This column, “Escape Artist,” is a series about folks who have escaped. More importantly, this biweekly column is for those thinking about trading in their 9-to-5, leg-shackled-to-the-desk existences to forge their own way. The brave outliers featured in this collection of interviews are the digital nomads, online entrepreneurs and lifestyle trendsetters who decided it was time to say to hell with the humdrum and grab life by the roots.
Traveler and writer
Geraldine DeRuiter runs Everywhereist, a travel blog that documents where she and her husband Rand travel around the world. Since she started the blog in 2009, it has morphed into a lifestyle and adventure travel site. In 2016, she is completing her book, All Over the Place, which will be published in summer 2017.
The “escape the 9-to-5” mentality seems to be popular now. What are your impressions?
Geraldine DeRuiter We’ve seen many people embrace the idea of “escaping” a cubicle. It makes me really uncomfortable. I think it creates an ugly dynamic because people who quit their jobs and travel are seen as brave and adventurous and people who work in an office are seen as not.
I don’t think that’s true or fair. I think that I—and so many other people I know—are really lucky to be able to travel. It’s a gift. For a lot of people, it is a brave act. It’s about overcoming fears or challenging yourself physically, especially if you have mobility issues, or putting yourself in situations that are profoundly vulnerable. But there’s nothing ignoble about keeping your job. It means that you have responsibilities, bills, a family and roots in a place, or you might not want to travel. There’s nothing cowardly about any of that.
What was the “aha” moment that sparked The Everywhereist for you?
DeRuiter It was at the urging of my husband that I started the blog. When I started traveling with him, I’d recently been laid off from a job that I loved, and we were extremely fortunate that he was in a financial position to support me while I tried to figure out what to do next. At first, I had no idea what I was doing with the blog. At some point, though, I gave up and started talking about baked goods and how cute my husband is. That was really when the blog started taking shape as it is now.
How did you develop the “Everywhereist” idea and brand and attract initial followers?
DeRuiter Like most of mankind’s successes, it involved a lot of trial and error and day drinking. In the early days of the blog, I tried everything — terribly drawn comics, weird photo montages, interpretive dances, haikus. It was terrible. After a while, I started figuring out my voice. If you try everything, you can figure out what feels natural and what feels right for you. That’s a big part of figuring out your brand.
How does your life now compare to before you started the blog?
DeRuiter I have a journalism background and I went into copywriting, but writing creative nonfiction was not something that I had ever done before. The blog grew to something far bigger than what I imagined. It completely changed the trajectory of my career — and my life. I recently sold the manuscript of a nonfiction memoir called All Over the Place, which will be out in summer 2017. I’m an author now, which sounds crazy to me.
Do you have a favorite travel spot you’d like to share with Paste readers?
DeRuiter My hands-down favorite place in the world is a little town called Ashland, Oregon. People always give me the funniest looks when I tell them that, but that’s part of what I love about it. Every place has the potential to be someone’s favorite spot, and you can have an adventure anywhere. You don’t need to travel across the world. You don’t need to go far. You just need to be willing to look and see the magic of a place.
The “dream job” and “travel blogging” mentality also seems to be popular. What have you noticed?
DeRuiter I think a lot of people are embracing the idea that if something isn’t their dream job, it’s not worth doing. I’ve had plenty of jobs that I didn’t love but I needed them. I had to pay rent and buy groceries and dental floss. When I did find my dream job, I was laid off. Putting pressure on yourself to have a job be everything can often leave you feeling disappointed, no matter what.
I think the most important thing is to identify what you love doing and find a way to do that. Sometimes you can incorporate it into your job but rarely can you make a career out of it. If someone works at a 9-to-5 job and takes a trip every now and then and writes about it, I think that choice is no less valid than someone who is on the road year-round. Find a way to incorporate the things you love into your life, but don’t beat yourself up if that’s not how you pay your bills.
What are you most excited to focus on in 2016?
DeRuiter I really want to spend more time eating fried foods on sticks. I feel like that’s a piece of the food pyramid that I’ve been neglecting.
Carolyn Crist is a freelance journalist based in Georgia. She writes about travel, health and business for regional and national publications.