Canadians Abroad: Give for Granted
A conscientious young writer finds her niche in the blogosphere.
Have Blog, Will Travel
Hey, there! I’m Jenna and I’m going to share with you my transformative journey from working a 9-to-5 job in Toronto to becoming a “whenever, wherever” travel writer today. Now 25, I have explored more than 45 countries and freelanced around the world, writing at www.giveforgranted.com.
Growing up in Oakville, Ont., my adolescence wasn’t too far out of the ordinary. I was a sports fanatic who loved hanging out with friends and heading to the cottage on weekends. After high school, I enrolled in sports management at Brock University. Everything was great. I made incredible friendships, had amazing colleagues and secured good job opportunities upon graduation.
Then one day, there I was sitting in my new office cubicle on a beautiful summer’s day, working late to finish a project, and it hit me. I mean, it wasn’t an “aha!” moment of self-discovery in the usual sense, where I suddenly realized I wanted to travel the world. Rather, it was a moment where I felt nothing but fear and nausea creeping up on me and I suddenly burst into tears. A few months went by, and these anxiety spells hit harder every day. I went to see a doctor and was put on medication to no real avail. One day, I was driving home from work, feeling ill, and crashed my car on the highway. That was when I hit rock bottom and my true “aha” moment happened. I was going to leave on a journey and hide away until I felt better. I picked up an opportunity exchanging blog posts for travel in South Africa in August 2012. Although I didn’t know it at the time, my new life was under way. It all started there.
Unlike many other travel writers I never had an urge to travel until I had hit my rock bottom. After my initial travel-blogging experience in South Africa, it only took a few more trips-to Peru, Thailand and Jamaica-for me to realize that I had found my passion. I felt full of life and ready to conquer the world. This is a feeling I never want to lose, and it’s one for which I think we should all strive.
My initial focus as a blogger was on general travel, but as my experiences accumulated, I found my true niche in responsible tourism and philanthropy.
One of the questions I often get asked is, “Do you really make money as a travel writer?” I’m going to be honest with you-some people succeed making money as travel writers, some do not. It’s not as easy as everyone makes it out to be. I don’t make money via my blog directly, but by having a blog, I was able to build connections everywhere I went. I now freelance for multiple businesses doing many different things. Some find interest in my ability to build a social media following, others enjoy my style of writing and some just love my organizational ability. So while making money on a blog might not be easy, for me it’s been a great entrance into the world of freelance travel.
I’ve fallen in love with many different countries for many different reasons, but there are a few that I find myself talking about again and again. Like my trip to Nepal, for example, which I booked in transit to India in August 2014. It was my first real trip alone for two weeks and the first time I really felt culture shock. It was beautiful and amazing; the people were so friendly and I marked this trip as the first time I really started to feel comfortable being me.
Iqaluit, Nunavut, where I spent time visiting my nephew and my sister, also holds a special place in my heart. After having already visited several countries, I couldn’t believe that the most remarkable place I had been to was situated in Canada. While it was definitely one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to, it was also one of the most impoverished. Impoverished and Canada are two words you seldom see in the same sentence, but impoverishment is a fact of life in Iqaluit. It was here that I found out I wanted to do more than just write about travel-I wanted to give back in a way that would enable me to make a difference.
As an online travel writer and blog owner, building a social media following is something that grows quite naturally. But what’s the use of having all these followers if I can’t make use of them to help make the world a better place?
With that in mind, I travel to countries that pique my interest, exploring them as I normally would and then remark on what I’ve done right and what I could have done better in terms of travelling responsibly. I’m certainly no angel, but I learn from my mistakes and share my stories, findings and suggestions with others. I know we can’t simply ask the world to travel responsibly and have everything change overnight, but we can all start taking baby steps towards travelling with more respect for the environments, people and cultures we are visiting. My blog is where I share these baby steps to inspire others to do the same.
Throughout my travels, I never forget about Canada. I run an online shop on Give for Granted, selling travel apparel and bracelets, and 100 per cent of the profit I make is being used to purchase warm winter parkas for northern Canadians living in poverty. I currently have a project in the works that will enable me to meet inspiring individuals in the North who are willing to share their stories with me and my audience. I will not be highlighting poverty within the region but rather all there is to love about living in Canada’s North. While the parkas are just a simple sign of gratitude, I want to gather these stories to create and share Canada’s coolest video about exploring the North. My hope is to increase tourism to create more job opportunities and promote the growth of age-old traditions and local culture.
What’s next after that? Well, I guess you and I just have to wait and see! I’m all over the web – just search @giveforgranted or visit me at www.giveforgranted.com.