Tag: Travel Writing

Why Helpx Still Excites Me 4 Years Later

It’s been 4 years since I’ve traveled full-time using Helpx.net, but after curiously poking around on their site again, it looks like things have only grown and gotten better and better for them – and for the travelers who use their site.

You might remember this throwback post: Workaway vs. Helpx: Which do you use when planning a working holiday?  This post is actually my most popular to date, and it’s easy to imagine why: Who wouldn’t want to live in and work in paradise (From Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Austria, France, the U.S. and more) for a nice family/farm in exchange for somewhere to stay…all while having the time and money to explore?



Check out all of these thousands of listings in Australia.



I’ve used Helpx twice and had the best experiences of my life.

In Australia, I stayed with a family in Ipswich, Queensland, not a far train ride from Brisbane. For two weeks, I had my own room, was fed gourmet meals (the dad was a chef!), was taken to locals-only swimming holes, parks, and beaches. I had the time of my life. All I did was work 4 hours a day/a few days a week, and I had the richest, most local experience ever. I remember one day, while relaxing on their outdoor porch, seeing a flock of wild cockatoos fly by. I’ll never forget it!

This is one of my favorite shots taken near the Gold Coast in Australia. Who took me there? You guessed it: My host family!

Then there was Hawaii, a Helpx experience I loved so much, I still live in the state 4 years later! I lived and worked at a eco-hostel on the Big Island. I picked fruit, built trails, planted trees, but best of all, made amazing lifelong friendships and one-of-a-kind memories. I had free WiFi, and it was under the thatched roof my dwelling I published some of my first travel stories. My time at Hedonisia Hawaii will go down as some of my best memories to date.

Wild tropical flowers foraged from around the property – perfect for Ikebana! Look at those rare orchids! (Left)

If anyone is on the fence about a Helpx experience, I highly recommend you go for it. Pay the membership fee: it’s totally worth it. Weigh the following options:

  • Proximity to a city
  • Transportation
  • Accommodations (Plenty of places offer private rooms and even private bathrooms!)
  • Are meals included? My stay in Australia had meals included, but I was on my own in Hawaii. There were always plenty of shared meals, though.
  • Responsiveness/helpfulness of host
  • Will there be other travelers there to meet?
  • Is there WiFi? Many places have it.
  • How long are they looking for you to stay? Many hosts actually prefer longer guests.

With all the talk nowadays of being a digital nomad, Helpx is certainly a viable way to achieve that. If my lifestyle hadn’t shifted and I was still on the road, I’d do Helpx again in a heartbeat. Please use it and travel deeply!


This post was not sponsored, nor am I getting compensated for it. I really just love Helpx and the memories it helped me create.



I was published – AGAIN – in Mabuhay Magazine!

I’ve been blessed these past few months with my freelance travel writing. If I said it once, I’ll say it a thousand times: Hard work and dedication really do pay off.

This is the June feature on Honolulu for Mabuhay Magazine, the Philippine Airlines in-flight magazine. “Honolulu: Land of the Happy” is meant to convey how happy life in Hawaii really is.

For the full readable PDF, click here.



I was published in Mabuhay Magazine!

Great news! I was published in the Philippine Airlines in-flight publication, Mabuhay Magazine! This March 2016’s feature about Hawaii explores why the best things to do in and around Honolulu come with a view!

Please enjoy this spread. I’m proud of this accomplishment, and I know this a testament to the fact that hard work really does pay off!



How to explain gaps in your resume because of travel

I have over 15 versions of my resume on my hard-drive. Being on-the-go full-time for 4 years was an incredible experience, but I am not independently wealthy. I had to work along the way to finance my travels. Many of those jobs were in the hospitality industry which exist worldwide.

My experience is all over the map. Depending on the job I was looking to get, I usually had some explaining to do.

Here’s a version of my current resume:

Resume Jillian Blog

As you can see, my experience is literally all over the board. It starts in Illinois, takes me to Hawaii (two different islands, now living on a third), back to the mainland in California, to Colorado and Wyoming. This doesn’t even account for a year I spent on the east coast in Philadelphia or my gap year where I traveled to Australia and Thailand.

Typical reactions I’ve received:

1. Why all the moving?

2. Hawaii? Why would you ever leave there?

3. What’s in Wyoming?

4. Looks like you’ve had a lot of fun! (This one I like!)

5. If I hire you, you aren’t just going to up and move again are you?

In my years of trying to get jobs and interviewing with every personality type you can think of, I’ve devised a way to make my travels work to my advantage. I want my prospective employer to see my frequent moves as as positive, not a negative.

Just to let you know, more than half the time, there is a stigma in the professional world when it comes to frequent travel. Some employers might let on that they think it’s cool and they wish they could travel. Some more positive interviews I’ve been on, owners and interviewers actually recount their travels with a gleam in their eye: they “get it.” I’ve actually got my job in southern California by just walking in the restaurant and handing my resume to the owner. My travels and world experience impressed him so much, he wanted me on the team. He was a world traveler himself and knew firsthand how travel makes you a more well-rounded employee.

I loved my bosses at my job in Southern Cali. I was able to taste and help order wine, eat cheese and photograph for the local newspaper!
I loved my bosses at my job in Southern Cali. I was able to taste and help order wine, eat cheese and photograph for the local newspaper!

More often than not though, people in the “real-world” are usually in a bubble. They can’t understand why you would choose to live in a jungle in Hawaii or still can’t comprehend WHAT, exactly, Wyoming has to offer. It becomes a little exhausting explaining myself to people, but hey, I DO need a job after all!

Many of my jobs have been “seasonal.” Many people I talk to don’t even know that seasonal jobs on the mainland exist. A seasonal job is one that lasts for just that, the season.A great resource for seasonal jobs is Coolworks.com. You work a summer in Yellowstone National Park, then the job ends. Then you work a winter in the Colorado Rockies at one of the ski resorts, then come April, that job ends. It’s a great way to see beautiful places all over the country while making money. It requires frequent travel, interviewing and job hunting for your next gig.

Why WOULDN'T I take a job in Wyoming where I can explore Yellowstone National Park on my days off??
Why WOULDN’T I take a job in Wyoming where I can explore Yellowstone National Park on my days off??

Making the leap OUT of the seasonal world causes you to encounter employers who don’t understand the seasonal lifestyle and wonder why you’re a vegabond that can’t hold down a job. For those people, you have your work cut out for you.

Here are some tips to get you through an interview where you have to explain gaps in your resume because of travel:

1. Make travel seem essential: When someone starts the conversation, “Why all the moving?” that doesn’t exactly sound like the most welcoming invitation to hear about my galavanting. In fact, it sounds like a threat, like they’re standing arms crossed waiting to judge my response. I found that the most effective way to soften up my interviewer is to make the strong argument that travel was essentially required for my jobs.

My response: Because the hospitality industry is world-wide, opportunities, often better opportunities, are presented to hospitality professionals who are willing to relocate. I don’t have any children and find it easy to take promotions and new positions in new locations. Plus, I have a Journalism degree, so on the side I’m a travel writer. I’ve been published in The Huffington Post, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer and more. I wouldn’t be able to pursue my writing or advance my career if I didn’t take new jobs all over the country.

These publishing bragging rights didn't exactly come from sitting on my butt in my hometown
These publishing bragging rights didn’t exactly come from sitting on my butt in my hometown

2. Highlight the positives of travel and how it translates to “real world” experience: I always get the question in an interview along the lines of: “Tell me about a time where you couldn’t get along with or see eye to eye with a fellow employee. How did you handle the situation?” When you travel the country or the world, you’ve probably problem-solved your way out of some gnarly situations with all types of personalities. Use this to your advantage!

My response: (Start off with a specific anecdote). When you travel as much as I do, you are presented with unique problems in which you have to solve in order to survive. You meet a variety of different personalities from all over the world. I’ve become really good at reading people and getting along with others from all walks of life. Travel has opened my mind to different ways of living and respecting others’ opinions and ways of doing things. I believe my experience leads me to be an excellent team player with an open mind who is focused on nothing more than solving the task at hand quickly and efficiently.

3. Don’t be afraid to talk about your experiences: It’s pretty obvious that you’ve traveled based on your resume. There’s no reason to hide behind a wall of shame. You should be proud that you’ve been able to organize a life where you’ve been able to achieve individual goals. Highlight that. All travelers, especially solo travelers, are self-starting individuals who are smart, savvy and usually great leaders.

During my tenure as a hospitality manager at a tropical agriculture farm. I managed bookings, reservations, managed volunteer work shifts and more!
During my tenure as a hospitality manager at a tropical agriculture farm, I managed bookings, reservations, lead volunteer work shifts and more!

4. When in doubt, turn the conversation around: If the specific job you’re looking at doesn’t involve travel one bit and the person interviewing you is looking at you practically dumb-founded, chances are this isn’t the right job for you anyway. In order not to thwart an opportunity, take the time to interview your interviewer. A lot of people fall in the trap of thinking an interview is all about drilling a candidate. Make sure you ask questions and interview the company. You need to know that this is the right fit for you, after all. Here are some sample questions I like to ask when it’s time to take the focus off myself:

a. What is your company culture like here?

b. What benefits do you offer your employees?

c. How does your company invest in the health and wellness of your employees?

d. What do you like about working here?

Letter d almost always puts the interviewer and I on a level playing field. I love asking that question! It usually catches my interviewer off-guard and makes them ponder, usually rather uncomfortably, what they like about working at said company. I get to sit back, smile, relax and learn about their experience and gauge whether or not this company is the right fit for me.

Overall, I’m not afraid to ask the hard questions during an interview. I’ve had so many jobs that I know what I’m looking for in a position. Travel has led me to experience many different work cultures, some excellent, some bad, and I’m able to read a company’s vibe pretty well during an interview.

The point is, don’t be scared to interview just because you have a non-traditional resume. Chances are the right person will come along and see your world experience as a huge asset. That is the person you want to be working for anyway: someone who recognizes your talents and values that you care about personal growth and experience.


Life as I know it

I would like to say that I just got done traveling extensively this summer, but I’m sure part of landing in San Diego is part of my travels as well.

Part of me embarking on the road for so many years now has been to improve my travel writing and enrich my life with experiences. Ever since I left Chicago in 2010, I’ve been a lot of places and have seen a lot of things.

I signed up for a travel writing course through MatadorU, which sadly, I’m only 50 percent done with. Part of my goal of being in San Diego is to get back to working on my writing. In any case, when I first started the course, I was a little miffed over what to write about. I was a travel writer who didn’t travel. I had no idea what to talk about. How could I describe a scene from a faraway place if I hadn’t been to one?

In any case, that’s when I made the decision to travel more. Extensively, curiously, endlessly. Since then, I’ve been all over the place, but I haven’t done too much writing about it.

Since I’ve last updated, I spent the summer in Wyoming. I was shocked and surprised to end up there, but it was a beautiful summer. I was living IN the Shoshone National Forest, surrounded by amazing trees, wildlife, hiking opportunities, padding/rafting, and horseback riding.

Our backyard and playground
Our backyard and playground

Jon and I’s relationship is stronger than ever. We have been together a year now, and we also added a new addition to our family: Pono. He is a 1-year old Australian Shepherd mix who is completely high energy and the epitome of puppy. We love him.

I hate to say that I’ve been to busy to write, but it’s true. Yesterday and today were the first time I hadn’t left the house in months. We’re usually traveling around, letting the dog run around somewhere, connecting as sort of a family unit. I feel like for the first time in a long time, I have something to take care of besides me. I have a man and a pet. We go places and do things together and it fulfills me immensely.

This lil' guy
This lil’ guy

At the same time, I haven’t given up on my goals of writing. I want to tell you all of the amazing things I’ve seen and done. I want to explain to you what Stand Up Paddle Boarding the Snake River was like (somewhat terrifying, but invigorating!). I need to explain to you guys how lovely Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks are. I want to reminisce about driving cross-country 3 times in 3 months, the Badlands, Oregon, the coast of California. I still need to write about how I feel about Colorado.

The Grand Tetons
The Grand Tetons

There was a time when I felt frustrated with the mainland USA. I traveled abroad and lived in Hawaii for a year. It wasn’t until I got back and really saw America first hand (slow and intentionally) that I realized that is truly the best country and I’m proud of it. Jon and I drove through so many back roads, fished in rivers with no one around for miles, shared a river fishing experience with two juvenile grizzly bears. We watched the sunset over peaks of giant mountains and cruised on pristine lakes next to the most amazing mountains in the country. We’ve eaten our way around the U.S., trying to avoid the corporate McDonald’s road trip by eating local and finding the best food we could along the way.

Who are those little buggers?
Who are those little buggers?

Then we landed in Southern California, and that’s where we are now. For the first time in a while, we have a kitchen again. Our dog has a backyard to run around and we are nesting. It’s breezy and beautiful here. The seafood alone is great. I take a look at my life and sometimes wonder how it is that I got so lucky. How I get to travel and experience so many amazing, exotic, breathtaking moments. How I get to taste the best foods, live in the most amazing locales and have such a happy existence.

One of the better meals we’ve shared

It’s then I realize that I’m following my bliss. I opened my heart a long time ago, as scary as it was, and listened to my true desires. I wanted to expose myself naked to the world and experience. I didn’t care if would be good or bad, I wanted it. And boy, did I get it.

I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place now. I’m looking for work, somewhat desperately after spending a small fortune traveling so much. It’s back to the “real world” for now, but I vow to keep my travel memories alive by writing about them.

I finally pitched an article to a travel-zine which I haven’t made time for in over a year. I was putting it off, feeling anxious and reluctant. Then I thought about all of the incredible emotions I’ve experienced and the trips associated with them and wrote them down. And now, proudly, I can say that I have a travel repertoire. I am no longer scratching my head over what to write about. Now the hard part is which travel memory to write about. I guess that’s a first world problem.

It’s good to be back on the blog and good to stretch my fingers and my brain again. I look forward to putting some more of my thoughts out there, no matter if trivial, vain or enlightening. This is me. This is my life. And I’m going to share it.

Me and my little Pono, Badlands National Park
Me and my little Pono, Badlands National Park

Going, going, gone!

I’m not sure if I’m ready to accept how incredible the last six weeks of my life has been. I have SO much material to work off of for blog posts, pitches for travel magazines and envy-inspiring Facebook posts.

I’m in Los Angeles, recovering from jetlag, letting my entire trip marinade. I swam with turtles and sharks while snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef. I climbed mountains, swam in pools, oceans, dams, and strangers’ bathtubs. I saw baby crocodiles in the wild. I stumbled upon some of the most beautiful stretches of beaches I’d ever hope to explore. I bush-walked in the rainforest. I came really close to a sea eagle. I held a koala in Queensland. This was the trip of dreams.

Serenity now. Meditating over a view of Cairns city, tropical Queensland, Australia

I’m really excited to share my experiences on these blogs along with my musings about traveling, developing a budget travel mindset, the differences between Australia and the United States and generally chronicling my entire adventure.

Before I left, I was electric with questions like, “Who will I meet?” and “Where will I go?” Now I’m trying to tame the “Was that real life?” feeling and exhilaration that is only felt after an epic journey.

My first international travel piece is getting published in Native Foreigner Magazine in mid-April. I’m proud and eager to see what my first feature narrative story looks like in digital magazine format. It’s about a coastal walk I did from Sydney’s Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach. Stay tuned.

I’m going places.

Hell, I’ve BEEN places.