Today’s interview is with a woman that I have long admired, Dr. Jessie Voigts. As publisher and editor-in-chief of Wandering Educators, one of the world’s largest online sources for international jobs, internships, and academic conferences, Jessie is a powerhouse in the world of travel and education resources for educators all over the world. Please read on to uncover more about Wandering Educators and the woman who dreamed it into existence.
MSW: Jessie, thanks for interviewing with us today! I am a big fan of Wandering Educators and I thank you for all of your support, encouragement, and coverage of my own personal projects in the past two years. I’m thrilled to be on the other end of the interviewing this time around! Let’s start with a brief introduction. Who are you and what do you do?
JV: I’m Jessie Voigts, and together with my family, we publish a travel resource/library for global educators, called Wandering Educators. We love it!
I have a PhD in International Education from the University of Minnesota. Prior to that, I worked in Study Abroad, and truly believe in the power of travel and intercultural experiences to change the world. I’ve lived and worked in Japan and Europe. Travel has brought me life-long friends and places to visit all over the world.
MSW: Can you tell us about WE? What is your role with Wandering Educators?
JV: An international community of traveling educators, WanderingEducators.com is a resource for discovering extraordinary travel destinations, fascinating people, and global artists and photographers, among our thousands of published articles. As well, WanderingEducators.com is the largest source of travel guide reviews on the internet.
WanderingEducators.com has over 35 editors, representing nations around the world and a plethora of intercultural and travel-related areas.
Lastly, WanderingEducators.com is the largest source of international jobs, internships, and academic conferences for educators around the world.
MSW: Who is a wandering educator?
JV: Our audience is diverse – travelers who are k-12 teachers, homeschoolers, students, higher education professors and administrators, and life learners – all are welcome!
I publish Wandering Educators – writing articles, interviewing travel resources, communicating with incredible people all over the world. It is a joy to constantly discover fascinating new people, places, websites to share with our readers.
JV: Originally, we had planned for the site to be a community site (like Gather, or Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum). However, as the site grew organically, we turned into a reference library for travel – JUST what global educators needed. We filled a niche! And just like a library, it isn’t necessarily a community where people talk a lot – but we DO know that they read, and try to best serve our community.
MSW: In the past two years, I’ve watched WE grow into a massive information site and a wonderful community for global educators. How has the site grown over the past few years?
JV: When we first started a few years ago, I was so happy to get 20 hits a day. I felt like the main character in Julie and Julia, where only her mom read her site at first. It has expanded exponentially, though, and now we average over 4,000 hits a day. Our readers are primarily women, 35 and over, who have at least one college degree. A high percentage of our Readers have completed a Master’s Degree or a PhD. Many of them work in an academic environment, and of course, they all travel. We are very pleased with this, and look forward to expanding the site and growing in the future.
MSW: Has WE met your expectations so far?
JV: Yes! We love sharing so many extraordinary travel resources with our readers, and discovering even more. I’d like to get more articles on and from teachers that travel – ESL, global citizenship, volunteer experiences, etc. I’d also love to share more organizations that help others – such as Udayan, a village in India that helps orphans; and the Merasi School, a school in India for 37th generation musicians that also happen to be untouchables. THESE things are how we can help change the world, one reader at a time.
JV: We’re looking to move the focus of our weekly features to include more content from our Editors – to share their expertise on a regular basis, and create more of a community. We’d like to reach out to more educators, globally, and have them share their experiences on the site.
MSW: Please tell us a little about your editors. How do you recruit editors and writers? If someone were interested in becoming a regular contributor to Wandering Educators, what kind of skills would they need and how would they get in touch with you?
JV: OH! If someone has a passion about a national, geographic, or topical area of interest, and are interested in sharing said passion through writing about it, please think about becoming a WE Editor! Email me: jessie [at] wanderingeducators dot com.
We LOVE our editors. We have over 35 editors from around the world, on a variety of topics, from ESL to Pet Travel to Living in Italy Editors. There is *always* room for more editors at our table – the more resources we share, the better! What do we need? A regular commitment to share your expertise on the site, articles of at least 400 words, and photos are also helpful to attract and maintain readership. I am also always looking for book reviews – if you’ve got a great book you’d like to share with our readers, please contact me.
MSW: You feature a diverse range of topics on WE. What are some of your more popular categories?
JV: Our most popular categories seem to be where someone has shared their passion/fascination for an area. An article on the famine trail in Ireland far surpassed our expectations – but the author was really interested in sharing it, and her passion for Irish History overflowed the article into our hearts.
Another area of great interest to readers is top ten lists – Top Ten Benefits of Renting a Vacation Home in Ireland, 10 Tips to Survive Culture Shock, and Five Great Tips for First-time ESL Teachers, etc. I think everyone likes a great list!
Mainly, our readers resonate to authentic experiences and helpful information.
MSW: What about favorite posts? What kinds of posts do well on WE? What are some of your personal favorites?
JV: My favorite posts are the ones where it makes me want to GO THERE, READ the book, EAT at that restaurant. You know, that certain je ne sais quoi that has you thinking, well, now I NEED to go to Costa Rica. I NEED to go to Paris and eat according to every place in the book, Hungry for Paris. I NEED to walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. I also enjoy reading restaurant reviews (we call them foodie finds), as I love to eat.
Lastly, we feature an artist and a photographer each month, and I love to see the incredible talent that our artists share!
MSW: Is there anything you’d like to add?
JV: We started Wandering Educators as a way for our family to do something together that we all enjoy – writing and traveling. Our 8-year old daughter writes on the site, and when we travel, she is always looking to take photos to illustrate her articles. It’s expanded into something that gives us purpose – to truly share the best of what we’ve found online, in the travel community, and on our travels, with our readers. With so many travel websites out there, it’s hard to stand out from the crowd. But we feel that educators have a different outlook than the norm, and like to learn about getting off the beaten path, learning from locals, and travel as being an intercultural, life-long journey. I feel very lucky to be able to combine so many of our interests in something that is so very rewarding.
MSW: Famous last words?
JV: There’s never enough time to see the world, read all the books we want to, eat in all the great restaurants all over the world. We CAN learn, and share, and work together to inspire intercultural understanding.