Interview – Susan Shain of TravelJunkette.com
Today we talk to Susan Shain about traveling, adventure jobs, blogging and much more. She has been working seasonal adventure jobs and traveling the world since 2008. She uses her blog, Travel Junkette, to show people that you don’t need to work in a job you hate. She says “Use seasonal adventure jobs to have fun, save money, and travel the world. The time is now”.
What was the most adventurous job you have ever done? How do you manage to find such adventurous jobs?
I’m not sure what the “most adventurous” job I’I’ve ever had was! I think the biggest challenge was moving to South Korea to teach English. It was just such a different culture to get used to. To find seasonal jobs, I use websites like CoolWorks, I talk to my coworkers, and I Google “seasonal jobs in [insert where I want to live].”
How well do such jobs pay? Do you do anything else to make money?
These jobs pay enough to live off of, and to save money if you’re careful with your money. I’d say that the minimum average pay would be $12/hour, with raises and bonuses for good performance. A lot of the time, you might have to work more than one job or work overtime. I also earn money online through my blog and some freelance work.
When and where was your first trip to a foreign country? How much did it cost and how did you sponsor yourself for it?
My first trip to a foreign country without my family was to Tanzania during the summer after my freshman year of college (2005). It only cost about $2,000 because it was through a university program that I’d applied for. To save up the $2,000, I waitressed during the school year and worked at an ice cream shop for the first few months of the summer.
You travel alone. Are you not scared? What are your suggestions for solo women travelers?
I don’t travel alone often, but when I do, I’m not usually scared. Of course, there have been situations that didn’t feel right, but I got out of them quickly. That’s one of my biggest suggestions: follow your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, why risk it? Remove yourself from the situation. Don’t go out after dark. Spend a little extra money for the nicer hostel or for a taxi cab. Email your parents a lot so that they don’t freak out.
What are the best places for budget solo women travelers?
I love Latin America. It has my heart. I think Nicaragua is a great option. That’s where I was living earlier this year, and I loved it. It’s cheap and beautiful, and I never felt unsafe there.
Do your parents think you are throwing away your life? How did people react when you said you wanted to do this?
No, my parents are awesome and have been super supportive. My dad has always said, “As long as you’re not calling to ask us for money, then I don’t care.” They know that I’m doing what I love, though they have started to bug me about grandbabies as of late.
What did you learn from travel? How has it changed you?
I’ve learned to be open-minded and flexible. I used to be much more uptight. I’m still not Joe Cool all of the time, but I’m much more laid-back than I used to be. Travel has made me better. It makes everyone better.
When did you start your blog? What were the challenges setting up a blog?
I started my blog in December 2011. The biggest challenges for me have been trying to fix technical issues (I am totally NOT a techie-type!) and finding time to blog while maintaining a full-time job. It’s a lot of work — but it’s all worth it.
When did people start reading your blog? When was the moment you actually taught that the blog would earn you money?
I was actually shocked when someone wrote to me after a few months asking to advertise on my blog. I thought, “Someone wants to pay ME?” It was a great feeling. Since then, it’s been a steady increase in traffic, followers, and advertising. It’s grown slowly but organically, and I’m fine with that.
Any suggestions for aspiring travel bloggers?
Be prepared: it’s going to be a lot of work. Make sure this is something you really want to do. If it is, then make friends with other travel bloggers. Read their posts and understand what people like. Try to guest post a lot. Be active on social media. And travel and write, lots. That’s the only way to get better!
Weird food you ate? I’ve eaten a lot of weird food, but the most disgusting has to be roasted silk worms in South Korea.
A place where you want to go again and again? This is my third summer in Ketchikan, Alaska, and I don’t feel sick of it at all. It’s amazing up here.
A travel blog you admire? Ah! There are so many. I love A Little Adrift. Shannon writes beautifully, with a focus on RTW travel and volunteering.
Favorite travel book? Hmm. I don’t know if this counts as a travel book, but I’m obsessed with Chris Guillebeau and I think “The Art of Non-Conformity” is something that every traveler would enjoy.