When I asked Jane about whether or not she planned for retirement, her answer was remarkably honest.
“No, I got fired.”
We both laughed, which may seem like an inappropriate response, but you quickly realize that Jane is someone who will always land on her feet. And she has, though it took her a bit of time to find the opportunity in being laid off.
“There’s a little bit of a ‘lick your wounds’ period. I’d say it was at least six months, just trying to wrap my head around the previous advertising story ending and then coming to ‘maybe there’s something there?’”
Jane was a star in the advertising world. She genuinely loved what she did, enjoyed being creative and being able to impact people’s perspectives. She’s been able to fulfil much of those needs in her new world as a travel blogger. Her Grownup Travels blog has gathered a committed following, and Jane says she plans on blogging till she physically can’t travel anymore.
We had the pleasure of meeting with Jane to discuss her past in advertising, her favourite travel tips, and why she decided on the name ‘Grownup Travels.’
How long did you work in advertising?
Probably 25 years. I loved it. I’m creative so I wasn’t doing the same thing every day. Different challenges, sometimes fun, sometimes not so fun. I used to say my job is many things but it’s never boring.
It seemed like you always knew advertising was your thing?
I didn’t. I didn’t know the job existed. Right now if you go to college there’s all these new media jobs and new media training. I wasn’t entirely sure how I was going to apply my art creativity to the real world. I did know that I wanted to go to university and that I wanted to go to college. And it was there where I kind of figured it out. I remember doing this one illustration that was kinda mediocre and the instructor said, as I was defending it, (because I was better at defending it than I was at doing it), and she said, “Oh, you’ll be good in the boardroom.” That steered me toward my advertising career.
And you said you did it for 25 years. Was it just time for you to go?
I think it was a combination of…you get to the top of your game, you have the highest salary, that puts a bit of a target on your back. And I think there’s a bit of ageism in that industry. Everyone seems to be median age of 30 something, so I kinda knew, but you never know when exactly. I sure as hell wasn’t ready to retire. How do you stop being creative or stop being that person that solves problems? But I used that moment as a bit of an opportunity.
How long would you say the process was from getting fired to figuring out what you wanted to do next?
I was pitching travel companies, travel agencies, because I didn’t know if I wanted to work full-time for a travel company. I was in first-time job mode. I felt like I was 23.
What year was this?
2012. It took into the next year to do the investigation and figure out what I can do. I’m literally googling travel blogging and found an organization, very grassroots, went to one of their meetings and there was a conference coming to Toronto for travel bloggers. It was amazing. I went and I realized there are some business people in this business. It’s not just, “hey I got two months to kill while I’m in Europe before moving back into my parents’.” Understanding that there’s not a lot of money in this business and there never will be and there never was relative to advertising. But as something I thought that can sustain me and is sustainable well into whenever I can’t travel anymore, I thought this would be a better hobby than gardening.
When you say sustain, what do you mean?
Definitely not my bank account. It was for personal fulfillment. I was creative every day. I got to engage with photographers and illustrators. I felt like I needed to continue to be creative.
How did you take being fired?
The first time I got fired, I was 38. I was single, wasn’t married, I freaked out. It was like holy sh*t, I’m scared. This time, very different because I was married. We had made ourselves as financially stable as we could, but I was still…this was not the plan. I’ll tell you the one thing that doesn’t change. You still feel like you failed. You can look at all your successes, but it’s a personal thing when someone says “we don’t want you anymore.” It’s a blow to your self-esteem and confidence.
Why GrownUp Travels?
Because I actually felt like there was a missing component in the whole travelling offering out there. There’s lots for the backpackers, there’s lots for the people who want to get on a senior tour and follow 40 people with a leader holding a pom pom. I was like, “what about us?” I was active, love adventure, I like the authenticity. So I don’t want to lump myself into a group and change the way that I like to travel. But no one is writing about that. No one is offering ideas or suggestions or even tips for people in my group. So I thought, you know what, I’m going to write about how I like to travel because I know a lot of people like me who travel in a similar way. And there’s a good chunk of us that are left in this no man’s land between backpacking to a hostel and ‘get up at five to go to your bus to go to your next place.’ So I thought I’d just start writing about how I like to travel and give tips that are maybe more appropriate to people looking for places that are more affordable. And by affordable, I mean they can afford it. Because they have a little more money.
Where did you start writing?
I created the blog. I thought about how people in my generation navigate, which is not 50 thousand screens open at the same time. It’s a little more organized. So I set it up with topics and a table of contents. So there’s a section on accommodations, a section on destination, so when people go to the website, they can then use it the way they do research, which is different [than younger people].
What motivates you to keep blogging?
I wanted to share with other people what I’ve done before. Like ‘hey, oh my gosh, you’re going to Rome? Don’t take the taxi, take the bus. It’ll give you a mini-tour as you drive into the city.’ Or ‘don’t rent a car. You do not want to rent a car.’ So I would give people places to go and tips because I’ve been there and want their experience to be the best it could be and if I could help, I would do that.
What was the original name of your blog?
The original name was called Gray Routes and Tips. But what I realized when I talked to an American, they pronounced it ‘Rowtes’ and I was like ‘oh my god, the whole joke is lost.’ Then I realized I was probably playing into this age space which I didn’t want to play into. It was about how we travel not how old we are.
When did you feel Grownup Travels start blowing up?
I remember the first time I got a writing gig based on travel using my platform as my credibility, with a financial institution. I got a cheque. It was probably the smallest cheque I received, but I was like “I’m a writer.” Someone was legitimizing me in this new persona. It was very strange. I’d say it took about three years. That’s the one thing I learned. This whole industry – time will tell. [Time] will suss out the people who are really committed to this.
What’s the future for you and Grownup Travels?
I was thinking this week, I hope none of my paying clients need me because I have so much to do on my website. I’m really looking forward to only having that to do. I plan to do this till I can’t do it. And if I’m travelling in a wheelchair, then I will adapt that blog for how to travel in a wheelchair. I love it and I think if I manage it so it doesn’t become a grind and it’s not 275 days in an airport, then I think I can keep the magic.
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