We first met Trish Friesen (a.k.a., Trip Styler) at a conference in Colorado. Both of our Expedia Find Yours campaigns were being featured at an event, and we instantly bonded. We were all nervous and excited to see our videos for the first time and we stayed close to offer each other support and encouragement. There was no need to be nervous, as Dave and I were blown away by the spot Expedia put together about Trish’s trip to Mexico. It was a moving piece that recounted a trip she took to Baja California at the age of 16 to help build a medical clinic. It changed her life and shaped her future. It was that trip that helped her decide to minor in international development and solidified her lifelong mission to support global neighbors.
Since that day, we’ve been inspired by Trish’s selflessness, motivated by her confidence, and encouraged by her words of wisdom. We’ve kept in touch by chatting online and by seeing each other at conferences. We look forward to the Expedia Viewfinder meet-ups most. Whenever we all get together we are always drawn to Trish to discuss travel and business. We’re honored to call Trish our friend, and were delighted to conduct this Q&A with her.
Planet D: What inspired you to get into travel blogging?
Trip Styler: I was working in the field of advertising and web strategy, and thought to myself, “Maybe I should use the growth tactics I’m suggesting to my clients on my own passion.” A few months later I started Trip Styler because I spotted a gap in the market for a style-soaked travel blog.
PD: Why do you think travel blogging is important?
TS: We live in a time where the main information sources are no longer the major media players, but instead an intertwined collection of niche publishers. Travel blogging taps into this trend and allows people to follow a specific beat, rather than generic, one-size-fits-all content.
PD: What unique perspective do you feel you bring to the conversation about travel?
TS: Before I started Trip Styler, my husband and I managed to sneak away (a lot!) through a combination of airline miles redemption, travel credit card points, hotel loyalty program discounts, seat sales, and low-season travel bookings. This significantly lowered the price of travel without sacrificing style. Our friends started calling us “retired,” and we were only in our 20s! Along the way, we met so many people who believed vacations were only for the wealthy, or a once-in-every-five-years splurge. When we told them what we paid, they gawked and realized access to gorgeous hotels and seemingly faraway destinations was not outside of their grasp. Having done almost every trip type, a.k.a., “trip style,” under the sun, I’ve discovered there’s always a cool hotel and “It” restaurant just around the corner, Trip Styler shows you where to look.
PD: We first met you when your Expedia find yours video debuted at a travel conference. We loved your story. Can you explain what made you go to Mexico as a teen to volunteer and how it changed your life?
TS: In 10th grade, I got the opportunity to travel to Mexico to help build a medical clinic in an outlying fishing town. I signed up because I’ve always believed we are part of a global community, and that we should give our time and resources. The clinic was situated in a former garbage dump, and my team lived on-site in an old and dusty dorm among houses constructed with plywood scraps surrounded by prickly cactus fences. The experience showed me there’s a whole world that lives very differently than I do, and that I’m part of a global village. At such an impressionable age, the trip changed what I care about, my world view, and how I spend my money—values that continue to impact my daily decisions.
PD: Did this trip inspire you to become a travel blogger? Or was it another moment in life?
TS: Not directly, but it planted a seed. This was my first taste of traveling abroad (and I LOVED it).
PD: You are afraid of flying. What made you decide to go into the business of travel when you have to face one of your greatest fears regularly?
TS: One thing I learned on my development trips to Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Peru is how we grow the most in life when we take ourselves out of our comfort zone. Flying is way out of my comfort realm, though, the more I do it, the more I love it (especially when I score a rare upgrade to cushy class).
PD: We are notoriously known for overpacking and we admire your ability to pack light while looking great! Can you give us your top three tips for packing light?
TS: I used to be a major overpacker, too. Knowing my suitcase(s) were getting out of hand, I put myself on a packing diet and for the past five years I’ve kept off the pounds using a carry-on on all my trips—even the three-week excursions! For me, Tip 1 would be to make a list with the number of days you’re gone, your trip style (urban, beach, or camping), and what you’ll need. Planning is the most essential ingredient for packing light. Tip 2 is to write down (and try on) five mix-n-match outfits within a similar color palette. The combination potential of five outfits gives you more than 25 days of different clothing content. Finally, Tip 3 is to limit your shoes. (To the shoe-obsessed: You can still “work it” on the travel runway with three well-selected pairs.)
Learning about argan oil production in Morocco
PD: We notice you focus on the luxury market of travel at times. How can regular people travel in style?
TS: While I firmly believe there’s a time and a place for a travel splurge, I often score styled stays at reasonable prices. Take my June 2014 trip to Tulum on which I sojourned at the Papaya Playa Resort (think beachside glamping) for US$100 per night! You never know what you’ll encounter on the road, while I was at the resort a Temptation Island-style TV show was being shot!
PD: What’s your favorite thing about being a contributor to the Expedia Viewfinder blog?
TS: Expedia believes travel is personal, and understands that every traveler is different. The company’s inventory reflects this and doesn’t only include big-name hotels, but also glamping outposts, small inns, and boutique stays (my travel muses). When Expedia asked me to write about what I already love, it was akin to walking into my hotel villa in Australia’s East Coast only to find a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and two flutes chilling in anticipation of my arrival. It was magic.
PD: What was your background before getting into Travel Blogging? Did it help you break into this business?
TS: I started my career in marketing. My dad used to work at an ad agency, and from a young age I wanted to follow in his footsteps. As young as 10 years old I was already interested in messaging, and chit-chat with him about what billboards I thought were effective and why. When I graduated university with a degree in Communications, I traveled Europe—twice! (priorities)—and then settled into a job at a multinational ad agency. There I realized the web was where it’s at (and still is), and I transitioned into the web strategy field. Looking back, my previous jobs were near-perfect stepping stones into travel writing and blogging. (If you asked me 15 years ago if I’d be a travel writer, I would have laughed and told you I’d be heading up a national ad agency. It’s funny how life can morph along the way.)
PD: If someone else wanted to do what you do, what’s the biggest piece of advice you could give them.
TS: I’ve never worked harder at anything in my life. And while practice does play a significant role in honing your skills, you have to study your craft with a training-precision, and as Seth Godin says, be “a purple cow” (in other words, be unique). That, and don’t take yourself too seriously.
PD: You have a husband, Mr. Trip Styler, and a dog, Mr. Nacho King, at home. Do you find it difficult to leave them two weeks a month to travel? Do they ever come with you?
TS: Believe it or not, they often come along! Nacho accompanies us on all our local travel—any destination we can reach by car. Because he was partly raised in hotels, he’s a model fur-guest (it helps that he has a significant social media following). As for Mr. Trip Styler, he comes on at least 60 percent of my trips, so we’re together as much as possible.
PD: What do you love about travel? What motivates you to keep going and sharing your experiences with people?
TS: My obsession with travel harkens back to wonder. Travel reminds me wonder is everywhere—in the noodle-wrapped fried chicken I learned to make in Thailand, in trying my hand at making argan oil with a ladies’ collective in Morocco, in happen-chancing upon a beachfront restaurant in Mexico with a band belting it out from a boat-stage. These moments are what motivate me to share. Call me crazy, but I would continue to write Trip Styler’s blog even if nobody read it. Thankfully they do!
PD: What can we expect from Trip Styler in the coming years? What goals are you working on?
TS: Never get too comfortable and always innovate. This year I updated my website to reflect the ways Trip Styler has grown from a blog to a multi-platform travel source. As well, I’ve just launched an online store because I spot so many incredible finds when I’m abroad, and when I return people always pull me aside to ask me where they are from. A few years ago, I started collecting objects such as Moroccan poufs, Bali fringe necklaces, and Mexican textiles in small batches to support local artisans, as well as share the exotic with those on my home turf.