Multi-tasking freelancing and everything but love for monotony have taken Lauren from Norwich, England, to some of the most amazing spots on the planet. Now we know how she does it!
- Tell us a bit about yourself and how you started to travel. Do you remember your 1st travel experience? Why are you (if that’s so…) passionate about traveling?
Wanderlust is in my blood. My dad’s an Iranian expat who lived briefly in the US and Germany before settling in the UK, and he has brothers and sisters spread all over the world. We traveled a lot to visit them when I was a child and moved around a bit ourselves; I’ve had the travel bug ever since. I would describe travel as a passion, but it’s also very natural to me – the very act of movement, the familiarity of navigating a new place, the adaption that’s necessary when immersed in a foreign culture. To me, there’s just nothing more fulfilling and no better learning experience than travel.
- Now that we know where do you come from… could you tell us where are you heading to? Which are your plans for the future in terms of traveling?
I’ve just finished my undergraduate degree in politics and international relations, and now I have a busy summer of travel ahead. I’m spending around six weeks teaching in Italy, 10 days with friends in France, visiting Morocco, Poland, Calvia and the Scottish Highlands on travel writing assignments and heading to Green Man Festival in beautiful Wales with the band I manage, Polly and the Billets Doux. It’s going to be fun! Beyond the summer, I’ll be starting an MA course in Biography and Creative Non-Fiction at the University of East Anglia in September. This will involve taking trips to some of the places of my dad’s past – Hamburg, Los Angeles, various destinations in Iran – as the central project of my postgrad work will be writing a book about his life. I imagine some more teaching and travel writing opportunities will pop up before the end of the year too.
- What do you think of traveling with a purpose or meaning in mind? What do you look for when traveling long-term?
I love the Jack Kerouac quote, “There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars”. This is quite resonant with my approach to travel. Rather than trying to achieve something by traveling, I look at traveling as part of existence, everyday life. I always hate the question “Why do you travel so much?” because it aptly demonstrates that the person I’m speaking to doesn’t approach the world in the same way I do. My question for all those people who would ask me the former is “How do you cope staying in the same place?” When traveling long-term, I’m looking for new experiences – the opportunity to get off the tourist track and “go native” as much as possible.
- How do you fund your travels? Have you found a job or income source that allows you to be on the road fulltime? Tell us what you do for a living.
Any way possible. All of the work I do incorporates travel in one way or another, and in terms of a job title, I’ve described myself before as a “multi-platform freelancer” which I suppose is the most accurate way to put it. I dabble in all sorts of things; freelance writing and blogging primarily, but also TEFL teaching and PR/management work in the music industry. That’s alongside my studies. There are ways to travel for free and/or get paid to travel through each of these roles. I intend to be on the road fulltime after my MA and I have no doubt I’ll be able to do that by expanding the work I do into full-time. It’ll be a hard slog, but it’ll be worth it.
- Did your job, studies, volunteering experiences or other projects help you to travel the world? Where have you been thanks to those? If so, tell us a bit about those experiences.
I’ve been involved in some great schemes that have helped me travel. In 2011, I was invited to participate in the Study China Programme which allowed me to spend a month in the Shandong Province of Eastern China, fully funded by a combination of the British Council and the University of East Anglia. Over the past couple of years, I’ve taught English as a foreign language at schools in France and Italy, and working as a travel writer has allowed me to travel to all sorts of different places on assignment – Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Slovenia, and Croatia to name a few.
- What would you recommend to someone who wants to follow your steps? Which kind of training or studies is necessary? Would an investment be needed in the first place? Please, give 3 pieces of advice (you wish to have known before starting) of what to do and what to avoid to succeed.
If you want to do work that involves traveling, I think it’s important to have visited several countries and explored independently before having the pressure of work behind you. The life of a stowaway isn’t for everyone, and you need to think carefully about whether it’s for you before tangling yourself up with contracts and commitments.
I gained lots of experience writing and blogging about self-funded travel and other topics for about two years before I started doing it professionally; I’d recommended anybody starting to do the same. You learn a lot from making your way. You’ll also find that all that experience and all the information you gather is invaluable for years to come – in a completely clichéd way on a personal level, but also practical when thinking up angles for articles and pitching to editors.
TEFL teaching usually requires an official qualification such as a TESOL or CELTA certificate, and this is excellent training so you know what to expect when you find yourself faced with a classroom full of people to teach. Nothing quite prepares you for it though – be warned! There’s a lot of demand for qualified teachers all over the world, so getting your certificate and finding work in this area is a relatively smooth process if you’re dedicated.
My work in the music industry has been without any professional qualifications, but reputation is important. Never forgo your integrity for money or because you think an act is about to breakthrough. Only work with artists you believe in, and be honest, knowledgeable and polite in every conversation you have. People value that.
Whatever area you’re working in, remember we’re all human. The travel editor of that national newspaper might seem intimidating, but he loves to travel just like you do, he has a family and friends, he’s had awful sex and been embarrassingly drunk in his lifetime, and he remembers what it was like to just be starting in the industry.
- What does a perfect day in your life look like? Do you follow any particular routine?
I’m not one for routine – I think I’m allergic to it. I hate monotony. I like to get up early and stay up late, and I go with the flow with where the day takes me in between. I try to do something creative each day, and something productive too, but what that exactly depends on the day and the mood. I did 12 trips in 12 months last year and am heading for the same again in 2013, so I’m not sure I remember what an ‘average’ day looks like anymore.
- Where do you come from originally and where you call home now? Can you give us some local tips we cannot find in a guidebook but you highly recommend about your hometown?
I grew up mostly in the countryside of the East of England, though we moved to the East Coast of America for a stint when I was about 10 years old. I can recommend a great pub called The Angel in a tiny village called Larling on the Norfolk-Suffolk border – it does amazing food and great local beers and ales. There’s an English whiskey distillery called St. George’s close to it as well, that’s certainly worth a look. I’m currently based in Norwich, the UNESCO City of Literature for this year. I’m bursting with recommendations, and have written a variety of travel features in the city since moving here. You’ll find a range of links about and love letters to Norwich on my website.
- Do you read, write, draw, listen to music, sing, watch movies or do something else while traveling? How do you interact with technology these days and which gadgets you take with you everywhere? What is your favorite book? And movie?
I read, write and listen to music while traveling – these are the components consistently needed to keep me on track while I’m on the move. I’ve got a stationery addiction so a nice journal-like notebook is always in my bag when I travel. As for music, my favorite artists to listen to at the moment are Bastille, Daughter, Laura Marling, Ben Howard, and Pete Roe. My favorite novel is “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde and I love all of Kerouac’s writing. The combination of life writing and fiction in his books particularly appeals. I like all kinds of movies from blockbusters to independents – action flicks, tales of romance, sci-fi and fantasy, self-discovery, travel flicks and more. If I had to pick just one it would be “Before Sunrise” – it’s a wonderful story and it’s beautifully shot. In terms of technology, I never travel without my Samsung NX100 camera and my iPhone 5, and I always appreciate finding wi-fi about.
- Do you keep a bucket list? Which are your (craziest) dreams? Where are your favorite destinations on earth?
I don’t have a physical bucket list, but I have some idea in the back of my mind of what I’d like to achieve and experience in life. I’ve traveled quite extensively in Europe and North Africa, but there’s a lot more of the world I’d like to see. I’d like to take a road trip across the US in the future and explore Southeast Asia in detail. Other aims include writing a book, which I’ll be doing over the next year or so, and learning to speak another language fluently, which I’ve been procrastinating over for some time…but I’m sure I’ll get there eventually.