When the Big Blog Exchange project first ran last year, it had never been done before, and Hostelling International was overwhelmed by the positive response it received. HI sent 16 excited bloggers from all corners of the globe on an adventure, swapping countries, cultures and blogs with each other for 10 days, all the while sharing their experiences with the rest of the blogging community following their journey digitally.
2014 saw the turn of 16 brand new bloggers, and over the last few weeks we’ve watched our winners jump out of their comfort zones – growing, learning and experiencing new things every single day in a country culturally different to their own.
When we first opened the competition back in July, hundreds of passionate, committed and talented bloggers signed themselves up to the chance of winning a once in a lifetime adventure. The voting phase saw the birth and growth of an inspiring, strong and supportive blogging community – helping each other out along the way and making friendships as the competition progressed. We had our wonderful 100 finalists, and on the 16 September our 16 fantastic winners and their exchange countries were announced to the world!
We’ve come a long way since the announcement, and their individual adventures have had readers all over the world on the edge of their seats over the last few weeks. It’s been an incredible experience not just for the bloggers – but for us at HI and for all of those following their journeys too.
One of our 2014 winners, Vincent, said “My sincere thanks to HI for the opportunity. It’s been an experience of a lifetime and a true eye-opener.”
If you’ve missed the Big Blog Exchange journey – it’s still not too late to join us for a 10 day digital trip around the world! You can catch yourself up by going back to our day 1 daily summary , and making your way through each day of our bloggers exciting trips.
This year we had 16 culturally diverse countries represented in the project: Australia, Slovenia, Malaysia, Argentina, India, Canada, South Africa, Spain, Hong Kong, England, France, United States of America, Brazil, Ireland, Philippines and Italy. It was wonderful to see the beauty of these countries through the eyes of the bloggers, and to follow them every step of the way as they explored the countries and immersed themselves in the cultures.
We have our blogger epilogues coming to you at the end of November! These will see our winners reflect on their Big Blog Exchange journeys and we’ll be posting all of these on the blog for you, so make sure you tune in!
We thought we’d take some time to have a little look back over what has happened over the last few weeks, the ups, the downs, and everything in-between…
Before they took off, we had our bloggers put together bucket lists to tick off while in their exchange destinations – and many of them have successfully ticked off their entire lists!
Next – we had the slightly mean ‘Dare your exchange partner challenge’, in which we asked each blogger to dare their exchange partner to do just one thing whilst in their country. We’ve had quite a few dares completed, from Durian fruits to Elephant rides and Oreo’s with Peanut butter! Here’s a few examples of our bloggers taking on their dares head on..
Taralynns dare for Lucie, to try Oreos and peanut butter in the States!
Ruths dare for Kitty, to visit Harrods food court in London!
Purujeets dare for Logan, to ride a camel in India! (He couldn’t find one, but he could find an Elephant – we’ll count that!)
Vincents dare for Belen, to try the Durian in Malaysia!
Logans dare for Purujeet, to take a photo with a Canadian by the Pacific, and one by the Atlantic in Canada!
Before they took off we had our first video challenge – the Local Lingo Challenge! Our bloggers put together short video survival guides for their exchange partners, to help them get by for 10 days in their country! Take a look at all of our bloggers survival guides by clicking the link above.
Challenge number 1 from the exchanges was the best hostel breakfast photo challenge, we saw some fantastic breakfasts from HI hostels in several diverse countries – and after a lot of deliberation our winner was announced as Kitty, travelling to the UK from Hong Kong! This was the winning picture of her British hostel breakfast -
Next came the best landscape photo challenge! We asked our bloggers to send us over a photo of the landscape within their host country, viewing it’s beauty from their perspective – and the results were stunning. Every photo was unique and diverse, but our winner was Jono, travelling from Australia to Slovenia – for his wonderful photo of Bohinj Lake!
Next came the best activity video challenge, where we asked our bloggers to put together a short video of their favourite activity they had taken part in since arriving in their exchange countries. We had trails in Hong Kong, Rickshaw journeys in India and vibrant shows in Argentina. In the end however, our deserving winner was Jono for his crossing the River Mura in Slovenia video! (This also ticked off his dare from exchange partner Nina!)
Our next challenge was the best hostel photo. We asked our winners to send us a photo of their favourite hostel from those they had stayed in on their exchanges. They were all beautiful, but our winner was Manuel, travelling from Spain to South Africa, for his shot of Coffee Shack hostel at Coffee Bay!
Our last challenge from the exchanges was our best video interview challenge! We had our bloggers interview local people and hostel staff, and they all put their own unique spin on the interviews. They were all insightful, but our winner was Lucie for her wonderful interview with HI Austin front desk manager – Perry!
As well as completing our challenges, our winning bloggers had a wealth of incredible experiences while they were away. Here’s a short re-cap of each day of the 10 day exchanges. You can of course read all about which each individual blogger got up to on each day of their exchange by going back and reading our 10 day daily summaries! For now however, here’s a brief overview and a mishmash of photos from each day…
We had broken luggage wheels, delayed flights and lost luggage – but our 16 bloggers all touched down safe and sound in their exchange countries ready to begin their adventures!
Day 1 – Halloween!
Halloween was the day our bloggers kicked off their cultural exchange adventures! We had Tango lessons in Argentina, fancy dress in the USA and surfing in Australia. See what each individual blogger got up to by clicking here.
Day 2 – 1st November!
Day 2 saw beautiful locks in Paris, taxi journeys involving cows and Justin Bieber in India, boat rides in Malaysia and crazy Brazillian Halloween parties. See what each individual blogger got up to by clicking here.
Day 3 – 2nd November!
Day 3 saw belated Halloween celebrations in Baltimore, visits to the Taj Mahal in India, swimming with Whale Sharks in the Philippines and Sherlock Museums in the UK. See what each individual blogger got up to by clicking here.
Day 4 – 3rd November
Day 4 saw open top bus tours in Lyon, wineries in Mendoza, street art in Malaysia and meetings with the BBE team in London.
Day 5 – 4th November
The 5th day of our bloggers adventures saw river cruises in Melaka, beautiful walks in Ireland, quad biking in Brazil and press conferences in Slovenia! See what the individual bloggers got up to by clicking here.
Day 6 – 5th November!
Day 6 saw Californian sunshine, hikes in Patagonia, un-anticipated falling Mango’s attacking bloggers in Brazil and stunning views in Port Stephens. See what each individual blogger got up to by clicking here.
Day 7 – 6th November!
Day 7 saw our bloggers visit some truly iconic landmarks in Canada, cakes and punting in Cambridge, cathedrals in Spain and beach days in the Philippines.
Day 8 – 7th November!
Day 8 saw music festivals in Austin, more strange taxi journeys in India, pub crawls in Montreal, bank robberies in Slovenia and love for Cape Town.
Day 9 – 8th November!
Day 9 saw bloggers lunching with the secretary general of Hostelling International in France, Hockey matches in Canada, Challenge attempts in Malaysia, streets oozing with character in France, Space Centres in Hong Kong and Vatican city explorations in Italy.
Day 10 – 9th November!
The last day of our bloggers adventures saw a lot of flight tickets, DIY meals in the USA, bloggers meeting their exchange partners families in Argentina and Malaysia and a lot of heavy hearted goodbyes.
What an adventure it’s been!
On the 24 November we’ll be receiving our bloggers video epilogues. These will see the bloggers reflect on their Big Blog Exchange experiences, and we’ll find out what it changed for them.