Follow and be inspired by these women who inspire millions to see, and maybe, to RULE the world!
Katie McNoulty of The Travelling Light
What drew me into the blog, The Travelling Light, was the impeccable design and photography. The website has an idyllic, vintage feel and it’s impossible not to look through dozens of Kate’s candid and colorful photographs. It feels as if you’re looking through an old photo album, into the intimate moments throughout her travels. Kate McNoulty sure must be a charming and free-spirited soul to have put together a blog this lovely. Follow it!
How did you come up with the concept of The Traveling Light? Specifically what is this light you follow?
I came up with the idea for The Travelling Light because I was always travelling, I had just moved to London and was experiencing all these incredible, special places in that city and in other cities in Europe that weren’t necessarily famous sightseeing attractions or landmarks but that were important for people to know about nonetheless. I was seeing all these little restaurants or market or gardens or shops and they just felt like so much love and soul had been put into them by the creators, I just wanted to share them, and appreciate them by taking photos and writing about them. So that’s how it started!
The light is that feeling that you get when you’re in the presence of something special, true, good. It’s a feeling of connectedness with the world and an appreciation for all the amazing things humans have the capacity to create. I guess it’s kind of like inspiration, and if you can find that light, if you can feel that inspiration, I think the effect is that you take it with you and you do something inspiring in your own life, whatever that means for you personally. It’s high vibrations and they are contagious!
What qualities do you look for in a travel destination?
I look for whether or not I’ll be able to meet people to hang out with because that’s a big reason why I travel, I love to meet new people and hear their stories and their perspectives. Sometimes I travel to cities to live with or hang out with friends or family from home (Brisbane, Australia) though and that is always an amazing experience too. I also have to make sure the food or produce is going to be good because eating well is very important to me. I also have to look at how much money I have and how much freelance work I have on to see if I can afford somewhere expensive or if I have to opt for somewhere cheaper at that time.
Apart from those things, I think it’s just trying places. You can’t really predict if you’re going to connect with a city or not, even if you’ve visited before, so I just go to new places, if I love it I try to stay longer, if it’s not working I might move on sooner than planned.
How do you make your photos look so artsy and intimate at the same time?
Thanks! I suppose I just take the pictures that appeal to me and I’m not really trying to make them look a certain way. But the process for taking the pictures maybe affects this. For one thing, I don’t usually plan too much when a story is going to be a story or a picture is going to be a picture, I just take my camera along to most things I do and if it’s suddenly becoming apparent ‘Oh this could be a story’ then I’ll take some pictures and it’ll happen naturally. So maybe the intimacy is due to this, that I try not to stage the pictures too much and just snap the real moments I see (unless it’s a photo of me which I often have to ask someone to take!). I also had a filmmaker friend once give me some great advice, he said ‘Don’t take a picture just because you have seen someone else take that picture or frame it a certain way. Try to ask yourself why you’re taking that picture, try to ask yourself what you think is beautiful, don’t just take the picture because that’s what a picture should look like. People want to see your own perspective.’ So I guess I try to quiet my mind and everything that’s going on around me and appreciate the beauty I can see and try to capture that.
Do you have any words of wisdom for fellow travelers and readers who wish to follow their own Traveling Light?
Well I don’t necessarily think that everyone needs to travel as much as I do, or travel at all really if it doesn’t call to them. But if travel is your thing, then I would say you can definitely live nomadically in this day and age with all the possibilities for remote work and the advent of things like Airbnb etc connecting the whole world together. But I know plenty of people who also love to have a home base to travel from and that seems to work too. So however you can make your life work with travel, just make it work and good things will follow! If travel isn’t your thing, I think the way in general to follow your own light is just to follow those things that inspire you and make you excited about life. It’s to pay attention to the things and people and places that light you up and to just do more and more of those things and your life will just keep falling into place and getting better and better.
Sienna Brown of Las Morenas de España
Sienna Brown is the founder of Las Morenas De España, an incredibly positive and empowering blog dedicated to providing a community for women of color, primarily Black women, living in Spain. As a woman of color living in Spain myself, it was validating to discover LMDES and read through the stories of other women who’ve had non-normative experiences and perspectives as well. LMDES is a great recommendation for anyone traveling and moving to Spain in general, as it will provide you with a sense of comfort, community and resilience from the beautiful voices behind it.
Who are the voices behind LMDES?
The beautiful thing about LMDES is that it is a conscious collective of women (and men) of color that have strong ties to Spain, whether they are currently living in the country or have in the past. The voices behind LMDES is really diverse, including long-term expats, musicians, business professionals, artists, photographers, foodies… the list goes on. One of the most frequent voices on the site is our community + content director, Danni, who has a lot of great advice and stories to share. We always make sure to keep the topics and experiences diverse.
What inspired you to create LMDES?
LMDES was created to redefine the Black experience in Spain. To inspire individuals to experience the country for themselves and to show the world that POC are not only living here, but we are also thriving.
The concept of the site was created out of a mix of necessity and frustration. So often, the media spins negative stories about the experiences of women of color in Spain. You read the blog posts about misunderstood sentiments of discrimination or cultural differences and sadly… that’s what gets attention. I had decided that it was time for the narrative to change.
LMDES was created to share honest and useful views of everyday life in Spain and to provide resources, tips and information for people living or traveling here. More than anything LMDES was started to really foster a sense of community for anyone who might feel like they are alone in their journey of moving to a different country.
What are your favorite parts (regions/cities) in Spain?
My favorite cities of Spain would definitely have to be Murcia, Madrid and Granada. Something so beautiful about the country is that each of the regions is really unique with their own vibe.
I love Murcia for it’s amazing weather, beaches, beautiful landscapes and relaxed way of life. Madrid is great for its diversity and amazing cultural spaces. Finally, I love Granada for its architecture and tapas.
What advice do you have for women of color traveling and living abroad in Spain and in other parts around the world?
Go into every situation with an open mind. It’s so easy to be caught up in how we think things should be, that we often forget that sometimes… the unknown come with an immense amount of beauty.
Bani Amor of Everywhere All The Time
Bani Amor is an impeccably well-spoken and intellectual queer writer who unwaveringly tackles issues and calls out everything that’s problematic in travel culture and media. From the erasure of indigenous narratives to the continuation of settler colonialism through tourism, Bani confronts the difficult questions surrounding race, privilege and exploitation that most travel writers ignore. There need to be more blogs and travel writers like Bani who forego the vapid wanderlust attitude towards travel and instead radically deconstruct how power and privilege affect people’s travel experiences. Look for Bani Amor’s amazing writings on her blog Everywhere All The Time as well as on Matador Network.
What are the topics and issues that you address in your writing?
I usually focus on how identities shift and are claimed or distanced by people depending on where they are and the communities they’re surrounded by. So topics like migration, race, neo-imperialism, resistance, identity and privilege tend to come out of that. I’ll use different subjects or vehicles to explore these themes depending on what genre I’m working in – essay, profile, travelogue, reportage, creative non-fiction – but tend to go deepest into these issues when I’m using my own experiences as a map, because the ways that I’m privileged and the ways that I’m oppressed are in constant dialogue as I travel.
What do you think are the most problematic issues surrounding travel culture and travel media today?
Pretty much all of it. Travel writing is my absolute favorite genre, but it is also the most problematic. I call it the suburbs ’cause it’s so white, so monied, so hetero. And that’s what it’s always been – a white colonizer encroaching upon native land and writing down their impressions. Sure, the game has changed a bit, but these power imbalances still exist, and when we look at who’s got the power, who we look to as authorities on place, and how diverse this world really is, it’s pretty ridiculous that travel media is still so one-sided. This produces a culture so problematic that it’s way too much to cover here, but I’ll say that generally, what it does is further disempowers oppressed peoples and their communities by impacting their environments, economies and how they are seen by the rest of the world in very real ways.
Do you have advice for travelers who are queer and/or people of color?
There are plenty of queer and/or people of color who don’t give a damn about these issues. For those who do, I’d say that it’s really affirming and healthy, really, to seek out other Q/POC folks and travel communities that you identify with. Read travel literature by people of color (or write your own), and most importantly, question the power dynamics at play when you travel. If you’re two people of color in a small fishing village in South America, for the love of god, why are you giving your money to the only European hostel in town? Peep the history, then check your privilege.
How can we decolonize travel culture?
It’s about Indigenous people reclaiming power over their bodies, lands and futures in correlation with the dismantling of colonial empire and its effects. For everyone else, I see it as a practice, a process and an unlearning. We need to hold the tourism industry accountable for displacing communities, using and abusing them, overusing resources that lead to environmental destruction, creating unstable economies that foster dependency on foreign powers, etc., and we need to question our complicity in that industry, how the historical and present relationships between our home and host countries makes our very presence in these places inherently problematic.
Decolonization involves a radical reimagining of those relationships in conjunction with a re-centering of narratives of non-European cultures and non-Western perspectives, which, in the travel space, would require a total 180. It requires us to completely redefine travel media to be inclusive of place-based narratives by marginalized people that are totally silenced and decentered; to be true to the word ‘travel’ to cover forms of migration that aren’t just vacational (immigration, forced migration, gentrification, etc.) and to centralize narratives that attempt to unpack our relationships between people, land and state.
Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads
Jodi Ettenberg is like a superhero in the travel and food blogosphere. She’s written a book “The Food Traveler’s Handbook,” is an online authority on branding and social media, gives key note talks at international conferences and writes to thousands and thousands of people through her extraordinary blog, Legal Nomads. Her writing is profound, sincere and full of important facts and details as she talks about what’s going on in her personal life, her travel experiences and advice for others who are celiac and eat gluten-free. The section “Thrillable Hours” for which she interviews lawyers with alternative careers is also a good read, especially for fellow lawyers looking to pursue something more creative!
Do you still find ways to utilize your legal expertise while you travel?
No, not directly. The training as a lawyer and the years I spent at law firms certainly come in handy for my own work, but I do not practice as a lawyer any longer. It is certainly very useful for contracts I receive, and in general for using a lawyer’s brain to solve business problems, but ultimately it’s not at all a part of my existing work.
What are some of your favorite places around the world to eat?
There are many! I love eating in Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia. I’m heading to Mexico in January and I look forward to exploring it through my stomach, too — I have no doubt it will end up near the top of this list soon enough 😉
How does eating food teach you about the world?
It isn’t just about the food itself, nor simply the taste. What I love about food is how it brings people together and provides a really thorough lens to learn about a place. It’s the cultural norms, the anthropology of the country, learning about history and how the ingredients used today travelled via old trade routes. All of it is accessible via food, and of course added to that knowledge is the great social aspect and interaction with locals as you try the food. Nothing else gives me so much complexity and learning as food.
Do you have any advice for aspiring food and travel writers?
I just wrote a long post about it here, but the short version is that there is something unique about each of us — what led us to who we are today and how we see the world — and that is how we should be telling the stories that matter, thorough our unique voices.
Aileen Adalid of I Am Aileen
Aileen Adalid is a professional 21st century digital nomad and incredibly successful blogger who provides endless support and guidance to anyone who wishes to travel and follow their dreams. It’s impossible not to like Aileen as the personality that comes through her writing is so positive and down-to-earth and her blog’s colorful design is top notch. Aileen provides genuinely useful tips and guides for how to live a life of travel, how to obtain visas and what destinations to go to. I Am Aileen is a blog that really sets itself apart from all other personal travel blogs and is a must see for anyone looking for solid information on how to pursue a life of travel.
What is your lifestyle like as a digital nomad?
A lot of people say that a digital nomad lives so freely and works in paradise — and that might not be far from the truth especially because it does give me the freedom to work anywhere at anytime! The icing to the cake is the fact that it’s also my passion. I love anything that’s related to technology and to have been able to do online marketing and design while traveling the world has truly been a blissful experience.
But of course, it helps to know that it’s not all rainbows and unicorns, since as a starting digital nomad, there are a lot of factors that can go against you and the most common issues would be: unreliable internet and non-consistent jobs. Clearly, it’s not just all about traveling every day because one has to work too; so, it can be quite hard to juggle the two while trying to establish routines. It sucks even more when internet becomes a problem — and that usually happens in most locations. That’s why I always impart the advice of making it a point to find a stable employer before embarking on a long journey, to gradually find a way to secure your future, and to always be prepared along the way.
I say this because that’s exactly what I did. After I quit my job back when I was 21, I scoured for an employer who would hire me permanently and once that happened, I had no inhibitions thereafter. And then, a year after, I stopped doing ‘online freelancing’ altogether when I managed to set up my own online business which now enables me to live an even more sustainable traveling lifestyle. I proceeded to set up a home base in Belgium and invested on great tech to keep me connected while on the road.
Surely with the right preparations that I did, my lifestyle as a digital nomad turned out to be mostly worry-free over the past years.
What are some of the most important lessons you´ve learned since dedicating your life to travel?
There were absolutely a LOT of lessons that I have learned. But I guess, what really stood out to me was when I learned how to challenge preexisting thoughts and stereotypes.
For instance, the world is not such a scary place at all. We have been far too conditioned by the media to think that strangers are not to be trusted and that certain foreign countries are unsafe places. It may be true in certain circumstances, but more often than not, travel has shown me that there’s far more goodness in this world than we thought.
Other than that, travel had also taught me to look past the bad side of things. It’s like the more people I meet, the more understanding I become of others’ quirks, flaws, and customs, and this, in my opinion, is a great life skill that everyone should learn because I think most of the problems in this world is rooted from narrow-mindedness, insensitivity, and prejudices.
How does coming from a small island in the Philippines affect your perspective and your experiences when you travel?
Indeed, I was born in such a tiny island in the Philippines called Batanes and I think that the most profound ‘effect’ that it gave me was when I first did a trip to someplace abroad.
As I stood there in a foreign land surrounded by people who speak another language than my own, I felt it instantly and in its entirety how vast the world really is. And that certainly, there’s more for more to see out there: people, cultures, and sights to name a few. Actually, in a way, I can say that that trip had helped fuel my desire to travel the world — and every trip since then kept me wanting for more!
Currently, after traveling to several countries and while journeying to more places, my life back in Batanes still affects me of course since it constantly makes me feel humbled… “I see what a tiny place I occupy in the world.”
What goals do you hope to obtain through traveling and your blog?
Personally, I hope that through every trip that I take, I can grow more (and more) as a person since I know that there are still a lot of things that I am unaware and ignorant of in the world. I simply want to soak it all in for as much as I could — stories, interactions, knowledge, languages, food, culture, places, music, etc. So that hopefully in the future, I will also be informed enough when I finally set up my own special organization that will try to help answer the world’s problem (e.g. poverty, pollution etc.) It’s a really grand goal but I want to start as early as now in equipping myself with the right insight and skills.
As for my travel blog, given all the odds that I had to face in order to start my traveling lifestyle (money, limited passport, etc.), I aim to use my blog as a platform of inspiration and help to those who need it the most. Besides, I know how hard and nerve-wracking it can be to go after your dream; therefore, any guidance would really help. I want to make it personal too so I always try to be as detailed as I could. In fact, just recently, I have set up a community for travel-minded individuals so that all of us can help one another in reaching our goals. It’s really great because I get to connect with my readers as well!
Melissa Langley of Lez Backpack
Melissa Langley is the creator of Lez Backpack, a hilarious and personable blog, dedicated to lesbians who travel around the world. She writes awesome articles like “The Butch’s Backpack: A Packing List” and “5 Things we Learned Traveling Southeast Asia as a Lesbian Couple” that give representation and helpful advice to queer women travelers. The best articles are the Insta Polls through which Melissa gets in touch with real life queer women traveling around the world by asking thoughtful questions like “How do you meet other lesbians abroad?” and “The Ladies’ Queer Travel Experience”. If you’