The power of putting things out into the world

  rêver = to dream

rêver = to dream

What’s been keeping you from doing the thing you’ve been putting off forever?

Is it time? —Make it a priority, I say!

Is it that you don’t feel ready? —Will you ever be ready, I say?

Is it that you don’t know what you’re doing? —What’s stopping you from learning or figuring it out, I say!

What’s the worst thing that can happen? —The real question is, what is possible that you never even considered?

But seriously, why do we spend so much energy avoiding things, when that same energy could go into making things happen? It’s one of the mysteries of life. And yes, so many of these excuses are legitimate. But you also have to start thinking deeper, and figure out what small changes (maybe a morning routine?) you can make to help get you where you want to be.

Here’s my short list of why you need to stop over thinking things, and start putting your ideas out into the world.

  1. Plant seeds now, for later. You never know who may help you in the future, or how. Don’t have the first time you need something from someone be an ask. The internet makes it easy to build connections as we go, and removes much of the hierarchy of how things were once done. The more you write / create / share on a certain topic, the more you’ll get known for that thing. And you never know what that may lead to.

  2. Fail early, fail fast. This mantra in the field of UX is a way to encourage you to try ideas early on to help you figure out what works out before it’s too late. You don’t have to have everything completely fleshed out, just a MVP – minimum viable product. Consider what’s a simpler version you can put together quickly, while you continue to work on your grand plans being the scenes? If you discover something isn’t working as expected you can tweak it, pivot, or change direction completely without having blown your entire budget, time, and energy.

  3. Write your own rules. Just because everyone else is doing something a certain way does not mean you have to. In fact, writing your own rules is a great way to stand out. I’m a huge proponent of experimenting (and having fun) to see what works. If I wasn’t you wouldn’t ever be reading this post right now.

  4. Uncover what you didn’t know was out there. The internet is not all rainbows and unicorns, but it can be magical when you make it work for you. Imagine being able to discover a whole new world you never knew existed until you happened upon a post someone wrote with exactly what you need to hear. There’s probably someone out there looking for something that only you can share.

  5. Remember, it starts small. Changing the world is awesome, but to make a difference, it can take just touching one person, or taking a small step forwards. You never know what that silly (or serious, or important, or random, or …) thing you put into the world may lead to. You’ll surely never know until you try.

We can think about doing something forever. But it’s not until you actually do something that you can see what is possible. Also, spoiler alert: life doesn’t always go as planned. That’s not always a bad thing. Magic can happen too. ✨

When I started my blog in 2007 I often wrote about Paris. Little did I know I’d end up here 2 years later, and still be here to this day. Now, just weeks into writing about business, new opportunities keep manifesting in ways I never imagined. Along the way, I’ve come to realize so many incredible opportunities I’ve had, people I’ve met, and friends I’ve made, have come from that very simple act of putting things out into the world. Collectively it all adds up. But first you have to start.

Don’t do something with an explicit idea what will happen next. Be open to what doors it opens. The more you put into the world, the more you’ll realize if you’re on track, and if it’s truly aligned with your own goals and mission. Along the way, ask yourself if you actually enjoy what you’re doing, or if you’re doing it just because you’re good at it, or because that’s how you feel it “should” be done.

Another bonus of taking action is that the more you prioritize putting whatever it is out into the world, the more it will become a habit and second nature for you. In short, it’s a win-win-win-win 🙌 You will become the go to person for gnomes & swimming pools, UX design, or whatever it is you do.

Yes, it takes time. We’re not looking for overnight success stories here. Be the tortoise 🐢, not the hare. We’re in it for the long game. And that’s the exact reason why your moment is NOW. Stop making excuses, and start putting what you do out into the world.

Sharing/posting your intentions publicly is one way to help get things done, so I invite you to share what you want to be putting into the world in the comments.

Remember, you don’t have to be overly ambitious. Start small. Then ask yourself: what’s the one small thing you can do today to help get you closer to that goal?


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Anne-ifesto Manifesto

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For years I’ve used the mantra travel is not about where you go, but how you see the world as the guiding force for my travel blog, Prêt à Voyager. (It’s part of the logo!) While it sounds specific to travel, I see how it applies to all the work I do. But as I dig deeper into the work I put into the world, it was time to write my own manifesto, or in my case the Anne-ifesto. 😉

The Anne-ifesto Manifesto*

  1. The journey is the destination.
    Learn from the process. It's often more rewarding than the end result.

  2. The city is your classroom.
    You don't have to go far to learn something new. Step away from the computer, unplug, talk to people, and maximize the inspiration around you.

  3. Celebrate diversity of experience.
    Go beyond what we think we know and be open to learning from others.

  4. Show, don't tell.
    Be a living example of what you want to put into the world. Use stories to communicate your message.

  5. It's about the people.
    Meet them. Listen. Absorb. Learn. Celebrate. Repeat.

  6. Build relationships.
    Make meaningful relationships. Build trust, not fluff. Make an effort during times when you don't need something.

  7. Never underestimate the "quiet ones".
    Often it's not the loudest person in the room who has the best ideas. Look where others aren't looking, and LISTEN, really listen.

  8. Connect the dots.
    Connect the unexpected. Make the links no one else saw coming.

  9. Question everything.
    Questions are more important than answers. Don't assume the status quo is the best approach. Test out ideas rather than making assumptions.

  10. Inspiration is everywhere.
    What unlikely place beyond our bubble can we look for inspiration?

  11. Never stop learning.
    Curiosity keeps things interesting. Learn from people, podcasts, books, articles, movies, documentaries, more.

  12. Share what you learn.
    Share your insights and perspective. Help others grow through sharing your experiences.

  13. Add your twist.
    The world has become cookie cutter, you are not. Embrace your voice, combine your own interests, give it your spin. Be you.

  14. Be real.
    Bring perspective through honesty. Break through the façade. Be real-world ready.

  15. Be passionate.
    Passion is contagious. Don’t hide who you are.

  16. Let magic happen.
    Collaborate and look for the special dynamic that you can't always explain, but that makes you go further than you ever dreamed.

  17. Working crazy hours is not a badge of honor.
    Work smarter, not harder. The work week does not have to look like what society tells us.

  18. Priorities = important > urgent
    Don't get distracted by societal pressures and frazzled requests. Turn back to this list when feeling lost or down't know what to do.

  19. Follow your inner gyroscope
    Trust your gut. Trust your vision.

  20. Breathe.
    Allow room to breathe, process, and percolate. Take time to care for your self in order to create the best work.

  21. Leave room for spontaniety.
    Because not everything in life goes as planned. Leave room for opportunity too. We all need space and time.

  22. Be inclusive.
    It's about inclusion, not integration. Make an effort to reach a world beyond the bubble we live in and include their voices as well. Everyone welcome.

  23. Do good for the world.
    Consider the impact of what you put into the world.

  24. Strength is in simplification.
    It takes a lot to chip away to the core. Complexity is not a sign of a job well done. Get to the heart of what you're really doing.

  25. Do the work.
    It takes time and work to get where you want to be. It's not always easy, but that shows you're learning and growing. Go behind the scenes. Don't complain, do something about it.

  26. Be open.
    Open to ideas. To opportunities. To different perspectives. Other industries. Other cultures. To change. To risks. To challenges. Allow it all to push you to grow.

  27. Take advantage of creative constraints.
    Whether it’s limited budget, time, or resources, figure out how to get creative with what you have. Constraints often can lead to greater creativity.

  28. Permission to learn.
    If you don't know something, learn it. You can figure anything out.

  29. Stay curious.
    When you stop being curious, you may need to re-route your course. Satiate your hunger to learn whatever sparks your curiosity.

  30. Find your super powers.
    It's the unique combination of what makes you you, and nobody else.


* Manifesto subject to change, updates, tweaks.


The Paris café chair that I sat on while writing this post seemed like an apt visual to communicate and the different ideas we weave together to form what we bring to the table. Thank you Ashley Ludaescher for the beautiful capture.

Special thanks to Jen Carrington who prompted the manifesto in her Writing for Dream Clients online course. I was inspired by the Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto for Growth, which was given to me as a parting gift by one of my supervisors upon completing my first internship. Believe me when I say, this list didn’t just magically happen. It involved feeling blocked, pushing through, putting it aside, and coming back to it. And repeating that cycle. It may still change, but I got it to this point. By publishing it here, I always have it as a reference when I need it.

In writing my manifesto, I also drew from the idea of design principles, a topic I uncovered while teaching UX design. Design principles are guiding principles to help inform your decisions. In a UX environment they are created as a team to avoid top down hierarchical decision making. You can find tips for creating your own design principles in IDEO.org’s Design Kit, and more examples on principles.design and designprinciplesFTW.com.

If you decide to write your own manifesto, it may be completely different than mine. It may not be a numbered list at all. It may only have three key ideas (not 30!). Everyone is different and that’s what makes this awesome. Figure out what works for you. Easier said than done, but doing the work will pay off later.

Have you uncovered any awesome manifestos? Have you written your own? Share it below!




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What do garden gnomes and swimming pools have in common?

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On Instagram Stories I recently received a question that made me think about the work I do. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it really came down to garden gnomes and swimming pools—two things I love, and I’m not afraid to share. Seriously, do you know how many people tell me that they think of me or share something with me when they spot one of these two things in the wild or online? It’s more than you think!

My love of gnomes dates back to the film “Amélie” which came out the year I studied abroad in Paris. It instantly became one of my favorite films for many reasons, including for the gnome who traveled the world in order to encourage her father to get out and see the world for himself. A couple years later when I was teaching English in a French high school in a Paris suburb is when I got my first one. My aunt and cousin had come to visit and reignited my fascination with gnomes. On my way to visit their hotel, I passed a shop with the cutest ones in the window. I bought us all gnomes to go home with us. (Mine is pictured above).

As for swimming pools, I have my mom to thank for that. She was adamant that my brother and I learn to swim when we were quite young. Partially this was due to her own enjoyment in the pool, but I’m sure it was sparked by my dad’s lack of ability in the water (which wasn’t aided by an incident during summer camp as a kid). From an early age I was in swimming classes at the YMCA and making my way up the ranks of tadpole stages which the courses were named for.

Before you knew it this Pisces by birth was really a fish in the water. I lived for summer swim team, had a reasonable amount of success, and was regularly complimented about how smooth I was in the water.

Ok, Anne, we get it, but what does this have to do with business?
During my Masters thesis was when I started to swim more in Paris. I remember a distinct day where I was swimming laps and something I’d been stuck on finally made sense. As soon as I got home, I didn’t go straight to my computer as I normally would do, instead, writing out the ideas on index cards so I could move them around. I don’t remember exactly what the break through was, but I remember it being a turning point that got me excited to work on my thesis.

Swimming stuck with me after I graduated and would go on to start my business. The pool would be my refuge from stress, and water had a strange power to help connect things. I later got the idea in my head that I'd visit all 37 public swimming pools in Paris. It became a challenge and got me to see different sides of the city, and the quirky nature of municipal pools. Despite the fact photos are interdit (not allowed) I managed to sneak covert pics under my towel and share what I saw on Instagram with the hashtags #ParisPiscine (others have now infiltrated the hashtag) and #PAVswim (with pools beyond Paris too).

But this post isn’t about Paris or swimming pools, it’s about business. It’s about not being afraid to embrace who you are and celebrate your quirks. There’s no need to hyper curate what makes you who you are to be something you think people want. Fans of my work don’t follow me (or unfollow me) because of gnomes and swimming pools. Instead it gives them a look into who I am—a human—and I’ve given them a unique way to follow along my adventures.

The more we try to fit into the “formula” or status quo of what we think we’re supposed to be doing in our business, that’s when things start going wrong, and get to be not so fun. It’s these unexpected elements that help bring us, and our brand, alive. It makes us memorable and stand out from the competition. They don’t have to be front and center all the time, but they’re things we’re not afraid to embrace.

True story: I once brought my gnome to a big presentation I did on storytelling to a room full of Louis Vuitton employees. For me that was true success. Bringing my gnome to speak in front of a luxury group was never something I imagined. In fact, when I was first contacted about the gig, I was quite skeptical. Are you sure you want ME? I’m not luxury. But it turned out it wasn’t about luxury at all. It was about travel—also at the heart of their brand.

Believe it or not, they really did want my perspective. Not only did I get the job, I beat someone else out for it. I didn't take the traditional (boring?) route. I embraced what I do. And I also received one of the best compliments from a client when it was done: “Anne, you really listened.” I didn’t realize contractors can go in and do their thing without paying attention to the client needs and requests, but that comment made me realize it happens more than you think. My gnome knows how to listen and take it all in. The client was very happy, and so was I!

That was a few years ago. I can’t say I bring my gnome to all jobs (except my Amélie tour from time to time—we pause at the photo booth, bien sûr!—and if you look closely at my OpenClassrooms courses there’s often a little one who makes a cameo). As for swimming pools, they connected me to artist/illustrator Lisa Congdon. It not only led to me being featured in her book The Joy of Swimming (I contributed a page too about Paris pools), but it also led to a lovely friendship.

That’s the beauty of these quirky things that make me me. You never know what they may lead to. They’re always there, and I don’t always have to use them to make my point. There can be too much of a good thing. 😉 But I do know they’re in my back pocket if I ever need them. I embrace them as part of my story.

So what are your charms and quirks that have added unexpected value to your business or work you do? How have these things helped shape the view of how you see the world? Are they as silly as mine?


For more on my musings about swimming pools + French bureaucracy, check out my Underwater newsletter. You can sign up for my main newsletter here, or follow me on social media @pretavoyager.

Photo by Ashley Ludaescher. Shot on film.

On managing stress and minimizing burnout

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I’ve written about what I’ve learned about burnout from living in France on Prêt à Voyager, but I find that stress and burnout are two topics that come up repeatedly. And as much as I can warn friends and encourage them to slow down, it takes self awareness to know when to say STOP. The reality is that you can’t do your best work if you’re not at your best.

Here’s an incomplete list of things to consider when you start to feel stress and the pressure of life:

  • Stop comparing yourself to others. Social media is a façade, and rarely the full story. Talk to people in real life and then some more of the story starts to come out.

  • Stop trying to copy and paste the “formula” that works for someone else’s endeavors. Of course let yourself be inspired by what others are doing, but do the work to figure out your priorities and what you need to be doing and how you should be spending your time.

  • Do the (hard) work early on to save you time and stress later. Keep referring back to what you know.

  • Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know everything. I empower you to be curious and learn something new.

  • Build time into your schedule for things to go wrong. Just because there’s a break in your calendar doesn’t mean you have to fill it.

  • Surround yourself with amazing friends who support you and cheer you on.

  • Make friends in the industry (or even outside) who you can be transparent with, honest about your struggles, and talk openly about business. It may take time to build these relationships, so put in the time before you need them. It’s not a competition—the more we support each other, the more we all win.

  • Know when you need to hit pause and step back.

  • Step away from your computer. Go for a walk. Read a book. Your brain needs time to percolate and process. If you’re feeling stuck, trying to “work harder” isn’t necessarily going to solve the problem.

  • Go for a long walk. Look for details. Let the world around you inspire you.

  • Get up from your desk. It’s not good for your body if you sit all day in front of your computer, which is not good for your health, which is not good for yours

  • Take a hot shower — I have great ideas come here. It’s also a great way to reduce stress and anxiety.

  • Learn where your best ideas come. Mine come from walking, making connections in the metro, or swimming.

  • Listen to a podcast. There’s one on every subject. I listen better while I’m walking than sitting at my desk easily distracted.

  • Try something new: doodle, sketch, take a picture, pick up a coloring book, etc. Figure out what inspires you, not what the industry tells you to do.

  • Don’t do anything. We have a tendency to always to be doing something. Always listening to a podcast or music while we walk. Always watching something in the background. Make sure you schedule some time to just be.

  • Try meditating. I know so many people who this has helped. It keeps you grounded. And for the record, it’s supposed to be hard—hence we need it in our lives. Start with short meditations and make it a happen. (I’ve tried Headspace, and I also love the design of the app).

  • Start your day without your phone. (I wrote this post before even checking my email or social media). Once we start, it’s harder to pull away.

  • Attend (and prioritize) going to events or workshops that you know will inspire you. Make them a priority. If you’re making the excuse “I’m too busy” then that may be the perfect indicator you really should go. The right subject may even carve tons of time off that very thing you’re stuck on.

  • Go to the gym. Make it part of your routine. (I go 3x a week — typically a mix of low impact BodyBalance or aqua gym, a strength training, and a cardio dance class). Pick classes that work for you and make you excited to get up and go.

  • Hire a coach or creative consultant — sometimes we need an outsider to help push us through to the next level. It doesn’t show you’re weak, it shows that you’re willing to invest in yourself and grow in ways you may not even know yet.

Revisit this list whenever you feel the stress creeping in. Stop the burnout before it happens. Keep in mind stressful days are also a natural part of business and growth. Some stress is good—it means you’re taking risks and helping push yourself to the next level.


You don’t have to take my word for it. Here are some more resources that have inspired me recently:

Every week my newsletter explores some aspect of the intersection of travel, design, and creative entrepreneurship. You can also find me online @pretavoyager on Twitter and Instagram, where I share stories.

Are you a morning person? On habit and routine.

What does your day look like? When do you get things done? (Talking your own projects here.) Have you ever thought critically about how you organize and prioritize your time? Take a minute jot down your response before proceeding. I’m not saying what I do is the “right” way, but there may be some takeaways you can apply to your own life to improve your own workflow. I’ve definitely lived and learned the hard way.

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One thing is for sure: there's no typical day in my life. I like to keep things interesting and keep myself on my toes, I suppose. I tend to get bored and uninspired if I do too much of the same thing. As with my adventures in French bureaucracy, I like a good challenge. A good friend and I joke about how I’m such a freelancer, and she’s such an office person. Everyone has their own style Over time, it’s been about discovering how I thrive.

I’ve always rebelled a bit about having too much of a schedule or plan. Likely out of fear that it’d take away my creativity. Something I learned in grad school was that I enjoyed the freedom of being able to schedule my own time. I also was busy enough that I had to make sure things got done. The combination of grad school and living in Paris made me a night owl, something I’d never been before. But the work got done. So it’s been surprising to me more than anyone to see myself seeking out schedule and structure in my professional life like never before.

To kick things off, let me remind you when I started out, I really had no idea what I was doing. It’s actually only been in the past 6 months that I’ve really started to think more consciously about how I structure and use my time. 7 years into my business, everything remains a constant work in progress.

I used to love working late nights and would really hit my groove sometime between 10pm and midnight, and would often go to 2am. Funny for a girl who was in bed by 10:30pm and up at 5:50am all through university! I didn't mind my night owl tendencies and got stuff done, but I also became the queen of snoozing. Again, not a problem as life in Paris tends to start a bit later, but it never made me feel great about kicking off my day. It was a bit of an internal battle, and I've always been one to hold self-inflicted guilt. In short: it was not the best start to my day and most of my day felt like an uphill battle trying to overcome the slow start.

A NEW ROUTINE

These days I've been working on creating more structure for business/life. Despite more lessons learned and experience under my belt, I find I need to build in even more “recovery” time. Work takes brain power. But one little tweak to my day, has completely changed how I work, and how I feel about my days.

Inspired by something I learned at a Deep Writing workshop this past spring, I've started a morning routine. My alarm goes off at 7:10am—early for me, but not by most standards. I get out of bed, make a tea, take my vitamins, and head straight to my desk (or sometimes couch) with my computer. I’m in my PJs as I write this post, but in doing so, I’ve minimized my distractions in getting here and making this post happen.

Don’t get me wrong, this shift wasn’t easy. It took a lot of internal re-wiring to break through my years of less than ideal habits. Ahem, snoozing. (Which is something I can look forward to on weekends still).

FIND TIME OR MAKE TIME?

There are a few things that are making my morning sessions a bit easier:

1) I'm super jazzed that I'm working on my own projects. After ~5 years of putting my work on the sidelines while clients got priority and most of my energy, I have renewed focus. Knowing I’m using this time to feed my own practice for once feels good.

2) As much as I rebelled against having structure for so long (the perk of doing my own thing), I realized that structure is a way for me to be better at what I'm doing, and want to be doing.

3) This simple habit of getting up and going straight to work means I'm making a lot more progress. It's not that everything I write is earth shatteringly brilliant. But it does mean that every little bit adds up.

4) It means that by 8am I'm already feeling jazzed about my day. The rest of the day can be complete crap, and I can feel like I accomplished something already.

People often ask me if I do “morning pages” inspired by Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. It’s a morning practice where you journal a few pages every morning, sometimes with prompts, other times more stream of conscious. (Disclaimer: I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my bookshelf to read). In a workshop I participated in, it was pointed out that my time would be spent working on actual work. When you write every day, you’ll get to your end goal much faster. Instead, I work on a different post each day.

Reminder; Do what works for YOU! You never know until you try.

I was most definitely skeptical about this idea of a morning practice, but it was a comment from a fellow workshop participant that really made it sink in. She was older than me and had participated in the workshop in previous years. She addressed the group and said, “Look, I'm not a morning person. I rebelled against this for so long. But it totally changed my life." I happened to be sitting next to her, and figured I’d at least give it a shot.

In perfectly published end results we see online we don’t always see the RESISTANCE along the way. But we ALL experience it. The simple acknowledgement that it's not easy, and she too was skeptical, was what I needed to hear. Trying it was also a refreshing change of pace from the guilt and annoyance at myself for putting things off and not getting anything done.

Even with this new goal, the new habit didn’t stick for long. My summer got crazy, and I lost the good habit I had created. As I was transitioning out of a long term client project back towards nurturing my own practice, I knew I would need those good habits to carry me through. Fast forward, and five days a week I consistently wake up early to write.

In the process I came up with a pretty obvious—yet not so obvious when it’s right in front of us—realization that my morning practice was only truly effective on days where I got enough sleep. For years I could get away with 6 hours of sleep, the more I read, I’ve come to realise 8 hours is right for me. It’s still hard for me to get into bed before midnight, but I’m happiest when I get in bed closer to 10pm and can curl up with my book.

It’s always helped that I have horrible phone reception in my bedroom, so looking at my phone in bed hasn’t been a bad habit that I’m trying to break. But I have learned in the mornings, not to look at my phone. On my way to my living room I leave my phone on the kitchen table as I go to sit down and write. The more we eliminate distractions, the more we can get done.

It’s a lot of the little tweaks that make my writing more effective as I experiment. Most of the time when I sit down in the morning I never know exactly what I'm going to write. I do have a big list of ideas I can refer to if I need to. I think as a next step my goal is to be more intentional about making a plan for what I’m going to work on, even if I only decide the night before. Plans can always change, but it helps to have the intention.

For the month of November (NaNoWriMo) I’ve been extra ambitious and am working towards publishing one thing a day on one of my multiple channels. I definitely can’t keep this up for long term, but now, the bursts of having a challenge are keeping me on target and helping me further engrave good habits. As much as possible, I’m trying to ride the wave of feeling good about the state of where my business is going. I know if I break these habits, it’s going to be harder to get them back, and I’ll play mind games in the process.

I fully realize mornings aren’t for everyone, but for me, it’s been more helpful than I ever imagined. Being open to trying something new was more important than thinking I have all the answers. I still have my late night writing bursts, and love getting into the zone. But the thing is I no longer wait for the “perfect time” or for inspiration to strike, it’s about taking action and getting things done. The little tweaks to my day have had the biggest impact. And when you start your day off on the right foot, it feels pretty damn awesome!

Really, the secret to success is figuring out what works for YOU. I'm curious, what's a routine you've discovered that works for you? How do you work best? Have you ever thought about this before? Share your secrets in the comments below!

A few resources which helped me or I spotted:

  • BJ Fogg’s “tiny habits” free email training teaches you how to anchor things to existing behaviors to get things done (picked this up in my UX studies). (I now make sure I always do my dishes before I go to bed so I don’t have any distractions in the morning when I make my tea before I sit down and write.)

  • The book Designing Your Life (which I wrote about here) includes an exercise for mapping how energy changes throughout a day or week. From there you can consider how you can remove or rearrange elements to create a space where you thrive.

  • Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art is all about the resistance we face every day as creators from procrastination to self-doubt, or self-sabotage.

  • The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna is a pep talk for anyone who’s chosen “should” for far too long.

  • Deep Writing Workshop with Eric Maisel is the workshop I participated in that planted the seed about creating a distraction free morning practice. I did the in person one, but Eric offers an online version too. He also is a prolific author with books to help drive creativity forward.

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The 5 unlikely things that helped my business the most

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Everyone wants to know the secret to success, but success doesn’t look the same to everyone, and every business is different in terms of what it needs. Having been in the “game” of this since 2011, I thought I’d share the 5 unlikely things that had the biggest impact on my business.

  1. Work less, not more.
    As a society we’re indoctrinated that we have to work all the time to be the best at what we do. Early on I learned the lesson that too much work led to self-inflicted health problems that definitely didn’t do anything to help my business. Over time I’ve learned to make sure to build in plenty of down time into my schedule (although it’s still never quite enough) in order to process information and let my ideas percolate. As I do this I’ve become more laser focused on the kind of work I want to be producing and taking on.
    Tip: Just because you have a free slot on your calendar doesn’t mean you have to fill every minute. Don’t overbook yourself because inevitably new opportunities or unexpected curveballs will come up.

  2. Step away from the computer.
    I know it seems counter intuitive to unplug when you need to get things done, but I find it makes the time I am in front of my computer far more productive. I’ve learned that my best ideas rarely happen in front of the computer, but rather while I’m out walking, making connections in the metro, or swimming. I’m all about having a paper notebook nearby, and my favorite marker pens. I joined the gym less to get in shape, and more for my mental health and to make sure I move my body and don’t sit at a desk all day. In offering tours I’ve also managed to find a way to get paid to step away from my computer, and to connect with people.
    Tip: Consider what you know you need to do in order to produce your best work. Moving forward this may also involve thinking about alternative ways to monetize your work. Passive income is ideal, or just something where you don’t need to be connected 24/7..

  3. Talk to strangers.
    Every year I pick a word or theme of my year. This year is “talk to strangers”. It’s a good reminder that we all need to get out of our bubbles and there’s a world out there to learn from. Networking was always exhausting for the introvert in me, and the whole idea of it kind of made my skin crawl. But then I started to think of networking as making friends. I set a goal to talk to one new person at every event I go to. It doesn’t have to be an earth shattering conversation, but I’m there to help push myself out of my comfort zone and to listen to them and be open to learning something new. Inevitably in every interaction I have these days I learn something I can apply to some aspect of my business. I don’t directly ask them for help or to work together, I just listen—really, listen.
    Tip: Sometimes putting yourself out there means going to an event alone so you don’t get stuck only chatting with your friends. Don’t not do something because you can’t find anyone else to do it with you. I’ve found doing something that scares you is one of the best ways to grow.

  4. Listen to podcasts.
    Podcasts have become an integral part of my business education. I like to think of them as eavesdropping on awesome conversations. Anytime I hear something discussed that piques my interest, I’ll just down a note and look it up later. I often buy the books of the guests (or hosts) which further sends me down the rabbit hole of discovery. Because sometimes you just need to know something, or someone exists, in order to be inspired. When it comes to pods, I’ve learned that the best way for me to take podcasts in is to listen while I walk. If I listen at my desk or at home, I’m more likely to tune out and get distracted doing something else.
    Tip: Start with what interests you. Here are some of my favorites which I regularly update.

  5. Invest in learning.
    Whenever I find an awesome conference or workshop I often share it with friends or my network. 99% of the time people respond saying it’s too expensive or they don’t have the time. For me, these kinds of events are a no brainer. As soon as I started prioritizing my time—and money into learning and investing in myself, everything in my business started going so much better. It helps that I can business expense things to justify the expense, but even if I couldn’t I’d be asking for these experiences as gifts for Christmas or my birthday. The ones I’m most attracted are not the most expensive offerings in the world. They’re the best investments for me. Some may be online workshops, others are the perfect excuse for me to travel and get out of town—a double dose of inspiration. I still love learning from free webinars and talks that have been recorded and posted online, but there’s something about going somewhere to be in the same place that really makes it sink in.
    Tip: Don’t be afraid to branch out beyond your immediate industry to learn something new. I always consider learning something new and figuring out how to apply it in new ways as a great super power. For me, I’ve learned everything from graphic design for film to screenwriting. In 2017 I went a bit crazy learning new things.

Ok, it’s your turn! What’s your secret sauce to success? What have you learned about business or the way you work that has surprised you or you wish you had thought of sooner? I love learning from fellow creatives, entrepreneurs, and small business owners.

photo credit: Ashley Ludaescher

You can also find me online @pretavoyager on Twitter and Instagram, or sign up for my newsletter exploring the intersection of travel, design, and creative entrepreneurship.

So you want to get into UX...

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My favorite definition of UX design is that it’s the science of the obvious (something I spotted Jared Spool quoted saying on Twitter). The irony of this definition is that UX, or user experience, is often so obvious that people completely ignore it, or feel that it’s not important at all.

Have you ever gone to open a door, there’s a handle where it looks like you should pull it, but really you have to push it? These doors that don’t open how the design of them suggests are referred to as “Norman doors” after Don Norman, the “father of UX design.” Don Norman’s foundational book, The Design of Everyday Things is considered the bible of all things UX. It also breaks down the principles that inform good experiences.

The first step to designing effective experiences is actually taking the time to talk to users, observe them, and deeply understand who you’re designing for. Otherwise, you’re designing for people based entirely off of assumptions. Research should not only happen at the beginning of a project, but throughout the process. Many companies claim to not have the time or budget for user research. But if you’re designing something that no one will use, the real question is how can you afford not to do research!? In the words of Jakob Nielsen, “you are not the user”.

When we talk about research in UX we’re not talking about rigorous academic research, we’re talking about gaining insights about the people you’re designing for in order to make informed design decisions. Erika Hall has a fantastic book called Just Enough Research. (You can also start with her devil or princess video on YouTube.) Steve Portigal also writes about conducting user interviews and distilling insights. (He shares user research war stories in this InVision design talk).

Usability testing is another fantastic, easy way to understand the way a user interacts with a product by giving them a task, and asking them to speak aloud as they go through the actions. (Spoiler alert: what you expect them to do isn’t always the reality.). Steve Krug’s book Don’t Make Me Think is a great resource for usability testing, and he even shares his scripts and resources online. “Guerrilla testing” is another approach to learn a lot about how a user is making their way through a flow or experience when you don’t have a lot of time or budget. Usability testing is a good way to confirm or deny that what you’ve designed is working as intended.

There’s so much more to informed UX design, from understanding the psychology, habits, and behaviors of users, to interpreting metrics and analytics, or having a content strategy that puts the user first. (Here are a few more definitions of what is UX.)

The most exciting thing about the field of UX is that it’s always evolving, and companies tend to be open about sharing their learnings. It means that a whole, the industry gets stronger and we can all learn from each other. Here are some of my favorite resources to help you get started (or provide some refreshers).


Don’t miss resources:

Favorite UX voices on Twitter:

UX podcasts:

If you’re seriously looking into getting into UX, check out the UX Designer path and courses I created on OpenClassrooms. When you sign up for the diploma path, not only are there 10 real-world inspired projects to work through, but you get weekly mentor sessions to accompany you along the way.

For the record, the books in the top photo are (most of) the books I read as I created my UX courses. 🤓

Sign up for my newsletter exploring the intersection of travel, design, and creative entrepreneurship. You can also find me online at pret-a-voyager.com and on social media at @pretavoyager on Twitter and Instagram.

Should I blog?

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Yes!

Ok, that’s the short answer to “Should I blog?”. The next question is: What do you have to lose?

Answer: Nothing. Instead you’ll be able to:

  1. Explore ideas that interest you.

  2. Get known for certain topics or expertise.

  3. Have a testing ground for different ideas.

  4. Create a community for like minded people.

  5. Give people a portal to discover you. And maybe even hire you!

  6. Build a support group of people you can turn to when you have questions.

Ok, the list goes on and on and on…

By this point you’re probably thinking, “but I don’t have time.”

My question(s) for you: Why not make time? What are your priorities? What are you doing now vs. what do you want to be doing?

I know you’re thinking, “But who will actually read what I write?”

My answer? Who cares! You won’t know until you try. But first you have to start.

Ask yourself these questions along the way:

  • Is this something I’m actually enjoying? (If not, try a different approach. I’ll let you in on a little secret: Work doesn’t always have to feel like work. It can be fun and satisfying too.)

  • Am I creating content in a particular way just because everyone else is? (Reminder: there’s no rule book to social media and blogging. Besides, rules are meant to be broken!)

  • What content can I create that can help others / answer questions I get asked all the time / that will save me time in the long run / that will help me get to where I want to be?

“But traffic and numbers” you say!

Bah, I say. Don’t listen to the gurus and marketing “experts”. Times are changing and their end goals are not the same end goals as yours. What are you goals by the way?

”Ok, ok. But I want to write about X, but then that means I also have to write about X, Z, and P too".”

Says WHO!?!

In fact, I’d argue that niche blogs are some of the most interesting. Because they’re not trying to do everything, they do what they do better. You know what you’re going to get, but still there’s room for surprises. In fact, we can learn a lot from niche blogs to help create our own focus. For instance, for Prêt à Voyager, here are my unofficial guidelines I created that help determine what kind of posts I should share:

  • Encourages travel from different perspectives

  • Shares a unique experience, or a different view of Paris (not cliché)

  • Celebrates an interesting travel or design related projects with a compelling story worth sharing

  • Highlights creatives and people doing “interesting” things (not mainstream)

  • Connect the dots between ideas

Some posts may fulfil a few of these guidelines, but others may just be one. If it’s outside of these guidelines, it’s most likely not the right fit, or I need to rethink the spin. Or maybe I post it on my Medium channel, or business blog, or make it a long caption on Instagram. Anyway, it’s my list, and my blog, so I can do what I want. I can also update, refine, and revise as needed. We’re not carving anything in stone these days. It’s the internet. It’s editable. It’s also natural that, like any project, it will evolve over time. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather evolve over time than feeling stuck doing one thing.

When you break it down, my blog is ultimately about a lot of different things. It’s also very me. Not all blogs have to have the person injected into them, but personally, it’s what I’m most drawn to. I always want to know the story of the person behind what I’m reading or seeing. I find it enhances it. We may live in a bubble that makes it feel like everyone knows everything we know, but that’s not the case. And there’s a much wider world beyond our bubble.

Which brings us to your next concern, “But there are so many bloggers already writing about [ ______]”.

Let’s fill in the blank with Paris. OMG, there are SO MANY Paris bloggers. But also they all have their own twist and their own story. My blog isn’t designed to appeal to every kind of person coming to Paris. I’m creating content that I hope will appeal to “my kind of traveler.” For me, that’s no one particular archetype, but rather, a particular way of seeing. After all my mantra is “travel is not about where you go, but how you see the world.” That phrase alone also serves as a guiding force for what I write about.

Before you can butt in getting too into your head, let’s examine some other benefits of blogging in the form of awesome opportunities. Thanks to my blog, I’ve gotten to:

  • Make an awesome Paris Small Shops map with Herb Lester, a really cool independent business in London making awesome products.

  • Fly down to Nice x2 to work on a project at La Pichoune (aka Julia Child’s house)!

  • Give a storytelling workshop to a big room of Louis Vuitton employees. (I’m definitely not luxury but they specifically hired me for my “travel” side! I know. I was just as shocked as you, but we loved working together.)

  • Travel to Copenhagen where I got to meet some of the most fun bloggers who are dear friends to this day.

  • Visit Puglia and Williamsburg on exciting press trips (that valued bloggers).

  • Speak at conferences (The Hive and Blogtacular).

  • Consult with rad independent creative types and some of my favorite companies who do work I love and respect.

  • Feature tons of people on my blog who have not only gone on to do awesome things, but many of them I consider friends! We’re all also each other’s cheerleaders and unofficial business coaches.

And this is just the short list! I didn’t set out to do any of this. It just happened. I was open to opportunity. I was patient along the way. But now I’m in a position where if I want to pitch ideas, I’m legit. I’ve always said my blog is my best business card.

Compared to your blog that doesn’t exist yet or you haven’t posted on for two years, yes I have a bigger following than you, but in the grand scheme of the internet, my blog is peanuts. But still, all this awesome stuff happened.

Want to know why it happened? It wasn’t because I said, “I want to get invited on cool trips, so I’m going to create posts about travel.” It was because I created content I wanted to write, that I believed in, and that I thought may interest or inspire others. There was no other ulterior motive. I stuck to my guns, and it paid off. But let’s remember it didn’t happen over night. It takes time. You have to plant seeds now, that will pay off later. You also need to tend to these seeds and nurture them over time.

So that example I gave in the beginning of the last paragraph was actually a fake out. Getting invited on press trips was fun for awhile, but the reality is often I was not paid, missed a couple days of work (where I could get paid), and lose even more time (often days) having to create the content to post online. Just because something looks amazing on the outside, remember there’s often a flip side. Here’s a little secret: what you see on the internet doesn’t tell you the full story or the reality behind what you see.

I went quiet on my blog for a few years — I focused my energy and time into work that paid my bills and kept a roof over my head. That’s fine. Priorities change. I’m only now realizing that my blog also can be a driver to my business – attracting those dream clients, whether it’s for tours, consulting, or something I don’t know that’s out there just yet. Don’t get lost in someone else’s dream. Take the time to figure out what success looks like for you. It’s not always an easy answer.

Who cares about tons of traffic if that traffic is not “my people.” I’d rather connect with a smaller group than the masses anyway. I’m an introvert at the core after all.

I’ve always loved the mantra, “show, don’t tell.” That’s what your blog does — it shows people what you do best. Rather than saying “I know how to [x]” you literally are showing you know what’s up, while also going way further, sharing your ideas and perspective along the way. But it also shows something else beyond your skills. It highlights your work ethic. These posts didn’t just happen magically. It took time to think about them, write them, share them, and promote them. It may seem like common sense to many of us, but for so many people it’s not so obvious. And they may have budgets and want to hire you to do what you do. Yes, people may actually want to pay you one day. Just be sure they pay you in money, and not only exposure. Save exposure to help support fellow creative friends or organizations you believe in; not companies that don’t value your expertise or time.

But getting paid to do the kind of work you blog about may not be your end goal. You may just want to blog for fun or as a distraction from your day job (that’s how I started). You don’t have to have it all figured out when you start. Blogs can be great for exploration, trying new things, and putting it out into the world. You can discover what you enjoy, but also what resonates with others. And if you do want to get paid for your blog keep in mind that there are other ways to monetize other than ads and sponsored posts. For me, my blog is my “freemium” model, and I have my tours as my paid model. Either way. You’re going to have to build your base and audience before you can make you blog your full time gig. But that’s great, overnight success stories are over-rated, because this way it also you more time to test ideas and figure out what exactly you want to be doing and working towards. Maybe you’ll realize what you thought you wanted to do isn’t at all what you expected. Blogs seriously are the best testing ground. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather “fail early” than when I’m stuck and in to deep. (That’s the UX-er in me talking again! But that’s for another post…)

~ T I M E W A R P ~

Oh, so you started blogging [again]?!? That’s awesome! Just don’t forget to share it. You never know who may see the work you do. And there are so many people who would love to discover it, if only they knew you existed. . . Self-promotion can feel like a slog, but not if you enjoy what your doing. You can have fun with it. Have a reason to reach out to the people you admire. You’ve got your new “business card” to back you up. You won’t know what their response will be (or if they’ll respond at all), but at least you know you asked. Play it right and awesome things can happen. Break the “rules” that you’ve told yourself about “the way things are done”. Observe what your favorite creatives are doing and see what you can do to adapt them to your own style. Think about it as putting what you do out into the world and seeing what sticks. Have fun with it, because, why not!?!?!

Still feeling stuck? Check out Austin Kleon’s book Show Your Work: 10 ways to share your work and get discovered. He also has a new one called Keep Going: a guide to staying creative in chaotic times.

So I know you thought I was writing this post for you, but the reality is that it’s also a pep talk for myself. We all lose our way at times, but now I’m coming back to what I know, but with a refreshed twist. I realized to truly be able to do some of the projects I want to do, I need my community and my people as support. But first, I need to keep sharing ideas and putting my work out into the world. I’m figuring it out and exploring new ideas as I go.

Success takes time. This is 11 years of work behind the scenes. Start now. It will help you later. You won’t know what’s possible until you start…


Ok, now it’s your turn. Where are you feeling stuck? What’s holding you back? Don’t be shy. Share them in the comments below.

You can also find me online at Pret-a-voyager.com and on social media at @pretavoyager on Twitter and Instagram (aka my “microblog”). Sign up for my newsletter exploring the intersection of travel, design, and creative entrepreneurship where I’ll be exploring more ideas that may just become blog posts one day!