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Before They Were Famous: Kristin Luna

Back in the day, Kristin Luna’s definition of ‘adventure’ was cow-tipping and bowling a strike in her small hometown of Tullahoma, Tennessee.  But it didn’t take long for Kristin to realize that the true meaning of ‘adventure’ was to circumnavigate the globe as a travel writer.  As the author of the travel blog Camels & Chocolate and frequent guidebook contributor, Kristin has the job many dream of.  See how she transformed her humble beginning into big travel ambition in this week’s Before They Were Famous.

Name: Kristin Luna

Website/Blog: Camels & Chocolate

Twitter: LunaticAtLarge

Facebook: Camels & Chocolate

Pinterest: LunaticAtLarge

What’s New: I recently co-founded a digital strategy firm, Odinn Media, with my husband Scott that focuses on increasing online exposure for independent companies in the tourism and hospitality industry in non-metro areas.

I grew up in the very rural South—a small town in Tennessee by the name of Tullahoma—where our only forms of entertainment as children were going to the bowling alley or cow tipping. (You think I’m joking…but I’m not.) Our claim to fame is being “15 minutes from the Jack Daniels Distillery.”

It was a great place to grow up, though, as we were a mere hour from Nashville, an hour and change from Chattanooga and not far from the Smoky Mountains.

My first plane ride…
Was to California when I was nine months old. Apparently, I cried the whole time (I’ve since mastered that whole flying thing.) As kids, my sister and I were privileged to get to do a good deal of traveling around the United States. She hit all 50 states at the age of 21; I’m still lingering at 49 (Iowa continues to evade me).

In high school…
I was an athlete in every sense of the word.  I played pretty much every sport from the time I could walk, including soccer and tennis, which I later played in college, as well. But I was one of those odd “jocks” who not only excelled at sports, but was in the show choir (we performed at Disney World) and competed in math competitions (I places third in the state in Calculus II). An odd mix of talents, that’s for sure!

My earliest memory of being intrigued by travel…
In high school, my mom took our family to England for Thanksgiving one year and me to Italy just before I graduated. We also did a bit of traveling to the Caribbean and Mexico. But I didn’t really become a traveler until the summer between my sophomore and junior years in college when I decided to backpack solo around Europe—my first time going abroad for a long stint of time, and alone at that.

I studied abroad…
At University of Edinburgh following my backpacking trip and fell in love with Scotland—if it weren’t for jobs, the weather and that whole visa issue, that would be where I settle down permanently.

After graduating with a bachelor of science in journalism and electronic media from the University of Tennessee, I moved to New York to take a job in the magazine industry and then studied abroad again for a year, this time as a post-graduate in Utrecht, Netherlands and Aarhus, Denmark. I got my first guidebook gig that year, working on a collaboration series for MTV and Frommer’s out of Spain, and it was then that I knew I wanted a career that involved travel, despite all the frustrations of being a travel writer. During my college years, I was fully invested in sports reporting, but realized that’s a difficult industry to break into as a woman, so I redirected my career path to figure out how I could maximize travel and minimize my time in an office.

It didn’t happen overnight, though. When I returned to New York, I jumped head first back into the magazine world, working in the offices of Entertainment Weekly and Lucky magazine in New York, covering the red carpet for a number of pop culture mags on nights and weekends, and doing contributor gigs for Forbes Traveler, the Travel Channel, and other travel and lifestyles publications. I later moved to California for four years where I wrote a handful of guidebooks for Frommer’s and hundreds of travel pieces for newspapers and consumer magazines all over the United States—and the globe.

The oddest thing I’ve ever done to pay the bills was…
When I was hired by Hasbro to write questions for three new editions of Trivial Pursuit. It was challenging, but also a whole lot of fun—I mean, isn’t that every game-lover’s dream job?

The most awesome job I’ve ever had…
Was one that enabled me to circumnavigate the globe by ship: In 2011, I worked for Semester at Sea in the field office after my sister sailed as a student in 2010; I was hired back for a voyage earlier this year as the communications coordinator and plan on going back as often as they’ll have me. I figure if I can’t keep studying abroad as a student, the second best thing is working for the most awesome study abroad program out there, right?

If I could travel with anyone it would be…
Taylor Swift.  I’ve interviewed a lot of celebrities throughout my career, but she is my Holy Grail. I think we would have a ridiculous amount of fun visiting cheesy tourist traps and doing impromptu singalongs along the way.

And if she wasn’t free, then hey, I’d settle for Sir Richard Branson. I had the pleasure of interviewing him many moons ago and stayed at his sister’s riad in Morocco last year.  A more interesting individual does not exist.

Courtney Scott

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