Q&A: My travel journey

Me in Barcelona, a tack on to a work trip.

It’s a little weird for me to write a blog that’s just about myself, but since many of you have had the same questions about how I filled my life with travel, I’m hoping this might be helpful or insightful for those of you interested in getting more travel in your own life and wondering how to do it.

So, here goes…

How did I get started as a travel writer?

OK, here’s the shortest version I can manage. I studied marketing and fashion merchandising for my undergraduate degree. Worked in fashion. Hated it. Quit my job and worked in a friend’s shrimp truck for a little while (Yes, a shrimp truck. It was when the food truck craze was big in LA. Moving on). Realized the one thing I was most passionate about was travel. Wondered how to get paid to do it. A friend told me there was such a thing as a travel writer. I set my mind on that. I started this travel blog in 2010 when blogging was new, but quickly realized having no writing experience wouldn’t get me far with travel magazines. Went back to school to get a master’s in communication with a program that taught a travel writing class. Took that class and met an editor from CNN. Started pitching to him and writing for him.

That’s where it all began and it’s an ongoing story. I still write for CNN as a freelance travel writer, as well as for other outlets like CN Traveler, which I just started, and The Huffington Post. It was always my dream to get paid to travel and tell stories about it, and I still have to pinch myself every now and then when I wonder if this life is real. But there’s always the flipside. Freelance writing is a hustle and a lot of rejection and non-responses come with it, but when you do get that right idea in to the right editor, it’s totally worth it.

I also have this blog where I now write every week (subscribe if you want Living with the Travel Bug in your inbox!) and though it isn’t paying the bills yet, that’s the ultimate goal. Either way, it’s a great space for me to share travel experiences, thoughts and insights that I hope are useful. Side note* my blog is part of what got me accepted into the master’s program. 

Do I travel full time?

The short answer is no, I do not. Which I’ll forever be working to change, by the way. But living on your own in New York City and doing full-time freelance isn’t the easiest thing to do since freelance isn’t always reliable and rent is reliably expensive every single month. So I have a full-time job as an editor for a publication covering apparel and textiles (which means I’m still technically using my bachelor’s degree!) What I’m writing about has nothing to do with travel, but I do have to travel for the job, which means it’s still a win. Most of the trips I take now are to cover events or conferences or visit factories all over the world. Last year my job took me to Germany, Egypt, China, Bangladesh, Las Vegas and Atlanta, and I added on little excursions and adventures wherever I could—like to the Pyramids and the Great Wall of China—which I’d say are pretty good perks. Sometimes we’re not as fortunate as those who do get to travel full time, but there are ways to squeeze quite a lot of travel in if you choose the right full-time job that accommodates it.

Who takes all my Instagram photos?

This question always amuses me because people have asked if I have a personal photographer following me around, to which the answer is: yeah right. Since many of my trips are taken solo, the vast majority of my photos are taken by none other than strangers. Yes, just whoever is nearby at the time. I typically ask older people who don’t look like they could run off with my phone or camera, or other solo people who look like they understand my struggle and I offer to return the favor. Other times, when my wonderful father is on the trip with me, he does all the snaps, and because he loves me, he never gets annoyed when I ask him to “take it like this instead.” Sometimes I travel with other travel writers or friends, and in those cases, they take the pictures. It does help, though, that I always have a vision of how I want a photo to look, so then it’s easy to set the photographer up to get the best shot on the first go.

How do I deal with being gone all the time?

Well, first of all, I have no plants. That makes things a lot easier. But on a more serious note, I have no children, husbands or pets either, which also makes things a lot easier. Also, I don’t actually think I am gone all the time. This year so far, I’ve been gone for a total of three weeks on three different trips. That’s three weeks out of three months, which is not so bad. The thing about traveling is, you should do as much of it as you can while you can. Right now, it’s easy for me because my responsibilities at home are few. Later on, that may be less of the case, but I’ll work that out when the time comes. Other than that, I’d say try to set yourself up to be most comfortable while you’re away. If there’s a granola bar you eat every morning, take some with you. If there are shoes you prefer to wear, pack them. If there’s something as small as a face wash or shampoo that you don’t like going without, take it. If you hate living out of a suitcase, unpack your things at your destination. The less you feel put out by being away, the less you’ll feel any negatives about being gone, and you’ll just enjoy the adventure and excitement that comes with it.

What’s my advice for someone who wants to travel for a living?

Do it! And when you figure out how to do it full time, let me know! OK, OK, but for real, since I can’t exactly say I travel for a living, my advice would be: take every small step you can take toward more travel. Maybe that means you stop spending on nonsense and save more money for trips (read my tips on how to do that here). Maybe it means you find a job that requires you to travel and then you tack adventures onto business trips to see even more (that’s what I did/do). Maybe it means you go back to school to get a degree in a field, like journalism, that would allow you to travel more (also what I did). Maybe it means you become a full-time freelance travel writer. Maybe it means you make a killer Instagram profile that makes brands and business want to beg you to visit their country/hotel/store, or promote their clothes/travel products/swimsuits/anything-else-travel-related (what I’m still trying to do). Whatever it is, you may not land the travel job of your dreams right away, and you may not become a full time travel writer right away, but every step you take to bring more travel into your life, to me, is a win.

Comment below if you have a question I didn’t answer!