Teri Johnson is the creator, producer and host of her web series entitled Travelista Teri, which is distributed via her Travelista TV partnerships with AOL On, Huffington Post, Blinkx, YouTube, and Kollide TV. Her passion for adventure and storytelling has taken her to 60 countries, where she has hunted with the Kuku-Yalanji aborigines in Australia and trekked through Dogon country in Mali. She is the host of Fall in the Finger Lakes, an 11 part video series that runs on TravelChannel.com. In addition to being a freelance writer for TravelChannel.com and Huffington Post, she frequently speaks on travel at various festivals and conferences. Teri is proficient in French and Spanish, and speaks limited Italian. When she is not traveling, the Texas native resides in New York City.
How did you get started traveling?
I come from a family of world travelers and the importance of travel was instilled in me at an early age. My love for travel and culture really began in high school when I spent a summer in San Sebastian, Spain living with a host family. During that time I got an in depth look at the linguistic and cultural contrasts that exist in the Basque region, developed a fluency in Spanish and broadened my palate to adapt to the traditional Basque diet. This experience changed me. From the moment I returned to my high school in Houston, Texas, I knew I wanted to travel more and experience a culturally rich and dynamic life.
How did you get started writing?
I actually started as a producer, director, host and writer for Travelista TV, an online video series I co-created years ago. The amount of time and energy I spent researching, interviewing, and engaging always left me with multiple story angles that I wished to share. Knowing that I had more stories to tell than what was captured in video, I sought to expand my forte. I took a post baccalaureate creative writing class (with a focus on travel) at Columbia University to become a better travel writer.
As a traveler and fact/story gatherer, what is your biggest challenge on the road?
My biggest challenge as a travel writer, producer, and host is determining how to allocate my time. I like to maximize every moment while on the road and I usually don’t leave time to sit down and write. I also love to live in the moment, and if I am busy writing or recording, it interrupts the flow of what organically occurs when traveling.
As for fact gathering, verifying age-old legendary stories in indigenous and mystical societies can be difficult. In many cases, I have to rely on my guides because of language barriers and the lack of historical records.
What is your biggest challenge in the research and writing process?
My biggest challenge in the research process is trying to discern what resources are the least biased. From a historical standpoint, I find that some of the best content is older and only exists in print.
What is your biggest challenge from a business standpoint?
My greatest challenge is to maintain my traveller’s smile, while also producing, pitching, writing content and developing my Travelista brand. My latest addition is my very own line of Travelista candles, inspired by my favorite cities around the world. This new collection is the perfect way for me to share my passion for both travel and fragrance with my audience.
Have you ever done other work to make ends meet?
I work with a lot with brands as a spokesperson and brand ambassador. I have also worked with companies including Ford, Honda, Choice Hotels, and Hilton Hotels to produce and host branded entertainment video series.
What travel authors or books might you recommend and/or have influenced you?
I love to read historical fiction set in foreign countries. I highly recommend Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende. She tells a fascinating story that begins in the sugar plantations on Hispaniola and ends in New Orleans at the turn of the 19th century. The way she recounts historical events combined with the nuances of Haitian, Spanish, African and French culture is brilliant.
I also love The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba. It is a story about resilience and inventiveness by a boy who created wind energy in his village in Malawi.
What advice and/or warnings would you give to someone who is considering going into travel writing?
Advice: Write or blog about subjects and destinations where you feel most passionate and use these as samples of your work. If you have expertise in something, highlight it and become an authority. If you’d like to gain an expertise, then write about that subject even if it’s doesn’t pay, and attend events and network with people who can help you. Warning: Make sure you have other revenue streams.
What is the biggest reward of life as a travel writer?
The biggest reward as a travel writer and host is the fact that I am an avid student of the world, and the world is a generous teacher. With every experience and lesson, I feel closer to fulfilling my goal of inspiring people to live better and travel more!