Jess Ainlay: How long did it take you to get used to being a solo traveler?
Lisa Lubin: That’s hard to say, but I just had to get used to the rhythm. Over time, I learned that in every new country, I needed a few transition days to get over the last country and the relationships I made there. The first few days were always going to feel uncomfortable - sometimes the next hostel felt dustier and dirtier than the last - but two days later it felt fine and I got used to it and realized it was sometimes better.
Jess Ainlay: What were some of your typical days like as a traveler?
Lisa Lubin: It’s hard to talk about what’s typical, since it was very different in each country. What I learned is to say yes a lot to feel much more open. I was a barista in Australia, taught English in Istanbul, I even “acted” in a documentary. Before, I would have been embarrassed I think to be seen working at a Starbucks, but abroad, living life there, who cares! It was stress-free, easier and I was immersed in local life. That’s what was important to me in each country - to immerse myself with locals.
I always tried to live like a local, in a regular neighborhood. I love the vibe of local stores, real people outside the tourist center. I did couchsurfing.com, stayed in hostels, some hotels, and then I would also housesit or stay in apartments to save money.
The country that impacted Lisa the most
Jess Ainlay: What country impacted you the most?
Lisa Lubin: Turkey, specifically Istanbul, made a huge impact on me. I had been traveling for six months when I got to Turkey, and had been hearing from fellow travelers and friends that Turkey had been their favorite. One of my first days, I’m eating alone at a restaurant and I’m chatting with the host a bit about how I might teach English here. My now friend Yusuf said, “Let me introduce you to Steve. He’s from New York, he’s been teaching here for 7 years.” Half an hour later I was having a beer with Steve.
He helped me line up a bunch of interviews, one of which was with a British guy who runs a Business English school. That guy didn’t have any work, but he knew an expat about to go to Uzbekistan for three months, and he arranged for me to housesit there for free. All of a sudden, I lived in Istanbul and had two cats, Oscar and Wilde. Eventually I taught English and made Turkish friends, too.
Jess Ainlay: How did you know you could trust all those people to help make that happen for you?
Lisa Lubin: I think I have a friendly, warm vibe, and the more I traveled, the more open-hearted I became. Travel got me out of my shell, but I also have a pretty good BS detector myself. Most expats and travelers have this, too. The Irish expat didn’t even really want any credentials from me or anything. She just said, “I can tell you’re a good one,” and I had keys to her apartment.
Becoming a blogger
Jess Ainlay: How did you become a blogger? Did you intend to monetize your blog right away?
Lisa Lubin: Before I left, I started my blog. I’ve always been a journalist and a storyteller. I was a writer, a photographer, a producer, so it felt obvious to me to have a blog and tell my travel stories. Blogging itself was a real learning curve, though.
I didn’t intend to monetize my blog, exactly. I traveled for a long time, and then I started pitching print magazines when I got back from the first round of 15 months abroad and had a second to breathe. I followed that same pace again, traveling abroad for a long time, and then bouncing around the US staying with friends. After that first stint, I already had all this material - stories, photographs. And that’s how I started freelance writing for the Chicago Tribune, American Airlines inflight magazine, things like that.
When I got to Los Angeles, I was a cat-sitter and signed up to be an extra in TV shows. I did whatever could help me break even and keep going longer. When I ended up getting my apartment back in Chicago again, I needed a more stable income, of course.
I founded LLMedia and realized that I had video skills and a broad audience wanting to do video. I didn’t want to compete with my friends at production companies, instead I wanted to use my expertise and help people. I wanted to teach people how to do video better.
Jess Ainlay: Who are some of your clients?
Lisa Lubin: Right now, one of my biggest clients is a food museum, called Foodseum. I’m their Executive Producer, overseeing Foodseum Films. We create video profiles of chefs around Chicago.
Jess Ainlay: What other work do you do through LLMedia?
Lisa Lubin: I’m a speaker, a writer, a photographer, a project manager.