Ashley Renne is a popular green living Intellifluence influencer and the creator of the blog Travel Lushes, which focuses on sustainable travel, lifestyle and tech. Ashley helps savvy travel addicts live adventurously green lives and dive deep into the local culture of each destination she features. Previously, Ashley help producer and editor positions with major brands such as The Weather Channel, The Home Depot and WebMD. In addition to Ashley’s blog, you can check out her Travel Lushes YouTube channel, where she regularly posts stunning travel videos and informative reviews.
How did you get started in influencer marketing?
I actually I guess I got started in content creation a long time ago. I don’t know I guess it’s in my blood, creativity is in my blood. So when I was in High School I was in a broadcast program, like a tv broadcast program, and we did a daily news show at our high school and so that’s how I kind of get into like video production. So video product has always been my main thing. I went to school for film, I’ve been in corporate American since I was nineteen, I started at the weather channel as producer then I went on to homedepot.com and I was an editor and then I went on to Web MD and I was a senior video editor.
And while I was at Web MD I was also doing on camera hosting work and I don’t know it was like I loved what I was doing but there was something missing because I love editing. Sure, I love video production that’s like my skill set but my passion is travel. So I was like well I feel like if I’m going to live the life I really want to live I need to combine my skill set with my passion. So I made the leap of faith and I ended up leaving corporate America and I took like a whole year hiatus from working because I had been working since I was nineteen or actually a teenage so I think sixteen is when I actually first started.
So I had literally never had a break from working so I just traveled and was creating content, building up my portfolio, and then finally launched my video production company. And all in the mean time I was also building up my blog and my instagram page and everything and so I kind of stumbled into influencer marketing because I realized that people are looking for people who have these skill set, you know, in content creation and it’s just- it’s so much different from traditional advertising.
I mean the power that regular people, like me, have in terms of delivering a message can go so much further than say putting a commercial out on television So that’s kind of how I stumbled into it and I just fell in love with being able to create my own content and just having the creative freedom to kind of put together my own content and photography and video and put it out there into the world for people to see and enjoy.
You travel a lot and are interested in preserving the environment and being eco-friendly. So when you are traveling do you only stay at accommodations that are eco friendly? For example staying at hotels that are conscious about water conservation.
For the most part that’s what I look for. Although I feel like a lot of hotels are kind of moving in that direction anyway. Like almost every hotel that I go to I always see something in the door that’s like “hey like we’ll pay you money, you know, five dollars a day if you choose not to, you know, have your towels taken or your bed sheet changed” so I feel like a lot of hotels are starting to become more eco aware but there are definitely some who stand out way more than others.
Like I actually went to Thailand last year and I specifically worked with a company that specializes in going around the world and looking for green hotels. And man like I saw – I just stayed at some resorts that were just on a whole level when to comes to, you know, being eco-friendly and just eco consciousness in generals and they really really really set the bar pretty high. So now when I go to hotels I kind of like look for those things and I always end up comparing the resort that I stay to and the hotels I stay to now to the hotels I stayed at in Thailand.
You mentioned on Facebook how with your husband’s career and you career that you hardly have time to see each other. With having your career take up so much of your time how do you structure an average work day or is there such a thing as an average work day?
I feel like there is no average work day. Every day is so different especially when you are in the travel field so I say there is kind of like two different structures. So there’s like my at home structure and then there’s my traveling and working structure. So when I’m at home obviously it’s a lot easier to spend time with my husband although -it’s funny because even when I am here I’m still working, right. So I had to – hate to say the word train but I had to train him to, you know, look at what I was doing as work.
Just because I am at home that doesn’t mean you can just bust in, you know, my office whenever you want and be like “hey can you help me out with this thing or oh my god let me tell you about my day” and I’m like “okay I have office hours babe so like respect the offices hours” but he’s gotten really really good about that because he really likes to talk. And I think that what keeps our relationship so strong. Is he’s a talker. Like he calls me like every five minutes, he calls and asks me my opinion for everything, calls me and tells me about his day, or what happened at work so we talk a lot and I think that really helps. I always tells people if you are going to go down this rabbit hole of being an influencer or content creator and you’re in a relationship you want to be in a relationship with somebody who is really like your best friend.
Karl is my best friend first and foremost like, you know, we talk about everything, he helps me with my business, he’s like my confidant, he gives me advice, he helps me negotiate, he like reads all my emails, and he’s just a really good partner in general. And, you know, I think that our relationship is just so strong that the distance honestly does not even matter because even when we first got together we were always apart and it’s like whenever I do come home it’s like no time has even passed between us because we act like, you know, we see each other every day because we talk to each other every day.
So when I’m at home that’s kinda like my structure I just wake up, I make sure I have office hours and like do not interrupt me during my office hours but then when I’m abroad it’s a whole different story. Like sometimes it’s really hard to get things done so I’m actually like really happy for the time I have at home because I can actually spend time like really focusing on me editing and then my content creation and getting stuff out and, you know, putting out my blog post, writing my blog posts, writing my Instagram captions, you know, just catching up on a lot of office work in general. But when I’m abroad or just traveling it is – I’m on the go all the time. For example if you want to get the best Instagram shots you’re going to have to wake up super early because you want to go to places when it’s not super crowded, you want to try and get that beautiful light, that good morning sunrise light, and then again you also want to capture sunset shots. So you’re literally on the go throughout the entire day, planning out your entire day around the sun because the sun is very important. I typically tell people that lighting is one of the most important things when it come to taking photos.
So you literally – a lot of people think that travel Instagramers or just travel bloggers in general we’re always on vacation, it’s not a vacation. Like I would never forget the time when a person told me that she wanted to go on a trip and she was like “I haven’t had a vacation all year” but I had to tell her like “this isn’t a vacation this is work”. I mean it’s part of our job to make it look like it’s nothing but a vacation and like we’re not doing any work but we are. It’s constant work, you know, you don’t get a whole lot of sleep, you’re constantly on the go, you’re creating the content, you’re Instagramming, you’re taking Instagram stories, you’re taking professional photography, you know me, I also have a YouTube page so I’m vlogging on top of all that, and I’m trying to take a mental note of everything that I’m experiencing so that I can write a blog post about it. And I want it to be as authentic as possible at the same time so I want to have a good time. So even though I’m walking around like literally with this huge backpack on my back with all this equipment I’m still trying to be a normal tourist at the same time. There’s definitely an art involved with creating content as a travel influencer, travel content creator however you want to word it.
On your YouTube channel you have ten tips for how to travel while remaining eco-friendly. Do you have additional tips on how to travel eco friendly that you might have learned after creating the video?
Yeah! It’s really interesting because I created that video – that was probably the start of my brand kind of transforming into that direction and I’ll tell you what even inspired me to go down that direction in the first place. I’d gone on an annual girls trip to Bali and I was in shock when I got there. I just remember arriving on this beach and there was trash everywhere. I mean just piles and piles of trash in different places and for the life of me I could not understand like why these beautiful beaches were littered with trash. And so, you know, it’s a combination of many different factors but because I’m a travel blogger I like to educate travelers in particular on their role in how they can be more eco-friendly as travelers and so, you know, what I’ve learned there are little things you can do.
For example one thing I didn’t put in the video was I didn’t talk about sunscreen so you have to think about some of the products that you use. Anytime you’re going to a beach whether it be a local beach or you’re traveling try to use sunscreen that’s specifically eco-friendly because that stuff is getting to the ocean. Just think about anything that you’re wearing, anything that is on your body, your hair products, you know, you have to be kind of aware of what is going on you in terms of you lotions, your sunscreens, your products because that’s going into the ocean and it’s harming the sea life. And it just breaks my heart when I see like a lot of videos that I’ve seen on Facebook and YouTube just showing like some of those poor animals out there suffering.
Even something as small as bringing a reusable straw, and I know that sounds gross but I promise you there’s a way to do it, but you can bring reusable utensils with you. Like metal utensils you can bring, you can opt to use paper straws because if you look at some of the videos that are out there you will see that like these plastic straws are getting stuck in like the noses of the sea turtles and different ssea animals and they can’t breathe and they die. So there’s just little things that you can just do just to be more aware in terms of like the products that you use and just trying to stay away from plastic. Plastic is a big one because just think about like anything that you use it going to end up in the Ocean somewhere. You might not see it here in the United States but it’s going to wash up on the shores of Bali or Thailand or in some faraway country and you won’t even realize it.
How do you feel about animal attractions with an emphasis on preservation?
Yeah. You have to do your research though. I would definitely go to like a sanctuary or a place that specializes in conservation but it’s like you really have to do your research because now a lot of these animals attractions are starting to get really savvy because a lot of people are starting to be more aware because you have a lot of bloggers who are talking about this issue and they’re tweaking the wording in their marketing to say “ oh we’re a sanctuary” or “oh we conserve animals” and they really don’t. And there are definitely good ones out there definitely reputable ones but you just have to do your research and, you know, make sure the one that you’re supporting are legit.
I cannot count the number of reviews that I’ll read on TripAdvisor of people who go to “sanctuaries” and they’re just like “I was mortified when I went or horrified when I went to see how the animals were being treated”. Like there’s this one really popular one that I always see I think it’s like, I don’t know where it is but, it’s like people are posing like there leopards out in the water. And so the other day I researched it to see what people were saying and there were a lot of people who were saying “yeah like we went out there and the leopards were literally in these tiny cages” but you never see that on Instagram.
You just see them out in the water frolicking, looking like they’re free and happy. but what you don’t see if what goes on behind the scenes and how the animals are caged up or being abused or not being fed well. And so a lot of time tourists will go and they’ll see that for themselves but it’s too late because, you know, you didn’t read the TripAdvisor comments. That’s why I always tell people like go to TripAdvisor or go to like – you know, just google it in general and see what people see hat people are saying and see what the reviews are before you go there instead of just showing up and then experiencing it for yourself.
What is the weirdest request you have received from a brand? Also what is your favorite brand partnership to date?
Oh yeah. I’m trying to think. Favorite collaboration might have been Memphis. Earlier this year I did a collaboration with Memphis tourism and it was just such a fun trip. I just loved how easy it was, you know, they were just so respectful of my time and of what I wanted to do and, you know, even just me being vegan like even though Memphis is known for barbecue they were just like “oh yeah we still want to work with you. Like come and show the side of Memphis where you can get like good vegan food” and I was like “really” and they were like “yeah. We love you and we love what we stand for and your content. Come on over” and so they let me show a different side to Memphis that you might not see in a typical blog post or a typical video. And they loved – what made me just so happy was they loved the video so much and it gave me a chance to really show off what I can do in terms of making travel guides for tourism boards so it was a really great project. I had a blast making the travel guide and people really loved the content so that made me really happy. So it’s always a good thing when I get to do what I love to do and I get such good feedback from people who watch the videos and read the blog posts and of course from the actual client. And so Memphis tourism they’re awesome.
Weirdest request. I won’t say I’ve gotten weird requests but I’ve worked with – okay people have approached me in very shady ways. For example a car rental company approached me. We had the deal all laid out and I was supposed to go to California to work with this car rental company. And two days before I was supposed to go out there I guess the person who I was working with got laid off and so somebody else came into the picture and was like “yeah so I’m new here and I’ve just been reviewing all the emails and we’re actually not going to offer you the rate that the previous person offered you. Are you willing to do this plus this plus this” added more stuff me ti do and lowered the rate and it’s like absolutely not. I said “that’s very disrespectful and unprofessional” and especially to go down on the rate which was very offensive like the rate they offered. It was very obvious that they weren’t aware of how much work that goes into what we do. And so I just really respect the brands, and the PR companies and the agencies that get the amount of work that goes into what we do and they respect the industry enough to like what we’re worth and what we bring to the table. But that was probably the most bizarre thing that ever happen to me like with a brand.
Where do you see influencer marketing headed in the next five years or so?
I think we are just scratching the surface with influencer marketing. I remember I talked to a PR person [and] she asked me – she was like “do you think like this bubble is going to burst and like Instagram marketing is going to go away” and I was like “no I think it’s just getting started and I think it’s just so new and so people are stilling trying to figure it out” but more and more, you know, I’m getting contacted by brands and PR companies who I can tell really understand this industry and they’ve been educated or, you know, they’re just used to working in this industry to a point where they don’t insult me with saying “okay here’s this free product can you give me a blog post, a YouTube video, Instagram post, an, you know, five photos on your Instagram feed” you know, I don’t get those anymore but I used to.
People would ask for the sun and the stars and the moon and then, you know, not refer to actually pay what I’m worth or give me something that’s actually valuable or something that even relates to my audience because it’s all about the end audience at the end of the day, right. And I keep hearing this thing over and over again which is Influencers are the new celebrity. and some people will disagree but I kind of agree with that. I feel like content creators are kind of like the new celebrities and the thing about influencers and content creators is we’re just so relatable unlike a celebrity who you paid to endorse a product.
Say they post something on their Instagram page they are not going to respond in the comments to all the people who are leaving comments but we do. We as content creators like we really value our audience and our followers and because they are our community and, you know, they see themselves in us. and so that’s why blogging is so popular. That’s why we like to read blog posts because we feel like we can relate to the people whose blog posts we are reading and so that’s why I think influencer marketing is not going anywhere anytime soon. It is just such an effect way to market. I mean think about how much money you spend producing a commercial just the production of it and then on top of it you’ve got to spend a whole other amount of money just to broadcast it and you don’t even know who you’re reaching with your message. With influencer marketing you’re actually reaching a specific niche audience especially if you do it the right way and you work with a content creator influencer who has the type of audience that’s interested in what it is you’re trying to sell or is interested in the message that you’re trying to deliver. So it’s not going anywhere, it’s super effect and I’m very grateful to actually have a career in this industry.
Note: Influencer Spotlight Interviews are edited for time and clarity.