As a magazine writer and editor, Kristin has visited more than 100 countries—from Rwanda to the Cook Islands—both for her job, as well as her endless need to see every corner of the world. Since moving from California back to her home state of Tennessee three years ago, she’s been loving exploring the Deep South by car every bit as much as she enjoys the occasional international sojourn by plane.
Tell us your ah-ha moment when you decided to leave your job to travel.
Ever since I graduated from journalism school a decade ago, I’ve worked as a journalist where traveling was a bulk of what I did. There’s never been a need to leave my job to travel because my job has been to travel.
I adore what I do and love my husband and pup and having a beautiful old Victorian home that we renovate in our spare time—traveling 365 days out of the year has never been anything I aspired to. I think it’s important for people to realize that you can be a homeowner and also have a stable life, a job with a good income, a home base and still fulfill your wanderlust. It doesn’t have to be either/or. Ever since the explosion of the travel blogging community, there’s been a stigma attached to having a career; it seems you’re only deemed “successful” in some travelers’ eyes if you eschew a cubicle job and live out of a backpack. Personally, I love maintaining a job that I’m passionate about but that also affords me a healthy bank account and the flexibility to travel—both for work and for pleasure.
How do you make a living while travelling full time?
I travel four to six months out of the year on magazine assignment, for my blog and for influencer programs that I work on with various DMOs and travel brands. My income is broken down between journalism (writing and editing), corporate copywriting, marketing gigs, blog partnerships, media consulting, speaking, and other odd jobs here and there (the most random of which has been writing the questions for various Trivial Pursuit editions, and I’ve also sailed four voyages on Semester at Sea as communications coordinator).
What’s the most beloved thing you’ve bought on your travels?
I had the craziest thing happen when I was in Ghana a few years back. I had taken a bus from the cruise port to the local market when a young Ghanaian approached me and said he knew me. I figured it was all a ploy to get me to his shop, so I pulled away. He stopped me. “Take your sunglasses off,” he said. I did, and he responded: “no, not you, but I’ve met someone who looks like you before. Maybe it was your sister?” Indeed, my sister had been to Ghana a year and a half prior. I was still skeptical, though, so after getting back to the ship that night, I emailed and confirmed that she had been to that very market and spent hours there learning how to drum the African way.
The following day, I returned to that market. I didn’t know where to find the man, but again was approached by throngs of merchants peddling their wares. “Can you point me toward David’s booth?” I asked. They stopped, pondered that question, then one disappeared and returned 10 minutes later with David in tow.
For the rest of the afternoon, Scott and I hung out with David in his workshop. A very talented woodworker, he made a necklace for me and earrings for my sister—and never asked for a penny in return. I then asked if I could see the merchandise he sold to tourists, so he led me through the maze of the other shop owners and took me to his storefront.
Scott and I collect unique globes from around the world—we have 60 and counting—and what was in the middle of his booth but a gorgeous, hand-painted wooden sculpture of the world. We bought it on the spot, and I love that not only is it a beautiful work of art but it reminds me of such a chance occurrence: meeting someone in an African nation I’ve never visited who recognized me because he’d also crossed paths with my sister some time before. What are the odds?
What is your favorite travel gadget?
I’m a pretty simple girl when it comes to electronics, but there are three things I never leave the house without, even for the day: my iPhone 5s, my MacBook Pro Retina and my Canon 6D DSLR.
Tip to saving money when you travel.
Back in my single days, I did CouchSurfed my way around Europe as means to save money while still traveling extensively. But my travel style has evolved—for example, I haven’t stayed in a hostel in at least eight years—and your mentality changes when you’re traveling with a significant other. So these days, in lieu of CouchSurfing or hostels, Airbnb is our preferred method. It can be much cheaper than a hotel room if done wisely, and you’ll often be able to stay in much cooler neighborhoods with nary a hotel in sight that offer you a more authentic experience than had you gone the traditional lodging route.
I’m also a big fan of points hacking and rarely pay for flights anymore, as my credit card rewards do it all for me (the Chase Sapphire and Ink cards are my current frontrunners).
Share a tip for travel blogging or social media with our community.
Don’t try to do what everyone else is doing or be who everyone else is being. You’ll stand out more if you stay true to yourself and create a unique voice in a community oversaturated with SEO-driven sites vying for pageviews and trying to produce as much click bait as possible.
If you could only keep one travel film or book, it would be…
The Princess Bride, no contest (both the book and the movie). Tales of giants and swash-buckling pirates and six-fingered men and R.O.U.Ses and far-off mythical places—how can you read (or watch) it and not find yourself under its spell? If only Florin and Guilder really did exist…
What’s that one song on your playlist that inspires you?
I’m an unabashed Taylor Swift fan (sorry I’m not sorry), and her song “Long Live” forever makes me feel inspired, as if I can take on the world all by myself.
What are your feel-proud moments when you’re traveling?
When I can change someone’s opinion of American stereotypes. I absolutely hate those clichés like “it’s so surprising you’ve been to more than 100 countries as most Americans don’t even have passports,” because that’s simply untrue. But I think leading by example—showing that, as a whole, we are an educated people with a thirst of knowledge and a curiosity of the world around us—is the best way to debunk any such myth.
What’s that one place that makes you feel like you just time-travelled?
I’ve been to Morocco multiple times, and it always feels like a different era and world to me—so foreign to the life to which I’m accustomed. Similarly, my family and I visited Montenegro last summer, and I’m not sure if it’s because the geotag on Instagram read King’s Landing, but I definitely did feel like I stepped into some medieval world.
Ever visited somewhere that made you feel like you’re on a movie set?