Intrigued by Cat Cafes, Israeli Drag Queens, German Goth Festivals & Miami Art Deco Parties? Read On.
We caught up with top journalist, TV host and blogger La Carmina to find out what inspires her, how she managed to make travel her job and how she got to be so cool.
How did you start in travel blogging?
I began my La Carmina blog over 5 years ago, with a focus on Japanese fashion and outfit posts. As my site and readership grew, I began writing about Jpop culture and travel as well - such as monkey waiters, vampire cafes and Visual Kei concerts. Many of these posts got a huge response, and I was hired to write for what is now CNN Travel. Over time, the chances to travel for my work kept growing. Today, I write for a number of publications including AOL, Business Insider, and Hong Kong Express Airways' inflight magazine. I visit at least one destination a month, usually via a press trip or job, and my blog is about my forays into fashion and subcultures worldwide.
You have some very unique and cool clothes – what is it that inspires your fashion sense?
For a very long time, I've felt a kinship with the Gothic, Punk, vintage and romantic street styles worn in the Tokyo underground scene. I love to visit alternative and Goth clubs, especially in Japan, where I'm constantly inspired - the makeup and DIY accessories are out of this planet. My favorite places to shop are Japan and Hong Kong, and I have shopping guides for both Asian cities linked on the right sidebar of my blog.
Which achievement are you most proud of?
I am very thankful for the writing and TV hosting opportunities I've gotten over the years, mostly coming from people finding my travel blog and videos. I've now written three books, published by Penguin USA and Random House. And I've appeared as a travel TV presenter on Food Network, Today Show, Travel Channel, The Doctors, Discovery, National Geographic and more. However, perhaps my proudest achievement is being the "mother" of my Scottish Fold cat, Basil Farrow. (Ronan Farrow is his father, and Mia Farrow is his grandma!) We try to take the best possible care of Basil, with proper nutrition and play, and lots of cuddles.
Where’s the one place you’d recommend everyone should visit at least once?
I wish that more people would visit Hong Kong. There are direct and relatively inexpensive flights, and it's not difficult to get around HK because the locals speak English. Similar to Japan, it's a colorful, pop culture-packed city with cute character mascots, exciting nightlife, international food, nature... There's something for everyone to enjoy.
Is there anywhere you haven’t been yet, but you’d love to?
I am keen to visit Egypt, but unfortunately it isn't the right time due to local conflicts... I wish I made a better effort to travel here earlier on, it's one of my regrets! I also can't wait to spend time in South America, and make a trip to the mysterious Easter Island.
What would you say to someone unsure about going on a gap year?
I think the fear of "wasting" a year can hold many people back. I'd advise them to stick to a schedule, and set specific, achievable goals. For example, in each travel destination, they can create something tangible to show later on - such as writing 5 blog posts about the city, or 5 photo-essays, or making a 5 minute video. They can also set personal goals, such as learning a language or completing a 3-day hike. All this will keep them motivated to learn and create, and they can move forward after the gap year with achievements to show.
How about if they said they were worried about money?
I would look at the gap year as an investment, which can help you reap rewards later on (for example, it can help you get a better sense of the field you want to pursue, or where you want to live). Many people can save up a significant amount before the gap year, through part time jobs and help from family. It's easier than ever to travel safely while on a budget. To reduce costs, I encourage young people to look into around-the-world tickets and student train passes, and short term rental apartments. Also consider "slow travel," such as making Thailand your base for several months, and taking short trips to nearby countries. This tends to be a more meaningful experience than crossing off as many destinations as possible.
Why should people check out your blog?
If you're intrigued by Chinese cat cafes, Israeli drag queens, German Goth festivals and Miami Art Deco parties... then La Carmina blog is for you! My site caters to a young, alternative audience, so I cover many travel topics not found on regular sites. Many readers tell me they found my Japan nightlife and shopping guides particularly helpful, and through my destination guides.
How much do you love your life?
I'm so grateful for those who believe in me, and have read my site over the years. It's a lot of hard work behind the scenes, but worth it for the opportunities to travel and do dream projects. I'm now off to Israel and Jordan with my two-person film crew - we'll be making travel videos about Tel Aviv youth culture and visiting Petra, one of my dream destinations. And there are exciting TV projects in the works. Please stay tuned to my site and social networks (@lacarmina on all of them) to see where I journey next!