Hi, fellow adventurers! My name is Alex Booze and I’m the Editor and co-founder of the international digital publication, East Coast Contessa! Since 2016 I have provided social media, photography, and editorial services to more than 450 brands from across the globe including Ritz Carlton Hotels, McDonalds, Daniel Wellington, Red Lobster, and Marriott. My main focus is luxury travel and high-end cuisine, but I have been known to highlight a hidden gem off a beaten path or two.
EC: What kind of traveler are you?
AB: I would use two words to describe the kind of traveler I am: adventurous but easygoing! I think some of the best travel moments are those that are unexpected or serendipitous, so I try to go with the flow as much as possible. Now, this is not me saying that I don’t plan out things in advance because I am an absolute planner to the tee, but I understand that things fall through and sometimes don’t work out the way we would like for them to. However, these things are what is so beautiful about travel -- experiencing new and unexpected places and cultures, going with the flow, and having fun.
EC: Why did you decide to start the East Coast Contessa website?
AB: I was constantly visiting cities up and down the East Coast -- NYC, Charleston, Washington, DC, Philadelphia -- to visit friends from college. These trips involved a lot of local cuisines, high-profile events, and unique tourist experiences. To share snippets of these experiences with my friends and family, I co-founded what is now East Coast Contessa as a simple Instagram page in 2015 with my now former business partner. While I have a much larger audience now than I did back then, I maintain the website and social media channels with one goal in mind: to expose my followers to as many new cultures as possible to encourage new ideas and to inspire others to venture out into our vast world! There are so many beautiful things to see and do.
EC: Along with running your website East Coast Contessa, you’re also a Freelance Travel Writer and PR Consultant. Is this the field you’ve always wanted to work in?
AB: I have an extensive background in journalism and creative writing, so I always knew I wanted to do something involving one of the two, if not both. I started out at a newspaper and quickly realized that industry wasn’t likely to lead me in the direction I wanted to go. After that I decided to earn my Masters in Political Communication and moved to Washington, DC after graduation to work on Capitol Hill among other non-profit and corporate jobs. It was a dream and is an experience I will be forever grateful for, but it took me almost a decade to realize that political public relations was not my calling in life. For me, it was a paycheck and I was going through the motions of someone working a good paying 9-5 job, but at the end of the day I felt like my soul was missing. When I started traveling it was like someone turned on the floodgates and I had rediscovered myself all over again. To continue pursuing these feelings, I recently quit my full-time job at a PR firm to make a go of consulting and freelance work on my own and I haven’t looked back since. I guess the answer is I always knew I would be a writer, I just never imagined I would be traveling the world to do it!
EC: Where in the world is your favorite place to visit? Why?
AB: This is always such a difficult question for me to answer because there are so many amazing cities and towns with even more amazing people that live in them that it’s hard to choose just one. But, because I have to choose, I am going to say Prauge, Czech Republic. There are those cities that you visit and think “Wow, this place is beautiful, I would love to come back again,” and then there are those that make you literally stop in your tracks and yearn for a life outside of anything you have ever known before. Prague is that city for me. The architecture, the food, the cobblestoned streets, the country’s story of independence -- everything has a romantic but raw charm to it that is just unlike any other place I’ve visited.
EC: You’re currently based in Washington, DC but will soon be moving abroad. Can you tell us where you’re moving to and what you’re looking forward to most on this new travel adventure?
AB: This may come as a surprise, but Prague! I have a few weeks left until I depart and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous or stressed out about moving across an ocean. I am most excited about the friends I get to reconnect with who currently live there as well as the new places I will be able to see more easily now that I will be based in Europe. I will continue to freelance as well as teach which will be a new professional endeavor for me, but it is one that I like to think I have been preparing for my whole life.
EC: Have you had any scary moments while on your travels?
AB: Thankfully, no, and I hope I never do. I have yet to visit any “dangerous” countries, though I am a firm believer that travelers need to be aware of their surroundings at all times, no matter how safe they feel. This is sadly but especially true for solo female travelers. It’s easy to get wrapped up in a moment of fun or beauty while exploring a new place, but it’s important to keep your head and your wits about you at all times. If you get a strange or uneasy feeling about a person or situation, it is best to trust your instinct and remove yourself from the situation immediately.
EC: How many countries have you visited?
AB: To this date I have visited 12 countries since 2016 but I honestly don’t really keep track unless i’m asked! I consider myself a late bloomer to the world of wanderlust since I suffered from an extreme fear of flying and didn’t fly at all until I was out of college. I didn’t get a taste of what it was really like until I flew home from Washington, DC to Kentucky for the first time to visit my family at Christmas in 2010. I regret not attempting to conquer my fear before that point as I have always had an adventurous spirit, but am proud of what I have accomplished so far and am making up for a lot of lost time! I have plans to visit three new countries before the end of the year so it’s already shaping up to be a busy few months.
EC: Who is your travel inspiration?
AB: There are a few that come to mind, but I absolutely adore Aggie Lal and Michael Morretti of Travel In Her Shoes. Her content is not only gorgeous but she is so unfiltered and raw in her approach to sharing her travel experiences with her followers that I have so much respect for her. She is what I like to call the "triple threat," which is an influencer that can write eloquently, take photos, and edit video content. Most influencers outsource one or all of these things (in full disclosure I outsource video creation!) but she has her hands in so many pots and is a master at all of them that I admire her for it. I am also a huge fan of Chris Guillebeau of the Instagram account 193 Countries. Not only is he a New York Times Bestselling Author, but he has a popular podcast series called "Side Hustle School" to encourage people to become entrepreneurs. I was lucky enough to be interviewed for his show last year and it really helped my blog gain more exposure.
EC: How has travel changed you?
AB: I think it has made me a more open-minded and accepting person. I think it makes everyone more open-minded and accepting. When we experience the way other people live first hand it creates a sense of identity and we no longer see them as different but as one-in-the-same. Regardless of where a person is from or what their religious or educational background is, we all have hopes, dreams, and aspirations for a better life. We all love our friends and our families and work hard to provide for them and ourselves. Travel teaches us about perspective in that different isn’t always bad, that sometimes it’s just what we need to start making the world a better place.
EC: What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about traveling while running a website, freelance travel writing, and working as a PR Consultant?
AB: I have so much advice but I will choose what I think are the most important two: 1. Never compare your success to the success of others, and 2. Put the time and dedication in! It’s easy to look at other influencers and see the brands they are working with and the press trips they are taking, but don’t get discouraged! Success comes for different people at different stages in their business careers, and success is measured in a number of ways, not necessarily by the number of followers or brands that a person has worked with. Lastly — and I cannot stress this enough — put the time and effort in! Don’t start a blog without the intention to see it through because you will simply be wasting a lot of time and potentially money.
A lot of people that follow influencers or bloggers only see the finished product and don’t see all of the hard work that goes into shooting a photo let alone all of the actions that come after the photoshoot. This includes intense editing and caption writing to ensure the description does a specific experience or photo justice, additional promotion on other social channels, and hours spent drafting or cutting editorial and video content. Maintaining and growing a blog takes a lot of hours of dedication as well as an entrepreneurial spirit. If someone is interested in starting a blog or becoming a freelance writer or consultant, they must be willing to put the time in in order to gain new business partnerships and create new and engaging content — otherwise it won’t get up off the ground.