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, the online entrepreneurs, and the lifestyle trendsetters who decided it was time to say to hell with the humdrum and grab life by the roots.
Traveler and writer
runs Twenty-Something Travel
, a lifestyle blog that discusses how Gen-Y and Millennial travelers can find travel advice outside of the traditional “cookie-cutter lifestyle.” Yoder began traveling non-stop since she graduated from college in 2007 and started the website in 2009. In 2016, she’s dishing out advice about how to travel while pregnant — and transitioning into your 30s.
The “escape the 9-to-5” mentality is becoming more popular. What are your impressions?
Steph Yoder I think the ability to work online has made it more possible than ever to check out of the office lifestyle. People are starting to realize they have options and that some of those options are a lot more attractive than what used to be available.
What was the “aha” moment that sparked ongoing travel for you?
SY I took a trip to Iceland with a girl friend and had the most amazing week driving around the country and discovering amazing scenic areas. I was really not feeling fulfilled in my job or life in general, and as I sat on this black sand beach, it hit me that “I should be doing more of this.” After that it was just a question of how to actually make that happen.
What inspired you to start blogging, and how did you first build a following?
SY After I decided I wanted to quit my job and backpack around the world for a year, I realized it was going to take some time to save up the money to make it happen. I needed a way to keep motivated. I’ve always loved to write, so blogging seemed like a natural outlet. Nobody was more shocked than me when people started reading! I think the market was a lot less saturated then, and the ideas and beliefs I was putting out there really resonated with certain people.
Why did you decide to focus on the “Twenty-Something Travel” brand and niche?
SY When I started, I didn’t even know what a niche was, so it was kind of a happy accident!
I had spent some time living abroad and had seen how much more acceptable and almost expected it was for twenty-somethings in Europe and Australia to take time off to travel. In the United States, there is a lot more pressure to start building your career right away, and travel is seen as frivolous. I didn’t know anyone else in their mid-20s who was doing what I was, and a lot of people seemed to think it was out of their reach. I wanted to demonstrate to other Americans how to take a career break and why traveling in your 20s could be beneficial long term.
Now you’re settled in Seattle and expecting a baby (congrats!) but still maintain the blog and prioritize travel. What is most important to you to focus on now with travel?
SY Yeah, there have been a lot of changes already this year! I’m really pushing the limits of writing a blog for twenty-somethings, seeing as I’m actually 31 now. My goal is still pretty similar though: to prove that you can make travel a priority in your life at any age. The next big challenge will be learning to travel with this baby.
The “dream job” and “travel blogging” mentality is becoming more popular. Does the market seem saturated, and how do you stay connected with your followers?
SY It is an extremely saturated market these days. When I started my blog in 2009, it was much easier to get a foothold in the industry, as the industry barely existed. But now anyone with an Internet connection can start a blog, which is wonderful, but also terrible as it gets harder to find the quality content in a crowded space. I do think quality writing is the key. The most successful travel bloggers aren’t necessarily writing about flashy locations or glamorous adventures, they are simply writing good, honest material that people can connect with on a personal level.
What’s one tip you have for readers who want to live a life like yours?
SY Be realistic about what that life actually looks like. Instagram only shows one side of the story — the most photogenic side. For every stunning mountain vista or beach shot, there is actually a lot of desk time and hard work that goes alongside it. Anyone can break free from the 9-to-5, but you still have to put in the work.
What are you most excited to focus on in 2016?
SY For me, the second half of 2016 is going to be about restructuring my website so it’s more inclusive of travel past your 20s. As I and other millennials start edging into our 30s, I want to show the many options we still have to see the world.
Carolyn Crist is a freelance journalist based in Georgia. She writes about travel, health and business for regional and national publications.