GlobetrotterGirl of the Month

GlobetrotterGirl of the Month: Leah Walker of | March 2013

Globetrottergirl of the month

Our ongoing GlobetrotterGirl of the Month series features women who have been able to break free, living life on their own terms, which includes a lifestyle of travel. While it is inspiring to hear stories of those who are well established, we wanted to take a look this month at someone in the beginning stages of this to understand the initial steps it takes to break free.

Leah Walker of is a great example of that; she is just one month into her ultimate freedom!

In this interview, she talks about the moment her mentality shifted, what some of the keys to her early success have been and the dedication and confidence it takes to take that first big risk out on her own. You’ll also see just how much travel this writer and budding brandmaker has incorporated into her lifestyle already.

Meet Leah Walker

Leah Walker

GlobetrotterGirls: Where are you from?

Leah: The easy answer to that is simply, Texas. I was born in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, raised near Lubbock, and graduated high school near Houston.

GT Girls: Where do you live now?

Leah: I’ve been in Houston for eleven years, which is really hard for me to comprehend.

GT Girls: What did you do for a living before deciding to Break Free?

Leah: I feel like I’ve broken free a few times in my life. The first being when I decided to quit teaching and coaching. That was a huge step; perhaps even more than when I left a dependable job as a technical writer for a company in the oil and gas industry last month to dedicate my time to my website.

GT Girls: In your own words, what is your ‘job title’ now?

Leah: I am the Writer, Editor, and Tall-Tale Weaver at

In addition to Leah Travels, I’m also the Special Contributor and the Houston City Editor for The Daily Meal, the Shopping Contributor for Travel Squire, Travel Editor for The Daily Basics, and a Tastesetter for Triptease.

GT Girls: You’re also an award-winning writer. How did you end up spending a month writing in Europe?

Leah: An apartment rental company, Go with Oh, sponsored a contest that offered a month’s accommodation in Europe as its grand prize. I was required to choose one of their cities and write five things I’d like to do in that city. I chose Florence and labored over that piece for weeks. Once I published it, the competitiveness came out in me and I decided to market myself in an effort to keep my entry on the minds of the judges. I created a simple sign that read, “I want @L_e_a_h to @GoWithOh” and sent it to friends and readers all over the world. They took photos of the sign in amazing locations and sent the pictures back to me. I then posted them to all my social media channels. Some of my favorites were from Namibia, Iraq, Laos, Dubai, and Maui. I am still grateful for everyone’s support. The month I spent in Europe was easily the best experience of my life.

Leah WalkerGT Girls: When and how did your passion for travel begin?

Leah:  I grew up taking road trips around the USA with my family, but the travel bug really hit me after studying Spanish in Costa Rica in 1997. It was only my second time out of the country, but I was hooked.

GT Girls: You talk about what motivated you to starting travelling more in this incredibly moving post: Why I Travel on Can you summarize this motivation for us here?

Leah: Essentially my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and shortly after, I was also identified as having the BRCA2 gene, which means I have an 85% chance of having breast cancer and 25% of having ovarian cancer in my lifetime.

For four years I watched as my mom went in and out of remission until, at age 65, she passed away. There were so many things that she’d wanted to see and do, but was too busy being a mother, grandmother, wife and teacher.

I am armed with the knowledge of my possible fate and am taking measures to prevent a diagnosis and I’ve adopted the mantra, “Life’s too short to live with a someday mentality.” Now I seek new experiences with an all-encompassing sense of urgency. Through her death, my mother taught me how to live.

GT Girls: In ‘Why I Travel’ you explain that at this time you were a teacher, about to move to California, also purchasing a house in Florida. Your whole life seemed planned out. When you discovered your own health risks, you said, “…this was the exact moment that my life changed… I didn’t want to have a house in Florida. I didn’t want to live in California. And I certainly didn’t want to be a teacher for the rest of my life.” 

What did your mom say to you about your decision to take such a one-eighty in response to what was happening with her?

Leah:  My mom was always my biggest fan. When I wasn’t with her, I was traveling. I spent a month in Singapore and in China and seized any other travel opportunity that I could. She loved seeing the world through my eyes. In her earlier years, my mom was quite adventurous, so I think she saw a bit of herself in me. I like to think that I made her proud.

Leah ParisGT Girls: How did you decide to dedicate yourself full time to working for yourself at LeahTravels?

Leah: After winning the Go with Oh competition in the spring of 2012, the path seemed to open up so clearly for me. I was getting numerous opportunities, some of which I had to turn down or simply cut short, due to my limited time off. Fortunately my employer allowed me to work late and on weekends in order to accumulate time off for the month-long trip to Europe. I’m forever grateful for that. However, three weeks vacation just was not conducive to be being able to pursue travel and writing as my career.

I’m terribly competitive and don’t like not being the best at anything I do, therefore I was working non-stop on my job, the website and social media. With very little time for anything else, something had to give and I wasn’t willing for it to be my website.

GT Girls: How long did you prepare before you broke free?

Leah: Mentally, I’d prepared myself for about three months. Financially is another story. I did have some savings, a bonus check, and thanks to a very generous tax refund from Uncle Sam, a nice little cushion.

GT Girls: Were there people who told you were crazy? How did you get past self-doubt and doubts of others?

Leah: I am fortunate to be surrounded by a bounty of supportive people. My family, friends, co-workers, and readers all were cheering me on. That made it a lot easier to hush the tiny voices of doubt in the back of my mind.

GT Girls: Who were your biggest supporters?

Leah: Without the support, both emotionally and financially, of my husband, there is no way I would be able to do what I’m doing. He has shouldered the bulk of our living expenses to give me the opportunity to pursue this passion of mine.

My dad is also a huge supporter of mine. Even in his quiet way, I know that he wants me to be happy first and foremost. And if this path makes me happy then he’s right behind me. Also, two of my best girlfriends and fellow travel writers, Lola DiMarco and Ana Silva O’Reily, have been cheering me on from the start. I can’t thank them enough.

Leah PragueGT Girls: And the big question – What are you doing and how do you feel now, one month since officially quitting your job?

Leah: Honestly, I haven’t had a moment to digest it. The morning after my last day at work I went to Telluride, Colorado. Four days after getting home from there, I left for three weeks in Spain, Paris, and London. While in London I received an invitation to visit Jordan in April – something I’m thrilled about.

I suppose the best moment after quitting was when I completed a trip in Spain and I didn’t have to rush home to get to the office. Instead, I was able to extend my trip to Paris and London. That was something unheard of a month ago. It was like I was a kid and I’d been released for summer vacation, forever!

Inspiration station 

GT Girls: What books have influenced you?
Leah: To Kill a Mockingbird is easily my favorite book. I’ve read it over 50 times. It transcends time and I whole-heartedly believe that every person in the world should read it at least once.

GT Girls: What websites inspire you?
Leah: I stumbled upon the site, 1000 Awesome Things, a few years ago. It’s such a positive and fun site. It makes me laugh and appreciate the little things in life.

GT Girls: What music do you listen to when you write?
Leah: I require complete silence when I write. I’m easily distracted.

GT Girls: Who is your role model or mentor? Who do you look to for leadership?
As a former athlete and basketball coach, I’ve always looked up to sports figures. Outside of my mom and dad, I’d say that Duke men’s basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski has served as a mentor to me. I’ve read all his books, followed his career, and admire how he’s been so successful by doing things the right way.

GT Girls: Do you have a mantra, quote or philosophy that you live by?
Leah: I have two. “Life’s too short to live with a someday attitude” and “Life is short and the road is long,” which happens to be the tagline for my site.

GT Girls: How many countries have you been to?
Leah: I’d say not enough!

GT Girls: What countries can you not wait to visit?
Leah: I really want to do the Scandinavian countries, especially Norway. I’m also coveting Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya, Lebanon, Israel, and Australia. Oh, throw in the Maldives, Seychelles, and Thailand for good measure.

Leah Walker gets a tattoo in Paris
Leah gets a tattoo in Paris

Looking forward

GT Girls: What’s on the horizon for you?
Leah: I have an exciting venture that I’m working on with a couple of others, so I see myself putting a lot of time and energy into getting that off the ground in the next few months.

In a year I want to have established myself as an authority, not only in the travel space, but also in social media. I’d like to consult with travel-related brands in their social marketing strategies. I’d also like to be more organized with my travel plans and know more or less what I have going on at least three months out.

In five years I’d like my website to simply be an extension of my brand. I’m a writer and will always write, but I see myself pursuing other avenues beyond the site.

Do you have more questions for Leah Walker? Ask them in the comments below, or find her on her website and on social media:

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GlobetrotterGirl of the Month May 2013: Torre DeRoche, author, blogger and sailor

Globetrottergirl of the month

Welcome back to our GlobetrotterGirl of the Month series. Our May GlobetrotterGirl is author, blogger and fearful adventurer Torre DeRoche. We first came across Torre through her blog,, and were lucky enough to win a copy of her then self-published book, Love with a Chance of Drowning in 2011. Dani and I both burned through her true story of quitting her job in San Francisco to sail across the Pacific in a humble boat with her fairly new Argentine boyfriend. It is electrifying, death-defying and so exciting that it made me want to drop everything and go travel- except I already had! But I lost myself in her story and we both knew her book was meant for bigger things – and indeed she has now sold the rights to international publishing houses and the movie rights in Hollywood.

Her story is so inspiring, not only because of how successful the book has become, but because of the fears Torre had to confront in order to get on the boat and create this story in the first place. The biggest lesson, especially for those of you who are seriously itching to start a new life, is that the first step is the hardest – deciding to get on that boat and sail away.

Meet Torre DeRoche

Torre DeRocheTorre is the author of Love with a Chance of Drowning – here’s a quick synopsis in the trailer below:

Where are you from?
I was born in Melbourne, Australia. My parents are American, so I’m a dual citizen. That makes me an Aussyankie, or perhaps a Yankstralian. (Or maybe not.)

Where are you currently based? Last I had heard you were living between Australia and Thailand?
I spent the last year living in Thailand in a tiny $5-a-night cottage set in the palms at the top of a lush hill. The cottage has the most stunning view of the Gulf of Thailand, which sounds idyllic, but it’s awfully hard to get anything done with a sweeping view of the ocean violating your workspace.

I’m in Melbourne right now getting work done for the launch of my book.

IMG_00171Our theme for 2013 is to celebrating Breaking Free. You first ‘broke free’ by moving from Australia to California – what sparked that initial decision to leave home and move abroad? 
I was bored with life in Melbourne. I’d followed a sensible path: high school, university, boyfriend, rental property, career, car, sleep, work, sleep, work… It was unfulfilling, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.

My relationship of five years was coming to an unceremonious end, so I decided to get on a plane and go somewhere new to see what else life had to offer. Everything unfolded from there…

The next adventure began when you decided to sail away with Ivan. How long were you two together before you decided to join him? Was it only for love, or also for the adventure? 
We were together for about eight months before I moved onto the boat.Love was a part of it, yes. But I also wanted to see the remote islands in the South Pacific, many of which can only be reached by boat. The adventure itself was very alluring, if terrifying.

What was your route, roughly? How long did it take to sail all the way?
Our plan was to sail from Los Angeles to Australia via a string of South Pacific islands. We left the itinerary open so that we could be impulsive and make discoveries along the way. The journey took us from the Marquesas Islands, to the Tuamotu Archipelago, to the Society Islands, to the Cook Islands, to Niue, Tonga, and Fiji.

We spent two years on the Pacific, but we weren’t sailing the whole time. We’d anchor in beautiful places for weeks or months before moving on to the next place by boat.

Torre DeRoche

I remember being particularly attracted to how you described certain stops in the South Pacific. What were some of the highlights on the route you took?
The most incredible destination was inside a stunning, turquoise lagoon in a place called Toau. It’s an isolated spot in the Tuamotu Archipelago in French Polynesia that can only be reached by boat. Just two families live there. The family welcomed us in like adopted children, and we were taken fishing and exploring every day for three weeks. There were tears when we left…

Did you always want to be a writer?
The passion for writing was there from early on, but I pursued graphic design and illustration because it seemed like a more linear and lucrative creative career path. While I love certain aspects of design, it’s not fulfilling on a deep creative level.

While living out this incredible adventure, I began writing. I loved the challenge of creating imagery with words. It’s just like painting, only you have so much more than a square canvas to say what you want to say. It’s satisfying in a way that design is not.

Did you start your blog, before, during or after the trip?
While sailing I kept a blog called for family and friends. It was a tiny blog, but the content became the foundation for my book. I didn’t keep up that blog after the sailing trip was over. However, once I’d written my manuscript, I read that publishers want authors with big platforms, so I registered and began blogging there in order to sell my book.

It worked. Thanks to the blog, I gained the attention of a Hollywood producer and a UK publisher.

How long after self-publishing were you approached?
Two weeks. I received a Twitter direct message from a Hollywood producer.

On success: Can you explain what that buzz was like? How many companies approached you, how did you choose? 
It was totally bizarre. It still is! There is a long story that goes along with that. I’ll let you read about it here.


On taking risks: You spent the first bit down to the Mexican coast violently seasick. You were not a born sailor and scared of the ocean, but you went anyway. Why?
I was on the fence about going up until the very last second, right before we left the American continent behind. But really, deep in my heart, I think I knew I was going to go from the moment that Ivan invited me along. It was an incredible opportunity, and I knew that if I didn’t take it, I would’ve had regrets. The regrets scared me more than anything else. So even though I appeared to be on the fence, the indecision was probably just procrastination.

In addition to the seasickness, there were a few dramatic events along the way. Can you talk about the scariest moments on your journey?
Our old boat started to develop a lot of problems mid-voyage. On a passage between the Society Islands and the Cook Islands, the boat began filling up with water from two separate sources. At the same time, the engine broke, the autopilot broke, and the wind died. In the middle of nowhere, we found ourselves becalmed and sinking…

On overcoming fear:Your blog is fearfuladventurer, but you live a big, brave life. How do you manage your fear? 
I used to believe that adventurers are fearless, or that you had to consider yourself as fearless in order to do anything adventurous. What I discovered through my journey, and through meeting many other sailors along the way, is that we all experience fear. Fear is a dirty word, and yet we all feel it. So by being open about fear, I wanted to set the record straight: that adventurous are not always fearless. I suppose I’m hoping to take the shame away from that. It’s okay to be afraid. We’re all afraid. But that’s no reason not to do it.

Do you think having already taken a step like moving to California made taking such a risk easier?
Yes, absolutely. It was very empowering. I’ve always been a risk-taker, though—I’m attracted to challenges because they offer opportunities for growth. The risk of heading out to sea on a small boat and facing my fear in such a severe way was a challenge that was terrifying but also incredibly exciting. I wanted to find out how something like that would change me.

Aitutaki_Cooks-1024x7651On the finances: How did you fund your adventure? Are you secretly a millionaire?
The boat is the biggest cost of sailing. Once that is paid for, it’s actually a cheap way to see the world. There’s a misconception that sailing is only accessible to the grotesquely wealthy, but Ivan had to work extremely hard from a place of disadvantage to save enough money to fund the voyage. He immigrated to the US when he was 17 and he could hardly speak any English. He worked at Starbucks full-time and, while putting himself through university and paying for rent and food, he also managed to save enough money to buy his first boat. After he got his degree, he worked his way up in an IT job and put away all his earnings for a bigger boat and a sailing kitty. Ivan had been preparing to sail solo before I met him, so he had already bought the boat and fitted it out for the trip.

I was very lucky to be invited along on his ready-to-go voyage.

Now that you are working with big publishers with equally big advertising budgets, how does it feel to see giant ads and billboards of Love With a Fear of Drowning in airports and around town?
I never saw those in person, unfortunately! But seeing a photograph was pretty thrilling. It feels surreal. It’s hard to own it, to say: That’s mine! It feels like someone else’s story, someone else’s book.

Inspiration station

Do you have a mentor? Someone you look to emulate their success?
My mentor is an imaginary beast that has been collaged in my head from many different people. It has the creative success and humility of my dad, the warmth and generosity of my mum, the stark-naked honesty of Lena Dunham, the humor of Tina Fey.

What books inspire you?
Anything by Roald Dahl, David Sedaris, Augusten Burroughs, Bill Bryson, Paul Theroux, Douglas Kennedy, Jon Krakauer, Patrick Süskind, Elizabeth Gilbert, Suzanne Morrison, Sara Gruen, Jennifer Egan, Wally Lamb, Jean M. Auel, Nikki Gemmell, or Cheryl Strayed. Friend me on Goodreads for my full list of favorites.

What websites do you read on the daily?
I don’t read any websites on a regular basis. I tend to consume a scattered range of content, from travel blogs, to humor blogs, to YouTube videos of Louis C.K. talking about childrearing, domesticity, and divorce. I like my inspiration to come serendipitously.

I avoid reading news. This was something I decided to do after returning from two glorious, news-free years on the ocean.


What music do you listen to while writing or working? What music pumps you up?
I listened to music that captured the emotion of the scene I was writing. I had a whole soundtrack of sailing / adventure / love inspired songs to do this for me. Gamble Everything For Love by Ben Lee was great for the upbeat, lighthearted scenes in the beginning. Falling Slowly by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova was perfect for writing heartbreaking scenes towards the end.

Do you have a mantra or motto that you live your life by?
My parents raised me with the mantra, “You’re here for a good time, not for a long time.” I try to keep that in mind when I’m making decisions.

Is there still one place you haven’t yet visited that is still a dream destination?
Europe! All of it. I would also love to sail the Mediterranean.

Where can people connect with you online?
People can find me on my blog or on Facebook

Where can people buy your book?
Love with a Chance of Drowning is available on and in any place that sells books in the US, Canada, Australia and NZ. It will be launching in the UK on July 1.

Torre DeRoche


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GlobetrotterGirl of the Month July 2013: Bonnie Kassel, lifelong adventurer and author of Without a Spare

Globetrottergirl of the month

In this month’s interview in our GlobetrotterGirl of the Month series we talk to Bonnie Kassel, a true adventurer, artist, weaver and author of Without a Spare, her memoir chronicling her four decades of travel. Bonnie has lived for months at time in India, Turkey, Mexico, Europe, Africa and has arranged her life entirely around her love and passion for travel.  We were able to meet up with Bonnie in New York this June and insisted on her being our July GlobetrotterGirl of the Month to share her stories, lessons, travel advice and inspiration for women out there looking to create a life around travel.

Grab a coffee or a glass of wine and settle in for this inspiring interview –  it’s a long one!

Meet Bonnie Kassel

Bonnie Kassel

Where are you currently based?

New York City and I love the international feel of it. If there’s a Brazilian movie playing at a film festival, an extensive Brazilian community turns out and the same goes for Iranian, Japanese, etc.

You have traveled more than anyone we know! How long have you been traveling and how much time per year do you spend abroad?

I have been traveling since age fifteen, and I continue to travel about four months of each year. Of course, there were years in between when I lived abroad or traveled almost constantly. When I left home at age twenty-two, I was basically gone for six years until I returned at twenty-eight.

What was your first overseas trip, and how do you think that influenced your lifestyle?

When I was fifteen, my father sent me to Switzerland to spend the summer with a Swiss client and his wife in the village of Anières on Lake Geneva. Every single thing in Anières was done differently than it was at my home in New York, and in less than two weeks I knew that everything suited me better. The others kids my age seemed so much more sophisticated than me. Each spoke several languages and they liked to discuss politics. I might have left home a typical American teenager, but my parents didn’t know who I was when they picked me up at JFK at the end of the summer.

Have you ever had the urge to settle down for good?

Absolutely not. As a teenager I remember going to Pathmark supermarket with my mom, walking down aisles the length of city blocks, filling up a cart, unloading the cart contents into a car trunk and unloading them again to put away at home—week after week, month after month, year after year. It took staggering odds for one sperm to find an egg to make me, and I believe I am not on Earth to just keep doing this routine over and over.

However tedious the routine at home, however, doing the exact same things in other countries can be like studying anthropology while learning the basics of a foreign language. I love adventure and arriving in a place where everything is unfamiliar.

What countries have affected you the most? Why? 

Switzerland may sound bland compared to the more exotic places I’ve been, but it was in Anières that I first realized there was another way to live a life. My sister now lives in Zurich, so I continue to appreciate what this small, clean, safe, enlightened country has to offer (including hundreds of artisanal cheeses!)  My two nieces have effortlessly learned four languages; an hour in each direction one can experience Italian, French, German, and Austrian cultures.

The AlpsMy time in Syria also affected me dramatically, so it makes what’s happening there today particularly painful. I would have described the Aleppo market and its 1090 Umayyad Mosque as the last authentic market in the world; a day wandering its narrow lanes offers a glimpse back into history. But the mosque fell in April fighting and I read that neighbors were running with buckets of water to try to stem the fire that had broken out within the souk.

When asked, I always say the year in Africa was the greatest year of my life.

Globetrotters know that it can be cheaper to travel full time than to take one or two vacations per year. What aspects of travel are always expensive and how do you keep your budget low in general?

I know exactly what you mean. I believe in long term visits, not fast vacations. I once rented a house in Turkey for 7 months and tried to explain to incredulous friends that a seven-month trip to Turkey was cheaper than living three months at home in New York. As a long-term visitor, you don’t pay property and school taxes, car payments or cable bills. The biggest expense is airline tickets, especially when you only take a week-long trip. Cost decreases the longer you rent a home or a car, so that a two-week house rental can cost just slightly under what a monthly rental would cost.

How have you financed such an inspirational life of travel?

I’m proud to say that I managed to support myself from my art all my life. In my twenties I painted 8′ fresco-like batiks inspired from sketches I made traveling. By my late thirties, I was executing large commissioned murals in woven copper and brass for hotel and office lobbies, restaurants and cruise ships.

Batik and Woven Copper
Both Dani and I were super inspired by your book, Without a Spare. Can you tell our readers what it is about and the inspiration behind publishing it?

I’ve always loved the expression ‘There are all different ways to live a life.’ How does one decide to live near the sea or forest, in the city or country? Without a Spare is essentially the story of another way to live a life. I chose not to have children and to work freelance earning less money in order to continue doing what I loved.  And it turned out to be a pretty extraordinary life.

When I first sat down to try to write a few short stories for a magazine to help pay for travel (everything always goes back to that), it never occurred to me to write a book. But before I knew it, the articles developed a life of their own, and through a serious of events, suddenly I was self-publishing a memoir!

Can you tell the specific story behind the title ‘Without a Spare’? 

Early on in our travels, my friend Barbara and I discovered we had a flat tire on the morning we planned to leave Khartoum, Sudan to cross the Sahara. We didn’t want to wait another day, so we changed the tire and left without a spare. But the literal event turned out to be the perfect metaphor for most of my life. For me, planning eliminates a lot of the surprise and adventure and I plan almost nothing. If I knew where I’d be or what I’d be eating a week from now, I’d just as soon stay home.

What is the theme behind your HuffPost Travel column?

The column focuses on ‘How to do Exceptional Things Inexpensively’ and emphasizes the rewards of a personal approach. Chartering a gulet in Turkey, hiring a driver in India, being shown little-known Mayan jungle ruins in the Rio Bec area of Campeche, Mexico can be arranged for half the price of a pre-arranged tour if you speak directly with the people of the country you’re in. This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people skip this step.

Gulet in TurkeyHow has travel changed in the years you have been on the road? 

The biggest change is obviously technology (Jess recently wondered about technology and travel here). The whole point of getting away used to be getting away. Not being connected and doing things on your own was part of the appeal of sailing, hiking and why a “Gone Fishing” sign was posted in a shop window.  No one worried because they couldn’t reach you. Lastly, there are admission fees and printed t-shirts and tour buses for everything nowadays.

I find that you have to work much harder to have an authentic experience.

You are able to jump into adventure after adventure, seemingly with no fear. What do you think has allowed you to be so adventurous? Is this naiveté, self-confidence, both?

I just always believe things are possible. I come from a matriarchy where no matter how successful or physically large the men, the women have always been boss. I have to share one funny example of this. My ex was 6’5” tall and I am 5’3”. We’d been together a couple of years when one evening I saw our reflection in a huge mirror behind the bar where we were standing. “My God, you’re so much taller than me,” I said out loud. “You’re noticing this for the first time?” he laughed and said. I laughed back as it had never occurred to me for a moment that I wasn’t the same size as he was, yet I barely reached his shoulder.

What do you recommend for people who feel held back by fear in order for them to live life on their own terms? 

Why live a diminished life when we all know how the story ends? Do things you love or want to do. If you’re afraid, do them anyway. Don’t put things off.  You can’t always go back.

When you look back at your life so far, are there any regrets? Things you might have done differently, knowing what you know now?

Like a lot of young women, I focused on a physical flaw—specifically, I was the only one in a family of thin-legged people to have chubby thighs. It was thirty years ago but it still pains me to think that I was such an idiot I wouldn’t join everyone else diving off a boat into the Aegean on a particularly scorching hot day. One of the better things about getting older is that thankfully your values change. Today I’d balance chubby thighs with honesty and compassion as well as being so damned grateful to have boundless energy and be able to climb up the steepest ruins without a twinge. Ah, if only we could put an older head on younger shoulders.

Tikal ruins Guatemala

Inspiration station

What are your favorite books?

Portrait of a Turkish Family written by Ifran Orga,

Contents May Have Shifted by Pam Houston

No Hurry to Get Home by Emily Hahn, an author of 52 books and contributor to The New Yorker for more than seventy years. An unconventional woman way ahead of her time, Emily drove cross-country to Santa Fe before there were roads, hacked her way through Africa alone in the 1930s–adventures most women wouldn’t undertake even years later.

Do you have a mantra or a life’s motto?

Live an expansive, fabulous life, killing and destroying as little as possible along the way.   

What’s the Best Advice you’ve ever been given?

To maintain a debt-free life. My father took my first high school job paycheck and pretended to throw it down a sewer.  “This is what happens to your money when you pay finance charges,” he explained.  The concept of working hard all day with nothing to show for it made a huge impression. I saved my allowance in a manila envelope, took cash out when I wanted something, and paid myself back interest-free–and have never deviated from this system

What music inspires you when you are writing?

I like complete silence when I’m reading, painting, or writing, otherwise I’ll start dancing around the room, the way my mother also always did.

Do you actually know how many countries you have been to? If so, how many? 

Absolutely not, and I never will. I travel to learn, meet fascinating people and absorb the best of other cultures—sometimes staying in one place for months at a time. It’s the quality vs. quantity thing.  The only list I’ve ever made was with a friend I’ve known since high school and we wrote down the names of all the men we’d slept with. Oh, how we laughed going down that memory lane. But those details would be for another kind of interview!

What is one country you have yet to visit and feel drawn to travel to soon? 

India has always been a favorite country, but I’ve never been to the southeast coast. Hopefully I’ll rent a house in Pondicherry in the state of Tamil Nadu for a month next year. Lately, the Andaman and Nicobar islands off that same coast have been calling to me.

IndiaAs a lifelong globetrottergirl, what do you recommend for women interested in becoming independent travelers?

Wherever you are in the world, people’s lives are consumed by the same tasks, so be yourself and conduct yourself as you would at home. Take the same precautions. Whether I’m walking outside at night in Rio de Janeiro or New York City, I take my gold jewelry off.

Do you have any specific recommendations for 50+ women who may have never traveled independently? 

  1. Make your first independent trip to a small, easier place. Go to Scotland as opposed to India, for example.
  2. If you’re the kind of person who loses things, don’t forget copies of prescriptions for your eyeglasses and pills.
  3. If you are from the U.S. like me, one of the first things you will learn is that many countries have the same or even better quality of medical care than we do.
  4. Even the smallest B&B has a computer for reservations and will be happy to help you find something if they don’t know the answer themselves.

I tend to expect the best in people. I’ve noticed throughout the years that because I expect the best, I’m often treated better.  There’s no question that more things work out when you expect them to. That may be a good summation for all my life’s experiences.

How can people get in touch with Bonnie Kassel?

Your readers can visit my website,, check out Without a Spare on Amazon, stop by Facebook or read my column in the HuffPost Travel section. 

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GlobetrotterGirl of the Month April 2013: Ash Ambirge of The Middle Finger Project

Globetrottergirl of the month

Our ongoing GlobetrotterGirl of the Month series features women who have been able to break free and have incorporated a lifestyle of travel right into their own job description. No one embodies this idea of living life on your own terms like Ash Ambirge, of The Middle Finger Project. We first heard about Ash from two different women on opposite sides of the planet in one week. Both gushed about her, her lifestyle and her business, and since then I discovered that we share some favorite stomping grounds around the world! I signed up for her newsletter over at her website to find out more. Now, everyday when I get my daily update, I am super motivated to sit down, quit my bitchin’ and get sh*t done!

Ash is truly a force to be reckoned with, and while she plans to take her six-figure marketing business up to seven figures this year thanks to big dreams and a great new business partner, Ash has also had her fair share (and plenty of other shares) of adversity in her life. Her story is incredibly compelling and although reading parts of it feel so sad, this woman’s bad-ass way of overcoming it all and mastering her life make this month’s interview easily one of the most inspiring we’ve had on our site to date.

Read on to find out how Ash runs her business while living across 2-3 countries, plus squeezes in plenty of time for travel, too.

Meet Ash Ambirge

Ash Ambirge The Middle Finger ProjectWhere are you from originally?

Philly, baby. Philly. Land of the soft pretzels. (Because cheesesteaks really aren’t that good! Am I missing a chip?) Though I grew up in the Scranton area (yes, The Office), and went to school there, so I’m a NorthEast PA girl at heart!

Where are you currently based?

Eh, depends. I spend most of my time between Santiago, Chile, and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, with intermittent trips back to Philadelphia and Scranton, as well as a handful of other trips to new places. Last year my favorite was Ecuador. This year? I’m thinking Mexico, Colombia, Italy, Ireland are on the list.

Our GlobetrotterGirls theme of 2013 is Break Free. When did you ‘break free’ and decide to start up your bad-ass marketing company: The Middle Finger Project?

I love that theme! Break Free, for me, started the moment I first stepped in an office in 2005. I had just moved to the Philadelphia area with a college degree in hand, ready to become the next CEO of somewhere important. And then I was like, “Wait, this is it? I worked so hard for this?” So I left my job and started my first copywriting company, which was a huge hilarious joke and totally bombed. So I returned to the advertising world for a few years, gathered up some more guts, and then began TMFproject in 2009. I’ve never stepped foot in an office since.

The tagline on your site reads: Dropping F-Bombs and jaws since the beginning of time (rough estimate). Can you explain in more detail what The Middle Finger Project is all about?

We’re all about doing things differently. Whether that’s your life, your career, or your marketing. As a marketing agency, we specialize in personality – if you’re looking to add more personality to your corporate communications, or your brand, we’re the people for you. But our message is much greater than that. We attract thousands of people to the blog who don’t have businesses at all, but who are just looking for a better way to do things. A way that feels like they’re actually kicking ass and taking names in this life. A way that feels like they matter – and the shit they’re doing every day matters. That’s important, that shit.

If you had to give yourself a job title, what would it be?

Well, we’ve recently incorporated under a new name – are you ready? It’s House of Moxie, Inc., and according to those documents, I’m the President. 🙂 So there we have it. (House of Moxie will be separate from TMFproject, but is the umbrella corporation it sits under.)

Reading the ‘longer, more poetic version’ of your About page, it is clear just how much of a theme overcoming adversity played in your life growing up. Judging by your fabulous attitude and buckets of self-confidence, we’re guessing you don’t like to dwell on the past. Would you mind talking quickly about a couple of those challenges – and how you think you did get over them?

Ash AmbirgeAdversity happens in everyone’s life. It’s a part of all of us. But I’m continually interested in our varying responses to adversity – some people move on despite of it, and others cower under it. It’s not a matter of who’s better, but it’s the humanness of it all that interests me. Why do some thrive in the face? Why do others become overwhelmed? It seems that somehow, I developed some kind of mechanism that allows me to thrive in spite of. I’m very grateful for that, because there’s been a few things that could have really caused me to break.

As many people over at our TMFproject crew know, I’m a bit of loner. Not voluntarily, but because of perhaps the world’s most bizarre circumstances, I’ve got no living family left. It makes me sad to think about, sometimes. I remember the first day of my college internship at FOX-56 in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; I had spent the morning getting ready, trying to make the best first impression, when I got a call from “authorities” who said my mother was at home, an hour and a half away, and “unresponsive.” That I needed to get there quickly, but no one would tell me what “unresponsive” meant. I drove in a haze-like state home, with my college roommate, expecting to see a parade of ambulances and people with important uniforms; instead, there was nothing. It was silent. It was as if nothing had ever happened. I approached the door ever-so-cautiously, to be met with a note from the coroner on the door, telling me to call him. I never saw my mother again. They took her.

It’s things like that that really make a mark on your heart. As bizarre as this sounds, my first reaction was to approach things very methodically; practically. I remember the only thing I could do at the time was go into her bedroom – the room where she had passed, yet all of her things still remained in tact, from her pink glasses on the bedside table, to the computer still being on – and I robotically began to just slowly put everything into a trash bag. Books. Knick nacks. Her medicine. She had a blood clot in her leg, and was taking blood thinners for it, but it had decided to move and hit her lung that morning. But it was all very methodical. And while that sounds cold, I do think that I approach all crises in a similar manner; by just shutting down the emotion, and moving through it like a snow plow. I’m not sure that’s the best advice, but it’s my most honest advice.

As a result of the difficult high school years, money for college was tight (non-existent?) Would you mind sharing the story of how you got your scholarship?

Ha – yes. Non-existent. For a long time growing up, we lived on $769/month – I remember the number, because it was my job to go to the bank and deposit the checks. My mom did her best, though. Even though we lived in a trailer, it was the cutest trailer anyone’s ever seen, with a gorgeous yard covered in flowers and plants and raised gardens. The scholarship was being given by the founder of – he had grown up in a small rural town in Pennsylvania, and wanted to give back. So the scholarship was based on two different things: Financial need, and entrepreneurial potential. He was an entrepreneur, himself, so he believed in this very much. There were rounds and rounds of interviews, and eventually I made it to PennState against 4 other possible winners. We had to bring a “tangible” object to the meeting to demonstrate why we felt we had entrepreneurial potential. This is the story of how I won. 🙂 It’s very surreal to me now, looking back at those times, and very proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish. We’re looking to hit 7 figures this year, and I have no doubt that I have the tenacity to do that because of those earlier times.


You truly are a globetrotter, girl!  When did your passion for travel begin?

The very first time I heard a girl from my hometown speak Spanish. She was a few years older than me, and she had gone abroad for a year to Mexico. She came back and visited the ice cream stand where I had worked as a teenager for 8 summers in a row. When I asked her to say something in Spanish, the most exotic, eloquent words fell right out of her mouth, and I was stunned. We went on to have many coffee dates, where she would tell me stories of love affairs and salsa dancing and adventure. I decided right then in there I was going to study Spanish, which I did. I majored in Spanish (and later, PR), and first went abroad to Costa Rica when I was 19. It’s cliche, but it changed me forever. It helped me see possibility. It’s a big part of the reason why we’re starting the Life Hooky: Retreats for Confused People division of our company. More on that later. 😉

Since breaking free and starting your own business, where have you settled in to work and what destinations have you traveled through? How do you effectively balance work and travel?

I mentioned this before, that I spend the majority of my heavy work times in Chile and Costa Rica, mostly because I’ve got so many friends that feel like family in those places. I have an apartment in Chile that I return to (the same one, every time, in an aparthotel), and an apartment here in Costa Rica I return to every time, and each one of them feel like home. As for working and traveling, though? It’s hard as hell. It’s very challenging. You want to be outside on a sunny day walking through downtown Quito, exploring, but you’ve got to be finishing a project inside with Wifi. I mostly try to make sure that my biggest projects are completed when I’m in one place, so I can go on auto-pilot when traveling, just doing what’s necessary for the day-to-day so I can make sure I’m not sitting around in an apartment in Barcelona for 3 months…never having time to go explore, or having even found a favorite restaurant. (True story – I made that mistake a few years ago.)

You truly embody the idea of living life on your own terms. You’ve got life on lock! What is your best advice to block out voices of haters, naysayers and self-doubt for people looking to Break Free?

I don’t know – this seems like a non-issue to me. It’s more like…”Who cares?” When you know what you’re doing is right, they’re like a little ant on your radar. There’s not a lot of room to talk when you’re out and about in the world, doing everything they wish they were doing, and making a million bucks at the same time. That sounds arrogant, but sometimes a little arrogance is exactly what you need.

Ash Ambirge

Inspiration station

What books have influenced you?
Anything by Erma Bombeck – she was a humor columnist for women in the 60’s. She pushed every envelope there was. And she did so with a smirk. And she taught people to loosen up their shirt collars a little bit. We could all use a little Erma Bombeck – even today. That’s the irony.

What websites do you read on the daily?
None, unfortunately. I need to get more into this again! Been too distracted with our own projects. But I always pop by to see what Seth’s saying.

What music do you listen to when working? What music pumps you up?
I’m a hip hop girl through and through. That probably comes from my Scranton roots. 😉 But I listen to anything I can move to – even if I’m in the car. I don’t do soft. I don’t do slow. I don’t do sad. Only music that gets you going. I actually have a Spotify list called, “Playa please,” and you’ve got songs like Timbaland and JT’s “Give It To Me,” Jamie Foxx’s “Winner,” Sean Paul’s “She Doesn’t Mind.”

For those haters you mentioned in the previous question, “Could you speak up and stop mumbling, I don’t think you came in clear? When sitting on the top it’s hard to hear you from way up here,” lyrical ego boost never hurt anyone. Ha.

Do you have a mantra? How do you stay focused on meeting your goals?
My mantra is this: Excuses are for your competitors. Period.

As far as staying on track with goals? I hire people to help me. When you’ve got big dreams, big ideas, and lots of ‘em? You need to narrow it down, figure out what’s most important, and then go the hell at it. The best business decisions I’ve ever made include hiring other people who are smarter than me to make that happen. To go to the hell at it.

How many countries have you been to in total? What is your dream destination?
Eh, I don’t even know. A few. More than most. I’m constantly in a state of travel. Asia doesn’t call to me, for some reason, so I’m not hopped up to go there yet. My dream country is still Colombia – I’ve been waiting for the right time to go, though, because I want to have plenty of time to run around barefoot and explore as much as possible. It feels like the perfect mix between Central American flavor, and South American European. 🙂

Ash Collage

Looking to the future 

What’s on the horizon for next year? Any particular travel or business goals you can share with our readers?
Too much! A book – I’ve been approached by a few agents, which is exciting. Life Hooky: Retreats for Confused People. We’re starting a new corporate marketing division, spearheaded by my new business partner, Jenny. A new resource library over at TMF. A few other projects in the mix. And as for travel? I’m really thinking Colombia, Mexico and Brazil are on the list, while I’m over here. I’ll be back in Chile at some point, too, for a bit. Gotta love those Chileans. 😉

Lastly, how can someone hire Ash Ambirge?
Right now, the only projects I’m involved with are our copywriting projects – I’ve got a team of writers who I work with, and I oversee all creative direction. We’ve got The Copy Shop, and are rolling out a new Name Shop and Idea Shop soon. 🙂

If you want to know more about Ash and all of her incredible adventures and endeavors, you can find her at her website, The Middle Finger Project, or across social media on Facebook., If you have any questions or comments for Ash, you can leave them here below this post. 

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GlobetrotterGirl of the Month November 2013: Jill Stanton, Affiliate Marketing Expert at Screw the Nine to Five

Globetrottergirl of the month

Think you need a massive trust fund, already have famous film or music connections or be a creative genius to become a GlobetrotterGirl? Think again. As we’ve been highlighting this past year, women from all kinds of backgrounds are finding ways to balance a life of work and travel. What is so inspiring about our November GlobetrotterGirl of the Month, Jill Stanton, is that she proves that living a lucrative life on her terms from anywhere in the world can be done with an awesome attitude, a little bit of a knowledge and a whole lotta hustle.

Jill’s story is really inspiring for so many reasons. First of all her website, Screw the Nine to Five, says in five short words what we try to politely advocate in our GlobetrotterGirl of the Month interviews and our Break Free podcast. Together with her husband Josh, Jill just went ahead and said it  – Screw it! Screw the office, screw answering to someone else, screw making money for someone else! And they have done an amazing job at just that. Based in Thailand, possibly moving on to Vietnam and traveling around the world, Jill and her husband have grown a profitable affiliate marketing business from scratch and is living her best life because of it. Plus, Jill provides three concrete and super useful tips on how to get started and have success in this line of work.

Check out the entire amazing group of GlobetrotterGirls of the Month for 2013 here.

Jill Stanton

Meet Jill  

Where are you from? What is your background? What were you doing before you and Josh decided to screw the nine to five?

I’m from the Great White North—Toronto, Canada. Okay so it’s maybe not the “Great White” but I have an aversion to cold weather so anything under 10 degrees is considered the “Great White North” to me.

My background is actually in TV. I used to work with an agency back in Toronto and then dabbled in web TV and created 2 different web series, before finally making the move into a more sustainable business model, which is what I do now with my husband.

Our theme for 2013 is Break Free – did you feel a need to break free from your previous career or was it the pull to travel that made you break free?

Judging by your attitude toward the normal working rut and routine, I’d guess the former…

To be completely honest, I have not had a “job” in over 4 years and have never actually worked a 9-5 for more than 3 months. They just don’t jive with me. In fact, I truly believe I’m downright unemployable!

As for what made me want to break free and live this life? Freedom. The freedom to do what I want, where I want, how I want has always been my driving force.

Jill in ThailandDo you consider yourself to be a nomad or semi-nomadic with a base?

I guess I am semi-nomadic as I tend to stay in a spot for at least a few months. I personally prefer to have a routine that I can stick to and work as much as I can wherever I am versus floating around and never having any structure.

I know that works for a lot of people, but if I do that I just won’t work! Now, that may not sound as glamorous as a lot of other globetrotters, but I just love working on our business! I just prefer to do it from charming spots such as the islands, the Thai mountains, the South Island of New Zealand, or Costa Rica…where I even snuck in some work on my wedding week!

Where are you based right now? When did you move there?

I am currently in Chiang Mai, Thailand but we’re thinking of making the move to Vietnam shortly. I arrived here in Thailand at the beginning of this year and spent a few months out on the islands, but eventually got a little restless and decided to move to Chiang Mai in April to be around all the other online entrepreneurs who work out of Chiang Mai.

Can we see a picture of where you are currently based?

Of course! I have attached a photo of the view off our pool deck…it’s our little happy spot here in Chiang Mai and is the place we go to just chill, unwind, and watch the sunset.

Chiang Mai pool and viewWhat is your ‘job title’ now?

I guess you could say I’m lifestyle business owner…although that doesn’t sound like a very sexy title, does it? Maybe I should switch that to a professional 9-5 Screwer? Hahaha!

How did you come to create Screw the Nine to Five?

We actually came up with the idea on our wedding week while we were sitting on our balcony in Costa Rica sipping wine. We had been working on our affiliate marketing business for close to a year at that point and had amassed all these strategies and tips and wanted to be able to help others live a life they loved…instead of settling for the conventional.

And so, Screw the Nine to Five was born. I even registered the domain name a few short days before our ceremony just to make sure I could lock it in and make it happen.

Nice, always hustling!

Affiliate Marketing is essentially a way for companies to reach customers they may have never reached by encouraging trustworthy online sources to help market their product in exchange for a commission.

In simple terms, how does that look for you, as the owner of several affiliate marketing sites?

Affiliate marketing is simply the process of reviewing products and including one or two links to that product within your review. If a reader then clicks on that link and buys the product you are reviewing, you make a commission.

Editor’s note:  You can read Pat Flynn’s affiliate marketing bible over on for much more information!
Jill Stanton

How did you get involved with affiliate marketing in the first place? Who were some of your biggest online influences?

I actually learned all about it from my husband who had been dabbling in affiliate marketing for about 5 years before we teamed up together. It was helpful for me since I was a rookie. I could ask him questions and get some reassurance that I was on the right path without too much second guessing.

As for online influences, you know, I didn’t really have any in affiliate marketing. However, I have a whole bunch of women that I look to and read regularly, such as Marie Forleo, Ashley Ambirge (a fellow GlobetrotterGirl!), Melanie Duncan, Danielle LaPorte, and Gabrielle Bernstein who are each fabulous marketers. I also really dig David Siteman Garland from The Rise to the Top. His show has been incredibly helpful along my journey as well.

Now, I read that you hate the word ‘guru’, but you two really are pros at this. How many websites do you run and what kinds of products do you market? 

We have 18 websites ranging from skincare and beauty to websites that promote only one product. My biggest site is the skincare website which gets about 50-75k visits per month and sells products ranging from acne products to anti-aging creams, stretch mark solutions to scar remedies.

We also make it a point on that site to offer as much free content as we can and not just sell to our audience. Meaning, each week we release a free DIY remedy that helps our audience fix their ailments without having to just buy something from us.

We pretty much cover it all on that site!

Does your income restrict you to South East Asia or could you base yourself in North America, Europe or Australia?

In other words, is affiliate marketing a viable and lucrative model?

Of course! I just personally love South East Asia because it allows us to save heaps of money which we then re-invest back into our business.

For example, back in Toronto I spent about $4,000 a month just to live in a crappy apartment with neighbours who would scream hatred at each other, all day every day. Compare that to Chiang Mai where spending $4,000 a month gives me a beautiful apartment overlooking the mountains, as well as maid service, monthly memberships to a co-working space, a content and social media manager, a full-time virtual assistant, a video production team, and a web developer that I use for contract work.

I could easily afford to live back in the Western world—and I plan on it next year—but I wanted to come here for a year and a half to get our business to the spot it’s at now.

All in all, affiliate marketing is a great way to make as much money as you want. You just have to be willing to work for it.

Jill StantonHow does being an affiliate marketer and online marketing person allow you to travel the world?

Well, it allows you to work from anywhere in the world you want, as long as there is an internet connection. So that means you could work from a tropical beach, a chalet in the mountains, or a quaint little seaside town in Europe if you wanted to.

All you need is your laptop and a wifi connection.

What are the biggest challenges in the world of affiliate marketing?


Google updates and search rankings are easily my biggest obstacle and they are constantly changing, which means that you have to stay on top of your game and adapt to the new changes at the drop of a hat.

If you don’t, you run the risk of your sites (and income) crashing. But that’s part of the fun, I guess. Nothing ever stays the same and my main challenge is to stay agile in my business. It definitely keeps things interesting around here!

Can you give people just starting out three tips to help them get involved in affiliate marketing?

Of course!

#1: Know what niche you want to enter. If you don’t know what you would like to write about start with this hack:

Ask yourself is there something you love doing, something you know really well, or something you already do for a living that you could transfer into an affiliate website? If so, write it down.

#2: Start doing some research to see who is doing what in your chosen niche. Are there big players in your industry that you would be going up against? How could you differentiate yourself and stand out?

Are there products in your industry that you could promote? The easiest way of finding this out is to search some popular products in your industry and look for affiliate programs. So, using skincare as a niche I would search something like {skincare “affiliate program” } in Google and see what pops up.

#3: Brainstorm a list of at least 25 topics you could write on (apart from product reviews) so you have at least 6 months worth of content available if you do choose to move into that particular industry.

If you can’t come up with 25 topics, chances are you are going to feel burnt out and frustrated within only a few months.

Look at other sites and use their content as inspiration. You don’t have to think up everything on your own—model someone else’s content and make it your own.

Just make sure your site isn’t all product reviews pushing similar products, otherwise you will lose a reader’s trust before you even have the chance to gain it.

You live/work/travel with your partner, Josh. This can be extremely rewarding, but it can also be difficult at times to spend literally day and night with your partner (don’t we know it!).

We love your post on how to not strangle your partner. Can you share your biggest piece of advice here for couples who work and travel together full-time?

Patience. That has been my biggest lesson as I’m much more fire-y than my husband is. I have since learned that you really have to take your ego out of any work (or relationship) arguments you have and work together on a solution.

Remember, that person is your best friend and you want to treat them with love and respect, not like an employee that you boss around.

Jill Stanton and her partner Josh

Inspiration Station

Favorite Books?
Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson. I’m just about to start Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, which I’m pretty excited to read.

What music do you work to?
When I work I listen to the Focus at Will web app. It helps increase your productivity by playing music that you can zone out of and crank out work.

However, if I’m not writing I love listening to The Sheepdogs!

What motto/mantra do you live by?
Stay hungry, stay humble.

Favorite travel quote
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

How many countries have you traveled to?
Only 12 so far but that’s about to change in 2014 as we have trips planned to Vietnam, Cambodia, Philippines, Mexico, Peru, and the US (San Diego specifically)!

Do you have expert travel advice for our already well-traveled readers?
One thing I have learned is to not judge a place too quickly. I tend to make snap judgements on locations, but once I settle in somewhere my views normally change.

Oh, and don’t plan too much and go with the flow…a lesson I’m still trying to implement!

How can people get in touch with Jill Stanton?

Website: Screw The Nine to Five
Facebook: Say No To Nine to Five
YouTube: Screw The Nine to Five TV
Or you can contact Jill Stanton directly by email.

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GlobetrotterGirl of the Month October 2013: Arlan Hamilton, Live Music Tour Production Coordinator & Startup Consultant

Globetrottergirl of the month

Traveling all over the States and the globe with rockstars in tow, Arlan Hamilton is responsible for more in a day than most of us are in a week – but that’s what keeps her career as a Live Music Tour Production Coordinator fresh and exciting each time she does a new tour. Plus, she was cut out for a life of travel since she was just a young girl. Read on to find out about her obsession with time zones when she was a kid, what concert when she was 13 changed her life, plus – just how much more can Arlan squeeze in with all the touring and travel in her personal life? You’ll see four of the start-ups she’s excited about right now in her role as a Start-Up Consultant, too.

A true world traveler, globetrotter and all-around overachiever, few deserve the title of GlobetrotterGirl of the Month more than our October girl, Arlan Hamilton.

Arlan Hamilton

Meet Arlan Hamilton

Where are you from?

I was born in Jackson, MS and raised in Dallas, TX.

Where are you currently based and where have you lived?

I’ve very recently relocated to Portland, OR after heading there for a meeting with a start-up I am working with. I have lived in Los Angeles, San Diego, Houston, Dallas, Austin, Chicago, Columbus OH and Jackson, MS.

You have multiple, parallel careers, but what is your job description(s)?

I am a Live Music Tour Production Coordinator and Director. I am also a freelance consultant to entrepreneurs, investors and startup company teams. I am a lesbian blogger with thousands of awesome readers from around the world and a former magazine publisher.

It seems you have always had wanderlust, starting from your obsession with time zones in 3rd grade. Can you share that story with our audience?

I was kind of a loner as a child and was constantly daydreaming about being somewhere else. Instead of playing on the playground at recess, most days I would sit around and think and imagine.

When I was in the 3rd grade, I wore six watches to school – three on each arm.  I was obsessed with the idea of time zones. The fact that it was nighttime somewhere else when it was daytime where I lived was so fascinating to me. So each watch was set to a different time zone. I can’t remember them all, but I remember an African region and Hawaii were two of them. In 4th grade I cut this down to two watches.

Do you think that your wanderlust had an affect on what career path you ultimately chose?

It absolutely did…without a doubt. When I was 13, I went to my first concert. It was Janet Jackson and it changed my life. I had a lawn ticket but was handed a front row ticket by a crew member. I remember looking back at thousands of people of all races, ages, and backgrounds singing along to every word.

It was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen and I made a decision that night to find a way to be part of whatever THAT was for the rest of my life. I didn’t know at the time that it would lead to working on tours, but ultimately it did. Today I give out a couple of premium tickets to fans in nosebleed seats at every show I can, to pay it forward.

Arlan Hamilton on stageHow did you first become a Tour Production Coordinator?

When I was 21 and bored at work, I came across a tribute song to one of my favorite singers, P!nk. It was so cute and funny, and when I looked into it, I discovered the band was a Norwegian pop-punk band called ‘goldenboy’. I tracked them down online, immediately loved them and then, following my instincts, eventually invited myself to Norway to meet them.

They turned out to be the nicest guys on the planet, so I went a few steps further and invited myself to be their tour booker/manager in order to get them to perform in the States. So I set about teaching myself how to book shows at small clubs around the country to make that happen.

This was a system of trial and error using the Yellow pages, dozens of 411 calls and a filing system in my living room, while trying to convince guys named things like “Snake” and “Bizkit” that I knew what I was talking about.

I got the summer tour in place, put together the itinerary, planned hotel stays, printed and sold merch, drove a ton, dealt with payment at each club every night, kept up with the budget, made sure my guys didn’t go to jail for dancing on top of the van drunk and naked (I guess that’s legal in Norway?), and did whatever else was needed.

It turns out, this was what a “tour manager” was. That’s probably the most fun I have ever had on tour.

What tours have you have worked on?

Tours with goldenboy, Terra Naomi, Courtney Fairchild, CeeLo Green, Goodie Mob, Kirk Franklin, Amanda Palmer, and a few concerts with Eric Benet, Alanis Morissette, Snow Patrol and others.

What is an average day like on tour?

This depends entirely on the artist, the tour size and venue. For instance, CeeLo does mostly fly dates and one-off concerts all over the world. His team flies in from around the US and UK to meet him the night before the show, and I work with his tour manager on travel arrangements, show details for the crew, tour the venue with the local production manager and make sure the artist is comfortable before hitting the stage. Those are always 14-16 hour days whether it is weeks before or the day of the actual concert.

Arlan Hamilton Tour BusBus tours require the same long hours and hard work, but are very different. You get into a rhythm – after the show everyone jumps on the bus to hang and unwind. I sleep in a bunk, which has a small TV and DVD players and fairly comfortable. The bus is like a hotel on wheels, but it is very tight quarters and we share with at least 8 and up to 10 other people, waking up in hotel or venue parking lots at 7am to get the day started. I organize local production assistants for the day and show the crew, band and artists around each new venue so they know where everything is located like restrooms, production offices, stage and eating area. Throughout the day, highly skilled technical and creative crew from all departments as well as artists and band members come in and out of the production office with requests and questions. It’s my job to answer what I can or find someone who knows the answer, and keep things moving as efficiently as possible. No two days are the same and its 50% troubleshooting.

It’s also my job to make sure 3-4 meals per day for 40+ people are up to standards and are as ordered. It’s important to keep everyone’s spirits high and to keep up with how everyone is feeling if you can. It’s a big family traveling in tight quarters for weeks on end, and so things can get tense. Part of my job is to be someone people feel comfortable coming to with any interpersonal issues so that they don’t get out of hand and start affecting the show. I also have to keep myself in check and try not to spread any sort of negativity.

In addition to all of that I communicate schedule changes to the whole team and field calls from management and record labels. By show time, the crew has been working for 10 hours and we are alert and on call during the show. There’s usually a nice 30 or so minute period right in the middle where I can watch part of the show from the side of the stage or walk around the venue to feel the energy of the crowd.

After the show, I help backstage with family and guests, VIPs and VIP-VIPs, and of course fans trying to sneak back or talk their way back – just like I used to! At the end of the day, I shower at the venue, hop on the bus for a slice of pizza and hopefully that day’s General Hospital episode if the bus gets SoapNet. Then sleep, rinse and repeat!

Which artist would be your dream tour to work on?

I would LOOOOVE to tour with Pink, Melissa Etheridge, Adele, Katy Perry, Janet Jackson, Celine Dion and Patty Griffin during my career.

Arlan Hamilton with celebritiesChanging gears now, somehow in between all that touring, you work with start-ups in a consulting capacity? What does that involve?

I only work with startups I absolutely LOVE so that I can be naturally enthusiastic and honest when I promote them to other people. The companies range from 1-20 people in size, but always start-ups.

I am currently working with four start-ups:

  1. is a video on demand website for independent lesbian films. Like having a lesbian film festival in your living room at all times, Buskfilms is run by Andrea Wing and is a company for lesbians, by lesbians.
  1. lets artists perform anywhere in the world with a laptop and Wi-Fi connection. Your favorite artist could do a 40 minute set from her patio to a crowd who is watching in real time after having bought tickets online. I LOVE the concept!
  1. helps content creators monetize their content. Many musicians or other YouTubers might only make $200/month on advertising despite 100,000 subscribers. With Patreon, fans can contribute a couple of bucks each month to their favorite YouTube bands, who can now make $500, $1000 per clip. Only 6 months old, the platform is changing lives by allowing artists to make legitimate money in proportion to their fan base.
  1. is my current startup crush. This clothing company for tomboys and rebels knows their customer so well – probably because they ARE their own customers. A smart and lean start-up, they can have an idea on Monday and execute it on Friday. Wildfang is the reason I visited Portland and ended up falling in love with the city enough to move here.

How much time do you spend on the road each year?

In 2012, I was home roughly four months out of the year, if you add it all up together. About 90 per cent of that was actually for work both touring and start up related. Whenever I can, I stay in a city for a few extra days to unwind and visit the city, too, but often we run through a ton of cities in a blur. In 2013 I was home roughly six months and traveling for six, but 2014 looks to be shaping up to be about eight months of travel again like 2012 was.

Arlan Hamilton tour manager

Inspiration Station

What countries have you traveled to – either for work or for play?
Germany, England, Norway, Australia, Canada several times each, plus  Switzerland, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, United Arab Emirates and Jamaica.

How many US states have you been to?
38 count at last count, and those were many times each…I traveled to 13 states on a road trip this past September alone.

Favorite book
Winning Without Losing by Martin Bjergegaard and anything by Richard Branson.

 What quote inspires you?
“I have lived so much that someday they will have to forget me forcibly…My heart was inexhaustible.” – Pablo Neruda

And specifically a travel quote?
I’m not sure if it’s a quote as much as a motto: Half the fun of reaching your destination is getting lost along the way.

Do you have a mentor or life/business coach?
Yes, I’m fortunate enough to have a few! One is Martin Bjergegaard in Denmark. Author of my favorite book, he is also co-founder of a startup factory and one of the most generous people I’ve ever known. Despite being incredibly busy, he takes time to answer questions or introduce me to someone he thinks will influence me positively.

It was through Martin I met Hampus Jakobsson in Sweden. Hampus knows a bit about successful startups, having co-founded a company that sold for $150 million in 2010. He always cuts to the chase, which I appreciate immensely, and helps me with business and investing questions. A third mentor, also in Denmark, has been incredibly supportive of my vision and what I want out of life and has taken me under his wing as well.

What is your best advice for independent travelers?
Make as many memories—if not more–with your camera off as with it on. Put the camera down sometimes and take it all in. Also, be willing to get lost or have your plans change drastically. Go with the flow and see what might happen!

How can people get in touch with you?

Twitter: @ArlanWasHere

Instagram: ArlanWasHere

Facebook: DailyArlan

Blog: Your Daily Lesbian Moment

Email: [email protected]


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New Series! GlobetrotterGirl of the Month: Natalie Morawietz

Globetrottergirl of the month

As a part of our Break Free theme in 2013, we have started a brand new GlobetrotterGirl of the Month series. Each month, we will interview one super-inspiring GlobetrotterGirl and find out just how she was able to break free and to live life on her own terms. The longer we travel the more often we hear from people that they ‘wish’ they could do what we do, how ‘lucky’ we are or how they live vicariously through us. Believe me when I say that we feel extremely blessed and articulate to each other every day how full and exciting our lives feel. However, we have one little secret that’s not a secret at all – you can live your life this way. You can be a GlobetrotterGirl or GlobetrotterGuy, too. We will expose how at least 12 women stepped outside of their comfort zone and broke free from all those things that held them back to live the life of their dreams.

We thought we would start this out with a bang! Seriously impressed when we heard her story, this month we are interviewing Natalie, who has taken her experience driving giant trucks across Africa and South America as a tour guide to creating an overlanding adventure tour company, Infinite Adventures, with her partner Dave. They start an Alaska trip in June for small groups as soon as they have finished kitting out their big yellow school bus. Her stories of driving through Africa as quite possibly the only female truck driver/mechanic/tour guide are incredible – especially when you consider that she was a just a small town girl from Germany who took a trip that changed her life…

We hope you enjoy the interview and the new series, and as always, would love to hear your feedback and comments below.

Meet Natalie Morawietz

Natalie MorawietzWhere are you from?

I am from Germany. I was born in a small town, but I lived nearly ten years in Nuremberg, where I went to university and had an “office job”.

You are now running a company called Infinite Adventures. Can you tell us a little bit about what you do and how you got started?

Infinite Adventures is an Adventure Overland Tour Company. I started this company together with Dave (who I met working in Africa) as we both love the idea of overlanding and thought that this is missing in North America, especially with the rough terrain and outdoor fun that’s possible here. Travelling in a remodeled yellow school bus, we will take small groups on active adventures while exploring culture, wildlife and outdoor activities in Alaska and the Western US. The “heart” of our camping focused adventures is the overland vehicle; which has ample space to move around, tables to play cards or journal and big windows where you won’t miss a great shot of a bear or moose!

When and what steps did you take to break free? 

I was looking for an alternative to my position as a project manager for a few years, but I never could quite figure out what I actually wanted in life. So in 2010, I finally decided to take a six-month break.

Natalie in Africa I confronted my boss by saying, “Either I get six months unpaid leave or I will quit.” I must have been very convincing cause I had the “yes” within two days. When I first travelled to South Africa in 2002, I fell in love with the continent. Since that first trip, I have explored many of the countries in Southern and Eastern Africa, so when I was thinking where to travel for six months I knew it was definitely there. As I hadn’t been to the Western part I started my adventures in Cameroon…

You once mentioned that after two weeks in West Africa you realized there was no way of going back to your old job. I think that many people feel that flutter of excitement when just ‘on vacation’ for two weeks. How was your feeling different to someone who feels like they could just pack up and move to Cancun or Belize during their vacation, but then ultimately go back to work? Do you feel like the feelings are very different or that you just listened to your gut whereas others might not?

Difficult question. But I think my feelings were stronger than for many other people, who might just be carried away in their holiday feeling, but ultimately enjoy having a stable life. I think that many people also see too many difficulties in starting a whole new life. My feeling of freedom was just so overwhelming I could not give it up anymore. Freedom and travelling and exploring always played a big part in my life, but I could never live it to the extent I wanted to being busy living a “normal” life: university, earning money and also being in a relationship for many years.

It was a perfect time in my life as I had no boyfriend, no kids and I was definitely over my job.

Before starting up Infinite Adventures, you were a tour leader for an overlanding tourism company, meaning you were a female driving (and repairing) huge trucks in Africa and South America. This is a particularly unconventional type of life. First of all, how did you feel as female in a traditionally male role, in traditional societies? Did you ever doubt yourself, feel unsafe, etc? Can you talk a little bit about a couple of highlights from these experiences? And also quickly – how long did you work as a tour leader in this way?

I worked as a tour leader, driver and mechanic for one and a half years between Cairo to Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro to Quito. When I started this job I had no clue about auto mechanics. I didn’t even a truck-driving license. I knew I loved working with my hands, and was just one hundred percent convinced that this is what I wanted and put all my energy towards it.

It is the best feeling in the world when you manage to fix your truck as a girl on your own.

Natalie MorawietzOne day my truck refused to go into reverse. I was stuck with the nose pointed to a wall. Fifteen passengers were tired after a game drive and all they wanted was to get to the next destination to relax, so the pressure was all on me. Local mechanics showed up and tried their luck, because I had initially doubted I could manage it on my own. But in the end, it was me who knew my truck best. I saw the “so-called” mechanics doing all kinds of things wrong and I just knew it was on me or we wouldn’t be leaving that day. I sat back, took a deep breath and thought about it. Then, the solution popped into my head. It took about 15 minutes to adjust the gear lever and finally my truck popped into reverse! Relief and the feeling of being invincible washed over me! I made it, on my own, without any help after all.

It’s hilarious when you are diving and guys are staring and giving you thumbs up, waving, calling others or pointing at you. Or you just pull into a service station and you already expect to hear something like “you are a far too small to drive the truck, how can you be so strong?” Most African men seem to mix up strong minds and attitudes and physical strength 😉 And it’s great when you meet African women who tell you shy and proudly, “I would love to do the same as you.”

On the topic of safety, there were hardly any moments I felt unsafe, either in Africa or South America. You very quickly get a feeling for situations and just walking like you know what you are doing makes a huge difference! For example, I had two totally different experiences in Egypt. The first time I went a few years ago, I was backpacking on my own and men wouldn’t stop harassing me. It got to the point where I really wanted to leave the country. The second time I had a purpose: I was driving a big truck, working with Egyptian men in workshops and walking down streets focused on the things I wanted and had to do. I had hardly any men harassing me and every mechanic in the workshop treated me with respect. Of course they still couldn’t believe I was driving and repairing this truck; preferring to bring me tea and getting their hands dirty instead of me.

Did you have fears related to not living a conventional life? (How you would earn enough money, retirement funds, maintaining friendships, etc?)

I had had these kinds of thoughts and fears before I left Germany. That’s why I started my travels with taking six months off and having a guaranteed job back home. But as soon as I was out in Africa and seeing all these people struggling day by day, I completely lost any fears. Most African people fight every day just to feed their families. They have the hardest life you can imagine and they are still smiling and offering you to join them for dinner. It starts to seem ridiculous worrying about your savings account or pension.

Natalie MorawietzLeaving my friends and family behind is of course the hardest part. But good friends stay with you no matter what. And with Skype and email, you can stay pretty well in contact. I know my parents struggle sometimes with the situation, but there is nothing I can really do about it. Should I go home and live a life I don’t want to have?

How do you maintain your lifestyle? 

Well, as a tour leader you are getting paid. Not a lot, in fact a lot less than I earned in my old office job. Personal expenses are low, so it’s pretty easy not to spend your wages and still have some tip money to buy beers.

With Infinite Adventures now, it is a little bit different. I am putting all my energy and savings into getting Infinite Adventures going. Starting a business takes hard work and sacrifice, and I hope the effort will yield success in my future. I like to say: If your dreams don’t scare you they’re not big enough!

Where have you visited that you had built up huge stereotypes about and couldn’t have been more wrong about?

Difficult question, but probably the United States of America (haha): Lots of Europeans have many stereotypes about America and so did I. And some of them are true, but living here the last few months I can see a different side of it, too. For example, I knew that this country is big, but how big it is and what consequences that has politically is interesting. The stereotype about Americans not leaving their own country becomes clearer, too. When you move around the United States you have everything from icebergs and glaciers up in Alaska to the desert in Arizona. In Europe, you would have to travel through many different countries to see so many different landscapes… Plus every state has a different culture, too.

Is there one place in particular that has changed you more than other places?

Well, this is for sure Africa as a whole continent: The people, the smells, the animals and so much more.

Tip your hat to Africa

Inspiration station

Do you have a book or books that have influenced you that you can recommend to our readers?

Well, I have to admit that on the road there is not much time to read. Tour leading is basically a 24-hour a day job. You see and experience so much every day that you don’t need to read about anything anymore, you’re LIVING it! But, if I have time, I do love reading books about the countries I am visiting: fiction or travel writing – that doesn’t matter. I really liked Ryszard Kapuściński who wrote awesome travel books. At the moment I am reading Travels in Alaska by John Muir and getting excited about outdoor adventures…

What music is playing on your speakers right now (or, do you have favorite bands/genres/ for work/social occasions)? 

Haha, sorry, this is a funny question and all my former passengers and co-drivers know why… not sure if I should embarrass myself and tell you that I love pop, 80s and all that dance stuff. When I am driving, I usually perform my silly “driving/cab dance” which involves raising one arm in the air…enough said.

Who is your role model/mentor; whom do you look to for leadership? 

Actually no one in specific: I admire people who have the courage to live a life off the beaten path… and those people who fight for their freedom and human rights…

How many countries have you been to?


What is the one place you haven’t been that you can’t wait to go?

One place? This world is far too big and so many things are waiting out there! Well, first it will be the wilderness of Alaska, but I am not going to stop there…

What’s on the horizon for Infinite Adventures?

In the next few months we are focusing on the remodeling of the school bus. We already have the back locker and all the storage facilities in and there are many more things to come: seats and tables, the roof rack, a new entry door… at the moment I am also looking into all the equipment we need: tents, kitchen equipment and of course, tools – I can’t wait to be under a truck again!

Our first trip will start in June, departing from Anchorage.

Where and how can people get in touch with Natalie Morawietz?

Infinite Adventures
Infinite Adventures on Facebook

Twitter: @Infiniteadv

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GlobetrotterGirl of the Month December 2013: Melanie Folcik Barillaro, Corporate Pilot and Aviation Emergency Specialist

Globetrottergirl of the month

As we bring the first year of our GlobetrotterGirl of the Month series to an end, it make sense to reflect on the obvious question: just what makes a GlobetrotterGirl?

A GlobetrotterGirl is someone who is smart, savvy, an independent traveler who has found a way to incorporate their passion for travel into a career they love. You might remember some, like Bonnie Kassel and Torre DeRoche, who have been long-term travelers and then written about it. Or Ash Ambirge and Jill Stanton who built location independent businesses in order to live, work and travel wherever they feel like it. Still other have travel built right into their professional lives, like Arlan Hamilton, Katrine Hyllegaard and Nat Morawietz.

Our final GlobetrotterGirl of 2013 fits into this category, and it seems so fitting to feature pilot (and proclaimed St Croix beach bum) Melanie Folcik Barillaro. In this fascinating interview, we cover Melanie’s unconventional path to becoming a successful pilot, how and why aviation is such a male-dominated field, her love of adventure, inspiring travel tips and why you really shouldn’t be scared to fly. Our personal favorite part of this interview is Melanie’s description of her first solo flight.

For more inspiration heading into 2014, check out the other, incredible 11 GlobetrotterGirls of the Month from this past year who have all managed to create a career they love without ever having to sacrifice their passion for travel.

Melanie Folcik Barillaro

Meet Melanie Folcik Barillaro

Melanie, thanks so much for this interview. You currently have parallel careers as a Corporate Pilot and Aviation Emergency Specialist. Where did your interest in aviation in general first come from?

I was born and raised in Connecticut and was working as an EMT – Emergency Medical Technician – when I had the opportunity to fly in Connecticut’s Emergency rescue helicopter.

You could say it was love at first flight.

I realized I wanted to be the one flying, not sitting in the back. I immediately signed up for flight lessons at a local airport and held down my job working full time as an EMT to eliminate any debt when I finished the lessons. I completed three ratings in exactly one year: my Private Pilot, Instrument and Commercial Pilot licenses.

When I ‘soloed’ for the first time, there was no greater feeling in the world! The ropes of the earth unravel and you are set free! I’ve always pictured myself of a caged dove (odd, I know) with a chain around my ankle secured to the ground. When I soloed, that chain was severed, the cage lifted and that was when I knew, I was finally free.

Melanie flyingMelanie with plane


I finished on October 14th, which was the exact day, years before, that Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in flight. One month later I started working as a flight instructor.

Before we get into the details, let’s find out a couple of things. First:  how many countries have you been to?

I have been to all 50 states except Hawaii, traveling extensively through Alaska and also the Caribbean, plus I have ventured through South America and Mexico, but oddly enough have not spent nearly enough time exploring Europe. There is still time though!

Second: You have an incredible list of qualifications – many of which go beyond your life in the air. What does a list of all of your adventurous and life-saving qualifications look like?

I am an Airline Transport Pilot with type ratings and am completing my Helicopter ATP pilot license. I am a flight instructor in single engine, multi-engine, seaplanes and tail-wheel aircraft, a rescue diver with PADI, a certified Class A skydiver with the USPA, an EMT with the state of Connecticut, an American Heart Association instructor, an OSHA compliance contractor, an instructor, a prospective sailor in the making, a traveling addict and an adventure junkie!

What were the steps involved in starting a career as a pilot?

To become a commercial pilot (a pilot who can be paid to fly) you have to complete 40 hours in flight to become a private pilot, then a minimum of 40 more hours flying in the clouds (instrument endorsed), then a grand total of 150 hours to qualify completely as a commercial pilot.

The first thing I did was to sign up for lessons with an instructor and worked with him 3-4 days a week in flight learning emergency procedures, special maneuvers, navigation, communication and pilotage. The bookwork I completed as self-study. Testing with the FAA consisted of written, oral and practical exams.

I want to encourage people to avoid the university route if only to save thousands of dollars. My entire training was $25,000 while university costs at places like ERAU, ATP, Colgate might even cost that per year.

Melanie Folcik BarillaroMarch right down to your local small airport. You know the one. The one with little tail dragger aircraft tied down and the beat up old building. Ask for their oldest, most well spoken instructor and sign up. You will pay a fraction of the price for your flight training. This real-life experience will lead to job prospects that you would never find at a university.

The license I had at the entry level point would have already allowed me to work flying skydivers, as an instructor, towing banners or flying blood at night, for example. From there you can continue flying and getting ratings as you gain experience.

You were able to get your license and three ratings by the time you were 24 years old. A major accomplishment to say the least! Is this when you became a self-proclaimed St Croix bum? 

Yes, I became a commercial pilot just shy of my 24th birthday and not long after starting as a flight instructor, I was hired as a private pilot to fly in the Caribbean. I was flying Caravans and Pilatus into the islands of Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Barts and other islands that passengers requested. We landed in tight airports in vacation destinations. It was a tough, but charming life.

The job brought us (pilots and crews) to St Croix and we lived there during the seasons when we flew. I fell in love with the island and it immediately just felt like home. It was quaint, peaceful and had barely any tourists.

This is where I grew as a person, found myself, healed from a broken heart and became a scuba diver. I still return to STX (that’s St Croix, in airport speak) several times a year and plan on retiring on-island when the time is right.

Melanie divingWhat is it that continues to draw you back to St Croix?

One word: Irie. It is a word in Patois that means to be at total peace with your current state of being. Life on St Croix combines the people, the food, the diving, the aquatic life under the sea, the sunsets (oh the sunsets), the dark, dark nights and the sunrises in Point Udall in a way that truly arouses your soul. You simply sit on the wall in the dusky warm air and wait. As the sun peeks up over the horizon and splashes the sky and the clouds and the ocean with a vibrant orange and pink explosion…you just get it.

At least I do. I know I have achieved my Irie.

How long did you spend living on St Croix? What was the balance of time spent in the air vs on the beach?

I lived there on and off for two years while flying and the lifestyle was very laid back and a lot of fun. When we weren’t working our long days, we were expected to clean and wash the aircraft every night. I think every crew member found a way to enjoy their time individually, but mostly we enjoyed crazy events like hermit crab racing, dancing on full-moon nights out on the beaches, scuba diving together, playing drunkin-tennis (don’t ask!) and falling in love with each other’s spirit. The people in my condo, which we labeled the Frat House, would change my life forever.

What made you leave island life?

I moved off island when I got my first job flying jets in Florida and then in New York. I missed the islands every day but continued to fulfill my dreams of becoming Captain of several jets and learning about all the states in America as I traveled.

I decided not to fly for an airline, as I prefer corporate aviation. I continue to do private charter flights and am based out of the home airport KBDL. I still do flight instruction with students as well, though I am taking a quick break to start the makings of a family!

Melanie Folcik BarillaroWhat is your take on this bit of ‘news’ recently that 51% of British passengers surveyed by don’t trust female pilots? In the year 2013?!

I read this article and had to chuckle. In fact, I’m known for my contagious smile, and when I welcome people on board the aircraft with that smile, people are very excited to fly with me. I have never once had a passenger that was concerned when I buckled into the left seat and began the process of aircraft start up and departure.

The article as well as this one on highlight that in North America, only 5% of pilots are female, citing a stressful, male-dominated environment, high out-of-pocket training and specialization costs and the amount of time spent away from home as reasons.

What is your personal opinion on why the number of female pilots is so low?

I agree that this is a very male dominated field. I wonder if this never intimidated me because I left one very male-dominated field (emergency medicine) to join another, aviation.

Perhaps women do not believe they have what it takes, or the lifestyle doesn’t appeal. But I have met fabulous women pilots that have captained aircraft along side me and they are by far some of the most responsible, critical thinking professionals I have ever had the honor to fly with. They balance a beautiful ballet of their dream job and their dream life seamlessly, with husbands and children and houses and dogs to greet them when they are not in the sky.

I think possibly we as a society rarely see images or hear stories of a female pilot mastering the controls, and so women don’t internalize this as part of their own career dreams.

Melanie new mexicoHave you personally ever faced any difficulties with male pilots or male colleagues taking issue with your being a female pilot?

I have never had a problem I couldn’t deal with, but there have been some issues. One male challenged me in taking my ATP written test, assuring me that I would never pass. I passed with a 98%!

Another man conceitedly told me I would have to work three times as hard to succeed in aviation just because I was a woman. I practically rolled over that assumption landing my first job as a turboprop pilot soloing as Captain at times, with only 700 hours under my belt.

The third was during my jet career, when a male pilot was so jealous at my promotion to a larger jet than his that he attempted to sabotage my career. He actually lost his job the following week.

Your career has come full circle now as you own and operate an emergency rescue company, Red Line Elements. What does your company do?

My career is still in the sky but I now brought a new element into my life. Redline Elements specializes in teaching first responders (Fire Department, Police Department, EMS) how to respond to aviation crashes. I instruct them on the special hazards specific to aircraft as well as the unique injuries that pilots can sustain. Bringing my past as an EMT and my present as a pilot together in a very unique marriage has opened up possibilities for not only myself, but for so many emergency responders that take away vital information.

You must always be working. How do you balance both your career as a pilot, Redline Elements and a private life?

I have learned that life is about sacrifice. It is not about the money coming in, the size of your house or the expensive car. It is about balancing the time with the people you love and the career that you love. Settling for anything less than that in life, is well…settling.  I don’t mind “working” a lot, because to me, what I do is not work. It is a dream and it feels like it has only truly just begun.

Melanie Folcik BarillaroWhat are your goals for the future? Will you continue to balance both career paths or are you looking to focus entirely on Red Line Elements?

This is a great question. I plan on balancing both career paths but would like to focus on my specialty classes with Redline and eventually when I complete my helicopter ATP rating, I would consider flying full time for our local rescue helicopter. I am also trying to fulfill the biggest dream of all, becoming a mom.

What career paths are available for women looking to become pilots?

The sky is the limit (pun intended!) Career paths aren’t just airline or corporate pilots. You can be a bush pilot and fly rangers in Alaska. You can be a seaplane pilot and deliver supplies to remote lakes in Maine and Canada or fly medical aircraft and transfer sick individuals to hospitals across the country. You can be a flight instructor and introduce others to the beauty of flight, fly banners, spray crops, tow glider pilots or ferry aircraft thousands of miles across the seas. You can join the military and defend our country or fly search and rescue missions with the Civil Air patrol.

If an aircraft can fly and is needed, there is no question you can be at the flight deck!

The longer we travel, the more nervous Dani and I get on planes. I don’t know why. It should be the opposite, since the more we fly, the more evidence we have of its overall safety.

What do you say to people who have a fear of flying?

Aircraft don’t just fall out of the sky. Even helicopters can auto-rotate (windmill of sorts) down to safety. Accidents do happen, but with an average of 50,000 flights everyone over the USA alone, the incident rates are so low that it really should let you rest a bit easier boarding your next flight.

When you hit turbulence in the skies, imagine it is waves under a boat or potholes under a bus. Air is still a ‘solid fluid’ and bumps are just that – bumps in the sky.

Pilots undergo an incredible amount of training, little lenience for error, are subject to random drug and alcohol tests and see doctors every 6 months to a year to secure their flying medical license. Aircraft maintenance has gotten stricter with less tolerable errors. Overall, the FAA is doing their best to increase air safety.

How often are you able to escape on an actual holiday?  Do you prefer not to fly anywhere at all?

Nope, I am still a flight junkie. My holiday escape is anywhere that adventure awaits me: New Mexico, Alaska, the PC1 highway in California, Maine, Peru or the islands. I truly cannot pick just one.

Melanie diving

Inspiration Station

What book inspires you?
Walden on Wheels by Ken Ilgunas

What music inspires you? What do you fly to?
Bob Dylan is my inspiration, but I fly to darker music like Ben Howard.

Do you have a mentor?
My flight instructor Matt Galicia was my idol. He was patient, hard on me, trustworthy and made me one of the safest and most critical pilots under his instruction. My mentor now for helicopter flying and sailing is my friend and Vietnam vet Rich Magner who flies our medevac helicopter (read his story here).

Motto you live by?
I tell myself “You got this” Never give up on yourself.

Favorite travel quote?
Leave your heaviest baggage behind when you travel (and I don’t mean your suitcase).

As GlobetrotterGirl of the Month, can you share travel tips for our travel-savvy readers?
Travel without agenda, just a few key ideas of what you want to see in each location. It may be a building you saw in a Pinterest post, a new Banksy sighting or a restaurant you saw on a TV show.

Just use that idea as a stepping-stone to find more unique gems in a city.

And stay away from tourist traps so you can see the world through your eyes and stay flexible. The most interesting, kind, safe and loving people you will ever meet will be in a tiny coffee shop on the outskirts of town. You will find them loading lobster pots onto a boat on a chilly pier in Alaska. Stop, talk to them. People are the adventure. The scenery is simply the backdrop.

How can our readers get in touch with Melanie Folcik Barillaro?
I’m not that into social media, but I’d love your readers to email me at [email protected].

Interested in finding out more about the most important thing that keeps us trotting the globe? Pick up our book, the Ultimate Guide to Housesitting, to start getting free accommodation and traveling authentically around the globe.

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GlobetrotterGirl of the Month September 2013: Film & TV Props Master Katrine Hyllegaard

Globetrottergirl of the month

This month’s feature GlobetrotterGirl, Katrine Hyllegaard, comes from a family of travel enthusiasts. She grew up traveling up to 200 days a year with her entrepreneurial parents and this settled into her own life’s rhythm as an adult.

Katrine works nine months a year as a freelance Props Master on feature films, commercials, Emmy award-winning TV shows and the reality show Survivor on location in Asia. For the other three months a year she is free to travel. Being a GlobetrotterGirl doesn’t mean being location independent, as we see from Katrine. Instead it means integrating travel into a fulfilling lifestyle and a career you truly love.

On a trip to a TV studio with her parents when she was 8, Katrine discovered there was a career path for creative people to do what she was doing at home – creating new worlds and universes and telling stories through sets and props. Today she balances nine months on the set- often on location abroad – with three months of travel. Read on to find out more about Katrine’s career in Film and Television and how she maintains her lifestyle as a true GlobetrotterGirl.

1Meet Katrine

Where are you from?

Where are you currently based?
Copenhagen, Denmark

You grew up traveling a lot with your family. Can you talk a bit about your background and how all that travel as a child affected your wanderlust as an adult?

I grew up in a commune with more than 20 families, a common way to live in Denmark. My parents founded the cohabitation in the 70s, as a response to modern life, but more so as a solution to balance demanding careers without having to leave kids with babysitters when they traveled.

My mother in particular has always had to travel for work, and she had a strong desire to show us what she experienced. My parents taught me to travel, in a way as if it were a subject in school. Traveling with my parents gave me confidence and they taught me to truly embrace experiences as I travel by keeping an open mind and heart. Now I owe many of my most memorable trips to the serendipitous kindness of strangers, and I am a firm believer that you get what you give when you travel.

Do you think that this love of travel was instilled in you as a child or do you feel that anyone can become a GlobetrotterGirl?

I say that all it takes to be a GlobetrotterGirl is enough curiosity to step outside of your own comfort zone. But yes, I do come from a family of travelers who taught me to see the world as my playground. I have the ability and the freedom to do exactly what I want. It only gets interesting because I choose to use that freedom. Many people could have this lifestyle but do not choose to use that freedom.

Livvagterne sc 338You work in television and film productions as what is called a Props Master. What are your responsibilities on set?

Whether you are watching a movie, a TV show or a play, if an actor touches anything, it is a prop. If it is a prop, a Props Master like myself arranged for it to be there. I am in charge of finding and managing all props that appear in the film. Props Masters work within the Art Department, and work closely with the Set Designers and Production Designers in order to create the overall look and aesthetic of the set.

This often requires serious research, especially for period films. Sometimes, the team is lucky to locate exactly the materials necessary, while other times we build replicas ourselves. Production and Set designers shape the architectural environment by working with the spatial and visual expression of the sets. My job is to decorate the set and give it its final look. This could be everything from a custom built car in the garage, to a fully furnished living room or a 20 year-old hot air balloon.

What films and television shows have you worked on?

As a freelancer, I am fortunately able to choose among many types of jobs and employers in the industry and I have worked on feature films, commercials and two Emmy award-winning TV shows. I am based in Denmark and do much of my work in television for The Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR) and TV2. But besides that I each year take a ‘break’ to work on the reality show Survivor, which takes a few months and is produced once a year in Asia.

Katrine on the set of Survivor in Malaysia 2013
Katrine on the set of Survivor in Malaysia 2013

What is an average day like on the set of Survivor?

A typical day actually begins the night before. We do a briefing every night around 9pm where we discuss the past day and what stories are happening amongst the contestants. This way the editorial team knows what to keep in focus on the following day. What is most important for my team is the focus on games and the optional rewards contestants can win, as we have to create those the next day. The next day begins when the sun comes up if there is a big game to be built. If nothing needs to get built, work typically starts around 8am, either by working in the carpenters’ area doing props or by reviewing or testing games with the game producer and chief editor.

Days are long and easily run from sun up to sun down, and the nights with island councils the day ends around midnight. And we’ll still be up with the sun the next day. Working on the set of Survivor is much more of a lifestyle than a regular job, and surely some of my favorite work of the year!

How did you get started? What is the career path to become a Props Master?

Many people go the academic route, through design institutes or artistic academies. However, it is also possible to start through on-the-job training, or the way I did it, by following a mentor. No matter how you choose to start, it’s a long, hard road to have success in this field. People often assume that having worked on school plays or college productions can lead right to Broadway, but it takes talent and a ton of determination to work your way up the ladder within the industry.

As a child, I admired both art and construction work and knew that I wanted to pursue a creative career, though I wasn’t sure in what form. When I was 11, I was offered to visit a movie set. There I realized that there was an entire team of people doing what I was doing at home. They were creating sets and entire universes for their films, just like I did with my toys.

I’ve always been good at tinkering and building things, making little toys and trinkets so even at that age I was attracted to the props department. Right after finishing high school I started as a trainee at the very same props department as I visited 7 years earlier. I have never regretted it for a second even though this business surely not is for everyone. Freelance life is risky and highly competitive, so if you prefer a steady job and steady paychecks, you are not going to be happy in this world of “feast or famine”.

What are your hours like? Are you able to work abroad often?

There is really no ‘normal’ when working as a freelancer in the TV and Film industry. No day is like the one before and projects are so varied, it is difficult to compare them. Work on a commercial can be for one week, certain television shows can keep me employed for years while others just take a month or more of my time. When we’re shooting a workweek rarely counts less than 50 hours, but on the upside, freelance salaries match the hard burden, so I can allow myself time off when I need it. I work roughly 9 months out of the year, including on location sets and allow myself a three-month break spread throughout the year.

Survivor is a two-month gig produced in Asia, and I have worked on Survivor shows produced in Malaysia and the Philippines. I have worked on feature films in Europe, information campaigns in Africa and a film workshop in Guatemala a few years back. Even shows shot in Denmark can shoot wide across the country and I often have temporary homes in hotel rooms in my own country.

When you are on set abroad, how do you weave travel in to your time in a different country? For example, when you are in Malaysia, do you just stay on set or do you get to know locals within the  community?

It varies a lot. Normally when we are working on location it is impossible to travel outside what the job requires as projects abroad are often compressed in order to minimize the time abroad. Recently, to take advantage of being in Asia, some of the crew went to Bali afterwards to relax, as did I, and then I continued on to Singapore to visit with family and my mom flew in on business as well.

Katrine on the Survivor set, Philippines 2010
Katrine on the Survivor set, Philippines 2010

What are the everyday challenges of your work?

Each and every day the crew has challenges and issues to struggle with on set. Weather and daylight for example, when we are shooting exterior or on location are always challenging. During preparation and research my inevitable challenge is the issue of time vs. money. When working on a TV series, I often have more time than money, whereas when shooting a commercial, time is of the essence and we often have to Fed Ex props over hundreds of kilometers to get them in on time.

There are also those days when no matter how much I have planned something, it just turns out to not be right in context. Hopefully we have backups and alternatives, but if not, we’ll paint or modify it as long as it takes to get it working for the scene.

13Dani and I have often thought about doing consulting as location scouts, a career that seems like a great way to leverage travel knowledge within the entertainment industry. What other positions are there within Film and Television that allow you to travel and work?

There are literally hundreds of different jobs in the film industry, each one requiring a unique combination of specialist skills. If your readers are looking simply for a job that involves travel, I’d recommend an industry that is less competitive and specialized, ha! But if creativity is what lures you in to the job, then there are films shot all over the globe. You can work as a costume designer, make up artist, location scout or other jobs and, as I do, travel along wherever the film is shot.

Your best trip: Where was it, and what made this trip such a highlight of your travels?

I traveled across Cuba in 2009 with a friend. In addition to wanting to see the crumbling baroque buildings and the American vintage cars in Havana, we wanted to follow in the footsteps of Che. We wanted to see everything on the island, and do it by hitchhiking and traveling with locals. It took ages that way, but we started in Havana, headed north to Vinales and then south to Guantanamo… I have never experienced such friendly, accommodating and helpful locals anywhere like in Cuba.

Survivor 2013 Malaysia: Prepping for grub meal

Inspiration Station

What is your favorite book?
I absolutely love the worlds created by author Haruki Murakami. I have read all of his books, most recently 1Q84, which I truly loved.

Above all else, when it comes to story-telling, I am spending much more time on film an TV than on reading. While waiting for Homeland Season 3, I just went through Luck and Orange is The New Black. My favorite series of all time are Six Feet Under (2001), Riget (Lars von Trier – DK, 1994) and Twin Peaks (1990).

What travel quotes do you find inspiring?
“Life is a journey not a destination.” I see this as a mantra at work, while traveling and in my personal life.

5How many countries have you traveled to?
40 countries + 11 states in the US

Sweden, Norway, Italy, Germany, United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Turkey, Greece, Portugal, France, Monaco, Belgium, Nederland, Luxembourg, Poland, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Swaziland, Morocco, South Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Laos, China, India, Guatemala, Caribbean, Greenland, Cuba, Canada, Oman, United Arab Emirates, USA (11 states).

Your best travel advice: As a GlobetrotterGirl of the Month, what words of wisdom can you share about incorporating travel into your lifestyle?
One of the best things about traveling is what it can teach you about the world, so try being a traveler more than a tourist. Go local. Slow down. Go with the flow. Use public transport even though it might take longer than going with a cab. You don’t need to see everything in one day, or even cross off everything on your itinerary while you’re away. It’s so easy to get caught up in the frenzy of wanting to see it all that everything becomes a blur. The beauty and originality is often what you experience between the sightseeing. Having a sense of humor about whatever unexpected issues pop up is a great way to avoid getting stressed when you have no control over the situation.

Finally, write postcards, not emails. Bring back and pass on the images that got us wanderlusting in the first place.

How can people get in touch with you?
I’m Katrine Hyllegaard on Facebook

How can people learn more about working in the entertainment industry?
You can do all of the usual things like looking up universities that provide courses in Scene Design or go to film school. However, I’d suggest checking out the bonus material at the end of a DVD. This way you find out so many details about the way things work behind the scenes that can really whet your palate for what this type of work is all about. These are glimpses into life on the set that you won’t pick up just by watching the film.


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GlobetrotterGirl of the Month June 2013: Leanne Pittsford of Lesbians Who Tech

Globetrottergirl of the month

After first meeting them online in 2011 when they had just set off to travel, we finally were able to meet up with Leanne Pittsford and Leah Neaderthal in person in New York this spring and were so impressed by their business and lifestyle that we insisted Leanne be our GlobetrotterGirl of the Month for June 2013 (you can read all previous GlobetrotterGirl of the Month interviews here).

The story of their nomadic lifestyle has a tragic start, but Leanne shares this deeply personal detail to show just what can come from just taking that first leap of faith. This interview is as inspirational as it is practical for anyone who is ready to break free and create a globetrotter lifestyle for themselves.

Meet Leanne 

Leanne PittsfordWhat made you decide to break free, start a business and travel?

I was working for Equality California and coming to the devastating end of a long process in which we had just lost the Prop 8 campaign and with it, the fundamental right to marry the person we love. I am ecstatic to say that as of this interview, DOMA was overturned at the Supreme Court level. However, back at the end of 2010, it was clearly time to move on from that heartbreaking defeat.

I had recently met Leah and we were newly dating, but I really wanted to travel. Leah was in Chicago, I was in San Francisco, so I made a big leap and decided to move to Chicago to look for a job, while simultaneously trying to convince her to quit her job to travel with me. Leah had long since wanted to travel and had even saved up quite a bit specifically for travel, but hadn’t been ready to make the leap.

Sadly, it took something tragic to put her over the edge. My brother died suddenly the day before I was supposed to move to Chicago. This changed a lot of things for us, and among those, it made Leah realize that life was short and that there was no good reason to postpone traveling. We left for our trip in January of 2011.

How long were you traveling before deciding to launch your business?

We had a few tentative projects lined up before we left for the trip, but the business really happened about two months into the trip. We realized that “backpacking” wasn’t really for us – we were moving around every few days, going super fast, and exhausting ourselves. In certain regions of the world you get on the 22-year-old backpacker circuit and it’s hard to get off. We’d stalk people on just to find people closer to our age to have dinner and a glass of wine with.

225520_10150183282884476_6907728_nWe made a decision to stop “backpacking”, and rather spread out our travels over many years in order spend longer in each place. We focused on building our business while traveling, and ended up cutting our initial ‘round the world’ trip to eight months down from the 1.5 years we had originally planned, in order to build our business first back home.

How has your travel lifestyle changed since starting your business?

When we began thinking about our long-term lifestyle, having a home base was important to us, so we have an apartment in San Francisco that we are able to rent out on when we are away. The extra income we make on Airbnb rent ends up paying for our flights!

On our 8-month long trip in 2011, we traveled to 16 countries and 35 cities, but even since settling in to a more nomadic life we travel a ton. We move about ten times a year, with both shorter and longer stays in various places. In 2012 we spent longer periods of time in Berlin, NYC, Buenos Aires and Vietnam. So far in 2013 we’ve been to Thailand, Cambodia, NYC, DC and we’re headed to Berlin, Russia, Spain, Beirut and Poland and are considering also going to Kenya this year.

The biggest difference for us is that now we bring our dogs, two dachshunds named Sauce and Magoo. Bringing our pups has really let us feel like home wherever we are. Here is a video of Sauce and Magoo in Thailand.

Leanne and Leah, and Sauce and MagooIs it more difficult to travel with dogs? If so, why bring the pups on the road?  

It’s more difficult, but SO worth it. Being able to ride bikes in Berlin with them or run on the beaches of Thailand – these are moments I will remember for the rest of my life. Being with the pups also gives us a sense of being home and with our family wherever we are.

Truthfully, it is also good practice for kids. It’s obviously not the same, but we do have to bring a lot more stuff because of the dogs and in some cases, traveling with kids would be easier. For example, kids are allowed to travel to every country, but dogs aren’t. Kids don’t require any special paperwork or fees (except a passport), whereas dogs do. Bringing the dogs to South East Asia was particularly crazy, and I don’t recommend it for the faint of heart. Any place that doesn’t have a dog culture will be difficult, bringing them along is the only way we can truly have the lifestyle we want.

Lesbians Who Tech and your other projects have had a high level of success. Why do you continue to travel so heavily – for business, for pleasure?

We travel for both business and pleasure. Travel also gives us the space to be creative and the solitude to get a lot of work done. On the other hand, it means that we are always working – something we have to be better about. We often do business development and take advantage of conferences wherever we are, but the majority of our clients are US based.

We also think of travel in two ways: places to live in, and places to travel to. There are cities we want to live in like Berlin and there are places we want to visit like Russia. This year we’ll most likely make Berlin a base and make smaller trips to places like Russia and Poland. We’ll most likely leave the pups in Berlin.

Your Twitter bio says simply ‘I get shit done’ and you certainly do. You organize #lesbianswhotech events and  your new business LeanImpact. Why and how do you take on so much at a time?

I am big believer in execution. I think everything is 5% strategy and 95% doing. What you learn by doing can later be implemented as strategy, but the key is to start. I am also a big believer in failing versus not knowing. I’d rather fail a million times than wonder “what if.”

Leanne, taking a risk

Inspiration Station

Do you have a motto or a mantra?

Just start.

Best advice you’ve ever been given?

Fail fast and often.

Do you have a mentor?

I have a few. Kate Kendell the Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbians Rights and Kris Hermanns, the former Deputy Director of the same organization. They’re both amazing women and watching them lead taught me so much. I’m also super lucky to have incredible women surrounding me in my life who are doing amazing things. I learn so much from watching them both fail and succeed.

What is your favorite book?

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.

What music do you listen to as you work?

I love slow jams and 90’s R & B music. It’s what I grew up with and nothing else has ever moved me the same way like Usher, Brian McKnight, 112, or Mary J Blige.

How many countries have you traveled to?

Twenty-three countries

What is one country you can recommend to location independents, why?

Berlin is AMAZING! It’s the cheapest city in Europe and the community of people who live there are incredible.

304616_10151096303174476_2022558537_nWhat is your travel style?

Mostly urban with a bit of beach. We spent a month on the island of Korcula in Croatia, where got loads of work done from the balcony, went to a different beach every day and drank wine every night. Heaven. Because of the dogs and the business we tend to rent on in order to be able to cook, make coffee, work and have space for Sauce and Magoo.

What travel items and/or apps can you not travel without?

Google Voice
Trip It

Do you have any tips for globetrotter girls and guys  who are at the point of breaking free but just haven’t taken that leap yet?

1. When you wake up 20 years from now what will you regret? Trying something different or regretting you never tried at all.
2. Not knowing is way worse than failing.
3. Don’t be afraid to take a travel break. Traveling makes you way more interesting, so it could help you get a better job than the one you have now.
4. Traveling and running my own business are the hardest things I’ve ever done, but, as Tom Hanks says in A League of Their Own, “it’s the hard that makes it great.

Where can someone reading this connect with you?

You can visit me on FacebookTwitterInstagram and LesbiansWhoTech

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