Travel bloggers Charlie and Jess started their blog The Travel Project after their first travel sojourn in India back in 2016. The London-based, 31-year-olds, have just one mantra: they truly believe in exploring a place like a local. They trust local Instagram accounts for finding authentic experiences and strive to do exactly that for the people who follow them. By Charu Chowdhary

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What are everyone’s thoughts on Valentine’s Day? While we think it’s nice to celebrate relationships, a feed full of madly in love people shouting about how complete and perfect their life is just seems to miss the point a little bit. Surely it’s the isms, silly moments and imperfections unique to you that are special and should be celebrated..? So what’s our story? We met ten years at university when drunkenly running for a bus Jess slipped in a puddle and covered herself head to toe in mud. It was(n’t) love at first sight. Since then we have been very lucky, travelling the world together and getting up to all sorts. But it’s also been hard work at times, with the ups come some downs.. but luckily we have managed to navigate these and bounce back stronger every time. Point is, relationships are hard work, so don’t be fooled into thinking that the perfection you see on social media tells the full story. Anyway, whether you’re in a relationship or not today should be about love, so happy Valentine’s Day y’all – we love you all 🤓

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1) Having started your blog in 2016, how has the journey been so far?

I would say, it’s been an amazing learning curve! When we were planning our first ever trip in 2016 we realised that all the information online was pretty similar and we wanted something different. We started The Travel Project as an experiment to see what would happen if we travelled the world guided solely by local Instagrammers in the hope that this would enable us to gain a unique insight into the places we visited.

2) What are your favourite places and stories so far?

For us it is the people that make travel special and so we decided to make locals the focus of everything we do. From boxing with ex-con and now local legend George in Johannesburg to meeting the Delta Hill Riders in Mississippi, teaching refugee Tibetan monks in the Himalayas to meeting the tattoo faced, nose-flute playing woman in Myanmar, we have enjoyed two years of stories and people that we will never forget!

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. Fresh Start . 🌏 Happy new year one and all! RESOLUTION: We’ve been doing some thinking and have realised that we’re a bit fed up of Instagram. It seems to have become a strange place where style holds complete precedence over substance, where the race for likes eclipses the desire to document real travel moments. Surely this ‘photo first’ culture isn’t a particularly good way to promote travel? – So our 2019 resolution for the project is to try and change the conversation. We are going to focus less on chasing likes and more on telling real travel stories, sharing honest and sometimes less polished moments from the whole journey, not just the final destination and using our website to tell these stories in more depth. – We would love to hear from you guys, do you share our stance? What would you change? We have written a bit more on the subject in a story highlight, if you fancy reading more. – Charlie and Jess xx #localeyes

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3) Does blogging pay the bills? 

Blogging doesn’t pay all the bills at this point, no. We both have backgrounds in digital marketing and so combined with the experience we have gained via The Travel Project we were able to launch a content consultancy working with cool brands of all sizes to help tell their story online.

4) How do you use social media to put yourself out there? Any tips that an aspiring blogger could use?

As our project is guided by the Instagram community, that is our primary social channel and a great way to tell short travel stories. It also helps us connect with people across the world and by using it as a travel tool we are able gain an insight into local life wherever we go.

Our advice for aspiring travel bloggers is — make sure you know what it is about travel that you love; be specific, why do you travel? Ask yourself what motivates you to explore and then really hone in on that and be passionate.

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. Whirlwind Adventure . 🌏 Hello people! We are plugging back into the Insta Matrix after a much needed week break as we settle back into London life. Only now that the fog of jet lag has ascended can we fully process what we have just experienced. – Every single day of the last 2.5 months has been completely unique. New sights, sounds, culture, people and smells to digest on a daily basis meant that our #mrfoggsjourney whizzed by in what felt like a blink of an eye. However now that we are back and the dust is settling we are able to look back and start to take it all in properly for the first time. – 7 countries, 10 weeks, 9 seas, 3 oceans and countless amazing people made for the trip of a lifetime. – As I’m sure you can imagine we have two hard drives packed with snaps from our adventure so we will be sharing them over the coming weeks.

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5) What do you think about travelling in India? 

India is where we first started our project in 2016 and from the moment we hit the ground in Delhi we fell in love with the country. We find that there is a charm to India that we have not found anywhere else. The warm and extroverted nature of people throughout the country is so refreshing and is something that has allowed us to connect with the country on a much deeper level.

6) Do you have a permanent address? Take us through some of the hardships of being a blogger?

Yes, we live in London when we are not on the road. I suppose one of the main hardships is being at home so little, and not having any sort of normal routine as we are moving about so often. Coming home and being able to wash, fold and put your clothes in a cupboard is a beautiful feeling, sounds a bit silly I know but it’s the little things like this that you begin to appreciate after a while.

7) How is it running a blog with Charlie? 

Running The Travel Project with Charlie is both amazing and tough. We are both old enough and wise enough (just) to know when to give each other space, which is absolutely crucial when spending so much time together. As with everything there are ups and downs and running a blog with your partner certainly isn’t the exception to the rule!

8) Three places in the world you suggest every traveller must visit?

If you like adventure, local experiences and meeting people then our top three recommendations would be: Ethiopia, India and your own country – wherever in the world that might be.

9) What’s the recipe for all the breathtaking pictures on your Instagram feed?

Well it’s very important to note that our pictures haven’t always looked like this, if you scroll back on our feed to our first ever pictures we posted on TTP in Delhi; they are not all that great! And that leads me to the first ingredient, practise. We have been practising using our cameras and evolving our photographic style for two years now and so you’d hope we would improve a bit! Most importantly we really try to not get hung up on the mad world of chasing ‘likes’.

10) How do you decide what stories you want to tell?

We try to tell stories that resonate the most with us personally — the ones that leave a lasting impression, connecting us to a country on a slightly deeper level. The ultimate goal of our project is to tell real travel stories through the eyes of locals and by doing so hopefully inspire like-minded adventurers to head out into the world and connect with it on a deeper level.

Related: Mariellen Ward: The 59-Year-Old Travel Blogger On Being Relevant In The Age of Millennials