Today I am chatting with Ashley Buchanan from History in High Heels. I say chatting rather than interviewing since we have known each other for years and frequently hang out in Florence and travel Europe together.
Ashley has successfully combined her three passions; history, fashion and travel, breaking traditional stereotypes of academics, showing the world that academia is not just smart but also sassy!
Ashley has studied abroad, run multiple study abroad programs to Florence, been based in Florence for her phd research and over the years has been an honorary member of the FlorenceForFun staff. Today we are going to explore how all that got her to where she is today.
The purpose of these articles is to give insight to past, present and future study abroad students into how studying and working abroad influenced you and your career path.
How does a graphic designer become a history PHD student to go on to work for a study abroad program all whilst running a successful and continually growing blog?
Well, in college I fell victim to the “what are you going to do with that?” mentality. I was a history major, but worried I was not learning a specific skill that would land me a job. So, I double majored in Graphic Design and European History. It worked. I landed a job right out of school as a graphic designer, but I was not very passionate about it and felt unfulfilled. That was when I decided to become a history teacher and went back to grad school to pursue my masters and PhD in history. I had studied abroad in Rome as an undergraduate and knew I wanted to focus on Italian history and language. As a grad student I returned to Italy, specifically Florence, frequently to study language and research in the archives. Not wanting to give up teaching, I began working with American students in Florence.
I began blogging for two reasons. The first was practical, I found myself repeating the same advice and travel tips to students and friends over and over again. So, I created a site where I could share all of my adventures in Italy. In grad school, I grew frustrated with the politics of dressing surrounding female academics. The assumption was that you could not be a serious scholar and fashionable. So the blog grew to become a place where I could also express my style and interest in fashion.
How specifically did your summer study abroad in Rome all those years ago influence your journey to where you are today?
It definitely ignited a passion for engaging with and learning from other cultures. I learned that I like being out of my comfort zone and questioning my own culture and perspective. I went from only dreaming about seeing history and the world to feeling like I could actually make it a part of my life.
As a study abroad coordinator what kind of experience do you try and create for the students?
I really want students to understand how easy and affordable studying abroad can be. And how many options they have. I want to get them to get outside of their cultural bubble, whereever that may be, and have them start to reflect on themselves and on the US. Americans tend to be really bad about knowing what is happening outside the US, and reflecting on the perspectives of others and larger global issues.
And what advice do you have for them about making the most out of their time abroad?
Go in with an open mind. Try new foods, visit new places, and interact with as many non-Americans as possible. I also advise them to travel as much and as often as they can. Most people only get one shot at studying abroad, so invest in yourself and your experience. It is not the time to pinch pennies.
Changing hats, to your role as a travel blogger – what advice do you have for bloggers that want to make the leap from recreational to professional, about appealing to and finding a wider audience?
The main difference between someone who blogs about their travels and a travel blogger is that a travel blogger must offer insight, information, and knowledge about a place/destination. It is not enough to simply recap your trip. You need to research and explore so that you can offer insight. I see a lot of travel bloggers who just give lists of things to do in specific countries or cities, and while lists are fine, too often none of their suggestions are actually specific to that country, city, or culture.
You are in the unique position of having a etsy store with something that you yourself create and sell. If you don’t have something physical to sell what is the easiest way for a blogger to start making an income?
I will start with a warning. Free trips and clothing will not pay your bills. I argue that bloggers who just blog (i.e. have no other business or brand) are not making nearly as much as you think they are. That is fine if you are just looking for the experience. I think too many wannabe travel bloggers think they are going to end up millionaires who jetset all the time. It is actually a lot of work to monetize a blog. You can sell ads, use affiliate links, or charge for articles, but again, these are not going to make you rich. You also need to remember that the blogger market is saturated, and you will have to work even harder to stand out. Honestly, I think it is best to work in the travel industry in some way and travel blog/write on the side.
How many countries and cities have you been to? 26
What would you never travel without? My Camera
Essential insta accessory? Hat
All time favorite destination? Cappadocia, Turkey
Bucket list destination or where to next? Dubai
Must have fashion item for fall 2017? Beret
What do you need a daily fix of? COFFEE
If you had to choose between coffee and prosecco? I’d rather die.
A girls best friend…. Sunglasses
What do you most miss from home when you are traveling? Dunkin Donuts Coffee
You can of course check out Ashley’s Blog History in High Heels for loads of travel and fashion insights. And check out her Print Shop for a little nostalgic wall decoration from your travels abroad; Florence, Rome, Paris, Amalfi and more!