BREMERTON — You can live your whole life in the Pacific Northwest and still not know some of the most magical places in the area.
Mercae Benge, an Olympic College student and Pacific Northwest resident, has created a blog that might be able to help you discover new and exciting places right here at home: a travel adventure blog called Upper Left Culture.
“Upper Left Culture is the local’s guide to adventure travel in the Pacific Northwest,” Benge said. “My readers are millennials focused on weekend trips off the beaten path and into the heart of the Pacific Northwest.”
Benge started her blog in July 2016 following extensive research into how to make a living out of something she loved.
“Everything started with the question, ‘How can I make a career out of travel?’ ” Benge said. “When I heard travel writers get paid to see the world, I had to learn more.
“I discovered I could start a travel blog with very little money, using my existing tech and writing skills, and generate a livable income by the time I graduated.”
So far, her blog has mostly focused on adventures in Washington, but she said she plans to branch out soon, and has “several out-of-state trips planned for this year.” She also works with other bloggers throughout the region for coverage further out.
One of her recent blog posts is “Traversing through the most breathtaking hike in Seabeck,” posted Feb. 15, in which she told of her hike to Guillemot Cove.
“We continued hiking, following wood signs pointing to the beach noting the way the sun hung low in the sky, time for hiking was almost up,” she wrote. “The forest opened up to a panoramic view of the cascades at dusk.”
Other posts include tips for hiking, such as “How to keep feet warm for your next winter adventure,” and “26 songs you need for the ultimate romantic adventure travel playlist.” She’s posted tales of travelers finding “romance on the go” and what her experience was like in the Seattle Womxn’s March, how she avoided cover charges on New Year’s Eve in Seattle and her personal travel bucket list for Washington.
“I help connect these readers to the hidden gems one might otherwise overlook,” Benge said. “I love that I’m able to use my blog to support my community, encourage the preservation of the environment and to share the hidden gems I’ve discovered in the Pacific Northwest.”
When she first started her blog, she said she had about 20 page views a month, “mostly from friends and family.” Since then, “it’s grown exponentially.”
“My goal this month is to hit 1,000 views,” she said. “This is impressive for a newer blog, because I’ve grown this traffic organically, haven’t paid a dime in online ads and write about a pretty niche subject.”
When she’s not working on Upper Left Culture, Benge is a part-time journalism student at Olympic College in Bremerton and works full-time from home doing call center work.
“You would be surprised how useful atomization, a great editorial calendar and a little time off can be,” Benge said.
She uses online apps and tools to schedule blog and social media posts in advance while also juggling her job and school work.
“Finding time to explore the outdoors is a hurdle I’m making my way over,” Benge said. “I’ve found that if I dedicate myself to one trip a month, I can do a series of informative articles around the destination and activity.”
Her greatest challenge, she said, is “the dollar sign in front of travel blogging.”
“Since I’m not rolling in the proverbial dough, it takes creative measures to afford to see the amazing places on my bucket list,” she said. “I’ve discovered couch surfing and carpooling, and have cultivated generous sponsors, which allow me the opportunities that I’d been dreaming of.”
Tip: She also has a blog post called “How to travel on the cheap.”
Check out Upper Left Culture at www.upperleftculture.com and find your next great Pacific Northwest adventure.
Michelle Beahm is a reporter for Kitsap Daily News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.