Ariana Kajic was raised in Australia after the war tore her family out of Bosnia & Herzegovina. In 2013, she visited her home country for the first time since she left at 5 years old. Now, Ariana runs the blog appropriately named The Bosnian Aussie, helping inspire people to visit the “magical” country of Bosnia. The momma-to-be took time out of her busy schedule to talk to me about her unique experience traveling and with travel blogging.
First, let me just thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to me! For anyone not aware, can you tell me a little bit about yourself? Where are you from, where are you currently living, and where has your latest travels brought you?
Thank you! My name is Ariana, I’m currently living in North Queensland, Australia. I was born in Trebinje, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and was just four years old when the war started and became a refugee fleeing the war with my family. We got asylum at a Red Cross in Denmark for almost two years before getting a Visa through a family member already living in Sydney, and in September 1994, Sydney became my new home. Its where I grew up, went to school, had friends and fell in love. But something was always missing- my “home”. The place where I should have had all these things. I loved growing up in Sydney, Australia gave us opportunities we thought we would never have again, but I needed to see where I was from, where my ancestors were from, and that’s where my travel adventures began. I went back home for the first time in 20 years in 2013, and since then I had gone back four times.
Can you tell me 3 fun-facts not everyone may know about you just from reading your blog?
I used to be a very shy person. Last year I was a tour guide and pub crawl leader in Mostar. The old me would have freaked out about public speaking or even not been the drinking type of person ( I still limit to 3 drinks). But traveling especially solo travel changed me, made me more confident, and made me able to show 10-20 people around the town, and answer any questions they had then take them out to dinner and drinks after. I loved getting to know other cultures and the shy old me would have never done that.
What is your career? Are you a full-time travel blogger, or do you work part-time or on any other projects throughout the year as well?
I moved up to North Queensland for my fiancé’s job, and his job will require us moving every 12-18 months, which meant I had to leave my job as a leader in training at the biggest Zara store in Sydney. I do miss my team everyday but am looking forward to my new responsibility in life- becoming a mother. I am 6 months pregnant, and this little boy I am yet to meet is my everything and will be my top priority. I do blog part time but hope to make it a full time job very soon, and take it even further.
Can you tell me a little bit about your personal evolution into travel blogging? How long after starting your blog did you see it begin to take off? At what point did you realize you could take it on full-time?
I started my blog in January 2015, and could only blog about my previous trips and use old photos. When I left for Europe in June that year, my Instagram only had about 2K followers and I had just gotten my domain and self hosting. With time, new travels and new photos, I gained experience and thus more followers, more readership and more people wanting to discover Bosnia & Herzegovina, which was the whole point of starting a travel blog. When I returned to Australia 4 months later I had just crossed over 10K followers, and even though it’s a slow processes, its been fun, talking about my experiences and showing people a new light on a once war torn country.
Do you have any tips for anyone looking to expand their networks on social media, in particular Instagram, to grow their blog? With over 37K followers, you’re clearly doing something very right!
Patience, consistency, variation & engagement. Patience is a must. You can easily buy “followers” but I highly don’t recommend that because they are all fake and why would you want fake accounts following you. It took me over a year and a half to get to where I am now, and still to this day I block all fake accounts and spammers because they only bring in more fakes. Consistency is important because people want to see updated blogs and instagrams. Yes travelling makes it hard to blog on the road but a photo a day is enough to bring in more people and keep the followers engaged. Variation – I only post 3 max of the same place at a time, spanned over 2-3 days. If you took 20 photos, choose the best 2 or 3, no need to post all of them at the same time, leave them for later on. And another important thing is engagement. Reply to comments and questions, leave comments for accounts you love and follow. I always love it when my favourite “big” bloggers reply to me. I also only follow accounts I would want to see in my feed, I don’t play the follow/unfollow game, because I would only want people following me because they love my photos, not because they expect me to follow them back and if I don’t they unfollow then follow again. It is very unprofessional, annoying and pointless. In fact I’ve had to unfollow a few that I had been already following because they just kept doing it, and the very annoying ones who do it 20 times a week, I simply block, because obviously they weren’t following me because they wanted to.
Do you travel solo or do you always have someone by your side? How do you think traveling with someone vs. traveling solo can affect the trip?
I’ve done solo travel, travel with my fiancé, with my mum, also with brother and his fiancé and travel with a friend. Each has its pros and cons. Traveling with someone can restrict you to certain places or activities that could benefit all of those traveling, but its always good to have someone to share it with. Traveling alone can change you, makes you independent, and self reliant, but can also get lonely at times.
Your blog is dedicated to rediscovering your roots and showing others the beauty of Bosnia and why they should consider traveling there. What advice would you give to other people looking to visit countries where their ancestors are from?
I would do as much research about the place, the history and the people first. Ask family and friends. Look up family trees, history books etc. But research alone is not enough. To connect with our roots one must touch the soil, feel the air on their face, and be amongst their people. Save up and visit your native country. Live like a local. Talk to the locals, you will be surprised at how many are willing to help and how much insight they can give. Living and working the whole of last summer in my country gave me more insight than a book would have. I hung out with locals, went grocery shopping at local fruit markets, showed tourists around in a town I wasn’t even born in, but my passion for the town was seen by the tourists and I’m sure you can see that love and passion on my Instagram.
What has been your favorite travel memory thus far?
My summer in Mostar with my roommate Krizia. I found her through Girls VS Globe Facebook group and we worked as tour leaders, pub crawl leaders and a hostel all rounder/receptionist for a hostel. I have so many good memories with this girl I consider the “sister” I never had.
Also back in 2013, going back to my home town, seeing my house for the first time since we fled 20 years before. Though I was only four when I left, distant memories came flooding back to me.
What tips do you have for traveling on a budget?
Eat where the locals eat, not where guide books tell you. Stay in hostels, its cheap, and you meet great people, you don’t need to go on every tour, most cities have a free (tip based) city tour and honestly sometimes researching a place before you get there is enough to give you the basics to not even need one. Walk everywhere ( unless its too far or not reachable by foot), it’s good for you, you see a lot more and saves you money on taxis/transport.
Have you ever been to the United States? Is it on your bucket list?
No, but it’s a country I wanted to live in growing up and watching all those American teen shows. I’d really love to see the countryside like Texas and Alabama, visit the Grand Canyon and all the gorgeous national parks and lakes, and of course Hollywood, NYC and Miami.
What are the top two other countries you’d like to travel to and why?
Norway (I’ve only been as a kid) . Besides the fact that my cousins live there, Norway’s beauty is hard to beat with green mountains, lakes, forests. And I’d love to visit the Greek mainland and islands because who can resist Greek food and their beaches!
What would you say to someone who says they can’t afford to travel?
Anyone can travel, they just need to prioritize what is important in their life. I know plenty of people who complain they don’t have the money to go travel yet spend every weekend at bars/clubs spending it on drinks or spending every paycheck on the latest fashion trends. Start being stingy, stop your daily coffee/s, wear the clothes you have, invite friends over for a movie night instead of going to the club, and limit spendings. You’d be surprised how much this all adds up. I sold a lot of my clothes and unwanted items on ebay and at the local markets before my trip last year, made about $1000 just from that, and stopped buying 3 coffees a day and had one at home. Its all about balance and sacrifice. Material things or memories? I’d always go for memories!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
My 5 year goal/plan is to be living in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina, running a successful luxury hostel with my fiancé. Tourism and meeting people is our passion and we both want to raise our future family and 3 cats in Bosnia & Herzegovina.