Traveler’s Spotlight Series: Janna Zinzi
1. Where are you currently?
Isla Mujeres, Mexico.
2. Where is “home”?
My physical home is New York City. My “spiritual” homes are New Orleans and Isla Mujeres. However in a more ethereal sense, home is where your community is and where you feel like you can be your most honest, authentic self.
3. Who are the main characters in your day to day life?
My parents, my dude/partner/boyfriend, my BFF, my cousin/big brother, the people on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Here in Isla, it’s mostly new friends, awesome creative entrepreneurial women who are living life on their own terms.
4. Tell us a little bit about what a typical day looks like for you?
Here in Isla, there’s no such thing. And that’s part of the beauty of why I’m here. When I was in NYC, it was wake up, meditate, roll out of bed directly to the computer, go through email, Facebook, Twitter to comb through news and the day’s “to-do” list. I spent an insane amount of time tied to the computer and to the news. I’m a freelance publicist & communications strategist so I HAVE to know what’s going on in the news for my clients to help them promote their work, find relevant social media posts, and write timely blogs. While I love and respect the work that my clients (awesome non-profit organizations) do to make real people’s lives better, it drained me. For my spirit, being tied to the news is heavy and having to try to know everything that everyone is saying became a mindfuck. I couldn’t hear my own thoughts.
So here in Isla, I’ve tried to do a little better by being in nature more. By not being tied to the computer all day when I can get work done and still be an educated global citizen in a couple of hours. I don’t want to have typical days here.
5. Where does your income come from? How do you afford your lifestyle and make it work? Do you have a job title?
My income comes primarily from public relations work with clients and a small percentage from burlesque performing/producing with Brown Girls Burlesque. Occassionally I’ll write something and get paid. I moved to Isla to step back from PR work and to reassess my career and figure out what’s next. I’m laughing at the idea of affording my lifestyle. In New York, I don’t really. I busted my ass to maintain an apartment by myself, pay my bills and enjoy the marvelous NYC food, music, nightlife and shopping. I have credit cards which show some of that. So when my lease was running out last year, I said why throw thousands into another apartment and keeping myself on this hamster wheel of hustling, when I can go live somewhere beautiful with a slower pace and cheaper cost of living to figure out how to have a better quality of life? It was the easiest decision I’ve ever made and happened so quickly that it was meant to be. My job title? Hmmmmmm, it was CEO/President of Swirl Public Relations (my company). Now I’m going by Strategist, storyteller and rabble-rouser.
6. How many countries have you visited?
18 and counting.
7. What is your next destination?
8. What is your favorite destination?
That’s tough but I love NOLA with all of my heart. However, I enjoy most places with clear blue water and beautiful beaches.
9. What are the advantages and disadvantages of your chosen lifestyle?
Advantages: I’m not in New York during the polar vortex I kid (kinda!) but we had our own version here with lots of rain and wind. But advantages of being a communications freelancer/running your own business is that you have the flexibility to work from anywhere as long as there’s wifi. You can more or less set your own schedule, though truthfully you still have to be operational during normal work hours. If all is going well, you can pick the projects you want to work on. You can do laundry, go to the grocery store, get your hair done, run errands in the middle of a week day not on the weekends with everyone else. I don’t have to get dressed in business casual gear every day.
Disadvantages: Not getting a steady paycheck every 2 weeks means you are always hustling for the next project. Not having health benefits sucks. You often work WAY more hours than you would if you had a “typical” 9 to 5. It is STRESSFUL. People think that you fuck around in your house all day or think you live a way more glamourous life or think you’re rolling in dough. Sometimes you get really lazy and don’t get dressed for days.
10. Many people fear being abroad and getting sick or needing medical care. Have you ever gotten ill or hurt abroad? What happened or what would you do if this ever transpired?
I am JUST coming out of a horrible flu/cold thing here in Mexico. Honestly it was no different than if I was in NYC. I don’t have health insurance there and seriously if I went to a doctor here, it would probably be cheaper than if I was home and had to pay out of pocket. There are pharmacies everywhere here and it was easy to buy the medicine I needed. There’s also similar products here to what’s available in the States. Plus I brought my own stash of natural medicine from home!
11. Can you share a wacky travel story?
One of my favorite memories is when I was in Granada, Spain doing a study abroad summer semester. It was my first time out of the country and on a plane so I was psyched! Anyway, one night a group of us went to this bar and were talking to some local folks. This guy was talking to me and he asks me, “Sabes Carlton? (Do you know, Carlton?)” I’m in my head like “Carlton?” Responding to my puzzled look, he asks again, “Sabes Carlton?” I’m saying aloud to myself, “Carlton?” Then he says “Sabes Carlton?!” and took my hand to do the handshake from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air that Jazz and Will would do. I busted out laughing and said “Ohhhhhhhh Carl-ton!” I was cracking up! It’s amazing what parts of our culture are exporting via pop culture.
12. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years, I just want to be happy. (Sounds like Beyonce, huh?!) I see myself fulfilled by my career, family, spiritual and creative life. I see myself enjoying operating at a slower pace that’s not dictated by media or the 24-7 news cycle. I see myself following my own rhythm and not caring too much about other’s opinions.
13. What advice do you have for others who’d like to pursue your chosen lifestyle?
It is NOT for the faint of heart. Save your money and before you leap into freelance life, get very clear on what it is you want to do. PLAN! Make sure you know what you want to do, have planned out how much it costs, and that you have some sort of support system who can help keep you motivated and encouraged. Be honest with yourself and your desire to freelance/run your own business. Study others in your field who are doing what you want to do, network with them. Assess your contacts and who can help you. Get clear on your brand image.
14. Any recommendations on packing light? What do you normally have in your carry on?
Anyone that helped me move out of my apartment will laugh at the idea of me and packing light But seriously, it’s something I’m learning about and working on. Take only the things you love. And be honest with yourself! We all have that certain skirt, shirt, shoe that we LOVE. Make sure those come with you. I know there’s dozens of times I’ve brought big ass bags with me places and worn the same things over and over again. Like that time my friends and I traveled to Europe after college and brought every outfit and pair of shoes we owned. Not so cute when you have to lug those bodybags on and off trains. So unnecessary!
In my carry-on I always have extra panties, an extra outfit, a bathing suit if I’m going somewhere beachy, my toothbrush and contacts, Benedryl, a nail file, lipstick and my phone charger. I make sure I have what I need for an overnight just in case my baggage gets lost. Nothing worse than being stuck without a toothbrush and clean drawers.
15. What do you normally wear on a travel day? Have you found a perfect travel outfit that is both comfortable and polished?
I usually don’t look very fancy when I travel. I’m more about comfort to be honest but I admire those women who look all savvy in cute slacks and heels and make up. I wear my glasses because I usually sleep on planes/trains/automobiles. I also usually where black yoga pants and some sort of t-shirt or tank top that makes me feel good. I need to be comfortable and not confined when traveling. I also layer because I hate being cold so I have a favorite sweater/sweatshirt/light jacket too. I style myself with my jewelry (usually crystals or stones that make me feel safe and happy). I don’t look unkempt but I’m not wasting a good outfit to sit somewhere for hours and get all funky. I like to think I’m sporty chic
16. Any other comments or suggestions for our readers?
Find your bliss. Define it for yourself. Forget the life that everyone else wants for you and do it your way, even if folks think you’re crazy. Take a chance on yourself especially when it feels scary. I’m learning this all as I go along, this is the advice I often have to remind myself!
17. Please share with us a quote that has significant meaning to the way you live your life.
“If you have yet to be called an incorrigable, defiant woman,
don’t worry, there is still time.” -Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
That is my favorite book in the whole world. It’s a series of folk tales from various cultures all depicting ways in which women have been stripped of our “wild” nature…basically how we have been separated from our intuition and denied permission to be expressive as we see fit. It’s in direct defiance of the “good girl” myth which has affected us all and it’s a reminder to me to own and nurture my “wild” nature. Often when we are doing something outside of the status quo that is true to ourselves, we get the greatest pushback. But that is when we should listen to the voice within our spirits and move in harmony with it.