I travel a lot, which means I meet a lot of new people. Once they learn what I do for a living, their eyes light up and I can see the gears in their head churning away. I also know what the next few minutes will involve – answering the same questions that nearly everyone always asks me. I’m not complaining, it’s fine and I understand that people are very curious about what I do for a living. It’s a brand new career and folks want to know how it works. So, in hoping I can preempt at least a few future conversations allowing us to get to the good stuff, here are my stock answers to what are some very common questions.
1. What’s your favorite place?
This is always the first question and I dread it because I have a really bad answer to it. My answer is that it depends. I know, I know, it’s a really bad answer. I have a favorite city, a favorite country for food, adventure, relaxation and so on. The honest truth is that I like most places I visit. I love to travel, I love learning about new places and people and with very rare exceptions (I’m looking at you Athens) I really do love most places. That being said, I will try to come up with a slightly better answer. My favorite city is without a doubt Paris. The City of Lights holds a very dear place in my heart. It was my first overseas trip and I even lived there briefly. I love it and always will. Other than that, there are several countries I could go back to a thousand times and never get bored, principally South Africa and Australia. I guess I have a thing for far away places on the other side of the world, but they speak to my soul in a way that few countries save my own have. So there you go, my answer for at least the next five minutes.
2. What is it again that you actually do?
I work in an industry that didn’t exist ten years ago and it is absolutely fine for people not to understand what it is that I do exactly. To be honest, I’m confused about it at times myself. First, I am a travel blogger. I left my 9-5 job two years ago and haven’t looked back once. But what does that even mean? Basically, I and people like me are entrepreneurs; small business owners. I do a lot of freelance work in everything from writing, editing, photography, marketing and social media. I work with a litany of clients around the world to help them craft and deliver their travel messages to the world. Sometimes I help in disseminating those messages but most times I don’t. So what do I do? I work hard.
3. How do you make money?
Another question that gets to the core of it and as any freelancer will tell you, there is no single source. I do a lot of different types of work for and on behalf of companies and destinations around the world and get paid for it. Honestly, most of what I do is editing work for corporate web sites. It’s fun, engaging work and allows me to expand my own writing abilities in the process. Is it sexy and cool? No, but that’s just fine with me. My site does generate income as well, but in the form of fully disclosed partnerships that make sense for everyone involved. That’s definitely not the bulk of my income though. Finally, I consult. I spend a lot of time in the digital space and in the 5 years since I started my web site I have learned a whole lot about it. More than I ever thought I would, to be perfectly honest. Those skills are now part of my business and I love helping others navigate the space I have come to think about day and night.
4. What did you do before this?
For 12 years I was a lobbyist working on behalf of four different non-profit trade associations in Washington, DC. It’s not a career that I ever intended to go into; I mean, what kid grows up saying that they want to work in government affairs? But it served me well until it didn’t. I grew bored and unhappy and it affected every other aspect of my life. It wasn’t until I decided to follow my passion and figure out a way to make it work financially that I recaptured some of that joy I thought I would never see again.
5. Do you have a family?
Contrary to popular opinion, most professional travel bloggers are NOT full time travelers. I have a house, partner of 13 years, three dogs and a whole host of commitments. I started my site as a normal professional and I haven’t changed. I live in the burbs, shop at PetSmart and love finding deals at Costco. I also enjoy exploring new countries, taking long flights and the odd bungee jump or two. It’s just who I am and I love being a traveling homebody.
6. How often do you travel?
It fluctuates depending on the time of year and it’s been a really hard balance to try to achieve. I understand that it’s hard on my partner when I travel a lot, so I try to limit my trips to no more than 10 days (7 is better) and not too close to each other. It’s no fun being the one at home and I try hard to respect that. We also love to travel as a couple, that’s how this site started, so I make sure we plan a few private getaways throughout the year to keep both of us sane. That being said, I travel around 25%-33% of the time. It just depends.
7. What do you think you’ll be doing in 5 years?
Five years ago I didn’t fully understand what a blog was and now it’s my profession, so to say what I’ll be doing in five more years is no easy challenge. Ever since I was a small child though I’ve had a fierce love of all things international and while I took a decade-long hiatus from that passion, it’s back now and I’ll never again lose it. In developing my site I have learned a lot about the travel and tourism industry and public relations and marketing in particular. In my free time I devour studies and reports and try to self-educate every chance I get. I imagine I’ll still be running this lovely site, but I also know I’ll be even more involved with destination marketing than I am right now.
8. How do you pay for all the travel?
First, it’s really no one’s business. Sorry, I don’t mean to be rude, but it’s just the truth. Do you ask your neighbor how he paid for that new car? That being said, I understand the natural curiosity so I’ll sort of answer it. I work and make money, so does my partner. We don’t have kids and we love to travel so we tend to splurge most on that. Second, I work with companies and destinations to create press trips. These are not new and journalists have been going on them for decades. The difference is that mainstream papers and magazines rarely if ever disclose that fact, whereas I do.
9. Do you still enjoy it?
I love it. I’m an extrovert by heart and a person who lives for new intellectual challenges. This new life living inside the world of digital travel writing and marketing has been wonderful and I’m honestly having the time of my life. I’ve worked traditional 9-5 jobs and I understand the difference between that and being one’s own boss and I much prefer the later. It irks me to see some other so-called professional bloggers say they’re overworked or stressed. While both can happen in this job, I personally think it’s unseemly to complain about what is arguably one of the best jobs in the world. Go work in a mine for two weeks and let me know which is better.
10. Where are you going next?
My partner will tell you I’m never as excited as when I’m planning a trip. I think trip planning and working out all of the minute details may be my favorite part of the travel experience. First, 2014 is spoken for. My partner and I are flying down to Florida soon for the christening of the new Regal Princess. The rest of November I decided to cancel my travel plans. I’m not complaining, but I’m tired and have a lot of work that I need to catch-up on; work that I can only do at home. December though should be an absolute blast and I’m pretty excited. My partner and I are going on an 8-day European Christmas Market cruise with Viking River Cruises. We have a tradition of visiting Europe around the holidays to visit various markets and I can’t wait for this unique way of seeing new ones. Places like Budapest, Salzburg and Vienna must be absolutely gorgeous around Christmastime. 2015 is still a blank slate though and I can’t wait to see what it holds for me in terms of travel and adventure!
So there you go, answers to the most common questions I get. I know I’ll still get asked them and that’s fine, I just thought some of you might like to know the answers as well.
Do you have any other questions for me?