Today’s interview is with Melissa Parks, who writes as The Intentional Expat. On her blog, Melissa writes that during her first international trip (a study abroad with her university), “it only took a couple of days in Madrid before I had fallen in love with the city.” She now lives and works in Spain as a mental health therapist, and blogs to help people “learn how to navigate the ups and downs of expat life,” or more broadly: to “[Live] Your Best Life Abroad.”
Name and blog:
Melissa Parks from The Intentional Expat
Fun fact about you:
I’ve been writing since before I could actually write. I used to dictate stories to my dad to write for me and then I’d illustrate them. Once I could write, I started journaling and haven’t stopped since. I now have over 70 journals!
I’ve had a lot of interesting travel experiences. When I was 10, I won a trip for my family and I to go visit Washington D.C., in college I went to Mississippi and New Orleans to help with Hurricane Katrina cleanup and in 2009 I worked as a T.A. for a study abroad program and got paid to travel around Western Europe for ten weeks and help these students navigate the ups and downs of traveling. And now I live in Madrid, Spain!
I didn’t start studying Spanish until I was 20 and fell in love with Spain after visiting it for the first time. Since then, I’ve gotten my masters degree in psychology with all of my courses in Spanish, have presented at research conference in Spanish and have provided psychotherapy to people in Spanish. I still make mistakes, but I’ve found it often helps to break the ice between me and my patients.
What do you think has been essential to your success as a travel blogger?
I know firsthand that one of the keys is to shamelessly promote yourself! I have lots of great content to write about thanks to my travels and experience living abroad and I’ve actually had a blog since 2008, but I never promoted it aside from an occasional share with family and friends on Facebook. Despite having hundreds of posts, I only had three followers and an average of five views per post. This summer I decided to get serious about it, started to research blogging and opened a Facebook page, Twitter account and Pinterest page for my blog. I also joined several expat and traveler blog sites to help connect with potential readers. I’ve had my blog for a little over two months now and already have 94 followers on WordPress, plus many more on Facebook and Twitter. In my first week of blogging, my post on “Ten Tips to Stay Sane Overseas” received over 500 views in one day. I also think *karma* and getting to know your readers are really important in the world of blogging. When you comment, like or follow another person’s blog they’re more likely to go check out yours and people who see your comment might go check out your blog too. Plus, connecting with your readers means connecting with interesting people who can provide you with inspiration OR a local tour guide for your future travels.
What was something that surprised you about blogging?
I’m never at a loss for topics to write about. The hard part is choosing which one!
If you had to describe your blog in 6 words or less, what would you say?
Inspirational Tips for Embracing Life Abroad
Who or what inspires you?
I’m really inspired by people who don’t let their fears hold them back from being themselves and pursuing their dreams. Whether it’s a fear of flying, stumbling through a new language or disagreeing with a friend whose opinion you respect. Because it’s really hard to stand up to fear and I know this from personal experience. People always tell me that they could never do what I’m doing by living abroad because they’d be too afraid. But the truth is that I’m constantly faced with fear, I just know that there are some things that are more important to me than fear. The moments when I’ve faced my fears are when I’ve grown the most as a person (and these also make for great stories to write about on my blog!).
What is your all-time favorite bucket list item (of yours or someone else’s)?
It’s really hard to choose just one! I have lots of places I’d love to travel to, but my most important goal right now is to earn money for writing about things that are important to me so that my writing can inspire other people around the world.
If you weren’t doing anything related to travel, what would you be doing in your free time?
Dancing. If I had to go back to my hometown and was never able to travel again, I’d just dance every day. I think the endorphin boost, artistic expression and escape from reality would be enough to help me to forget about how sad I was about not traveling. Of course, I’d rather just dance while also being abroad! Here in Madrid I try to go swing dancing at least once a week.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
All of my favorite advice usually comes from great books I’ve read! “The way love is conjured is not by concentrating on living life to find love, but simply by living and loving life itself. It seems to strike when one stops trying to find Mr. Right and starts becoming Mrs. Right. People should learn a new language, learn how to paint, go travel the world over, grow plants, experience life…and when life has had its share of you and you have taken life by the handles…love strolls in, so casually, so purposefully.” ~The Orphaned Anythings.
Thank you Melissa for doing the interview and sharing some of your life with us!
Who else do you want to see interviewed? If you have an inspiring person in mind, please let me know using the contact form or comments below.
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