Lola Méndez is a full-time traveler and freelance writer sharing her adventures on Miss Filatelista as she adds to her collection of passport stamps. She travels to develop her own worldview and has explored 53 countries. Passionate about sustainable travel she seeks out ethical experiences that benefit local communities. Follow her journey on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.

1. It sounds like you’re living the dream as a travel writer! What’s one thing you wish people knew about being a travel writer?

I am so grateful to have the opportunity to share the unique stories I discover during my travels through writing. Breaking into the travel writing industry can be really difficult.

Travel Writer Lola Mendez on responsible travel

I recently wrote about a writer’s work exchange program in Thailand, The Content Castle, that helps writers get started out which is a great place to start if you’re interested in pursuing a career in travel writing.

What most people don’t realize about travel writers, especially full-time travelers like myself, is that our lifestyles are not all glamour all the time. The content we share, especially on Instagram, is highly curated to show the best of the best to inspire our audiences to travel.

But more often than not there was a miserable 12-hour bus ride behind the picture or a bout with food poisoning. Perhaps we spent 20+ hours researching and interviewing people for a story that promoted a cause we really believe in but ultimately we got paid less than $100 to write. Being a travel writer is a job so it has similar ups and downs just as any career.

Sadly, many travel writers only travel if they have a paid assignment. Every part of their trip has to be sponsored and paid for in order for them to leave their home base. I find this really disappointing and inauthentic. I come up with story ideas through my travels and often pitch them after I’ve had a fascinating experience. Many travel writers also write about destinations they’ve never visited based off of research.

I am a traveler first and a writer second. If I lost the ability to earn a living as a travel writer I would continue to explore the world without hesitation and find another means to support my voyage.

Miss Filatelista on responsible travel

2. What does responsible travel mean to you?

Responsible travel is really quite simple. To be a responsible traveler (and person)you need to consider the impact of each of your decisions.

Select whatever option will be the least damaging to the communities you’re visiting, the environment, wildlife, etc. Responsible travel is usually more affordable and provides more authentic experiences.

I am launching a monthly series of monthly responsible travel challenges that will provide tips on how to become a more responsible traveler in 2018. Each month will focus on a topic such as ethical animal interactions for January.

3. What’s your number 1 packing tip?

I previously worked in the fashion industry and used to be the type of person to pack an outfit for each day down to accessories. My vacation looks were always well put together but I often didn’t even get around to wearing half of what I had packed.

Now that I travel full-time and am not vacationing I live out of my backpack. My packing philosophy has changed a lot.

My advice when you’re traveling long-term overseas is to pack as little as possible. Some of the most obscure things I’ve had trouble finding are lingerie and hair ties, so don’t forget to pack plenty of those! Other than that you can find pharmaceutical needs, clothing, beauty, and wellness products almost anywhere in the world.

These things are generally must less expensive when you’re outside of westernized countries. By packing less you can also shop local to put your spending directly back into the community you’re visiting. This gives you the opportunity to try local natural skin care remedies, my favorites are charcoal and neem soaps to battle oily and acne-prone skin.

Try to always purchase products with as little packaging as possible, this is usually easiest at markets where produce and such aren’t wrapped in plastic. Also, if you’re traveling full-time don’t bother investing in quality clothing, you’re going to destroy it. Invest in good footwear and purchase local clothes. This will help you adhere to cultural norms and also get to play with textiles and styles you wouldn’t otherwise have access to back at home.