So, what do you do?
In North America, we can’t deny that we are defined by our occupation. It is often the first thing we tell people about ourselves, and it is usually one of the first questions asked when meeting someone new.
Outside of North America, it’s less important. In Germany, hobbies are often the first topic of conversation; in Latin America, it’s all about the family. But this summer, considering that we’ve spent more time in North America than we have away from it, we’ve been faced with this question routinely.
Answering it is not so simple. And to be honest, depends largely on our mood. Let me explain.
For one, there are a number of options we can give, and none of them are so easy to sum up in just a few words or sentences. And so depending on the situation, who’s asking, and how much we feel like sharing, we have said a number of different things in response. They are all true, just slightly distinct, and the choice usually depends on how many follow-up questions that we want to endure.
Never mind that we actually have two career trajectories moving simultaneously: this blog and then this. One is crucial to the other in a way, but they are still both completely different.
Answer #1: Blogger
This response is probably is used the least, usually because it elicits one of three reactions:
(1) A completely blank stare because the questioner doesn’t know what a blog is;
(2) A scoff, because really, that is a joke of a career, right?; or
(3) “Huh. Well, what I’ve always wondered is, how do you make money?”
Pete and I were once told by some random man who insisted on giving us completely unsolicited advice that we should say that we have an online magazine and not a blog, because of the negative connotation that can accompany the latter. I’ve never done that, nor would I. Sure, there are plenty of bloggers giving this pursuit a bad name, but given the very personal nature of how we write, we are the exact definition of a blog. I hesitate to even say “travel blog” because so I often I believe we are about the personal first, travel second.
Never mind that to say blogger is also correct because it encompasses so much more than words and photos. Anyone who knows about blogging knows that it can mean all of this: writer, photographer, editor, videographer, social media fiend, graphic designer, marketer, contract negotiator, and more and more.
The problem though, even though it is the most accurate (for this part of our business), it almost always sends off a wave of additional questions, starting with number three. Which to me is borderline rude, and crazy personal coming from a random stranger. And never mind that it again requires another complicated response because there is no single way to make money from blogging. In fact, I don’t know of any two bloggers who do it exactly the same way, and most of us have multiple income streams we could list. As such this conversation could potentially become even longer.
See why we try to avoid this one?
Answer #2: Writer
I have used this often at border crossings as it elicits no real response, and is so much more comprehensible than blogger. But outside of the customs area, I don’t really like to use it because:
(1) I don’t really consider myself to be a writer. Yes, I type words that people read, but as I don’t aim to write for other publications like most writers do, then I exclude myself from this group.
(2) Because then I hear: “Oh, who do you write for?” Which them results in:
(a) Cue the blank stare when I say myself.
(b) Or, further questions that lead to the blogger explanation above.
Two things to note here:
– I am careful NOT to say this at particular border crossings that are known for their harsh treatment of journalists, should there be any confusion as to what I actually do.
– When I say this, Pete always follows with “photographer”. He typically gets zero follow-up questions, and I have no clue why that is.
Answer #3: New Media Consultant
This is becoming our quick go-to response, and is probably the most accurate if we are to consider where the main source of our income comes from. And, it elicits the least amount of questions. For our particularly introverted days, this is a quick fix. And unless someone wants to talk to me about influencer management or Snapchat vs. Instagram Stories (unlikely), then we can go back to talking about the cool destination we are in.
A few years ago we met a New Yorker who owned a resort in Belize. He was traveling back and forth so frequently and was tired of answering all the questions about the resort at customs. So instead, he started telling the customs officers that he was in insurance. Why? Because it was the most boring thing he could think of, and apparently, so did the people asking. Zero follow-up questions.
That is NOT a bad strategy.
I’m curious to hear from any other frequent travellers who find themselves in a similar quagmire. Or, if anyone has any more creative (and FUN) responses we can give, I’m open to that too.
P.S. Want to read more “Behind the Scenes” posts? Go here.