Kelly Lewis recently published her first Go! Girl Guides travel book, Go! Girl Guides: A Woman's Guide to Traveling in Thailand. Lewis collaborated with her friend Krissy Sauter, who took all the photos. Lewis has been traveling since she graduated with a journalism degree from the UA in 2008. In 2009, she created a travel blog, and a year later, she started a website called Go! Girl Guides. For women-specific travel info, visit travelbugjuice.com or gogirlguides.com. The book is available at Amazon.com, and Summit Hut has agreed to carry it.
How do you feel now that your first book is published?
I need to give this book a proper run around the block, but at the same time, I need to get the next book going, too. I am happy, but it has been a really hard process financially, trying to stay afloat and make everything happen. I worked hard so I didn't need to get a loan to do this. I ate a lot of expired bread. It was beans and bread for a long time.
How did you start traveling?
I always wanted to study abroad, but couldn't really afford it, and I wanted an experience that wasn't so regimented. ... I graduated, and my friend Krissy Sauter ... and I took off for Fiji, New Zealand and Australia, and when we were in New Zealand, I just absolutely fell in love with it. So I came home to Tucson and sold everything I owned in two weeks. I got a working-holiday visa. The first place I worked was a pool hall filled with pool tables from Connelly Billiards in Tucson. ... Then I got a job as a Lord of the Rings tour guide. I'd never even seen the movies until I got the job, but it was so much fun. I came back (to Tucson), and I was working as an editor for Oser Communi-cations full-time, and part-time at the Cup Café as a hostess, and doing freelance for Zócalo, and taking care of my grandma. I wanted to travel again, so I worked really hard for four months and then went to South America.
That was when you started TravelBugJuice.com, right?
It was right before that when I started Travel Bug Juice, my travel blog. The timing was good. I was going to Carnival (in Brazil) and doing these ... trips and gaining a lot of followers. When I came back, I got all the same jobs. I didn't have a goal, but I was saving all this money, and then in December of last year, I had a dream. In my dream, I was looking at a guide book ... and it was called Go! Girl Guides, except it was on Mexico. In the dream, I said, "Wow, what a good idea. Why didn't you think of this? Someone else thought of it." Then I woke up and thought, "Oh, my, I need to do this." I found a lawyer, set it up properly and started working on the book, and by March, I was out in Thailand, and here we are ... and the book is done.
What advice are women usually looking for in a guide book?
Safety, first and foremost. Unfortunately ... I've stayed in a guidebook-sponsored hostel that was in a horrible part of town that I never felt safe at. I wanted to eradicate that fear. I've been to Argentina, which is my next book, and initially, my thoughts are the men: How aggressive are they going to be? Is there something I need to be prepared for? Is there a certain way I should dress so I blend in more? ... It is also hard to find tampons in Argentina, and it is a conservative country. ... Where are the women's hospitals? What happens if you get a urinary-tract infection? We have to deal with things that are specific to women, and that's where we step in and try to take it a step further.
What's your overall goal?
I want to have a series that covers the world, and I want to inspire women to travel. I want to be a resource for women, because there isn't anything out there. Other women tell me that they wish they could do what I do, but look: If there were ever an ideal time to do anything, there would be no fun in life. Sometimes, you suck it up and sell all your things and live with family until you can afford it and figure out a way to do it if you want it badly.