Name: Alex Mathews
Blog: Life Well Wandered
Residence: New York City
Career: Social Media & Marketing
Passport Stamps: U.K., European Union
We’ve all seen this: your friend goes on a trip abroad and suddenly their Instagram feed is an extravagant work of art full of clever poses in front of historic monuments and funny captions.
It’s a bit of millennial human nature to chronicle our travels through a personal aesthetic but between orchestrating picture-perfect outfits with breathtaking views, sometimes younger travelers forget to take it all in.
Twenty-four-year-old travel blogger, Alex Mathews has an impressive following of over 31,000 on Instagram, but her feed doesn’t reflect the feed of a typical adventurous social media user. It’s full of peaceful landscapes and thoughtful reflections of her experiences abroad and around her current residence in New York City.
She originally created her blog to update family and friends while studying abroad but when she returned home she didn’t want to stop there. In 2015, she launched “Life Well Wandered” and the passion project has allowed her to uniquely discuss mindful travel and mental health along with sharing tips and experiences surrounding her travels.
Alex distinguished herself from the many travel bloggers of her generation by defining her website as a mindful travel and mental wellness blog.
But what exactly is “mindful travel”?
“Mindful travel is just a slower version of travel,” she tells me. “Being present where you are not just focusing on ‘Oh, we need to get to this destination next or I need to make sure I take these 25 photos or the trip won’t be worth it.”
While she admits to sometimes falling into the same habit of needing to take photos, she has consciously tried to take a different approach to when exploring new locations.
“(Travel) should be walking around, wandering, discovering things that aren’t on the tourist destination list that you normally wouldn’t find. Which is mostly interacting with locals and finding these little-hidden gems that nobody else knows about. I saw an opportunity and wrote about it because everyone else is sort of doing it for the gram.”
When Alex wanders, she is always looking to learn more about the culture and history of whatever place she finds herself in, whether this is through speaking with locals or visiting museums.
What also sets Alex apart from other travel bloggers is her honesty about her struggles with anxiety and depression. Her website has given her a platform to disclose some often unsaid truths about mental health and it has brought her readers to connect with her about it.
“It just kind of got to the point where I was tired of hearing like ‘Oh suck it up, you’ll be fine,” Alex explained.
“It’s changing a little but there’s always a shame like, ‘Oh I need to hide this. I have anxiety, I have depression, I can’t talk about it because it’s embarrassing, or I should be stronger, or I should just feel happy and forget what’s wrong with me.’
It really took me a bit to get into the mindset of ‘Well if I had a broken leg, I wouldn’t hide it, I would go to the doctor and get it fixed.”
The Travel Writer also frequently opens up on her blog about nuisances such as flight anxiety, which she struggles with herself.
“I am a horrible traveler. I get motion sick, I get anxious and paranoid about missing flights, losing things or leaving things behind.”
Over time she has developed some coping mechanism whether through simple deep breaths, meditation or giving a friend a call to help calm her down. She doesn’t allow her mental health to stop her from traveling and always does everything in her power to not spend a trip marooned in her hotel room from fear.
For other aspiring travelers such as her who struggle with mental health concerns, Alex has this tip for you:
“I would start small because there were points in time where the thought of leaving my apartment was terrifying. If you’re scared to travel to Asia, start by traveling to a different neighborhood in your city or a neighboring town. Just doing something little will give you the courage to do something even more.”
Alex works full time in social media and marketing, so she can’t constantly be abroad but that doesn’t mean she’s not always finding more locations to wander through. As a New Yorker, she’s always finding ways to practice mindful travel.
“There’s always something new, even if I’m walking around even the same blocks where I live, I always find a new really pretty street or pretty flowers that I’ve never noticed before. There have been some instances when I’ve looked up and have seen some really pretty sculpture and I’m like, ‘Oh, I had no idea that was there because I had my face in my phone the entire time.”
She’s still a travel junkie who can’t stay in one place for long. She’s living proof that it’s possible to be a full-time working woman and still add travel to your calendar. Here’s her advice:
“I try to use my vacation days wisely. I’ll take longer trips when there is already a three or four day weekends. My trip later this fall is over Thanksgiving, so I already had Thursday and Friday off, so that’s already two extra days for free… So just taking advantage of those days that are given. Also, the beauty of New York City is that it’s connected by trains fairly well with the rest of the northeast so you can get by train or bus to D.C., Philadelphia, Boston or a lot of other locations.”
As a full-time young professional, making time for work, life, travel and her blog might seem unattainable but for Alex, she has learned to fit it all in. She usually works on her blog on the weekends although “work” isn’t the word she would describe it as. She grabs a cup of tea, sits at her desk and instantly finds happiness as she starts to type away.
“I like to be productive and I’m also very introverted, so it works well that I work on my blog over the weekend when I’m taking time for myself, recharging and reflecting on past trips, my previous week of work or really anything else going on in life.
Life Well Wandered is a place for her to share her journeys near home and afar, discuss her personal experiences through life and creatively pursue her love for travel and photography. Despite how many eyes are on her content, she has a grounded point of view on why she continues to write:
“I think it should start from an intentional point of wanting to share your story, your travels, your life or whatever you want but just do it for the love of it and don’t do it for the money, the glamour, the free trips or the free clothes.