Blogger Presentation 2: Adventurous Kate

Adventurous Kate is a 29-year-old world traveller, blogging about her experiences to make a living.  She quit her job three years ago and has been pursuing her dream to travel the world, visiting 45 countries since, and showing women that solo travel is safe, easy, and fun.

The Adventurous Kate website is easy to navigate. You can explore by destination, by date, or look at Kate’s favorites by going straight to the “Best of the Blog” tab. She writes about her travel-everything from where she stays to what she eats. She shares her opinions about the places she’s visited and gives advice to fellow travelers.

In one of my favorite posts, Kate gives tips for traveling in Italy. Kate studied abroad in Florence when she was an undergraduate and has returned to Italy many times since. During my trip to Italy I did many of the things on her list and she even mentions my favorite restaurant. Scrolling by destination allows me to compare my own experiences when I read about the places I’ve been and read about places I want to travel to in the future.

Not all of her posts offer guidance for travelers, though. She creates posts based solely on her own opinions, like a list of places she could actually live, and reasons she loves Costa Brava. Many other posts I came across discuss her personal life and feelings, like a diary, inviting the reader to invest themselves in the journey with her. The reader isn’t just sight-seeing, but is emotionally involved in Kate’s story. In this post, she tells readers how hard it is to say goodbye to the people she meets in her travels. She writes about these people and her future plans to see them again. I enjoy reading this type of post as much as posts that discuss landmarks and culture, because she captures what it really feels like to travel, and doesn’t just glamourize the experience.

Kate’s writing style is very easy to follow. Short sentences and thoughts, lists, pictures, videos and stories. Some of her posts can be lengthy, but they are all formatted in short paragraphs and sentences and multimedia is often mixed in. People love to read things quickly and with as little brainpower as possible, which Kate makes completely possible. Beautiful pictures are just a bonus!

Along with her own blog, Kate and her fiancé have started a blog called “Someone Once Told Me” which is also featured on the Adventurous Kate site. The concept is for people they meet in their travels to discuss the most memorable thing that anyone has ever told them. They are currently on their fifth month of this tour.

Blogging to make a living is a challenging thing to do, especially when travel expenses for a blog like Kate’s are considered. Kate is straightforward about how she earns money and supports this lifestyle. The number one way that Kate makes a profit is through advertising, including branded content posts, banner and video ads, and social media and newsletter promotion. She will also accept sponsorship offers from destination marketing organizations. Any post with branding or sponsorship is labeled as so, and Kate claims she will only accept offers that genuinely interest her and her posts are always her own opinions. Affiliate marketing is seen in some of her posts as well, mostly through Amazon.com.

Branded content posts are easy to find on the Adventurous Kate website.  All of her posts are organized with tags, which are keywords that can be searched in the search bar to easily find a particular post. If “Branded Content” is searched, posts tagged for branded content will appear.

Kate writes that “All opinions shared in this piece, as always, are my own” at the bottom of her posts that contain branded content. Although the opinions may be her own, her writing differs from posts that do not contain branded content and she seems swayed in the direction of the company that is promoting the post. For instance, in this post, branded by Visa, Kate describes her dream first time, and then tells her readers that their first time could be funded by Visa. Although Kate may really have dreamt of going to Antarctica, the way she presented the story of her trip did not feel genuine, as she promotes Visa and is selling their contest.

As I continued reading I stumbled across one of Kate’s most shocking experiences. She was shipwrecked in Indonesia on a boat tour. She wrote extensively about the experience, and about the boat tour company that she had chosen. She did not have many good things to say about the company, as you can imagine, yet still puts the message at the bottom of the post telling her readers that her opinions are her own. She also informs the readers that she received a five-day free tour from the company.

After reading Kate talk badly about a tour company, my skepticism about her honesty about sponsorship and branded content faded. I feel that she does share her honest opinions and offers the truth, although she gives good reviews much of the time. She picks and chooses, and sometimes even pursues, who she would like to feature on her site based on her own interests and what she feels is valuable to her readers, so it makes sense that she normally has good things to say.

A post that I still am unsure how I feel about was written after Kate was shipwrecked. She lost nearly everything in the wreckage, and she posted a donation button on her blog where her readers could donate to her. She wrote that she lost $3,300 in damages, and any extra money raised would be donated to charity. I understand her reasoning for this post, but I haven’t decided if it is an inappropriate gesture.

Other ways that Kate makes money include freelance writing, public speaking and consulting. She writes regularly for answers.com, eurail.com, the Boston Globe and TNT Magazine. She helps small businesses manage social media, readers plan their travels, and bloggers build better blogs. She speaks at conferences in exchange for travel lodging and free entry, or for monetary compensation. She writes to her audience explaining how extraordinarily difficult making a full-time living as a travel blogger truly is.

Kate typically posts between 15-22 times per month. Some months she posts as few as 6 times, and never more than 23 times. The comments that Kate’s posts attract are extremely supportive. Readers will occasionally post questions, but most of the comments respond to what she writes in her post very nicely. After a post where Kate reflects on her lifestyle, many of the comments told Kate that they agree, they think she needs a break! The readers interact with Kate as if they know her personally. One of the only non-supportive comments I found was on her post about the friendliest people in the world. This man must’ve been a little offended he didn’t make the cut, but Kate responded to his comment politely. She interacts with her readers often, helping them plan their own travels.

As much as I enjoy the idea of travelling and exploring the world then getting paid to write about my life, after reading this blog I realized it is too good to be true and I could never do it. It seems like such a glamorous and amazing job, but it is hard work. I experienced first hand how difficult it can be to travel on your own, never mind all the work that needs to be put into making a living at it. I’ll stick to travelling on my vacations and living vicariously through the experiences Adventurous Kate shares.

Story Idea for News Package #2

FORMAT FOR STORY IDEAS
For each story idea, you must have the following:

• Your name, course, email in upper left corner
• A headline with a noun and a verb
• A 25-word summary stating what the story is, and how you will tell it
• Why the story is important, and who will/should read it
• Your sources: At least three live human beings you will interview in person or over the phone
• Other background/source material you will use (databases and other substantial sources)

 

Headline: Pick Six Reaches Beyond Intramurals

Pick Six is a flag football team that has been playing UMass intramurals with the same consecutive group for 2 years. In these 2 years, they have been undefeated and won both championships. This year, they had a score differential of 320-0. Through the process they have become more than teammates, but a group of very close friends. Their jerseys are adorned with nicknames, and the group has expanded into a co-ed team and to other sports including basketball and volleyball. This semester they are involved in an ACIS tournament, and thus far haven’t lost a game. They have competed regionally and this weekend will go to Maryland for a shot at a free trip to Florida to compete in the National Championship.

 

The story is interesting because intramurals are a sometimes overshadowed part of social life on campus. These students have become a close-knit group of friends through it, but are also competing in a regional, and possibly national competition. The story would be for other UMass students, to learn about one team who took intramural sports to the next level.

 

I will get my information about UMass intramurals from the director of intramurals at the rec center, Jason Incorvati.

Interviews with team members from Pick Six will interviewed, from both the all boys and the co ed teams. 

The website for ACIS will provide information about the regional and national tournaments.

 

 

Top 5 Career Tips

Here are five career tips from this week’s readings that resonate with me.

 

People want to read about people.

I have been told this over and over again. No matter what the topic is, if the reader can learn about it through the lens of a specific person, it will be much more effective and interesting. People are interested in the human experience, not just the facts.

Learn how to read.

The only way to become a good writer is to be a good reader. Reading anything and everything that you can with the endless material that is available to us allows you to learn and absorb different techniques and information. Blogs, journals, news articles, novels; it all helps. Reading is a crucial step in developing great writing skills.

Fail forward.

Everybody fails! Majority of the risks that are taken don’t work out, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Through these trials, get paid and lean all that you can so you’re headed in the right direction.

Combine skills. 

All of the little things that make you who you are can help in your career. Any experiences you have, even if they aren’t exactly journalistic, can, when combined with other skills, help you create something amazing. It is easy to apply skills you have accumulated in the past to current career opportunities, setting you apart from other applicants.

Learn how to be entrepreneurial.

In the changing times of journalism, we need to sell ourselves. We need to think of ourselves as a brand and be aware of our strengths and weaknesses. Knowing when to say “no” and knowing what our time is worth and what we want to spend it on is key. You need to know the competition and the job market, your own skills and a network of people you can keep in touch with. Yes, your personal and business lives will mesh, but you are the business. 

Blogger Presentation 2: Kate, or Kate?

For my next blogger presentation, there are two incredible women, coincidentally both named Kate, that I would be interested in following.

Kate Fridkis writes the blog “Eat The Damn Cake.”  The blog is geared towards women and posts cover many aspects of life, from relationships, to food.  Women of all ages can find a post that is relevant to them on the blog. Kate is a positive body image advocate, and the entire blog is based on the idea that all women should be able to eat the damn cake if they want to, without thinking about gaining weight. The blog is empowering and makes women feel that they aren’t alone when they read it and see the photo gallery of “women eating cake.”

Kate got her Master’s from Columbia in 2010. Kate has another blog about homeschooling, called “Skipping School” and has been featured in numerous publications including Psychology Today, Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan, Home Education Magazine, The Frisky, and many more. She is writing a fantasy novel and a memoir and works at a synagogue.

I would like to follow Kate because she has a vibrant personality that shows in her writing. By reading only a handful of posts, I already felt like I knew her. The blog is funny and serious at the same time and has helpful resources for women. I enjoyed reading about the “cake eaters” and most of the topics on the blog are of interest to me.

The next Kate is equally as empowering. “Adventurous Kate” has a blog dedicated to solo female travel, helping women realize that traveling alone can be safe, fun and easy. She has visited more than 45 countries, and shares her experiences on the blog, which you can navigate by destination. The posts are easy to read and different every time. She discusses tons topics in her posts, from culture to food, and she gives her honest opinions. In some posts, she tells stories, like one about the time she got shipwrecked in Indonesia. There is an additional section called “Someone Once Told Me” where her and her fiancé will ask people they meet in their travels, “What is the most memorable thing you’ve ever been told?” and share their answers.

Kate quit her job at the age of 26 to fulfill her lifelong dream of traveling the world. For the past 3 years, she has been traveling and blogging about her experiences as a full time job. She makes a living by writing and through advertising, sponsorship, and marketing. She’s been published on sites like cheapflights.com, goby.com, TripVine, and HostelWorld. She has been interviewed, profiled, awarded and recognized on many news sources as well.

I find Adventurous Kate’s story to be inspiring. I don’t think I could ever live her life, but I admire her work ethic and ambition. After studying abroad this summer, I realized that I love to travel. Kate posts about places I’ve been and places I want to go, while also introducing me to places I’ve never even thought about, all equally enjoyable to read. The blog also includes tons of pictures, and the “Someone Once Told Me” section that has not been published yet, but will prove to be as eye opening as the rest of the blog.

DRUG DEALING: NOT A TYPICAL CAMPUS JOB, BUT STUDENT STILL GETS PAID

Excitement is in the air, and white powder covers the counter. Another EDM concert is coming to the Mullins Center, and another grand is about to enter the safe. It’s as simple as that, really. Phones are ringing off the hook, students are scrambling around, and drugs are being sold. UMass students have found molly and someone has to supply it.

A UMass student I will refer to as Todd has taken molly 50-75 times, beginning in junior year of high school, “back before [molly] was a mystery box.”

MDMA is a designer drug, and as it became popular with young adults, drug dealers started mixing it or replacing it with other drugs, creating a “mystery box.” Methylone, cocaine, heroine, meth and ketamine are used in many batches of molly. These drugs produce similar effects to MDMA, for instance methylone, which is most commonly found in bath salts, is much more toxic than MDMA, and at a much lower dose. People think the molly they are buying is pure MDMA because it looks the same, but without thorough testing, there is no way to be sure.

When you imagine a drug dealer, whom do you see? A shady guy hanging around the playground? A woman on the side of the road wearing next to nothing? Bryan Cranston from Breaking Bad? I bet you didn’t picture the kid sitting next to you in math or the sushi roller at Berkshire Dining Commons. But behold, your typical UMass student could have a big secret hiding up their sleeve.

“Freshman year, I sold weed and cocaine,” says Todd, “and sophomore year, I sold molly. A friend of mine who sold drugs gave me the idea, and I started selling too. Per ounce, I would more than double my money. Molly is pretty easy to find most of the time, especially on this campus. I bought a scale at a local smoke shop and some plastic bags. That’s all I needed.”

If someone died at a concert after taking the drugs Todd sold he said he “would’ve felt absolutely responsible,” but he didn’t test the drugs before distributing them.  “I never took that on as my responsibility,” he said, “I relied on what I like to call ‘test dummies’. You’d be surprised how many kids are willing to take drugs they know nothing about. They would just tell me how it was and I would take their word for it.” Thankfully, no harm ever came from this type of drug testing.

The demand for molly is why Todd, along with many others who choose to sell drugs, make such a big profit. His biggest clients? “Basically, anyone going to concerts or festivals. I tried to sell to a group of people that I knew. People came at different times throughout the day to pick up [their drugs] and my phone would ring constantly on days of events.” People who take molly experience heightened sensations and connection to the people around them. Most people want to talk, dance, and touch to intensify the experience, which is why the drug is commonly associated with rave and dance club cultures.

Electronic music, as a genre, gets a reputation for its drug culture, which was addressed in an email to UMass students about the cancellation of EDM events. “The Molly-taking culture at these shows is real and now exceedingly dangerous to the health and safety of concert attendees,” said Enku Gelaye, UMass’ Vice Chancellor. Students voiced their concerns on Twitter by tweeting “Yeah good idea umass, because I’m sure simply canceling the edm shows here will stop every student from ever taking molly again…” and “Bring back EDM concerts at Umass!! Everyone go sign the petition in front of student union.” Alexa Scott, a junior at UMass, said “I am very upset about UMass cancelling EDM events because I consider myself to be a true fan of the music.” She adds, “I understand that UMass is trying to protect the safety of the students, but it would have been more beneficial to increase security and educate us on drug safety. If kids want to take drugs they will find a way to do so, whether there are concerts or not.”

Todd had a different perspective from the popular opinion on campus. “If I was the Chancellor of UMass, I would cancel these concerts too. Kids are irresponsible with their drug use. They don’t know what they’re putting into their bodies.” Although Todd would’ve personally attended and supplied drugs to many other students, he still feels that responsible drug use is important.

These cancellations would have had a massive impact on Todd’s success as a drug dealer. The cancellations would have “completely destroyed my business operation and profits, as my most profitable days were the days of events. Without them, it would take me triple the time to move the product. I probably wouldn’t continue selling [if events were cancelled]. It wouldn’t be worth it. The majority of my clientele would be gone,” he said.

The connection between molly and EDM is often made and just as often is questioned. Many aspects of pop culture glorify molly, but undoubtedly EDM is a strong promoter. At UMass, it seems clear. Through the perspective of a drug dealer and a business operation, it is easy to see that EDM events cause a notable spike in drug usage. That doesn’t mean this is the only time students take molly, but it is embedded in the electronic dance culture and events, especially at UMass. Only time will tell if concert cancellations will change this cultural norm.

As for Todd? The police caught wind of the operation and shut it down. The only reason it lasted so long was “luck.” He said, “I understand what I did could have hurt people. But it was fun. I didn’t take a cent out of my bank account for months.” The product he sold? “God only knows what it really was.” ###

Molly and Music: It isn’t just EDM

If I told you to say the first thing that comes to mind when I say “electronic dance music”, you would probably say “molly”. And I wouldn’t blame you. The two go hand in hand. There’s no denying it, especially after recent deaths at different electronic music festivals because of  the drug. (Read More: http://consequenceofsound.net/2013/09/why-mdma-is-destroying-edm/)

Electronic music, as a genre, gets a reputation for its drug culture, even though many EDM artists don’t support drug use at all and will openly speak out against it on their personal social media accounts, like Kaskade.

By cancelling EDM events, the University is supporting the assumption that all people who attend EDM concerts are drug-users. “The Molly-taking culture at these shows is real and now exceedingly dangerous to the health and safety of concert attendees”, the Vice Chancellor wrote to UMass students. Although there have been many deaths due to Molly overdoses, the only concert attendees suffering are those who choose to take drugs.

“I am very upset about UMass cancelling EDM events because I consider myself to be a true fan of the music,” said Alexa Scott, a student at UMass. She adds, “I understand that UMass is trying to protect the safety of the students, but it would have been more beneficial to increase security and educate us on drug safety. If kids want to take drugs they will find a way to do so, whether there are concerts or not.”

Other students weren’t as disappointed when they heard the news of EDM concert cancellations. “If I were the Chancellor of UMass I would cancel these concerts too. Kids are irresponsible with their drug use”, said a UMass student. Another UMass student added, “They want to take more than their friends and think they can handle it, but they don’t even know what they’re putting into their bodies.”

There is no denying the presence of molly in our culture, but to draw the connection to solely EDM is not accurate. “People hear music glorifying molly, all types of music. People take drugs to fit in,” said another UMass student. In recent months, many music artists have been promoting the drug, from Miley Cyrus and Kanye West to Madonna and Tyga. Trinidad James, who coined the phrase “pop a molly, I’m sweating”, will be performing at the Mullins Center on October 26, which has become another hot topic among students.

The next time someone says EDM, maybe you will think twice before you say molly.