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’re a lesbian looking for tips and advice about traveling around the world from a fellow, well-traveled lesbian, Melissa is your gal and Lez Backpack is a must-see before setting off on gallivanting around the world.
What inspired you to create Lez Backpack?
Before heading off on a half year trip in Southeast Asia, I tried to do some background research on what it would be like to travel as a queer woman. I did find some great information, especially from Globetrottergirls, but overall I felt the niche was really lacking. I decided that I should be the one to fill that void. Out of that Lez Backpack was born.
How often do you meet other queer people when you travel?
Organically, not so much. But due to the blog and social media, especially on Instagram, I have been able to connect with many women! This was how I first met fellow LGBT travel blogger Meg Ten Eyck from Dopes on the Road. She’s become a great friend and we exchange ideas all the time on what it means to be a queer woman in the travel industry. Recently, I met with Bly from Button and Bly’s Travel Show – a must watch for the community. In this way, the passion that we’re all dedicated to – the exploration of travel as lesbian women – has really brought us together. It’s been an amazing journey and I feel so lucky to call these two ladies my colleagues.
Do you encounter homophobia or other types of discrimination on the road often?
Interestingly, when I have faced discrimination it is mostly from other expats. I recount this experience in my article on traveling as a lesbian couple. But it really isn’t frequent. Due to my gender presentation, I can often pass as a straight woman. It is only when I’m with a more androgynous partner that my sexuality is put on display. A woman who I was in a relationship with in the past would encounter confusion over her gender on a daily basis while traveling. While she never felt in danger, I think that she was very brave in those moments.
Do you have advice for lesbians and queers who travel?
Just remember that your safety and comfort comes first. When we travel we are often thrown back into the closet. You have the choice to disclose your sexuailty whenever and to whomever you choose. If and when you do discuss who you love, take pride. By sharing your story you might create an opportunity to introduce someone to a new viewpoint. You never know how your story will take root in someone else. It might create a ripple effect that could open the mind of many others. In essence this is what travel is truly about.
Nicole Gulotta of Eat This Poem
Eat This Poem is a truly breathtaking and beautiful blog in both the visual and literary sense. Eat This Poem, created by Nicole Gulotta, is an amazing travel blog that focuses on the best places to find books and food around the world. Each Literary City Guide is precious and insightful as it offers unique places to eat, read and explore in almost every major city in the U.S. and a wide selection of international cities around the world as well. There’s also a section of Nicole’s original recipes which are always accompanied by a beautiful poem relating to the type of food and/or ingredients in the recipe, and of course, tons of gorgeous, Instagram-able photos of foods and places that make everything look scrumptious. You can tell simply by taking a peek at the blog that Nicole is an incredibly smart and skillful lady who excels at everything from writing to cooking to photography.
What inspired you to create Eat This Poem?
Food and poetry are two of my passions, so Eat This Poem became a way to fuse them together and write about cooking from a new perspective.
What is the most magical city for bookworms in your opinion?
I studied abroad in London during college, and found the city enchanting. Assignments for one of my literature courses included walking in the footsteps of Virginia Woolf, visiting the house where Charles Dickens lived, and spending a lot of time in old libraries to do research for term papers. There are also plenty of coffee shops and bookstores to spend time in.
How do you find great places to eat in each city you visit?
I do a lot of research, from blog posts to food magazines to travel sites, and look for restaurants mentioned more than once, or any unique locations that pique my interest. I also reach out to local bloggers to ask for recommendations, and when I’m at a restaurant, I ask the servers and chefs where they like to eat. Locals are always the best resource for navigating a new town.
What are your goals as of now for travel and your blog?
I recently had a baby, so any ambitious travel plans are temporarily on hold, but as our son gets older, my husband and I look forward to taking short trips to some of our favorite places in California, like Santa Barbara and its nearby wine country. As for the blog, it will continue to expand Literary City Guide offerings, and I’ll be writing poetry and recipe pairings as often as I can.
Amanda Wong of Beautiful Adieu
I’ve been following Amanda on Instagram (@BeautifulAdieu) for a few years now. Every single one of her photographs are luminous and absolutely lovely. She’s especially skilled at beautifully capturing femininity, through her portraits of women and pretty scenery. And behind the lens is Amanda, a beautiful girl with a beautiful soul who you should be following on Instagram and on her web blog for photography that truly inspires wanderlust and awe.
How did you convert your love of photography into a career that includes travel?
I think I got really lucky! I’m really blessed to be able to do what I love for a living. It started out with fashion portraits that I took during my trips overseas when I was still new into photography. I began to travel a lot more over the years and since I graduated in December last year, my “jetsetting schedule” has gone out of hand! I’m always armed with my camera so I think traveling and photography just naturally became part of the entire equation. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be able to do what I do!
What inspired you to create Beautiful Adieu?
Beautiful Adieu was just a blog name that stuck with me since I was thirteen, but I’ve since incorporated it into my business and life. Now it reminds me to treasure the transience of every moment, and to immortalise them in photos before you bid these moments a beautiful goodbye.
What are some of your favorite things to photograph?
Other than fashion portraits which are my main genre of photography, I also love taking travel photos! It could be in a documentary style, landscape or architecture. I basically have my camera with me all the time when I’m travelling and I’m especially attracted to golden light – it’s almost as if the camera is glued to my hands when magic hour arrives!
Where to after Paris?
I was just in Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways for a couple of days! The entire experience was nothing short of amazing. We went to the largest uninterrupted sand dune in the world (Rub’Al Khali) and even tried dune bashing! If you’re one who loves rollercoasters (and I’m absolutely crazy about them), you should definitely try this at least once in your life!
Anne Ditmeyer of Prêt à Voyager
Anne Ditmeyer’s designs of maps, editorial content and various other travel-related materials will inspire you to become a graphic designer and see the world at the same time. It’s motivating to see someone leading such a dynamic and charmed life by combining all of her skills, interests and personality to make a living. Anne’s got this traveler slash communications thing on lock and there’s a lot one can learn from this design and media guru.
So what is your lifestyle like as a traveler and designer? Which activity do you do more often?
Neither. Most of my time is spent doing communications work, but it serves as a nice bridge between design and travel. It also means that no two days of my life are the same, which keeps things fresh. In addition to client work, I usually give two Paris tours a week (I’m not your typical tour guide), and I teach a few classes on Skillshare, including Map Making and the Art of Travel Posters.
How do you incorporate travel into your creative pursuits?
It’s funny, whenever I travel people ask me why I’m taking a particular trip. To be honest, I don’t think we ever need an excuse to travel. Years ago my car died, and I used the money I would have spent on the car/gas/insurance to travel internationally every year. I’ve always made travel a priority. One does not have to travel far to be inspired. I’ve learned my best ideas come from walking down the street or in the swimming pool –– NOT in front of my computer. The other perk of travel is that when you have a trip to look forward to, it’s good motivation to get all your work done before you go so you can enjoy your trip! I actually love traveling for conferences so I learn something new while visiting another city.
What’s the best way to go about seeking art in a city?
Right now I like to use Instagram as a tool to find places that I know I’ll enjoy seeing in person. I follow people who inspire me, and they’re the best local guides. I recently wrote an article on Medium with tips for using Instagram to travel. I also really love Herb Lester travel guides (I wrote the one on Paris Small Shops!).
In your opinion, which city has the most creativity and good design?
The motto of my blog is “Travel is not about where you go, but how you see the world.” I think there is awesome stuff to discover everywhere you go as long as you are willing to explore. Design is all around us from cool typography in signage, to maps of the city. When it comes to great design Tokyo, Iceland and Paris top my list.
Anne S. Ditmeyer (aka @pretavoyager) is an American designer/writer based in Paris, France. She was recently named a top Paris Instagram account to follow by Conde Nast Traveler. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter, and at her blog, Prêt à Voyager (translation: ready to travel).