Kae Lani Kennedy joined the MatadorU community back in 2011 when she was blogging about her travels as a hobby. Five years later she is Matador Network’s Social Media Manager and a freelance writer. She says she is “surprised to see how far this career path has taken me, but I’m even more surprised by how much further I can take my career.” The multi-talented Kae Lani also dabbles in drone filmmaking:

What course(s) did you take at MatadorU?

I took the Travel Writing course back in 2011.

What travel media projects and/or jobs do you have on the go at the moment?

I’ve held a lot of odd writing gigs before getting into the travel industry full time. I worked as a real estate writer in Philadelphia. I was a content strategist at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Penn. I was a producer for a dance publication. I was even a staff food writer for FoodableTV. Eventually, I started getting freelance travel writing gigs for Matador Network, Yahoo Travel, and Budget Travel. But all of the hustling was worth it because now I am on staff at Matador Network as the Social Media Manager and a sometimes writer!

What accomplishment (inside or outside of the U) since joining MatadorU are you proud of most?

Since joining the Matador Network team full time last May, it’s been a nonstop ride. Shortly after joining, the Matador team won an international drone video competition, and my social media team won a Skiftie award for being the Most Effective Brand on Social Media in 2015! But my proudest moment was [in February] — I had the opportunity to travel to Panama and represent Matador Network at a conference for bloggers and influencers in Latin America. It was my first time speaking in front of an audience and I was the keynote speaker! It was amazing to speak to people who are Matador Network fans, but what was even cooler was that I was able to share my passion for travel with people from another culture who love travel as much as I do.

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How did MatadorU prepare you for those?

The MatadorU travel writing course made me realize that travel writing is way more social than I expected. Even though some of travel writing is reflecting on the experience you have in a place, there’s a lot about travel writing that requires an exchange between your experiences, and the experiences of other travelers.

MatadorU also taught me how to think beyond bucket lists and points of interest, and to connect with people. Because it’s truly people that make the place.

What was the most important takeaway from your experience at MatadorU?

Taking criticism, which is always hard to take, even when it’s constructive. But after taking the MatadorU course, I now crave input from my peers. I see every project I work on as an opportunity to be my best and become my best.

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What did you enjoy most about your MatadorU experience?

I enjoyed learning about the different approaches to writing and journalism. It was an experience that really helped me find my authentic voice, which is something I carry with me beyond writing and into life.

What was the biggest benefit of joining the MatadorU community?

MatadorU put me on the career path that I am on today. Without the MatadorU course, I would not have made the contacts or gained the experiences I use every day at work.

What would you say to anyone considering getting into travel media as a career, for supplemental income, or even as a hobby?

I am still stunned that I can make a living from something that I love. Even when I wasn’t full time, having the extra income doing something I’m passionate about was really exciting.

Even if people are thinking about travel writing as a hobby, think of it as getting a deeper knowledge and deeper appreciation of your hobby. Just like people can take a photography class, a cooking class, or a pottery class, taking courses with MatadorU can get you to the next level of your hobby, as well as connect you to others who enjoy travel writing as much as you do.