Pretty Major Life Announcement – Leif Makes a Career Change

me in almeria

Aspiring travel writer takes a break in Almeria, Spain. (2003)

Brace yourselves for a Pretty Major Life Announcement (PMLA) that I myself can barely believe is happening.

It’s been 11 years, seven months and some change since I quit my idiot-proof career at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, sold my car, my house and everything in it, bought a laptop and flew to Europe for open-ended travel and embarrassingly vague plans to become a travel writer.

Overall I can’t complain about what happened next. I indulged in 4.5 years of global nomadic wandering, I became a happier, healthier, wiser person and, to my genuine surprise, I somehow engineered a freelance travel writing career with no training, no connections and no clue that’s endured for, well, 11 years, seven months and some change.

Alas, the past few years of freelancing have been increasingly discouraging. Clients have been closing down or scaling back, fees are getting lower, and I’ve been forced to do way too much exhausting (and unpaid) freelance hustling. After my two biggest clients shut down in late-2013, I started fervently looking for full time work.

Which brings us to the PMLA: On January 19th, I start a new career working for the Mall of America.


Those of you who are familiar with my general feelings about malls, shopping and the suburbs may be concerned about an undiagnosed, juggling-related head injury right now, but wait! My job, Tourism Communications Manager, has nothing to do with retail. In fact, it’s delightfully similar to the responsibilities and tasks I enjoy as a freelance travel writer, with the added attraction of a fixed salary, paid vacations and benefits.

I’ll be writing articles/blog posts/copy, working on social media, pitching stories to editors (and writers), and generally promoting a destination. But instead of promoting a new destination every week, I’ll be promoting the same destination, always.

In short, I’ve turned to the Dark Side, as one colleague put it. You may call me “Darth Norwegius.” But I’m excited nonetheless and, most importantly, I go in with a very fresh writer’s perspective on things such as targeted press releases rather than machine gunning and exactly who is helping whom in the writer/destination relationship.

I will undoubtedly continue to moonlight in travel writing (I do have a few fun clients left), and I’ll still be a presence in the travel industry, but I’ll be sitting on the other side of the desk, luring media attention instead of being lured.

That’s the gist of it. Having not worked in an office for almost 12 years, and having never worked for an entity in the private sector, any and all (re)entry advice is welcome.

Also, WTF are “slacks”? Apparently I need to wear them.