When I was ten years old I knew I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I read voraciously and reveled in learning new words. (To this day I’m prone to mispronunciation because my vocabulary grew through reading, so if you hear me mispronounce something you are welcome – invited, actually – to correct me!) I dabbled in poetry and short stories, and had dreams of writing the Great American Novel.
As I got older I was distracted a few times. Clarinetist, lawyer, competitive ballroom dancer – all of these were potential careers, but by my mid-20’s I had returned to that prepubescent idea that words were my friend and I wanted to use them. A lot. I returned to college, graduated with a BA in Journalism, and began waiting tables.
I had moved to Chicago shortly after getting my degree. It was 2001, and even then I could see the “writing” on the wall. Instead of working for a paper I chose the flexibility of serving until I could figure out how I could write for a living. It was equally important that I be my own boss. My dad’s an artist and I grew up with his nearly-constant presence. The only time he wasn’t home was when he was traveling for art fairs.
My mom, brother and I often traveled with him. We’d pile into the van and set off for Florida or Colorado or Lafayette, Indiana. I didn’t know it at the time, but Dad’s career had a profound influence on mine. The road trips, the solitude of creativity, the camaraderie with fellow artists, the independence and the drive to always be better, they all resonated with me.
After a few months of living in downtown Chicago I had the idea for The Local Tourist. It began as a hobby, as a neighborhood guide so I could get to know my new city better. I quickly realized this could be my career. I put my hands on every bit of Internet marketing material I could find. I networked. I dedicated all my free time to learning and creating until finally I could make it my full-time job.
In many ways, The Local Tourist is my dream job. It’s the realization of that ten-year-old’s desire to write for a living, except I found I wasn’t doing much writing. In June I decided that needed to change. I began a series of e-books to provide more in-depth guides to Chicago and made sure that writing was a regular part my day.
I was back to writing, but part of my dream included traveling, sharing the wonders that are everywhere around us through words and images. There’s a lot to see in this big wide world, and much of that can be found in small towns and secluded spots.
Sharing those wonders is what Drive By Towns is all about. Thanks for joining me on this new adventure. I hope you enjoy the ride!