A couple of years ago, Hendric Tay spent his days and nights trying to get his travel tech startup, TripBolt, off the ground. TripBolt, a travel search aggregator and planner that selects online travel tips for the jetset crowd, never took off.
“I was travel blogging, while working on the startup, to network with clients and build street credibility for TripBolt,” Tay said. “But after a few investment pitches and competitions, we felt the market was not ready, and the founders wanted to focus on other things.”
While TripBolt was put on hold, Tay’s new-found passion for travel writing soared. In 2013, he set up Pohtecktoes, a name that combines Tay’s love for potatoes as well as a play on his Chinese name. Since his blog’s inception, Tay has garnered over 4,000 followers on his Facebook page and Instagram account.
In 2015, Pohtecktoes was awarded the OMY Best Travel Blog Award — a personal milestone and testament to the hard work that Tay has put into developing his travel blog. The travel blogger has also collaborated with various agencies such as Flyscoot and Skyscanner to create travel video and blog content for their social media channels.
As the blog gained success, Tay ditched his day job in the advertising and teaching industry to pursue his passion. Pohtecktoes consists mainly of posts on cost-effective itineraries, as well as pictures and video footage taken using his GoPro. At the end of every travelogue, he includes a cost breakdown on the amount he spent on food, accommodation, transport and activities for travellers to better plan their budget and make the best of their trip.
Since starting the blog, Tay has traveled to over 40 countries. These shoe-string budget trips are often to far flung places and may span weeks and even months. For example, the 28-year-old managed to tour four countries in South America on a solo trip in 76 days with just US$4,900 (SGD$6,898.71).
“Walk if you can for short distances. Also, try not to order drinks during meals. These are just some tips that you could use to stretch your dollar,” Tay said. “Instead, use the money saved to spend on local food. After all, you never know a country until you’ve eaten local.”
Ever-ready to share memorable sights and insights of his travels, he vividly described how he has never seen a more magnificent waterfall than the Iguazu Falls — a waterfall that crashes deep into an abyss, and also serves as a border for Brazil and Argentina.
“I even had llama blood painted over my face after a sacrificial ritual outside the mines of Potosi in Bolivia. It was truly an exotic yet unforgettable experience,” he shared.
When asked if he felt afraid or nervous when travelling away from home — alone — for such long periods of time, Tay shared that the trick is to “go with an open mind.”
“No where is as dangerous as what the media says. Take the usual precautions and you will be fine,” he said.
Kickstarting Pohtecktoes did not come easy. Money posed as a huge challenge, as Tay had to figure out how to sustain the blog financially. Also, having a job as a travel blogger seemed like a lofty ideal to his family and friends.
“No where is as dangerous as what the media says. Take the usual precautions and you will be fine.”
Hendric Tay, founder of travel blog, Pohtecktoes
“It took a year before my family recognised that this could be a job,” he said.
The blogger now skilfully splits his time between freelance design projects and travelling — generating enough money to contribute to his family’s expenses as well keep his blog going.
From content creation to marketing and accounts management, Tay revealed that he single-handedly manages his travel blog, noting that there is much to be done before embarking on a trip.
“For example, after brainstorming story angles, I will know that I would want to write three posts about say, Iceland, and create a video. I’ll then come up with a schedule that starts with posting images about the country on social media as teasers, before leading up to the actual posts,” he said.
Tay, who specialised in advertising while at WKWSCI, credits the programme for providing him with a holistic view of the media and the know-how to create content that is relevant and interesting for his readers.
The travel blogger is extremely particular about producing quality content and smart marketing. Due to the saturation of “mediocre content” on social media, readers are becoming more picky in what they choose to spend time reading, and that includes travelogues as well, he shared.
“People no longer actively read and follow blogs when searching for information and inspiration. They instead let social engagement determine if a piece of content is worthy of their time. Therefore, while content remains important, travel bloggers should also start being savvy with social media marketing as well,” he said.
The most rewarding part of being a travel blogger is knowing that his job inspires people every day, Tay shared.
“It’s heartwarming to know that there are people out there who are willing to take the plunge, as well as others who hope to do so one day.”