Images courtesy Alyssa Ramos
Travel is supposed to be fun, engaging and the kind of experience that yields excitement well before and long after your journey has ended. That’s exactly the kind of enthusiasm you will get from Alyssa Ramos who you may know as the prolific traveler behind the website My Life’s a Movie.
We were so very fortunate to touch base with Ramos who is an expert when it comes to meandering around the globe and uncovering all the wonder it has to offer.
As a nice little spoiler addendum, readers will find how arduous it is to become a travel writer. The nice part, however, is you will also discover how rewarding it can be.
There are also travel tips, discussion on noble charity efforts and an overall infectious enthusiasm that should have you itching to travel.
So let’s begin.
TravelPulse: Let's start at the beginning. Being such a young travel blogger, people might be interested in how you got your start and what caused you to dive into the world of travel full time.
Alyssa Ramos: I had traveled a bit before in college, but like many people, I thought that I was supposed to get serious with a career and relationship after that. Turns out I'm terrible at working a 9-5, so I ditched my degree for freelance work, accidentally moved to LA, and began a journey here four years ago. I still had the "get rich and have a relationship" syndrome, until I started feeling like I needed to go to Africa to volunteer. No joke, I literally decided one day that I needed to go do that.
After missing the first opportunity because I was waiting for a friend to come, and almost missing the second because of a toxic relationship that was holding me back, I finally just bit the bullet and went by myself, and additionally, traveled to Thailand and Australia as well.
After that trip I started blogging only about travel, but I still had to work multiple freelance gigs to make money. I wasn't making any money from my blog, and just getting by with freelance gigs, then one day I got fired from one gig, and asked to go to Cuba to write an editorial for another in the same week. From there I just kept posting, writing, submitting to other sites, trying to build my audience while also trying to make ends meet writing content for other sites.
I got my next sponsored press trips to Panama and Iceland, which I chose because it was the cheapest airfare, and while in Iceland, I finally got accepted to write for The Huffington Post, where somehow, miraculously, my very first article went viral "Yes, I'm Pretty and I'm Traveling Alone." It was terrifying. I thought my career was going to be over, but it ended up quadrupling my audience, and making a name for myself in the travel blogosphere.
Now, to be completely honest, I HAVE to travel, not only because I want to, but because it's literally what pays the bills! I Airbnb my place out in West Hollywood, so it makes me more money to go on a sponsored trip than to be home!
TP: Now being a fellow Angeleno, what are your thoughts on Los Angeles? What might you offer as far as advice to anyone thinking of visiting or living here?
AR: I love Los Angeles. I don't know what it is, or care what anyone else thinks, I feel a pull towards this city and couldn't imagine living anywhere else. I've thought about it a few times, and what I've come up with is that it makes me feel inspired living here. I came here for a weekend four years ago, upset and confused, and ended up canceling my flight home and finding a job and apartment.
That's what a lot of people do, and it means that this is a place where people are optimistic, chasing their dreams, and going against the unconventional ways of society to do what they love in a creative way. I feel like I fit in here, and I don't even go out or want to be on screen, because like everyone else here, I have big dreams! Oh, and the weather doesn't suck, neither does the versatility of scenery! I'm literally trying to decide if I want to drive up to Big Sur for ocean cliff views or Death Valley for desert views this weekend!
TP: Your images and videos really make me want to travel, highlighting all the beauty and fun that is to be had in the world. What tools do you use to take them? How is the editing process as you travel? Arduous we might imagine.
AR: Thank you! I like to refer to my Instagram photos as "an art," mostly because people get annoyed with how long it takes me to take, chose, and edit a photo and how completely serious I am about the whole process. I've gotten really good at using my GoPros, which, are a Hero 3 Silver that I bought from a pawn shop before my Cuba trip last year because I was so poor, and now a brand new Hero 4 Session that GoPro sent me with an invitation to "join the family" after seeing my pictures on Instagram.
As much as I hate using one, I do use a selfie stick that I bought off Amazon for like $7 (it lasted me 6 countries but now it has retired), and think it gets the best shots, even better than the hand-held floating stick thing GoPro sent me. I use the GoPro app on my phone to see the shot then download the photos directly to my phone then use SnapSeed to edit them. The editing is probably 40 percent of what makes the shot! It takes me 30 minutes to one hour for each photo, and probably a day or two to edit a full YouTube video.
TP: You have been to so many places, what are some of your favorite destinations or moments so far?
AR: I like that you said moments! It's hard to pick a place because I like them for different reasons, but moments stick out easily! My moment of ultimate solo travel triumph was in Iceland, when I landed on a red-eye at 5 a.m., rented a car, and drove six hours just to see a glacier lagoon that I knew I'd miss unless I went that day. When I got back to my hotel, the owner was in shock at my effort (12 hours driving total after an eight hour flight), which made me extremely proud of myself. I also figured out the routes using an expensive tour site's itineraries, then renting a car and doing them myself!
I cried in Cuba when I met family members for the first time in the town where my grandparents grew up, and cried again after finishing the four-day hike to Machu Picchu (in the privacy of my hotel room later that night) because I was so proud of myself for creating this career and this lifestyle that allowed me to be so motivated, adventurous, open-minded and happy!
Caption: “#tbt my grandmother sitting along the Malécon in #Havana, #Cuba around 1940 and me sitting there in 2015!”
TP: What are the places you are dying to see for the first time?
AR: Everywhere I haven't been, duh. Just kidding! I'm actually dying to see the Northern Lights, which hopefully I'll catch when I'm freezing my butt off in Norway next month! I'm really into natural world wonders, and have even made a list that I add a new place to every Wednesday-ish on my blog called "Wanderlust Wednesdays," which includes places like, Palau (Micronesia), Karijini National Park (Australia), Tianzi Mountains (China), Palawan (Philipines), Iguazu Falls, Guam, Andaman Islands, Samoa Islands, New Zealand, and most of all, number one on my list...ANTARCTICA! (My last of the seven continents).
TP: Obviously, being a seasoned traveler, we need to hear any travel tips you might have.
AR: Be flexible with dates and destinations. I typically choose where I go based on where I find the cheapest flights...I recently did a Skyscanner tutorial where I show how to use the "everywhere" feature to find flights from LA to Oslo to Warsaw to Budapest to Barcelona back to LA for $435!
Other normal tips are always check the weather, put back 40 percent of what you're trying to pack, use travel compression bags, check if you need a visa or any other requirements to enter a country, make copies of your passport, email yourself and someone you trust all of your information, always bring sunscreen (I always fail miserably at this), and of course, try to stay off social media until you have down time so you can actually enjoy where you are!
TP: I see that you have a wonderful charity campaign at HeartSleeves.org. Can you explain a bit more on this initiative and what the impetus behind it might have been?
AR: I didn't feel right only volunteering for one week in South Africa, and wanted to give them something more than just that small amount of time I was able to afford...I also couldn't afford to give them anything, so I started the charity to raise money to send them something simple that I knew they needed, a clean t-shirt.
My idea was to do a shirt campaign for a particular item I saw a particular place needed that I could send enough to where it would actually make an impact. It's extremely hard to run and get people involved, but I'd like to do the next fundraiser for a school I know of in Cuba, which, like all schools in Cuba, has zero English learning materials.
TP: Where do you see your charitable work leading in the future?
AR: Probably to me adopting a bunch of kids from different countries. That's not an entirely a joke, but in all honestly, I know I can't save the world by supplying everything that everyone needs. I'd like to implement a way for people to help those in other countries. One that they cannot only see is helping someone else in a country they probably never knew about, but that makes them "see" in general. Awareness is everything, and what I think will lead to world peace.
TP: What has been the most difficult aspect, if any, of making a life as a world wanderer?
AR: Oh let me get out my list!!! One week of traveling is essentially like three months of living in normal life. That means I have to work three times as hard, and am home three times as less, as many people. That results in a constant urge to work, a nearly impossible dating life, a dog who has severe separation anxiety, a brain that's constantly about to explode, and most importantly...a passport full of stamps.
TP: Lastly, is there anything you feel our readers would like to know about yourself and the work you do?
AR: It took me a while to figure out what made me happy in life, but traveling has definitely helped me find it. I've always been a hard worker, a dreamer, and someone who tends to go against the norm. I've never wanted or expected to be given anything because of who I am or what I look like, which is why when I started chasing this dream, I did it from the bottom up. I hate when people assume I'm lucky or like I was just given this life, because in all honesty, I created it from a computer and with absolutely no money, or no one helping. Most people want to know how, but I wanted to figure out how...always try to figure out how. You never know where it could lead you!
On a less preachy-note, I also think I'm hilarious, but mostly just to myself, I have an obsession with chasing waterfalls, and am an extreme adventure-junky (as in, I actually do the dangerous adventure, not just take a photo in front of it!). :D