learn structure and enrolled in online courses while absorbing as much as I could about the business of travel blogging.

In 2009, we were on the road again with a goal to become full time travel bloggers. We travelled through India, Sri Lanka and Nepal to make our dollar stretch while we wrote about our travels while building our audience. A year later our social media and blog following grew and we started to feel that we could eventually make a living out of this blogging thing. We barely made any money for the first two years, but we focused on building our brand and online presence and eventually it paid off. Soon companies were approaching us to represent them as ambassadors and to write about their destinations and products. And since 2011, travel blogging and social media has been our full time career.

What's the most challenging part of travel writing for you?

The most challenging part of travel writing is time. We are fortunate to have wonderful opportunities pop up but travel takes up a lot of time that could be spent working. We got into this career because we love travel so it is difficult for us to stay put for too long, but at the same time, to run a business, you need to be still and do the technical work that needs to be done on a blog. We are always striving for more time and balance but when an exciting adventure or exotic destination falls into our laps, how can we say no?

What one thing [equipment or a personal item] can't you go without on the road?

Our iPhones. Our job is very social. Over the years blogging has evolved from daily journal entries to more in depth articles while social media has taken over the daily blogging. People follow along on Instagram stories, twitter and Facebook to see what we are doing daily. If we don't have our iPhones and data, we can't share in real time. Since partnering with KnowRoaming for worldwide data, we are always connected and it has taken a lot of stress out of trying to find a local SIM card the moment we land in a new destination. 

We can do everything on our phone that we couldn't dream of when we first started. We take photographs, answer emails, share on social and even capture video on our phones. We couldn't travel without them. 

What is the best piece of advice you could give to a rookie travel writer?

The best piece of advice we can give is to hone your skills and learn as much as you can. We don't have degrees in travel writing or photography, but we took courses in both and learned how to craft a story. We follow people who are more established and better than us and learn from them. We are inspired by great writing, photography and video editing. Learn from your peers, learn from online courses, conferences, workshops and travel clubs. The more people you can meet, talk to and learn from in person, the better writer, blogger, photographer, or videographer you'll become. Don't be threatened by those who are more successful or talented, be inspired instead.