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From Carrigaline to Colombia: Meet the woman who has travelled everywhere in-between

Carrigaline native Janet Newenham knew from a young age that she wanted to travel and explore. By the time she was 19, she spent a Summer in France, sailed from Ireland to Poland, worked in a Parisian hostel, and spent a year in Africa. An advocate for solo travel, she had taken most of her trips alone until recently, when she founded Janet's Journeys, a travel community that helps people visit unique and lesser-known destinations in a fun and safe way. Janet spoke to Tara Maher about her travels, life as a digital nomad, and how she learned to adapt to what life threw at her. 


Janet pursued second-level education in a boarding school and university in Dublin. While pursuing a Journalism degree at Dublin City University, she was encouraged to start a website. It was then that her blog, journalistontherun.com, was born. Journalistontherun.com was Janet's gateway into the world of travel writing, social media, and, eventually, her latest business venture, Janet's Journey. 


After college, while working full-time, she continued to write on the blog, combining her passion for travel with her experience as a journalist. Blogging wasn't as popular in Ireland as it was in the UK and the States, but she continued to write and slowly saw the blog's visitor numbers grow. 

She landed her first freelance gig writing articles for Skyscanner, a website that allows users to compare the price of flights to find the best deal. Working for yourself can be difficult, but in order to survive, you have to be bold, Janet explained. 


"I wrote a blog post about how to find cheap flights with Skyscanner and somehow managed to outrank them.' Janet's article appeared first on Google, followed by the Skyscanner website. "I was very cheeky. I emailed them. And I said, I don't know if you realise this, but I'm outranking you on Google. Don't you think you should employ me? And they said, yeah, I guess we should." 

Her freelance clientele grew, and she was working on a number of side projects. Her second income as a freelancer, alongside her blog, gave her a liveable wage. However, with the cost of living in Ireland gradually rising, this livable wage wouldn't be enough to grant her financial stability in her native country; it would somewhere else. 


Janet Newenham


"What am I doing?" she thought. "Why am I sitting here in an office job I don't like when I could spend half my time writing these articles and the other half working on my blog to make it profitable?". Janet gave her three weeks' notice to work and went on her merry way, travelling the world, while working as a digital nomad. 


Going freelance full-time frightened her, but the consequences of failing also gave her the ambition to succeed. "There was a fear that if Skyscanner cancelled on me for a month, then I was screwed because I wouldn't have money. I was scrambling for clients and settled for working for pennies". 


A memory that sticks out for Janet is when she was employed as a ghostwriter, writing articles for 20 euros a pop. Having seen them featured on big-name websites, she contacted one website directly, offering her services. To her dismay, she found that they were paying 200 euros per piece of content. She quit her role as a ghostwriter and learned that you should never underestimate or undersell yourself. 


People thought Janet was mad to pursue the career she did. No financial stability. No steady income and no pension. The notion of working for yourself while travelling the world was ludicrous. Looking back, she laughed at how her parents' friends would ask how Janet and the blog were getting, "They used to ask about the blog as if it was in inverted commas like it wasn't a real job."


But if it weren't for starting her blog and taking the risk to go creating travel content full time, Janet would never have got the opportunity to be invited to be a keynote speaker at a travel writers' conference in the Maldives on an all-expenses paid trip staying in one of the overwater bungalows you see on Instagram. Or if she hadn't made the impulse decision to quit her office job in Dublin, she wouldn't have been paid by the Japanese Tourism Board to travel to Japan for a month. 


Janet was living the life she always dreamed of. She had been to six of the seven continents, seen exotic islands, tropical rainforests, and cosmopolitan cities, and her sense of adventure was still flourishing. 


She explained that working for yourself requires adapting, recognizing that you can't control everything, and expecting the unexpected. Janet definitely didn't expect Lockown. 

When COVID hit, travel restrictions were put in place. Janet couldn't travel. How is a travel writer meant to work and get paid if they can't travel? 


Contemplating her next step, she sojourned in Ireland for a while. 


Janet regularly posted her travels on YouTube and was familiar with its variety and opportunities. She decided to create a separate channel spilling all her trade secrets. From "How To Create A YouTube Channel" to "How To Work with Brands On Instagram and Get Paid," she also covered topics like SEO and strategy and showed people that it is feasible to make a living off social media. 


Between her travel channel and social media growth hacks, she grossed over 170k subscribers. 

"It (lockdown) persuaded me to pivot my business; for digital nomads and freelancers, it is important to know that you sometimes need to change the direction of your business … I did that for 4 or 5 months, and it went really well." 


When restrictions began to ease and international travel was allowed, Janet found herself in Turkey, wondering where life would take her or what her next business venture would be. 

She had sold journalistontherun.com, and YouTube began to dry up. 


While sitting in a bar, she came across a man who was planning to visit Iraq. She thought he was crazy, but after a quick Google search, she saw that Iraq was opening up to tourism for the first time in nearly 20 years. Never one to say no to an adventure, Janet and two others were some of the first tourists in Iraq in almost two decades. "We signed up for a tour with a local company that had never toured with international tourists. They'd only ever had domestic tourists; we had an amazing time and left with incredible stories,".


Following her trip, Janet received a myriad of messages asking her about her time in Iraq, how she got there, and if she would ever organise a group trip there. "People were nervous about travelling after the pandemic," she explained, and that's how Janet's Journeys was born. 


Janet had always been a solo traveller so the idea of travelling in a group put her out of her comfort zone. Her career and explorations to date had been a whirlwind of venturing into the unknown, taking risks, and her ability not to say no. She knew it would be worth it. 


Having brought 14 travellers on a very successful first trip, people kept asking Janet where to next? 

In a year and a half, Janet has led an entourage of up to 15 people on trips lasting up to 10 days, visiting countries off the beaten path like Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, Namibia, and Papua New Guinea. 

Most recently, she completed her most ambitious trip yet, a group tour to Antarctica. Visiting Antarctica was a momentous occasion for Janet as it meant she had seen all seven continents. 


"When a trip to Sri Lanka was ending, three women asked if I could bring them to Antarctica. Myself included, there were four sign ups already. It was as good a start as any," she explained. "I contacted about ten different ships that go to Antarctica and eventually found one that was good to partner with me. We ended up having nine people on the trip. It was honestly a trip of a lifetime; we spent three days on an icebreaker ship crossing the Drake Passage, right down into Antarctica, and then four or five days in Antarctica, seeing whales and penguins. It was a trip of a lifetime." she said. 


Janet's Journeys quickly found a niche market. "It's mainly women," she admitted. "It's just the way it happened. We try to be as inclusive as possible, but most travellers are solo women aged 25 to 40. If 14 women and one man sign up, it can get awkward regarding the logistics of sharing rooms. We've had a few couples, which worked well". Janet has welcomed Irish, Scottish, English, Welsh, and Australians. "It's a nice mix; everyone gets on very well."


Up next is a trip to the Galapagos Islands in July. It's the first time the tours will visit there, and having gone on a research trip last July, "It's a place that's on many people's bucket list. The giant turtles and the wildlife there are insane, and the beaches are beautiful. It is going to be amazing."

So far, Janet's Journeys has taken 220 adventurers, more than 40 of them repeat customers, to 15 countries across six continents. 


Janet is a testament to the phrase, "One must travel to learn." To keep up to date with all of Janet's adventures, you can follow her on Instagram at janetnewenham and janets_journeys. 

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