How I Got Headhunted for a Jaunt to Japan

Australian travel writer Annabel Candy

Last month, in among the hundreds of emails I get each day, this one stood out:

“Dear Annabel,

Your blog bio says you have traveled to Southeast Asia and India, but have you been to Japan?

I need one more Australian travel writer to join a whirlwind tour of the Hokoriku region of Japan – northern Honshu, on the Japan Sea coast – famous for rice, ryokan, and the real Japan.

I have attached an invitation to the trip.”

I’ve previously been picked for an all expenses paid trip to Shanghai but I was excited about this invite to Japan so I emailed them back at the double saying:

“Hai! Hai! Hai! Hia!”

At least that was the gist of what I said – it means yes, yes and yes again.

I haven’t been to Japan before and I’m mad keen to visit even though I’m hot weather freak and the trip is in February when freezing temperatures and deep snow are the norm.

I love Japanese food, textiles and people and Hokuriku is well off the beaten track so I’ll see traditional and rural areas of Japan, which are far from the stereotypical idea of Japan.

My trip to Japan also includes four days in the historic city of Kyoto with a group of travel writers from North America, Europe and Australasia so that will be another experience in itself.

So how did this come about and how can you make your dreams come true?

1. Follow your passion

I’ve been mad about travel ever since I can remember. While most people dream about travel I designed my life round it, studying to teach english as a foreign language so I could travel widely in my twenties.

Since then, with the Mucho Man and three kids in tow, I’ve been traveling more slowly but we’ve still taken big risks like moving to New Zealand, Costa Rica and Australia fueled by that passion for travel.

2. Write a blog

Writing is another lifelong passion and blogging has allowed me to share my writing and love of travel with the world. I’ve been a web designer and web copywriter for 16 years but blogging has helped me establish myself as a freelance and travel writer too.

My blog has helped catch the eye of companies like Coca-Cola, The Hyatt and Ogilvy and Mather who are keen to gain access to my writing and get featured on my blog.

The creative and business opportunities blogging has brought me have made me passionate about blogging too so I set up Successful Blogging to help other writers and small business owners.

3. Persevere even when it seems hopeless

When I was a child I was discouraged from writing as a career but I wrote anyway. When I was a nanny, a bartender, a teacher I always wrote diaries, letters and stories. Then, when I studied for my MA in Design for Interactive Media, I continued to write and specialized in web writing.

Still, during the first six months of blogging and travel writing no one ever read my blog. But I kept blogging anyway and eventually discovered that people were reading my blog and, even better, they kept coming back to read more.

If you’re not convinced about the power of perseverance check out this post about how to get the life you want.

4. Ignore the naysayers

There are always naysayers. There are plenty of people who don’t get why I love to travel. Others don’t understand what blogging is or why I do it. Sometimes people leave comments on my blogs that hurt. Many people don’t see writing as a “proper” job.

If you have a dream you have to learn to ignore those naysayers and stick with what you love doing anyway.

5. When opportunities come jump at them

When I got the email invitation to Japan a friend asked:

“Aren’t you scared?”

That surprised me. I might be a bit stressed about all the extra work I’ll need to do before and after my trip. Maybe I am a bit nervous about spending eight days with strangers in a group travel situation when I usually travel independently. But I’m definitely not scared. I’m excited.

When opportunities come your way you have to grab them, otherwise they may slip away and disappear forever. Every single opportunity you get and experience you have is a chance to learn, to grow and to keep getting better.

That’s what life and travel is all about.

Sneak Peak into Hokuriku and Japan

I’ll be in Japan for eight days and I can’t wait to share my experiences, stories and photos with you but this is the temperature change I’ll be experiencing:

Cooling off

Cooling off at home - it's around 30°C (86°F) in February on the Sunshine Coast

The traditional thatched gassho-zukiri inn in Syoshichi where I’ll be staying on my first night in Japan:

gassho zukiri inn

Thick snow is common in February in the world heritage Japanese villages of Gokayama

Gokasanso where I’ll take my first traditional Japanese bath, probably in the snow:

japanese bath

The public bath at Gokayama during spring time. I hope that water is lovely and warm!

Would you like to visit Japan?

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  1. Lana February 22, 2012 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    Annabel, I want to be you when I grow up! (Just kidding, as I am older then you:)
    I understand your wanderlust, being a Gypsy in my heart. I traveled a lot when I was younger, married an American and left my native Serbia for the U.S. A few years ago we left Midwest and moved to Southern California, chasing a dream.
    I went to Yucatan last year and fell in love with it instantly. I’d move there tomorrow, but it would be hard to convince my husband to abandon the luxuries of the developed country:)
    I have been enjoying reading your blog for some time and your stories inspire me. I have instilled the love of traveling into my girls and they are already citizens of the world, speaking several languages and feeling comfortable anywhere.
    Have a great time in Japan! Looking forward to the recap:) And it something especially weird and delicious for me:)

    • Annabel Candy February 22, 2012 at 3:42 pm - Reply

      Hi Lana,

      I am sure you are younger than me! And I hope neither of us ever grows up:) It sounds as if you’ve had some fabulpus adventures too with many more to come I;m sure. Keep working on that hubby:) But if you can’t move there at least plan more visits. I want to go to Mexico too.

      Yes, I hope they feed me some strange food – I’ll keep my eye out. Most of it looks yummy though:)

  2. Johanna February 22, 2012 at 4:36 pm - Reply

    Congratulations Annabel! Enjoy! Hope you come back with lots of great stories :)

  3. se7en February 22, 2012 at 6:30 pm - Reply

    Wowzers!!! What a fun opportunity!!!If I wasn’t half way round the world I would offer to carry your backpack!!! Seriously I hope you have the best time and lots of fun adventures!!! Just can’t read about a trip to Japan… I have a friend who lived there and left me filled with curiosity!!! I am join got have to do a “Round the World in 800 Days” trip in my lifetime and look at all these exciting places!!!

    • Annabel Candy February 22, 2012 at 7:23 pm - Reply

      Hi Se7en,

      Lol – 800 days sounds about right – I wouldn’t want to rush it in 80 days although 80 years might work for me;)

  4. Archan Mehta February 23, 2012 at 2:34 am - Reply


    I have been reading your blog for the longest time. You can count me among your fans. What you have done with your life is fantastic and we look upto people like you for inspiration. It has been great to read your writing. You are a pro, not an amateur. You are such a wonderful story-teller, and I know you will have fun in Japan. I wish you a happy journey that is a great learning opportunity. You have maintained you blog with due diligence, so you deserve such opportunities that fall in your lap. People and companies are attracted to your blog, because you make it a point to pique our curiosity. Best wishes and kind regards. Cheers.

  5. Sonia Marsh/Gutsy Living February 23, 2012 at 4:21 am - Reply


    We must be twins, although I’m the older twin. I wouldn’t be scared at all, certainly not in Japan on a tour. I visited Japan at 25, alone with my dad on a cruise from Japan to Hong Kong. it was a Toyota sponsored cruise and my dad was on business and asked me to come along. My mom had just passed a few months before. Loved the Japanese hospitality. I know you’ll have a wonderful time.

    • Annabel Candy February 23, 2012 at 9:18 am - Reply

      Hi Sonia,

      Hmmm, I wonder who is the naughty twin?! You’re right, I know they will look after us wonderfully:) That sounds like a wonderful trip with your dad.

  6. barbara February 23, 2012 at 5:51 am - Reply

    Can’t wait for your stories after this adventure! I don’t share your wanderlust but I truly admire it. If more people throughout the world traveled more we would all learn more about how alike we are and celebrate the differences instead of fearing the unknown.

    • Annabel Candy February 23, 2012 at 9:19 am - Reply

      Hi Barbara,

      It sounds like you should be a travel writer! And I know you were thinking of a road trip across the US so there is a little bit of gypsy in you:)

  7. Mel February 23, 2012 at 8:39 am - Reply

    Such an awesome opportunity Annabel, I’m glad you’re going to jump at it and look forward to reading more about the areas of Japan that you’re going to.

    • Annabel Candy February 23, 2012 at 9:21 am - Reply

      Hi Mel,

      Thank you! Yes, I should have some handy travel tips for you when I get back:)

  8. Seana Smith February 23, 2012 at 12:20 pm - Reply

    What a great opportunity Annabel, you’ll do a great job for the people taking you because you will be able to write, take photos etc and share stories… I’m already looking forward to seeing Japan through your eyes. I’ve never been there and don’t really have a good grasp of the country. Look forward to joining you – as it were- when reading of your adventures. Enjoy!

    • Annabel Candy February 23, 2012 at 2:28 pm - Reply

      Hi Seana,

      Absolutely! I’m looking forward to writing about Japan and promoting Japan without anyone noticing:) It’s going to be a a fun adventure and great learning experience for all of us!

  9. Linda ~ Journey Jottings February 23, 2012 at 1:44 pm - Reply

    Japan’s been on my bucket list for yonks…
    I can see your trip – and the posts you’ll be writing when you get back – are going be real carrot tempters fro me!!
    Happy travels :)

    • Annabel Candy February 23, 2012 at 2:30 pm - Reply

      Hi Linda,

      Me too:) I’ve been reading my guide book and I can already tell 8 days won’t be long enough! I already want to go there again and take the Candy family:)

  10. Linda Benton February 23, 2012 at 1:50 pm - Reply

    Congratulations Annabel, what a fabulous opportunity – and what a wonderful thing it is to be able to write & promote a country in much need of outside support. Looking forward to reading all about it.

    Also on a personal note – thanks for your message about perseverance. I needed that today! Sometimes it’s difficult to stay motivated and inspired with my own blogging & business & it’s wonderful to read blogs such as yours, as I realise success online IS achievable. Thank you!

    • Annabel Candy February 23, 2012 at 2:33 pm - Reply

      Hi Linda,

      It is a privilege:) So glad you took that message away. Perseverance is the only quality you really need for success! As proven by psychologists and written about in this post called 10 Ways to Get the Life You Want:

      Go Linda! I love how we keep each other inspired and motivated here:)

  11. Tatiana February 23, 2012 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    This is so fantastic!! I’m so envious!! A friend of mine has gotten many freelancing gigs from her blog – so I suppose it helps to keep a specific focus! My blog is all over a place even though it’s almost a year old. :o How terrible!

    But I hope you have a great time in Japan!

    • Annabel Candy February 23, 2012 at 2:57 pm - Reply

      Hi Tatiana,

      It is important to stick to your niche. Because this blog is focused on travel I am getting media invitations like these because having a destination featured on Get In the Hot Spot enables that place to reach a wide and targeted audience:)

  12. Galen Pearl February 23, 2012 at 3:39 pm - Reply

    I had a wonderful time in Japan, including a wild adventure in Tokyo with a cab driver trying to find the Thai embassy so I could renew my visa to get back to Bangkok, where I was living at the time! Good for you for turning your passion into a way of life.

    • Annabel Candy February 23, 2012 at 7:39 pm - Reply

      Hi Galen,

      Sounds exciting – there must be a good story in that:)

  13. rob white February 23, 2012 at 11:24 pm - Reply

    Truly wonderful, Annabel. Goethe says that when we are willing to commit, “All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.” WOW, what a curious and healthy piece of knowledge this is. Goethe calls this counterpart – providence. He says that providence will protect the person who is committed. I believe the best way to commit is to begin with an attitude of WOW… Your life is testament to your prevailing attitude of WOW, Annabel. I love seeing it actualize

  14. Sonia Marsh/Gutsy Living February 25, 2012 at 7:48 am - Reply

    So I know you’re in Japan as I write. Can’t wait to see some photos and hear all about it. How do you like the food?

  15. Dave Doolin February 25, 2012 at 9:26 am - Reply

    Looking forward to your stories when you return.

  16. Johnny February 25, 2012 at 12:51 pm - Reply

    I haven’t been to Japan. It’s definitely one of the country that I will want to visit in the future.

    Do you have communication issue when you are there?
    Enjoy your stay :)

    • Annabel Candy February 25, 2012 at 11:41 pm - Reply

      Hi Johnny,

      Great to see you here. I hope you make it to Japan one day. I am lucky to have a translator with me but I usually find it’s amazing how much you can understand and make yourself understood even when you don’t have a language in common:)

  17. Jen Gresham February 26, 2012 at 8:07 am - Reply

    How exciting! I’ve always wanted to go to Japan as well, and fully plan to do it now that my husband is managing a group there. So I’ll be eagerly awaiting your full report with lots of suggestions.

    So thrilled you are getting hit up for these opportunities. I keep getting free books to review. I’d much rather get free trips around the world!! (hint hint to the blogging gods! lol)

    • Annabel Candy February 26, 2012 at 8:27 am - Reply

      Hi Jen,

      Oh how great you will be visiting soon too! I will have heaps of recommendations for you to get you off the beaten track:)

      Lol – the travel blogging gods have been very good to me!

  18. Marnely Rodriguez February 27, 2012 at 8:59 am - Reply

    What a great and inspirational post! Thank you for sharing!

  19. Barbara February 28, 2012 at 12:49 am - Reply

    Oh, Annabel, you are going to LOVE Japan, especially Kyoto. It’s one of my favourite places.

    Have a blast!

  20. Lee Davy February 29, 2012 at 1:05 pm - Reply

    Hi Annabel,

    I was always afraid of traveling because I would allow the world’s media to make me think that I was going to be raped, kidnapped or murdered wherever I went. Then I realised that my city centre on a Saturday night is more dangerous than a trip to Morocco.

    I have managed to find myself a job where I travel all over the world. I write about pretty much anything but have found myself writing about poker and covering poker tournaments. In the past 18-months I have visited 13 different countries doing something I love and meeting people that are becoming like a new family to me.

    I no longer fear travel…actually I have not yet got over my fear entirely but it is getting better!

    Great post as always.


  21. Joyce March 1, 2012 at 4:54 am - Reply

    What an amazing opportunity Annabel. I look forward to your posts — they’re always interesting and informative. It’s snowing here today in Toronto – I’m seriously jealous of your weather in Australia. Have fun in Japan.


  22. Sandra / Always Well Within March 7, 2012 at 12:25 pm - Reply


    I’m so thrilled for you! It’s so uplifting to see how your dreams keep unfolding thanks to your upbeat attitude and carefree diligence.

    Japan seems like one of the less scary places to go in the world, although it might be a bit confusing to get around since the language is in characters instead of letters. I’m sure I would love seeing all the temples in particular.

    I love these tips on how to make your dreams come true. I recently was contacted by a real book publisher asking if I would like to write a book for them. It didn’t pan out but it was both an honor and an encouragement. It just shows you that the world works in mysterious ways beyond the limits of our imagination. The way to create the basis for that magic is by following the kinds of tips you offer here.

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