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Julie Kern: Co-Founder & Blogger at Wanderlove

Julie Kern has always been the go-to source of advice among her group of friends, but it was only recently that she decided to channel her worldly wisdom into a lucrative side gig. Julie founded online magazine Wanderlove in July 2015 to encourage the next wave of 20-something females to get out and explore the world by providing inspirational content and branded events. 

As this month’s Millennial Maker, Julie shares the story behind Wanderlove and her vision to build an inclusive and empowering brand that inspires others to step outside of their comfort zones.

What inspired you to start Wanderlove?

In August of 2013, I traded my media planner job at Weiden + Kennedy NYC for a one-way ticket to Asia with one of my oldest friends. What was meant to be a two month trip turned into almost an eight month journey across seven countries. I trekked 12 days to Everest Base Camp in Nepal and bought a $280 Yamaha motorbike in Vietnam.

When I ran out of money, I booked the next flight home to California, settled back into “normal” life and and got another media job.  Soon after returning, friends and strangers alike started coming out of the woodwork to ask about our trip, and soon we found ourselves writing out these epic responses. We realized that people felt like they could trust us for advice about where and when they should travel and were comfortable enough to ask hard questions like how we pulled it off financially. It made us realize that we have the power and passion to inspire others to travel. 

How does traveling inspire you to have a greater sense of purpose?

For me, traveling is 100% about the people I meet. From seeing how other people live across the world, to connecting with other travelers on the road, traveling highlights the importance of human connection. I know that’s a little cliche, but when I think back on my memories from traveling, they are mostly of the people I’ve met along the way, rather than what I did. There are so many people in this world who are living a life very different to my own. It’s humbling, and it inspires me to get out there and learn from them.

From seeing how other people live across the world, to connecting with other travelers on the road, traveling highlights the importance of human connection.

What do you believe has contributed to the rise of the female solo traveler? What role does community play in your travels?

Our generation is in constant pursuit of personal fulfillment and traveling absolutely contributes to that, so it makes perfect sense why everyone wants to give it a try!  As far as the rise in solo female travelers, I like to think it’s’ because of brands like Girls Love Travel and Alex in Wanderland (and hopefully Wanderlove). Thanks to social media, women who have already traded their apartments for suitcases can share their experiences with the rest of us. It makes other girls realize that traveling alone is not that scary after all! It’s actually empowering. This is the kind of community that Wanderlove exists for. We want to be that source of empowerment. 

How do you balance operating in a constantly-connected digital world with your audience and blog while still finding time to unplug and unwind? What routines help spark your own creativity? 

Still working on this one. Sometimes I feel like my phone is glued to my hand and I hate it, and other times I boycott my WhatsApp for weeks at a time (also, not good). To combat these extremes, my Co-Founder Jess and I have figured out that if we schedule in “work sessions” we can get stuff done, and then go back to being “normal” backpackers the remainder of the time. Sometimes it’s an hour each morning, and other times we’ll hole up for two days and take care of everything at once. That being said, I know that my best writing is done spontaneously, so when I’m feeling that writing groove, I just go for it.

What inspired Wanderlove's shift from to purely creating and sharing content to organizing your own retreats and further developing your own brand?

One thing that’s very important to us about Wanderlove is to make it an inclusive brand. We often see travel bloggers coming off as overly aspirational rather than attainable, which just gives everyone FOMO instead of equipping them with the tools to make it their own reality. To do this, we’ve attempted to modify the traditional travel blogger role and expand from a personal narrative blog to building an entire community where we invite other travelers to contribute editorial and share our social account. Now we’ve even started hosting events for our followers. This has been our vision from the beginning, so we’re really excited to finally reach our first milestone: we’ve convinced 15 girls to go with us to Panama!

We often see travel bloggers coming off as overly aspirational rather than attainable, which just gives everyone FOMO instead of equipping them with the tools to make it their own reality.

We noticed you recently decided to collaborate with Grayl for the Panama retreat. How do you pick and choose brands to work with? 

We’re excited to work with Grayl because plastic water bottle waste is a massive problem in developing countries without clean water supply and we are committed to reducing our impact on the places we visit. In terms of choosing brands to work with, we are VERY picky about our partnerships. We want to maintain our authenticity so we only partner with brands that we would use or purchase from ourselves. 

Most memorable travel moment? 

Reaching Everest Base Camp after 8 days of walking through snow, wind and altitude. There were a lot of tears...mostly of happiness  

Favorite travel spot?

Indonesia

Number one bucket list destination? 

Raja Ampat, West Papua

Words to live by? 

Always wear a helmet