Kate McCulley was a 22-year-old with an English degree working at an office job in Fort Point Channel when she read a blog about a man circling the globe by himself.
“Until then it had never occurred to me that someone could travel the world alone,” said McCulley, who grew up in Reading (Reading Memorial High School, Class of 2002). My heart was thudding and I thought: This is what I need to do.”
In 2010, at age 26, she launched AdventurousKate.com, chronicling her own solo travels, which started with a six-month tour of Southeast Asia. Since then, McCulley has logged 79 countries across seven continents and fully supports herself on her publishing income. Her site attracts more than 200,000 monthly unique visitors and she has about 56,000 Facebook fans and 98,000 Instagram followers. In 2017, she was named one of Forbes’s 10 Most Influential Travelers.
McCulley is now based in New York City and still spends a good deal of time on the road. Below are edited excerpts from a phone interview with McCulley.
Q. Much of your blog focuses on safety as a woman traveling alone. Is that a big concern among your readers?
A. So much of travel safety is the same kind of issues women face anywhere. But, yes, I’m often asked about places, “Is it safe?” I started the blog as a way to encourage women to travel solo, so I always address safety in my detailed travel guides. People get so worried about traveling in certain places when they shouldn’t.
Q. What’s an example?
A. I think that Mexico in particular has the worst PR among Americans and the worst inaccuracies. People say, “You’re going to get raped and murdered there.” But unless you’re going to Mexico to fight with cartels, that’s like saying you shouldn’t go to LA because there’s gang violence in South Central. Yes, there are areas or neighborhoods where it’s not safe, so don’t go to those neighborhoods. One reason I like Mexico is that people are always around late into the night. That makes it safer.
Q. Do you see any notable differences in female solo travel now vs. when you started the blog?
A. There’s so much more information on the Internet now than a decade ago, when there was very little. So I don’t think it’s as foreign of a concept to travel solo. I also think there are more women traveling to interesting and less-easy destinations than before. For instance, I’ve recently been to Lebanon and Guyana. I hope to go to Brazil and West Africa later this year. I just got an opportunity to visit Baku, in Azerbaijan.
Q. Any specific reason for venturing into more remote and less-traveled lands?
A. A huge part is a reaction to the travel blogosphere. Everyone, it seems, goes to Iceland, Bali, and Barcelona. Not only are they huge favorites among travel bloggers, those destinations have major over-tourism. I really feel the urge to break away. That’s why Ghana is on my list, for instance. That said, I adore Italy and am visiting all 20 regions.
Q. You’ve gone on group press trips and sponsored trips that a destination pays for. How are you able to cover solo travel that way?
A. Most of my travel is solo and paid for by myself. Several years ago I took a lot of press trips, but got burned out on them. I still travel solo when sponsored. It doesn’t make a difference with how I function when I’m out and about.
Q. You’re opinionated not only about places, but also about politics and people. Isn’t that unusual in the travel blogosphere?
A. Yeah, among bloggers I’m known as the girl who’s controversial. I’m very vocal about my political beliefs and I point out things that I think are wrong. The other day, I wrote about how we need to stand up for children on the border. I spoke out about the TBEX conference for travel bloggers when they partnered with Zimbabwe while Mugabe was still in power. I got so much flack for it. But you know what? They ended up postponing the conference.
Q. What are some common misconceptions about your work, and when people ask what you do for a living, what do you tell them?
A. I say I’m the publisher of a travel website that teaches women how to travel safely. Publisher is a word I like, and it encompasses a lot of what I do. Just because there’s no barrier to entry doesn’t mean it’s easy to make a full time living at it. I think the most important thing is you need to have an ability to captivate an audience. It can be developed, but it can’t be taught.
Q. What’s the next adventure for Adventurous Kate?
A. I’ll keep traveling, of course. I don’t need to go to all countries in the world, though I’d like to get to 100. Later this year I’m going to launch a travel podcast and I also want to do something to help female digital entrepreneurs across all businesses because so many resources are tailored to men.
Diane Daniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.