There's nothing we love more than getting to know our influencers, so we're thrilled to introduce you to Amy Whitley, the literary mind and travel expert behind Pit Stops For Kids! She recently shared how she lives, loves, and inspires with the Women's Forum team. Read on...
How did you get into blogging? When did you start and more importantly, why did you start and how did you get to where you are are today?
After earning a degree in English and journalism (way back when), I worked on a city newspaper, then for a travel non-profit, doing their desktop publishing and media. I left the work force when my kids were babies, and when I decided I was ready to go back, online publications were on the rise and print jobs were hard to come by. I decided to start a blog about a subject I was passionate about: traveling with young kids on a budget. In its early years, Pit Stops for Kids mirrored our form of travel: road trips and low-cost camping trips, with a few theme parks thrown in. As my kids grew, so did the site, growing to include outdoor adventure, ski trips, and international travel. I focused on Pit Stops for Kids full time once the kids were all in school, and it continued to grow from there. I believe the success of my blog is due to regular, hard work, quality content that (hopefully) actually helps fellow travelers, and my ability to grow my reputation and brand through freelance writing.
Who are some of your favorite fellow bloggers? Who or what inspires you outside of the blogosphere like books, movies, TV, or other people's stories?
I have many fellow bloggers I admire and learn from (and who I go to for plenty of travel advice)! Some of my current go-to travel writers include The Vacation Gals , Walking On Travels, and Trekaroo. I'm inspired by my favorite travel magazines (some of which I've been lucky enough to write for), and my travel friends who live abroad, like my friend Tim Leffel, author of A Better Life for Half the Price.
What’s in your dream trip? Which destination(s), where do you stay, what do you do, etc. Assume money is no object.
My current dream trip (it changes often...who can narrow down the options?!) is an African safari. This is a trip I've longed to do for as long as I can remember, but so far, eludes me and my family. We'd love to stay in a South African safari camp with access to wildlife viewing, where we can sleep at night in luxury 'glamping' accommodations. This type of trip appeals to me because it combines our love of outdoor adventure and wildlife with a location that would be completely foreign to us. How fun!
What are your favorite places that you’ve been so far, and why were they so awesome? If you want to elaborate, what are your favorite places for their natural beauty? Historical relevance? Fun activities for kids and parents alike?
We've been lucky enough to travel to many beautiful, inspiring places. One location that comes top-of-mind is Italy. Our time spent in the Tuscany region, followed by Rome, felt like the perfect blend of foreign experience, history lesson, and adventure. We love that Italians are so welcoming and friendly, the architecture is so stunning, and of course, the food and wine are to die for. I believe Italy is a perfect first European country to visit for families who may be unsure about international travel.
As far as natural beauty goes, it's hard to beat Alberta, Canada, and the Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Banff national parks, or the north coast of Kauai, Hawaii. We also loved SE Alaska, the backcountry of Yosemite National Park, and Southern Utah for outdoor scenery. Further afield, Peru, Panama, and Costa Rica have recently wowed us.
Where will you never visit again (by choice)?
I am naturally optimistic and tend to find good in almost any destination. But if I had to pick...I wouldn't visit Las Vegas by choice. I hate to pick on Vegas, but as a non-gambler who isn't a big fan of nightlife, this city just doesn't do much for me. I've visited with and without kids, and I'd much rather be exploring Nevada's outdoor recreation than spend time on the Strip.
What’s your one piece of advice that you’d give to nearly every parent traveling with their kids?
Don't wait until the kids are 'old enough to remember' or 'old enough to appreciate it'. Go now, no matter the age of your kids! Yes, travel with young kids is challenging...trust me, I've been there. But because we traveled extensively when our kids were small (by car, plane, and on foot, camping and backpacking), they're now excellent travelers as teens. They have grown up with an appreciation for other places and cultures, and have a wider worldview than many of their peers who didn't travel much. They go with the flow, are not afraid of new experiences, and take healthy risks, all of which I attribute to travel.
What are your goals for your Pit Stops For Kids? For your blogging and writing life in general? It looks like you’re working on a novel, want to tell us about that?
Pit Stops for Kids will continue to grow even as my own kids 'age out' (still a while in the future!). I have a strong network of regional contributors who are currently traveling for me with young kids, and our travel with teens section is thriving. Because I also freelance write for other publications, I do plan to continue to write about outdoor adventure and women's adventure in the years to come. I am also a fiction writer, primarily as a hobby, but I enjoy working on women's fiction novels in my 'spare' time.
What trips are you looking forward to next?
We're currently returning to Panama for an Uncruise (small ship sailing that focuses on excursions and wildlife), and then our next big trip will be to Iceland. We plan to rent a camper van and camp our way around the island this coming summer. Before school starts, we'll also visit our third dude ranch, Flathead Lake Ranch. We just can't get enough of this type of vacation: it's like summer camp for grown ups AND the kids!
What do you do in addition to blogging?
In addition to being a mom to three boys, I am a freelance travel writer, as noted above, and an occasional editor. Travel writing and blogging are my primary occupation.
Who’s your role model/which women do you find inspiring?
Women who are pioneers in adventure travel, such as Beth Whitman of Wanderlust and Lipstick, are inspiring to me because they're providing opportunities for women to travel who may not be ready to travel solo. Ditto for women who run women's adventure camps in ski resorts or mountain biking parks, who focus on carving out the space and time for busy women to find their niche on the slopes and on the mountain. Women need to take time for themselves to travel, hone skills, or do what they love, and many of us neglect that need within us. I am inspired by the women who make other women a priority!