Lately I’ve felt the need to really open up with my readers. I want to become more personal so that we can connect on a deeper level and you aren’t just coming here for a destination review. After I shared my thoughts on Anthony Bourdain’s passing last week, I received many messages of appreciation for just being ‘real’. I hope you continue to read my stories which is why it’s important I share with you my path to becoming a travel writer.
Let’s just start from the beginning. How did I even enter this world of travel? When I was a child, I didn’t have a Barbie car. I had a Barbie newsroom. I remember dreaming about being on television but that would not be something I pursued until over 10 years later. Throughout my middle school and high school years, my career dreams changed drastically. From a FBI Agent (all of my middle school years) to an interpreter for the hearing impaired (I am fluent in ASL), my mind was always drifting away to new ideas for my future. I’ve always been one to have big dreams.
After HS graduation, I did the same as many. I went to college. My major was education for the hearing impaired. I went to night classes at the local community college and worked during the day. I hated it and felt like my life was going nowhere. Ok, so maybe I didn’t give it enough time but I just did not feel I was in the right place. Not with work, school, or even the town I lived. One day I opened the phone book with the plans to find a modeling agency. Yes, kids, we had a book where we had to search for numbers vs using Google. I don’t even really remember why I all of a sudden had this interest. I flipped through to John Casablancas Modeling Agency in Birmingham, Alabama. That next phone call I would make would ultimately change the path of my life.
My first comp card
John Casablancas was a modeling center that taught individuals fashion, beauty, acting, and image development skills. Ultimately, they were teaching thousands of young girls and guys who were anxious to become a household name. Now, after nearly 18 years in the business, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend a modeling school for someone who wants to break into the entertainment world. However, at the time, it helped get me to the next stage in my life.
Less than a year later I moved from small town Alabama to Chattanooga, Tn and months later to Atlanta, Georgia. This became my home for six years. It will always have a huge place in my heart. It’s a place I experienced love, heartache, friendships, and major growth. After doing some modeling work on the side, I began working with a talent agency, Arlene Wilson Management. They gave me my first opportunity as a talent agent. Something that will now always be a big part of my life.
Over the years I continued modeling across the U.S. and worked for various agencies. In fact, in my early 20s, I had my own agency which helped win me an American Business Award. (the Oscars for businesses!) My time in the Entertainment business were some of the fondest memories I have. I truly loved the talent I worked with both on camera and behind the scenes. I loved scouting more than anything. Seeing someone bring out their talent on stage was exciting for me. I am sure it’s not hard for you to figure out shows like America’s Got Talent, American Idol, and the Voice are my absolute favorite.
In 2007, I moved to Charlotte and began working with a well respected non profit. I also started going back to school (online). My major was Global Business and Public Policy with a Minor in Journalism. Many don’t know that. I really wanted to work in International Nonprofit and I wanted to be a writer. It was a secret passion of mine that I hadn’t shared with many around me. Once again, school just wasn’t my ‘thing’, and my contract position at the organization ended. I then landed the most incredible contract. I had the chance to travel the midwest and west of the United States, almost at 100%, for several months in 2008. I saw many states that I probably wouldn’t have visited otherwise. Not at that time, anyway. This really started a spark for my traveling. I loved being in a new city every couple of days. I loved meeting people. I loved seeing parts of this country I had never seen.
In 2010, after having my daughter, I decided to close my agency which I was still running from the road. Trying to manage the careers of others while having a baby was just too much work. At the time, I just couldn’t balance it all. It was a shame because I had worked so hard. I even had individuals who worked for me in satellite offices in both the U.K. and Atlanta. All chapters must come to an end though, right? I needed something to keep me busy so I created a beauty/fashion blog called Pretty in the Queen City.
At the time, I didn’t expect it would be anything but a creative outlet for me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My blog grew and so did my name. I quickly began receiving items to review. At one point, I was receiving packages on a daily basis. I was eventually contacted by the local news to come on and share my favorite products. This led to a monthly segment. I even launched my own lipstick with a makeup brand, iMpact Color Cosmetics. This was such an exciting time but something was still missing. Sure I enjoyed all of the products I received. I enjoyed the fashion events I attended but my heart wasn’t in it after a couple of years.
Someone once asked me if money weren’t an option what would I do. My response was international nonprofit. After letting this sink in for 5 years (seriously!), I finally decided to follow my heart. In 2016, I told my husband I wanted to completely rebrand and focus on travel and philanthropy. I wanted to be a storyteller of people and places from around the world. I also wanted to give back to those communities I was visiting. I wanted to teach others to be open minded. Travel does that to people. During my first full year of transitioning to this new focus, I set the goal of one press trip. I knew it was going to be a difficult transition so I didn’t want to set any unrealistic goals. In that first year, I ended up traveling to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic . I toured the Corinthian Riviera of Greece and I even visited my #1 travel bucket list destination at the time. Africa. I couldn’t believe all I accomplished in year one. I couldn’t believe how many others believed in me.
Since this journey began, I’ve had dinner in the Eiffel Tower. I’ve ridden a train through the English countryside. I’ve sorted cacao beans with some incredibly strong women determined to care for their families in the Dominican. I have seen elephants, giraffe, white rhino, and zebra in their natural habitats in Africa. I’ve thrown beads from a float during Mardi Gras. I’ve been able to see incredible places and participate in once in a lifetime activities. I even launched my own graphic t-shirt line inspiring travel and giving back! All because I followed a dream. I am only two years into Passports from the Heart. I am far from where I want to be. I have so much to do but I am committed to building this brand. This year brings another trip to Greece and a trek to Mt Everest Base Camp. I’m even in school, again. This time I’m taking a travel journalism course that will help develop my skills. I am confident it will help me become the travel journalist and television host that I dream of being. I have so much to share and I hope to continue to inspire you.
So, have you found your career dream? It’s never too late to dream a new dream or set a new goal.