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Ep. 253: How this travel writer promotes the benefits of family travel with Eric Stoen

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In this episode, I speak with Eric Stoen who is a travel writer and photographer based in California. 

He’s lived in Italy, Norway, Germany, and the US and traveled to 98 countries and all 7 continents. 

Eric is passionate about the benefits of family travel and lets each of his three kids choose any destination in the world every year for a one-on-one trip with him. 

They also travel as a family during school breaks and his kids have been to over 60 countries.

Listen on to find out how Eric has been able to share the benefits of family travel and stay connected as a family.

Listen Below:

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Transcription:

Debbie:

Hey everyone. Thank you so much for being here. I am really excited to have my guest with me today. I’m here with Eric. 

Hey, Eric, how are you? 

Eric:

Good. How are you? 

Debbie:

I am wonderful. Thank you so much for taking your time to spend here with me. I am so excited to speak with you today. 

Before we get to your amazing journey, can you tell us more about you and why you live an offbeat life? 

Eric:

I live an offbeat life because I am doing what I want to do with it that after 18 years in health care, which I was never really passionate about, I jumped out. And I did not know exactly what I wanted to do at the start but it quickly kind of turned into a travel writing and travel documenting career. Really talking about family travel and encouraging others to travel. 

And it’s really funny how it has progressed from the time that I quit my job in health care and it’s an absolutely a dream life and one that I could not have scripted if I tried. 

Debbie:

So that is really interesting because I’m sure you went to a lot of schooling to go into the health field and you probably had a lot of expectations like we all do. I left my nine-to-five to do this full-time and it’s a really nerve-wracking thing, especially if you don’t know what you’re going to do. What was that sliding doors moment for you? 

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that movie where Gwyneth Paltrow chooses at that moment to do one thing or the next. And if she chooses one over the other, her whole life completely changes, right? So what was that like for you? Like, what made you choose this path instead of staying the course? 

It essentially changed your life. This is not what it should have been, right? 

Eric:

Correct. 

Honestly, there was a sliding door moment. It was literally that I chose to get out of bed one morning. 

I was in Havana, Cuba for a photo workshop and I think it was the first morning that I was there and I was jet-lagged and tired and there was a pre-sunrise walk on the agenda where you had to, like, literally meet in the hotel bar at, like, 5:45 a.m. 

And my alarm went off and I came so close to just turning it off and getting back into bed because there was going to be sunrise or pre-sunrise walks every day that week around Havana and I was like, “Okay, I can skip one.” 

And I was lying there before I fell back asleep and I was like, “This is silly. I’m only going to be in Cuba maybe once ever. Why am I not getting out of bed and doing this?” And so I literally got out of bed and got dressed and grabbed my camera and went downstairs and met with everyone.

And a few people showed up, like, not many. It was only a group of 12 people to start with but I bet we only had three or four that morning. And so we left the hotel and walked out of the hotel. I think it was the Park Central hotel in Havana. 

And literally, as soon as we walked out, one of the old American style 50’s cars pulled up and there’s a red light inside and a door opened and I was like, “Oh, that’s really kind of photogenic.” And it’s this great light before sunrise and there’s the architecture in the background. 

And so literally I just grabbed my camera and took a few pictures and I didn’t look at settings. It was whatever settings I had on the camera the day before or even before the trip or whatever, and grab the pictures of the car door opening and this guy getting out of the car, closing the car door, and then driving off to, I guess, drop off another passenger. 

And so I grabbed that picture and it was one that I had kind of liked. It was kind of cool and then somebody was going to be getting out of the car and there’s a little mysterious or whatever. And when I got home from that trip, I opened up Conde Nast Traveler and saw that they were having their photo of the year contest.

And so I was like, “Okay, I never entered before but I love the magazine, I love the writers. I have subscribed for, like, 20 years. I should, like, enter a photo.” So I went through my Cuba photos and I was like, “I’m gonna use that one. The one with the guy getting out of the car ’cause it was good.” 

And so I entered it and out of 21,000 entries, I won.

Debbie:

Oh, my gosh.

Eric:

I won the contest because literally, I got out of bed that morning. It was a $25,000 prize trip to Italy. It is what we want and we took that the next year. But beyond that, because I love the magazine and I wanted to meet the writers, I used that as an excuse to go to New York and to go by the Conde Nast Traveler offices when they used to be at Times Square. 

And I took my son who I think was 3 at the time, maybe he was five. And yeah, toured the offices, met the writers, and went out to lunch with one of them for, like, hours in the Conde Nast cafeteria. It was the coolest thing.

And so, like, for a while, my wife has been telling me to quit my health care job. I wasn’t passionate about it. It was a great company and a great job but it wasn’t where my passion was and standing there in the Conde Nast offices because I won the contest, because I got out of bed that morning, I realized I want to do something the rest of my life that brings us together.

The travel, photography, writing, family, and all of this. And, like, maybe there are some paths. So the seed was planted right then. 

And it was about a year later that something happened to work and I was just really annoyed with that personal thing or whatever and I was like, “Okay, I quit.” To them, it was out of the blue but to me, it had been coming for years. And I still haven’t figured out what that was going to be. Like, combine all of those passions of mine. 

But yeah, over the course of that year, I kind of started a blog and started writing about our family travels and putting up pictures on the internet or even on social media. I started Instagram that year that otherwise I’d only post on Facebook for friends, family, and tuff in the past. 

And it took off, like, all a sudden. I started gaining followings and people started asking me questions about where to go, for suggestions, and relying on me as this expert. And the expertise just kind of had come at over ten or twenty years of traveling and traveling with my kids all over the world. 

And so, yeah, four, five, six years later and it’s this really cool place where I found my voice and I love the engagement that I get when I post to Instagram no matter what it is. Whether it’s family travel or this week. They were recording this. I’m posting about African cultural travel in Ethiopia and it is totally different from family travel because I didn’t take my kids there but I love the feedback. 

And maybe put that on people’s destination lists and show them a different side of Ethiopia than they have in their heads because of famine news stories back in the 80’s or whatever. 

And so yeah, I love having this kind of soapbox now where I can just encourage traveling and pointy people to the coolest places in the world and make a career out of it. And it took me about five years to make more money doing this than I was in healthcare.

Luckily, I had some savings but otherwise, it’s been a really fun ride. 

Debbie:

Well, it’s definitely been an interesting one because it turned from something that was an absolute passion for you. I mean, you were in Cuba when you took that picture. That literally was your sliding doors moment that gave you that I would say the seed of hope and maybe encouragement even to quit the next year. 

Eric:

Absolutely.

Debbie:

Because I think too it’s one thing to have that hope, that goal, and that dream but when you were given that little bit of hope and the thing that you’re given is way more than a little bit. That’s huge, $25,000 trip to Italy. I mean, that was probably an incredible trip.

And to know that you do have that ability that there is something there out of 21,000 people to be chosen. So there is something special about you and what you do and it kind of just gives you that push that you need and I love that. I love your sliding doors moment, Eric. I think that’s really incredible. 

And sometimes we do need to give ourselves that little push just waking up a little earlier and doing something that we may not enjoy. But look where it got you. So they always say the early bird gets the worm. 

Eric:

Totally.

I even wrote blog posts on getting out of bed early. I mean, I always love that. I love walking around cities anywhere in the world before sunrise and before they’re crowded, and before there are any day-trippers there and especially, like, I love Italy. 

I’ve been to Florence dozens of times and my favorite time is in the morning as the sun’s coming up. Italians, they like late nights so nobody’s up early in the morning and no tourists are out yet. 

And so you get, like, all of these amazing sights to yourself. I mean, literally to yourself sometimes, and this history, arts, and architecture that you can just kind of experience. And the cobblestones and everything else is totally different when you’re not dodging tour groups. 

And so that’s the extreme in Italy but it’s true anywhere in the world. Like, it’s really cool walking around and there’s usually a coffee place open so grab a coffee somewhere and just enjoy it and watch the sun come up. And that’s the best light for photography anyways. 

So yeah, to me that’s always my favorite time so it definitely helped to get me out of bed that morning.

Debbie:

And again, it completely changed everything for you. 

But you mentioned you pretty much thought about this for a while, right? You thought about leaving but there was a lot of doubt. Obviously, you have a family to support and everything else that goes inside of your head. And you are a mature adult so you had savings. 

But what was that transition like for you? What was that moment like when you did decide and you had to tell your wife that, “I did it. That’s it.”? Was there a moment of panic? What was that whole situation like?

Eric:

Oh, no. I think she was super happy and I knew that she was going to be because she had been totally encouraging that transfer. 

So I don’t know that it came as a surprise and then she was wonderfully supportive, like, for that year and the next year or whatever until, like, literally brands started contacting me going, “We’ll pay you $5,000 to travel here with one of your kids and document it for us.” I’m like, “Wow, Seriously? Okay, cool. Yeah. Sign me up. How fast can I get there?”

And so yeah, that just kind of progressed from the first offer but no, it was a super easy conversation at home because yeah, my wife wanted me to be happy and she know that I was never super happy in healthcare.

Debbie:

That is really incredible.

I mean, I’ve heard stories from other people with partners where it was a lot more difficult and they didn’t have that support. Your wife, man, she’s awesome. And obviously, you’re amazing too because often this is how I feel. 

Like, if you don’t encourage that with your partner, with your husband and wife, or whoever you’re with, I think there’s going to always be that what if moment. What if I had done this? 

And you can see it in the person. There’s that sense of unfulfillment and unhappiness and them that you’re always going to see. And I always say, like, bad things always pass, good things are also fleeting. So it’s like you may struggle for a little bit but it’s not always forever. You’re going to figure it out. 

So even when you’re in that moment, things always pass. It’s fleeting but it’s just a matter of how hard you’re going to work for it that really will make the difference. And obviously, you did ’cause this is where you are right now. 

Eric:

Yeah.

I’m so glad. I mean, obviously, it’s the best decision I ever made and it’s mental. So I’m spending a lot more time with my kids and with my family and being home instead of in an office. I had some work from home for a while and then we had expanded so much that it didn’t make sense anymore. 

So then I was going into an office every day for years and years and years as the kids were growing older. Yeah, I mean, that definitely kept me away. So I love doing school drop-offs and pick-ups and being at home. 

And because this is family travel, I was already traveling with the kids a lot but this encourages it even more. When we’re getting campaign offers in a province in Canada, wants to fly us up or whatever and I offered that to three kids and one jumps on and says, “I’ve always wanted to go there.” Then that’s my opportunity to spend a few more days, child 1o1. 

And so, yeah, for a whole bunch of reasons, it’s been great. Beyond just financial and my mindset. I’ve always been relatively stress-free but I think my wife saw that there was definitely stress and unhappiness below the surface. So it is good. Everything is good. 

Debbie:

Yeah.

And it’s great that you’ve found that. It’s like you’ve found your calling and a lot of people don’t ever get to that point because most of us have a lot of barriers and fears. And you just stop yourself from doing something because of the what-ifs too. What if I fail? What if this doesn’t work out? 

Sometimes you just have to take a chance on yourself. There’s no one else that’s going to do that better than you and I love that. You went on that journey. 

So, let’s go back to once you left and you wanted to create income from this. Did you even know that this was something that you wanted to do as a business, to make this profitable? How did you get to the point that it was just a fun thing to actually create income from this and make enough income to support yourself and your family as well?

 

Eric:

The first year, I had only heard of travel blogs, like, right around the time that I quit my job. Like, I barely knew that they existed. I didn’t have any feel for the finance behind them or anything else. 

I had just started posting on the internet, simply to inspire people to travel, even before I thought there was any monetization to it at all. And then I was like, “Okay, this is really cool. If I am going to kind of be a writer, what kind of writer do I want to be?” 

And I thought I wanted to write freelance for the cool magazines. I wanted to see my name in print, in Conde Nast Traveler,  travel and leisure, all these magazines that I subscribe to and got so inspired by. And blogging was kind of a secondary. 

Blogging was like, ”Okay, whatever. I’m just gonna type things and then put up some pictures.” And I was always good at photography so that was a good chance to showcase the visual more than my writing. 

But there was a conference called TBEX –  Travel Blogger Exchange and then they will start up again. They used to be around the world a couple of times a year. And I went to one in Spain and went to these sessions and it was amazing. 

It was all these people kind of like me but far more advanced on their journeys who were doing writing for magazines and/or had websites that were generating a ton of income through ads, or through affiliate links and all the stuff that I had never heard about or realized before anything else. 

So, I went to some sessions there in Costa Brava, Spain, and there were some excellent ones. I think they totally steered me in the direction that I followed because I realized that the different paths to making money were on the website-based things where you are getting money from ads and you’re simply writing to generate as many views as possible because then Google or whoever pays you money for those views.

And the other way, was to get paid for campaigns where you’re literally paid to travel or promote brands or whatever. And there are people that do both but I thought, “Wow, that second one sounds so much more fun. I don’t want to just be in front of my computer thinking about, “Okay, what keywords is somebody going to be searching Google for and how can I optimize an article for that?” 

That was 0 interest for me. Like, I only wanted to write to inspire people, not to write for Google views. 

And so I started my path, I think, not doing any of that which I was happy about. Simply traveling and generating content and putting up blog posts after blog posts on me while I was meeting and kind of trying to network with some of the major magazines and trying to get those print assignments which my writing wasn’t good enough to get. 

So I don’t know that I deserved any of those and I never got those. I’ve been contacted a couple of times by different magazines and I have done some stuff and their editors definitely make me sound better than I actually wrote in the first place. But yeah, I mean, that’s kind of a long way of saying that early on, I figured out how I wanted to go about it. 

And then everything was about authority. Like, if somebody was going to contact me, they would only do it based on me having generated a following, based on knowing what I was talking about. 

So I just figured the more that I travel, the more that I can put this down in writing, the more that I can post to social media or whatever and build that authentic following that really cares then the campaigns will come and they did. And so, it is definitely slow going out.

The other thing that I got from Spain, from the sessions is just say no. This one guy, Gary, he is amazing. I think he was in the first session that I went to and he’s like, “Say no. People are going to contact you and offer you, like, watches in exchange for a post and everything else.” And he’s like, “If it’s not going to pay, if it’s not going to totally fit your brand, then decline it and keep saying no until the perfect opportunity shows up.” 

And so I thought, “That’s brilliant. I don’t need to say yes to something for $15 or because I’m getting a watch that I don’t need or anything else.” So I really kept all that stuff off my website and then my social media for a long time until, like I said, a brand contacted me and said, “We’ll pay you a lot of money to travel somewhere with your kids.” And I was like, “Okay. Yes.” That’s the first time that I’m going to say yes and that totally makes sense. 

And then when you work with one, then you’ve kind of proven yourself. And then I got some ambassadorships out of my website and out of the networking at conferences. And those ambassadorships, they’re huge because you’re basically on a shortlist of people that have already been vetted by some major brands, like, by Travelocity, by Universal Orlando, or by AFAR magazine. 

And so, then people would see me on those and go, “Okay, we know he’s going to do a good job because Travelocity already determined that he’s one of their top people.” And so it really started this whole ball rolling and it was through networking, it was through time, and it was through saying, no.

Debbie:

That is really good advice to have because I think when you’re just starting out, it feels really good when somebody reaches out to you, like, you’re talking about a watch. As I remembered, like, a long time ago with Instagram, there’s a lot of watch companies. I think there’s, like, a big one, I forgot the name, right?

And they always go after influencers and you’ll see a bunch of them with these watches. And even if it didn’t make sense with their brand, you made a little bit of money, even if it was a little bit of money, you didn’t care ’cause he felt really good about yourself.

But it’s true. Like, if it doesn’t align with your audience and your brand and it really doesn’t make sense for you to say yes unless it’s good for you. And I would even say yes to things that even if they don’t pay if they’re a really good match, that could be a really good way for you to build up your resume especially if you’re just starting out. 

But I love that you were able to build this up and really be authentic to your brand and who you are and just keep doing your thing. And that’s why you are where you are right now.

So one of the things that you really talk about, and I think one of the things that you’re very good at, is networking. When you first won that contest with Conde Nast, you went to New York and you met the writers and you got to learn about them. And then now you’re in these events and you put yourself out there that’s why you’re on the shortlist for a lot of these trips. 

So what would you say is one of the main things that you’ve learned through networking, for the companies that you want to work for that has allowed you to land these big jobs that you really enjoy doing. 

Eric:

I think networking is cumulative. So the more events you go to, the more likely that you’re going to be able to land a contract or a campaign. And one example is, there’s this Adventure Travel Trade Association, ATTA, and every year they have multiple events around the world but their big premier one is the Adventure Travel World Summit. And every year, it’s in a different country, usually a different continent. 

And I started going. I went when it was in Alaska and I wasn’t even accepted as media. I just bought a normal ticket and showed up and chatted with people during coffee breaks and went on hikes because the conference requires everyone who goes, whether you are a destination representative, your media, or you’re there with a brand, that you do at least a one-day day of adventure breakout before the conference. 

And most people also do, like, a 4,5,6-day adventure, even before that. So you have all of these opportunities to go and meet with people where you’re literally only with six other people, eight other people, ten other people and you’re having adventures.

And that’s the all-time easiest networking in Alaska. I signed on to simply a mountain hike somewhere outside of Anchorage and in an international park, I think. And I purposely signed up for it because I saw that there were going to be representatives from some of the companies I wanted to talk to going along. 

And, like I said, it might have been ten of us total but, man, on that hike, I managed to start walking next to people and just making small talk or whatever. And one of them was with this tour company, Thompson Family Adventures, that I had always loved.

Even before the hike, like, I knew that this guy was going to be on it. So I looked at their website. So I just started kind of just throwing up at things that I thought they could have done better with their social media and all this other stuff and throughout that, I would love to be an ambassador and really use my social media to try to bring them business and travel with them and promote it. And maybe a month later, I got that ambassadorship because of that hike, because I had done the research. 

And so those are the best opportunities. But going back to how it all started, everything is cumulative. 

So I’ve now been to, I think, five of those Adventure Travel World summits around the world, from Alaska to Argentina, Tuscany, Sweden. There’s one somewhere else that I’m not thinking of.

And when you meet with somebody the first time in one of the speed networking sessions or whatever maybe it’s a great conversation and it doesn’t really go anywhere and you’re like, “Okay. Well, let’s see if something happens.”

But in the second year that you meet with them or the third year, all of a sudden you’re getting to be friends and they’re like, “Oh my gosh, I remember our talk last year. I still wanted to get you here. What do we have to do to make this happen?” 

And then you wind up on a hike with them or something else during one of these pre-trips and it happens and you’re part of a campaign. In Argentina, I had a very small group that was doing sports all around Central Patagonia for a week. And we were hiking and we were kayaking and cycling. 

And it was this really cool adventurous thing and it is the Adventure Travel Trade Association and two of the people in my group were from Greenland. And sure enough, the next year, my son and I ended up in Greenland on a partnership with them.

And it was amazing but it was so easy to land that because of the networking, because of the cumulative nature. And it’s not just that one conference but a lot of those same representatives from Greenland, from Manitoba from, Leavenworth, Washington, you name it.

There, it’s so many of these different events around the world every year that you’ll see the same people and you’ll start talking to them during those coffee breaks. 

And so yeah, I think the main thing that I would recommend to somebody is simply this is what I’m doing in travel but there are those opportunities. And going back to what you were saying before, everyone just needs to get to be confident in themselves. And you can because everyone is unique. 

And then when people talk to me about trying to start a travel blog, a career similar to mine or whatever, I’m like, “Okay. Well, what makes you unique? What are you passionate about? And how can you get that passion through?” Because there are people out there like you, you just need to find them and you need to be authentic to yourself and make that happen.

And so, I think, yeah, if you’re unique, you’ll find those opportunities.

Debbie:

There’s always gonna be somebody out there who’s for you. You’re not going to be for everybody but there’s going to be a lot of people who are for you. So that’s so great. 

And I love that you put yourself out there and I think a lot of people are afraid to do that, right? Because again, if you don’t have the confidence in yourself, you’re just the complete go-getter, Eric and I think that’s just so incredible. 

Like, you just went into this super headstrong, you knew what you wanted, you went out to get it and I love that. And you put yourself out there, you did your research, you knew which companies you wanted to work for and you aren’t afraid to fail or even get a no. 

I’ve talked to a lot of people who want to do something similar and they’re like, “Yeah but I hate it when I get a no, or when I get turned down for something. I feel really bad about that.” But unfortunately, it happens all the time. 

And honestly, I think it’s pretty fortunate because it makes you have thicker skin, and also, like, after a while, it doesn’t bother you anymore once that happens.

Eric:

In the beginning, I was kind of making it up. Like, I’ve just been doing what felt natural because I had majored in political science in college, which probably isn’t relevant to anything. Then went to graduate school for international business but you can either go finance emphasis or marketing emphasis. 

And I stayed away from marketing. Like, I didn’t take a single marketing class that entire graduate school, four semesters. Until then, ironically, I ended up traveling and doing marketing. And I don’t pretend that what I still do is necessarily writing or photography. If a brand contacts me, it’s marketing for them and I’ll get on the phone and like, “Okay, how do we best present you to people so that they want to go to or would want to use your product or whatever?”

And so yeah, it kind of felt natural as being like, “Well, what if I showed myself with my child on your tour or using your product? And it could fit into our travels really organically if we did this.” And these partnerships make the most sense of anything. Just this whole progression where all of a sudden, I became really good at travel marketing accidentally.

Debbie:

Well, because you had an interest in it. It’s something that you actually enjoy doing. And it’s so funny that you say that because you either choose finance or marketing in terms of what you went to school with. 

And it’s so funny, when I first went to college, the first school, I actually left it. I was going for advertising and marketing and I absolutely hated it and I left and I want to do something else. And it’s so funny that that’s what you’re talking about, right? That’s exactly where I am now. 

I’m doing the advertising and marketing for my business and other brands. So I’m like, “It’s so weird how the universe works. And it’s like, “Okay, how did this go from that to that?” Like, you had no interest in it and now you absolutely love it because it has something to do with what you love.

And I’m telling you, Eric, I hate math but I love math now because I’m like, “Well, it goes along with my business and I have to do it.” And it’s so interesting how all of this stuff just comes to you. And even if you don’t think you’re interested in it, how it becomes something that you actually enjoy when it’s something that goes along with your dream. 

Eric:

I love getting on the phone and just brainstorming campaigns with brands. But yeah, like you’re saying before, I am never afraid to be told no. If I get an email and they’re simply wanting one Instagram post or whatever, I’ll always try to turn that into an ambassadorship. 

If it’s a brand that I love, if it’s something that I want to get paid monthly for promoting and that has happened a few times. I’ve been told no a lot too and I’ve lost campaigns or whatever. If I’m requesting too much money or whatever and that’s beyond their budget or whatever, that’s absolutely fine. 

But yeah, I love getting on the phone. I love trying to convince brands to do more with me than they had anticipated when they reached out and showed my passion for the brand. And I’m not going to market anyone that I don’t actually use or any destination that I didn’t actually have fun with or want to go to or whatever ‘cause yeah, authenticity is everything.

And I would rather say no to most things that come to me that really just don’t fit in. And then I am told no when it comes to just pitching. Like, I don’t do a lot of pitching.

But I was going to Paris a few months ago and it was mainly just to shoot content for a couple of different campaigns. And then there was that perfect covid law in, like, September on October where I was like, “Europe is kinda open right now, this is about as easy as it’s gonna be for a while.” 

And so I ran over to Paris and photographed for a couple of different campaigns. And it occurred to me before the trip that a suitcase partnership would work perfectly because I could easily document it, like, through Paris or book a hotel room with a view of the Eiffel Tower. 

And I was trying to think, “Okay, if I’m going to have this, what product can I have?” Like, right there, super organically that I like anyways, whatever. So I totally reached out to a suitcase company the week before. It was like, “Okay, this is what I would charge and this is what I would do for it. And this is how I would photograph it.” 

They said no because I totally didn’t fit in with what they were planning right then from the marketing perspective but I love suggesting things like that ’cause you’ll never know, every once in a while you’re going to hear, “Yes.” 

Debbie:

Yeah.

And that’s the thing. You just don’t know until you put yourself out there and just ask for what you want. And you may be surprised. Maybe your dream brand company, whoever it is that you want to work for, ends up saying, yes and they may just surprise you like you’ll surprise yourself. 

But I love that. I love all of these things that you’ve been doing and I feel, like, since the beginning, once you had that sliding doors moment, you just put yourself out there. You just went out running. You didn’t even do any stretches, you were just like, “Let’s do this. I’m going to do this. I’m going to make this work,” because it is.

When it’s your dream, when it’s something that is your baby and what you’re really passionate about, it becomes a completely different thing than just something that you think you should do with your life. 

And I always feel like once a person finds their true purpose and their whole life, and the way they look at things completely changes. And I believe that definitely happened to you and I see, like, the look on your face and a lot of the people that I’ve interviewed, it’s the same thing. 

Like, you found this thing that you absolutely love to do and it’s a bit of a struggle in the beginning but it’s worth all of that struggle, all of the uncertainties to get to the point where you are right now and you feel like you’ve found it, you found your thing. 

Eric:

It worked out really well for me and what you just described, it’s actually people have requested that I write books or e-books or whatever on, like, how to be a travel influencer, all this stuff and I’m like, “I can’t do that.” Everyone’s passions are different and their expertise and what they can do or whatever. 

On my website, I have like 2 posts. I have one with general advice based on a kind of travel blogging and I have one with my exact chronological breakdown of how I got to where I am. But I cannot sell somebody a package on how to be a successful travel blogger because even if I laid out everything and recommended everything that I did, that’s not necessarily going to work for somebody else who’s not me. 

And so I think, it frustrates people. They’re like, “Can I pay you $1,000 for five one-hour sessions, or whatever, to tell me what to do?” I’m like, “No. I cannot do that. All I can do is to encourage you to figure out what makes you unique in everything that you just said.” so it’s really interesting. 

Debbie:

Yeah. I love that.

Eric is like, “No. You’re gonna figure that out yourself. This is a struggle.” But it is good to see that it can be done. And I think that’s what people should look at. Look at you, look at someone like you, Eric, and say to yourself, “It’s going to be a different journey for me. Our interests are not exactly the same but it can be done.” 

If you’re really tenacious, you know what you want even if you don’t because most of us don’t know what the heck we’re doing, and then it just kind of reveals itself, you know. Like, as long as you’re taking action and you’re doing it consistently, things will reveal themselves, and it kind of guides you where you need to be.

Eric:

Absolutely.

And going back to networking and every person that you meet randomly, every conversation that you have might totally steer you just a little bit more or introduce you to that friend of theirs who is perfect the contact and then the perfect mentor or whatever. 

So yeah, I mean, honestly, the more people that you can talk to or meet in person or as covid is hopefully going down again, the better.

Debbie:

Love it.

Well, thank you so much, Eric, for sharing all of this journey with us. I just have one last question for you. Now, let’s look into maybe 20 to 30 years from now and you’re looking back on your life, what legacy would you like to leave and what do you want to be remembered for?

Eric:

What I love now and I’ll love in twenty or thirty years is when people tell me that they had great trips or show their kids different places because they were inspired by something that I posted. I love getting those messages. Every once in a while, I’ll go out on Instagram stories and just say, “Hey, please DM me. Book any destination, hotel, or whatever because I recommended it.”

And I’ll get dozens and dozens of responses. And people that I had no idea that they had stayed in this hotel in Singapore or chose the Faroe Islands or whatever because of my post. 

And it’s so good to hear because most of them are not paid marketing campaigns or anything else but its places that I just covered are amazing, especially for family travel. And if I’ve opened people’s eyes to that or maybe gotten them pass taking their kids to Disneyland every single year and that they are willing to take a chance on a trip to Europe or whatever instead of Disneyland this year, because I made it look easy or because, like, some photo inspired them in a particular way. Like, that’s what I love. 

And so, honestly, when my kids are off to college, I’ll keep my website up. I’ll probably post periodically to social media but really, like, it’s exhausting documenting travel as much as I am right now to inspire people. 

And I want to go full circle and even before Cuba and go back to actually walking around cities without my phone and without a camera and just getting back to what I loved about traveling and not necessarily documenting yet as much.

Maybe still try to inspire here and there but that’s what I’m looking forward to in probably 6 or 7 years in. 

And so if I can then in small ways still be inspiring twenty or thirty years grades and if it’s just that it’s this period of my life when I made a difference for a whole bunch of people and it is why I don’t even have ads on my website still. Like, I want people to go to my website and just go from post to post and go, “Wow, this would be perfect for my thirteen-year-old,” or, “This tour was amazing,” where they didn’t sign up or whatever. 

Like, I don’t want them to get distracted by ads or anything else. I really just want to inspire that family travel because it’s so cool what kids can become if they have more influences and if they’re exposed to more than Disneyland. And then if they’re tasting foods in Costa Rica or Vietnam or whatever that they wouldn’t have otherwise had, maybe that starts a passion. Maybe it’s a cooking career. 

My son is an incredible artist and it all comes from this one drawing workshop we did in London, like, seven or eight years ago with this artist who drew for The New Yorker. And he happened to be our tour guide for the British Museum and taught my kids how to sketch and my son ran with it and he’s incredible now because of this one random tour that we happened to sign up for.

There was, like, the right person at the right time. 

And so if I can get other people to realize that can happen by showing your kids the world, that’s all I want. 

Debbie:

That is amazing. 

And yeah, I mean, the whole world could be your kids’ Disney World, Disneyland, whatever it is that you want to do. 

You mentioned the Faroe Islands, like, that’s in my bucket list, by the way. I would love to go there one day. Hopefully when things are settled down again but yeah, that is amazing. 

I mean, you definitely have this passion and you’re sharing it with everybody. And that’s a really great legacy and not just your website but also your children, what you’re teaching them. You had mentioned, again, what is possible for other parents to share with their children as well. And I think that’s really great. 

And you’re right, it’s a great way for you to figure out what you want to do, what you’re passionate about. It’s when you’re meeting all these people, you’re learning new skills, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be in school because look at us, we didn’t go to school for this and completely different from how we ended up. 

So I really, really appreciate all of this, Eric. We really appreciate you sharing your journey with us. If our listeners want to know more about you, where can they find you? 

Eric:

I am at Travel Babbo everywhere. Website is Travel Babbo.com and on social media everything except for TikTok. I don’t care about TikTok, I’m too old for that. Otherwise, Instagram, Facebook, whatever, it’s all just Travel Babbo. 

Debbie:

Love it. Thanks, Eric, we really appreciate you. 

Eric:

Thank you so much.


Listen to Eric’s extended interview where he shares how to start traveling with children on a budget.

What you’ll find:

In this episode, Eric will debunk the myth that traveling with children on a budget is impossible.


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Show Credits:

Audio Engineer: Ben Smith

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