Why did you start this blog?
I had a good day job, but I wasn’t completely creatively fulfilled. At the same time I had recently discovered blogs and how creative people in different parts of the country were communicating and I saw a really supportive community forming, and I wanted to find a way to be a part of it. I knew it’d be about travel and design. I started blogging on Bastille Day (see, the French influence!) 2007.
Who designed your blog?
I did! I’m a graphic designer by trade. I wouldn’t by any means consider myself a web designer, but I can design for web. I like having to get creative within the constraints of an existing format/template. My blog was on Blogger for the first 5.5 years of its life. When I moved it over to WordPress I found a template I liked (and purchased), as well as learning a bit of CSS thanks to Pugly Pixel. Not going to lie, migrating the blog wasn’t very fun, and had lots of technical glitches.
I was going into your archives and some of your posts look really wonky. Why?
In moving blog platforms my column widths became wider (a good thing), which means all the images in my 1,000+ posts have to be manually updated (a bad thing). Despite the fact that to some it looks like I play on the internet all day, I do have to pay the bills as well. This will be a gradual process, but hopefully one day in the not too distant future I’ll have them all updated. Note that some of the tags may need to be updated as well. Anyway, the search tool on the sidebar and the black bottom page are super helpful!
Will you follow me on blog / twitter / instagram / pinterest / etc.?
I have to admit I’m a bit turned off whenever someone TELLS me to do something. I’m a firm believer that the best way to get followers is just to engage with people. It make take a little time, so be patient. Your challenge is to find smart, engaging things to share (or really dumb, funny ones – seriously, just be yourself!). If you’re trying to get something picked up for a blog post, just share the link/project. If it’s a good fit, it’ll go up. If not, it may be an issue of timing, but don’t worry, great ideas get filed away in brilliant minds. Never take it personally, just keep trying and find the right fit.
I want to start a blog. Suggestions?
Don’t start a blog just to have a blog because everyone else does. It takes WAY more time than you’d ever think. What is most important is to start something that works for you. I always encourage people to think about what they want to do or where they want to be and create something that will help get them to that point. Blogs can be an amazing way to get you and your work noticed, but there are also other online means to communicate, so do your homework before you start. At the end of the day make sure it’s fun for you and stay true to your voice.
Why did you move to France?
I fell in love. Not with a Frenchman, but with the city. I studied abroad in 2001 (arriving 2 days before 9/11), then returned for a year to teach English. I returned in 2009 to do a Masters in Global Communications at the American University of Paris. Ever since I graduated in 2011 I’ve been a full-time freelancer. I can do most of my work from anyway – I intentionally made it that way – so why not Paris?
Do you think the French are true entrepreneurs?
Hardly! I have more than a few things to say about it too in this podcast episode of The France Project. I can’t believe entrepreneur is a French word.
I’m coming to Paris. Tell me everything I should do!
The way I see travel you shouldn’t do things just because everyone else tells you to. You should do and see the things YOU want to see. That being said, I’ve compiled all my favorite Paris posts and resources on this page. I also offer custom experiences through Vayable (check out the reviews!). Wandering neighborhoods is one of my favorite past-times.
I want to move to France! Tell me what I need to do.
I’ve answered countless emails regarding this topic and 90% of the time I don’t even get a thank you. It’s France’s fault, not mine that I’m not telling you what you want to hear. What can I say? Life in France is not a walk in the park. Instead of getting no responses from emails that take time to write, I decided to write this post to explain French bureaucracy. You can also read about many typically French experiences on my Life in France page. At the end of the day, however, remember you can do anything you put your mind here. Look, I’m still here, not married to a Frenchman and not an EU citizen. It may drive you to near insanity at times, but if I can do it, you can too!
How did you get into graphic design?
I’ve always been a visual person. I cite my first trip to Paris when I was in high school as a turning point in discovering design. At the time I thought the metro posters were so clever and smart, and the windows displays were really creative. I studied Art History and Anthropology at the University of Virginia. A college professor had recommended the Publications Design Masters program at the University of Baltimore, which was exactly what I needed with it’s focus on word and image, and courses in evenings and weekends so I could keep working. Design is really cool because it allows you to discover so many other disciplines – for example, I worked for a theater and an architecture firm in Baltimore. I wanted to pull more travel and culture (anthropology) into my work, so the Masters in Global Communication at the American University of Paris was great on helping me get on the track I wanted to be.
I’m thinking of going to grad school. What are your thoughts?
I never wanted to go to grad school so it’s funny that now I have two Masters – and the student loans – to prove it. What I’ve learned over the years is that I love learning (you haven’t figured learning out if you don’t love it yet). Despite the financial investment (I only took loans to cover tuition + saved/worked to cover my cost of living), I would not trade in what I’ve learned in both my programs. The Masters in Global Communication at the American University of Paris was great because it was a balance between theory and practicum, and in an international setting (in Paris and thanks to your classmates). The That being said, I also am a huge proponent of continuing and online education (check out Skillshare for example). No matter which path you take, remember the more you apply yourself and put the time, energy and effort in, the more it’ll payoff. If you’re going to pursue a Masters degree don’t do it because you don’t know what else to do; do it to help get you to the next level. Think about where you want to be and what you want to be doing and consider what steps you need to take to get you there.
What did you write your thesis on?
Tourism & New Media in Morocco. I had the choice between an internship or a thesis. I never in a million years imagined I’d write a thesis. Funny how things change. This definitely was a key project helping set me on the path I wanted to on (and am on).
I want to go freelance. Any advice?
I happened into freelancing by chance (and as a way to stay in France), but there are SO many things I wish someone had told me when I did (all the #thingisiwishilearnedinschool). Lucky for you, Lauren O’Neill and I have created a giant library of tips + tools for creative biz called Studio/Practice. Hopefully it helps answer just about any question you may have. You can read about how the project came to be here.
How did you start working for Design*Sponge?
My best friend and I offered to write the Baltimore Design Guide. A month or so later Grace put up a post for her first intern. I applied. I think the work we did on the guide really paid off, as well as the fact that she knew I was a really good and prompt communicator based on our email exchanges. I got the gig and a few months later I became a contributing editor. The rest is history. January 2012 marked my 5 year anniversary, and at the time I had nearly 500 posts!
I have a project I’m working on and would love your opinion on it. What can I do?
I offer consulting services specialized in design, travel, blogging and the entrepreneurial spirit for projects both based online or in print. Consultations can be in person or over Skype. At the end of our conversation I’ll send you a follow-up email with key points, ideas and links we discussed. I have a whole page devoted to consulting. I also offer private InDesign and Social Media Crash courses, as well as CV/resume [re]Design workshops.
Do you go on press trips?
Yes, from time to time. In 2012 I went to Nice with Air France, Colonial Williamsburg (Virginia), Hotel Negresco’s 100th anniversary in Nice, and Copenhagen for Blog’nhagen with a fun group of design bloggers. It takes a considerable amount of time to create original content posts, as well as losing work days while traveling, so please keep compensation in mind when contacting any bloggers about press trips. Treat bloggers as you would any other professional. Just know that at the end of the day bloggers are super awesome people and can do cool things for you and your company!
We’re a company looking to collaborate with bloggers. Is that something you do?
Yes! I think there’s a ton of potential for bloggers and companies or tourism boards to work together and create original content. It can be a win-win for both sides. Just please don’t ask bloggers to work for free or for “exposure.” We have bills to pay. In addition to blogging we also tend to be a professional in another trade, so really you’re getting two for the price of one! There’s more information on my about page regarding partnerships as well. But we should talk :)
What’s the best way to get in touch with you?
Honestly, Twitter. I’m @pretavoyager. The 140 character limit keeps the conversation focused and doesn’t clutter anyone’s inbox. If you’d prefer to email [email@example.com], the fact that you’re on the FAQ page is a good start. I also wrote this post about how to approach bloggers (the email etiquette applies to any situation!). Also, don’t forget to do your homework. Be inquisitive and do a little digging, then ask away. Please don’t be intimidated by anything written above. I just like to keep things real, there are just only so many hours in the day. I really do love hearing from readers!