Turning Travel into a Career
These travelers turned an epic sense of wanderlust into full-fledged jobs. Here’s how you can, too.
Elia: The Photographer
Elia Locardi was born and raised in the Florida Keys. With such a unique aquatic paradise surrounding him, Locardi spent most of his days like any true Key Conch: swimming, snorkeling, and diving.
It wasn’t until he was 17 years old that he and his brother took their first major trip out of the country. His Italian grandmother paid for the excursion and hosted them in the village of Gorizia. He says of that experience, “I remember everything feeling as though it was new, different, unique, unmistakably remarkable.” That was the moment for Locardi that changed everything and shaped his future profession.
Shortly after returning home from Italy, he pursued a degree in media arts and animation from the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale. After graduating, he poured himself into his work, sometimes putting in 80 to 90 hours per week.
Then he did what most are scared to do. He quit his career and left everything behind to begin anew. Locardi decided to start the website, Blame The Monkey. At the time he just wanted somewhere he could share his photos. Though he quickly recognized that there was potential and he committed to making world travel his highest priority.
“It took everything I had to take the trips necessary to build a portfolio. While I was on the road, I’d sleep in hostels, a car, or whatever was the cheapest option,” he said. “I basically lived off of peanut butter and jelly for an entire year as well.”
Locardi knew that if he wanted to launch a career in travel photography he would first need to build a foundation of world-class work from locations all over the globe. So, in 2010 he traveled to a few key locations like London, Venice, and the Greek Islands—places he knew had high potential for wow-factor imagery. His success comes from adapting to new situations and opportunities as they come.
“I always try to recognize the potential of new technology, new ideas, new avenues and routes of business that I could possibly take,” he said.
To date, he’s been on the road for nearly four years. In that time, he’s been able to heavily establish himself in both the travel and photography industries by visiting more than 55 countries and flying well over one million miles in the process.
Ashley: The Writer
Ashley Pittman’s big break literally fell at her feet. In October 2012, she was walking through Madison Square Park in New York City when she picked up a Travelocity flyer reading, “One lucky person could win a free trip around the world!”
“I knew this was my shot and I was too naive at the time to be disillusioned,” she recalls. Pittman made an entry video, ran a month-long social media contest, and the unthinkable happened: she won.
That trip opened up a lot of doors for her in the travel industry. When Pittman got back from her trip around the world, she started to network with people in the business. She went to conferences, forums, meet-ups, you name it.
“I wanted to learn as much as I could and meet as many people along the way as possible, because I knew that oftentimes its not only what you know, but who you know,” Pittman explains.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing. Like many young people trying to make it, she went out for opportunities she didn’t get and missed opportunities she didn’t know how to go after. Mostly she fell into a rut of comparing herself to others who had been in the industry for much longer.
When travel journalism became a part of Pittman’s new path, she was lucky she didn’t have to worry about leaving behind a typical nine-to-five job. And for the past three years, she’s been on the road anywhere from 250-280 days a year.
Today, Pittman is based with her husband in Park City, Utah. She still gets her travel fix, only now it’s with a companion. Last year they were hiking the Salkantay Trek in Peru and exploring the San Blas Islands in Panama.
Travel Industry Tips & Tricks
Locardi, on what makes a great travel image: “It’s hard to explain but if something makes you stop short, pause, and say wow, then likely it’s a great place to start. Other times, you need to recognize the potential of a place. Would it look better during the day, the night, sunset, or sunrise—or perhaps during a full moon?”
Pittman, on what inspires her to write about a destination: “Authenticity. That can come in so many forms, but it’s when I feel like I’m really able to feel the heartbeat of a place. The place I connected with the least was Dubai—while there’s giant structures and tons of shopping, I couldn’t connect with the soul of that place.”
Dill, on packing for long excursions: “The world is so open these days that even the most remote places in the world will have just about anything you need. Also, try to stick to one climate per trip. If you’re going to Patagonia in winter versus the Mediterranean in the summer, what you pack will be very different.”
Pittman, on making it through long flights: “I’m not a great sleeper on planes, so I actually use this time to get caught up on emails and work. Although more and more there’s the option for Wi-Fi, I oftentimes don’t get it so I’m not distracted by Facebook or browsing websites. Some of my most productive work time is actually on planes.”
Locardi, on documenting your journey: “Write down everything. Everything! Personally, I blog about my photos and travel stories, whether that’s the photo itself or the behind the scenes process.”
Dill, on his absolute travel must-have: “I do have a love of watches, so I travel with at least two if not three. I usually have my Bremont since it’s indestructible. If I’m diving, skiing, golfing, or climbing, it can handle anything and come out looking beautiful.”
Locardi, on packing light: “The best advice I can give is to adapt to the ‘one trip rule.’ If you can’t carry everything with you in one trip, then you’re overloaded. If you have to carry some items over a bridge and then go back for the extra ones, that’s too many.”
James: The Shopping Guide
For most kids, playing with rocks doesn’t lead to a career that takes you around the world, but for James Dill that’s exactly what happened. Dill developed a love for rocks and fossils at a young age.
“Once I learned about alexandrite my focus shifted from fossils to gemstones. The idea that the world has been forming this beautiful object for hundreds of thousands, millions of years—that a stone can play with light—fascinated me and still does to this day,” he explains.
Fast-forward to adulthood and now Dill spends most of his time with gemstones while traveling as a shopping guide with Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises.
“When I develop an interest in something I have a tendency to dive in head first. Two things that started early were my love for travel and my fascination with diamonds, gemstones, and watches,” Dill says.
However, a job that takes you away from family and friends for nine months at a time comes with its own set of challenges. Dill’s largest personal obstacle has always been living away from home.
“To me, traveling is about taking yourself outside of what is safe and easy: You’re scared of heights? Climb a mountain. You’re scared of water? Learn to scuba dive. You’re scared of public speaking? Leave your home, sell your car, pack all your things into a locker, and take a job that is 100 percent dependent on public speaking,” he advises. “If you put yourself into a situation where you have to sink or swim, I think you’ll be surprised just how buoyant you really are.”
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