A few weeks ago, through the magic of hashtags, Instagram and the general mystery of the Internet (on top of nearly ten years spent working on this blog for zero monetary gain), I was offered a chance to join the team at Roadtrippers. Last year, Roadtrippers was acquired by TH2, a joint venture between the world’s largest RV manufacturer and the world’s largest RV rental and sales operator. I’m joining the team as their Community Editor—today is my first day!—and I’ll be writing stories, taking photos, managing social and the email newsletter, in addition to advising on design and creative challenges that arise within the brand. Millions of people have used Roadtrippers to help plan their road trips, and I’m excited to be a part of what we hope will become THE destination for all things road trip.
It should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with me or this blog that I LOVE road trips and it should be obvious that this is a dream-come-true career shift for me. I’ve been an in-house graphic designer for more than ten years and I’ve worked at advertising firms, non-profits and in the publishing industry. I enjoy design and I’ve learned so much from all of my professional jobs—and gained more than a few friends (and dates, oops)—but I’m thrilled to take on new challenges and diversify the type of work I get to create.
My entire vision for my “personal brand” (lol, barf) and this blog has been authenticity and accessibility. So much of what is presented online—especially in the travel industry—is aspirational and quite often seems unattainable, especially if you don’t have unlimited time and money. I’ve been almost continuously employed since I got my first job at 15 (McDonald’s, because it was the only place in town that would hire 15-year-olds). I’ve worked a traditional 9-5 (or, more commonly 9-6) job almost every single day of my professional life and although all of those jobs had their perks, an outrageously large salary was never one of them. And yet, within the constraints of generous (but limited) vacation policies and modest paychecks, I was able to squeeze in, what one person called, a “relentless” amount of travel.
My love of road trips can probably be traced back to my childhood and the eight-hour drives (an eternity when you’re young) we took most summers from Ohio to Ocean City, Maryland. My sister and I would share the back of an old station wagon and later, after she moved out on her own, I would make a nest of blankets and stretch across the backseat. I had a cassette-playing walkman and one cassette tape that I listened to on repeat, Alanis Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill. I got horribly car sick —I still do, if I’m not driving— if I so much as looked at a word while the car was moving, so I just closed my eyes and listened to Alanis sing about things no ten-year-old should ever need to know about (it was years before I embarrassingly came to realize what “wine, dine, 69 me” meant).
Growing up, I thought international travel was the gold standard, and I so desperately desired to experience cultures and landscapes different from the ones I knew. I was well into my teens before I took my first (domestic) flight, and even hundreds of flights later I’m still an incredibly anxious flyer. But while I’m far from living that hashtag global nomad life, I’ve since been fortunate enough to get a few passport stamps, including Italy, Peru, Colombia, Egypt and Mexico (I just got back from the latter yesterday!). It was only through traveling internationally did I realize that passport stamps alone don’t have the power to instantly transform you into an interesting person. Travel opens minds and hearts but only if they’re amenable to opening in the first place.
Here’s a secret that I wish I’d known when I was younger: it doesn’t matter where you go, as long as you’re curious, empathetic and kind. In December, I planned a trip that took me through parts of Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. I’m used to people who don’t see the appeal of “flyover” states, but I can guarantee that I enjoyed my time in Iowa much more so than I would have at an objectively exotic “Instagram destination.” Much of America gets a bad rap—and yes, I recognize that a lot of what can be considered “American” is deeply problematic and even physically dangerous to large swaths of people—but the country is so varied and resists categorization at every turn. I’ve traveled to the moon via White Sands in New Mexico, the swampy lands of Florida and the alien landscapes of Joshua Tree, all while still being able to drink the water and speak the language, without exchanging a single piece of currency.
I’ve always considered myself a bit of a late bloomer and I tried out a few different lives before settling into the one I have now. But it was on a trip to Peru that I fully realized that my travel aspirations were out of sync with what actually made me happy—a theory that I proved by planning a trip to the kitschy roadside mecca, South of the Border upon my return. South of the Border, like my first stay in a Wigwam Motel or my Route 66 trip last summer, might not seem like an aspirational locale but it was to me so I made it happen, and that’s all that matters. This world is so vast and yet it can feel surprisingly small, but no matter who you are, where you are or what your circumstances, you can open your eyes, change your perspective and take that detour.
I promise it’s worth it.