How Wildluxe Misha Gillingham is building a travel empire
No stranger to a life well travelled, globetrotter Misha Gillingham has pioneered the one-stop luxury resort, hotel, villa and yacht directory Wildluxe with an inaugural video-only travel Insta (@luxury_travel_show) now bringing her tales of adventure to life.
Misha’s whimsical photo and video diaries of her infinite sojourns give her followers the chance to be immersed in hordes of destinations before they even purchase a plane ticket. Whether it’s the depths of a Kenyan Giraffe Manor or a bout of R&R at the peaks of the Swiss Alps, Misha evokes tireless awe from her fellow travel fiends through both still, written and now moving visual documentation.
Corners of the world that we didn’t even know existed have become illuminated by explorations depicted on Wildluxe_Misha. Taking the travel influencer scene by storm has required this jet-setter to adopt innumerable roles and put in a lotta hard work behind the scenes – she’s the presenter, the writer, the photographer, the model, the planner, and above all else, the traveller.
We couldn’t scroll past one more sun-soaked villa retreat without talking to the girl behind the guide and getting the goss on all things from what drives her motivation to what postcodes we must put on our bucket list next.
Congratulations on the success of Wildluxe – it’s an amazing platform! Can you talk me through why you first launched the site?
Wildluxe was born out of an immense passion for adventure and a desire to share my explorations with others. It was not something that I thought would turn into a business. At that time, making an income off of blogging was pretty unheard of.
Here’s a very condensed backstory: Growing up, my mother worked for Delta Airlines, so as kids my sisters and I were awarded free flights. My first international trip was to India and I remember being so mesmerised by the uniqueness of it all. Since then, I’ve been traveling all over the place and learning about so many different ways of life. I call it my “global education” and the learning never stops.
What made you drawn to the world of exclusive hotels, villas, and yachts?
I didn’t really choose this path, it kind of chose me… it’s just how my husband and I travel, so it only made sense. I must admit I’ve always been fascinated by luxury hotels and all of the things that go into creating that perfect five-star guest experience. There are so many variables involved and I just love when it is executed flawlessly. It’s an art form and I want to give people a closer look at it.
Had you previously had much experience with luxury resorts and destinations?
Growing up, my travel was far from luxurious (although travel is a luxury in and of itself). My husband is the one who introduced me to the luxury lifestyle. Maybe that’s why it fascinated me so much. I went from traveling here and there on a super tight budget – to all of the sudden traveling with no budget. The beauty, design, and service at the properties we visited together just blew me away and I wanted to really examine what went on behind the scenes.
The platform is now named one of the top luxury travel blogs in the world. How did you get it to this spot? Has it been an easy climb to the top?!
Haha! While I know I’ve come a long way, I don’t consider myself to be “at the top”. I have so many goals and aspirations for my business that I don’t think I will ever feel I’ve reached the top. I’ve been blogging for 7 years now and whenever I hit my goals, I just set the bar even higher. There is no “top” in my book!
What have been some of the biggest ‘pinch me’ moments?
Hmmm are you talking “pinch me” travel moments or “pinch me” business moments? I’ll share both. For my business, working with Singita – a luxury African safari hotel brand – was always a goal of mine. When that happened, I was over the moon! Additionally, my first paid hotel collab was a huge milestone for me.
As far as travel moments, when I first saw the Taj Mahal I just about fainted over its beauty. My first safari (with Singita) was also a “pinch me” moment as I had dreamt of doing a safari for so long.
And some of the toughest hurdles?
There are so many hurdles! Not comparing myself to other bloggers/influencers has been a big thing for me. I work so much more efficiently from a place of abundance over a place of feeling like I’m not good enough. I try to always focus on how far I’ve come and why I’m even doing this in the first place, rather than what I am lacking. Another major hurdle is time management. I am a wife and a mother, and I run a business where I wear about 50 different hats, so keeping up with all of the editing, emails, travel etc is and probably will always be a struggle.
What do you think has been your key recipe for success?
Grit, resilience, and passion. I will not give up, nor will I accept “no” as an answer.
You went through cancer a few years ago. Do you think that has hindered or helped your career in terms of your motivation and creativity?
I wouldn’t say having cancer has helped or hindered my career, but I will say it has taught me some very important lessons on how I want to live my life. I’ve always lived by a “Carpe Diem” motto, but after my cancer diagnosis my whole reality changed. LIFE IS SHORT. Love more and do more of what you love, because we were not promised any amount of time here on Earth. Don’t waste any time on negative emotions that don’t serve you, and most certainly – do not stand in your own way!
What would be your top advice for someone wanting to get into travel blogging now? That is a lot more than I can write here! To keep it brief, I have one piece of advice: Don’t get discouraged when things don’t perfectly fall into place right away. Have grit. Set goals. Take baby steps towards achieving them every day. Eventually your efforts will pay off.
You’ve mentioned previously that blogging brings with it a ton of work. Can you talk me through what a usual day in your life looks like when you’re not abroad?
I wear many hats. My job description consists of writing, editing, photography, videography, PR, trip planning, brand management, researching, web design, modelling, and the list goes on and on and on… and I am NEVER caught up. I usually wake up around 5am and work for 2 hours. At 7 I need to get my kids ready for school and make breakfast. At 8:30 I get back to work editing photos, videos, blog posts, responding to emails, brainstorming creative campaigns, etc. I typically work until 3:30 at which time I pick up my kids, help them with homework, cook dinner, and spend time with my family. At about 8pm I start working again and usually work until I fall asleep at around 11pm. Blogging is not a 9-5 job, it’s a 24/7 job!
And what about when you are on location?
Oh gosh. Even reading this question stresses me out, haha! Contrary to how things may seem, when I’m traveling I am NOT on vacation! I wake up before the sun, get showered and camera ready and then I film and photograph all day, only taking breaks to eat. Once the sun goes down I have to edit photos and videos, write blog posts, respond to emails, organise future trips, communicate with brands, and more. My trips are always a total whirlwind with little to no down time and never enough sleep.
What camera/film equipment do you usually take with you when you’re on a job?
- Canon 5D Mark III
- Panasonic GH4
- GoPro / Go Pro stick and accessories
- Mavic Pro Drone, extra batteries and accessories
- Pilot Fly stabilizer
- Sennheiser lav mic kit
- Memory Cards
I’m probably forgetting something, but it’s a lot of gear!
We love the way you edit your pics. Are you able to give us a quick run through of your editing technique?
Well thanks! I have no exact formula but I use Photoshop, Lightroom, Snapseed, ColorStory, and VSCO cam. I love editing.
Do you ever use filters such as those found on VSCO?
Out of all the places you’ve been/would want to go, what are your five top travel destinations?
I love adventure! My favourite spots are private, unique, and surrounded by breathtaking scenery. For example – Switzerland and Norway for their scenery, and India and Africa for the unique experiences they offer. I hate crowds.
Places I’ve been:
Places I want to go:
- New Zealand
What would be your three top tips for someone looking to get into travel vlogging?
For travel videography specifically:
- Practice, practice, practice!
- Film slow and steady – shakiness is the first thing that’ll make your video look unprofessional
- When editing, use short clips or you’ll lose the viewer’s attention quickly.
With 2018 just arrived, any chance you can give us a sneak peek into any of the projects you’ve got planned for the next 12 months?
Yes! I’m headed back to Tanzania and South Africa in January with ROAR AFRICA, which I am really excited about. I’ll also be taking some trips with other top influencers over the first part of the year which should be fun! And I’m in the works of setting up trips to New Zealand, Chile, and Antarctica – three places at the very top of my travel wishlist!
And what about further down the track… Where are you hoping your career to take you in five year’s time?
I’m focusing on growing my new Luxury Travel Insta-Show (@luxury_travel_show) as well as my YouTube show. Additionally, I am planning on turning my blog into a luxury booking site and that should be completed by the end of 2018. Lots of exciting plans in the works!