Katka Lapelosová ’08 travels the globe, works from home (or wherever in the world she happens to be), and produces social media content about, well, traveling. Research for her job as a writer, managing editor and social media director of Matador Network includes flying from New York to Charleston to check out luxury hotels and learning to live like a local in Oslo, Norway, among many other action-filled adventures.
The former College of Charleston anthropology major is living every millennial’s dream, and she has tips for how to break into the travel writing industry.
Q: How would you describe your position and job responsibilities?
A: I’m a travel writer but officially I’m a managing editor and the social media director of Matador Network. We’re like a cool, edgy online journalism site.
Day to day, I’ll solicit articles from new writers and I edit them, make sure they abide by the Matador style guide and subject matter. I also provide original articles for the site. As the social media director I control all of the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr posts, basically ever social media platform you can imagine. I oversee and manage the accounts and keep track of analytics.
Q: How do you work with colleagues and manage writers when they’re all over the world?
A: I work from home, so I communicate with the freelance writers over email, but I Skype or GChat with the staff writers and managers. I usually have meetings one or two times a day because it’s the only way we can keep up with one another.
It’s nice working from home because there are no distractions like there might be in a normal office. You don’t have to worry about people talking about American Idol outside your office or whatever; you just get down to business. I think it makes me really efficient.
Q: How often do you get to travel for work?
A: I travel for work a couple of times a year, most recently to Charleston to do research for the new luxury travel site we just launched, called Lux Duck I went to some different hotels and got to take photos and speak with the managers. I like being location independent because if I wanted to go to Thailand or something I can still do my job in Thailand and get the vacation experience all at once.
Q: As a writer and editor for an online journalism site, do you have to possess skills beyond those that writers and editors of traditional publications might need?
A: I have to be skilled in a lot of different disciplines for this line of work. I have to be a photographer, editor, writer, PR agent, social media expert, etcetera. It’s nice because you get to strengthen all of those skills rather than just having one area of expertise.
Q: What do you like most about working as a travel writer for the Matador Network?
A: I love the flexibility of my job. I believe that one size does not fit all when it comes to work. I usually work between the hours of 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. because social media is 24/7, but I’m not working all the time. Like I can take a break and do laundry or go to the doctor. I appreciate that flexibility.
I also like that Matador focuses a lot on travel culture more than guides. One of our big features is called “How to Piss Off a ____.” Like I wrote one about “How to Piss Off a Czech,” and “How to Piss Off a New Yorker.” It’ll be funny things like “walk slowly on the sidewalk” and “say that pizza from your town is better than N.Y. pizza.” We can draw from our own personal experiences and culture and people seem to be very drawn to that kind of style.
Q: How did you hear about your position and what was the interview process like?
A: There really wasn’t an interview process or even a job opening. Because it’s an online company, they saw my work online and contacted me to write for them on a freelance basis.
I kept writing and producing work for the editors and they really valued the skills that I brought to the company. So they kept promoting me and promoting me – I think in 2013 I was promoted four times, it was insane. It’s just because I kept going and going and not saying no to anything.
Before Matador I was doing some freelance work and writing my personal blog. I was writing from my own perspective and working at a travel company that specialized in group tours. I was still in the travel industry but it was more like sales.
Q: What has been your favorite work travel experience?
A: Recently I was in Oslo, Norway, and it was a really cool surprise. It was a really cool city. But actually I went there by myself and while I was there my now-fiancé came and surprised me and proposed to me!
Q: What travel tips would you offer to current students or recent graduates planning to backpack or travel internationally?
A: I definitely recommend booking accommodations through companies like Air BnB. I think it’s more cost efficient and immersive.
I know a lot of people are looking for authenticity, so I would say just keep your plans open and have a flexible itinerary. Like, not necessarily going to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower and the Mona Lisa, but just take a walk, get lost. Use the guidebooks as a reference but don’t worry about what other people have done. Make the experience your own.
Q: How would you say the College helped you prepare for this position?
A: I majored in anthropology, which is more about culture, and it helped me look at different cultures in a unique way. It also helped with my writing.
I also spent my last semester of college abroad, and being able to do that really helped me find that travel is an important part of my life and that I wanted to do more with it. I studied abroad in Prague and lived with a host family, so I was able to really immerse myself in the culture.
Q: What advice would you give to current students interested in a career in travel writing?
A: The biggest advice I would have is just to write. There are a lot of people out there who say that they’re writers but they just don’t maintain their writing. So I recommend taking the time to write every day – start a blog, reach out to the travel community over Twitter and look at what other travel writers are doing. That will help you understand how the industry works.
If you’re interested in making a career out of it, I would say approach a company by asking “how can I help, how can I be involved in the process, how can I make the company better?” It shows you want to help and become invested in the company rather than just generate an income.