Have you ever thought about saying goodbye to your job and hello to traveling the world? For some, it’s just a fantasy. For Klaudia Jakubiak, she made it a reality.
Jakubiak is founder The Travel Critic, a blog where she not only curates breathtaking photos and the best places to eat and play, but also offers inspiration and wellness tips centered on deepening human connections.
In the video and Q&A, learn about why she took the leap, the importance of living with intention and how Bali changed her life.
Tell us about your family and background.
So my family’s from Poland. But during communism, my parents moved to Austria to get sponsorship to come to the U.S. So, I was actually born at a refugee camp in Austria, which is so crazy to me, because growing up when my mom would tell me that, I had no idea what that meant. And, my mom was 19 when she had me. So my parents started very early on, you know, trying to make a better life for their family, essentially. So, they came over to the U.S. when I was about eight months old. They didn’t speak any English. They didn’t have much family here. They had one uncle and that was about it. So very humble beginnings, I would say. But there was always this focus on education and not losing my heritage. So that was, you know, my Polish heritage. So going to Polish Girl Scouts, Polish Catechism, everything, right. My parents would force me to do that. At the time, I again, I didn’t appreciate those things.
So, as I started to progress and get older, I realized just how important that is to have that as a part of my life and as a part of who I am, because that is a thread of what makes me, me. I was raised in Michigan, basically my whole life. And then graduate from Michigan State University, got my first real job, moved to Missouri. So, I was living out of state for quite a bit with my first job, and then came back to Detroit and had a job in Atlanta for a bit. And then I said, ‘I quit.’ And I just went on this this journey. That was something that my parents probably would have never expected to happen for me, because there was such a focus on education and getting a good job. So that kind of came as a surprise to them.
How hard was it to quit your job?
Really hard. I was also at a really, really rough time in my life, and I was waking up in the middle of the night and asking myself, ‘What am I doing?’ And, ‘If I quit this job, I’m not going to have a steady income.’ This is something so foreign to me. My job was a really big identity. I was a big part of my identity, because if anyone ever asked me, like, ‘Well, what do you do?’ I always had something to say. And I also knew that when I didn’t have that, like, what do I tell people? Like, who am I? What is the essence of me, you know? And that was a big learning curve, but also probably the best thing I could have ever done, because in that timeframe I actually figured out who I am as a person. What do I like? What do I want out of life? I don’t think I will fully ever have the answers because that’s part of life. You’re always evolving. But in that time, I was actually up finally at peace with myself.
It was two years into my corporate job, I realized that I was so unhappy, and there’s this whole creative side to me that I never had an opportunity to express. So growing up, I loved art and you would not see me anywhere without coloring pencils and drawing and painting. But obviously, as I got older, my parents, you know, they’re like, ‘You’re not going to go to school for art, like, that’s happening.’ So that whole side of me was just lost. And, you know, so when I was two years into my job, I realized I’m like, ‘OK, if I want to create something or I want to creative expression, I’m just going to do it and see what that progresses into.’ And at that time, Instagram was just starting and I was like, ‘OK, so let me just start posting my photos,’ because I was always traveling a lot and people were always asking me, you know, if they’re going to New York, like, ‘Where should I eat or what should I do?’ And I was like, ‘OK, let me put all that together somewhere.’ Like have a space where someone can just go to my Instagram, see that I was in New York, and these are all the places and things that I did. Instead of constantly telling people, they would have all of that in one place, and I’m able to creatively express myself.
How do you set yourself apart from the crowed travel influencer space?
I think it’s beautiful to curate photos and show these experiences. But taking that off and just going a little bit deeper: Why are you traveling or why did you decide to go here? And are you connecting with the locals? Are you understanding how they’re living? What experiences have you had there that you can’t have in your city? So I really try and focus on that. And I think that really does resonate with people because it’s more also relatable. Not everyone can just, you know, stay in the south of France and be on yachts all day. That’s not realistic. And that’s not necessarily something that I want to showcase, because it’s not something that really aligns with what my end goal is. I want to look at travel as a healing mechanism and as a tool and resource and also not a form of escapism, because sometimes I know people do it just to escape. But, one thing that I think really does set me apart is just kind of showing those real and raw experiences.
What’s your favorite travel tip?
Every time I go to a specifically a new country, I always have a different fragrance or perfume with me, that way I’ll wear it that entire trip. And then I’ll never wear it again. And then I’ll have it with me, but I can smell it, and it reminds me of those moments that I had. So that’s one thing I tried to do in every new country.
Where was your most transformative experience?
Most transformative place for me and a place that stands out more than anything else was Bali. And that was for many reasons. But I had never traveled to a place that was so energetically charged and I didn’t even know what that meant until I got there. That was the trip where I was doing things like going to see a guru and having him just kind of give me his insights that I had never experienced before. And he was able to identify low areas in my body that had low energy. And then afterwards he gave me this almost like debrief of kind of where I was in my life. And then he also told me that, you know, being in my late 20s and whatnot, that I shouldn’t feel bad for feeling this way because a lot of people feel this way. So this isn’t something that I should feel guilty for feeling, which really resonated with me, too, because it made me feel like it’s OK to feel like this. It’s OK to have these feelings and feel confused in your life. And so that kind of gave me a sense of peace.
I was going to Yoga Barn. I was going to differently kundalini energy classes. My first class there, when the teacher started talking, I just started to cry, because everything she was saying was completely aligned with where I was my life at that time — about being stagnant in your life and confused and not knowing which direction to go. I just sat there, and I was just weeping because that’s what I needed. I needed to have this moment of release, too. And so that was quite transformative. And also that was a place where I just felt truly alive. You know, I was just telling you, I was like hopping on random boys’ scooters and just it was the thrill and adventure. And I really, really needed that. And I really needed to feel that moment of just being so alive.
How did you get your start as Director of Human Resources at the Shinola Hotel?
So it was interesting because I’d just come back from this five month high of traveling. Honestly, I felt so full and I was so at peace and it was funny because I wasn’t even working. Like, I didn’t have this crazy stream of income or anything like that. And so that was the most fascinating for me that I didn’t have to have these things or these titles to feel happy and fulfilled. So once I changed my mindset and I was at that point, things just kind of started attracting into my life, I think. And this opportunity just came up. I wasn’t at a point where I was ready to jump right back into corporate. However, after meeting the people that worked here and what the position entailed, it really, really intrigued me. Even though it was still HR, and it was something that I had quit previously in my other job, I think it was for me the change of environment and just like the people that I was working with, that I felt very much connected to. It’s almost like being somewhere that was super corporate-y, I had a hard time connecting with people. And here I felt like I could bring my whole self to the job.
In my interview, they asked me about what ‘The Travel Critic’ was and they were just so intrigued by it and they actually wanted to hear more about it. And so being able to actually talk about that and not feel guilty and seeing that someone else wants to support your creative endeavors made me feel like this is a company that I do want to work with. And it’s worked for me since I started working here, you know. I can still provide them with the type of value that I’ve had from past experiences and then also still work on my creative endeavors and they’re OK with it. So I think it is a matter of finding whether you might not be happy in your job, that’s not to say that you made the wrong mistake in your career or anything like that, maybe you just need a change of scenery. Maybe you need to go somewhere where you feel a little bit more connected or the company has different values than where you’re currently at. So I wouldn’t say that you have to change your your entire life, but maybe it’s just making a small decision like going somewhere that feels more aligned for you.
Have you found your purpose?
I think my purpose is always evolving. When I had set these parameters of, OK, I need to know my purpose by X amount of, by this time and this time. It just gave me stress and gave me anxiety. So I think if I’m living a life that I feel whole and I feel like I’m also contributing to the world in some way that has a positive impact, whether it’s through inspiration or whatever it is or I’m helping people with resources and tools that can help them get through really hard times in their life, that to me is very purposeful. I’ve tried to really focus this year on intention. I think when you’re living intentionally, it also helps you feel like you have a purpose, as well. So I think there’s never really an end goal when it comes to your purpose, because I think it’s always, always evolving. But I definitely feel more at peace.