HI Hostels Blog

HI catches up with Big Blog Exchange winner

Hostelling International’s unique blog contest, the Big Blog Exchange (BBE), is all about changing the world using the power of blogs, inspiring young people to travel, and opening their minds. The world of travel blogging has exploded in recent years and the fact that an incredible 1,173 bloggers entered the Big Blog Exchange proves just that.

One of the winners of the Big Blog Exchange 2013, Liesbet Maroye, attended HI’s CEO meeting in Paris recently and we couldn’t resist catching up with her. Liesbet is from Belgium and she was lucky enough to exchange with Didintle Ntsie from South Africa. In this short interview with HI she shares her thoughts with us, potentially inspiring even you to enter the upcoming Big Blog Exchange 2014… 

Liesbet’s encounter with ostrich in South Africa

In your manifesto, after the exchange, you wrote ‘the whole Big Blog Exchange Experience didn’t leave me cold. On the contrary, even if I travel a lot, it has influenced me and opened my eyes on certain aspects.’ Can you tell us more about that?

For me, the whole Big Blog Exchange can be summed up in one African word: Ubuntu.

One of the moments that really opened my eyes and that touched me, was the day we visited the township of Langa, just outside Capetown. When I was walking through Langa, I really felt, what they call, the Ubuntu: the feeling of belonging to a community that helps each other. I really noticed that when I was talking to the people living there and when I was attending a gospel mass. By immersing yourself in another way of life there’s always that moment you meet yourself.  It’s then that you start reflecting on yourself, on the way you live and how you’ve lived until now.

The BBE was several months ago, how has the experience influenced your blogging, your vision of travelling or your views on life in general?

The BBE has definitely impacted my blogging and views on travelling and life. It was a plan I already had in my mind and this contest was the ideal incentive to develop my blogging skills and to reach out to the world through social media. I quickly understood that a blog could be a way to get rid of prejudice, to bring the world to the people at home.

When I’m staying in a hostel, I feel more like a traveller than a tourist. By talking and travelling together, you learn how others deal with their quest for happiness, it teaches you to appreciate the things you have. The way other people live influences yours. This Big Blog Exchange gave me unforgettable experiences to look back on. I’m truly convinced that living such an experience can be a source of inspiration for your own life. It made me think about my future, about what I want to do and about how I want to grow.

Are you still in touch with Didi the blogger from South Africa you exchanged with?

Just before, during and after the Big Blog Exchange we kept in touch. We exchanged mails with information about our country, we helped each other with preparations, and we gave advice about clothes and equipment, what to do and what to see. We even tried to set up a Google Hangout, but unfortunately, our dates never matched. Today we follow each other through Facebook and our blogs.

And what about the other bloggers that took part in BBE?

The day we knew we were the 16 who won, a Facebook group was set up to share our excitement and experiences. We kept that group alive during the exchange and even now we post updates in the group sometimes, and we follow each other on social media.

We are preparing the second BBE. What would you tell a blogger to convince them of joining?

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Whatever you blog about, this is your chance to meet like-minded people and to share your thoughts. The Big Blog Exchange is ubuntu. It’s a perfect way to discover the whole network of Hostelling International and the wonderful people powering it: the crew of each hostel and the dedication they put to this worldwide project. “Changing the world using the power of blogs” may sound ambitious but we can. We can change the world one step at a time: by ourselves, our blogs and by inspiring our readers.


Want to be part of the Big Blog Exchange 2014? Stay updated and subscribe to BBE news here.

Russ Hedge, CEO of HI-USA, accepting an award for the friendliest hostel

Here at Hostelling International we are extremely pleased that Liesbet accepted an invitation and at HI’s CEO meeting she gave away the HI 5ives Hostel awards. Take a look at our winners.

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