Travel Journalist, Lauren Keary, NYC to Mission Viejo, CA USA

“I’ve started to see this situation in more of a positive light recently, and that’s really helped me. It’s not often that young people are able to take as much time for themselves as I’ve been able to.”

Lauren Keary

Lauren Keary grew up in Southern California, in “the OC” before earning her undergraduate degree at UC Irvine and attending grad school at NYU—studying journalism at both schools. She has wanted to be a travel writer since she took her first travel writing class on Semester at Sea (a study abroad program where she lived on a ship for a semester and visited 17 different countries).

Lauren was living in New York City post-graduation, and finally ended up landing a travel writing gig with BuzzFeed after years of fitness and lifestyle writing–just months before the pandemic turned the world upside-down.

Lauren was forced to take a step back from her full-time position at BuzzFeed and moved back to California to be with her family. She is hoping to regain the ground she feels like she has lost these past few months during her time off from working in the travel industry once the world finally begins to recover from the pandemic.

Lauren’s goal is to one day work as a “big time” editor for a well-respected travel publication–but for now, she’s spending time at home, reflecting on her work in the past few years, and hoping to return back to work for BuzzFeed’s “Bring Me!” travel section as soon as she can–since she loved her job there, very much. 

Read more about Lauren’s experience of being abruptly forced to vacate her home in the Financial District of NYC, dealing with the readjustment to a much more “leisurely” paced lifestyle, and learning the hard way never ever to watch “Contagion” during a global pandemic, below:

Travel feeds the soul

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced during quarantine/the COVID crisis?

“I’ve never really felt the meaning behind the saying “when it rains, it pours” personally, until COVID-19 hit the U.S. I  feel like these last couple months have really taken me down like a bulldozer. I’ve been living at home in my childhood bedroom in Mission Viejo, which is a challenge all in itself, but the biggest hit I took was definitely losing my travel writing job with BuzzFeed. I saw it coming, of course, considering the drop in travel that began in late March, but I had just gotten that job five months prior, so I was devastated.

Since being a travel writer has been a longtime dream of mine, I felt like I got gipped out of a great opportunity to finally pursue the kind of writing I was interested in doing longterm. Oh, and add a messy breakup on top of all that. Needless to say, I’ve had a lot to mull over in all my spare time at home.”

Is there anything you feel that this experience has taught you that you’d like to share as inspiration?

“Considering the fact that I’ve been living at home, in a house full of people whose jobs weren’t really affected by the pandemic, I’ve had to learn not to compare my own situation to others’. I’m not perfect, by any means. I still catch myself getting down when I’m struggling to find something to do with my time in suburban California while my whole family is working, or scrolling through Instagram stories with an immense amount of envy for those who continue to post about how busy they are.

But I’ve started to see this situation in more of a positive light recently, and that’s really helped me. It’s not often that young people are able to take as much time for themselves as I’ve been able to recently. I’ve set new fitness goals for myself and have finally started reading again—something I haven’t been keen on doing for a long time, since the majority of my job is reading.

So now, when I start to get a little jealous of my family and all those others out there who still have jobs, I just quit comparing my situation to theirs, readjust my mindset, and think about how thankful I am to have this extra time to finally relax and focus on me.” 

Has this experience in any way changed the way that you order your priorities in life?  

“I’m not sure if I’d say it has massively changed my priorities by any means, but it has definitely made me more conscious of my finances. A lot of times, I find myself spending the extra money I have from my paychecks on going out to dinner with friends rather than saving it for “a rainy day.”

When my rainy day hit this year, I was very lucky to have my parents to fall back on, but in the future, I’m definitely going to make it a priority to be able to fall back on my own savings account, rather than asking my parents for a little boost in times of need.”

Where are you living right now? Is this where you permanently reside or is it a temporary living situation due to the pandemic? Who have you been quarantining with?

“I’m hunkered down with my family in my childhood home in Mission Viejo, California. Normally, I’m in the Financial District in NYC, so living in suburban California again has definitely been a sharp left turn for me. My dad, my mom and my sister, like I said, all still have their jobs—in fact, my dad is a lawyer and his business is truly thriving right now. So while I’ve been the only one deeply affected in our household, it has been nice to have some company that I wouldn’t otherwise have if I were living in my studio apartment.” 

What has your community been doing to fight the rate of transmission? 

“To be honest, our community here in California hasn’t been hit too hard by COVID-19, and most of the residents here are a little more carefree about it than they are in other parts of the world. I’m not saying I agree with some of their actions and am ready to pack the beaches with thousands of people, but I think we have been pretty lucky here in Mission Viejo, all things considered.” 

Orange County coastline

What has been your general daily routine so far during the pandemic?

“Well, since I lost my job about halfway through quarantine, I’d say this has been my biggest struggle. It’s hard to create a routine for yourself when you don’t have enough work to fill all the hours in the day anymore. I will say, I’ve been an athlete for the majority of my life, so that has helped me to tell myself, “Ok, if I do nothing else today, I’m at least going to workout.” But on most days, I’d say I spend a few hours each morning responding to emails, keeping an eye on job postings, and catching up on the news.

I’ll work out in the afternoon, read, utilize the great SoCal weather and get outside for a walk or a swim in our pool, and wrap up the day with dinner with my family and a couple more hours of emails and web browsing. It’s not the most riveting routine, but it keeps me busy enough. Plus, I’ve picked up a nice tan over the past few weeks, which has been great for replenishing the vitamin D NYC took away from me, this winter.”  

What have you been doing to keep your spirits up on a day-to-day basis?

“Walks. Lots of walks. If I don’t get out of the house at least once every single day, I go insane. Add a friend (at six feet away, of course) and a bottle of wine to those walks, and they’re a million times better. The days I take those kinds of walks have truly been my favorite days.” 

Puppy love

Has this travel ban/quarantine situation impacted any important plans you had laid out for the near future?

“Has it ever. I was headed to Singapore, the Caribbean, and Australia over the course of the spring and summer seasons. Fingers crossed I still get to go on those trips in the future, but the money spent on new vacation swimsuits—now that I’ll never get back.” 

Anything else at all, you’d like to share?

“Don’t watch Contagion. It was my biggest quarantine mistake.” 

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