"Figure out what your niche is and own it." [Interview 13 - Emily]
At only 22 years old, Emily de Sousa is creating a remarkable impression on the world as an ocean activist, freelance writer, travel vlogger, AND environmentalist student. Also cementing herself as a public speaker, she recently delivered a TedX talk on how we can save our oceans! Our youngest guest yet featured in the LITT interview series, Emily makes me wish I'd accomplished a bit more than partying during my free time throughout my undergrad years.
Emily aims to better communicate environmental issues to the general public. She travels the world capturing environmental change and documents her adventures via photography, videography, and blog posts on Airplanes & Avocados, her Travel, Lifestyle, and Sustainability site.
It's my pleasure to share the powerful cause Emily advocates for, how she stays energized while balancing many efforts, her secret to attracting her ideal freelance gigs, and her top tip on how we can travel more responsibly below:
KW: In 1 minute or less, how would you tell your story?
EDS: Before I had ever even taken my first trip overseas, I had dreamed of travelling the world. I had no idea what I wanted to do career-wise, but just that I wanted to spend the rest of my life exploring this planet. Little did I know that doing just that was how I was going to find my true calling, which was not only exploring this planet, but trying to save it as well.
After some of my very first trips abroad I noticed the places I had dreamed about didn’t look quite like they did in the books I had previously seen them in. As I learned more about environmental issues and immersed myself in global travel, I realized that these beautiful places were being destroyed at the hands of humans. The thought that my children may not be able to experience these wonders sparked an unstoppable desire inside of me to bring more light to these issues and do all that I can to fight them.
Now, I explore the world as a digital storyteller, documenting climate change in real time and translating environmental issues into photography, videography, and short blog posts - media consumable by the general public - in order to make them see the issues and become as passionate about fighting them as I am. My hope is that by communicating environmental issues through media, we’ll start better and more frequent conversations about environmental change, and create movements within our communities, schools, and governments, to fight for a better world.
As a full-time student, content creator and frequent traveler, what do you do to keep yourself energized and avoid burnout?
Being passionate about the issues I’m studying in school and creating content for on my blog makes it easy to stay energized and excited about projects. None of it feels like work to me! Instead, I’m happy to be spending time working on videos and essays, and eager to learn more in my classes. If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, whether it’s work, school, or anything else in life, you’re going to get burnt out very quickly.
However, I do think it’s important to incorporate a social life into a busy schedule to avoid exhaustion. People who brag about being so busy that they don’t have a social life are not people we should be idolizing. Being able to take a break from work and school to spend unplugged time with loved ones is so important for avoiding exhaustion and being able to perform at your highest level.
As a travel writer, what key skills do you leverage to secure your most ideal gigs?
I try to narrow down my focus and target very niche brands and companies. I think most people have the misconception that if they stick with broad ideas they’ll have more opportunities, but I’ve found that by narrowing down my focus and really zoning on specific brands that focus on not just travel, but sustainable travel, and to specific destinations that I’m more of an expert in, I’ve had more success.
Figure out what your niche is and own it. Anyone can write about their trip to Paris, but not everyone can write about an environmentally friendly trip to Paris, a budget trip to Paris, or a vegan foodie trip to Paris. I focus on what sets me apart from other travel bloggers; what can I write about better than anyone else?
What should a casual traveler do to to be more environmentally conscious while traveling?
Think small. Small changes, small companies, small communities. A lot of people don’t make changes to the way that they travel because they’re under the assumption that what one small change won’t make a difference, but that’s simply not true.
Something as small as choosing public transportation over a rental car, or purchasing a carbon offset with your flight can make a big difference in the long run. When booking your next trip, zone in on locally run accommodations in small communities instead of staying at huge chain hotels that often have huge environmental footprints and astounding negative social impacts on the local communities. By thinking small and supporting local tour companies and operators you’re minimizing your impact, giving back to the local community, and getting a more authentic cultural experience.
“The trouble is, you think you have time.” I’ve had strikingly similar conversations with a handful of different people over the last few weeks that have been keeping me up at night. These people don’t know each other, have never met, and probably don’t even know of each other’s existence. Yet every single one of them have expressed the same sentiments to me. And that’s that they want to travel. They want to see the world, but just not right now. They want to finish their last two years of university, get a great job, work and save money for 20-30 years until they can retire and then go explore the world. My response has been the same every single time: FUCK. THAT. SHIT. I have nightmares about this exact scenario. The idea of working some bullshit job for years, doing the same uninspiring, mundane tasks day in and day out just for paycheque makes me nauseous. What the fuck is the point of that life? What are you living for? The zeros on a piece of paper at the end of the week? No thank you sir. Me and my broke ass will be starving, homeless, and living my dreams over here. Life is too god damn short to be doing something that you’re not passionate about and tomorrow is not guaranteed. Who the hell are you to even think that you’ll make it another 30 years to retire and travel the world? You’re fooling yourself. If you want to travel, do it now. Stop waiting. There’s no excuse. “I’m in school, I can’t afford it, I don’t have anyone to go with.” I’m in school, I’m working four jobs right now, and if no one wants to come with me it fucking sucks to be them cause I’m gonna have a great time without them. If you want it bad enough you can make it happen. Stop waiting.