What a treat! I recently had the pleasure of interviewing The Travel Belle’s own Associate Editor, Briana Palma, on-site in Dublin. Even better, the interview took place during lunch in O’Neill’s, a pub that has been going strong for over 300 years.
One of my first questions was: “Why are we talking in Dublin instead of your hometown, Boston?”
Briana explained that it was because of her love of travel. With an Italian father and an Italo-American mother, her natural orientation was toward Europe, especially the Mediterranean. Accordingly, after graduation from Syracuse University in snowy upstate New York with a degree in magazine journalism and Spanish she turned toward sunnier climes. The first stop was to study Spanish in Madrid. During this time she and a friend took a two-week trip to Italy, starting in Venice and ending in Rome. It was a dream trip. Although she forgot to throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain before departing she returned to Rome for five months anyway to perfect her Italian language skills and take time to enjoy some of Rome’s famed dolce vita.
Back in Boston she found that she was longing to try more of the expatriate life. She laughed as she told me, “You know, the grass is always greener on the other side.”
How did Dublin get in the picture?
Briana explained that she picked up a memoir called The Good Girls Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman to review on the blog, The Lost Girls. The story of a young woman who decided to drop the daily routine and move to Ireland for a working holiday was a revelation.
Briana thought, “Why not me?” She researched the concept and found that the United States has a bi-lateral agreement with Ireland, Australia and New Zealand for recent graduates to obtain a visa allowing them to work. By now a true traveler at heart, she resolved to move to Ireland too, even if no job was immediately available. She contacted every company that might be able to use her skills and luckily a response from a media company headquartered in Dublin came through just before she left. Her short term contract, where she specializes in tourism content, has since been extended for an indefinite period.
In between her duties in Dublin and taking advantage of the easy reach of the rest of Europe she continues to write for various publications, now including the Sunday Business Post and The Genteel, a magazine devoted to international fashion and design. Not only does she enjoy writing, she also likes to edit. This combination led her to her favorite online magazine, Travel Belles.
Living in Ireland, how did you connect with Margo?
Briana responded that it was serendipity – they connected by chance through Twitter, her favorite form of social media. She found The Travel Belles and clicked the “Follow” button. A return message showed up: “Thanks for following Travel Belles.” Briana chanced two submissions – a product review and tips on first time travel to Italy. Margo was impressed and invited her to help edit, a task she enjoys. Telecommuting is now so easy Briana has no problem fulfilling her duties but it has led to an odd situation: she and Margo have yet to meet!
What are the advantages of the expat life?
“Well – I love the buzz of being in a different culture although it is sometimes more difficult than most people would think. Whenever I am faced with an obstacle I think back to a dance teacher who told me that you learn the most by stepping out of your comfort zone.”
“I don’t want to stay in a bubble,” she added.
What do you do when you are not working?
Briana said that in addition to travel for pleasure she enjoys attending travel and journalism conferences, especially when they are held in an interesting location. She participated in one in Perugia earlier this year and most recently a conference held in Lismore, where two of the keynote speakers were especially inspirational. The first was, Mary Russell, an Irish writer/scholar who spent many years traveling in Syria by foot, bus and cycle. She candidly spoke about her experiences as a solo traveler enjoying the hospitality of the local people. Briana finds her advice, “Discovery favors the prepared,” a useful precept. The second speaker was Lonely Planet founder, Tony Wheeler, who spoke about overcoming the misconceptions we inevitably have about other countries by visiting them to see for yourself.
Briana said that there were many. She just returned from a short trip to Madrid where she met up with friend from her days at Syracuse, a happy reunion. But if she has to pick just one it would have to be her first visit to Venice where she and a friend were serenaded by the gondolier as they glided along a quiet canal.
What are your future plans?
“That’s the million dollar question! Life is good in Ireland – if only the sun would shine more often!”
*First photo by and property of Judith Works. Others provided by Briana Palma and used with permission.