The month of June has been an absolute whirlwind. It’s also been one of my favorite months so far this year, aside from my jaunt to Antigua in May. I’m sitting here in Puerto Rico writing up this brief update post because even though it’s been incredibly busy, I want to welcome and update all my new readers — especially those who’ve ended up on my blog as a result of my viral post on the Dominican Republic or from my being quoted in Oprah Magazine about the DR.
So what have I been up to and what can you expect coming up on the blog?
Last month, I kicked off an important photography project that I hope to share with you in due time. Taking that first step in pursing this vision I’ve had for several months now has been super empowering, more than I ever imagined. Guided by the words of Stacy Abrams in “Lead from the Outside,” I decided to stop talking myself out of great ideas and being fooled by the voice of logic.
“When you figure out what you want and why you want it, act now. Do not wait. Believe me, the invitation is not in the mail.”
Aside from launching my project, I’ve been working behind the scenes producing content marketing, writing travel articles and planning my next destination stops, including preparing for TravelCon 2019 as a speaker and photographer this past month.
Of course, nothing can top the best news of
the month the year: appearing in Oprah Magazine! But more on that below.
I. TravelCon 2019
The second edition of TravelCon took place last week in Boston at The Westin Copley Place. Last year’s edition was great, but this time around it was a more impactful experience for me. The list of speakers and workshop instructors was impressive as always, from writing to photography. I also met colleagues whose names and accomplishments I’d followed from a distance. I reconnected with old friends – when I say old, I include those I met last year at TravelCon, who’ve long become buddies.
And then are the new folks you meet serendipitously. Like the friend I made out of a Bostonian reader with whom I’d been Instagramming since she wrote me to tell me she bought my DR book and used it for her family vacation. These encounters always move me and serve as a reminder of the power we have as writers to impact a person’s life experiences.
I led two photo walks at TravelCon 2019, and I was a speaker on a panel about travel book publishing with my publisher, Moon TraveI Guides. You can still purchase your virtual tickets here for lifetime access to all TravelCon keynotes and sessions.
On my photo walks, we explored Back Bay and the Boston Public Library all the way to the Boston Public Gardens. Who knew this city was so photogenic? The last time I visited, it was in the dead of winter and I swore I’d never return, but I also knew deep down that I’d barely seen any of it. Boston came through with the colors, from blue skies to brownstone flower displays, sidewalk restaurant scenes, stunning churches and spectacular green spaces like the Boston Public Garden.
I loved teaching and sharing my tips and tricks of the photography trade as well as my travel philosophies, which are equally important in becoming a successful travel photographer who doesn’t just shoot landscapes and buildings but also connects with the place and the people. I’ll have a Boston image post soon.
Aside from my photo walks, a highlight was speaking on a panel with my publisher, Moon Travel Guides — a division of Hachette Book Group. We had a candid conversation about writing guidebooks, from author selection to research and marketing. I shared my experiences over the past seven years, including my research techniques, my moments of frustration and what it’s like to work with an editor on my books.
I was pleasantly surprised to see how attentive our audience was, but also how engaged. There were several solid questions asked at the end of our panel. We even went a few minutes over the allotted time.
Aside from the panel, it was great to connect with my Moon Guides colleagues and spend time with them. Even though we communicate by email year round, we rarely get to see each other in person.
II. Publication and Media News
While pursuing my projects and in between content marketing gigs, I’ve pitched travel media sparingly the first half of the year, with a more laser focus on the topics that interest me.
Oprah Magazine (OprahMag.com)
On the heels of publishing my now-viral article on the Dominican Republic and the latest media sensationalism, I was interviewed and quoted in Oprah Magazine in an article by Dominican freelance writer Moraima Pichardo. She’s recently moved back to the DR for a year and pitched a piece written from the standpoint of a Dominican. I’m grateful that my friend Oneika The Traveller also recommended my DR work and expertise to Oprah Magazine.
The article came out last week and I’m thrilled and honored to see my work referenced and to be forever quoted on Oprah Winfrey’s platform.
As I mentioned on social media, a couple of details were left out from interview to publication that were important, likely a result of the editorial process: first, I did mention that Punta Cana is connected to Santo Domingo by highway and that it’s one of the ways you can get a cultural experience. Secondly, I also mentioned guesthouses and eco-lodges as options for places to stay.
What’s gratifying the most about appearing in this article is knowing that I was able to share one of my long-held beliefs and passion: to encourage travelers to see the real Dominican Republic, away from big resorts. (And of course I’m stoked that my DR guidebook that I worked so hard on these past years is also mentioned).
Rolf Potts’ Travel Writer Profiles
I’m honored to be featured in Rolf Pott’s famous Travel Writer interview series — featuring over 200 of the best travel writers, filmmakers, editors, bloggers and creatives. Click here to read my interview, all about the work and world of travel writing.
If you’re planning to visit Antigua and Barbuda, bookmark my recent article on Ecotourism hotspots for spectacular outdoor areas and experiences you should consider.
I recently wrote a list of my 20 Best Things to Do in the Dominican Republic.
Viral Blog Article on the recent DR incidents
My blog article on the DR has reached over 8,000 reads and shares. I’m grateful and still absorbing the deeper meaning of it all and how the overall message hit home for many around the Americas and abroad. It’s been shared by travelers, travel journalists, travel groups, bloggers, travel agents and those who know how weak the news media has become in doing accurate, factual and fact-checked reporting on the ground.
I was on my way to Boston for TravelCon when I realized my article was spreading far and wide, and I’m now on my way to another destination before heading home next week.
I want to thank every single person who shared his or her views, whether positive or whether questioning. We all learn from discussion. What I won’t support, however, are views and comments that simply rehash what the media said without doing one’s own research and reading (for instance, some of those deaths date back to 2018 and 2016).
I’ll continue to write about the DR as I always have. In fact, my next post — stay tuned next week —will be a primer for first-timers to the Dominican Republic looking for areas where they can explore independently, staying in lodges or guesthouses, interact directly with the local culture.
Podcasts: Mwende Bino and The Postcard Academy
If you want to know more about the world of travel guidebooks and how I got into the travel publishing world, listen to my recent conversation on the Mwende Bino podcast, run by fellow traveler Mazuba Kapembwe. “Mwende Bino” means “travel well” in the Zambian language.
Another recent fun podcast chat I had was with The Postcard Academy, talking all about Santo Domingo – my current base. I share cultural tips as well as some of my favorite places to visit in the capital, from museums to pastry shops.
III. Upcoming work travels: July + August
1. Puerto Rico, July
I’m in Puerto Rico as I type this post, resting my bones from last night’s live plena performance in Santurce and today after an incredible day exploring El Yunque rainforest on the trails that are currently open.
It’s been over a decade since I returned to “la isla del encanto” and in line with the other islands I’ve recently visited post-Irma and Maria, I’m curious to see how things are going and how I can highlight cultural and sustainable activities, including places to stay that are supporting of the latter. My itinerary is looking incredible – I designed it myself and it’s an independent trip – and I’m looking forward to sharing the latest with you all in upcoming publications. In the meantime, check Instagram for when I share the occasional story from the road.
2. St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sustainable Tourism Conference, August 2019
The annual sustainable tourism conference for the Caribbean will take place this August in St. Vincent and The Grenadines and I’m thrilled to have been invited by the destination to attend and cover this important event in the region most vulnerable to climate change despite being the least culpable.
Returning to St. Vincent and The Grenadines will also be a dream come true – the first time I visited on a brief sailing day trip was in 2005, on my first-ever solo trip to the Caribbean.
In collaboration with the Caribbean Tourism Organization and St. Vincent’s tourism board, this trip will be a combination of conference sessions and outdoor study excursions.
Stay tuned for plenty of upcoming travel tips, from the Dominican Republic – next week – to Puerto Rico, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, and beyond.
Happy July 4th to all Americans, even in these trying times we’re facing, let us remember the importance of our voice and our ability to impact social change.