Settle in friends, this post is going to be a bit long. I’m breaking it up into sections for easier digesting. This post is important to me. Got your coffee? Wine? Popcorn? Cool, let’s get started.
I had something happen recently that I really want to talk about. I had a job interview for a position that, on paper, was perfect for me. In the job posting, the company asked that in addition to the standard resume and cover letter, 2 writing samples be submitted along with a joke. The posting mentioned the office being pet friendly, too. So I shared a picture of my pup, Comet, two dad jokes, and the link to my website. I explained that my website is a great way to not only see many writing samples and get a sense of my writing style, but to get to know my personality off the piece of paper that is my resume. I also shared that it was a passion project based off a nickname given to me by my grandmother many years ago.
I was so excited about this job. I checked my email for a reply multiple times a day. I was thrilled when I received an interview invite. I prepared so well for the interview by spending hours on their website and learning as much as I could.
In total, the interview lasted for 12 minutes and ended with me walking out. As soon as the interview started, I knew something was off. I could feel it. The gentleman kept looking at me very weirdly as if we was trying to figure something out and couldn’t do it. He spent most of the interview making fun of my past experiences (specifically my internship at Disney World) and criticizing my website. He barely shared information about the job itself nor did he ask many questions about my relevant experience. He boiled all my work on my website and Instagram page to "just wanting to be known as an influencer."
Now, I know I have nothing to justify or explain. But I'm the kind of person who has to put my feelings into the universe in order to let them go. So today, I'm writing about what this all means to me. Because, hey Harold (yes, I know you’re here reading this), you missed the point.
I graduated from college in 2013 with a Criminal Justice degree. In high school, I watched a lot of NCIS and my favorite show was Bones. In my mind, the FBI was my calling. I chose my school based on the strength of the Criminal Justice program and began the work towards becoming an FBI agent. About 2 years in, I knew that my lofty dreams weren’t going to happen and truthfully, I wasn’t sure I even wanted them to (short story: I have a hearing impairment that cannot be fixed and would automatically disqualify me from becoming an agent). I was too far into my degree to change my major, not that I had any idea of what I would change it to. So I made the decision to graduate with the degree and wing it in the real world.
Fast forward to today, I’ve been working in marketing for the last 4 years and have two years additional experience in social media. I recently graduated with a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership in May. I have no traditional or formal education in marketing. I am self-taught, spending hours on skill training sites and teaching myself the basics. I have on the ground experiencing having worked with large and small companies, nonprofit and for profit, and various types of products. I have hustled, spent long hours, and worked my ass off to be where I am and to have the experience I do. I know exactly what it takes to make a brand successful. Fancy marketing terms be damned.
Page Creation and Evolution:
So how did this website come to be? Some of you may have read the Origin of Airplane Ass post or read my About Page. As you can read in those posts, I have always loved traveling. My first international trip was at the young age of 12. I continued traveling through college and as a post-grad. I would take as many trips as I could, only using my vacation days for traveling. Back in 2010, I started a Tumblr page: Fugitive Dreams. I scoured the Internet for gorgeous travel photography and shared it on my page, a virtual bucket list if you will. I did this on and off for 7 years.
My grandmother passed away in December 2016, just before a planned trip to Eastern Europe with EF Ultimate Break. Normally, I would have written postcards with funny stories to my Grandmother, always signing off with the nickname she gave me: Airplane Ass. As I was walking through gorgeous Eastern European cities like Prague and Budapest, I was struck over and over again by the fact that she would no longer be reading my postcards or calling me a “piece of work” over the phone. As an outlet, I started posting my own content and writing about stories from past trips on my Tumblr page. I enjoyed writing and sharing my stories. It felt like a digital journal. In some way, it also felt like since I was putting my stories into the universe, my Grandma would be able to read them from wherever in the universe she’s currently hangin’.
In May 2017, I converted my Tumblr page into a Wordpress page, still under the name Fugitive Dreams. I used Wordpress as a hosting site until January 2018. I wasn’t super happy with the logistics of Wordpress. I think it’s great for those folks who understand coding and have a bit more time, but given that I work 2 jobs, I needed something a little cleaner and more streamlined. I switched my domain and hosting to Squarespace, which is the page you see today!
As I shared more stories on my page, I felt like I could be doing more. I had so many pictures to share. Specifically, my mom and I had just taken a 2-week trip to Croatia, our homeland, and we had family asking for pictures. The logical next step for me was to create an Instagram page. As it would turn out, Fugitive Dreams wasn’t an available handle. But Airplane Ass was. It felt like a giant sign slapping me in the face. I scooped up the Airplane Ass handle and immediately bought the domain name and switched my page over. Creating both the Instagram and website under the handle felt like a warm hug. Okay, I know that’s a weird thing to say but it did. It felt like my Grandmother was hugging me, laughing, and saying, “You really are a piece of work.”
By 2020, the social media influencing business will be a $2 billion industry. For every 1 million followers a user has, a brand stands to make $1000 per sponsored post. Why do I share these two numbers? No matter what anyone tells you about “being an influencer” or how bad of a rap it gets at times, it is absolutely, 100% a viable career option in 2019. In fact, in today’s digital world, customers don’t visit a brand’s website directly first. They are lead there either by first visiting their social media page or by visiting an Ecommerce page such as Amazon.
That being said let me share with you what being an “influencer” means to me:
I get to take my passion for travel beyond a few trips a year. Some people collect stamps, run, or go fishing. I travel. While my pages suggest I travel all the time, the truth is I take a handful of trips a year, usually one large trip and 3-4 small long weekend trips. Running these pages extends the shelf life of my travels and in turn, my passion.
I enjoy writing. One day, I’ll get around to discussing how traveling helps me cope with my anxiety and previous experience with depression. In short, writing about my experiences allows me to relive the best moments of my life, moments where I am truly happy. Writing about travel keeps my head and my heart in the light spaces in life.
I get to be a part of a community of like-minded individuals. This page has specifically connected me with empowered women who view traveling the same way I do: a chance to grow, learn, and experience all the amazing beauty the world has to offer.
Most importantly, I have an outlet for honoring my Grandmother. When I started this page, I vowed to use this as a platform for telling our story and diving deeper not only into our relationship but to use her presence and influence in my life to dive deeper into myself.
So, Harold (and anyone else who shares his line of thinking), if after reading this you still think all I want is to be “known as an influencer,” then I am the proudest goddamn travel influencer to ever exist in this world.
In honor of my Grandmother always,