It’s been a while since I posted an interview. As you know, I’ve been trying to get out of my comfort-zone and ask women who inspire me a few questions about work, life, and travel. I’m feeling a bit nostalgic this Throwback Thursday. Especially since today is my 32nd birthday! Years ago I met a fun and funny woman via an ad I posted for an intern on Craigslist. I’d just started my Fashion PR Firm and needed some help, but couldn’t afford to pay anyone, hell I was getting paid in clothing and handbags! I needed an assistant/intern who wouldn’t mind being paid in merchandise. Insert Kristen with her California-girl looks, and kick-ass personality. We worked together planning and executing a Fashion Fundraiser for the Breast Cancer Society and traveled to L.A. to host an editors fashion preview. She was a joy to work with and I knew her talent, personality and determination would take her far.
Seven years later, she’s a jet-setting entrepreneur running her own travel media company, Border Free Travels. Thanks to social media we’ve stayed in touch throughout the years so I reached out to her for an interview. Below Kristen spills the secrets on her “rugged to refined” travel style, how she balances life as a filmmaker and writer, and of course her favorite beaches and pizza toppings!
Kristen and I in L.A. hosting an editor’s preview, before the invention of quality camera phones.
Annette: Explain the evolution of Border Free Travels. Did it start as a blog? A Media Production Company? As you know so many of us travel bloggers look for side gigs and you created this amazing opportunity for yourself that I think will inspire others.
Kristen: Border Free Travels actually began as Border Free Productions. I’m a filmmaker first and have been working with brands and businesses as a brand storyteller for over 6 years to create branded content that lives on their social media channels and websites. Over time, I knew I wanted to be in the travel space, so I slowly worked my way into that industry. For the past two years, I’ve been focused on growing my own audience, working on filling my travel site with rich destination content, both written and films, and began working on branded content with clients in the travel-sphere. I’ve now worked on branded campaigns with clients like Rosetta Stone, Skype, Good Earth Tea, Zappos, and Blundstone, Thailand Tourism, Dominica Tourism, and, soon, the Outer Banks. My work or my words have also been featured in Huffington Post, Yahoo Travel, Daily mail, Refinery 29, and AFAR to name a few. My focus is on creating beautiful visual content that makes people want to hop on a plane, or in a car, and go explore.
Annette: What inspired you to Travel?
Kristen: It began with a friend of mine, actually. She studied abroad in Ireland for a summer in college. Before that, I thought it was an unattainable thing for me to try to do. After graduating from school I took a temporary marketing management job for six months to save up enough money to backpack around Europe for two months by myself.
Annette: Travel Tips/ Hacks:
Kristen: To lower your airfare prices, try booking a flight to a neighboring city from your final destination and take a bus or train. I like to spend less on airfare and more on experiences.
Always pack a swimsuit, sunscreen, and a great moisturizer. Even in the winter. I just got back from Switzerland, Austria, and Norway – so many saunas and pools to jump into. Even when you’re on the slopes, you need to keep your skin protected. The combination of long flights and dry winter air can be deadly on the skin, so moisturizing is essential.
Don’t start a trip with an overbooked itinerary. Make sure you leave some free time so that you can say yes to unexpected opportunities. The best memories I have are the ones I said yes to at a moment’s notice.
Get off the beaten path and talk to the locals. I know a lot of people use sites like TripAdvisor to find the number one rated restaurant or hotel in an area. While this might be accurate at times, I’m not a big fan because how can you know the style of the person rating it? Instead, find some bloggers or Instagram photographers whose style you dig and see what they would recommend. If they haven’t been they probably know someone who has and that can give you great personal recommendations.
Annette: I’m sure you have most of your 2017 travels planned. What 2 places you’ll be traveling to next and why:
Kristen: I actually don’t. Most of my adventures pop up a month before. I do have a few scheduled. I’m off to Jordan and the Outer Banks, North Carolina for client projects next.
Annette: Favorite Video and/or Photo Editing Apps:
Kristen: I use Lightroom for my DSLR images (you can also use it on your iPhone for free). I make minor adjustments using Instagram’s modification tools and occasionally use VSCO, but I’m pretty simple when it comes to editing apps.
Annette: What’s your travel style?
Kristen: I find that the older I get (I’m 35 now), the more I find myself choosing comfort over everything, in terms of accommodation. I usually choose boutique or luxury hotels for stays. Also, I’m a sucker for glamping. That said, I really love adventure travel: getting active, getting sweaty, and finding off-the- beaten-path adventures. As for food, I just enjoy incredible meals in any setting, from street food to fine dining. I call my travel style, “rugged to refined,” because I like a little bit of it all.
Annette: Time for the hard questions, I know you’re from Illinois so what’s your unbiased opinion, Deep Dish, Thin Crust or Hand Tossed?
Kristen: I am from Illinois, but my town is just 15 minutes from St. Louis. I’m actually a thin crust artisan pizza kind of girl. Anchovies, figs, pancetta and olives are some of my favorite toppings.
Annette: Favorite destination so far and why?
Kristen: If you asked me a month ago, I would have said Dominica. However, everything changed this past month when I was in Switzerland and discovered Zermatt. So now it’s a tie between the two. Both gave me an incredible feeling from the moment I stepped off the plane and train. I knew I’d arrived somewhere truly special.
Annette: What are a few things traveling has taught you about yourself or the world:
I really enjoying spending time by myself. I also love getting lost.
I’m really empathetic and I get emotional.
I enjoy spending more time in one place than traveling to several places quickly to check them off of a list.
The world is a truly lovely place if you can remain open-minded.
Always ask questions when you have the opportunity to.
Communicating with a smile can speak volumes when you don’t know the language.
Annette: Favorite beach in the world and why?
Kristen: I have two. The Anguilla beaches I visited were incredible- I’ve never seen sand so white! And of course, home on Nantucket where I live. Love throwing on a sweatshirt in the fall and watching the sun set.
Annette: With all your traveling I’m sure you’ve racked up some serious miles! What’s your favorite airline and why?
Kristen: One of my favorite smaller carriers I loved flying was Bangkok Airways. I also really like Emirates and Etihad for international flights. And I’m so excited to try Turkish Airlines for the first time soon.
Annette: Breakdown a normal work day or week:
Kristen: My schedule is pretty far from ‘normal’ and is constantly changing. If I’m traveling for work, I’m typically up very early (I like getting a chance to capture both sunrise and sunset when I shoot), out photographing/filming all day, trying to organize notes on my phone while driving to new locations if we’re being bussed around in a small group, usually a three-hour dinner with the client if it’s a tourism board or hotel trip, then back to my room trying to edit as many images as I can before I fall asleep, and then back at it again the next day, anywhere from 5 to 15 days at a time. When I head home, it’s tough to get me to leave the house (I work from home in my studio). I sit and edit film content, write, and pitch new work until it’s time for the next assignment. Polar opposites but I actually quite like the mix of full speed ahead and sitting around to recoup while editing.
Annette: How do you balance traveling, blogging and your personal life?
Kristen: All three have become woven into one – which I don’t mind at all! I do give myself little breaks here and there, but I truly enjoy what I do so as hard as work may be at times, I feel grateful every day I get a new job to work on. Each adventure includes meeting new people with new stories to share. It’s really exciting!
Annette: Favorite cameras for Video? Adventures? Photos? Drone?
Kristen: The Canon 5D Mark 4 is my favorite for switching back and forth between video and photo. I also mix in iPhone photos to my Instagram. Great little camera, there. I just got my first drone and used it in Sri Lanka.
Annette: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Kristen: The best way to learn something is to just go out and start practicing it. My mentor gave me this little piece of advice. You don’t have to be perfect at first, but as long as you practice, you can develop the skills your need through dedication and discipline over time. Also, there are so many online resources to use and ‘study’. So have a little faith in yourself, and go after what you want.
Annette: Advice for someone starting a travel blog:
Kristen: Some of the things you don’t really want to do are the things that are really important…like SEO. So either learn about it or hire someone who knows them inside and out. Also, surround yourself with others you trust that you can share information with and who inspire you. I have a great group of women in my travel life where we do exactly this. We all help each other out.
Annette: What are your Business/Brand Goals for 2017?
Kristen: So many things! You’ll have to wait and see…