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April 2014
Kren Kaja
Volunteer of Hostelling International Slovenia
kaja.kren@gmail.com
ihearditscalledlife.blogspot.com/

Big Blog Exchange 2014
Do you like to travel and write? Do you want to share your experience with others? Do you want to gain new experiences, new friends and new cultures? Do you already have a blog or were you always thinking about writing one? Yes? Did you hear about Big Blog Exchange competition that is hosted by Hostelling International?


Big Blog Exchange is a competition that is open to every blogger – an established or a new one. It is a project that is organized by Hostelling International and it is happening since 2013. The goal of the competition is getting to know other cultures in the world through the power of words. Hostelling International is supporting bloggers and their creativity and working habits since the blogger must include a lot of ideas, he or she must be self-initiative and ambitious and innovative. Hostelling International encourages young people to mobility and to explore places that they might not even visit otherwise. More than 1000 bloggers from more than 100 countries applied last year to exchange lives with another blogger and live in an unknown place for 10 days where they would try to explore more about the culture, life, food and drink of the city and just have fun with the natives. 16 bloggers were chosen and they exchanged locations and shared their experience with the world. With that bloggers got an amazing experience of free travelling since Hostelling International finances travel costs, food and accommodation, they even got some pocket money. With an amazing experience of travelling to amazing places, winning on the competition also makes a good promotion for your blog since there are around 170 million blogs on the internet and it’s getting harder and harder to get recognized. You will get amazing experience and contacts from all over the world. 


Hostelling International also got a first prize for marketing innovation from Global Youth Travel Awards for this idea. Big Blog Exchange was then recognized as the biggest blog competition in history. The prize is a great acknowledgment for creative thinking.

How did the winners like the competition last year?
I was talking to Camie Juan from Philippines who visited Germany and writes a blog Wild Spirit and with Sophie Radcliffe from Great Britain that is writing a blog Challenge Sophie who had a chance to visit Singapore. Both were thrilled with Big Blog Exchange.

Why did you start blogging?
Camie: I started blogging when I was 12 years old! That's about 12 years ago! I discovered blogging through my sister, I was at that age of copying whatever my older sisters did so I got a blog too when she got one -- but in the end, I was the one who fell in love with it and haven't stopped blogging since! I'm generally quiet in real life, so having an outlet worked for me to express my thoughts and feelings. It was only up until around I 16 years old (8 years ago) when my blogs started getting attention, my readership grew, and that has also driven me to continue doing my passion that is blogging.

                                                      Camie Juan; wild-spirit.net

Sophie: I wanted a space to keep a track of my adventures, challenges and all the highs and lows that come in between climbing mountains and cycling across countries. I believe that when we challenge ourselves physically, we strengthen our minds and this gives us confidence to conquer our fears and know we can achieve more than we think. My blog enables me to share all of this with other people and go on this journey with them.

What inspired you to apply for Big Blog exchange?
Camie: I first found out about Big Blog Exchange through another blogger friend of mine from New Zealand, she asked me to vote for her so I gladly did and upon finding out what The Big Blog Exchange was, I was intrigued, and then amused, and then excited! I had never imagined my number one passion (blogging) and my dreams of traveling the world to come together in one big competition -- It's like all I've ever wanted all rolled into one with the added purpose of changing the views of my readers about other countries, cultures, and people through the power of my writing.

Sophie: The Big Blog Exchange is a very cool project and the first of it's kind. I never thought I would win, but I know you've got to be in it to win it! I loved the idea of swapping world's with another person and experiencing a new country.

Sophie Radcliffe; www.challengesophie.com

Were you nervous when you found out that you will actually be able to go to another part of the world?
Camie: After I received the e-mail announcing that I had won as one of the 16 winners, I initially thought it was some joke or a hoax! But after reading the e-mail about 10 times and accepting what the universe has given me, I was so happy I ended up crying a little! I think nervousness came a little after that, when it had sunk in that this was a huge opportunity!

Sophie: I wasn't nervous as I love travelling, and am happy travelling on my own. I was excited to see what adventures would be in store for me in Singapore. I was over the moon when I found out I'd won especially as I was chosen as a 'wild card' meaning I had the chance to compete against people who had huge audiences. I had only started writing my blog 4 months prior to winning.

What did the experience bring to you?
Camie: The experience brought me a lot of changes. I have always been interested in history, specifically World War II. So Germany was the perfect place to go, immerse in the culture and visit historically places. I went to Germany traveling completely on my own through 5 cities, not really knowing what to expect! For some reason, a lot of people have this stereotype of what Germany and Germans are like -- big and scary talking people (I believe it's because their language sounds so harsh), intimidating, unfriendly, etc. I found out that mine and everyone elses notion of what Germans are like were completely untrue and the opposite! Everyone, including strangers, was nice towards me. They offered help when I needed it, and didn't judge me when I clearly had no idea how their bus transportation worked! Often times they would even speak to me in German thinking I was a local (quite a huge compliment, if you ask me!) - I blogged about all of this and changed the views of my readers as well, some of them even including Germany as part of their "Travel Bucket List".

Aside from learning a lot about Germany, its people and culture, I also learned to stop judging other races whose culture differs from mine. I had a perceived notion of what Germans were like based on how they were depicted in pop culture, the media, etc. before I left and realized how wrong I was to even have those views before getting to know them in the first place.  


Camie Juan; wild-spirit.net

Sophie: Ahh the experience was wonderful! I got to meet many great people, experience Singapore, go to places I wouldn't normally travel to. I ate new foods which is always a huge part of the experience and learnt so much about the multi layered culture of Singapore. I made friends who took me on mountain biking and kayaking adventures to the last rural place in Singapore. Was also very lucky because I met up with Jeremy, the blogger who won from Canada and we both travelled in Malaysia and Singapore together. We had fun on the beach in Malaysia and drank beers together. It was great for my blog as it raised my profile and gave me confidence to continue building it. 

Would you do it again?
Camie: Definitely, without a doubt, 100% yes. I find myself often going through my box of travel mementos from that Big Blog Exchange trip. I kept train tickets, bus tickets, maps, tour tickets, photos, a travel diary... When I find myself nostalgic for the 18 days of traveling (After Germany, I went to visit Amsterdam and Paris as well) I open up that box and go through all the memories. I'd have to say it was one of the best experiences in my life, definitely life changing and an eye-opener!

Sophie Radcliffe; www.challengesophie.com

Sophie: Of course! Would do it again in a heartbeat. One of the other great aspects of winning was building connections with the other bloggers who won and following their adventures during the 10 days.

Who can apply?
Anybody can apply, all you need is a blog. You can write about anything in any language. Application is free so you have nothing to lose. Whether you will be chosen depends on your readers, on your writing and on your self-promotion. 14 bloggers will be chosen from 100 bloggers who have most readers and two will be chosen by judges depending on quality of the content and motivation. You can also apply if, when you’re reading this article, you don’t have a blog since Big Blog Exchange supports every blogger – experienced ones and the beginners. The competition starts July 23rd 2014. If you like travelling and if you’re interested in other cultures, the application is a must. You can apply on www.bigblogexchange.org.