We have an amazing community of bloggers from all around the world here at Superstar Blogging. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be sharing their stories in a series of community interviews.
Today, we’re starting with Jessica from Jagsetter. She shares her travel experiences and blogging tips in this inspiring interview. Check it out!
Hey Jessica! First off, tell us about yourself!
I’m from Long Island, New York. I grew up a short train ride away from New York City and went there a lot when I was in Highschool. The city exposed me to a lot of new cultures & ideas, which was a stark contrast from what I experienced on Long Island. My friendship circle on long-island was 100% Roman Catholic, white, and heterosexual.
Though I was exposed to a lot in NYC, my life on Long Island fueled a part of me that felt like I had to be successful and “perfect.” Perfect meaning “not so different than anyone else around me.”
I moved to NYC when I was 18 in pursuit of a career in Television. I landed my dream career at the time, which included working in event production for NBCUniversal and Univision. I put my career first and was a compulsive people pleaser. I measured my self-worth by how I was perceived by others, to the point where it left me feeling empty inside because none of what I was doing was for me.
While I lived in NYC, I read a lot of travel blogs (Nomadic Matt, Legal Nomads, etc.). I fantasized about living the lives that the bloggers that I read about had, but never had the guts to pursue it myself. The idea of traveling long-term felt unattainable because that would mean living a life that was different than what was expected.
To quench my travel thirst, I bought travel guides of places that I had no plans of going to (I’ve got hundreds in my home – you might call me obsessed).
When did you start traveling?
In the years before a set-out to travel, I went down what you might call a path of self-exploration. Little by little, I shed the “perfect barrier” that I had built up since childhood. I came out as gay in 2017 at the age of 28 — which is a little later in life than the majority. When I came out, I felt closer to everyone that I loved -— they accepted me for who I was. Coming out made me realize that it’s silly to live life-based on what you think others would expect of you.
Coming out started a snowball effect of making decisions based on what I innately knew I wanted. Exploring the world had been a desire of mine since I was a teenager, and I finally became less afraid of doing so in 2019. After years of thinking about long-term travel, I finally quit my full-time gig in NYC and made plans to travel for a bit.
I initially planned to travel for a year, while working remotely. I freelanced for my first year of long-term travel and planned events remotely for various clients. When my “year of travel” was finished, I decided to continue the lifestyle and not return to my old life in NYC.
I’ve visited 25 countries so far and Lima, Peru has been my home-base for the past two years. I still freelance, and plan events remotely for clients in the states — flying in to execute them when necessary. I’m thrilled that I’ve been able to live the life that I want while working on projects that I like.
What have been some of your favorite places so far?
I’ve liked any place that’s taught me something new. I love the feeling of being outside of my comfort zone, so places with very different cultures appeal to me. So far, I’ve experienced different things in every country that I’ve been to -— so it’s hard to pick a favorite. But since I have to choose, here are the first 3 experiences that come to mind:
- Trekking through the southern coast of Bolivia to Chile: I felt like I was on another planet in Bolivia. The landscape is otherworldly and there was absolutely no one in sight during the trek, which made me feel incredibly small and amazed by how big, and incredible, the world is.
- Camping in the Amazon Jungle: I had so many great experiences here that were very outside of my comfort zone. I held a tarantula, ate a live worm called Suri — which is a popular street food in the Peruvian Amazon, and interacted with tons of wildlife that I’d never seen before.
- Visiting Temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia: There are approx. 50 ancient temples in Siem Reap. I visited a handful of them and felt the energy and history of the grounds while I was there. I especially enjoyed visiting Angkor Wat and fantasized about what life must have been like there years ago.
How is travel (or blogging for that matter) different as a member of the LGBTQ community?
Every traveler—LGBTQ or not—has to consider the social norms of a country and adapt to them when visiting. Things such as what to wear, and even how to greet someone varies in each place.
LGBTQ travelers have one more layer to think about, which is how open about our sexuality we can be. For example, if I visit a country where the LGBTQ community faces discrimination, I keep that part of my life private. But, if I visit a place that’s much more open and accepting of LGBTQ rights, I don’t censor myself as much.
As far as my blogging goes, not much has changed. It’s a vulnerable place for me to go, so I only post about the topic when it feels relevant,= or when I’m inspired. So far, I’ve posted a little about it on social media but have yet to write about it on my site. If I encounter a topic that might be helpful to the community, I’ll share it on whatever platform makes the most sense.
Have you had any misadventures?
I’ve had a ton of misadventures while traveling. I don’t think anyone is immune to something going wrong while on the road. I’ve been scammed in Morocco, almost homeless one night in Indonesia, and came face to face with a killer snake in Peru.
The biggest misadventure that I’ve had was when I started long-term traveling. I signed up to travel with a remote work & travel company called WyCo. The company promised to organize my housing, co-working space, and provide a community to travel with for one year. I had two friends who had traveled with WyCo the year prior, so I thought that the company was legit.
I paid a $5K deposit for the trip, and flew to my first destination which was Lima. The day that I arrived in Lima, the company emailed everyone to let them know that they went bankrupt and the year-long trip had been canceled. I lost my $5K deposit and spent the first month of my travels reeling in grief. I fantasized about what my year of travel would look like with this group and it was suddenly gone. I had no confidence in myself to travel alone at the time and had no clue how to move forward.
I ended up traveling with 3 others from the group for a year. We managed just fine, and they’ve become some of my best friends. I learned a big lesson with this misadventure which is that things don’t always go according to plan, and everything is figure-out-able.
What are 3 life-changing lessons travel has taught you?
- Not everything goes according to plan: I’m a natural planner. Travel has taught me to accept the fact that plans fall through sometimes. I’ve learned to “roll with the punches” a little more now.
- You’ll have a better chance of feeling fulfilled if you live a life that’s congruent with what you want.
- It’s impossible to be happy all the time: Before I traveled, I was on a quest to numb my negative emotions. When I traveled, I still felt sad sometimes — even when I was in the most beautiful places. It’s human nature to feel all the emotions, all the time. Even if you’re living the dream life.
What Countries or Activities are Still on Your Bucket List?
There are so many places that I’d like to visit. My plan is to go to the Middle East next. I’ve been reading a lot about Middle Eastern Cultures recently, and I’m interested in going there to learn more. Oman in particular looks like a great country to visit.
I’d also like to go on an African Safari, though I’ve got a fear of large animals so I’m not sure how that will go.
Do you have any favorite travel books/movies/TV shows?
I love all books by Bill Bryson – his stories are all so informative & relatable. I also enjoy most travel documentaries, though no favorites come to mind. I usually turn the TV or Netflix on when I’m bored and watch whatever travel doc is playing at random.
Any insider tips/suggestions for people visiting NYC?
The city can be an expensive place to visit. If you research in advance, you can find ways to save money during your trip. Here are three things that first come to mind:
- Take the Subway & Bus as much as possible: Taxis and cars hailed via rideshare app are expensive in NYC. The subway system can be intimidating, but you’ll save a lot if you take some time to learn how it operates and use it.
- There are plenty of cheap eats in the city: It’s very easy to spend a lot of money eating out in NYC, but you don’t have to. Food items like pizza, bagels, and ramen noodles are delicious, plentiful, and cheap in the city. Replace some meals with those items to save money.
- Don’t stay in Manhattan: Accommodation is cheaper in areas surrounding Manhattan. Stay in areas like Brooklyn or Queens—which are both affordable, and a short train ride away from all the things that you’ll want to see on your trip.
Tell us about your blog!
My blog (Jagsetter.com) is full of travel tips, stories, & advice from the places that I’ve been to. I love writing travel guides that include all the things that I wish I had known before going to a place. I also hope to provide resources for people that are itching to live a more authentic life. I plan on building more content in this area up within the next year.
The name Jagsetter comes from an abbreviation of my name — Jag was my nickname when I lived in NYC. My friends combined my name with “Jetsetter” and called me, “Jagsetter” as a joke before I left NYC, and it stuck.
What is one thing that has surprised you since you started blogging?
Blogging is a lot of work. First, there’s a whole new world of information to learn. Second, the act of writing blogs, editing content, and promoting it is time-consuming. Blogging is a full-time job.
I was also surprised by the fact that it takes a long time to generate any real traffic. For the first 9 months, my mom was my only visitor.
How do you balance blogging and travel?
This hasn’t been difficult for me because I’ve been working remotely since I started traveling long-term. I think it’s important to keep a routine while traveling, as one would at home. I usually work Mon – Fri from 9 to 5 and explore the area that I’m in on nights and weekends. The only difference is that now, blogging has added to the work-load so I sometimes have to work into the night.
What advice do you have for first-time remote workers or freelancers who are thinking of traveling full time but aren’t sure it’s for them/if it will work out?
Everyone’s situation is different so this answer varies. The first thing that I’d say to everyone is to think hard about whether they’d like to switch gears before doing so. Remote working & freelancing will likely be options for a while, so it’s a good idea to think strategically about the decision first.
If someone wants to work remotely but isn’t 100% sure if they’d like to commit, then I recommend testing it out first. If they have a full-time gig that could be remote, then they should ask their boss to work remotely a few days a week to see how it goes. If they like it, then they can go full time with confidence.
Freelancing is a little different. If someone wants to freelance, then they should have a plan in place before committing. There’s no guarantee that a freelancer will have constant work. Before deciding to freelance, one should have some money saved to support them if/when they don’t have a gig.
No matter what, everything is reversible. Corporate life will always be there if/when someone leaves and then decides to go back to it. So, if they’re in a position where they can take the risk, then it doesn’t hurt to try.
What tips do you have for new bloggers just starting out?
Have patience. You’re going to work very hard and most likely no one will come to your site for the first few months. You have to love the process because the only guaranteed payoff will be your personal excitement for producing content that you like.
What are your blogging goals for 2021?
I’d like to become more consistent with my blog posts. I also want to learn more about photography, editing, & writing. I want to communicate my experiences in the best way possible, and I think leveling up on my skills will help.
Time for the lightning round!
Plane or train? Train
Aisle or window seat? Window
Beach or mountains? Mountains
Chill cafe or adrenaline activity? I prefer adrenaline activities because they’re always the most memorable. But I never seek them out myself though and only do them when forced.
Where can we find you online & on social media?