Sheila Simkin – Silver Surfer


[su_heading style=”default” size=”13″ align=”left” margin=”20″]Words such as YouTube and Google + probably don’t mean a lot to most people’s grandparents. In fact, it’s rare to find anyone over a certain age taking an interest in the internet and social media, let alone using them to their advantage. Well, let us introduce you to Sheila Simkin, a grandmother with an impressive travel blog and over 5 million collective views on her YouTube channel.[/su_heading]

Mother to the extremely successful internet marketer and author, Joel Comm, Sheila has followed in her son’s footsteps and created an online presence, one which is more impressive than that belonging to a tech savvy twenty something.

A lifelong fan of travelling, in 2006, Sheila decided it was time to take her passion online and created her blog, Travels with Sheila. Since then, she has harnessed the power of the internet to grow her following and has proven that age has little to do with online success. spoke with Sheila to find out more about how she has embraced the internet and social media and what advice she has for those who are reluctant to take on this technology…

What made you want to start your blog and create videos?

Well that’s thanks to my son, Joel Comm. He got his first computer when he was 16 and for years and years he kept saying, “mom you have to blog, you have to do video, you have to do this,” and I resisted for years because I knew how much work it takes, and it does take a lot of work. 

What was it that made you decide to take his advice?

I finally said, “Fine, I’m going to do it” because I also know my own personality and I like to do something well. I’m not talking about financially doing it well, but you if you want to do something, you want to give good information. I was also so fed up with surfing the internet and not getting the information I wanted off travel sites.   

[su_quote style=”default”]I was also so fed up with surfing the internet and not getting the information I wanted off travel sites. [/su_quote]

Did your son give you a lot of guidance to begin with it?

No, he said, “Mom, you’re a smart person you can figure it out.”  

Did you find it easy to get a grasp on everything or did it take you some time to feel comfortable?

It took me a long time. Anybody can sit down and write, “we saw a lake today” but then why are you doing it? Do you really want to impart information? If so, that means looking for other sources and trying to write in my own style.  

How important is social media to your job?

YouTube and Google + are possibly the most important parts.  I get a tremendous amount of comments and I answer them all. I think that is very important. I also subscribe to services where everything I post every day goes straight to Twitter and YouTube.  

What do you think has been to key to your online success?

I hope that it’s because people recognise that I’m truthful and that I go out there and I video what’s in front of me and I say what I want. I do try not to be offensive, I do watch what I say but I think people respond to that.   

So you’ve really seen what people are looking for and you’re filling that gap?

Yes I am. The most popular videos are things like ‘How to use the RER from Charles De Gaulle airport to downtown Paris’ or ‘How to buy subway tickets in Beijing’.  I agonise over these things. You’re in a strange country and everyone speaks Chinese and there’s a machine in front of you and you’re like, “how do we do this?” I try to video that and show other people, if we can do it, you can do it.   

 Do you find that the internet has made it easier for you to reach your target audience? 

I don’t think I have a target audience. It’s really funny, people have tried to tell me that I should position myself to older people who are the ones with the money to travel but then when I look at my demographics on YouTube, it ranges between the 35s to 40s and the 40s to 50s. I will also get comments from people saying, “my sister is a teacher and she just showed your video about orang-utans in Borneo to her class.”  

[su_quote style=”default”]I think people really need to put up a first class website and work hard to get the word out about what they’re trying to do and what they want people to visit them for. [/su_quote]

Do you think it’s important to interact with your audience?

Absolutely, if somebody takes the time to either watch a video or leave a comment, good or bad, I have to answer them. It’s like if somebody calls you and you never return their phone call, they’re taking the time to visit your website or ask you a question and they have earned a response.    

Do you think that blogging is something that companies should embrace? Do you think it can beneficial?

Yes I do, if companies are going to work at it. Not if they’re just going to put up a few lines and never update it.

A lot of people are reluctant to embrace technology. What advice would you have for these people?   

I think you have to be careful. It just depends who you’re trying to reach and what you’re trying to do with your social media. For me, I don’t think it’s possible to really monetise travel but it certainly is possible to monetise if you’ve got a company. I think people really need to put up a first class website and work hard to get the word out about what they’re trying to do and what they want people to visit them for.  

Our thoughts?

Here at we are extremely inspired by Sheila and believe that she is somebody that all marketers can learn from.   

Her unique and interesting travel content resonates with people of all ages and fills a gap in the travel market that most people did not realise was there. Where many people of her age have shied away from the online world, Sheila has used it to communicate with her audience and generate a massive buzz around her work that would not have been possible had she remained offline.  

Sheila is truly proving that the internet is not just for 20 and 30 somethings and we are certain that her online presence will only continue to grow.

If you’re a travel blogger and are interested in meeting Sheila, she will be at TBEX Europe in Athens this October.

Visit Sheila’s blog here.

Watch Sheila’s videos here.

Follow her on Twitter here