Kelley is our Woman of the Week here to share her advice with you about how she manages to juggle work, parenting, and travel. Her story is beautifully written and I loved seeing her perspective as a mother to her young daughter and how that influences her travel. I hope you enjoy the read.
Tell us about yourself?
My name is Kelley and I am a photographer/artist. I grew up in San Diego, California where I worked primarily in the wedding and events industry. I’ve photographed 248 weddings and I loved every single one of them (save for exactly 1) and have worked with over 1000 clients, so leaving my job and my town to live in Denmark for 2 years so my husband could go to the Royal Danish Academy of Music as a Masters in composition student was a hard choice. I remember sitting there after he got his acceptance letter (it was 3am our time in California) and thinking to myself, “what the heck will I even do in Denmark?”
But as an artist and a photographer, I tend to find my way through it with hard work and friendship. I know that I am a talented person and that my photos are slammin’, but when we have a chance to be fresh and new and fun, as artists we have to take that route over the “I’m an artist, just love me and follow my instagram” route. So I’ve been working on making new friends and connections while taking lots of photos, so far it’s been an awesome experience.
We have a young daughter that is 3 and she is a little traveller, we’ve taken her to Sweden and Norway as well as Denmark. She’s a special little kid that loves to make friends and watch her favorite cartoons in other languages. She is our only child (due to circumstances beyond our control not necessarily by choice) so we feel that we have one chance to send a great human into the world and traveling with her is how we have chosen to do that. We don’t get a lot done in our family, but we live great and fulfilling lives.
Why do you travel?
I travel for two reasons: My daughter and my art.
My daughter thrives in unique circumstances as she is a unique character. Living in the US brought a lot of labelling of my child in order to qualify for services for her or to simply get her into a good school. So when I began traveling with her, I immediately noticed that the labelling stopped and that it is unique to the part of the world we come from. She is not labeled other places or placed into special play groups, she’s just a quirky kid that needs some extra attention. I feel that this is a nice reprieve for her as she was born with several birth defects and just wants to play with other children. She’s not viewed as a “typical” or “identified” or “cleft-effected” or “emotionally dependent what have you kid”, just a kid. And so I don’t have to constantly be explaining her behavior to other people, they just see her as a kid. So I travel to keep her away from our constant need to label children that don’t fit the exact mold in the US.
I also travel to keep my mind from becoming complacent and comfortable. When I leave home I immediately go into survival mode, I hate to fly. I fly ALL THE TIME and I still hate it with a passion and that hatred drives my creative mind. Meeting new people is something I try to do wherever I go and meeting new people with a language barrier is hard and frightening and pushes me to be more creative with my social skills. I get lost with my husband quiet easily, but in getting lost I find new and beautiful places to photograph thus driving my actual art forward. Traveling makes you a better artist, if only to get away from that comfort zone.
How do you balance work and travel?
This is a hard one because of time changes. I literally have to be up every morning at 3am and 4am to post photos on social media or to engaged with people and my clients on Facebook. It’s SO HARD! I get emails all night, and crickets all day. So my balance is essentially, “get the work done when you can.” And somehow it gets done, I get the photos sold and the clients their albums… I barely sleep more than 4 hours at a time but that’s not unique to me, it’s just the nature of my job and I know a lot of photographers that have to do it even with all the scheduled posting apps. Sometimes the editor or client only has their lunch break and it just so happens their lunch break is bedtime for me.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from your travels?
Be ok with being scared. It’s a scary world out there! And if you are an American reading this, it is part of our culture to stay home and be scared so it’s not just you! It’s a lot of us. Don’t stay in the city center in a hotel, don’t take a cruise, don’t jump on the tour bus! Be daring and get out there with the locals, hit those cities in the off-season, avoid chain restaurants by getting a place with a kitchen and making your own food from the grocery stores… don’t be like the tourists, be like the travelers.
In Europe the Europeans have this on-going joke about American backpackers and how they try to see all of Europe in, like, a week with a backpack on. DON’T DO THAT! Make traveling a yearly goal even if it’s just a 45 minute plane ride away, spend at least 10 days in a place (with travel days, it’s more like 8 day anyway) and try to meet the people… at least ONE person. It will make all the difference in your travel life.
There was this moment on the day my family was in Bergen, Norway where we did one touristy thing. We went to the top of Mount Fløyen via the funicular and stood there at the viewpoint as a family, mouths opened with awe at the majesty. I remember having this lovely breeze hit our faces, warm coffee in my hands, our daughter running wild on their little playground with the other kids… it was one of those movie-like moments where if there had been music playing in the background I would have started looking around for Julia Roberts or something. We were just this little family out in the world, being us and being happy. It was one of the best days in my life.
Watch your drinks and watch your purse. Even in a city as safe and crime free as Copenhagen is, I was followed by a young gang member when he saw me toting around my camera without my safety harness… I literally had to duck into a shop and order ice cream to get rid of the guy. And I’m a HUGE lady that knows how to put up a big fight, I would have totally kicked that guy’s ass if he had messed with me…. but that still doesn’t mean I want to be messed with and that I don’t totally want to avoid that situation.
Confidence and keeping your wits about you is key! Especially if you’re going at it alone. I work with at least $3000 worth of gear around my neck and I’ve been fairly successful (so far) in not getting my stuff stolen or my drinks spiked using confidence and a keen eye, I can’t say the same for some of the other women I’ve heard stories from. Don’t be afraid, just don’t be complacent or party like mad and you’ll be fine! Happy and safe travels everyone!
Thanks for reading! Want more travel tips from Kelley and women like her?
Join the Suitcase Six mailing list and you’ll get access to 3 freebies to help you plan your next adventure!
After you sign up, you’ll start receiving the following freebies: 50 Practical Travel Tips from Solo Lady Backpackers (a 6-page PDF), 20 Tips for Considerate Travel (a checklist), and 30 Jobs to See the World.
Want more interviews? Head to our Woman of the Week archives for the full library.
PIN IT TO PINTEREST