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10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Pursuing My Dream Job

I don’t know what your dream job is, and this article definitely has to do with blogging, but it’s also applicable to you if you want to start anything.

Three years ago, I bought a smartphone and downloaded Instagram. I bought this domain name and thought it might be rewarding to start a blog.

I used to spend hours reading the work of other adventurous people– folks who made a career out of their travels. It seemed unrealistic and a little outrageous. And when I started, I didn’t intend to make this a full-time thing. But I’m here, three years later, and it’s a full-time thing.

“What do you actually do for work?” is a question I receive a few times a week. I am mainly a writer and photographer, working in the travel and outdoor industries. I document incredible places and experiences, working with brands making awesome stuff, hotels with beautiful properties, and non-profits doing meaningful work in their communities and in the world. It’s my dream job, it’s a lot of work, and in pursuing it over the past few years, I have learned a few things.

1. IT’S STILL WORK WHEN IT’S YOUR DREAM

“When you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

I disagree. Just because you love something doesn’t mean it’s not hard. Just because it looks glamorous from the outside doesn’t discount the more difficult moments. Passion and drive will never fully soften stress or worry. It’s still work, and as a result, it still feels like work. When you do what you love, you’ll work many days in your life– it’ll just be more enjoyable.

In fact…

2. IT’S OFTEN HARDER THAN SETTLING

I struggle to think of a time in my day when I don’t think about my work. I juggle a lot. I have writing projects, I have photoshoots, I edit those photos, I pitch new ideas and trips, I run a coaching practice, I write on this blog. I spend a few hours a day doing things for my businesses that I don’t necessarily get paid for– reading, researching, making connections, writing blog posts like this one, answering non-job-related emails. And I don’t have one boss to report to– instead, I have a dozen of them, all with different needs. It’s more complicated. It takes more energy. Frankly, my 9-5 was way simpler and easier.

3. YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE THAT YOU CAN

Believing in yourself is part of this job. You have to be your number one fan. This is on you. It’s on you to make it happen. Even if you don’t believe in your success, act like you do. Find a new confidence and let it lead you everywhere. Tell everyone about your thing. Get business cards. Be proud. And please, identify yourself by whatever you are trying to be– nobody hires people who are “starting out in photography,” or “trying to be a blogger.” People hire photographers. People hire bloggers. Your title is whatever you decide it is. Believe it.

4. IT TAKES DISCIPLINE

If you want this to be your job, you have to treat it like a job. Be on time– even if you work from your couch. Have a schedule. Know your calendar. Have boundaries. I don’t believe in the “hustle till you die” strategy. I believe that we need to re-charge sometimes and we need to stay in touch with ourselves when we are working toward something big. Discipline means you know when you are working and you know when you are not working. But when you are scheduled to work, make sure you actually work. And when you are working, always always do your best.

5. THERE IS ROOM FOR YOU

This is so important. It’s easy to look at everyone else in the field you want to be in and to decide that there simply isn’t room for one more. But there is. You are the only one who has lived your story. Nobody can create exactly like you can. I remember a few years ago, looking at all of the people who were doing what I wanted to do. At the beginning, I didn’t think I’d get there. And looking back, I actually didn’t have a solid reason to discredit myself. When you keep going at it for a long time, you’ll have these moments of “this could actually happen,” followed by moments of “this is actually happening.” Know that there is room for you.

6. YOU WILL GET REJECTED

In order to really succeed at this thing, you’ll have to reach out to a lot of people. And you will have to be your own best fan, because you will get rejected. A lot. And as you make your way up, you’ll experience bigger levels of rejection. Some will start to matter less, and some you will take personally. Understand from the beginning that it’s never personal, and that you’re signing up for this. I still get rejected often. It means I’m trying, and I’m constantly reaching higher. It’s just part of the process.

7. YOUR CHOICE: FUN OR STRESSFUL

This whole thing can be fun, or it can be stressful. Honestly it’ll definitely be a bit of both– that’s what happens with uncertainty. But what if it could be fun? What if you could play in the unknown? What if you loved it? Let it be fun, understanding that your worst-case scenario probably doesn’t mean the world will end. The whole entrepreneurial journey is full of unknowns, and that’s a given. It’s on you to decide how you will cope with them.

8. YOUR DEFINITION OF SUCCESS WILL CHANGE

When you are defining your own career, success is a moving target. It changes as you change. It evolves as you become more skilled and explore new avenues. You might be surprised how your ambitions shift. A goal you had a year ago might feel really easy now. It might feel just as far away. Set benchmarks and check in with yourself. Stay ambitious, but always remember where you started and how much you have learned.

9. YOU HAVE TO LOVE THE PROCESS

Why are you actually in this thing? Is it to get a lot of followers? Is it to work from a beach? Is it to get famous? Are you just as in love with the process as you are with the result? If you don’t love the process, it will feel old pretty damn quick. If you don’t yet know if you love the process, you’ll find out as soon as you start, I promise.

10. IT’S WORTH IT

And honestly, there are times when I really wonder about this. There are late nights and early mornings when I’d simply rather sleep. There are weekends I’d rather do a million things than respond to emails or edit photos. There are weeks and months when I wonder if I should go get a more stable job so I didn’t always have to think about my next project. But I know what I want my mark on this world to be– connection, motivation, beautiful images, stories that enrich and empower. So I do this. Every day. And it’s worth it.

photo by BC Serna.

photo by BC Serna.


Know that this isn’t an overnight success kind of thing. And know that you most definitely are not alone. Going after the things you truly want is hard work, and nobody ever promised it’d be simple or easy. It might feel impossible, but you will never know unless you start.

Whatever your dream job is, and wherever you are in the process, I’m rooting for you.

Thanks to Katie Boue and Tiffiny Costello, who helped me brainstorm for this post. Feature photo by Rebecca Slaughter.

BLOGGING INSPIRATION

You are Qualified

I get a lot of questions about my lifestyle. What do I actually do for work? How do I travel so much? How did I get to where I am?

They are questions about my path, about what I’ve learned along the way, and about the boxes I needed to tick in order to get to next level upon next level.

And I always answer the questions–  but it’s never been about the boxes. It never will be.

A couple of summers ago, I got fired from my first attempt at a 9-5 office job. My first reaction was panic. I had taken that job because it was what I thought I should have done. It was a stepping stone while I figured out the next step. It was logical. It had a steady paycheck and health insurance.

Back then, this blog was my hobby. It was a way for me to process my experiences, to connect with people, and to contribute something, even if it was just rambling from my restless mind. I wondered what it would be like if the blog was my full-time job. I looked at other bloggers and wondered how they did it.

I didn’t think I was qualified to make Erin Outdoors my job. I had no idea how I would even go about that. I had no experience in journalism or photography or social media or freelancing. I didn’t have any friends doing anything remotely similar.

So I took the full time job because I thought it was the right thing to do. I thought it was my obvious next step– a way to buy time while I prepared for a freelance career I might someday pursue.

Getting fired really expedited that process.

My options were to go get another full-time job, or to try out a more mysterious creative path. The latter had less knowns and less security, but I was done buying time. The longer I waited, the more I realized that waiting to be “ready” was just some bullshit excuse I bought into. So I made a list of my skills and ideas for how to monetize them.

At first, things were slow so I got busy learning. If I had time to be frustrated with a lack of progress, I had time for another job.  I was an intern. I was a volunteer. I was an assistant. I took every opportunity to learn a new skill. I found people I looked up to online and paid attention to everything they were doing, down to the last detail. And I stayed consistent with my craft. I wrote when I didn’t feel like writing. I worked for free if it meant getting my name out to the right people.

I wanted blogging jobs, so I started calling myself a blogger. I was my only advocate, so I had to be really good at it. I had to be good at telling people why I was a perfect fit for their project. Why I had so much to contribute. Even when I didn’t believe it 100%, I knew I would work hard. I knew I would do my best.

I was often terrified. I thought someone would see through me– that they’d realize I wasn’t qualified. What I now know just a short time later, is that the most successful people are often not the ones with all the degrees and qualifications. The most successful people are just the ones who work hardest. The ones who don’t take no for an answer. The ones who stay up late and wake up early in pursuit of their dreams.

People want to know how I got to where I am. It has nothing to do with ticking boxes, and everything to do with experimenting. I’m not here because of where I have studied, or because of what cameras I use or what platform this website is hosted on. I’m here because I decided to take a leap, pay attention to what worked, and do more of the things that did.

I have learned over and over again that there is never a perfect time for you to pursue your universe-sized dream– the thing you don’t know how to do, but feel pulled to anyway. Take as many classes as you want, put it off for a few years, tell yourself you’re not ready. It’ll still come chase you down.

How many blogs had I written when I started calling myself a blogger? Two.

You decide on your title. Identify yourself as who you want to be, and go do the thing.

Don’t you dare call yourself unqualified. Nobody knows if you’re “qualified” or not– qualify your damn self.

The life you want to create is yours to make. You already have every qualification you could ever need. Curiosity, ambition, and the vision of the dream is more than enough.

BLOGGING INSPIRATION

Why I Went to Maui (and What I Did)

If it weren’t for the Internet, I’d have way less friends. Seriously, credit for most of my friendships goes to the Internet. Specifically, social media.

The relationships I have made as a result of social media have challenged me, they have brought out the absolute best in me, they have taught me a lot. And they have also gotten me to see some pretty amazing places. One of those places is Maui.

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I met Elisabeth Brentano at the Outdoor Retailer trade show last summer. We chatted for a few minutes and went our separate ways. That was it. But fast-forward seven months and we’re sleeping in a Jeep together on the top of a volcano. What?

Life is full of connection, and connection is awesome. Connection is the reason I do most things in life.

The trip came about because we’re both freelance bloggers and photographers, had some free time, and wanted to go to Hawaii. We kept in touch on Instagram and started talking about our plans. February was open. We both had airline miles to spend, so we bought flights and got curious. We outlined an itinerary, emailed places and people that seemed interesting, flew to Maui, rented a Jeep from Avis and hit the road.

Elisabeth and I both work with sunglasses brand Sunski, and one of their team members lives in Maui. Huge thanks to Raja and Rachel for letting us crash for a few nights! Their house was our first stop, then it was off to Heleakalā for sunset.

Haleakalā is an incredible volcano that I struggled to pronounce on more than one occasion. We drove up for sunset, slept in the car (campground info here) and drove back up to the top at 3am to attempt some star photos and catch sunrise. You have to do this if you go to Maui.

Next up: the road to Hāna is a famous for its stunning views and waterfalls around every (hairpin) turn. There are plenty of places to stop and marvel– do some research here and you will be rewarded. The drive takes 2 hours, but more if you stop at places like Wai’anapanapa State Park like we did.

It’s worth staying overnight in Hāna– a day trip would feel like too much time in the car, especially because the roads are windy. We had a beautiful stay at Travaasa in Hāna. Our bungalow was straight-up gorgeous.

snapped by Elisabeth at Travaasa

Kihei is another place you’ll probably visit when you’re in Maui. We spent a lot of time on Big Beach, aka Makena Beach, where we saw a couple of beautiful sunsets. For food, we had a recommendation for MonkeyPod in Wailea from a few people– and we ended up going back more than once. It has an awesome beer selection for a craft beer nerd like me, plus great food (butternut squash pizza please).

In Kihei, we stayed at a couple of beautiful vacation rentals. I never think about searching for rentals before a trip– I always go straight for AirBnb or to looking at campsites. This was a reminder that sometimes it pays to reach to to individual property owners. I saw Tracy’s Tropical Treasures online and sent Tracy an email. She got back to me right away. We stayed in two of Tracy’s locations, and had the opportunity to photograph a new property for her. The only thing nicer than Tracy’s properties was Tracy herself! I highly recommend that you reach out to her if you’re planning on going to Maui.

Next up we headed to Lahaina. I took surf lessons with Abner at Hang Loose Surf Club. Abner is a rad dude– a go-getter and native Hawaiian who runs 3 businesses. I was super inspired by him. It was also my first time ever *really* standing up on a surfboard. I’ve taken surf lessons before… more than once… but never actually had much success. I recorded the lesson and will be sharing it on YouTube in the next few weeks!

In Lahaina, we stayed at the Plantation Inn, a lovely B&B with gardens and a picturesque pool & jacuzzi. Dinner at their restaurant, Gerard’s, was one of the best meals I have had in recent memory– they’ve been serving some of these dishes for over 30 years. Breakfast was also delicious (get the french toast) and a great start to our last full day.

We had heard amazing things about the Iao Valley, but it is currently closed (Feb 2017) due to heavy rains a few months ago. We opted for the Waihee Ridge Trail, and it did not disappoint. Lush green jungle and views from an impressive ridge. We didn’t hike to the top– we were too busy marveling at the view of the valley below the clouds.

Overall, this trip came about because we got creative with the resources we had, and ultimately because we made it happen. We asked around and stayed flexible.

I wanted to write this post to give you an idea of some of the things we did, but also to share the “Why” behind the trip. I went to Maui because I was curious and because frankly, I didn’t have a good reason not to. On the trip, I took photos all day and edited at night. On more than one occasion, I pondered the idea of a 9-5 job so that I could go on “real” vacation and not have work obligations follow me around everywhere I go. But it’s all about chasing and building the life you want to create, and this is the life I am creating.

A life of adventure. A life of Yes. A life of defining my Why. My lifestyle wasn’t something that happened overnight– it’s something I’ve been working toward ever since I realized I had a choice. You have choices, even if they look like small steps right now. What life do you want to build?

BLOGGING INSPIRATION

Do The Thing

One question I have consistently gotten over the past two years goes something like this:

I want to blog. But where/how do I start?

This question is bigger than blogging. It applies to any new thing you want to do– anything you want to launch, anything you want to say to the world. A freelance career. Traveling for the first time. Launching a new business. Anything at all that you haven’t done before. Anything that’s a little scary and a lot unknown.

When I started this blog two years ago, I was a 25-year-old about to enter into her first full-time office job, trying to shift an existential quarter-life crisis into a quarter-life revelation. I had spent the past three years living out of a backpack guiding adventure trips. It sounds glamorous, but I was really hard on myself for not having a “real job” and not knowing what I was going to “do” with my life, as if it was that simple.

I started this blog from parent’s couch over Christmas. My first few posts aren’t my best work, but I haven’t changed them. Because it takes guts to put yourself out there, and looking back, I’m proud of 25-year-old me. Because there was a time when this felt really awkward. There was a time when I had to stretch myself to do something that feels easy now. If you want to start your thing, whatever it is, you will need to stretch yourself too.

It’s uncomfortable, I promise. It feels weird. You’ll doubt yourself, you’ll feel anxious, you’ll invent all the things people are saying about you. But don’t worry, nobody gives a real shit about your struggle. The only thing most people see is courage, and that is remarkable.

Just starting your thing is enough to inspire someone. Acquaintances from high school will take interest; they’ll watch your come-up from afar and wish they had the guts to do their thing too. And remember that successful people fail. We fail hard. We get up. Over and over again. You will too.

And we commend successful people for failure because being publicly real and honest is hard. Taking risks is hard when you have the option to be comfortable. But it’s way worse to have to answer to that part of you that knows what you truly want to put into this world– to have to tell that part of you that you chose comfort, instead of following your truth, is heartbreaking.

I want to tell you exactly how to do the thing. But I can’t. Because I don’t have that answer, only you do.

And it’s not really important how you do the thing, it’s just important that you do it.

The most important aspect of starting, is that you start. Begin with your whole heart and get truly invested. Investment leads to progress and failure, in bigger amounts than you can imagine. Both offer invaluable learning.

Do the thing.

 


 

Feature photo by Garrett King.

BLOGGING INSPIRATION SOCIAL MEDIA

You Will Have Haters

And they’ll be loud sometimes. For real. They’ll get inside your head and make you think you should just be quiet.

I write personal development for adventurous people. I also write about things I believe in, including social & racial justice. This grinds a lot of gears for some folks. It’s political. Well, whoop dee doo– I’m over posting neutral content. I’m over seeing it. I’m over the idea that we should try to appeal to a wide audience. Over. It.

Having an opinion based on your values is way more important than trying to get people to like you.

There was a time when I took everything personally. I can’t anymore.

When you exist on the internet, the one negative comment you get (out of however many) will be the one that sticks, I promise. It’ll be the one you zero in on– the one you let define you. But you can’t let it stick. It’s not personal.

Haters come with the territory when you say anything at all that takes a side. Giving enough of a fuck to take a stand is worth it. It’s not really about you, it’s about a bigger picture, so release yourself from having to take everything as a personal attack. Choosing to stand up for anything says far more about the strength of your character than a few (or even a few hundred) negative comments.

I wear my values boldly because I believe that’s how you get shit done. Anyone can tell me that my values or beliefs are wrong, but that doesn’t mean they are right in their accusations.

You do not exist to make other people feel comfortable. Your actions speak to your priorities. What do you care about, and are you speaking up about it? Standing up? Showing up? When you decide to do so, I’m on your team.

I have been called many names on the internet– some that I am not even comfortable repeating. But it’s the internet. Is anyone surprised?

Getting hated on means I had something provocative to say in the first place. Many agree, some will not. It is hard to have a peaceful conversation with someone who is determined to bring you down. So if that isn’t going to happen, let it go.

When you live in your truth, people will disagree with you loudly and rudely, online and in person. You cannot let this dampen your spirit or dim your light. More people need your ideas, your vision, and your love more than you will ever know.

We have to give a fuck about things that matter, and we’re always going to get hate for it from someone, somewhere.

And I guarantee that amidst any negativity, there will be a day when you will get an email or comment that simply says, “Thank you for speaking up.”

It will be the only reminder you need that now is not the time to be silent.

 


 

Photo snapped by Adaeze Azubuike.

BLOGGING INSPIRATION MENTORSHIP

There Is Room For You

room-blog

One day a couple of years ago, I decided I wanted to share my experiences in photos and writing.

I had recently bought my first (cheap smartphone. I downloaded social media platforms I didn’t know how to use. I picked a name. I bought this website. I didn’t know what it was going to become. I didn’t even do anything with it for six months.

In December 2014, I posted my first article here.

What was I thinking when I started this blog?

I was 24. I was dealing with a recent breakup, questioning my career path and working with a lot of the things I felt I “should” have been doing. Grad school. Finding a “real” job. Figuring out the next step.

The blog was just an experiment. A hobby. I spent a lot of time looking at travel, adventure and lifestyle bloggers. I took note of the big influencers within each space and I tried to learn from what they were doing. I paid attention to the parts of their work that really spoke to me. I was interested in how people shared their passions and what went into a story worth telling.

But I firmly believed that there was no room for another adventure blogger– and even if there was, I never thought I’d get to the level of “success” that I saw in those folks I used to stalk the s$!t out of. I thought the market was already saturated. I thought someone out there was saying what I wanted to say, but better. And I didn’t think anyone would read my blog– how were they even going to find out about it in the first place?

Reality, two years later:

  • I wasn’t trying to make this my job, but now it is.
  • I never thought I would call myself a blogger, but that is now how I describe my profession.
  • I didn’t think it was possible to reach people from all over the world with my work, but I now do (where are you reading this from?)
  • I never thought that the very people who inspired me online would be my real life friends, but they now are.

And it wasn’t like I didn’t want that stuff to happen, I just didn’t believe that it could.

Two years later, this means something much more than I ever expected. What this journey has showed me is that there was always room for new ideas, new people, new relationships, and new experiences. It was on me that I didn’t believe in that.

There is room for you in whatever you decide to pursue, because nobody can do it exactly like you will. Nobody can tell your story like you can, because they haven’t lived it. Nobody can share your heart because they don’t know the whole of it.

There is always room for your vision because it’s yours, and if you follow the trail of your own passion, you will make room for yourself in whatever area you are seeking.

In no way does this happen overnight. But when you do something you are passionate about consistently and for a long time, room is not only made for you, but the path often feels as if it’s laid out in front of your feet.

For there to be room for you, you first have to believe that there is. Then you work to make that room. And when you get there, it won’t be a coincidence.

 

Feature photo by BC Serna.

BLOGGING MENTORSHIP

The Right Way to Pick Someone’s Brain

There are so many people I look up to. Incredible, amazing people who create and write and speak in ways that I admire immensely.

I used to ask people I admired for advice out of the blue. I used to expect a response. Here is exactly what was wrong with that.

THIS:

“Hey! I would love to pick your brain sometime about that thing you’re really good at that I have no idea about, but would like to be good at as well.”

SOUNDS A LOT LIKE THIS:

“Hey! I would like some of your time and information for free, even if it took you years and a ton of energy to learn that information.”

Time and energy are the most valuable currencies we have. Requesting that someone sit down with you and give you their time and knowledge is a big ask. They might even charge money normally for that type of thing.

If you are looking for guidance from someone you look up to, here’s how to ask.

EXPLAIN WHY YOU ARE WRITING THEM

How do you know about this person and their work? If you read their blog, tell them. If you’ve heard them speak, tell them. Tell them what you like so much about whatever it is they do– why does it speak to you? Why are you compelled to write them?

CHECK EXISTING RESOURCES

Someone’s experience and knowledge is precious, and there is a good chance this person has shared at least some of it somewhere– whether that’s online, in a book, video or some other medium. Do your research so that you’re not asking something they have already covered.

MAKE YOUR ASKS SPECIFIC

Concise, pointed questions are way easier to answer than open-ended ones. “How did you book your first paid collaboration?” is easier to answer than, “How did you become a blogger?”; “What was your biggest challenge with starting your business?” is much easier to approach than, “How did you start your business?”

RESPECT THEIR TIME AND ENERGY

Most people want to help each other out, and hopefully the person you reach out to will graciously answer your questions. But thank them. Be polite. Understand that they are taking the time to help you. And if you have anything to offer them (buying their book, sharing their articles with your friends, writing about them for your school newspaper), be generous with that too.

 


For the record, I absolutely love getting emails and messages, and I love answering your questions. If I can help give someone information they need in order to pursue their dreams, I do. But if you’re looking for the right way to reach out, this should help.

In pursuing anything, understand you will use resources where you have them and ask questions where people generously give you their time. But no one person will give you all the answers you need– only you can learn that yourself over a long period time, collecting experience that is full of trial and error.

There is immense power in mentorship and helping each other. So when you do start figuring it out– when people start asking to pick your brain– pay it forward in the way that someone else once helped you, and believe that there is always more to learn.

 


 

Feature photo by Ali. V. Follow her on Instagram at @alisonvagnini.