I’m roughly two months into my sabbatical leave and I’ve been enjoying almost every day of it. It’s been filled with plenty of road trips, visits with family and friends, and time at the beach doing activities I love. But I’ve noticed that one thing is missing in this year of travel that everyone seems to envy – meaning.

Normally in late October I would be two months into the school year and focused on report cards for my junior high classes. I’d have (hopefully) made connections with students and settled into a groove. I’d be helping them learn and watching them grow, hopefully making some sort of difference in their lives. But not this year. This year both hubs and I were blessed with a sabbatical leave to take our Masters degrees. We elected to take courses online and rent out our home so we could travel. I’ve missed teaching, but mostly I’ve missed the connections with the students and my coworkers. We have a kick ass community at the school I teach at. It’s where I met my husband, and it’s where I’ve met some of my best friends. We all support one another in the good times and the bad times. We make a real effort to create a community. I’m still in touch with everyone, but it’s just not the same. I’ve realized that this crazy amazing journey we are on this year can really lack any purpose or meaning if we let it.

Let’s be clear – I’ve made some great connections via the Instagram world. But how does a blog post about the “top 10 things to do in Dublin!” or an Instagram photo of me posing in a cool destination add meaning to my life, or the lives of my followers? Plus, the Internet is saturated with resources from travelers far more experienced than I am. I’m really struggling with the superficial world of social media lately and wondering how I can utilize it to promote meaningful travel and experiences. Do I create a post just for the sake of posting? Or do I cultivate some sort of purpose in these posts?

I’ve been asking myself lately: what kind of traveler do you want to be? I can be the kind of traveler who promotes big brands and posts pretty photos, or I can focus on making connections within the communities we are visiting. Humans crave connection, and I clearly am no exception. I just assumed that having a travel companion would be all the connection I need. And yeah, he’s great, don’t get me wrong. But it’s the whole idea of travel that I’m struggling with at the moment. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our own desires and interests, whether that be when we are enjoying the comfort of home or while traveling. It’s easy to plan and book an amazing trip with fun activities and then get on a plane, arrive at your hotel and enjoy it all. For me, that’s surfing or paddleboarding every day and consuming a ridiculous number of tacos. All of these make for a great story or photo, but aren’t giving me genuine connections nor giving any meaningful content to the lives of others.

A magical thing happened recently – I started chatting with our neighbours and people in the businesses I frequent here in Mission Beach, San Diego. And they are amazing and have the coolest stories. Some have moved across the country to enjoy the lifestyle, another has retired and literally surfs and does other activities with his friends ALL day. Another neighbour left us an umbrella outside because she didn’t think we would have one for our stay. Every person has a story to tell.

I want to use this platform not to promote chain companies and pretty places, but the little guys. I want to share their stories and what I love about them. I plan trips as a side business, and I love doing it. But it’s a small business and I generally only get clients through word of mouth and I know how hard it is for small businesses to find success. I believe in the little guy, the ladies and gentlemen who are passionate about their space or product, whether it be ethical fashion, producing great food or beer, providing a beautiful space or location, or just doing something good for the community. So my new focus will be on promoting people and their passions, including my own (like…tacos). I hope you will follow along as I take this profile from the standard pretty travel photographs to a mix of my favorite local brands, places, and products – wherever we are.

To kick it off, I’m going to start with a giveaway of some of my favorite local brands: Buttercream Clothing, Lace Brick Design, Rocky Mountain Soap, Wander Wet Bags, and more!

All you have to do is comment on my Instagram OR Facebook post starting tonight (October 30th) describing one of your favorite local (or small business) companies, whether it be a restaurant, shop, or product, and tell me why you love it and why it’s worth checking out. It can be anywhere in the world – perhaps somewhere you found while traveling, or somewhere you love to frequent at home. Then tag a friend who would love to win and you’re all set!

Contest ends Friday, November 3rd at 12PM PST. I’m looking forward to learning about your favorite small businesses!





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