Dr. Jessie Voigts is the founder and chief editor of Wandering Educators, one of the largest online resources for internships, international jobs and academic conferences around the world. We caught up with Jessie in the following interview.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and about WanderingEducators, the online community of global educators you founded.
Wandering Educators is the #1 travel site for global educators. And, I have to admit, it’s SO much fun. Our site is really a travel library, a set of resources that curious people can use to learn more about the world. One of my favorite things about Wandering Educators is that we get to share so many people’s lifework and passions – from an eco-village to websites, from books to their photos and art. It’s an honor, really, to be able to share so much.
You started WanderingEducators in 2007 and since then it has grown to be one of the top online resources for global educators. When you first started, did you envision WE offering the breadth of resources it does today?
In a word, no! I had no idea that we’d have tens of thousands of articles about people, places, and cultures around the world. At first, I tried to publish something three times a week. Now, we publish at least 2 articles a day, and have over 35 topical editors and hundreds of contributors that add their expertise and stories. It’s exciting!
WE is more than just a website you run – it’s part of the fabric of your daily life. How does your role as a publisher fit in with your life as a wife and mother?
It’s a challenge at times, but the best part is that it allows us to pursue our chosen lifestyle. We homeschool our daughter, and that is another factor to add to the equation. The wonderful part of running Wandering Educators is that our whole family is involved – my husband, Ed, is the CFO and runs the business side. Our daughter, who is 9, comes up with new ideas, reviews books and our travels, and is the inspiration for many a trip.
It helps that we’re all involved – most of our discussions (whether at table or in general) revolve around travel, cultures, languages, books, politics, and the interesting people we meet, write about, and feature. It’s quite an education for a child, to be part of running a global business. Sometimes, there’s so much to do that family time is work time. I love that our daughter is intercultural. I asked her about this – she said that Wandering Educators is our Family Job. :) The bonus is that we live on a lake and are always enticed to head outside. Since the ice melted on the lake a few weeks ago, we try to kayak almost every day, weather permitting. It’s glorious, especially in the summer.
You created WE as a resource for educators, but is it just a community for teachers or can non-educators also be a part of it?
We define our audience as anyone who is curious about the world, whether they are educators, administrators, parents, or life-learners. I think that encompasses just about everyone! We’re really a travel library of very interesting things, for curious and engaged global citizens.
You must have some amazing stories that you’ve heard from members of your community. Can you share with us one of your favorite stories?
One of the things I love most about Wandering Educators is the diversity of stories. We interviewed Alex Lobrano, who wrote Hungry for Paris, and it inspired many people on their journeys in Paris – I love when people report back, and tell us how much they appreciated reading a book, or of a place, on our site. I also love that for some, being featured on Wandering Educators has been a springboard to greater creativity, awareness, travel, and inspiration. We’ve been a resource for travel planning, for reading, for art, and for family travel. When our readers write and tell us how Wandering Educators has influenced their lives, it makes me happy.
You’re a big believer in the importance of connecting with local people when you travel. What has been the most recent memorable interaction you’ve had with a local on your travels?
When we were in Scotland, we met up with a friend of a friend. Our music editor, Kerry Dexter, had interviewed musician Sarah-Jane Summers, for travel tips to Scotland. We followed one of her tips, and had one of the best afternoons we’ve ever had. We met George and Ishbel Strachan, who run a B&B in Glen Affric. Ishbel paints, George sings, and he runs the mail through the Glen, as well. Our daughter played with their grandkids, we toured their music studio, and had a lovely tea. It was the perfect way to get a feel for a local culture. I’ll never forget it. THIS is why we travel.
What inspires you to travel and to make travel such an integral part of your life and your family’s life?
To be honest, I can’t imagine life without exploring other cultures, whether it is down the street or across the world. I gained an appreciation for this growing up – our whole family travels, and always has. We’ve hosted exchange students, and studied and worked abroad. The very fabric of our lives is international, which is such a source of joy to me.
I’ve worked in international exchange and study abroad, and feel that this is critical for any teen to go through. But it shouldn’t stop there – gap years, family trips, working overseas, sabbaticals – these are important ways to learn of other cultures. While you’re at home, host people from other places, eat ethnic food, explore books and music and films from different cultures. It’s such a great way to enrich your lives.
Connect with Jessie and other members of the Wandering Educators community via the Wandering Educators Tripping Network. And check out the Wandering Educators website here: http://www.wanderingeducators.com/.