Adventure Girl, aka Stefanie Michaels, has not been named as one of Forbes magazine’s top 20 best-branded women on Twitter for nothing. I makes notes… er, chat to her about her self-created dream life.
The American blogger has 1.3 million followers and has been described as America’s Tweetheart (I know, terrible, right?) by Vanity Fair, no less.
She also has the White House’s ear, recently taking part in a delegation, which aims to get more US college students studying overseas. According to a 2014 Open Doors report – just 1.5% of 20 million US college students study abroad as opposed to 53% in Europe.
So this is all well and good but what does Stef actually do? Obviously, the best way for Stef to explain it is in a tweet.
— adventuregirl (@adventuregirl) September 2, 2015
And the biggie is, she makes a living from it! We’d all love to do this, right? So I thought, okay, I’ll get in touch with Stef and ask her to share with us how she did it and she very kindly took time out to answer some questions.
I cut straight to the chase.
How did you make this dream job happen for you?
I have no idea! Haha. It was never my “dream” job. My dream job was becoming a war corespondent overseas. But, as life whips you around, it was not to be. Adventure Girl came out of happenstance.
Was there a lightbulb moment when you suddenly realised you were doing this for a living?
Yes, I was at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, and someone asked me why I was on the field passing the ball around with the players. I shouted back that I had this website (at the time) called, Travel Partners, and so on.
One guy shouted back, “Oh, so you’re an Adventure Girl!” and bingo, that light went on. I knew I had my hook, and a brand that I could develop from there. So, I got home, met with my attorneys, trademarked and copyrighted everything, and the rest is history.
Like all things, there’s always a downside. What are the tough parts to your job?
Like any job, getting up most mornings before 7am. I am a late sleeper. I can sleep 12 hours a day if left alone.
Leaving my husband and six rescued pets (three dogs and three cats) behind, although we just rescued our new puppy, so getting to a quiet hotel room after we got her was awesome. SLEEP! ;0
In amongst your adventure tweets, one stood out as it mentioned you’d just finished doing your taxes. How do you balance the travelling and creativity with the business side of your job?
I have a great team who lets me do what I do best, then they take care of the rest.
So you’re successful enough that you’ve created jobs for other people too?
Urs is my savior on so many levels. Especially when I am offline and I really need people to know that they are special to me by simply thinking of me enough to reach out. I am always humbled by people wanting to learn more about what I do, so I make sure that happens as quickly as possible.
So creating jobs for other people from something you’ve started must be a proud achievement?
Yes! If I can help others, I will. I am now opening up my website to other writers as an outlet for them to be able to pitch locales and then write for Adventure Girl.
Part of that is for selfish reasons, like, I simply just don’t have the time to do it all, and then it gives others a platform to share and grow.
There are so many talented writers out there with not a lot of ways to get their work out to the public.
Some experts are saying the way of the old-school blogs are shifting into more community arenas instead of what you have been seeing out there.
More collaboration, so I am working on expanding the Adventure Girl website this way. I’m “proud” to be building a brand that others want to engage with and hopefully have created something that will live well past me one day.
There can be a lot of smoke and mirrors with online businesses. You’re presumably successful with the job satisfaction side but a) is what you do as financially rewarding as it looks and b) people often struggle with balancing work with family life/seeing friends and family – is that something you struggle with due to your travel-heavy work?
Yes, absolutely smoke and mirrors online. I can’t tell you how many times I hear “Well, this blogger is making money, and that person is successful,” but, what they won’t tell you is “making money” can be $2,000 a year, or that they sold a tech company and never have to work again, or is a trust-funder and can travel with no thought about finances.
Most bloggers I know, and only the honest ones will share, that they all have other jobs.
In the hay-day of blogging, when brands tossed money at sites, it was profitable in some ways. Now, brands want video, content producers, not just people sharing their own opinions on some blog.
Some of it still goes on, of course, but limited budgets have shifted now to influencers on YouTube, for example. Also, agencies started to look at bloggers for what they can bring them, and when they saw that it didn’t convert to ROI (return on investment), they moved elsewhere.
And balancing life. Well, I have this incredible husband who knows he married “Adventure Girl”, and is supportive of my 150+ days on the road each year. That’s one thing not a lot of people in relationships would understand nor want.
But, he gets the perks sometimes of coming with me, like little honeymoons, so it’s fun for us.
We also have no children, and I seriously could not be doing what I do if I did have them.
With so many followers, do you take seriously being a social media influencer?
I do. It’s a lot of responsibility to determine what brands I work with and share with my fans. For me, it’s a matter of ethics.
I won’t work with cigarette brands, and once SeaWorld came to me with a ton of cash to promote them, and I said no because I just don’t support what they do with their animals.
I think to sleep at night, you have to draw your own lines in the sand and not cross them when someone comes knocking with a wad of cash. And, for me, it’s not just about me, but it’s what my brand stands for.
It’s hard to delineate when you are your brand, but there is really a split when you also have to consider your brand’s voice.
Is there a conflict with being adventurous – which people likely associate with being out in the wild away from every day life – to having to be online and sat in front of a computer, or texting on your phone, to update people on your adventures?
“Being Adventurous is a state of mind – an expression of one’s curiosity,” is one of my tag lines, and it is true about being curious, which leads to adventure.
I’ve always said you can find adventure outside your own backdoor, you don’t have to climb Everest to find it.
Being online amplifies the curiosity level and sharing and engaging. It’s just another way to be adventurous.
What’s the best adventure you’ve ever been on… and the worst?
This is a tough one because it’s always the people that make the place. You could go to the same place over and over and have completely different experiences.
I certainly have favorite locales such as Iceland, the Blackwater region of Papua New Guinea, and Paris, oh and many great times dancing on tables in St Tropez, one of my favorite places.
Then there are those once in a lifetime experiences like being asked not once, but twice to The White House to work on two of President Obama’s initiatives for education and entrepreneurism, or a foodie adventure and fine lunch at Anne-Sophie Pic’s restaurant in Lausanne, Switzerland.
They’re all like snapshots – moments that amaze me. Those pinch-me-I-am-so-lucky-to-be-here life-adventures.
What are your top tips for people wanting to follow in your footsteps?
- I know this has been coined so many times, but it really is the truth. Find your passion. If it’s not something you hunger for, you won’t be good at it. It will be a hobby, which is fine, but it won’t set you on the road to where you might want to be.
- Being flexible in your ideals. For example, I wanted to be that war corespondent, but I found another way to tell people’s stories that satiates me.
- Also, finding a way to make it happen, and to be prepared. Don’t quit your job because you think it will happen in a snap. It’s taken me literally half my life, pushing and hitting rock bottom several times to get to where I am now, and it’s still not where I want to be 100%.
- If you want to travel, but have to work, look into organizations like Interexchange, where you can get paid to teach kids overseas English. You work four days, get three days off to explore and travel. You get paid a stipend, they pay your rent, and you get a salary. I have friends who have done this, and have lived in Mongolia, Vietnam, Africa.
- Think outside the box always, and get curious!
Thank you so much to the lovely Stef for this interview. Follow her adventurous life at:
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