Montreal-born, blogger and influencer Lisa Homsy has always been interested in seeing the world for what it is. It all started when she went overseas for the first time and needed to update her family about her whereabouts – she started posting updates to her Instagram, and since then more and more people have gained interest in where Lisa will go next.
Now with 6+ years of traveling and blogging experience, Lisa has a new obstacle to face – how to travel in a shut-down, pandemic-ridden world.
Today, Lisa and I talked on Zoom for about an hour – Lisa was in her bedroom in Montreal where she was packing and getting ready to move to a new condo, and myself, in my home office in Boston. We talked about her start as a traveler; before blogging. We talked about what made her get into blogging. We also talked about some of her obstacles and milestones. Find out what she had to say below.
Matt: When you first started out taking photos, you probably weren’t blogging, so what was it that made you pick up a camera?
Lisa: I’ve always had a passion for photography – my grandfather had a passion for photography so I was always curious about his camera. I ended up purchasing my first DSLR camera in 2011 right before I did a Euro-trip.
I was gone for six weeks and it was places that I had never been before, but always wanted to see and even though the trip itself was going to be expensive, I had a friend tell me, ‘you’ve always wanted to see these places; yeah, it’s expensive, but when are you ever going to get a chance to go back? You might as well invest in the camera now.‘
That was my first camera and really my first trip, but I’ve always been interested in travel from a young age. My dad spent his entire career traveling to all these cool places, and it kind of fueled my desire to travel.
Matt: Wow, that’s awesome – when you first started out traveling, were you still in school?
Lisa: So before that trip, I traveled with my family a little bit – you know trips to Florida and stuff like that, but my first big trip was the one to Europe that i just mentioned in 2011 and that was right after I finished school. I was living in Vancouver on my own, for a job opportunity, and my boyfriend at the time were long-distance so we decided to travel for six weeks in Europe and that gave me a serious travel bug and it got me thinking about how I wanted to do this more and more.
Then when I got back, I started writing down goals for trips, like, ‘ok I’m going to do four trips this year.‘ So I always wanted to take one trip for me, two trips with the girl friends, and one with your significant other and it just kind of spiraled from four trips a year to sometimes your trips a month.
Matt: No way that’s awesome hahah. When you were traveling then were you going to Hostels and things like that?
“When you jump into entrepreneurship, you hustle so much harder for your money because you’re not going to make it unless you’re busting your ass.“
Lisa: Yeah, I honestly recommend hostel life to everyone. My next big big trip after that in 2014 was in Southeast Asia, I went solo-backpacking, and that was one of the best trips of my life. First of all – to be alone, you learn so much about yourself as a traveler, and you also become more open because you’re not with people, so you’re not relying on anyone else, which is cool because you end up meeting people you would otherwise never be in your social circle and it was just the best experience. You’re so open and you meet all these crazy, fun people, and I’ve made some amazing friendships from it.
Matt: That’s incredible hahah, I love hostel life – it’s so much fun. My brother and I did a hostel trip through Europe a few years ago and it’s really intriguing because when you’re going out at home, in your own city, you’re kind of relying on other people, even if you don’t realize it, but when you go somewhere by yourself, you kind of have that ‘oh, shit’ moment where you realize there’s nothing to do, I know no one here – let me let my guard down and go find something to do.
Lisa: Yeah, exactly – it’s really cool because you wind up meeting people and being open to conversation. Not that you would dismiss them normally, but they would just never windup in that social circle that you’re in.
Matt: I know you said you’re passionate about travel and photography, but what are some other things that have inspired you? Maybe it’s the places you’re going to go, maybe it’s people, or music or movies, anything like that – what else helps inspire you?
Lisa: I’ve always been really passionate, even in high school, about history and geography. I’ve always been interested in learning a little bit more about the culture. So when I travel I don’t just want to go to a destination for a couple days and stay on a resort, I would really like to immerse myself in the culture – food, people, history, everything! I just think it tells a story so much better and it makes your experience so much greater.
I went to Egypt last year and I’ve always wanted to go because I’m half-Egyptian, and that was the first time. Although I normally wouldn’t like to go with a tour or tour-guide, I would never recommend someone go to Egypt without having a guide because it’s so rich in history that you don’t get the same takeaways. I wouldn’t have had the same experience and have loved the country as much if I didn’t learn a little bit more about the history and more than we learned in school.
“They were shocked that I was just doing everything on Instagram; on a platform that I didn’t own. And they made it known to me that that’s like suicide – if Instagram were to shut down, you wouldn’t have anything.”
Matt: Now we know a little more about you and your traveling experience, but when did you start taking this seriously?
Lisa: Well after 2011 I started traveling more, and each year I would take a big trip – Europe in 2011, Olympics in 2012, Costa Rica in 2013, Asia in 2014… and then Instagram came out and it became this outlet; a ‘visual diary’ I call it.
I wasn’t a big person to write long emails home – I would just post so everyone knew I was ok and that’s kind of how I started to tell the stories.
Matt: Wow, that’s actually super interesting – did Instagram start in 2011?
Lisa: Hmm, I think it started in 2011 or 2012 – I had it, and I think my first post was in 2012, but none of my photos were worthy haha. They were just photos of my cat or friends. Once I started traveling more and more – it became a passion of mine, then naturally by 2014 when I was doing that solo backpacking trip, I wasn’t always emailing or phoning home. My brother would write these long emails, and I was like, ‘I don’t have time for this‘, so I would just post a photo and tell the story of that day in the caption.
Matt: That’s awesome and I think it’s super interesting that you started kind of alongside Instagram. I think a lot of the times nowadays with travel bloggers and influencers, they’re starting because they’re seeing people doing it, but you were kind of just part of the early days instagram where you actually used it like a tool – rather than sending everyone a picture from your trip, just post a picture for your friends to see. It’s funny because you were using Instagram what it was made for, and to see how it’s transformed so far since then.
Lisa: Yes, exactly – and nowadays, you hear about young kids wanting to be an influencer, but for me… this was NEVER a thought. I don’t even think I knew of the term ‘Influencer‘, I don’t even think it existed back then. I just did it because I was passionate about it.
Matt: So now you have a handful of trips, whether solo trips or with friends, whatever the case may be – when did you start blogging and strategizing what to do with your content?
Lisa: I guess it wasn’t until 2017 – I had started to grow in 2015-16. I went to Bali four years a row around that time and I loved it; I attest a lot of my success to being in Bali. I was getting reposted so much because Balinese people are just so proud of their island, they wanted to share it so in 2016 my account started growing because of all the accounts that were reposting me and in 2017 I took my first press trip. A hotel company wanted to fly me out to the Dominican Republic to take photos and promote them on Instagram. Honestly, the email didn’t even sound real to me so I ignored it. When I found out it was paid I was shocked! It was so overwhelming because it was my first paid trip and the second trip after that was with the Florida Keys where I met a few girls who ended up being some of my really good friends still to this day.
While chatting with them, they were all really shocked, ‘you don’t have a blog?!’ I said, ‘no…’ So they asked, ‘what do you do?’ and I responded, ‘I just have my Instagram.’ They were shocked that I was just doing everything on Instagram; on a platform that I didn’t own. And they made it known to me that that’s like suicide – if Instagram were to shut down, you wouldn’t have anything. At least your blog is yours, it’s your name, your mailing list is yours. And that’s when I started thinking of it as a business – up until then it was all for fun, I didn’t think of it as a career, I had a full time job, but it was that trip that made me open my eyes and look at it as a business opportunity and right when I got home I launched a blog.
Matt: Yeah it’s interesting how that happens sometimes. I was just talking to Kyle Loftus (filmmaker & director) the other week about this – he was telling me how he used to work as a video editor in a 9-5 type setting and it wasn’t until a friend had told him that he could do it his own way that he realized it and became an independent filmmaker. I think it’s similar to your case because you clearly had the resources to create blog, it was just someone helping open your eyes to the reasons why.
Lisa: Yeah I was like ‘Oh, shit’ – I guess I didn’t realize how vulnerable I was, if anything were to happen. But I didn’t think of it as a full-time career at that moment.
Matt: Yeah and that’s another thing too – when you’re not thinking of something as a career, you’re not thinking of the longevity. It’s just crazy how one person saying something can be all it takes for you to completely open your mind and be like “damn, why didn’t I do this sooner?’
Matt: How did you learn about photography and editing? Did you go to school for it?
Lisa: Yeah I learned a lot from collaborating with other photographers and watching tons of YouTube videos – I never went to school for photography or editing. When I first started out, I used an app called VSCO. When I went to Bali in 2016, I was with another creator friend of mine, Mel, and we decided to pick one filter for the entire trip that way all of our photos will be consistent and we can see what it looks like. We each picked our own filter and that was the trip where were getting reposted a lot. Once we finished up with that trip, I really loved that process, but we were starting to work with brands and wanted to do a little more editing, so we taught ourselves Lightroom.
Again – tons of YouTube videos. Then I started selling my presets in 2017 :)
Growing as an Entrepreneur
Matt: What’s something you had to overcome that you didn’t really for-see happening when you first started out?
Lisa: For me, the biggest hurdle I had to get over was jumping into this career as an entrepreneur. Finance and money, like most people, has always been a topic that makes me uneasy, especially when you’re going from having a steady job to this career as an influence and not knowing what’s going to come out of it and for me that was a really big thing that I had to overcome. I had gotten to a point where I had gone as far as I could working full time, two jobs and then doing this on the weekend. I really wanted to try hard and pursue this to see if it could become a career, but I knew I needed to give it my all.
I went through a period of making steady income to making little to no income at all. My parents were like, ‘…what are you doing?…’ And I told them to give me six months, and that if I didn’t make any money in six months I would go back to work, but I knew that I needed to do it for myself to see what could happen.
Matt: Yeah I totally get that – it’s funny because it’s that classic mom and dad concern, but you kind of have to get through it and prove it to them that that’s something you can and want to do.
Lisa: Oh yeah, totally. Even still – a year or two ago my parents sat me down and asked me what I was doing. I had to actually show and prove to them that I’m fine doing what I’m doing.
Matt: What was your first proud moment since you started blogging and taking photos?
Lisa: For me, every milestone is really meaningful. I still remember the day I hit 10K (followers), 30K, 100K etc.. I never want to forget those, even the small ones. I remember the day that I hit 10K, it was the day before I left for Bali (the second time) in 2016. For me that was huge because everything fast-forwarded since then. In the same year, I hit 100K, and eight months after that I reached 200K. And it was a lot easier to grow back then when the algorithms were different, but I think those milestones were important. It’s not about the follower count, but it’s meaningful because it showed me that people were interested in it and they enjoy what I’m doing. For me, I needed that to show me that I was on the right path, and that’s why that first milestone is so meaningful.
Matt: Definitely, that’s totally understandable. Like you said, too – you hustle a lot harder when you’re smaller or when nothing’s set in stone. You’re still trying to prove what you’re doing is valuable, it’s reasonable, it’s cool, so you’re going to hustle as hard as you can.