Vanessa Chiasson on Starting Small and Going Big #PeopleOfTravel

Carl Hedinger
6 min readFeb 13, 2018

Vanessa Chiasson of Turnipseed Travel has taken a childhood nickname and threaded it into her brand. That personal touch is a major part of what has drawn readers to her site and clients to work with her. Chiasson’s talents and hard work as a creator nicely pair up with that clever branding. She is also one of the kindest people I’ve come across. Vanessa is always willing to share knowledge whenever a question is posed. We were lucky enough to interview Vanessa and get some answers about Turnipseed Travel, her husband Ryan, and a few other ways she’s going big.

Vanessa from Turnipseed Travel

All photos courtesy of Vanessa Chiasson from Turnipseed Travel.


Where did the name “Turnipseed Travel” come from?

Turnip Photo by Vanessa Chiasson from Turnipseed Travel

“Turnipseed” was a nickname my mom gave me when I was very small. You’ll have to ask her about the exact origins! But I like the alliteration of it. And turnip seeds are very, very small but they’ll thrive just about anywhere. Eventually, they grow into something big, strong, substantial. That analogy works well for me.

What would you consider to be your full-time job?

I’m a writer. I’ve been writing since I was five years old! It’s what I’ve wanted to do my entire life. I started my first blog in 1998 and let it trail off. A few more followed with a similar story. With Turnipseed Travel, I first started it to just record my thoughts and memories from trips, but it has grown into so much more. I’m finally at the point where I can combine my passions for writing and travel and a blog seemed to be a natural progression. I also freelance for other outlets and run a digital communication business called Sculpt Social, helping small businesses plan and organize and promote their digital content.

Her Workflow

How do you split up work on your website and social media? How do you make it work? Do you make it work?

I traveled solo for years and I still love it, but I’m just as happy now to go with my spouse Ryan, who’s a big part of the blog. He handles the photography and IT side of things and does some social media work, too. We’re a good fit and we balance each other in life, travel, and work.

Vanessa and Ryan from Turnipseed Travel

It’s both refreshing and challenging to try to work and write on the road. On one hand, it can be very frustrating to try to enter a focused creative zone when, say, you’re sitting on the dirty floor of an airport, trying to squeeze a blog post from a frazzled mind. On the other hand, new environments and new energies can make up for the disruption of regular writing rituals.

Where do you look to for inspiration in the writing and blogging?

Soaking in the diverse creativity of the art world recharges my batteries and makes me want to put my best foot forward with my own writing. I love art and always take the time to visit art galleries around the world. At home in Ottawa, I have a membership for the National Gallery of Canada. I love Monet and the Impressionists, early Florentine Renaissance art, Van Gogh, Jack Yeats, and Maud Lewis, the Nova Scotia folk artist whose incredible collection is held at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Spending some time looking at Lewis’s works was a memorable moment.

Vanessa Chiasson from Turnipseed Travel at National Gallery of Canada

Visiting art galleries is a travel habit I fell into when I was first backpacking in Europe, about 15 years ago. I was on an incredibly tight budget. We’re talking $25–$40 a day in Western Europe — for everything! I would choose my destinations entirely based on the availability of well-reviewed hostels that were cheap, cheap, cheap. I visited markets for food (and, might as well admit it, frequently raided the “free” shelf at the hostel), and went to every attraction that was free. And there were A LOT of free galleries! I’ve been an art lover ever since. Personally, spending time admiring and learning about art makes me a better writer and blogger.

Advice for Others

Any advice you’d have for someone who thinks they can’t have your success?

Stop focusing on the idea of “you only live once.” Instead, reframe it as “you only live for yourself.” Travel can be anything you want it to be. You don’t have to be a wild adventurer and you can strike a balance between challenging yourself and pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone. I’m a huge homebody but I still love travel all the same. I love getting out of a rut, exploring something or someplace new, and getting a fresh perspective on life by interacting with new people, cultures, landscapes, and food.

Vanessa Chiasson from Turnipseed Travel working in Budapest

There is absolutely nothing wrong by starting to travel locally by taking the train one city over and staying in a chain hotel and ordering room service. And if you want to embark on a ‘round the world trip just because something in you tells you to go — that’s great, too. Sometimes you just have to listen to your gut and go and it doesn’t matter if it’s big or small.

Regardless, you should write about it! Maybe it will be a small online journal or maybe it will be the start of an incredible new career. But you’ll never regret doing it. The world needs more voices that shine a light on different landscapes, food, culture, and people.

What’s going on with Where do you see it going in the future?

Vanessa and Ryan from Turnipseed Travel cooking in Prague

Back in 2013, we cashed in all of our frequent flyer points for an epic round-the-world trip. New York, Brussels, Paris, Istanbul, Bangkok, Yangon, Singapore, Sydney, San Francisco, and more stops — all for a mere $350 in taxes and fees. Seriously! And now we’re about to do it again! If all goes well, late 2018 will see us once again cashing in our points and circling the globe. And we’ll be taking our readers with us for every step of the way.

Our Thoughts and Yours, Too!

If there was one question that I wish I could’ve asked Vanessa, it would be this:

Beyond technology, what do you think has changed travel since the first time you went backpacking 15 years ago? Otherwise, I think this interview gave us a lot about her, Turnipseed Travel, and life beyond Vanessa’s creative pursuits. It’s always a pleasure learning from someone who’s been around the world and is more than happy to share how they did it. We look forward to seeing her progress and until then, a very special thanks to Vanessa Chiasson for taking the time to answer our questions!

What other questions would you have for Vanessa (and Ryan, too!)? Which of the places she mentioned would you like to visit first? Where should they go next? We’d love to read your thoughts in the comments section below.