“I travel to face my fears,” Valerie Stimac, 30, wrote on her travel blog, Valerie and Valise, in a 2015 post. “For me — and maybe for all travelers — there’s a certain rush when realizing you’ve done something you perhaps didn’t think you couldn’t before… I look back most fondly on those travels where I’ve been the most changed.”
For Stimac, however, traveling doesn’t only change her; rather, it largely defines her. Upon moving back to the States after earning her MBA in London in 2013, Stimac was keen to find a constructive hobby while unemployed. Enter: Valerie and Valise. Aptly titled, Valise refers to her leather weekender with which she prefers to traverse the globe. She made the decision to focus on her blog — which has since amassed more than 80k followers across her social channels — for about one year until she had the opportunity to write for Lonely Planet; that’s when her freelance career really launched.
To date, Stimac has traveled some 26 countries and writes almost exclusively about travel. She has bylines in major travel publications spanning Lonely Planet, AFAR, MapQuest, Go Overseas, Matador and more. For most people, making the decision to delve into freelance full time isn’t an easy one — perhaps it’s even a fear many of those on the fence face, and one that travel might not be able to assuage.
While Stimac has built a reputation for herself as a travel writer — and the career does promise flexibility, creative authority to some capacity and autonomy — freelancing is no easy feat. Most freelancers are readily aware that, atop innumerable pitch emails and the occasional need to chase checks, working for oneself also means fending for oneself with regards to pricey necessities like health insurance. But before recently accepting a position as a managing editor for one of her former clients, Go Overseas, Stimac had pulled off freelancing full time for nearly three years in her late 20s.
“The startups I’ve worked at have always provided health insurance, plus dental and sometimes vision,” she says of her jobs prior to freelancing. “I always just used those benefits because they were available, and didn’t give it much thought.”
When Stimac fell into freelancing full time, she had to give health insurance thought. And because she did just that, we’ve asked her a bit about the process. If you’re looking to freelance but are apprehensive about giving up your benefits, consider this advice from a woman who’s been there, done that.