Escape Artist Q&A: Audrey Scott and Daniel Noll of Uncornered Market

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Escape Artist Q&A: Audrey Scott and Daniel Noll of <i>Uncornered Market</i>

This column, “Escape Artist,” is a series about folks who have escaped. More importantly, this biweekly column is for those thinking about trading in their 9-to-5, leg-shackled-to-the-desk existences to forge their own way. The brave outliers featured in this collection of interviews are the digital nomads, online entrepreneurs and lifestyle trendsetters who decided it was time to say to hell with the humdrum and grab life by the roots.

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Travel bloggers

Audrey Scott and Daniel Noll run Uncornered Market, a travel blog that shares what it’s like to travel as a married couple. They’ve traveled to more than 90 countries, aiming to create a movement of respectful travelers who have adventures and care for the planet at the same time. In 2016, they’ve walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain and spent time in Botswana.

Paste Travel The “escape the 9-to-5” mentality seems to be popular now. What are your impressions?

Audrey Scott Although there’s always been a portion of people who are freelance or self-employed, we have seen this idea of “escape the 9-to-5” increase during the last decade. Technological changes have allowed people to find connectivity almost everywhere, and more work can be done remotely or delivered over the internet. It’s easier for people to develop income streams through freelance work or their own products and services.

There are advantages and disadvantages to this style of work. It provides people with flexibility to set their own schedule and have a level of independence that they might not have if they were working a traditional job. However, there is often a higher level of uncertainty and risk, as well as need for self-discipline. This isn’t for everyone, and not everyone thrives in this sort of environment.

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PT What was the “aha” moment that sparked ongoing travel for you?

AS We made two big international leaps that created the lives we have today. We moved from San Francisco to Prague, the Czech Republic, at the end of 2001 and then left Prague to travel around the world in 2006, which eventually turned into a new profession and lifestyle. Both decisions were spurred by curiosity about the world and asking, “What if?” It’s easy to put things off to the point of it never happening. We didn’t want to look back with regret in 10-20 years and wonder what would have happened if we had acted when we had the opportunity.

PT What inspired you to start blogging, and how did you first build a following?

AS In our previous lines of work, we didn’t feel like our creative sides had much of an outlet, so when we made the decision to quit our jobs to travel the world, we looked at it as a 12-18 month “creative sabbatical.” Originally, Uncornered Market was meant to be a home for that creative writing and photography and a portfolio to transition into other more creative-oriented work. We focused on telling stories that shifted the prevailing narrative and stereotypes and traveled to countries considered unusual or dangerous by family and friends back home such as Central Asia, Iran and Bangladesh. I’d like to say we had a strategic plan to build a following, but it happened because our blog stood out for the places we visited, our focus on people and their stories, and the quality of the writing.

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PT Why did you decide to focus on the “Uncornered Market” idea and brand?

AS Uncornered is guided by the motto, “Driven by Curiosity, Guided by Respect.” This approach to travel brings benefit both to the traveler through deeper, more immersive experiences and the local community through economic and cross-cultural exchange. We focused on this niche because we’ve seen the potential travel has to turn fear into curiosity, breaking down barriers and stereotypes and replacing them with connections. This approach to travel — and life — helps us better understand ourselves, the world, and our place in the world.

PT What is it like to travel as a husband-and-wife team?

AS It is certainly more difficult to align the goals and needs of two people rather than one, but it is definitely possible and reaps tons of benefits. Our travels together are a way to learn about and understand each other better and the potential we have when we work together as a team. We have very different personalities, so we come away from experiences with different observations, lessons and photos. We’re always learning from each other and trying to expand our individual perspectives. At the same time, travel can be stressful, so it’s important to focus on open communication and have a good sense of humor.

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PT Do you have a favorite travel spot you’d like to share with Paste readers?

AS It’s always difficult to pick a favorite travel spot, but our favorite type of trip is a multi-day trek where we go offline. For the last few years, we’ve tried to do this at least once a year. The idea is to disconnect in order to reconnect with nature, each other and ourselves. Since so much of our work and time is spent online, it can be hard to turn off and disconnect. During these offline experiences, we are able to reflect properly and think more creatively.

PT The “dream job” and “travel blogging” mentality is becoming more popular. What have you noticed?

AS When Uncornered Market launched in 2007, there were only a handful of travel blogs, but today, there are thousands of travel blogs with conferences and courses dedicated solely to travel blogging. It’s a different world. Some people believe it’s easy to start a blog and “get paid to travel the world,” but it takes time and work to develop a voice and grow a trusted community. Not everyone is interested in putting in that type of investment. Although the market seems saturated, I also think the competition pushes people to be more creative, focus on more niche topics, and better their craft. This is a good thing.

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PT What’s one tip you have for readers who want to live a life like yours?

AS Live deliberately. If you want to follow a dream or take a risk, you have to prioritize, make sacrifices, and work hard to develop the skills you need. This may not sound sexy, but it’s how we realized that so much is possible when we’re focused on a goal.

PT What are you focusing on for the rest of 2016?

AS Our 2016 has been filled with some remarkable trips and experiences. For the rest of the year, we’re trying to be still and finally write the book we keep threatening to write. We’re also focused on speaking at U.S. universities about global citizenship and the benefits of international education.

Carolyn Crist is a freelance journalist based in Georgia. She writes about travel, health and business for regional and national publications