Amy West is the creator of AmyWestTravel.com, an upscale travel and lifestyle brand covering food, fashion, and family travel. Amy has been featured on Fox Business, USA Today’s 10Best.com, The Huffington Post, and TripAdvisor, to name a few. Amy is also the President and co-founder of North Florida Influencers networking organization. Named one of the “Top Luxury Travel Bloggers to Follow”, you never know what adventure she’ll dive into next. Amy resides in Jacksonville Beach along with her husband and two spirited daughters. Amy recently published a book called 100 Things to Do in Jacksonville Before You Die; check out AmyWestTravel.com to learn more.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background as well as how Amy West Travel came to be?
In 2012, I started my own travel TV show. I joke that I waited around most of my twenties for someone else to come up with a TV show and let me host it because my specialty was hosting. I’d been doing commercial acting and modeling for several years. Strangely enough, no one wanted to give me a travel show.
I couldn’t understand why. And my best friend said, you know, you could just do it yourself. And that was kind of like a strange idea. I thought, I don’t know anything about making a TV show and producing a show, but I decided, what do I have to lose? We’d all gone through the recession. We’d lost a lot financially. I thought, Hey, the only way to go is up from here.
So, I started my own luxury travel show based on the first coast, and we did have local and some national exposure. And out of that, we eventually transitioned it into an online brand because the face of media was changing. So, YouTube was just getting started.
We put it up on YouTube, but it didn’t have the kind of power that it does today. So, I started a blog. Blogging was really big in 2012. Eventually, social media eclipsed blogging. We used to use the social media to promote the blog. Hey, go read the blog. Now, the Instagram post is just as important as the blog posts. So, now today I do everything from spokesperson campaigns to Instagram. Now we’re on TikTok, and it’s quite the adventure because every day is something different.
TikTok’s an adventure to me. I’m just trying to figure that out…
Yeah. We had been playing around with TikTok. I’d actually had a campaign with them to start creating travel content. And I think just because I wasn’t an active TikTok participant, I didn’t quite understand what that culture was like. I understood Instagram humor and Instagram culture, which is a little bit older, and this is mainly Gen Z-ers, and then now their parents.
And so what happened was after not having much success at that time, when quarantine rolled around, I have two children, 10 and five, and I thought, well, let’s just, for something fun, do TikTok, because they were really interested in it. Well, it took off and strangely enough, and our girls are kind of like little TikTok stars on their own.
So, now we’ve grown to have like over 55,000 followers on there. Far exceeded anything we’ve done on any other social media platform. And we’re just loving it. It’s so fun.
At what point in your journey did you stop and realize, “Hey, I’m an influencer”?
You know, in 2017, things started to change. It went from, I have a blog, and I could write about your product, and maybe would you send it to me? And you’d walk in the room and people would be like, Oh, there are the bloggers. And there was just kind of like a stigma attached to what we did. Then all of a sudden people were starting to contact us. They were starting to reach out to me and say, Hey, I have this great travel bag, or I have this great product.
If I send it to you, would you mind writing about it? So, I got really excited, 2016, 2017. By 2018, now you see all these networks happening and places to join and monetize that weren’t just like the reward styles we’ve kind of had it going on with the outfit of the day approach.
And so, because I hadn’t done very well with reward styles, because I didn’t fit into that mold, I started joining all of these networks to the tune of, now today I probably have 50 or 80 on a list. I didn’t join all of them, but quite a few of them. And then started to really see how all these different brand connections and campaigns work. So, I would say it was around 2017, 2018, that I was like, Okay, I think I can identify as an influencer.
But even then it was hard, because I’ve done everything. I started acting and modeling in my early twenties. So, for me it was just another form of entertainment, another form of creating content. And when people would ask me what I do, I would say, well, what do I do today?
Because tomorrow I have an acting gig, and today I’m writing a blog. And took me a while to kind of swallow that pill and say, Yeah, I’m an influencer. And so I finally sucked it up and did that right around 2018, 2019.
Are there a few memorable brand partnerships that come to mind as some of your favorites?
Oh my gosh, there’s so many great ones. And especially where it’s travel-concerned. So, early on when we were first getting into it, there were a couple of brands that we worked with out in California. And those were terrific because we not only were coming out to promote and write for the blog, but we were creating commercial assets for them. So, my husband and I were shooting photography and video for them. So, everything was paid, from our travel to our experience there, and we got paid for the photography as well.
So, those were some of our favorite ones, because not only did we get to travel there and get comped, but we were getting paid for the work that we were doing. And that was at the Sea Ranch Inn, and then Pier 21. Oh gosh, it’s been a couple of years. It was about five years ago. Pier 21, I think it was. It was in San Francisco. So, those were very memorable, because that was like a major shift for us. We also got to go to a private island, to Scrub Island in the BVI, and that was another one that everything was taken care of, and we were providing those commercial assets, beyond just the blog posts. So, those to me are some of the most memorable.
You recently published a book. Can you tell us a little bit about 100 Things to Do in Jacksonville Before You Die? What led you to write the book, and what was the process like?
Yeah, I think this is a really great story in regards to the transition of writing and journalism, right? So, when I first got into doing this, I had no degree in writing. I was big into journaling when I was younger, but I didn’t start out a writer.
I started out a TV girl who then turned into a blogger who then reached out for freelance opportunities. And one of those opportunities was with 10best.com, which was a USA Today brand. That was a big shift because then you were seeing people who weren’t journalists writing travel content, which before that had been highly competitive. Well, because I was willing to hustle, take less pay than most people, and actually had a decent writing skillset, I got more and more opportunities.
And because I had so much content in regards to my own city, a publisher actually reached out to me. So, heretofore, writers always are banging down the door of the publisher. Well, now thanks to Instagram and thanks to being able to build up your own following, you can really get that attention of the publisher and other places, and they really see your work before you’re even knocking on their door. So, in this situation, Reedy Press came to me.
They create these books in all major cities, and they didn’t have it for Jacksonville yet, but they’ve seen that I’d written a lot of content on my personal blog and for other outlets. And so they had me write 100 Things to Do in Jacksonville Before You Die, which is my hometown.
And the great thing about Jacksonville on the first coast, it is where people vacation. It t’s a little bit lesser known than maybe where Mickey Mouse lives or where South Beach. But north Florida is a really great place to visit and we have the largest urban parks system, so there’s plenty to write about. And I had a really great time digging in and doing the research.
How do you structure your average day so you can get everything done that you need to accomplish and still have a little bit of margin for yourself and [the ability to] spend time with family and relax?
Every day is different, and it does require a lot of patience and flexibility, but I think I am a natural at that. I’m very good at multitasking and flowing and being incredibly efficient. Now with COVID, we actually decided to homeschool our children this year.
So, it’s a little harder than it was before, because I don’t have that time while they’re at school to do that. And so they’re underfoot, and we’re trying to balance all of that, but I’d say there isn’t really a day that I take off, but there are chunks of time where I give myself room to come up for air and focus on other priorities.
And I just kind of learned to navigate and put things where they need to go and fit it in. And usually I’m able to relax at the end of the day. I’m not working until midnight every night. I don’t wake up at 5:00 AM, but I also am very selective about what I put on my plate. So, I think it’s a lot about knowing your boundaries and your limitations and understanding your own personal workflow and then finding a way to fit it into your lifestyle, which is one of the best things about working for yourself.
Where do you see yourself as a travel blogger/influencer in five years? Where do you see things going?
I’ve been on and off about this five-year plan thing in the past, but I actually do have some pretty steep goals in the future. One of the things that I’m doing right now is I actually work with a brand. I’m their ambassador for Home Shopping Network. And I was able to really marry my skillset of having done personality work and on-camera work prior to becoming an influencer, taking my writing skills and my presentation skills, and then working with a brand like I do with social media and my influencer work, and marrying those for TV, which is also live streaming and on social media now as well. What I would love to do is I have a really incredible concept for another travel show, hopefully coming in the future.
And I would ideally love to have my own products, in addition to more books. I think there are more books definitely coming down the road, but I would love to have my own products and sell them not only online, but also maybe on Home Shopping Network. We’ll see where things go. But right now I’m just learning the ropes. I’m learning how to be a good representative of my brand. And to me, this is like going to school for something that I consider an ideal future goal.
Note: Influencer Spotlight interviews are edited for time and clarity.