A Peek into the Life of a Journalist

Life 101: What I’m Up to These Days

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It’s time for what seems like my annual ritual of giving you an actual glimpse into the inner workings of my life. I feel like my day-to-day is quite mundane—and you can always get glimpses of it on Instagram Stories if you’re really curious—but I also don’t share a whole lot of work-related stuff online, so I’m sure there are many of you who don’t know exactly what it is I do. (The short answer: writing, editing, photography, marketing and consulting. Easy enough, right?)

Christmas in Tennessee

But let’s start with the holidays. Christmas was a weird one this year. Kari and Josh were gone to Charleston so we did a bit of a celebration a week out at my parents’ house and feigned that it was Dec. 25.

Christmas in Tennessee

Christmas in Tennessee
Christmas in Tennessee

Christmas in Tennessee

Christmas in Tennessee
Christmas in Tennessee

We spent Christmas Eve at our Nashville condo with friends, going to a service on Music Row, then Cheekwood for the Lights! exhibit, then Le Sel for dinner. On actual Christmas Day, Mom and Dad came over, and SVV cooked us all brunch (orange Grand Marnier French toast), we drank two bottles of champagne, then we went out into our yard and mulched (yes, mulched). It gave a new meaning to “Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals!”

Christmas in Tennessee

On the Thursday after, we took our now-annual trip to Washington for a week, and it was epic. Posts on that to come, but here’s a little bit of a teaser:

A Year in the Life of a Journalist

So what else is new in my life? Well, to start…

On My Dad

We’re now 11 months, post-stroke, and while he’s made significant progress, we’re all a bit fearful that he’s plateaued. Speech is still quite difficult for him—he has a base vocabulary but stringing together coherent thoughts and sentences is often challenging—and we communicate in numbers and charades. He’s in good spirits, though, and best of all his physical health is probably the best it’s ever been; he stopped drinking and smoking (cold turkey!) after decades of doing both in excess and is walking up to six miles a day.

 

I’m hoping to write about this whole experience in a magazine piece soon, or maybe even an audio broadcast if I can find the right medium. It’s a story I feel that I need to tell more so than I’ve shared on this blog.

On SVV

We hit our seven-year legal anniversary last month, and I adore this guy a thousand times more than I already did when we met all those years ago in Holland.

Hard to believe we’re going on 12 years of knowing each other—that’s more than a third of my life!
A Year in the Life of a Travel Writer

He took a leap of faith in the summer and quit his job with my dad, where he’d been working for five years, when it was evident Dad wouldn’t be going back to work, post-stroke. I’ll admit I was terrified that we’d now both be relying solely on my income, but I was already having a banner year, work-wise, and the second I had help, our workload increased even more. So it’s been a good, make that GREAT, change. And I like having him around the house with me a few days a week.

The other days a week, he’s working with my dad on a house-flip, which has been a good therapeutic endeavor for Dad, who is going stir-crazy at home after working 80-hour weeks the past four decades, and also for Mom, who needs a bit of a relief from caretaking every now and then.

On Health

I’m still working out consistently (four to six days a week), and I’m also back on the Whole30 train for a third round! One day, I’ll learn to just stick with a modified plan full-time, but for now, I’m on a 30- (or more realistically, 25-) day reset before heading to the Caribbean. I’m also hoping to run another half marathon in April, though I’m just now getting back on the running train. And I really love AcroYoga!

A Year in the Life of a Travel Writer

On Appearance

I DYED MY HAIR! What? I know. I still think the same thing every time I look in the mirror!

A Year in the Life of a Travel Writer

I was born blonde and still maintained a shade of dark blonde that would get natural sun highlights in the winter, then fade to a boring shade of blah in the winter. So the first time ever, I figured why not make a change? to get me through the winter months? Two months later, I’m still loving it and even thinking I could go a bit redder next time.

On Home Life

The week before Thanksgiving, a tornado ripped through my neighborhood. While it luckily didn’t hit our beautiful old Victorian house, it was a bit terrifying as the sirens went off again and again and we holed up with Ella in the basement. My sister, however, wasn’t so lucky. The tornado touched down in their neighborhood and did significant damage to all the yards in the area.

The Tullahoma Tornado

Miraculously, no one was killed or even hurt, but there are a whole lot of insurance claims floating around in that part of town right now.

The Tullahoma Tornado
The Tullahoma Tornado
The Tullahoma Tornado

Here’s what my sister’s house looked like the next day:

The Tullahoma Tornado

The Tullahoma Tornado
The Tullahoma Tornado

The Tullahoma Tornado

Yikes is right! And here are scenes we captured around her neighborhood about 16 hours after the fact:

The Tullahoma Tornado

The Tullahoma Tornado
The Tullahoma Tornado

The Tullahoma Tornado

The Tullahoma Tornado
The Tullahoma Tornado
The Tullahoma Tornado

The Tullahoma Tornado

On Blogging

Can you believe Camels & Chocolate turns 10 this year? Where has the decade gone? I have so many fun things in store, particularly one massive giveaway this summer to celebrate my 10 years in the blogosphere!

A Year in the Life of a Travel Writer

Speaking of which, what would you guys think about me cutting my blog posts into more bite-sized morsels and dispensing them more frequently (uh, after this one, that is…)? Like, instead of two to three 1,000-word posts a week, I’d aim for four to five in the 500-word range in an effort to include more work-related posts, more DIY home posts, more info about our Tennessee lives. Would you still read regularly if I were posting that much, but shorter?

I realize, I’m a lot wordier than most bloggers—SEO says you should keep your posts around 300 words, but I’ve always written for myself and all of you, rather than search engines—so I’m going to try to rein it in a bit and share more in smaller doses. Make sense? Good idea? Bad idea? Give me your thoughts in the comments below!

A Peek into the Life of a Journalist

On Work

I added a new skill to my repertoire of journalistic offerings this past year: I did some on-camera hosting!

And surprisingly enough, I loved it, too. And not just because it was an excuse to rent a fancy dress and put on makeup for a change.
A Year in the Life of a Travel Writer

While it wasn’t my first time in front of the camera, it was the first time I live-streamed an event while on camera without break for two hours straight. It was both exhausting and exciting, and I was thrilled to represent Redbook at the 50th annual CMA Awards (you can watch it here).

CMA Awards Red Carpet on camera hosting

CMA Awards Red Carpet on camera hosting
CMA Awards Red Carpet on camera hosting

I was placed on the carpet right next to the Ellen Show, which cutie pie Macey hosted. And even though I didn’t necessarily get to talk to everyone, they did at least have to pass me by and give me a little wave or a high-five (like Garth freakin’ Brooks, you guys!). Even better, SVV came as my cameraman (er, iPad-man). Then, a month later, I got to film a series of videos for the Brewers Association, which was so much fun as it meant a full morning getting paid to talk about beer while shooting inside a brewery (but no drinking, unfortunately!).

On New Business

We now have a handful of clients on monthly retainer, a couple of which I hope to share with you in the new year, and I’m still pounding away at the keyboard, thousands of words a day, split among various projects. While I’ve shifted to doing more copywriting, consulting and influencer marketing campaigns, I still do a good amount of editorial work, anywhere from four to eight magazine assignments a month, many of which I eventually add to my portfolio page for those of you who are interested.

A Year in the Life of a Travel Writer

And I’m also project managing a few such marketing initiatives, which should be a fun change of pace. Hannah is working on overhauling my professional page, but once that’s done, I’ll give more of an update here as to what those projects entail.

And because I’m all about setting intentions this year, in summary, in 2017:

  • I will floss daily.
  • I will develop a skincare routine.
  • I will take care of my body, both how I treat it and what I put into it.
  • I will blog shorter, but more often.

Sounds easy enough, right?

A Year in the Life of a Travel Writer

What’s your 2017 game plan? How do you plan to make this your best year ever?

COMMENTS
  • January 9, 2017
    Julie Rothermund

    Kristin, I like the idea of more frequent blog posts, although I have a lot of time (lucky me!) and the longer, wordier posts have never been a problem for me. Maybe the shorter ones will be less time consuming for you, as different opportunities seem to be opening up – congratulations! I always look forward to reading whatever you write about and having Ella be a guest columnist periodically (SVV too!) is a serious bonus ?❤

    • January 10, 2017

      Agree with the above–I’ll read regardless but shorter posts are easy for me to pop over to during the workday and catch-up on and, as a lazy blogger myself, I find that shorter posts are easier for me to post more of. Less pressure to make posts MEAN something haha.

      • January 10, 2017

        You’d think it would be easier, right? But I’m awful at writing short (clearly!). My first freelance gig ever was a regular column with Newsweek where I had to write 125-word resort reviews, and it was the hardest job ever! I think the perfectionist in me feels like I have to offer up every last detail and bit of knowledge per topic—particularly when travel-related—so I’m trying to figure out how to break everything up into quicker, pithier reads. It will be a work in progress =)

    • January 10, 2017

      Ahhh, you’re the best, Julie! I’ve been wanting SVV to write more, too, so that’s on the docket for the year. I’ll tell him you specifically requested him, so maybe he’ll expedite that =)

      As for Ella, well her highness writes when she feels like it, but I’ll put in a word with the boss (i.e. her!)!

  • January 9, 2017
    Briel K.

    I’ll be reading whether you post more or stay the same! 🙂

    • January 10, 2017

      I adore you! Can 2017 be the year we finally meet in person, please? =)

      • January 16, 2017
        Briel K.

        Yes, I hope so! If you are ever going to be in San Diego or even LA let me know!

  • January 9, 2017
    Chris Chamberlain

    In case I don’t mention it often enough, you are a damned hero for anyone considering following their bliss and making the leap into writing! More short posts or fewer longer posts are fine with me because yours is one of the few blogs that I still subscribe to and read religiously. (And I don’t mean like how I floss religiously, on Easter and Christmas…)

    • January 11, 2017

      Ahhh, and you are a damned hero for being the nicest guy in Nashville and everyone’s biggest cheerleader (not to mention, a mighty fine writer to boot!). Happy to call you a friend, CC =) (And thanks for the kind words!)(My flossing habits are similar…)

  • January 10, 2017
    Linda

    I follow your blog through an RSS feed and will continue reading them no mattter what the length!!! I too set several intentions this year (only three!). I think we’re smart to set fewer goals cause we’ll have a better chance of attaining them if we focus on fewer of them! And no, it is never as easy as it sounds! Good luck meeting your goals this year!

    • January 12, 2017

      Right, Linda? In the past, I’ve never really had resolutions, but I figured one resolution for 2017 is to, well, have resolutions, LOL. Here’s to sticking to them!

  • January 10, 2017
    Ris

    I love reading your blog and will be happy with any writing you’re able to give us this year (especially including all the other demands on your time!). As for your dad, don’t despair. My dad’s recovery often looked more like stair steps than a nice smooth upward trajectory. The doctors told us that whatever progress he made in the 6-months after his accident would be all we could expect, but 8.5 years later he’s still surprising us.

    • January 12, 2017

      You’re such a peach, Ris! And I love hearing stories like your dad’s. Others have told me similar, and I’m holding to that rather than the doctor’s “no progress will be made after 90 days” claim! We still see gradual improvement every time we get together with them once a week or so.

  • January 10, 2017

    I love the idea of more posts because I wish I had more blogs that I could read on a daily basis. I love the long posts but would pop over and read the shorter ones, too. I wish I had more time to blog more often–it’s been my goal to increase from 2 times a week to 3 times a week, but I rarely find the extra time for that additional post. All the best to you, your dad, and your family!
    Jenna recently posted..What’s It Really Like to Live in Cambridge, England?My Profile

    • January 12, 2017

      Ah, that’s good to hear, Jenna! So many people read my blog via email that I’m trying to figure out how to balance that so they don’t feel overwhelmed. I might just make it an every other day thing, which would work out to 4 posts some weeks and 3 posts others, so that the emails aren’t too burdensome? I’ve got a call with my design team next week so going to see if they have any ideas on how to tackle that!

  • January 10, 2017

    Ooh! I love these wrap-up posts, in every way! (I also would love and read shorter, more frequent ones…or, frankly, longer less frequent ones. You’re kinda stuck with me. Like an octopus that you can’t get off your face. Sorry/NotSorry)

    xox
    Feisty Harriet recently posted..AuthenticityMy Profile

    • January 11, 2017

      Can I use that quote in my testimonial section? 😉 Seriously, you’re the cutest!

  • January 10, 2017

    I don’t know how you do it all– but I love reading about it! I think you should go with how you feel, writing-wise. Feel like a short post? Write a short post. Feel like a sprawling post? Write a sprawling post. If your heart’s in it, people will want to read it. 🙂

    • January 12, 2017

      I think ultimately it’s FOMO that keeps me going, lol. And thank you, Lindsay! I think I’ll probably wind up doing a mix, like you said. I’ve gotten in this mentality of only writing when I have a very long-winded thing to say, and rather I want to get into the habit of writing whenever I have something to say, short or long =)

  • January 10, 2017

    I’ve been following along for years and will keep doing so no matter when or what you write 😉
    Sarah recently posted..The Canadian Rockies – Jewels of the ContinentMy Profile

    • January 12, 2017

      Thank you, Sarah! That means the world =)

  • January 10, 2017

    LOVE the idea of more frequent posts (and the example ideas you have for them)!

    Also, I love YOU! And miss you lots.

    xoxo,
    X-Ray
    Alexa Rae Johnson recently posted..All around Oahu: Hiking Diamond HeadMy Profile

    • January 12, 2017

      Thank you, X-Ray! Your bedroom’s always open. And I promise no ladybugs this time 😉

  • January 10, 2017
    Natalie

    I would greatly enjoy reading more frequent posts, but I’ll continue reading them however they arrive in my in-box! I’ve got two little furry girls and the three of us love when Ella decides to post!

    • January 12, 2017

      OK! I’m thinking of every other day so it’s not cumbersome for those who receive my emails and can’t necessarily get to them every day. That way, it would be 4 posts one week, 3 the next, and so forth.

      Ella says she will take your suggestion into consideration 😉

  • January 10, 2017

    Honestly, when it comes to the length and frequency of the posts; I think you should do whatever makes you feel good. Happy Kristin will make for happy readers 😉
    Dominique recently posted..Iceland – A Three Day South Coast TourMy Profile

    • January 12, 2017

      I like that philosophy, Dominique! You’re a smart cookie 😉

  • January 10, 2017
    Don Ray

    I’m a fairly new reader, and I admit I assumed yours was simply another blog/advertisement. Then I saw a reference to your father, Greg, and I finally put it all together. Greg was my tennis partner/opponent for years. So I am quite interested in your postings about him. I really loved your travel blogs. Although we are older now, travel is very important to us, so please keep it up. As for the length of the blog. I have to leave this to the professionals. As for me personally, if the subject matter has sufficient content, I enjoy the longer blogs. As a poor example, I would prefer to read all the blog about a particular episode or city, no matter the length.

    • January 12, 2017

      Hi Don! I was actually having dinner with Dad when I got your message. I asked him if he remembered you—he does seem to remember everything from his past despite the brain damage, but this is just an exercise I do to get him to verbalize it—and he said “yeah!” and “judge” and “70.” Tell me if he got it right 😉

      And thanks for dropping by! For the destinations where I have multiple posts, you can either find them categorized by country (https://www.camelsandchocolate.com/places/) or state (https://www.camelsandchocolate.com/us-states/), which is a quick and easy way to filter if you’re looking for a specific destination. If I do shorten my posts from now on, I’ll be sure and link to all relevant ones in the series at the bottom so it’s still easy to find =)

  • January 10, 2017
    Karolyn

    I have been reading and loving your blog for at least 8 years. I enjoy each and every post and will continue to read no matter the length of the posts. I love to travel and have used many tips from your travel reviews. Keep up the great work. I follow many blogs and yours is #1 on my list!

    • January 12, 2017

      Ahh, Karolyn, you’re one of the OGs then! Thank you for your continued support and sticking with me so long =)

  • January 10, 2017
    Tom

    Kristin enjoyed the article. Thanks for the update on Greg. Hated we did not have a Karaoke Christmas. Miss you guys!

    • January 12, 2017

      Festivus (for the rest of us) must return in 2017!

  • January 11, 2017

    Loved catching up on your year Kristin! What an amazing and packed year you’ve had. Glad to see your dad is on the mend. Wishing you and your family a 2017 filled with so many blessings!
    Lola recently posted..Work Update: How 2016 went as a freelancer [Pie Chart]My Profile

    • January 12, 2017

      Thank you, friend! I can’t wait to read my favorite post of every year: the pie chart. =)

  • January 11, 2017

    Congratulations Kirsten, you’ve had a wonderful year, not only professionally, but personally too! People always forget that no matter your success, it’s nothing at all if you have no one to share it with. And judging by your lovely photographs, that isn’t an issue!

    And look at you, with your sparkly twirly dress, and fabulous silver shoes camera-hosting an event at a very respectable womans/fashion magazine! Your family and friends must be so proud. 🙂 🙂

    I look forward to what the future holds for you. It looks fantastically bright! xx
    Victoria @The British Berliner recently posted..How I can afford a life of travel. Don’t choose. Have it all! But you have to take action to get it!!My Profile

    • January 13, 2017

      Aww, Victoria, you’re just the bets, you know that? I adore you and hope someday we get to cement this friendship in person! Wait, I don’t hope, I KNOW =)

  • January 11, 2017

    I for one love the lengthy posts — and find it impossible to write briefly as well, anyway! And while I am wildly confused about SEO so don’t quote me on this, I think it actually may be on your side. My latest readings indicate that the new Google algorithm updates favor long-form, wordy posts like ours. Huzzah!
    Alex recently posted..New Year, New Passport Stamps: My Travel Plans for 2017My Profile

    • January 12, 2017

      I want to break mine up more for readability than the Google machine as most of my posts these days range from 1500 to 2000 words with 60 photos (eek), and that’s a bit excessive. I haven’t done it in the past due to time constraints but having tested a couple shorter 500 to 700-word posts seems to be more productive for me and allow me to write more days (instead of a lot longer posts on less days). In reality, it will probably vary based on the topic!

  • January 12, 2017

    Ah come on, never mind SEO. Write as much as you like and are comfortable with. If someone needs a break from reading, they can go make a cup of tea, or come back later.
    Zenobia recently posted..Past Ventures: Romans and SamnitesMy Profile

    • January 12, 2017

      Ha, I love you, Zenobia! To clarify, I wouldn’t be shortening because of SEO, but rather people’s attention span in the age of 140-character updates (and because my load time is starting to lag) 😉 My average time on post is eight minutes, which seems a little absurd, but then again, most posts usually range between 1500 and 2000 words. I’m thinking if I break them up into multiple posts (500 to 700 words), it will save me time and also allow people who just want a quick check-in during lunch break the opportunity to do that without their eyes crossing, ha!

  • January 12, 2017

    I have a crazy short attention span, but have never thought your posts were too lengthy – you do a great job of breaking them up with pretty things to look at (i.e. photos!)

    Re: skin care routine – check out Kiehl’s serums – Midnight Recovery Concentrate in the PM, Daily Reviving Concentrate in the AM. After about a month, my mom asked if I’d had work done! Also, formerly very oily skin, I haven’t used blotting paper in months!
    Leigh | Campfires & Concierges recently posted..Year in Review: 2016My Profile

    • January 12, 2017

      Well, that’s nice to hear! Sometimes I just think I rattle on and on and on…and someone needs to stop me. 😉

      That’s awesome as I was looking for a serum and a toner. Thanks for the rec, Leigh! Total beauty product newbie here.

  • January 15, 2017

    I’m the opposite. Not wordy enough. 🙂 So cool to see what you’ve been up to!
    suki recently posted..#bestday2017 – a new Twitter projectMy Profile

    • January 20, 2017

      I mean, I wish I could be more like you most of the time, Suki! =) #verbaldiarrhea

  • January 18, 2017

    Really glad to know your father is doing well, Kristin. Thank you for this wonderful blog post

    • January 20, 2017

      Thank you, Shawn! Gradual improvement, but improvement nonetheless =)

  • January 18, 2017

    The photos are so wonderful! I just feel all this cuteness and warmth :3

    • January 20, 2017

      Ah, thank you so much, Agness! =)

  • January 19, 2017

    Great goals for 2017! We did the whole30 last year as a family. I really want to do it again before the Summer. We are going to Hawaii in May. I love the Hair btw 🙂
    tanya recently posted..How to Analyze What Type of Security Measures Your Business NeedsMy Profile

    • January 20, 2017

      Thank you, Tanya! I’m still loving it and think I might go even redder next time =)

      Funny, we were planning to go to Hawaii in May, as well, but just found out a wedding is going to thwart those plans. Which island will you be visiting?

  • January 22, 2017

    Hi Kristin,
    Love this blog so much and it’s really enjoyable reading you, but am still wondering how did you combine Camels & Choclate. How it comes to your head this idea??
    Camel & Desert or Choclate & Milk we can understand it, But Camels & Choclate?!! It just make me laugh (HAHAHA LOL)..
    Keep up the great work

  • January 24, 2017

    Thank you, Kristin. Very Inspiring post for those how just started their blogs. I love reading your post. A Very Nice looking family you have. Amazing photos. Loved it:)

  • January 27, 2017

    Is it weird that I have been thinking about this post for weeks now? I’ve been trying to formulate clear thoughts on this. Specifically on your blog size. If you are a long time reader (like I am) you’ve sort of trained us for the longer posts. We grab a coffee, a cup of wine or glass a beer and settle into all things Kristin. We know for the most part we are going to get that once a week. Now a lot of readers may have ADD (so many people do!) and can’t handle the long ones, but I am not so sure they can handle multiple posts a week either – “oh, here’s another one from Camels & Chocolate. That’s three this week. Jeez, I’m behind!” I can’t seem to articulate this the way I want it so it sounds right, but hopefully you follow me. Also, it is nearly impossible for me to write a 30 word post. Most of mine are close to 1000 whether I try to or not. And apparently….I can’t write a short comment either!
    Andi recently posted..Weekly Wanderings #54 – Zion/On the RoadMy Profile

    • January 28, 2017

      Ha, same! Basically, I have SO much more to share than I currently am so I’m trying to get into a every-other-day routine where I’m not constricted by word count either way (too long OR too short). Trying to get back to my C&C roots a decade ago where I’d write more about everyday things because not everyone wants to read about travel day in, day out (and my most popular posts are always my writing/insider baseball knowledge one!). And as someone who is definitely ADD, I appreciate reading short posts from others.

      In other words, I have no answers, but I’m trying to break the perfectionist cycle and do what I’m feeling instead of thinking: “Oh man, it’s Friday. I’ve got to write a 1500-word blog post with 60 photos” and dread it, if that makes sense =)

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