Katie McKnoulty and The Travelling Light
I love the young ones!! I love to be surrounded by people of all ages, there is so much to learn from babies, kids, teenagers and beautiful gals like Katie McNoulty in their 30’s. She’s a writer, photographer and digital nomad and I just adore this term, on the go with a computer and a passport. Recently, Katie became a nomad of another kind. On the blog today, read what inspires Katie and all the good and beauty she is bringing to the world.
Your beautiful blog The Travelling Light takes us with you on your travels to over almost 40 countries! What initially attracted you to a path of nomadic travel and inspired your blog? How was life different before you started The Travelling Light and did you have an inkling that there was another lifestyle that you needed to explore?
The idea for The Travelling Light definitely came first, before the nomadic idea. I was working in travel marketing, for a tourism board and then an airline, and I had such a strong urge to create travel guide books that were a bit different; that only featured really beautiful, unique, smaller, lesser-known places. I wanted to make guide books for the kind of travel I liked to do because I was convinced that the generic, one-size-fits-all travel info out there, telling you to go to Big Ben or visit the Eiffel Tower, was not covering the entire gamut of travel possibilities! But the road to publish a book is long so I settled on making a blog to publish the project instead. The ideas swished around and sometimes just sat still in my head for about two years before I actually started working on it! After about 10 months of collecting content and creating the brand and website, I then finally launched it and it felt so good and my life moved very quickly in a very good direction after that. A lot of fortuitous things have happened in my life as a result of starting The Travelling Light.
I started living nomadically at first just by dipping my toes in the water and then kind of doing the full jump! Before The Travelling Light, I was living in London, working a 9-5 job and found myself pretty unhappy after living there and working for a year. I definitely thought there was another life I had to explore but I thought it was in advertising/creative agencies. I tried to get my foot in the door in that world but all the doors seemed very closed to me actually. My first freelance client was also my life coach at the time, I did her branding and marketing work in exchange for sessions to begin with. It went well and in time she started paying me and she didn’t care where I was in the world when I did the work. So the first seeds of nomadic life started to take root from there. I remember there was some point where I realised I wasn’t going to try to look for a regular job anymore and was just going to take off to the U.S. and work online and travel and see how long I could last until my money ran out! There have been ups and downs since but there’s never been a point where I thought I couldn’t keep making it work; work and clients for my Brand and Marketing consulting work always seem to show up when I need them.
You have a beautiful warm photographic style and your writing is always incredibly insightful, refreshing and personal at the same time. Did you see yourself as a creative from a young age and know it could be a career option for you or something you considered later? What were some of the steps you took to create The Travelling Light blog as we know and love today?
I always knew I loved writing, I read so much growing up. My Mum would deliver me travel memoir after travel memoir to read as a teenager, they were always some variation of a girl finding herself in a very foreign country and navigating and eventually finding her place in that place. I wanted to study and become a journalist but practicality won in the end, so I ended up studying Marketing and French at University instead knowing that marketing could be a pretty creative career involving communicating. In my marketing jobs, I was working with travel photography and photographers a lot, as well as copywriters and graphic designers. This part of the job was always my favourite. I learned so much just watching all these creatives work. I never thought I could be creative myself until I bought my first camera (in Tokyo, Japan!) and started writing and taking photos for my blog project.
For The Travelling Light, I was all about figuring out the feeling, the look and feel and meaning of what I wanted to say first. I’m all about branding being a Brand and Marketing Consultant in my freelance work! Then I had lots of fun on my travels over the next 10 months collecting lots of stories and images to publish. I spent a month holed up in rural Italy working on creating the website myself at all hours of the day and night. I remember it then just sat there for quite a while and finally a few months later my friend gave me the final push to put it all out there; she said ‘just ship it’ haha! So I ‘shipped it’. Over the next year I was posting regularly from my travels and slowly collecting a few readers here and there but I think it was mostly just friends and family to be honest reading it all. But I didn’t care, I loved creating that content so much and I think that came through in the final product. After a year of posting just for the love of it, I got a few ‘big breaks’ where women’s magazines from all over the world and travel sites I admired so much started posting my content and including me in lists of bloggers to follow and it’s snowballed from there.
Looking back on your journey, how did your blog and travels evolve over time? Do you choose and plan exactly where you want to go next and explore?
As time has gone on, the site has become not only about sharing my travels but also about sharing my personal, emotional and spiritual journey as a nomadic freelancer living a weird life. I started to figure out that that’s something people found interesting and helpful! I also started to meet the people living in all these amazing places I wanted to visit and found their stories inspiring so I started interviewing them for the site too.
My travels have evolved just to become slower and slower until I’ve now found myself wanting to live minimum 4-6 months in one place before picking up and moving again. I had started to feel like I needed more of a stable base to travel from. At the start, I was happy to move to a new place every month or even less, and it was really dictated by friends I knew with a spare room or couch I could crash on or a place with lots of affordable Airbnb listings. I also really mapped out where I wanted to explore and cover for the site at the start and I really pushed myself to visit them all. But over time I learned that the best stories were always the ones I didn’t plan, and the best places were always ones I found by chance or by someone taking me to them, not by lots of internet research. So I learned to chill and trust on the travel planning a bit which has been much more enjoyable.
You’ve been featured in The New York Magazine, People Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan Magazine’s ‘Top Instagrammers to Follow’ lists to name a few. Do you have any special advice for someone who is considering making a career change into something more creative? Is there a way to work out what your personal brand or expression could be?
My best advice would be to find a vehicle to practice on and explore your creative talents. You just need to spend time in the energy of that creative pursuit and feel that good feeling you get from doing it, and then more opportunities to keep doing it will show up, I promise! But you also need to spend time doing that creative thing because you will need to hone your skills. It’s amazing to me looking back at old photos I took or articles I wrote and at the time I thought they were flawless and now I cringe! And I’m sure that will continue to happen as I keep getting better and looking back. So you just need to spend hours and hours doing it I think. But I think you can start slowly and maybe start working for free too, you can start taking photos of your friends, you can create a website for someone you know to test the waters, you don’t need to dive straight in and quit everything, it can be process of taking the pedal slowly off your current career and slowly putting it onto a new creative one. Whatever needs to happen in your life will happen when you’re ready. It’s true what everyone says when they say, ‘just start’.
Taking the leap into the unknown and following your heart is a hugely rewarding path that takes a lot of courage. What have been the biggest challenges for you in launching your creative life? Did you always know it would work out?
I think believing in myself and my talents has been the hardest challenge for me. When you love doing something and it comes naturally to you, the way that creating communication pieces, writing and taking photos now do for me, you can’t really see from the outside why you should get paid to do it or why that could be valuable to someone else. It’s hard to recognise your value when it’s so in you I think. But every time I reach a new level of understanding my value and believing in what I have to offer, a new, more exciting level of work shows up for me. So I really believe that changing the internal world first, working through those uncomfortable negative thoughts and turning them around, is the best way to move forward in a creative life.
I kind of did think it would work out, my creative life, but I kind of didn’t at the same time. There never was a point where I thought, ‘oh well it’s time to pack up and go home and get a real job Katie.’ But the fear of that moment coming has always hung in the back of my mind and ruled my life and decisions a lot I think. I think I’ve always had an attitude of ‘well you better make this work because going home’s not an option’ so I’ve lived out of a fear a lot over the years. But of course going home is always an option, Australia’s a pretty beautiful place! But I’ve unearthed this strange background thought recently and am doing some good work on letting it go and living from a place of trust instead, of knowing that if it doesn’t end up working out here in this nomadic existence it’s only because there’s something better waiting for me somewhere else.
One of the best things about The Travelling Light Instagram and blog is the level of realness and authenticity in your posts. Has it come naturally to you to always feel able to talk openly and share your story with the world?
Absolutely not! I remember when I first started writing blog posts and social media posts for The Travelling Light I would completely obsess over every letter and syllable. And I was only talking about cool places to visit back then! In time, I started to find it exhilarating sharing my deeper, more honest thoughts, and I found it exhilarating too that people out there on the internet could connect and relate to them and share their own similar thoughts. That started to become addictive sharing on a deeper level. I started to ask myself before I posted on social media, ‘what is the thing that’s really going on for you today, what do you really think?’ I think started to try to share that kind of thing more and I noticed that people connected with it and I mean, that’s what social media and blogging are about right? They’re about connecting with each other.
We’d love to know what’s up next for ‘The Travelling Light’? And lastly, what would you say to yourself if you could go all the way back to the beginning of your journey when you were just starting out?
I’ve just moved to rural Italy to be closer to nature and to loved ones and to just chill out so getting situated here is up next! But also up next for the The Travelling Light is a website refresh – I want to focus more on sharing stories from people, myself and tips and articles too on living a life of your own design, of finding and following your own light. I would also love to start making videos from my travels and interviews as I just find that you can tell such a rich story through video and honing that craft would be a huge challenge. I’d love to produce a coffee table book too! Plus in the next few weeks I’ll be launching my new website for my branding agency, The Light Studio where we help emerging businesses with brand and social media strategy, content creation and some other creative services.
If I could go back to the beginning, I’d tell myself that all those sneaking suspicions and intuitions I had about my life and how it was going to unfold were right and to not worry. I’d tell myself that I deserved to have everything I wanted and dreamed of as long as it was in alignment with the higher good. I’d tell myself that my creative ideas were good, my talents were valuable and to just trust them and put them out there more!
Loved reading this story about Katie and The Travelling Light. Fabulous interview, Carla, getting right to the heart of where and how it all began and allowing us to see Katie in her beautiful light. Inspiring!
Deeply grateful for Katie sharing her story and oath, so helpful and inspiring to others ❤️