Getting to Know Kimberly Button

Kimberly Button on TravelWriting2.comKimberly Button has been a journalist and award-winning photographer for two decades, specializing in travel and green living. She is the author of two books The Disney Queue Line Survival Guidebook and The Everything Guide to a Healthy Home and two Orlando travel apps. Kim’s websites include KimandCarrie.com, which focuses on Southern travel and lifestyle; and GetGreenBeWell.com, which shows you how a healthy home can help you live a healthier life. She joins us this week to talk about her career and how she chose her particular niches.

What initially led you to travel writing and writing in general? 

I have been a writer my whole life. When I was 7 years old, I remember making magazine layouts, with full graphics and titles, on a notebook piece of paper while sitting on the grass in my backyard.

High school gave me the incredible opportunity to be a student staff writer on our city’s daily newspaper, which was an unbelievable advantage. And in college, I was newspaper editor, too, so I’ve always had a journalistic training.

In college, I started getting sick, really sick. So bad I couldn’t leave the bed or have enough energy to walk through a room. My health was faltering and suddenly I was faced with the possibility of not being able to work at all, and I was only 20. I had originally double majored in biomedical engineering and journalism because I always had a love for writing and couldn’t imagine not getting a journalism degree! Then my plans changed and I created my own major in Business Communications, with an emphasis on the business of writing.

The next decade was a struggle. Like a gut-wrenching struggle to just endure every day with pain and exhaustion. But the bright lining was always the opportunity to travel. So when I was able to rest up enough to go somewhere new, it was the spiritual and physical boost I needed to feel better. Which is why I moved from traditional journalistic reporting to travel writing.

For me, it was also a lifeline to be able to do some work when I could. Even when I was lying in bed, I could write a few sentences on paper (this was in the days before laptops) and type it up when I had energy. I could work around my needs and still be prosperous. So writing has been the exact answer I needed!

Kimberly Button on TravelWriting2.com

You’ve been successful incorporation sustainable living into your writing niche, what motivated you to follow that path and how do you think it has enhanced your career?

My decade or more of severe health problems ended up being attributed, in large part, to chemical exposure and a toxic living environment. I wasn’t living in a house or dorm or apartment that was any different than anyone else’s. They were very nice, in fact! But at the time I didn’t know that everyday exposures from chemicals, from furniture to food to cleaning products, could be building up and causing health problems. Some people never have a problem. Others, like me, have high sensitivity and can really be affected. That’s why I started www.GetGreenBeWell.com. I share simple and surprising ways that everyday products might be causing you health problems, and smart solutions to choose safer items for your home, travel and health.

I’m passionate about sustainable living because of how deeply and how strongly it can affect your life. I’m a big believer in doing what you can, and not having to do it all. I think when people hear about sustainable living or protecting the environment, all they envision is living on a hippie commune and giving up everything. And then they completely tune out. But nothing could be further from the truth!

Every action that we take has a reaction somewhere. And the world is quickly changing to where we care a lot more about what companies we give our money to, who we support with our hard-earned dollars, and spending time wisely in a positive way. Sustainable living and travel go hand in hand with those philosophies. Whether it’s supporting an awesome independent tour provider, eating local foods or rediscovering our amazing landscapes, the best travel can also be sustainable.

We just spent a year on the road RVing and visiting National Parks. I really don’t think that most people understand what a national treasure we have. There are parts of America that are so stunning, and yet you never hear about them. And surprisingly, more foreign tourists are at some of our National Parks than Americans. They recognize our great natural beauty and that it’s like nothing else on Earth. So encouraging sustainable living, which in turn helps to protect our unique ecosystems, really blends well with travel writing.

Kimberly Button on TravelWriting2.com

I happen to know you’re a Disney expert! Share with us a little about your connection to Disney and how you’ve been able to use that to further your writing goals.

We visited Disney World a lot when I was young. I have pictures of us in strollers in front of the castle (with no crowds!), so it has been a family destination for four decades.

In college, I was desperately wanting to go somewhere fun. I did research and found a way that we could go to Disney World for a couple days nearly free of charge. I used points to get a hotel room, and there were free Disney tickets for your birthday back then. I was so impressed when I figured out how to get discounted travel. That might have been the trip that really started my travel planning passion.

I applied and was accepted into the Disney College Program. So I spent one semester living at Disney World and working in Disney’s Hollywood Studios in attractions. Later on, I would go to work at Disney World full time in many roles, including entertainment, marketing, attractions and hotels. I also was one of only 5 Americans hired to work on the Disney Wonder when it was inaugurated. It was a big deal to be chosen (I interviewed for months), and I worked with the Cruise Director to create family-friendly entertainment and oversee shore excursions.

As I’ve shared, I was really dealing with a lot of health problems around the same time. When I had to completely stop working, I decided to write a book about fun things to do while standing in the long lines at Disney World. It was a topic that I knew from my unique experiences and didn’t have to research a lot, and I could write it from my bed when I needed to. My book is The Disney Queue Line Survival Guidebook. It was the first book of its kind released, and one of the few Disney books back then that wasn’t an official guidebook. People really loved the book, and it was a game changer in the industry. Walt Disney Imagineering bought a copy of the book and it’s now in their archives in California, you can actually see it on a tour at the Walt Disney Studios. A couple of people that have been on that tour have sent me photos of my book on the library shelves at Disney’s archives, and it makes me so happy!

Today I live in Orlando, and everything about Disney travel has changed. It has really skyrocketed in popularity. And social media makes everyone a Disney expert, too, or at least look like an expert. It’s an overly saturated market for sure, but when it comes down to it there are less people that write about smart Disney travel and planning versus lots of pretty pictures from a vacation. I write a lot about the theme parks because it is such a major tourist destination. In fact, Orlando is the most visited city in America, primarily because of Walt Disney World. But a visit is overwhelming and let’s face it, it’s a huge financial investment to come to Disney. I like to help travelers that need unbiased information with real, actionable tips.

Kimberly Button on TravelWriting2.com

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the travel writing/blogging world in today’s environment?

You know, it’s never been easier to start, and it’s never been harder. Anyone can be a travel writer with a camera and a blog or publication to place content. But that means that everyone is trying to be one.

I’ve worked with so many PR professionals and quality publications to know that they really are watching the quality of your content. If you do sub-standard work that’s embarrassing and just click-bait, the travel industry notices.

Starting out, focus on what you know. Everyone will say that because it is right. Even today, 20 years into travel writing, the moment that I start trying to do too much work on something out of my niche or expertise, it just gets harder and takes more time. Not to say that you can’t change up your coverage or visit someplace new but stop trying to reinvent the wheel with every blog post or article that you write.

Engagement also is a big factor of success. Whether it’s lots of views on your YouTube videos, tons of subscribers to a podcast, a robust email list or thousands of page views on your articles, you want to work on engagement. Which is easier when you’re passionate about your topic. Go to networking events, attend conferences, comment on online social media posts, etc. The more that you are involved and that your name is recognized again and again in small communities, the faster you are going to succeed.

What adjustments (if any) do you see yourself making in your travel writing and television career over the next few years?

Definitely more video. That has been said for years now, but it’s true. Travel needs to be a visual medium. No longer can you succeed with pages of text and a couple photos. You need to show your readers what a place looks like and get them excited about being there.

Kimberly Button on TravelWriting2.com

And for fun…you have $10,000 and a month to travel, no strings attached. Where would you go and what would you do?

Without a doubt, we’d go to all of the National Parks in Utah, Colorado and California. We’d stay at National Park Lodges or a cool vacation home and just spend the days hiking and taking photographs. And it would be such a cost-effective trip that I’d have money left over to travel another month, too, later on ;) That’s what I like to do, maximize my money!

Kim’s work has been featured in National Geographic Traveler, Time, American Airlines inflight magazines, AAA, The Washington Post, U.S. News and World Report and many more international and national publications. She’s also a frequent guest on national and local television news programs, including PBS, NBC, FOX and more. Follow her on Instagram at @kimberly_button.

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