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I'm La Carmina 😈 I'm a full-time travel & fashion blogger, journalist, and travel TV host/expert on programs like Bizarre Foods, The Doctors, NBC's Better Late Than Never. AMA!

La Carmina of LaCarmina blog
Jan 29, 2018

I'm La Carmina, an alternative travel and style blogger. I've been blogging professionally for over 10 years on my La Carmina blog, with a focus on Goth, Tokyo Harajuku and youth subcultures around the world. 

I've been to over 60 countries to date, including my dream destinations of Iceland, Morocco, India, Cambodia, New Zealand, Cuba, Korea, and of course Japan. Ask me anything about traveling, blogging, "influencer" work, press trips, etc! 

My LaCarmina blog articles tend to have a dark, offbeat focus. I recently volunteered with punk bands in Myanmar, visited Dracula’s Castle in Romania, drank absinthe at HR Giger's bar in Switzerland, and partied with Japanese mistresses at a Satanic bar in Japan. 

I published three books with Random House and Penguin, and write about travel for various publications including CNN, Business Insider and Sunday Times.

I've appeared as a host for travel TV shows worldwide, including Discovery (Oddities), National Geographic (Taboo, Roam), Food Network (World’s Weirdest Restaurants), Travel Channel (Bizarre Foods, No Reservations promo, Could I Live There) and international networks (NHK, Canal Plus, Pro Sieben, Norway TV). I also have a travel video series filmed by BorderlessMedia.tv.

La Carmina has been featured in major media (including a recent BBC Radio One show about Goth culture, and numerous magazine covers), and speaks at travel/fashion events worldwide (World Tourism Forum, Experience Bucharest, NY Fashion Week, PechaKucha Tokyo, Luisviaroma Italy, PRSA Travel and Tourism and more).

Find more about La Carmina at LaCarmina.com and @LaCarmina on all social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook).

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In last ten years, you have evolved in almost every aspect of writing, styling, understanding of life and your travel experiences. What's that one or perhaps anything that you still feel has stayed the same in you?

Feb 2, 7:58PM EST0

I've certainly evolved enormously since starting on this journey! It's funny to look back at old photos and diaries; sometimes, I hardly recognize that person from the past. Despite tons of changes and lessons, I'm grateful to have close friends who stick through it all. Many of them have been featured on the blog since the start, and readers can see that we're still going strong and having wild adventures today!

I'm also just as inspired by art, fashion and subcultures as when I was a teenager. Seeing underground creativity all around the world, often in unexpected ways, has broaded my views. 

Feb 2, 8:11PM EST0

Do you plan to settle down someday? If so, how will you manage your work and personal life?

Feb 1, 11:36PM EST0

I think that's just a concept that isn't really accurate to life, and cause some to have anxiety for no good reason... Individuals and their personal situations are constantly changing, even if you feel like you've 'settled down' in a stable mode. Things can change in unexpected ways - I never thought I'd live a life that involved so much travel , for instance. I think all people can do is go with the flow and be open to all types of changes, including slowing down and taking on different paths.

Last edited @ Feb 2, 8:09PM EST.
Feb 2, 8:08PM EST0

Dear Carmina, I would love to hear your comments on religious influance on fashion globally. 

Jan 31, 10:00PM EST0

When I travel, I love seeing how people adapt their personal style to their culture and beliefs. For instance, in Malaysia, I saw beautiful hijab fashion in boutiques and magazines: such as long, sparkling dresses with matching headscarves. I've seen some of these ideas merge with different worldwide fashions; eg, there are some wonderfully creative Lolita outfits with hijabs, and avantgarde garments featuring Ganesha the elephant god! 

Last edited @ Feb 3, 1:09AM EST.
Feb 1, 12:26AM EST0

Have you ever had to tone down your look when travelling to particular destinations?

Jan 31, 4:23PM EST0

My friends and I feel it's important to be respectful to the local customs, while being ourselves! In some places, it's advised to cover your arms and legs, and not show too much skin (such as Morocco and India). Some places such as temples have these requirements before you enter.

However, this doesn't mean you can't be stylish and true to yourself.  We typically adopt some of the local fashion, and put our alternative twist on it. For instance, below you can see our outfits in Yangon (wearing the traditional wrap skirt, longyi) and Jaipur (colorful Punjabi suits with scarves). The response from locals has always been 100% positive :)

Last edited @ Jan 31, 5:08PM EST.
Jan 31, 5:08PM EST0

For many hours/days can you travel at a stretch? Where did you the stamina from?

Jan 30, 4:51PM EST0

Our trips are often three weeks long, in multiple cities and countries. We like to maximise our time and cover as much ground as possible - for example, we did Spain-Morocco-Portugal once, and Slovenia-Finland-Estonia-Sweden-Denmark once. However, I try to spend at least 3 nights in one place to avoid having to switch hotels, and to give my team a break between travel days (when we have to take long car rides, trains or flights). Sometimes, our days are 12 hours long... but we try to balance them with less-intensive days. 

I think it gets easier as you gain more travel experience; you get used to long flights and hustling from place to place. I don't feel drained or frustrated after long days of travel. However, it helps to get solid hours of sleep, eat well (vegetables and protein), and work out between trips to get your stamina up (especially cardio, endurance and strength).

Jan 30, 6:37PM EST0

Was there anytime when you felt you were in the wrong boat? When and why?

Jan 30, 4:51PM EST0

I've gotten on the wrong trains, and gotten lost for sure! (I have a terrible sense of direction).

I'm very careful with choosing my work partners, and I won't promote / showcase anything that I don't personally believe in. This way, I won't end up doing something that doesn't feel true to who I am. 

Jan 30, 6:47PM EST0

How does it feel for you to visit the same or people over and over? Will you feel bored?

Jan 30, 2:23PM EST0

There are some destinations  that I can visit again and again -- particularly, Japan and Hong Kong. There's always something new and quirky to discover here, and I also have my favorite haunts and tons of friends and family to visit. I'm generally open to re-visiting destinations as long as the circumstances make sense, as I always feel there are new things to discover each time. That being said, I do try to go to new places as much as I can, both for myself and my readers (to bring them new stories). And I'll never get tired of seeing my friends! In fact, many of them join me on my trips, or come out to see me whenever I'm near them.

Jan 30, 6:49PM EST0

What was your family’s reaction when you moved your focus from law to writing?

Jan 30, 11:23AM EST0

The blog was getting solid opportunities straight away, and I received book contracts within about a year, so they knew it was something with potential, and worth pursuing. Writing / blogging also made so much more sense to everyone who knew me. I wouldn't have been happy working in a law firm, so a change had to come sooner or later.

Last edited @ Jan 30, 6:52PM EST.
Jan 30, 6:51PM EST0
Show all 3 replies

Do you write only in English? Which other languages are your favorite for writing?

Jan 30, 11:01AM EST0

I grew up learning French, and I'm fluent but I don't publish in this language. I've published a few pieces in Japanese, but with the help of a translator to perfect the grammar etc. Wherever I go, I try to learn at least a few basic words and phrases of the local language, and use them during the trip. 

Jan 30, 6:53PM EST0

What is the one place/city you never want to visit again and why?

Jan 30, 11:00AM EST0

I don't want to name the particular place, as it could have been a fluke and bad timing / luck - but I went somewhere that was extremely polluted, and I wound up with an eye infection. I didn't find much to enjoy in that place, and I wouldn't be keen to go back. At the same time, I do want to keep an open mind because other friends had better experiences there, and things can change. I don't want to entirely close the door on any destination, as it has so many facets.

Last edited @ Jan 30, 6:59PM EST.
Jan 30, 6:59PM EST0

How difficult was it to get your first book published? What are your tips for the first time authors?

Jan 30, 10:55AM EST0

I had to do a few revisions on my book proposal, and also try a different direction, but my literary agent was fantastic in guiding me. I also feel I was lucky because the topics of theme restaurants and cute food were quite new at the time (especially outside of Asia), so they had a greater appeal (I'd have a harder time if I had pitched a novel, for example). 

My advice to authors depends on their goals and type of writing. If you're looking to sell a book to a major publisher, then that's different from self-publishing or pitching to a niche, indie label. For anyone looking to publish, I think it's important to embrace the full, long-term process.  It's not as if you complete a first draft, and you're done. There will be hours upon hours of revisions, significant changes, long publication timelines... but that's what turns a good piece of writing to a great one, and makes it worthwhile.

Jan 30, 7:06PM EST0

On most pictures you are with some very cool clothes and shoes that look stunning but not always comfortable for long walks and travel. How do you look when you put the cameras down?

Jan 29, 9:38PM EST0

 Actually a lot of my boots and shoes in photos  are quite comfortable, and the heel is typically not too high!  Sometimes I will bring shoes along and shoot in them, then change back to sneakers or whatever is comfortable -  I don’t want to be limited and unable to climb upstairs or explore a place. Eg Gruyeres and Dracula‘s castle required a steep climb.  For the most part, I wear the clothing that you see in photos all day, as I’m going around the city. If I’m on the plane or simply running errands, I’ll dress more comfortably but still alternative – such as an oversized T-shirt and leggings and sunglasses. 

Last edited @ Jan 29, 11:29PM EST.
Jan 29, 11:28PM EST0

How do you pack when travelling? Do you carry a lot of things? What are the things you always take with you?

Jan 29, 8:27PM EST0

My La Carmina blog is about both travel and fashion, and outfits play a big part in the stories. I’m not a backpacker – I always bring one checked suitcase with me, and a carry-on Crumpler backpack that holds my computer, DSLR camera, iPhone, and emergency toiletries. I’ve taken my large Away Luggage suitcase with me on recent trips; it’s bright yellow and looks like a Minion! This suitcase holds up well, and is large enough to fit plenty of outfits — and it’s cute as well.  I plan out my outfits so I only pack what is needed, and not more – I try to minimize my make up and toiletries as well. I  always bring sunglasses, sunscreen, toiletry items like contact lens solution, any medications,  hair elastics, mints, and of course mosquito spray! 

Jan 29, 8:35PM EST0

You mentioned your love for Japan, do you think it will be beneficial to have the culture and style spread more internationally or would that take away from it and ‘cheapen’ it?

Jan 29, 8:00PM EST0

 There are always  positives and negatives, but my feeling is that overall,  it’s great when countries around the world learn more about a different culture, whether Japanese or otherwise.   Sometimes, people will adapt these cultures and exciting ways as well. For example, the Japanese have adopted many aspects of American culture in unique ways, such as the rock ‘n’ roll Elvises  with bouffant hair who dance in Yoyogi Park!  I think rather than getting too hung up on what exactly is authentic, it’s great to share, learn and experience other cultures – even if it’s just from reading something on the Internet, or trying a new cuisine in your hometown. 

Last edited @ Jan 29, 8:14PM EST.
Jan 29, 8:14PM EST1

What's your educational background? How well is your education helping you with your traveling and blogging?

Jan 29, 6:47PM EST0

A lot of people are surprised to hear I went to  Columbia University in New York, and Yale Law!  I have a law degree but  started blogging during school and decided to pursue it instead of being a lawyer,  which I realized wasn’t the best fit for me.  Both degrees have been extraordinarily helpful in helping me write clearly,  and I’ve been able to handle innovative business contracts and agreements thanks to my legal training. 

Jan 29, 7:15PM EST0
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You seem to be doing several jobs at a time. How is your personal life? How do you cope with work-life balance?

Jan 29, 3:58PM EST0

 I’m the type of person that’s well suited to freelance because I’m quite well disciplined with time management, work efficiently on my own, and a 9-to-5 would not work for me.  I always take time in my day to do yoga, go for a walk  or something active/wellness, as I feel that’s important. I also  make sure to get lots of sleep, and not spend much time scrolling mindlessly on the net - I  spend as little time as I can on social media and unnecessary tasks like watching YouTube videos.   It’s always a work in progress, but  I think I am finding a great balance, especially these days when I’ve put more of a priority on personal life. 

Last edited @ Jan 29, 8:22PM EST.
Jan 29, 7:19PM EST0

How well do you manage with foods and drinks during your travel? Are you up for any kind of food?

Jan 29, 3:22PM EST0

 I’m lucky that when I am on my travels, many of the meals are hosted by restaurants  in return for review –  so I get to sample amazing cuisine around the world.  I try to order local specialties, especially things that I might not be able to get at home such as tropical dishes or certain varieties of fish.  I love eating fish and cheeses, and I’m big on protein and veggies -  but I’ll eat anything when I’m on the road, this is the time to experience!  Dessert is always a must :-) I’m pretty much up for anything unless it’s something unethical,  or triggers one of my allergies. 

Last edited @ Jan 29, 7:21PM EST.
Jan 29, 7:21PM EST0

How was your experience visiting Asian countries? Is there anything unforgettable that you love to share about everytime?

Jan 29, 2:49PM EST0

Asia is probably my favourite region of the world to visit, since there is so much variety in terms of culture, environment, food. For example, The Buddhist monks of Burma to Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, to the Blade Runner futurism of Hong Kong!  It also feels like the motherland to me since my family is from there.  I always love to see the quirky Kawaii cute culture in big Asian cities -  my readers love seeing that, as well as whatever bizarre theme restaurant pops up.  The Pokémon café in Shibuya and Hello Kitty airport lounge in Taiwan were big hits for example ^^

Last edited @ Jan 31, 5:11PM EST.
Jan 29, 7:24PM EST0

when you're traveling/blogging, what percentage feels like 'work' and do you feel you're able to fully enjoy most of the destinations? How do you find your offbeat attractions at each destination? I'm a huge fan of the blog and have considered doing a similar lifestyle blog, though I'm more into western goth culture over J-goth, and I'm a traveling Dominatrix and would like to incorporate kink and fetish around the globe as I love seeing how fetish varies from country to country. 

Is it weird to start out? Do you have any tips for a new/aspiring blogger?

also I'm sure someone will ask this, but favorite destinations you've visited? I was surprised to see you had never done a guide on Paris! 

Or has anything ever been too questionable where you had to leave it off the blog out of fear of losing support or followers?

ugh, sorry for all the questions! I'm really a huge fan and have used your guides for several of my trips- was super upset when I found out you were in New York and I had missed you at Defcon! 

Xx

Jan 29, 2:32PM EST0

 Thanks for the questions and I really appreciate your kind comments!  Each trip is a mix of work and fun,  but it’s all melded together and I enjoy the “work” aspects -  so it doesn’t seem like a dichotomy to me.  Our tourism partners  understand I will only cover topics that are organic me – so I’m never stuck covering something that isn’t a good fit such as… A sports bar!  I get excited to tell a story about the place, figure out the best photography and angles,  get styled up for the shoot – so it doesn’t fully seem like work to me.  However, I try to have at least half a day in every city just to explore on my own and do nothing specific – I love to walk around, wearing whatever casual clothes and taking iPhone snaps of surprising things I see. 

 I find out about places through referrals from friends,  my own research, and I always have feelers in the air that pick up on these things – so I might read an article about a strange shop, and it’s in my mind when I actually visit that country.   I answered a question further down about blogging advice that I hope you find helpful – you absolutely have to love the medium and pursue it for that passion, rather than external factors like followers. :-) 

 Ironically, I’ve been to Paris twice, but that was before starting the blog.  To be honest it isn’t at the top of my list now because I’ve been, and it isn’t the most appealing destination to me other than the catacombs filled with skulls, and synthwave parties.   A lot of travel and fashion bloggers also publish extensively about Paris,  with the same types of photos and cafés,  and I’d rather do something outside the norm. I’d be happy to go back if the opportunity arises though, I’m sure there’s so much to discover! 

 Finally, yes, I’ve had to temper back certain things – for example I don’t post extremely graphic photos on the site, or delve too much into personal life or complain about experiences.  We’ve had lots of mishaps on our trip, but that’s all part of the fun and there’s no real point to dwell on it – and for example if sometimes there’s a bad encounter with a person, I understand maybe they’re having a bad day or something else is going on.  Thanks again for reading  and I would love to see your blogging about western Gothic and travel! 

Jan 29, 7:33PM EST0

When did you start your blogging? How well is it going with the public?

Jan 29, 2:06PM EST0

September 2007 at http://www.lacarmina.com/blog! Can’t believe it was over 10 years ago. I was lucky that I started early and the site (initially  focussed on Japanese Gothic Lolita style)  resonated with an audience from the beginning. However it’s evolved a lot over the years,  as my interests changed and opportunities to travel arose. 

Last edited @ Jan 29, 8:02PM EST.
Jan 29, 8:01PM EST0

What got you interested in gothic? Since when you became goth?

Jan 29, 11:56AM EST0

 Even when I was a child, I liked horror movies and darker aesthetics.  I got more into Gothic fashion and culture as a teenager, and went to concerts in this genre. Always loved Halloween of course. It was something that was part of who I am from the start 🖤💀😈

Jan 29, 8:03PM EST0

What is the embodiment of "an alternative travel and style blogger"? What makes you different from other lifestyle blogger?

Jan 29, 8:11AM EST0

 I think the difference is spotlighting individuals and subcultures that are outside the norm, and push boundaries in some way. For example,  i’ve done stories about Hijra (third gender) in India, fetish culture in Japan, drag queens in Israel,  street artists in South Africa.  Often these underground cultures are misunderstood or portrayed negatively,  and I try my best to present a different perspective. 

Jan 29, 8:05PM EST0

As a traveler, you will be having some tiresome days. How do you tackle it? What are your tips for novice travelers?

Jan 29, 5:33AM EST0

Sleep! Sleep! Sleep!  It’s the best way to synthesize everything that you encountered during the day, and when you’re traveling, there are so many new and strange experiences.  Always take time for yourself especially at night to wind down, take a bath, relax without looking at your phone or watching something.  My advice is that there will inevitably be frustrating days, but don’t take them too seriously and know that they are temporary and will pass.  Just take it easy, get some rest and the next day will be a new day. 

Jan 29, 8:07PM EST0

What's your most favorite program as a TV host? Why?

Jan 29, 5:32AM EST0

My favorite programs in general are Seinfeld and Curb... Larryyy  always gives me a good laugh!  In terms of hosted programs,   I don’t have one favourite but I often like how BBC travel and British presenters  tackle topics. 

Jan 29, 8:09PM EST0

Were you always interested in traveling right from childhood? If yes, where did you get the interest from?

Jan 29, 4:48AM EST0

Always!  The first trip I took was when I was a year-old, to Hong Kong.  My family went there approximately annually,  and we also took trips around North America, UK and Europe.  I always looked forward to these adventures with my cousins at Disneyland and other “magical” places, and they remain some of my favorite childhood memories. 

Last edited @ Jan 29, 8:10PM EST.
Jan 29, 8:10PM EST0

Wow, thanks for all the great questions so far! Do keep them coming :) - La Carmina.

Jan 29, 4:46AM EST1

Are you writing or planning another book, currently? If yes, what's it about? When are you going to publish it?

Jan 29, 4:22AM EST0

At the moment, I'm not working on any books -- but I'm constantly writing. In recent years, I've been publishing longer-form, in-depth articles on my LaCarmina.com blog. I also write for various magazines and media websites. I'm certainly open to writing more books, and I'm certain I will in the future -- but it has to be the right topic, and I'll know when the time is right.

Jan 29, 4:43AM EST0

Do you have any leisure time when you are not traveling? What's your favorite pastime?

Jan 28, 8:19PM EST0

Typically, I’m off on a travel job for a few weeks, and then back home for a month or so to catch up on work and rest. My filmmakers and I tend to be "go go go" when we are traveling and shooting – our itineraries are packed, and we try to do as much as possible while we’re in a destination.

 When I come back, I prioritize health and wellness. I set aside at least 30 minutes a day for working out: usually yoga, bodyweight resistance exercises or rebounding on a mini trampoline. I make healthy meals, take long baths, and catch up on sleep – I think it’s extremely important to get solid shut-eye, and I know I can’t function unless I get a certain number of hours! I suppose my hobbies tend to be travel-related (trying new food, experiencing art and culture, photography) so my leisure time is for chilling out and staying fit. While traveling to new places is exciting, it also makes you appreciate time at home to catch up on horror movies, listen to podcasts, see my local friends, etc!

Last edited @ Jan 29, 4:45AM EST.
Jan 28, 9:40PM EST0

Among the several roles you play, what's your personal favorite and why? Which role do you like to take up more in the future?

Jan 28, 7:58PM EST0

Writing and visuals remain the core of my work. Blogging has changed enormously since the mid-late 2000s, and now, a lot of "influencers" focus on social media especially Instagram. However, I'm all about long-form, in-depth, meaningful storytelling. I also feel it's important to keep the content hosted on my own platform (I own and control my LaCarmina.com blog, unlike my social networks). 

At the same time, I'm open to all new forms of media and reporting -- and I'm excited to pursue new technologies such as virtual reality 360 degree video.

Last edited @ Jan 28, 9:36PM EST.
Jan 28, 9:36PM EST0

What is the one common thing you noticed in all the places you have visited so far?

Jan 28, 7:50PM EST0

I've learned that all around the globe, people are wonderfully friendly and compassionate. They may have very different cultural quirks (huge differences from Japan to India to Finland), but I've encountered warmhearted, kind individuals everywhere I've been. I'm lucky to have made some close friends through these travels, and we still keep in touch constantly.

Jan 28, 9:33PM EST0

Did you publish your books all alone or are you being by someone? In which aspect of the process were you assisted?

Jan 28, 1:26PM EST0

 I have a New York literary agent, who helped me put together book proposals  and send them out to publishers. In order to pitch Penguin Random House, it’s necessary to have a literary agent with these connections.  I’m grateful to her for providing advice along the way and helping me best shape the proposals. 

Jan 28, 6:24PM EST0

What do you consider as your biggest achievement so far? You are heading towards what?

Jan 28, 12:17PM EST0

 I don’t like to rest upon laurels, especially since things are constantly changing and things that seemed important in the past might no longer have the same weight.   For instance, some may have considered it a great achievement to have lots of followers on MySpace - but what does that mean now that the social network is dead? 

Similarly,  I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had, but I’m always looking to new directions.  I’m amazed I got to work on many travel TV programs, but now the landscape is changing and people aren’t watching TV and cable as much – it’s moving onto Netflix and other streaming digital formats.  My approach is to always look to the stars, break new ground, pursue new technology and push boundaries into the future. 🚀

Last edited @ Jan 28, 6:34PM EST.
Jan 28, 6:28PM EST0

What are your favorite activities while travelling?

Jan 28, 6:19AM EST0

 There’s nothing I love better than walking around a new city, and taking in the sights. I love to take pictures whenever I travel, sometimes of the most surprising things I encounter.  I also make efforts to try outstanding local food wherever I go. I’ll do some research before hand, but typically go with the flow and see where things take me. 

Jan 28, 6:30PM EST0

Is there any other volunteering experience you got? What was it about?

Jan 28, 12:36AM EST1

Recently, I've been raising awareness while traveling, and bringing donations with me on trips. This is something simple but powerful, and I encourage all travellers to consider doing this. 

For example, when I went to Myanmar, I brought a suitcase filled with school supplies for children. I also supported a local punk band, Rebel Riot, at their human rights day concert.

Just last month, I brought several bags of donations to Cuba -- such as USB sticks, makeup, electronics, teaching instruments and other things in short supply there. I'll continue to bring needed donations wherever I go, as well as contribute more to causes through financial donations and volunteering my time -- it's one of my goals for 2018.

Jan 28, 1:55AM EST1

Who stole La Carmina's heart? ;)

Jan 27, 9:30PM EST0

My Scottish Fold squishie, Basil Farrow! He's the sweetest, roundest cat and loves to snuggle. 

Jan 28, 1:57AM EST1

Who do you travel with?

Jan 27, 7:01PM EST0

I travel with friends who are also professional photographers / videographers. I'm lucky to have many creative comrades who excel at photos / videos, and are also excellent travel partners -- it's more fun to have adventures with friends rather than a "hired hand!". Strong visuals are important to my work, and they  always deliver.

How do we determine who joins me? It depends on my friends' availability, the requirements of the project, and the proximity. For example, Joey Wong specializes in photography and lives in UK, so he usually joins me in Europe. He shot the recent Romania,  Turkey and Iceland images.

Often, I'm hired for travel jobs involving TV-quality video -- and that's where filmmakers Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann of BorderlessMedia.tv come in! We're worked on exciting campaigns with tourism boards and hotels worldwide, including  Slovenia,  Israel, The Maldives, and Cape Town. Eric and Melissa handle the entire visual production including cinematography, producing, audio, photography, and effects. 

Last edited @ Jan 29, 2:01AM EST.
Jan 28, 2:06AM EST0

What are some of your next destinations for 2018?

Jan 27, 6:39PM EST1

I've now covered most of Asia and Europe, but haven't done much of the Caribbean or Central America other than Mexico. This year, I'll be focusing more on these regions. I just came back from a surprisingly inspiring trip to Cuba, Dominican Republic and Panama -- my first time in all of these places! I'll be sharing stories from these tropical paradises soon on my La Carmina blog. And... finally, this spring, I'll be stepping foot in a continent that I've yet to explore! The huge announcement will be coming soon, so stay tuned.

If you're interested in seeing where I've been so far, all my past destination guides are here, sorted by city and country. 

Last edited @ Jan 28, 2:11AM EST.
Jan 28, 2:11AM EST1

Apart from Giger whom you mentioned, what are some other favourite artists of yours?

Jan 27, 6:22PM EST0

I've been heavily inspired by art since I was a child. I always enjoyed drawing (I did a lot of "kawaii" style doodles on the back of dim sum napkins!) and taking art and art history classes. Today, I try to visit galleries and museums wherever I travel. 

My favorite artists include Alphonse Mucha, the Art Nouveau master -- I adored his exhibition at the Mori Museum in Tokyo. I also had fun at the Yayoi Kusama exhibit in Stockholm, Sweden; her 1960s happenings and experimental fashion blew my mind. 

I'm also a huge fan of minimalist and mid-century modern interior design. I decorated my La Carmina apartment with Eames chairs and Herman Miller furniture, and decor by Eero Aario and Dick Bruna (creator of Miffy the bunny!)

Last edited @ Jan 28, 3:32AM EST.
Jan 28, 2:33AM EST1

How exciting was visiting Japan for you? What were the highlights of the trip?

Jan 27, 5:44PM EST0

I <3 Japan! I've been visiting ever since I was a child, on family trips. Later on, after starting my blog, I lived for a few months in Tokyo while writing my books. Since then, I've travelled back to Japan about once a year for various jobs, such as TV show hosting and production, or partnerships like my recent collaboration with JRailPass.

Japan has changed enormously over the years. As a child and teenager, I remember being awestruck by the experimental street style I saw in Harajuku, especially Visual Kei / J Rock and Gothic Lolita outfits. I also recall when Japanese theme restaurants were new in the early to mid 2000s -- I was thrilled to visit them with my friends. And the Gothic parties were out of this world... Midnight Mess united dark souls, both local and international, and we danced til dawn to the sounds of Goth Industrial EBM spun by DJ Sisen, Chihiro, Takuya Angel... it was a magical time, and one I'm grateful to have experienced.

Today, Tokyo is becoming English-friendly, and Harajuku is far more commercialized... you won't see the style tribes of the past hanging around (Lolita, Decora, etc). However, Japan remains one of my favorite countries on this planet, and I always have a wonderful time here. There's always something new and exciting to discover (last time, I stayed at the Godzilla Hotel in Shinjuku!) I encourage any traveler to visit, since there's something for everyone -- families, sports fans, music lovers, you name it. All my Tokyo, Japan travel tips can be found here. 

Last edited @ Jan 28, 2:43AM EST.
Jan 28, 2:42AM EST0

What's the story behind the name La Carmina?

Jan 27, 5:43PM EST0

Have you heard of Army of Lovers -- the Swedish campy-disco-pop group from the early 1990s? They released ridiculous videos with catchy tunes made for belting out and strutting around the room, especially "Crucified" (1991).

The flamboyant royal lead singer is La Camilla, and my real name is Carmen... a friend put two and two together, and called me La Carmina. It stuck, and became the name of the blog (which I started in 2007). Although La Carmina Blog has evolved a lot over the years, and covered various topics, there's always queenly decadence to be found in each post... I think it was the right choice!

Jan 28, 2:47AM EST0

Which country/place has the best climatic conditions according to you? What is the best time of the year to visit that place?

Jan 27, 5:39PM EST0

I suppose it depends on perspective :)  I loved the clean, fresh air and sci-fi landscapes of Iceland, and it's my favorite "cold-weather" destination. However, I don't recommend going in the height of winter, or you'll feel like a human popsicle! Similarly, tropical countries are lovely when you hit that sweet spot between sauna-levels of heat, and monsoon rainstorms. 

If you're looking for a sunny beach paradise, I recommend the Maldives during the dry season from December to April. If you're interested in stolling around a cosmopolitan city, go to London, New York or Tokyo in the spring or fall. I especially recommend Tokyo in Halloween... there's cute meets spooky decor everywhere, and the parties are the best in the world!

Last edited @ Jan 28, 3:35AM EST.
Jan 28, 3:06AM EST0

What is your experience with bizarre foods? Did you encounter any unforgettable bizarre experience from the program?

Jan 27, 5:37PM EST0

I was amazed to receive an email from a producer... who said host Andrew Zimmern loved my book, and wanted me to be on his Tokyo episode of Bizarre Foods! They flew me to Japan to be on the program for Travel Channel. He was so lovely and generous, and we still stay in touch. One of my favorite moments from the Tokyo TV shoot was going to The Lock-Up, a jail and monster themed restaurant. The nurses handcuffed Andrew, and served us cocktails in bowls that looked like bloody human heads!

Jan 28, 3:10AM EST0

What according to you is the best and the worst place for the foreign visitors and why?

Jan 27, 5:10PM EST0

I'm Canadian, and I think Canada is a wonderfully welcoming country for people from around the world! I encourage visitors to come here -- locals are generally very kind, accepting, and globally-minded (a lot of immigrants from around the world have made Canada their home),

I've never been to a destination that I felt was unfriendly or negative. Out of safety reasons, I avoid conflict zones and countries that are deemed risky for travelers. I encourage everyone to check travel advisories before going anywhere, and to do thorough research. It's important to keep an open mind, but also be savvy and safe.

Last edited @ Jan 28, 3:35AM EST.
Jan 28, 3:16AM EST0

How are your cooking abilities? Which is your favorite cuisine that you cook more often?

Jan 27, 4:53PM EST0

I wrote about cute cooking for my book, Cute Yummy TIme! It was fun to create "kawaii" decorated foods, such as pig-faced breads and bunny-eared cupcakes. 

When I'm home, I tend to cook simple but nutritious meals for myself that are high in protein, with lots of vegetables. For instance, I like to mix tuna and avocado together, or do omelettes, or eat salads with olives, vegetables and ethically sourced meats. And I love sardines. When I go to Europe, I return with a suitcase filled with cans of sardines!

Jan 28, 3:19AM EST0

Love your videos. Who do you travel with? What kind of places you stay at on your travels?

Jan 27, 4:21PM EST0

Thanks so much! I haven't been doing much video lately... thinking of how to evolve this direction, as I want to keep at it :)

I travel with friends who are also professional photographers / videographers. I'm lucky to have many creative comrades who excel at photos / videos, and are also excellent travel partners -- it's more fun to have adventures with friends rather than a "hired hand!". Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann of BorderlessMedia.tv shoot most of the videos you've seen.

These days, we generally partner with hotels that host our stay in return for coverage (blog articles, photos, links, social media). We only collaborate with boutique, artistic places that are a great fit for my readers, and tell an authentic story.

For instance, I'm an Art Nouveau fanatic, and it was a dream to stay in El Palauet Living in Barcelona. This historic small palace was designed by a contemporary of Gaudi! Sleeping at the Tokyo Godzilla Hotel was also a blast; I invited my Japan friends to come have a Goth gathering, and we posed with the giant Godzilla statue.

Last edited @ Jan 29, 2:01AM EST.
Jan 28, 3:25AM EST0

Where does the name La Carmina mean, what is the story behind it? Did you try other names before you settled on that?

Jan 27, 2:48PM EST0

Back in 2007, there weren't many blogs out there so there was no "precedent" in naming a fashion blog. Many called their blogs after their names or nickname / scene name, or some variation of Fashion or Style. I considered something like "Carmen's Closet" at the time, but it didn't have a special ring to it -- and  limited topics to only my wardrobe. So I decide to go with my nickname, "La Carmina", as it was more open-ended and could cover a variety of topics including lifestyle, nightlife, travel.

Have you heard of Army of Lovers -- the Swedish campy-disco-pop group from the early 1990s? They released ridiculous videos with catchy tunes made for belting out and strutting around the room, especially "Crucified" (1991).

The flamboyant royal lead singer is La Camilla, and my real name is Carmen... a friend put two and two together, and called me La Carmina. It stuck, and became the name of the blog (which I started in 2007). Although La Carmina Blog has evolved a lot over the years, and covered various topics, there's always queenly decadence to be found in each post... I think it was the right choice!

Last edited @ Jan 28, 2:58AM EST.
Jan 28, 2:58AM EST0

Who takes the pictures for the blog? Do you have a partner you travel with or change photographers? How important is good photography for a blogger, can you get away with snapping things on your phone?

Jan 27, 2:42PM EST0

Visuals are very important to blogs these days, especially as Instagram and photo / video content are increasingly popular. If you're blogging professionally, then your images have to be top-of-the-line in order to receive jobs in an increasingly competitive and saturated market.

For example, tourism boards often will not hire bloggers unless their images (as well as writing, engagement, reach, niche, and other factors) are up to par.  As a result, I think it's important to shoot at least semi-professionally with a DSLR camera (for your blog). I use a mix of DSLR photos and iPhone photos for my social media, since that's more casual.

I travel with friends who are also professional photographers / videographers. I'm lucky to have many creative comrades who excel at photos / videos, and are also excellent travel partners -- it's more fun to have adventures with friends rather than a "hired hand!". Strong visuals are important to my work, and they  always deliver.

How do we determine who joins me? It depends on my friends' availability, the requirements of the project, and the proximity. For example, Joey Wong specializes in photography and lives in UK, so he usually joins me in Europe. He shot the recent Romania,  Turkey and Iceland images.

Often, I'm hired for travel jobs involving TV-quality video -- and that's where filmmakers Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann of BorderlessMedia.tv come in! We're worked on exciting campaigns with tourism boards and hotels worldwide, including  Slovenia,  Israel, The Maldives, and Cape Town. Eric and Melissa handle the entire visual production including cinematography, producing, audio, photography, and effects. 

Last edited @ Jan 29, 2:02AM EST.
Jan 28, 3:02AM EST0

Have you got any indecent proposals? What is the oddest thing you have been asked?

Jan 27, 2:09PM EST0

Oh, the stories I can tell >_< I've gotten quite the share of emails that make me laugh and shake my head. Once, a guy wrote to me, asking me if I could kindly.... hit him hard, in his nether regions! 

I don't reply to any of these emails, and delete them. There's no point in engaging with any of these senders. And they don't bother me; it's just par for the course for being on the Internet! 

Jan 28, 3:38AM EST0

How do you get publicity? Do you contact brands and publications? Do you have some long term partners? How do you pick who to work with or they come to you?

Jan 27, 1:17PM EST0

I've been blogging for over 10 years now, and worked with a variety of travel, tourism and fashion collaborators. Some of these are one-off projects (such as a hotel review), while others are long-term (such as wearing fashion from a favorite label over the years).

These days, I get contacted through referrals, or though people who found my work on the web, as my site ranks high in search engine results. 

I'm often asked to comment on travel blogging or Gothic culture. For example, I recently did an interview with BBC Radio about Goth lifestyle. Sometimes, magazines and websites email me asking to interview me about the topics I specialize in. Other times, sites like The New Yorker, Jezebel, Travel + Leisure, and LA Weekly will link to my site as a resource (for alternative fashion, Tokyo underground travel, or something else I'm known for). 

Last edited @ Jan 28, 3:43AM EST.
Jan 28, 3:42AM EST0

Would you say running a good blog is an investment (both in time and cost) and has to be taken seriously from the start or can it start as a hobby and grow into something bigger? What was the case with you?

Jan 27, 12:30PM EST0

The blogging world has changed enormously since I started my La Carmina blog in 2007. I was fortunate to have started early, when the medium was new and there were far fewer bloggers out there. Today, there's been a big shift to social media especialy live streams, videos and Instagram / Facebook, making it harder for new blogs to gain an audience.

I started my LaCarmina site as a hobby, without any expectations. Likewise, I encourage bloggers to dip their feet in, experiment, and simply see where the journey takes them. I think people should blog only if they truly love the medium, and feel excited about it -- and if the blog organically takes off, then they should enjoy the ride! They shouldn't do it for external factors; readers can always sense when there's a lack of passion, and it'll never work in the long run.

Last edited @ Jan 28, 3:52AM EST.
Jan 28, 3:51AM EST0

Have you visited all your dream destinations? If not, what is left on your list of your dream destinations and why do you want to visit them?

Jan 27, 10:48AM EST0

I've been to over 60 countries now, and there are still so many places to go. I have yet to visit South America, and this is #1 on my wishlist. It'd be amazing to see Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru...  and I'm obsessed with Easter Island! 🗿 🗿 Russia and Egypt are two countries that I'd also love to visit. As you can tell, I'm interested in places with a rich history, unique culture, and bizarre / underground bent.

Last edited @ Jan 28, 3:56AM EST.
Jan 28, 3:55AM EST0
Show all 3 replies

What's your lifetime goal? How well are you planning to achieve it?

Jan 27, 10:16AM EST1

The great Zen teacher Suzuki Roshi often spoke of maintaining 'beginner's mind'. 

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few. ” 

Not a bad goal to strive for. 🙏

Jan 28, 4:02AM EST1

How do you manage your health and weight during your travel days? What kind of exercises you do when you are in a new place?

Jan 27, 7:05AM EST0

When I'm home, I place great importance on eating well (whole unprocessed organic foods, lots of protein / veggies / fruit, limited sugar and carbs), and working out (especially yoga, rebounding, bodyweight exercises). However, when I travel, I relax and don't do workouts on the road. I usually end up walking for hours during my travels, and lifting luggage -- so I still get lots of physical activity. My trips generally are only for 2-3 weeks, followed by time at home, so I can get back into my routine as soon as I'm back. 

I also love to eat local food, and don't limit myself - and there tend to be plenty of healthy options anyway. For instance, I'll eat sushi in Japan, and I lived off of ceviche, tacos and beans / rice in Cuba.

Last edited @ Jan 28, 4:13AM EST.
Jan 28, 4:12AM EST0
How did you get the chance to volunteer with punk bands in Myanmar? What caught your attention or interest to volunteer?
Jan 27, 6:52AM EST0

Before my trip to Myanmar, I did research on the local subculture, since that's one of the main focuses of my blog. I was surprised to hear that there's a hardcore, 1970s style punk rock subculture in Yangon! 

I connected with one of the most prominent punk bands, Rebel Riot, and we hit it off. Although they wear deconstructed spikes and have sky-high Mohawks, these punk rockers also give back in a big way. They run two charities, Books Not Bombs and Food Not Bombs, which provide school supplies and food to the homeless/needy of Myanmar, especially in conflict regions. 

Moved by their passion and earnestness, I had to take part. I wrote about volunteering in Burma with Rebel Riot band in this post, and it turned out to be one of the meaningful stories I've ever published. I hope you enjoy it.

Jan 28, 4:08AM EST0
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