When Your Dreams Play Hard-To-Get

This post was written by Annie Leroux.

I have wanted to apply for the STA World Traveler Internship for three years, but my timing was never right, until 2010. And when the application process commenced, my wall soon covered in post-it notes full of my constantly evolving ideas. I didn’t sleep for days. After submitting my application and video, I plastered my page link all over every social media network, spent hours watching other applicant’s videos, and couldn't stop telling perfect strangers in coffee shops about what I was after.

I immersed myself in the process and began to eat, sleep, breathe STA.

Coming Within Reach

When my nerves got the best of me the morning of the Top 20 Announcement - so much so that I missed the call from STA - I knew how badly I wanted it.

One week later, I was doing my STA interview from a hotel room in the middle of a very exciting national public speaking tournament. I tried to anticipate possible questions they would ask, but nothing could have prepared me for the clever and hilarity of STA's queries. I went on to finish nationals, and while sitting in the airport a couple days later, that same Texas phone number called.

I picked up thinking there was an extra piece of information they needed from me. Instead, Patrick told me I was a finalist.

Top Ten was, by far, the scariest place to be: too close to winning, so close to being possible. I noticed there were seven girls total, and I kept thinking, "Only six people stand between me and my dream job...going on a trip around the opportunity that could launch my career."

What I wasn't thinking about at the time were the six other girls thinking the same thing.

Once the finalist video had been filmed and edited, my application complete, I waited. For the first time in this entire process, there was nothing further I could do.

The Door Doesn't Open

The day of the winner announcement, I was so nervous I left class early and went for some therapeutic Greek food. When the call came through, I felt defeated.

It was hard to hear, via a phone call, that I didn't get my dream job.

When you become a finalist out of hundreds, it's easy to feel like it was all just within reach - that soon everything was going to change. Although I was disappointed, it didn’t take long to get excited for Natalie and Casey and snap back to figuring out my new summer plan.

Honestly, any one of the finalists could have done an amazing job, and even if all ten of us were a perfect fit, eight had to be eliminated. That's just how it is.

A couple hours after the news broke, I hopped on a flight to San Francisco and applied for seven different internships. I just didn’t see the point in being upset while I still felt on top of the world for even being a part of the process. If the internship is something I really want, I can always apply again.

Amidst a Sea of Greats

At one point in the beginning, I was so intimidated by everyone else’s application videos that I considered not applying. Nearly everyone was a world traveler, had strong video editing skills, kept multiple blogs, was a photographer, showed extreme creativity, and had an entertaining personality.

It seemed difficult to stand out in a pool of people so qualified, and I almost completely changed my video to match what I thought others were doing.

Of course, my best chance at standing out was by being myself, as cliché as that sounds. Looking back at the second video I began editing, I never would have made it through had I submitted it.

Baby Stepping to Extraordinary

I've learned you don't have to wait around for these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to come around in order to live out your passion. All the people I admire - follow online, read about, or have spoken to - touch on the fact that they never could have anticipated the success they have today when they first started out. It was all about small steps - tiny successes.

And small steps are definitely difficult to fathom when internships, like STA's, offer giant leaps. Missing opportunities like these doesn't mean I have to go back to "the norm." Much of the success these other travelers, filmmakers, writers and bloggers are seeing wasn't handed to them in one summer, and while these opportunities do help in skipping a few steps, it isn't the only way to reach the dream.

Thinking that the STA internship is the only catalyst to reaching a successful travel career doesn't give us applicants much credit.

You don’t have to win the World Traveler Internship to benefit from it. Simply applying automatically makes you part of a large community of like-minded travel-obsessed writers, photographers, and filmmakers that could turn into future travel partners and inspirations. It's a very unique process and only those who apply completely understand.

You don’t have to win to be inspired by it. You don’t have to win to travel.

I feel like a better version of myself after applying. Now I can figure out what comes next; sometimes that's the hardest part.

Take a Baby Step

Follow Footsteps: Write to people you admire, who are in positions you hope to be in someday, and ask for a moment of their time to learn from them. You'd be surprised how much time many are willing to offer. They remember what it was like; everyone had to start somewhere.

Step Up Your "Business": Take all of your social media networks to the next level with a more business-like approach to their futures. Write out what you want to accomplish and figure out how to utilize those networks to market yourself and your talents in order to get what you want. Even just putting yourself and your ideas out there gives you more of an opportunity to build professional and personal connections.

Take Dynamic Steps: Put your own personality into your resume, cover letters and interviews. This internship was good practice in standing out creatively and taught me new ways of marketing myself through multi-media including writing, photography, video and music. Many applicants are qualified and creative, but knowing how to communicate that in in a three minute time period is steadily becoming a useful skill. Figure out how you would like to market yourself, and once you put together something you're proud of, apply, apply, apply.

Bravery Trumps Hard-To-Get

The strong work ethic a person must have to even apply for the World Traveler's Internship is already miles above the average twenty-something applying to regular jobs and internships, and clearly, if you're willing to dedicate that kind of time and heart to the WTI, you can use that vigor to go after anything you want.

Putting yourself and your passions in the public eye for a desired goal is brave; don't stop being that brave because the one opportunity that called for it didn't work out. When you have an undeniable passion for travel, writing, photography, or film, it is highly possible to succeed. It just takes time.

I am still writing to and networking with people who inspire me, and the more involved I get in this travel world, the more doors seem to open. Just the way I immersed myself in the internship, I have immersed myself in this industry that I hope will soon cradle my career.

My small successes are stacking up: increased blog views, being Twitter-listed as a "travel conversationalist," and being chosen to research and work on a local social media conference. I have come a long way, and although I don't have it all figured out, I have found a role in being a good resource to others who are on this same route.

The previous interns have continuously expressed to me how much this internship has changed their lives, and even though I was not chosen, I can confidently say I feel the same way.

Consume & Update: Tea, Ponies, and Good Reads

After perusing the web for the most interesting goodies, here are my suggested reads and views for the week!

Burning Man Timelapse

World Hum and Eva Holland displayed a video by Ben Wiggins of stunning, time-lapse footage that gives a visual account of Burning Man, an annual art festival that seemingly cannot be truly described by even the most verbose and enlightened minds. Below is an excerpt from the Burning Man website explaining the basics:

"...Larry Harvey, founder of the Burning Man project, gives a theme to each year, to encourage a common bond to help tie each individual's contribution together in a meaningful way. Participants are encouraged to find a way to help make the theme come alive, whether it is through a large-scale art installation, a theme camp, gifts brought to be given to other individuals, costumes, or any other medium that one comes up with."

The event took place during the first week of September this year, and for many days every travel publication exhibited photo blogs, videos and narratives from the sun-bleached Black Rock Desert location. Of all the attempts to describe this extreme experience, this was the most moving documentation for me.

Carnivorous Countries

Carnivorous Countries

Carnivorous Countries

"GOOD is a collaboration of individuals, businesses, and nonprofits pushing the world forward," and this poignant graphic by GOOD displays the realities of Earth's carnivorous habits. We can see here that the average Kiwi eats the equivalent weight of two burgers, a can of soup, and a Santa Claus each year.

Coffee Houses in a Tea World

I've recently discovered I'm borderline addicted to tea. After purchasing my first load in Darjeeling last year, I got very excited when the Internship brought me back to India for a top-off on my tea stash at home. This blog post from Intelligent Travel comes at a good time for my new obsession and also takes a wee gander at the concept of a coffee house in a tea-centric country.

Speaking of tea...

Trekking in Nepal

Trekking in the Himalayas

Trekking in the Himalayas

"It was 4 a.m. in mid-November, and I was stretching in a lodge in Thorong Phedi, Nepal, at 14,500 feet, trying to pump warmth back into my body and get rid of a throbbing headache brought on by dehydration and altitude sickness. Wolfing down chapati bread with jam and a fried egg, I chased it with pints of hot tea and water, and started to feel better. I knew I was going to need all my strength...Fifteen of us, along with porters and guides, were about to climb Thorong La, a pass 17,769 feet up in the Himalayas." Continue reading...

These stories are always worth the time to read them.

Other Online Discoveries

Be a Reporter at Sea

Day 20: 67 Travel Friendly Jobs

GAP Adventure's Coolest Travel Intern Job...oh really?

Update on Nomadderwhere

A new MacBook Pro now graces my presence, making it easier for me to create the work that I love to do.

I also had two presentations on travel this week in northern Indiana, which both went very well and were quite profitable. By selling hand-knit scarves and ceramics, I was able to collect $220 for the children at Palm Tree to receive more protein and fruit in their diets. I'm so appreciative of everyone who came to these events, listened intently, and found it important to contribute to my causes. Thanks again! The check to Cambodia's Hope is going out this week.

Did you find the Good Reads?

I'm pretty unbalanced when it comes to reading material. All I read are travel narratives, often with an adventurous or humorous twist. The stack on my nightstand is about two feet high with books from BookMooch and the library, all of which I want to read asap. If you enjoy the same genre and need some suggestions, check out my page on Good Reads, where you can find short reviews on all the travel books I can recall and see which have made the list for the future. Though I like brevity of articles and features, nothing beats the total transportation caused by a good book. This is why I aim to write a book myself in the foreseeable future.