Blogger Interview: Julie Cao

Blogger Interview: Julie Cao

I had the pleasure of interviewing another travel blogger, who has a unique perspective on travel as an expat in Canada, a freelance travel writer and full-time travel blogger. Check out her travel blog and get to know her in my interview below.

When and why did you decide to become a travel blogger?

I initially set up my blog five years ago to provide a journal for myself of living in Hawaii, and to show readers the reality of living in paradise. I wrote a post on the things I learned after living in Hawaii, and readers and my friends in Hawaii told me they loved my post and could totally relate to what I wrote about.  This inspired me to share more of my island life.

In the About Me section of your blog, you say: For me, living abroad is the best way to get to know a country. What do you think you learn from living abroad that a tourist cant learn during shorter travel? 

Living abroad has given me an extended period of time to explore my host city and country, and get to know some aspects of a place other travelers are not aware of. For example, after living in Hawaii for a few years, I realized it was not all paradise. It also has many negative sides – too expensive to live, very limited job opportunities, island fever, and has the second worst traffic in the USA (behind Los Angeles). One cannot notice these parts by just going there on vacation. 

Hawaii Kai

Youre a full-time travel blogger and freelance travel writer. How did you transition your passion for writing into your full-time job?

I did not think much, I just decided to do it full-time because it would be the best to combine my profession with my passion for travel and sharing stories. When I just started out, I had no experience in travel writing. I joined the MatadorU travel writing program to hone my writing skills and get myself exposed to the travel journalism industry. There are support groups, valuable resources and work opportunities in the program that helped me transition as well.

What are you most proud of that you have accomplished so far with your blog?

One of my favorite parts of blogging is being a part of the supportive travel blogging community. I have met many bloggers and we have been very supportive of each other. You know the feeling when you get to know someone and totally understand what you are doing?

What are you still hoping to accomplish?

I still want to finish the MatadorU travel writing program. I signed up for the course three years ago and I am still only halfway through it. It is a huge commitment and it’s easy to get distracted, but I am determined to finish this course so I can step up my career.

What has been your favorite place youve visited, and where do you still want to visit? 

Alaska. It is the best place to visit in the USA if you love natural beauty. I have been to Alaska five times and I still want to return. 

I also wish to visit Churchill Manitoba, the polar bear capital of the world with 300 days Aurora Borealis every year and only 3,000 residents. 

North Douglas Island

What is the biggest lesson travel blogging has taught you?

Always be kind and generous. The world is very small and the travel blogging community is no exception. Everyone loves working with those who are nice and easy to work with. 

What are some of the things you are most grateful for in your life right now?

Having the opportunity to live abroad and travel around the world. I have seen poverty and people struggle with daily life and it makes me feel privileged to live the life I want in a developed country and be able to travel.

Who are some of the women (both in your personal life and famous people) who inspire you the most and why?

Julia Dimon, co-host of Word Travel, gave me the idea for travel writing in the first place. Her travel show revealed that it is possible to travel around the world full-time. She is quirky and practical, and you can tell she is very intuitive and smart.

I am also grateful to have met my travel blogger friend, Emily Luxton, when I just started out. We collaborated with each other and she invited me to her Facebook group where I had the opportunity to meet and collaborate with other travel bloggers. She offered me valuable advice on blogging and encouraged me to work with tourism boards when my blog was just five months old. Thanks to her, I was then offered a self-organized press trip to Winnipeg early this year despite my blog being so new.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start a travel blog?

Focus on creating high-quality content, and try not to look at the numbers and your blog statistics. I used to obsess over social media, blog statistics and comment pods, but I found it very time-consuming and can only get me so far. If you offer something readers really need and write from your heart, followers will come and ask for more.

What is one thing most people dont know about you? 

I do not like most sweet foods and desserts, but chocolate and ice-cream are exceptions.

 

Make sure to follow Julie on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to follow along with her exciting travels.

 

Table Talk Tuesday With Jessica Short

Table Talk Tuesday With Jessica Short

Another Tuesday, another Table Talk. My next guest is someone who I have thoroughly enjoyed chatting with over the past few weeks, and after hearing her answers to the following questions, I realized we have even more in common than I thought! Help me give a warm, virtual welcome to Jess.

JessShort

Do you remember the moment you decided to start blogging? What made you take the plunge?

I’ve had three blogs so this is a hard question to answer! My first blog was really more of a journal in high school. My second one was a travel blog when I studied abroad for a semester in London. But I consider Short & Sweet my first “real” blog!

A little backstory for why I started my blog: I got married in January of 2016, and officially moved from my home in Oregon to where my husband and I went to school in California. Many of my best friends were still in Oregon and my husband was still a student, so I felt really lonely. I realized I needed to find something other than Netflix to fill my time, but didn’t really have any hobbies because for the past year or so I was wedding planning, getting ready to graduate, job searching, and then working two jobs, so I didn’t have time for it. I really enjoy processing through writing, so I thought doing a blog would be great, but I had no idea what to blog about. My husband and another friend gave me the idea of doing a blog about trying out different things every month, and I thought that was a great idea since most blogs have only one niche. I launched my blog in June 2016 after lots of prep, and it has been such a great thing to keep me busy!

Can you give me the elevator pitch for why someone should read your blog?

The Short & Sweet blog is different from any other blog! It is an experiment, a journey if you will, of rediscovering interests and adventuring into new ones. It is about making time purposeful, being adventurous, and having fun! Each month, I choose a new hobby/activity/skill to learn and blog about my experience. It could be a new passion or I could never want to do it again, but this is the time of life to try new things!

I love what you say in your About page on your blog: “I want to prove you can do something fun and meaningful with your time, even if you don’t have much of it.” I think a lot of us, myself included, can sometimes feel as if we don’t have enough time in the day to get everything done. What’s your advice for making time for the fun and meaningful things in life?

That is a real struggle I have every day! Two things that have helped me make time for fun things are 1) Make an action plan! Even if it’s just one day or afternoon a month, put it on your calendar and plan something fun to do, either by yourself or with friends. And protect that time! Don’t let other things get in the way. 2) Once you make that plan, tell people who can keep you accountable, who will remind you to take a day off or to spend time on yourself even though it may feel counterproductive. I read a great quote the other day: “I’m learning that to rest is to not be weak.” Don’t feel guilty for spending time on doing things you love – see it as an opportunity to be rejuvenated so you can be the best you you can be!

What is your number one goal for your blog?

I want to show people that they can make time to try new things and that their time is valuable – it shouldn’t be wasted on watching TV all day or doing things that don’t have meaning! (Although I will admit, I’m a huge Netflix fan!)

A lot of 20-somethings battle with feelings of self-doubt and questioning if they are good enough, especially after graduating college and during the job hunt process. How have you managed to stay positive and not be too hard on yourself?

I really struggled with staying positive during the job search after college – it’s rough! I had this idea in my mind that I had to find my dream job right after college and if it was anything else I would be settling (even though I had no idea what my dream job even was). But once I realized that everyone has to start somewhere and that I wasn’t chained to a job for forever if I didn’t love it, that really helped. We have our whole lives to work, so it’s not the end of the world if we don’t find the perfect job right away!

If you had a life motto, what would it be? (Besides “Taylor Swift has just as many hours in her day as you do”, which I also loved on your About page. 🙂

Thank you! I love Tswizzle 🙂 I think my life motto would be Choose joy! I tend to be a little bit of a pessimist, and sometimes the way I feel about things can really shape my attitude. I have two “choose joy” signs – one at home and one at work – to remind me that I can choose something else. I can’t control what happens in my life, but I can control the way I respond to things.

What three things are at the top of your gratitude list right now?

My husband – he is spending hours every day studying for his MCAT exam to get into med school, but he still makes our relationship a priority and serves me so well.

My church – I have such a great community through my weekly community group and in serving in the high school ministry; every time I’m with them I feel refreshed!

My job – I feel really blessed to have not only a full time job, but a job I truly enjoy, coworkers that are friends, and a company that I can get behind.

JessShortWedding

Who is your biggest “girl crush” in terms of female entrepreneurs, celebrities, or any other woman you look up to, and why?

I have a huge girl crush on Shauna Niequist – she is an AMAZING blogger, author, and speaker. I just got her new book, Present Over Perfect, and it is really shaping the way I view myself and how I want to spend my time and energy. I would HIGHLY recommend her book! Also I love Blake Lively, she is just the cutest.

Your blog is all about rediscovering interests and finding new ones. I’m curious what your main hobbies and interests were as a child, and how they have changed as you’ve grown up?

I had SO many different interests as a kid! I was always really into art and crafty things, and I even went to an art school in junior high. I also did theater and musicals from a young age through high school. I did ballet for 7 years and then transitioned to cheerleading in high school, and I have always been a big reader. But I would say one of my huge passions ever since I was a kid was singing – I was always in choir and in high school I led worship at my church. I wanted to be the lead singer of a band for a really long time, but I ended up doing Communications instead. I still love singing, and I am definitely one of those people who will belt it out along with the radio in the car 🙂 Although I don’t do all of those hobbies anymore, I enjoy seeing other people do them and participating in them when I can!

I have to throw a fun one in here to wrap this up. If you could be any animal, which  animal would you want to be?

This is always a hard one for me – I would probably either be a horse because they are so majestic and free, or a golden retriever because they are so loyal and cuddly!

 

Thanks to Jess for being a great interviewee, and thank you to all of you for continuing to read my blog! As always, feel free to email me or reach out on social media if you’d like to be featured on a Table Talk Tuesday. And be sure to follow Jess on her blog, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Table Talk Tuesday With Imelda Green

Table Talk Tuesday With Imelda Green

I can’t believe this is already my fourth Table Talk Tuesday interview. I’ve been having so much fun getting to know other bloggers through this blog series! Hopefully you all are enjoying reading these conversations so far.

For today’s interview, I’m very excited to introduce Imelda. I was immediately enchanted by her blog, which features her creative handmade products, as well as step-by-step guides to creating your own masterpieces. She is definitely an inspiration to me, and I’m sure many others, when it comes to following your passions.

Without further adieu, let’s jump into the interview so you can see what I mean:

imelda1

Can you tell me the story of how you decided to start your blog, and what your blogging journey has been like so far?

I was nearing the end of my engineering studies when it finally dawned on me that this was not my path in life and that if I wanted to pursue a creative career. Without disrespect for theoretical knowledge, I think that art and design is a profession that you master mainly by doing instead of pouring over books. So I decided that starting a blog about my creative journey would motivate me to do regular work. And so it has, for over a year.

What is the most important thing you think someone should know before starting a blog?

Know your passion. Blogging takes a lot of time and hard work but that all feels like a game when you write about something you are really fascinated with. If you blog about a topic you only choose for market (or whatever other) reasons, you will lose interest in the end.

You mention on the About section of your blog that blogging helped you not fall into the trap of laziness, because it pushed you to keep creating things. What are some other ways you stay productive and motivated?

The beauty of the creative field is that there are many different aspects of the work I do, so I don’t have to be productive in the same field all the time. Fed up with writing blog posts? No problem, time to illustrate! Been painting for days on end? It’s okay, I can spend my energy on building a community around my blog. But I also allow myself to be unproductive at times, those are the moments when I re-charge my batteries, which is crucial when you are a creative. 

You also talked how you realized during your time at university that you didn’t want to spend all of your life doing architecture/engineering, when your true passions were in design and beauty. What made you finally decide to pursue your passions? 

I think that creativity is something that bursts out of you; it finds its way to the surface, unless you repress it. For the moment I am doing engineering as well as designing, which is demanding but I find I’m really lucky because I have a comfortable job, which I am choosing to do as well as a designing career, which comes naturally, and which I will eventually do full-time. So I guess I never made a very conscious decision to pursue my passion, I just acted on the natural impulse. 

“I think that creativity is something that bursts out of you; it finds its way to the surface, unless you repress it.”

What three things are at the top of your gratitude list right now?

That is definitely a hard one, as I have a very long gratitude list and I don’t normally rank them, but here it goes: I am incredibly grateful to my grandmother for introducing art to me from a very early age, to my blogger friends who keep encouraging me even when blogging seems pointless and to Mr Mozart for his genius music, which cheers me up in every situation.

What is one of your favorite inspirational quotes?

There is a quote above my desk that I learned from Thomas Frank’s youtube channel: “’I don’t feel like it’ is a matter of choice”. It is very tempting – especially in the creative field – to only do work when you ‘feel inspired’. But inspiration is something you can actually control and the difference between amateur and professional artists is that professionals don’t wait for the perfect moment, they do it anyway. It might not be perfect, but a first draft is always better than an empty piece of paper.

Who is your biggest “girl crush” in terms of female entrepreneurs, celebrities, or any other woman you look up to, and why?

Uh, that’s another difficult one, I have so many. I’m really thankful for all the things I learned about running an online business from Melyssa Griffin, she is amazing, and I always find artistic motivation when I watch the youtube channel of Holly Exley.   

What is the best advice you have ever received from someone?

Better done than perfect. I have seen/heard this advice so many times and I honestly think that perfectionism sabotages our actions just too many times. It won’t be perfect, but it will get better with time. And better and better…

What is your greatest achievement so far in life, and what is one thing you still hope to accomplish?

I’m really proud of getting over the world constantly telling me I am not good enough and following my own path in the artistic field. I am hoping to continue this journey until I can run my business full time.    

“I’m really proud of getting over the world constantly telling me I am not good enough and following my own path in the artistic field.”

I have to throw a fun one in here to wrap this up. If you could have one super power, which would you choose?

Well, I would definitely be grateful for the ability to teleport. Travelling can sometimes be stressful in a big city, especially when it’s cold and dark outside (hello February :). I also have some good friends abroad whom I’d love to see more often at slightly less expense.

imelda2

I just loved everything Imelda had t0 say about creativity and how she got to where she is today. My favorite part about these interviews is hearing everyone’s stories. Please be sure to check out Imelda’s blog and follow her on social media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/imeldagreens

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/imeldagreens/

Pinterest: https://hu.pinterest.com/imeldagreens/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/imeldagreens

Tumblr: http://imeldagreens.tumblr.com

I’m a Blogging Meetup Organizer!

I’m a Blogging Meetup Organizer!

I just wanted to write a quick post today letting you all know about a new project I’m working on. About a month ago I became the organizer of a Meetup group for bloggers in Austin. The organizer before me had to step down, and he sent out an email asking if anyone would be interested in taking over. On a whim I emailed and said I would, and next thing I knew, I was the new organizer!

The group has over 300 members, so I was a bit nervous for the responsibility, but was also excited to have a new challenge. I started by creating a poll in the group asking what kind of event everyone would want to have for our first meetup. The majority of members voted for a chill get-together at a coffee shop, so I picked a date and time and told everyone to meet at one of my favorite coffee shops: Mozart’s.

screen-shot-2017-01-31-at-4-10-11-pm

We had about 10 people show up, which was the perfect amount to be able to sit outside at a long picnic table and talk all things blogging. We started by going around and sharing who we were and what we blogged about, and it was amazing how many different areas and interests everyone focused on for their blog, from guitar repair to dog care. I’ve listed everyone’s blog links at the end of this post so you all can check them out!

I’m excited to see where this new opportunity takes me. It already seems to be a great way to meet new people and learn more about blogging. Everyone brings their own expertise and opinions to the table, and I’m looking forward to learning from them.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever participated in or lead a Meetup group, or something similar! I’d love to hear your thoughts and advice. Also, be sure to check out all of the blog links below, and you’ll see what I mean about the variety in types of content. Also, if you’re in the Austin area and looking for a new group to join, check out Austin Area Bloggers! 

Meetup Group Members Blogs:

myasays.com

impulsivetravelerguy.com 

geekybetterlife.com

k9ofmine.com

thomsinger.com

landisguitars.com

mycallavida.com

Liebster Award Nomination

Liebster Award Nomination

liebster2

Yesterday I got some news that just really made my day, and the timing was quite perfect. After spending a lot of the day giving my blog a bit of a makeover and planning some of the posts I hope to publish soon, I got the notification that Jen from Strictly (Personal) Business had nominated me for the Liebster Award! I want to thank Jen for making my day and really giving me the confidence boost I needed to devote more time to my blog this year.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this award (as I’ll admit I was before receiving my nomination) here are the rules:

liebster-award-rules

So let’s get started with 11 random facts about me:

  1. I studied abroad in Seville, Spain for a semester
  2. My two biggest fears are snakes and heights
  3. I played violin and piano when I was younger, but stopped after middle school
  4. I was in theater and choir in high school, and I was in a jazz choir for two years in college
  5. I have never broken a bone
  6. I was an extra in a TV show once in high school
  7.  I have lived in 8 different houses all within the same city (my parents love to move)
  8. I am extremely indecisive about almost everything in life
  9. I am a self-proclaimed Harry Potter nerd
  10. I have a major sweet tooth
  11. My spirit animal is a deer

And now for the questions Jen gave me to answer:

  1. How long have you been blogging and what made you stick with it? I started blogging two years ago (almost to the day) to document my semester abroad, and picked it back up last summer. I have had trouble sticking to it at times but I always come back to it because I love writing and I love the community of bloggers I have found here.cropped-1502199_10152141523637410_1361037174_o-5.jpg
  2. What’s your favorite social media platform? Right now I am really loving Instagram because it is so simple but still allows for plenty of creativity.
  3. Do you prefer books or movies? I love both. I definitely prefer reading a book before I see the movie.
  4. What is your favorite quote? I like Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote “Do one thing every day that scares you.” That is something I hope to embody this year.
  5. Who or what inspires you? I am inspired by a lot of people, mostly my family and friends because I feel like I do a great job of surrounding myself with awesome people.
  6. What’s your favorite thing about blogging? I love that it allows me to express myself and share my thoughts and opinions with others.
  7. Where do you wish you could live? Lately I have been really missing Seville. I loved living there for the semester I was there, and I would definitely live there again (or at least visit). cropped-img_1126.jpg
  8. What are you currently reading? (Book, blog, magazine, etc.) John Green’s book An Abundance of Katherines. 
  9. What’s your favorite food? I’m a sucker for tortilla chips
  10. What’s a piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to start a blog? Don’t overthink it too much. It’s easy to start second guessing yourself, but if it’s what you want to do you should just go for it!
  11. What’s the number one thing that you want to do in 2016? Be more fearless. I will be posting a New Years Resolutions blog soon that will explain how I intend on doing this, so stay tuned for that!

And now for my nominees!

These are people that I enjoy reading and chatting with through comments. Not only do I think they have great blogs, but they have shown support for my blog in some way, big or small!

  1. Confetti and Curves 
  2. Ashley Nicole
  3. look_itsLaura
  4. Lisa Tiller
  5. DreamerSince98
  6. Within Reality
  7. Lainey Loves Life
  8. gojenbefit
  9. Away With Fairies
  10. Brooke’s Blog
  11. The Frosty Perspective

Questions for my nominees:

  1. What was your first ever blog post about?
  2. Do you have any routines when blogging? (Certain music you like to listen to, place you feel most comfortable blogging, etc)
  3. If you could travel anywhere in the world where would it be?
  4. Besides blogging, what are some of your hobbies/interests?
  5. If you could travel back in time, what year or decade would you choose to travel to?
  6. Do you prefer watching movies or TV shows?
  7. What types of blogs do you most enjoy reading?
  8. What animal best represents you and why?
  9. What is one of your resolutions for 2016?
  10. What was your dream job growing up?
  11. How do you hope to change or improve your blog this year?

I really hope my nominees consider spreading the blogging love and writing a post of their own about this award. Thanks again, Jen, for nominating me! 🙂