Alyssa Ramos: Travelling Alone, Refusing To Conform
Travelling the world is a dream for most of us. But travelling it alone feels intimidating. Not so for Alyssa Ramos, the travel blogger who is defying convention in following her dreams.
The internet is a weird and wonderful place and it goes much deeper than just cat GIFs. Last year I went to the Grand Canyon and became slightly obsessed with it. I fed this obsession by trawling through Instagram in search of pictures. It was here that I found Alyssa Ramos and as I looked through her posts and her blog I knew this was a girl who was living life right.
Society has a standard for what you’re supposed to do
Read Alyssa’s blog, watch her videos and you immediately get a sense of her. Not an online version of her, there’s no facade here, no avatar fronting a brand, Alyssa is exactly what you get: she is the brand but without the branding so to speak. When talking with her in person she is bubbly, chatty and utterly engaging. Her thoughts often move at twice the speed of her words in an infectious stream of ideas.
Her journey to globally-recognised travel writer is not a traditional one. Her route is the road less travelled. As Alyssa points out, “Society has a standard for what you’re supposed to do.” Alyssa wasn’t ‘supposed’ to spend her life travelling, writing about it and sharing it with the world. At one point she was on a very different life trajectory. She has a degree in Biology and was ‘supposed’ to go to veterinary school.
But it wasn’t just Alyssa’s career that was seemingly planned out for her. “I just turned 28 and in my mind I had everything mapped out to this point. The majority of my friends from home have followed that plan. They’re either married with a kid or engaged.” We’ve all had that feeling about conforming to what others around us are doing, about not quite being free to be ourselves and express who we are. It’s Freudian at it’s most basic level and Alyssa realised this early on when she was in college, “my brain was stuck in the mode of ‘okay, I have to fit in with these people’ even though I didn’t feel like I fitted in at all.”
When I did my Cuba trip I had this mentality of fake it till you make it
It’s that sentiment that gave Alyssa her freedom from conforming. It happened in 2014 when she finally made the decision to volunteer in a school in South Africa. After a false start involving a travelling companion and a lost deposit Alyssa thought that maybe she should go by herself. “My mum told me to just do it. I was terrified but I booked it.”
Taking those first steps into the unknown is always daunting, doing it alone is something altogether more intimidating. “I wasn’t so much afraid of danger or crime as I was people’s reaction to me travelling by myself. Before I started doing this I used to get nervous eating by myself because I felt like people were looking at me asking what was wrong with me.”
Indeed Alyssa likes to call herself an ‘outgoing introvert.’
Despite the fancy and exclusive parties Alyssa used to attend in Hollywood, before she started traveling, she openly admits she is not the rich socialite some people think she is, and she isn’t able to travel because she comes from a wealthy family. Instead, Alyssa grew up with three siblings, two of whom had been adopted before Alyssa was born, with a single mother who brought in around $40,000 a year. “We didn’t exactly have money to go and do things, so my mother would take us on trips to a canal, or somewhere we could go canoeing but never very far from home.”
Breaking free of that shell, heading out into the unknown proved to be Alyssa’s crowning success. Albeit with a few moments of determination to get to where she needed to be. “When I did my Cuba trip I had this mentality of fake it till you make it. I was there with a magazine but the editors and photographers were always off doing fashion shoots and making me go with them because they were afraid to let me go off on my own. I swore I had traveled solo tons of times (only twice before) and complained about it so much that eventually I said to them, ‘I can’t write an editorial unless you let me explore this place’. So I went off on my own for two weeks and anyone I met who asked if I was alone, I’d lie to and say I was this well-known travel writer who was there on assignment writing the editorial for this big magazine, which was partially true. I must have been convincing because people believed me and I ended up going to review a hotel in Panama a few weeks later.”
What is so infectious about Alyssa is that determination, her ability to see every situation, no matter how difficult, as a challenge to be overcome.
Before long she was travelling to anywhere she could think of. She needed an outlet for it and, rather than rebrand her Hollywood blog, she stuck to her guns and My Life’s A Movie began to take shape. At first Alyssa thought the name didn’t make sense for a travel publication, it was always intended to be about her adventures in Los Angeles, the irony being that she was one of the few people in the city not trying to make it in the movies. “I don’t like being on camera, I wasn’t trying to be in the entertainment industry, I was just having fun and trying to figure my life out and completely content with making money from freelance writing gigs from behind my computer screen, not on it.”
Her reluctance to be on camera is something she’s rapidly had to overcome — you can’t run a travel blog called My Life’s A Movie and not create some kind of video content that features the “My” of the title. “I don’t really like being in pictures, I get really awkward. Initially when I started my Instagram I would just take photos of the places, I was never in them… but as a brand, and for me to be part of that brand I’ve had to find ways of overcoming that awkwardness.”
On reflection, the title seems apt. After all, what is a movie if not something fantastic; something most of us can only dream of. We go to the movies for a bit of escapism. Alyssa is living that escapism.
I do this because I want to encourage other people to do it too
For many, travelling is about creating memories, it takes you away from the everyday but for Alyssa it’s much more. “I’m creating my own story. Through my blog and Instagram I’m telling people about my adventures and my life.”
Alyssa’s blog and social media feeds allow us to travel vicariously through her. Ultimately though she wants others to be inspired to do it for themselves. “I’m not trying to be someone people would be jealous of, I do this because I want to encourage other people to do it too.”
And it seems to be working: “I’ve had a lot of people emailing and messaging me to thank me for inspiring them to go traveling on their own.”
Alyssa’s refusal to follow the well-trodden path through life has paid off, and it has impacted others to do the same. She set up a charity called HeartSleeves.org, which, for every shirt bought, two were sent to schools in South Africa where they don’t allow children to go in the playground or take part in PE unless they have a shirt to put over their uniform. She is also currently pitching a book based around her piece “Yes, I’m Pretty And I’m Travelling Alone” and plans to help send English Spanish dictionaries to Cuba where people aren’t taught English until they reach college.
Alyssa likes to say she’s ‘chasing waterfalls’ but from where we’re sitting she isn’t so much chasing but catching them and allowing us to be a part of this thrilling game. Long may it continue.
You can find all things Alyssa on her blog:
My Life’s A Movie
You can find out more about HeartSleeves HERE
For all her published works click on The Huffington Post and the Matador Network .