Laura Longwell, co-owner of the blog Travel Addicts, left her ambitious 10-year career in marketing and PR to become a full-time blogger and travel the world with her husband, Lance.
Before Laura started their blog, she fell in love with travel and experiencing other cultures during a study abroad in high school. As she got into her career, married Lance, and became bogged down with adult responsibilities traveling slid onto the back burner.
However, when something is meant to be it’ll come back around, and that’s what happened when Lance got accepted to a study abroad in Italy for his master’s program. The trip awakened that fire within both of them, and they decided to make exploring new places a priority again.
Since then, Laura and Lance have created a whole system to support their passion. From researching travel cards and hotel chain memberships to making vacations as stress-free as possible. They’ve found many ways to make pursuing their passions as attainable as possible.
Laura is as well versed as she is well-traveled, and her desire to help others get out of their comfort zone and experience other cultures is evident in their blog.
Laura’s ability to evolve her blog during COVID and continually create space for the things that make her life worth living is inspiring.
This interview is packed with useful information for anyone wanting to get out and explore or pursue something they’re passionate about.
Laura: When I was between my junior and senior years of high school, I had a chance to go to Oxford, England, and study abroad for a month. It was this cool opportunity where you had an opportunity to live in the dorms, be by yourself for the first time, and explore another country.
Going into it, I had thought, “Oh, England is not going to be all that different from the U.S., right? We speak the same language.” And, while there are similarities, there are so many things that are different too.
It was just mind-blowing for me to be in a place that, on the surface, seems not to have many differences but to realize that even their English words mean different things than our English words. Stuff as simple as they don’t have zucchini, they have courgettes.
When you’re 17, everything is so formative. So it really just imprinted on me that love of learning about other people and other cultures.
It had an even greater impact on me because of how old I was, and it was my first time away from home. It had a significant effect on what I wanted to do and how I wanted to approach the world, as far as being curious about other people and other places.
Laura: The passion was always there, but life kind of takes over. It’s certainly easy to get caught up emotionally, but also for obligations. You have to go to work, and you get deep into what you’re doing there. You have obligations at home. There’s always something else to do, there’s always more work, there’s always something to clean. All that daily stuff takes over.
And if you don’t make things like travel, or whatever it is that happens to make you happy and light your fire a priority, it’s easy for the mundane daily stuff to take over.
At that point, we had been married for a couple of years, we were deep into our careers, and the focus was elsewhere. It was just the way life went. The stuff you would like to be doing takes a backseat. And it was sort of ironic that grad school, which is a huge time suck and obligation, was the door that allowed us to get back into travel.
Rome turned out to be the place that we just absolutely fell in love with. It was just an incredible trip. And it made us realize we had to put it on the calendar and commit to it. Otherwise, life would keep going, time would pass, and we still wouldn’t be doing the things we wanted to do.
Laura: That’s such a hard question. And it’s always the number one question we get. One is Rome. It was the first place that I really had a chance after Oxford to fall in love with from a travel perspective. There’s just so much there with the history, the culture, and the food. And it’s also such a lovely and vibrant city that always has something new to explore.
But the place that I would say probably had the greatest impact on me was Egypt. We had the chance to go shortly after the Arab Spring and the revolution. So it was an unusual time, and there were not a lot of tourists.
We had planned the trip before the revolution. We purchased the trip in December for the following summer. And the revolution was in January. So for a long time, we didn’t know whether we were going to be able to go. We didn’t know what the situation was going to be on the ground. It was the most significant thing that had happened there in decades from the government’s fall and all kinds of things.
But getting to go felt like such a privilege and a unique opportunity given the timing.
And to think about how it all came to be without any of the advances we have in the modern world. The ingenuity, the history, and the culture, and to just be dwarfed by the sheer size and accomplishment was unbelievable. Things that are 5000 years old still have the original color on them. And then, culturally, it was the place that was the most different from my regular experience.
Having the opportunity to get to know our tour guide, a Muslim woman with a master’s degree. She was the only woman who worked for the tour company that we were with. And she was fully covered.
To talk to her about her experiences as a single traditional Muslim woman with a master’s degree and to be the only woman employed for this company. So just getting to know the people and seeing all this stuff was remarkable.
And that has to do with, to what degree you’re supporting regular people, but also, supporting governments. A lot of tourism entities are government-run. And then for me thinking about coming back and how I’m going to interpret that on my blog and how to speak about the people. And the way that women, minorities, and LGBTQ individuals are treated. It’s all inherently political. And I think that’s an important thing to consider as well.
Laura: That’s such a hard thing. Right? I think there’s practical things that we try to do. We try to leave the house as clean as possible so that it’s not a disaster when we come home. We try to make sure that we’re not returning to something that’s in a terrible state of disarray.
I think the main thing is trying, if you’re able, to minimize the number of times that you have to check in with work. Trying to make sure that whoever is around to cover for you that you have a good plan in place while you’re gone.
In the past, most of the stresses have revolved around needing to be available for work. And so, you have your mind in both places. And when that’s the case, it’s tough to relax, which is the point of vacation, and people have to recharge to some degree.
Laura: I think, if you’re a frequent traveler, and it justifies it, we value having lounge access. It’s really nice just to have a place where you can put your stuff down for a few minutes and not have to worry about always having an eye on it, grab a bite to eat, and have internet access.
It’s particularly helpful in instances where you might have flight delays or other travel difficulties. The lounge isn’t practical or necessary for everybody. But if you are somebody who travels frequently, it’s helpful.
Another thing on similar lines is to develop loyalty with a hotel chain and get club access. It’s particularly helpful if you’re staying somewhere for four or five days because they often have complimentary breakfast. And if you’re at a hotel where, say if it’s my husband and me, and we are staying for five days, breakfast at the hotel might run you $25 a day. $50 a day for breakfast is absurd.
And so, to have access to a club or something like that saves a lot of money in the long run. Along with trips to the hot springs, or an occasional spa visit depending on where we are, little things like that make the overall experience more enjoyable.
Laura: I think if you have the funds for it, pick a date, put something on the calendar, and commit to it. It’s both simple and complicated at the same time because I know that it’s certainly not that easy for many people.
But that was what we discovered was the secret for us. Make it a priority. And once you put it on the calendar and request the time off, you’re locked into it. And if you’re a person who has trouble breaking away, I think the best thing is to make it a non-negotiable as well. You don’t have to go to South Africa on a safari for two weeks.
You can take a long weekend and go to the beach that’s nearest you, or the mountains, or that town that you have always wanted to explore. It doesn’t have to be this grand, massive thing that costs thousands of dollars.
If you don’t have the funds for it, putting a plan in place is equally important.
Starting to figure out where you want to go, how much it’s going to cost, and chipping away at it as you’re able. One thing that we’ve done in the past, not as much now, but I have many friends who still do it quite a bit, is travel hacking stuff.
So whether it’s as simple as getting a credit card for a hotel chain, or an airline and racking up points that way. Or if you want to get much more elaborate into it, there’s a lot of folks who turn through different offers, promotions, and stuff like that. And you would be surprised how quickly you can get a free night or work your way to a free ticket or things like that. Again, it doesn’t have to be thousands and thousands of dollars.
Laura: I had over a 10-year career in marketing and PR and was very deep into that as the vice president at my job. And as jobs sometimes do, I had been there for about five or six years, and it had f run its course. I knew that it was time to move on.
And at that time, I would say we had the blog for, probably, about eight years. So this was a long, long-time passion project. But it was just clear to me that it was time to move on from my job. So my options were to go to a different company.
And the most likely one that I probably would have tried to move to was a place where many of my co-workers were also going. So it was kind of, go to this other company with many of the same people I’ve worked with for the last six years. And do more or less the same thing that I had been doing.
Or to take a crazy leap, and see if investing the additional time and funds, would allow us to turn this thing that we had started into something that made us money and that we could work out long term.
COVID has changed so many things negatively for people, but I think it’s also opened up so many other opportunities. It has opened up, if not direct, opportunities, at least people’s minds, to the fact that they might be able to do something different.
And I think so many people now have the opportunity to be more location independent. It’s forced companies to see that having workers not in the office doesn’t necessarily impact productivity. And so whether people are maintaining the job that they’ve always had, or a more typical career, or are taking a huge leap.
As well as getting a little bit more philosophical about dealing with the challenges of lockdown. And reflecting on the more negative things that have happened in the last year and a half and deciding how they want to design their life differently.
Laura: It’s hard. Dealing in the travel space with the pandemic has been a challenge to know what to say, how to say it, and feel you’re doing things responsibly. It’s not always easy, and it’s not easy when you’re feeling down and uncertain about something. It’s hard to put a happy spin on it publicly.
But I think that there’s a couple of things when it comes to social media. I try to limit my time when I can and try to focus and get the things that I need to do for work done. And then, I catch up with my friends. It’s better for me not to end up endlessly scrolling and going down that rabbit hole, which is so easy to do. But I think you also have to try as best you can to keep it in perspective.
Take everything with a grain of salt, both the positive and the negative, because if you get too into, “Oh, I had a post go viral, or this thing went well.” Being successful and getting that engagement is essential from a business perspective.
But if you get too wrapped up in the highs, it’s also really easy to get wrapped up in the lows and start chasing the likes.
It’s easy to get negative quickly if you’re not having the success you want to have, both in terms of the metrics. But then also there’s the aspect of looking at what everybody else is doing.
You have to keep in mind that social media is curated. Whether it’s an individual, a business, a travel blogger, whoever it may be, you almost always see the rosy side of things.
And for people who have their blog as a platform in addition to social media, it’s the same thing with Google. The Google algorithm is always changing, just like Instagram, just like Facebook. And the moment that you find something that works, something gets changed.
So you have to get really comfortable with riding the waves on all of those channels because there’s always going to be something new, there’s always going to be a change. There’s always the push for something new. So you might have spent the last seven or eight years curating a great Instagram feed, and now you need to become a TikTok star too. And now Instagram wants to be TikTok, and you also need to share something.
I think that’s why, if you can try to keep perspective about the success, or the harder things, because it’s always going to be a wave, and it’s always going to change.
Laura: It was helpful. I think the bloggers in general who’ve had more success have experience with marketing. It gives you a little bit of a leg up, or at least in the short term when you get started. Or, in the blog world, people who are adept at coding and website-oriented stuff can do well because there’s a lot of technical things that go into just hosting a website and making it run, and making it be something that Google is happy with. So it’s been beneficial.
You have to be adaptable for sure. And you have to be in it for the long term like I said because one day something will work and it’ll take off, and it’ll go well, and the next day, the powers that be, whether in social media or search, will decide, “Oop, we need to tweak this thing.” And the thing that has been working for X number of years, all of a sudden, doesn’t work.
Early on, there was, and I guess, there’s still sort of, is this idea of passive income, all you have to do is put it out there, and it will just go forever. And that’s not the way that things are. You have to be willing to find those trusted sources of information because everybody has an ebook to sell you, or a class, or something.
Half the time, the people trying to sell you something are making money because they’re able to sell you something. Not because they had some special sauce that made them successful. So you have to find the sources that you trust when those changes happen, know how to adapt and reverse and move from Instagram is a photo-sharing app, need to do reels and stories, and all the different things you have to do these days.
Laura: I would say learn SEO. That’s the biggest thing. And then think carefully about your topic. Ideally, you would pick a niche in which you can develop some authority and develop a lot of content.
To do well in search and build up that authority, you need to become a trusted source. So you have to have a certain amount of information to share around a singular topic. I think it is harder and harder these days for people to start more general lifestyle blogs, even general travel blogs. Those kinds of things can be difficult. But if you can focus down, it often is a quicker path to success.
As I said, finding those trusted sources of information is also important because everybody has something to sell you, and everybody has an opinion. And just because something worked for this famous successful blogger doesn’t mean it’s going to work that well for you.
Many people are successful because they’ve been at it a long time, and they’ve done a few of the right things, and the wrong things they have done are outweighed.
But you may unknowingly follow the bad thing just because you think, “Oh, this person is successful, and they’re doing this. So, therefore, I should do that.” It doesn’t always work that way. You got to find the trusted sources.
Laura: We have been active Pinterest users for probably, I don’t even know, seven, eight, nine years, I mean, a long time.
So having a tool like Tailwind makes the scheduling easy, makes us able to work it around our schedule, and helps us target the right times to post.
And gives reminders for when you’ve shared something too many times or not shared something enough. Having those reminders and that ease has made things a lot easier because I don’t have to try to be on at 9:30 on Saturday morning because that’s the time that it says most of my audience is on, those kinds of things. So I can work it in as part of my day and part of my schedule when I can, instead of letting those algorithms make the decisions for me.
Laura: I like the Communities because it helps surface a lot of content that I might not otherwise find just in my regular Pinterest feed. It’s also a great way to share stuff with more people because you’re in a targeted community or with a specific topic, and you know that what’s being shared is good information. And so it’s easy to go through and schedule those things. It’s definitely helped us reach more people.
Laura: We hoped we would be in a position to be traveling a little bit more right now. But I think we’ve got a little bit more time before getting out on the road. Lately, we’ve had many trips that we haven’t had the time to write about in the past. So we’ve been catching up, of course, in the last year or so. But we took the opportunity to start a new website that’s focused on our general area. It’s called Guide to Philly. And it’s literally a guide to Philadelphia and the metro area.
That’s given us a place to focus, and as I said, it’s a little more focused topic so we can build some authority because we’ve lived here for more than 15 years. But it’s been nice to have something to focus on and somewhere to put our energy, and it’s given us a reason to explore our area a little more. It’s been exciting, and necessary to just be close to home, but also an exciting project to be working on at the same time.
And don’t forget to check out their new blog, Guide to Philly!
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