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.
Annette White runs Bucket List Journey, a travel blog that focuses on breaking out of comfort zones and achieving bucket-list dreams. Her book, Bucket List Adventures, was released on January 17. She loves puppies, fuzzy socks and red wine, too.
The “escape the 9-to-5” mentality seems to be popular now. What are your impressions?
Annette White The trend I am seeing is that people are beginning to believe there are no boundaries for their life. The Internet and social media have allowed more people to realize they don’t have to be restricted to the conventional 9-to-5 mentality and that there are ways to make money doing what they love. The lines between work and passion can blur. Your work life doesn’t have to constitute going to the office Monday through Friday, saving all the fun for the weekends. Even for people like myself, who own a small business or have a career that they are passionate about, it has become acceptable to begin a second profession they love as well. You can follow many different paths and passions in life.
What was the “aha” moment that sparked this idea of travel for you?
AW I’ve always had a curiosity for the world, but there was one defining moment that changed everything. I had been suffering from anxieties that were putting restrictions on living the life of travel and new experiences that I was meant to live. One day I looked in the mirror and realized that the person looking back was a shadow of who she could be. That’s when I made a promise to myself to never let fear make my decisions for me and to take one step toward my goals each day. This commitment caused me to analyze every declined opportunity to see if the reason was based on fear. If it was, I forced myself to turn my “no” into a “yes.” It also caused me to continuously make progress toward a goal by committing to doing one thing every day. It didn’t have to be huge—sometimes I broke large goals down into 100 baby ones, but it was still progress.
What inspired you to start blogging, and how did you first build a following?
AW Not only did I want a place to record my bucket list experiences, I also wanted to inspire others to step out of their comfort zones. A blog was the perfect way to do this. Building a following took time, and many lessons have been learned. In the beginning, I gained a following by networking with other bloggers and commenting on blogs in my niche, plus interacting with the followers that I had at that time. Now I continue to grow by trying to create content that has information people need and using SEO techniques to rank well on Google. Creating an email list has also helped to keep me connected with my followers.
Why did you decide to focus on the “Bucket List Journey” idea and brand?
AW A bucket list was an invitation for me to dream even bigger, step out of my comfort zone and face my fears. It was about taking all my dreams, adding the belief that they can come true, and then taking steps every day toward accomplishing them. The niche also allows me to focus on goals beyond just travel, which was important since my passion is not only exploring the world but also collecting experiences.
How does life now compare to before?
AW My new life is almost unrecognizable from my old one. Before, fear controlled my decisions, which led to me staying inside the safety of my comfort zone. Traveling was so frightening that I didn’t do it. Now I feel like the world is at my feet. Facing my fears has expanded my comfort zone so I can live my ideal life filled with travel, food, photography and new experiences.
Do you have a favorite travel spot you’d like to share with Paste readers?
AW Tokyo is a city that I can’t imagine ever getting bored with. While there, I ate beef that was creatively shaped like a brain and served to me inside of my private jail cell by women dressed in pink nurses outfits. I drank my coffee next to a dozen felines at a quirky cat café, confirming my preference for dogs. And I found out exactly what all the buttons on the Japanese toilet do, enjoying some outcomes much more than others. There are not many places that provide such peculiar and unexpected forms of entertainment, but Tokyo is a city of many colorful facets. It’s a mix of avant-garde and traditional. It is a city where the illuminated skyscrapers cohabitate with historic temples, unusual anime shops and cherry blossom-lined streets. It is a destination where you can attend a lively tuna auction hours before daybreak, eat skewers of yakitori in the seedy Piss Alley or scramble across one of the biggest intersections in the world with hundreds of others. In other words, Tokyo is freakin’ fabulous.
The “dream job” and “travel blogging” mentality is becoming more popular as well. Does the market seem saturated?
AW The travel blogging market is saturated, but so are other businesses around the world, such as cafes, clothing boutiques and craft breweries. There is still room in every industry for those who are not only willing to work hard and master their craft, but can also find a unique niche that is different than the rest.
What’s one tip you have for readers who want to live a life like yours?
AW Don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s not worth even beginning if you are only able to make a small start. If your goal is completing a marathon, put on your running shoes and walk around the block. If it is learning how to speak Italian, memorize one word a day or even a week. Every accomplishment starts with one single step. It doesn’t matter how big or small as long as you make the effort to move forward. Creating these types of baby steps is especially helpful when you are trying to tackle a larger, long-term goal like creating your dream career.
What are you most excited to focus on in 2017?
AW There are two things I am excited to focus my energy on in 2017. The first my first book, Bucket List Adventures: 10 Incredible Journeys to Experience Before You Die, which was released in earlier this month. The second is building the Bucket List Journey brand to be known as a leader in travel, new experiences and helping people to step out of their comfort zones.
Carolyn Crist is a freelance journalist based in Georgia. She writes about travel, health, science and business for regional and national publications.