Last Updated on November 4, 2020
Lisa Ellen Niver, M.A. Education. is a passionate writer, educator, social media ninja, speaker and global citizen who has traveled to over one hundred countries and six continents. You might find her underwater, talking travel on KTLA TV, exploring an exotic location, at her art studio or writing about issues for Ms. Magazine, Smithsonian, AARP, Saturday Evening Post or one of the airline magazines including American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Sky. Her latest project is a book called “Brave Rebel: 50 New Adventures Before 50,” about her 50 challenges before she turned 50. Lisa sailed on the high seas for seven years and founded We Said Go Travel, which is read in more than 200 countries. Lisa has been nominated for five Southern California Journalism Awards in the past two years and received 2nd place for her Jewish Journal article. Learn more about Lisa at We Said Go Travel.
Can you tell us what led you to create We Said Go Travel and what were some of the first steps you took to establish the site?
Absolutely. So, I first started We Said Go Travel in 2010 which sometime still shocks me, it has been nine years, and what happened was I’ve always been a traveler, I worked on cruise ships, I worked at Club Med, I lived abroad for school, and I was always teaching in between I was teaching and I was traveling. And once when I left teaching my students were very sad because I was going to be gone for 11 months and I promised that I would write a newsletter.
So, during the time that I was away writing my newsletter blogging kind of magically appear and when I came back, we wrote a book about our trip, and when I came back we were trying to figure out like what do we do with this book that no one really seems that interested in and I learned about this thing that now seems so funny but at the time was a very big deal to find your platform. Hard to imagine there a was a time people didn’t know what that was. Anyway, so I built We Said Go Travel and I built it on BlogSpot because I had two requirements. I wanted to be free and it’s another thing you can’t even imagine wouldn’t matter I didn’t want another password so it was very important to me at the time and I already had Gmail so that’s how I got started.
At what point in your journey did you branch out into influencer marketing?
Oh, you know it actually – well it’s funny because in 2009 obviously no one was talking about Influencer marketing. I actually remember when I joined Twitter. I had the website, of course I had Facebook, and then I was out to dinner with a friend who is Green Power Girl and she says to me “you know, you should be on Twitter” I was like “oh I don’t know what that is”. She was explaining it to me and I said “well it kind of sounds like people are shouting into the random universe” and she said “well why don’t you test it out” so I got Twitter and then on a different trip someone said to me, you know, you should really try this thing, it’s called Instagram.
And so I just kept adding and adding and at one point somebody said to me actually what you should be doing is video. And I was teaching full time and I was writing once a week on the website and I said to her “I would love to do video I have a free slot in my day from two to three in the morning when I’m sleeping I’ll just add that in” so it’s been very slow and organic and I’ve really taken advice anytime somebody said to me you should be on this” like the other day I joined something called Tik Tok. I think I’m too old for Tik Tok but I joined.
As a travel blogger and influencer, you’ve undoubtedly tried out a lot of different products, services and experiences. Do you have a couple favorites that come to mind?
Okay so I’ll tell you I ended up actually fifty experiences. I did a project that came about when I was forty-nine and didn’t want to admit it I met this woman that was thirty-nine forty things before she’s forty and so I was at a destination conference and I started pitching PR people I’m like “well what do you think if I was doing this project fifty things before I’m fifty” and I still wasn’t sure I wanted to admit it. But anyways people were super into it because one of the pieces of it was that I was going to do stuff I had never done or that I was scared of.
And it turns out I was pretty much scared of everything so it wasn’t too hard to give me an experience. So that was the most amazing thing except that people started using it against me. I was like “well I’m not really sure I want to go to a dude ranch. I’m afraid of horses’ But the PR person is saying “but that’s your project you’re supposed to do stuff you’re afraid of” I was like “wait I’m not sure this is work out so well for me” so that’s how I ended up doing a lot of things most people might not find terrifying but I had an eye issue growing up, I had a lot of accidents, and turns out I was scared of everything but I tried. I did mountain biking at North Star at Lake Tahoe, I did cry but I was still good.
Can you tell us a little about your upcoming book, Brave Rebel: 50 New Adventures Before 50, and how you manage to find time to write on top of running We Said Go Travel and well… traveling all over the world?
Yes, yes. Keeping up with any part of it because I feel like in some ways I’ll often be on a trip with content creators and they’ll be like “oh I’m an Instagrammer”. Honestly, I’m so jealous because they’re like that’s what I do I do Instagram and I’m like “woah how did I mess this up. I do Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, I makes a video, I write an article, I pitch my editors, I’m doing something so wrong” but how do I find time is I try to be really organized.
My friends make fun of me that my lists have lists. I write everything down and then at night I will be like “oh which of these one hundred fifty-three should go first” and I tried really hard. I don’t know if you remember the book The Four Hour Work Week so one of his things, I think it was from him, pick two things and get them done before eleven o’clock and so that’s one of my goals. I still have to do my eye exercises so in the morning I do my eye exercises and I try to do something really important and often it’s the writing. So like if I’m writing for – I have a new article that I have to online for MS, so if I’m working on an article for an editor I try to do that in the morning because as the day goes on my interest level in most things gets lower.
On your site, you have a section called Growing Your Travel Blog. What are just a few of the main tips you have for aspiring travel bloggers and influencers?
Absolutely. So, one of the things that I’ve done on We Said Go Travel is I’ve had thirteen contents, travel writing contests, I’ve published about twenty three hundred people through that and we just finished the second travel photo award so the thing that I always tell people is the thing that worked for me is do not spend any money in the beginning.
You know, I meet a lot of people and they are like :oh I’m going to hire someone to make my logo, I’m going to buy, you know, hosting” and all these things and I’m always like, you know what, “it can really start to add up and maybe you don’t even like it” and so what I try to do is share my experiences because I feel like I fell in a lot of pot holes along the way and I always recommend that people start slow. You know, write once a month, write once a week because people who are like “I’m go to write every single day” I’m like nope you’re not, you’re really not. None of us are really that interesting.
In your YouTube intro video, you mention that you want to explore the universal connections which bind us. Throughout your travels, what are some of the notable universal connections you have discovered?
Well that’s such a good question. So, as a teacher one of the things I’m always looking at – when I was traveling and teaching at the same time one I used to bring stuff back to students and one of the things I noticed with the kids is what they would love to see is what other kids are doing. And I’m a little bit like the pied piper that when I travel like kids love me and actually went on my first safari last and was with this really great photographer.
And we were walking around this Masai village and I’m not joking you all the kids are following me around and then we took a picture it’s me and all the kids and then my friend Matt is like get out of the picture I just want the kids, no problem I’ll get out of your picture. He told me later he said “can you come with me on every trip kids will not talk to me. All those kids want to be you” and we’d also gone on that trip to a school. And I was showing the kids my pictures and we saw elephants and we saw this and then I took picture of them so he took a picture of me, I can send it to you, it’s a huge sea of kids faces with me in the middle. But I think the universal connection is that everywhere in the world parents want what’s best for their children and families want to be together and families want to support each other and I’ve seen that every where I’ve been, you know, from Indonesia to Myanmar to anywhere in South America.
You know, people want more for their kids than they had for themselves and they want clean water and good schools and they want to be happy and to be together. I think that’s really important because I feel like a lot of times in the media and the news is about those people or that problem that those people started I’m like “you know what those people want. All those people want is their kids to grow up and be healthy” so I think that’s – in my classroom I never let people talk about first world and third world I think that’s very pejorative. You know everybody lives somewhere and everybody wants the best for their family I think that’s very common. And when you go places and see like what it means to have no resources or you mean like they are stealing your resources you would fight too. Like, you know, sometimes we’re missing some of the basic pieces.
Where do you see influencer marketing headed in the next five years or so?
I hope I’m going to figure out Snapchat and Tik Tok and Lasso but I’m not too sure or the step grandchildren of those. I think for me what’s it’s going to look like is that I’m still going to be doing things authentically that are mine. Like I feel like I try really hard to investigate anything that I choose to do whether it’s a hotel or a destination. I just got pitched for a trip and I’m just not sure the company and I are a match so I will – I do not write about things that I feel those kind of spider sense vibes about I really pay attention to what I pick and I think over the next five years I will only get better at that and saying this is really what fits me.
I’ve been very very fortunate I have an amazing editor at MS magazine and I just today is my sixth story, I think and I have two – no I have four stories coming up so I’ve been very fortunate to tell stories that, you know, I really care about and I have a print story about this incredible women’s economic development project in Africa, I wrote about Jessica Abolo’s book Unfiltered and this is really relevant because social media is not the enemy, loneliness is the enemy and I think we blame social media for a lot of things. And social media is just there it depends what you do with it.
Where can people find out more about you and your travel resource?
Okay. So, if you are looking to find more about me everywhere on We Said Go Travel, my YouTube account I have almost nine hundred thousand views so I’m so excited this year I should hit one million views, so exciting. I still remember when I got it to a thousand views and I was so excited so a million seems a lot more to be excited about than a thousand but still. Nd I’ve been doing some television segments for KTLA in Los Angeles and those you can always find on We Said Go Travel as well.
I’m actually doing one for President’s Day. People could win a two night stay at the Kimpton La Peer Hotel, dinner for two, and you get all glammed up with your hair and makeup by glam squad and then February 23rd – oh no sorry that’s the giveaway for February 23rd and 24th that’s the Oscars giveaway. February 18th is President’s Day and we are doing a giveaway for Philadelphia because that’s where our country started with the founding fathers.
Note: Influencer Spotlights are edited for time and clarity.