The following article is a transcript of Vibrant Visionaries Podcast – Episode 3.
Welcome back to Vibrant Visionaries. I’m Heidi Bennett. Today, I have invited on a friend from, oh my gosh, all the way back to high school. We’ve known each other for quite a while and we’ve both done a little bit of relocating over the ages and we’ve both traveled the world and elsewhere, as they say on spinal tap. Today we’re both actually back in Cali, at least for right now. Aurelia d’Andrea.
Thank you for inviting me. I’m stoked to be here.
Yeah, I’m stoked to have you here. So funny, I said back to Cali and you put a stoked right in there, which is great because I was just working on my Patreon page today, which I might mention a little bit later, and I wrote the word stoked in there. I said, yup, that’s definitely me.
That’s a definite California-ism. I know, sometimes those words kind of pop out when I don’t expect them.
Yeah, our true colors are shown. So Aurelia, I let you know this was coming, but you’re definitely a multi creative and those are the types of folks that I have on this podcast. What is it that you would say you do?
Well, first and foremost, I consider myself a writer and editor. I have a degree in journalism and my goal when I was coming out of journalism school, actually all throughout journalism school was to leave with my degree and go travel the world and get paid for it as a travel writer. It turns out everybody wanted to do that and there are not a load of jobs fitting that ideal description. Basically, I’ve had to, over the years, come up with my own dream jobs and create them myself. I do have steady gigs. I have a couple of freelance clients that I worked for regularly and those are editing jobs and writing jobs that pay the bills. For the creative stuff, I mean there’s creativity there, but the really creative stuff comes when I am out in the world and my brain can relax.
Ideas just flow in and when the muse strikes, I follow her and sometimes that means starting a new business or a new project like an event. I go where the creative invites me to go. What I do for a living is the writing and the editing part because that’s what brings in the money, but my real passion lies in all of the other kind of creative things. One of the challenges of being a creative is learning how to or developing ways to make your financial life come together with your creative life. My main client is VegNews Magazine. I have been with that magazine basically since I graduated very late with my journalism degree back in 2004 I think. I was an older graduate and that was my first journalism job out of school.
I started out as a columnist and then the managing editor and then eventually the editorial director there before realizing that nine to five or the reality was more like nine to 10 at night. Desk job wasn’t for me, but I’ve kept my ties with the magazine and the publisher. She was kind enough to reach out to me with job offers over the years to do things that weren’t the full-time gig, but things that I could do remotely. We have a production cycle every other month. There’s a big rush of things like rounds of edits or this is when … I’m the travel and beauty editor there, so I’ll have stories that I’m working on bimonthly. Then I have other smaller gigs that also bring in money. I do social media for some folks and that kind of thing. It’s a combination of gigs all cobbled together that help make ends meet.
I’m curious, Aurelia, you mentioned that becoming a journalist was sort of a later in life pursuit. How is it that you came about deciding to go back to school and become a journalist?
Well, I guess it would begin with my first job that I really loved that I just was so happy to be working for a cause that I believed in. That was the San Francisco SPCA. I worked there for seven years. I had a job that it was very creative. It was in line with my personality in that every day was a little bit different. It was exciting. I got to work for a nonprofit that helped animals and that it was very important to me. It was a job that I really worked hard to get, but over the course of those seven years I did get little mini promotions, but I hit a ceiling where I was told by my boss, Lynn, who is a good friend of mine now that I couldn’t advance any further. I couldn’t make any more money really.
I could make a little bit more money, but I couldn’t get another job title, so I would remain a public information … I couldn’t be a specialist so I don’t remember what my title was, but anyway, so the only way I could get to the next level was if I had a degree. It was something that always bothered me. I kind of felt intellectually inferior or at least I felt like I was perceived that way by other people by not having a degree. In 2000, I quit that job and I took a little break and went traveling for a couple of months and then started school in the fall. It took me a few years to get my journalism degree, but it was a great thing to be doing at that time in my life. I don’t think I would’ve been able to do it at a younger age.
I had gone to college as a teenager and I think I was 17, 18, 19. I did a little stint in a community college, but I wasn’t ready I don’t think for the kind of learning that you get when you’re really passionate about something and when you are driven and motivated in a way that isn’t just like … I think when you’re 17, 18, you’re trying to figure yourself out and also maybe appeasing your parents’ desire for you to get an advanced education. That’s how I ended up at school as a 30 something year old.
Yeah, I think those are really good points. I definitely didn’t know when I was a teen, what it is that I was really passionate about except for having a good time but I definitely felt like I knew I needed to get a job and get my first apartment and all that kind of stuff. Then it wasn’t until much later experimenting with different occupations and following my passions and my values. That’s something I know we talked about a few years back when I first started my coaching career and you’re one of my clients and we talked about your values. I’m wondering how your values have driven decision making over the last few years about how you followed your career path and travel adventures too.
Let’s see. First and foremost, what’s important to me is to be acting in a way that’s compassionate toward other people and toward animals. You know that I’m an ethical vegan and that is really for the last probably the last 15 years that’s been my main motivating force in the work that I produce and everything that I have done since those days when I was in university. My first published story was an animal rights story that won an award in my university. I went to San Francisco State, in our university magazine. I found my voice advocating for animals through journalism but just in life as I moved through life, that has been a core value that I carry with me. I think it’s important to understand that life is short.
Our lives on this planet are relatively short and we really need to do what we’re here to do and I believe that something that I was put here to do is to help animals in some way. Even though I’m not one of those people who can go out and picket at the circus, I tried that one. That was terrible. My way of doing activism is to be a good example, to use the skills that I have. For example, teaching cooking classes, or sharing the love of vegan travel with others to help spread the message in a way that’s in alignment with my values. I don’t know if that answers your question.
Yeah, no, it absolutely does. I think that I feel like when we are driven by our values rather than, you mentioned earlier when maybe we’re pleasing our parents or pleasing other people or following what we feel like society might be expecting of us, or acting from a place of fear or expectation or any of these other drivers that those really muddy what kind of impact we can have in the world. When we do examine our values and then let those help sort of guide us like a North star to what we like to do. I feel like what I’ve experienced and what some of my clients and friends have experienced is that it’s just easier to make decisions because you know, they have to align with your way of doing things and what’s most important to you.
I really liked that you brought up leading by example and sharing through these community building activities like teaching a cooking class or doing vegan travel. That sounds really fun and exciting and engaging and interesting rather than yelling at somebody on Twitter. There’s a place for a lot of different ways to be an activist or an advocate. These are long-lasting experiences to go with you on these adventures and learn about how maybe a product is made or get to pet a goat or you know, be out in nature and travel by bicycle and all these things. These are experiences that have a huge impact.
I’d really love to hear more about that too because I feel like one of the things that really stuck out to me about you after we left high school. I say left because I didn’t officially graduate from that school, but after that I just had this thing in the back of my head of knowing Aurelia is out there. She’s traveling by herself or with some other folks. You always seemed like someone drawn to travel and so I’d love to hear more about where that came from and just, yeah, more about your love of travel. Anything you feel like sharing.
Well, thank you for asking. It’s something I love to talk about because it is one of my life’s great passions. Traveling, I don’t know where my desire for travel and new experiences comes from. I don’t know if it’s nature or nurture. I do know that as a kid we moved around a lot and I went to … I don’t even know how many elementary schools, probably at least five maybe or more. I don’t know. I was used to that kind of itinerant way of life from a young age and actually I was even born in another country. I was born in Mexico. My parents were expats who moved there to be inspired by a new place, kind of the same way that I have done in my life, which is weird when you think about it. There’s been a lot of traveling in my life.
One of the reasons why I love traveling so much, it’s a combination of things. One is like it reinforces your sense of being alive. You’re out in the world, you’re out of your comfort zone and you’re meeting new people. You’re realizing that we are more alike than we are not, even when you don’t speak the same language, even if you don’t share the same kind of dietary habit. We share so much in common and it kind of makes me, I don’t know, it kind of touches something like deep in my soul, I guess you could say, knowing that we are connected, that we are really are all connected. Also, as a person who identifies as being a creative, being out in the world is definitely a font of ideas and inspiration and color and smells and languages and just new sights.
That kind of sense of novelty, it motivates me in a way and it strikes a weird kind of chord in my creative spirit that new ideas always come to me when I am out in a new place without fail. Any interesting idea that I’ve ever had that I’ve made come to life. For example, I remember being in Italy, I was reading a book, I don’t know if you know Danielle LaPorte? I was reading one of her books on an island in Italy off the coast of Italy and I got a stroke of inspiration to do a women’s wellness retreat. That was such a formative experience for me. That was about three years ago I think. I went ahead and did it and it was like scary and exciting and a real experiment, but it’s kind of laid the foundation for what I’m doing now with my career.
Other ideas that have come to me while traveling have been, I did a vegan festival here in this town that I just moved to that you are familiar with, Nevada City. Coming here was like a travel experience, coming to a new place that you haven’t lived in for several decades and seeing what’s missing and filling a void. I could come up with a gazillion examples along those lines, but just we’re being out in the world and not in my usual comfort zone has really helped expand my horizons on a literal and figurative levels.
Thank you so much for sharing that. I think that’s something that can kind of get lost when we’re just looking at say an Instagram post. You’re one of my favorite people to follow because you really have a sense of humor and a connection to just real everyday life. Like yes, there are some travelogue, lovely photos in there and some cute photos of your dog and you and your husband. But also, the one that strikes my mind is the cold pizza from the night before. These are real life experiences. Most people know what it’s like to say, you know, either I don’t have time to make a beautiful Instagram worthy breakfast or oops, I forgot my pizza in the oven last night but I’m going to eat it anyway. I really appreciate your candidness and just real life-ness about how you share your world. I feel like that contributes to that feeling that we’re all, you know, we’re all not so different.
Thank you. Yeah, and the pizza in the oven thing happens with frightening regularity, but I have a love hate like so many people do, a love hate relationship with social media. I do believe that authenticity is where it’s at and so much of what we look at is not authentic. I feel like so many of us spend more time, like we should really just be living those moments and not necessarily feeling like we have to chronicle them. The other day I was at the Yuba River and I was standing there and all of a sudden I looked in the sky and I saw this enormous bird. It turned out to be an osprey, fly down the river, dive into the water, collect a fish in its talons and then fly back like right in front of my nose.
I could see the fish still wriggling and it was just the definition of awe-inspiring. It was so amazing and normally, I don’t know, I think I was just so dumbstruck. Normally, I would be reaching for my phone to like take a picture of it or film it, but instead I just stood there and watched it and that memory of that it’s like it buoyed me this whole week. I’m just so inspired by nature and how amazing something like to have been able to witness that without the filter of Instagram or Facebook or whatever but that’s a whole another story.
No, that’s a great, great example of that and I definitely have those times in my life from like, okay, you do not need to document this one or picture. You could just enjoy it as it is and then other times I also feel like documenting a moment with a picture actually kind of helps anchor that memory too. It can work both ways and also for creative people, I think capturing things with a photo is a visual storytelling that a lot of us enjoy. That push pull of connecting through social media can be something that being mindful of it is this feeling like an obligation or is it feeling natural and something that I’m feeling called to do and enjoy sharing. I think it’s just checking in with yourself back and forth.
I definitely have really benefited from writing and reposting something regularly on social media that says something to the effect of don’t get distracted by social media. I post that for others and as equally for myself. Sometimes I’ll pop back onto Twitter and then go, oh, the last thing I posted was don’t get distracted by social media and then I’ll pop right back off but I like to do that. They’re kind of like bumper stickers for myself, like little posts that I’m putting up sometimes I’ll just have somebody say, “Oh, thanks for the reminder, see you later.” Going out into the world to enjoy my day, but there is a call to connect when we aren’t traveling or if we’re feeling isolated because we’re doing a creative pursuit here.
Maybe you and I have, we’re both podcasters, so we’re going to record a conversation with somebody and then edit for several hours and that editing can feel quite isolating. Sometime popping in to check in on what other people are doing can really connect us. Now I try to do that through a quick little text with a good friend. Just kind of check in with them that way. Like tonight, I have a dinner date with a buddy who I haven’t seen in a while and I’m looking forward to seeing her in person.
It sounds like fun. Yeah, that’s something I have found as a freelancer, as self-employed person working from home. I really have to make the time to have face time with other people. Otherwise, I risk becoming a hermit, which is easy for me to do because I’m a bit of an introvert. One of the hardest things about moving from a big city where I’ve lived for most of my adult life to a smaller town is I can’t just walk out my door and be surrounded by human beings the way that I could in San Francisco or Paris and I miss that. It’s made me restructure things a bit so that I create the time. I make coffee dates with friends and drink dates or dinner dates or whatnot and stick to them and make sure that I don’t become a social hermit or become too isolated here. It’s definitely a thing that freelancers, especially people who identify as introverts have to be aware of and kind of plan for in their lives.
Yeah. I’ve definitely spoken with folks who identify as creatives and are freelancers and consider themselves to be an introvert. It can be quite lovely in one way where you are easily entertaining yourself or you know, you don’t need quite as much outside stoking. Yeah, I’ve heard the term HSP or Highly Sensitive Person and I think that that something I relate to sometimes where I feel I can’t connect with people very easily out in the world because I’m actually disturbed and agitated by sounds. Then other times it’s not as big of a deal, but it’s a little different than being introverted I think but it is a struggle of mine.
That’s interesting, you’ve just made me think about a friend of mine who if there’s a baby crying at a restaurant, she’ll go and ask the people to make their baby be quiet, which I’m not a parent, but I would imagine that if it was that easy they would already be doing that. But now I have a new sense of compassion for my friend who’ve said that because I just thought that was crazy. I would hide in a corner if she did that around me, like went to confront somebody whose baby was making noise. Maybe if it’s a truly, I don’t know if that’s a biological thing or I mean if it’s harming your ears or disturbing you mentally or physically, then it’s understandable, I guess.
Yeah. I think we just need to make decisions on how we can live in the world and still function and still connect. Sometimes it is a matter of advocating for yourself and sometimes I do just spend a little more time by myself during those times and it’s fine. It’s interesting. It is a place for compassion, like you said, and as we travel and we’re in another people’s stories and interview folks on podcasts and everything, we get to learn more and more.
Well before we wrap up today, I was wondering if you could speak a little bit about your podcast and your travel business and maybe even a little bit about collaborating with your husband and what that’s been like.
Thank you Heidi. Okay, so about a little more than a month ago Jeff and I, my husband, we started or I should say we launched our boutique travel company. It’s called Vegan Epicure Travel. If you want to find it online, it’s veganepicuretravel.com which is also where we have our podcast, or I should say it’s my podcast since I’m the one who’s doing it right now. Maybe one day Jeff will do it too. We have transformed our love of travel and veganism, good food and wine, connecting with others, and packaged all of that into several different kinds of travel experiences. We have big travel experiences. We’re working on a couple of tours that will happen next June in the South of France. We have one in Provence on the Côte d’Azur. This September we have a sold out vegan tour of Paris.
We have 16 guest coming along. I’m actually partnering with VegNews Magazine on that. But the idea is to expose people to the great big, wonderful world just generally and also the great big wonderful world of vegan food and all of the parts of life that we really enjoy like visiting with makers, people who are producing things that are in alignment with our values. For example, going to a vegan cheese makers atelier. Seeing how they do that. Going to a farm animal sanctuary and meeting animals. We have these bigger experiences that we’re taking small groups on. The 16 person tour is a bigger one, but most of our other tours will be 10 people or fewer. Then we also do local experiences depending upon where we are in the world.
For example, here in the Northern California area, we’re doing cooking classes and we’re doing local bike excursions and vegan food tours in Nevada City. Then we also have kind of similar things happening. We’re going to spend January and February in the South of France while we’re organizing our tour for the spring. Throughout January and February we’re taking people on vegan food tours of Nice in France. That’s our big thing that we’re making happen and it’s been challenging on multiple levels. One is just having, number one, the confidence to really stand behind your idea and put it out there and trust that if it’s a good idea it will succeed. Knowing that things will need to be tweaked along the way and that you don’t just birth this miracle fabulous thing into existence. It’s a process.
Working with my spouse, this is the first time that we’ve really collaborated on a project that we’re both full-time working together on. It’s been extremely interesting, shall we say. We have different styles. We do things much, much differently and we’re still working through what that means and defining our roles, but we compliment each other. We definitely have different skill sets and Jeff, he’s more extroverted and a great people person and really a good listener. I wish I could say I was as strong in those areas as he is, but I am more creative and I come up with a lot of the ideas and I’m good at reaching out and networking with people in a virtual space also in real life. It’s been really, really interesting and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s a privilege to be able to be an entrepreneur and to be your own boss. There’s nothing to complain about.
I really like working for myself and reaping the benefits and also the struggles are real. I don’t have a boss to turn to when things go awry, but that’s okay. I really liked that. The podcast is a complement to our brand. It’s a way to connect with the world and bring different voices into our business that we can share with other people without actually always having to be out on the road. It’s something that I have been doing mostly from home. It will be interesting when we’re traveling and maybe we can talk about this later about how to podcast when you’re remote.
So far I’ve interviewed people in some cities that I love. We talked to my friend Alex, who’s a vegan guidebook publisher in London. I talked to some nice women who run a vegan lifestyle platform in Paris about where to eat sweets in Paris. I’m always looking for interesting guests around the world who have something to share that’s in alignment with our values. So veganism, travel, connection, food, wine, that sort of thing. The podcast is at veganepicuretravel.com.
Well, cool. Well I think we’ll end things on this note. I mentioned earlier that I was working on my Patreon page. I’m really building it as a community for Vibrant Visionaries, so when people become Patreon supporters, they will be part of the online community and be able to listen to behind the scenes musings that I have. Or I’ll be writing and journaling kind of about, you know, the good, the bad and the crazy that happens when you’re doing something like recording these episodes and lining up guests and all that stuff but also be sharing tips and resources.
Stuff that’s helped myself and my clients work despite those fears that come up when we want to try new creative endeavors and yeah, not be slaves to perfection and know that we’re going to be learning and adjusting our sales as we go. Also, help support these free podcast episodes. I have a goal to add even more podcast episodes per month as I gain a Patreon supporters, so that will be great so that I can continue to do this because I really enjoy it and I really love offering these kind of interesting conversations with people like you.
That’s really exciting, Heidi. I can’t wait to check out your Patreon page and you’ve just given me a bunch of great reasons why I would want to support you, so yeah, that’s cool.
Thanks. Yeah, it aligns right up with my values of creating community and having a place for collaboration and support for everyone. Anybody who joins the Vibrant Visionaries Patreon that they become part of the community so we can have conversations within that Patreon group and we can talk about our projects. We can talk about the podcast episodes, we can ask each other questions and so it’s really building a community that’s very specific to this and also works right along with the kind of coaching that I do with my clients where we talk about our values or passions or skills, who we want to work with, how we want to do it, and how we want to live our lives. So yeah, I’m really excited to have a new space to experiment with that. I’ll share links to that and anybody that wants to check that out, you certainly can. I think we’ll call it a day. Thanks again, Aurelia and we’ll see you guys next time.
Thank you, Heidi.