Working as a writing teacher by day, and a travel writer and adventurer in her spare time, Kristin Winet has always known that she wanted a balance of both a career and travel. Currently based in Long Beach, California, after spending seven years in Tucson, Arizona, Kristin not only teaches, but also has her own travel blog, Bon Touriste, which was created to inspire others to have “beautiful travels” whether in your backyard or to faraway lands. Read what Kristin has to say about work-travel balance, how she makes it work, and why it’s so important to her.
Tell me a bit about what you do for a living.
I’m a writing teacher by day, travel writer by nights, weekends, and breaks (I like to think of myself as a kind of respectable assistant professor one minute and rebel moonlighter with a backpack and a camera the next). When I started graduate school, I wondered for a long time how I could combine my love and passion for ethical travel with my interest in studying digital media writing practices. When I found the field of rhetoric and composition, I knew it was exactly the place I was meant to be. Part of the day, I could show up in my teaching clothes and grapple with the difficult issues related to travel, feminism, and digital media, and later on, I could go off wearing my sandals and practice what I’d been learning and teaching in the world. Plus, I love learning—both the kind inside books and out in the world—so this kind of nerdy marrying of being half-academic half-journalist seemed to be a perfect fit for me.
Do you have a certain amount of vacation days a year at your job?
To be completely honest, I chose to go into teaching partly because I knew I’d have nine month contracts and the rest of the time would be mine to play with! Yeah… and then I realized I had to write a dissertation. Thankfully, the unwieldy dissertation eventually got finished, so now, during my months off, I try to schedule lots of family time, press trips, and space and time to write and work on my photography. It’s so hard to write creatively during the academic year with all my other commitments, so I have to find that sacred time and space to unleash and nurture my own creativity somewhere!
How often do you try and travel within a year?
Close to home? All the time! I’m always setting off for weekend trips when I can and exploring the West Coast, my new home. Internationally? In an ideal world, I like to schedule between 3-5 longer journeys per year—typically as a combination of press trips with international tourism bureaus and marketing organizations, and personal trips with friends and family. Sometimes, in a happy, perfect world, they merge, like this past summer when I got to take my mom with me on a cruise to Russia, or when I got to bring my brand-new husband with me on an independent trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua (we made our honeymoon out of it). Truth be told, I like mixing work with pleasure.
Do you ever feel limited to how often you can travel because of your job?
Occasionally, because I do have to turn down really exciting opportunities from time to time. A few months ago, I was invited on a spectacular trip to Israel but had to reschedule a different trip for later in the year because I was working on preparing to defend my dissertation (I did, though, manage to go in October during our fall break, so the timing ended up working out pretty perfectly). This year, in my first year directing a writing program, I haven’t allowed myself to travel as much as I normally would, simply because I knew I needed to devote extra time to learning the ropes in my new position. But, I’m already busy lining up some fun gigs for this summer, so that keeps me happy and fulfilled when times are stressful at work. As with everything we do, finding that delicate balance is key to a happy and well-lived professional life!
Do you find it hard to unplug from work when traveling?
I’m sure many travel writers don’t want to admit this out loud, but…. yes. I do. All the time. I constantly have to remind myself to let go of my devices, to immerse myself in the experiences I’m having, to fully embrace the moment I’m in. It’s tough, too, because 1) a lot of my press trips and FAMs require me to post at least a few times a day, and 2) I know I need to write down and photograph all the little details or I’ll forget them when I get home and sit down to write about them. It’s almost like if it doesn’t get written out, it doesn’t get remembered!
In light of this, I’m still trying to figure out that ineffable balance, which always seems just out of reach!
Why is it important to you to have a career but also incorporate travel into your life? (As oppose to just quitting life to travel solely)
This is a fantastic question, and one that I don’t think gets asks enough in our travel writing/blogging circles. I’ll say this: I never wanted to just “quit life” and travel solely. Even in my early twenties, when I spent every summer jetting off to somewhere, I always had goals: to take classes in another language, to work at a language school, and to teach at a university. I loved having a “frame” for my travel, or a reason for being, in the wider world. I think, had I just given up life and went off by myself, it would be exciting, stimulating, and crazy at first, but I think I’d feel pretty empty after a while. I don’t think my husband or my cats would be too thrilled if I announced I was quitting our current life, either!
Honestly, it’s always been really important to me to have a career and to build something I’m proud of and can do into my thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, and beyond. Because you never know what life can throw at you (and it will probably throw everything including the kitchen sink at you at some point), I wanted to build something sustainable with my life. I knew I wouldn’t be able to travel all the time and supplement that with media campaigns, sponsored posts, and paid trips (or, at least, I knew I didn’t necessarily want that), so I’m working to incorporate that incredibly important part of my life into my daily work. I’ve always wanted to place creativity and composing at the center of my practice.
What inspired you to start a travel blog?
About a year ago, I started Bon Touriste, a blog about asking beautiful questions and having what I call “beautiful travels.” I took both the name and the tagline from my academic research, which I describe in more detail on my site. Essentially, I wanted to play with the mainstream idea that “tourist” and “traveler” are significantly different and remind my readers that we are all already tourists—and always already being toured. It’s a concept I find to be really important in a 21st century world where traveling has become more than just a white, Western, male activity.
I also started my own online space because I wanted to create an opportunity for those of us who are interested in changing the conversations about travel to have a place to connect, share ideas, and offer suggestions for writing, photographing, and interacting with other people and places in more feminist-minded, ethical ways. When I went to the Women in Travel Summit last year, I realized, for the first time, that I wasn’t the only one who was interested in asking—and coming up with alternatives, for these questions. It’s critical for us to continue having them!
If you had a piece of advice for someone that is trying to maintain a career, and also see the world, what would it be?
Hmm… well, for me, it was going into teaching! It’s the only job I know of in the Western world that carves out three months of vacation a year. I also thought long and hard about going into tourism marketing or some kind of nonprofit work, but I worried that my travels would be more focused on that work than on my writing, and with all my training in creative writing and writing studies, I really wanted to try my hand at becoming a freelance writer.