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Life and Work with Alana

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alana.

Alana, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Changing my career trajectory from litigator to intellectual property consultant, travel writer, photographer, and founder of Course Charted has been a series of small steps, not always in one direction, but ultimately leading in the right direction. I started my professional journey as an attorney doing civil defense litigation in Chicago (with a background and particular interest in intellectual property). Although I developed a diverse skill-set, I knew my passion lay outside the office. I had always wanted to see the world, and the few trips I did while working as an attorney planted a seed for adventure that began to germinate. Over time, that wanderlust grew and would not be ignored! My Instagram handle @alanainwanderland is an homage to this desire to experience the world and to one of my favorite books as a child – Alice In Wonderland.

I often say that I “left the 9-5 for the 24/7” and it’s true. Working for yourself though all-encompassing and grueling is also rewarding and makes you feel as though you are living every minute of your life. But it is also scary. You’re no longer part of a team and your success or failure falls entirely on you. In the beginning stages of my journey, I focused on learning new skills like photography. I was instantly hooked – the ability to be artistic had been missing from my life for so long that I was starved for it! I was a strong writer, but my writing was very “formal” (judges were my primary audience for so many years). Enter Instagram – this platform allowed me to learn how to share my photography and travel-writing in a useful, engaging way. It let me connect with other creatives and travelers and pushed me to understand myself and what I could offer.

When goes live next month, I’ll be showing other wanderlusters how to travel smarter. What does this mean? For me, it means slow, sustainable, savvy travel. I’m a big proponent of traveling one country at a time to immerse in its culture, history, and geography rather than rushing from one destination to another to check more countries off a list. The articles on Course Charted will help travelers break through the surface sights and do a deep dive into the hidden gems that make a place unique. I also want to help travelers see the world while minimizing the negative impacts of tourism and maximizing the positive effects, like patronizing small businesses and volunteering abroad. And ultimately, I want to help travelers make savvy travel decisions. This does not mean spending as little as possible when you travel. Instead, the focus is on getting the best value when booking flights, lodging, activities, etc. I started the #travelhackit hashtag on Instagram to share the best travel tips and tricks for the savvy traveler! These are the three pillars of my travel philosophy – slow, sustainable, and savvy.

In addition to helping fellow travelers travel smarter, I use my legal background in intellectual property to protect my business and my work, including my photography and travel-writing. Through Course Charted, I’ll be consulting with creatives that have copyright or trademark questions. Unfortunately, it is all too common to see companies and individuals using creatives’ work without permission. Photography, written work, trade names, and trademarks are protected under the law, but creatives don’t know how to go about availing themselves of those protections and getting value from their work. Feel free to contact me; I love helping creatives and hearing from other travelers.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It hasn’t been a smooth road, but it’s been an exciting journey! One of the biggest struggles is deciding on a direction but being flexible enough to change course if that direction does not “feel right.” It is also difficult to be honest with oneself about skill-gaps, but it’s so important. I suggest always having a student mentality. Keep learning! Especially when you’re starting something new, understand that no one begins as an expert. Put in the work and ask for help. Once you let go of the ego, the learning can begin.

My husband likes to say – “don’t let great get in the way of good.” I often need to hear this as my perfectionist personality sometimes keeps me from makes strides in the right direction when things aren’t exactly as I have envisioned them. This is the main reason that my website has taken as long as it has. I want everything to be perfect before launch, but I need to let go of that. Good is good, and most likely, the site will change many times over its life so I have to accept that there is no such thing as “perfect” and just go for it! I encourage you to do the same.

There’s a wealth of academic research that suggests that a lack of mentors and networking opportunities for women has materially affected the number of women in leadership roles. Smart organizations and industry leaders are working to change this, but in the meantime, do you have any advice for finding a mentor and building a network?
Be kind, engaged and supportive of others’ work. I like to follow the motto of “give help as much as possible but also know your value.” This is a hard thing to balance sometimes and there is no right answer, but I will say that I see creatives giving away their work for free (or below its value) too often. I encourage you to find the value that you can provide for a potential mentor and then approach them about a mutually-beneficial relationship.

When it comes to networking, do it as much as possible! Seriously, this is one of those things that pays dividends you don’t even see coming. And it’s a wonderful source of inspiration as well!

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