Julia Dimon of Word Travels: Inspiring Viewers to See the World
By Christa Romano
With her long blonde hair and sleek high-heeled boots, Julia Dimon looked like the perfect client for an all-inclusive tropical cruise as she walked around the Boston Globe Travel Show.
While easy-going Dimon probably wouldn’t be offended by such an appearance-based assumption, she would be quick to let you know that she is a traveler who is not afraid to break a nail. Or eat a slug, but more on that later.
Dimon did not attend the trade show to scope out the newest resorts or luxury tours, two forms of travel she would rather do without. Dimon was there to speak about her personal travel experiences and to offer advice to audience members as a successful professional travel writer and television personality.
Dimon recognizes that she is living a dream to many people and considers herself lucky to be getting paid for doing what she loves most. But luck aside, many different threads of her past life had to be brought together in order to create the completed web of being a travel writer.
It was a combination of her upbringing, her determination, her way with words and her spirit of adventure that has allowed her to reach the level of recognized expertise she has today.
Not Yet 30
Despite being under the age of 30, Dimon has already established herself as a travel expert, having written multiple columns for major international newspapers, co-hosted an internationally-aired travel television show and developed and her personal travel website and blog.
Travel Junkie Julia is Dimon’s online alias, and is a name that has stuck with her since the debut of one of her early travel columns, The Travel Junkie. The name is warranted by the fact that she has trekked through more than 80 countries and backpacked across six continents, from Thailand to Mozambique, wringing out every last drop of culture she experiences into her articles and TV episodes.
Eighty countries is quite a spectacular number for anyone to have the finances or the time to visit, let alone someone who is so youthful. Dimon is not a drifter, though, nor is she a homeless nomad. She is your typical New Yorker, who comes by way of Toronto.
Not every New Yorker has a travel writer as a mother, to whom Dimon attributes much of her career, as well as her insatiable thirst for adventure. Dimon has been traveling the world with her mother since childhood, having already checked off places such as Cuba, Hong Kong, Costa Rica and Venezuela before she even entered high school.
Dimon may be following a family legacy but her career as a travel writer is not simply the result of a girl following her mother’s footsteps. It has been a long road to realizing professional fulfillment for Dimon, who once dreamed of being a marine biologist.
Dimon has proven herself an optimist, having taken each bump along her way as a learning experience and another step to reaching travel expert status.
Reflecting on her past, Dimon says that a nearly fatal experience she had as a child greatly impacted her attitude toward traveling, and on a much grander scale, toward the world at large.
When she was ten years old Dimon dodged death as she crashed into a tree while tobogganing, and then spent weeks in a full-body cast and hospitalized rehabilitation. She says the experience instilled her with a new outlook on “living life.”
“I think that accident must have played a role in my realizing that life is fragile and you can get hurt,” Dimon said. “And now in hindsight, now that I’m older, it puts into perspective that we have a limited time on this planet, to just get out there. It’s like, what are you waiting for?”
This fresh mindset developed quickly for Dimon, and benefited her as early as the age of 12 when she started exploring her love for writing. Only two years after her accident, Dimon got her very first byline at the Toronto Star, in a monthly movie review she wrote for the children’s section. She continued to write reviews for the next six years.
Although Dimon had been writing and seeing her name in print for years, it was not until she was a college student that she began travel writing. While Dimon was a student at McGill University in Montreal, she took advantage of an intensive Italian language program in Florence, Italy. As it turned out, this trip would serve as another foundation for her future career, changing her life forever.
As any travel-hungry study abroad student would, Dimon spent her weekends backpacking around the country that summer. One weekend, while traveling with fellow students on the island of Elba, Dimon’s credit card was unexpectedly demagnetized, leaving her without a single Euro to pay for her trip back to Florence.
Penniless and stuck in a dire situation, strong-minded Dimon did what she had to do.
“I actually had to panhandle to get off the island,” Dimon said. “I’d never done it before and I haven’t done it since, but when I came home and I told my mom this funny and quirky story and she said ‘You know that could make a really fun piece for the travel section of the newspaper.’”
Heeding her mother’s advice, Dimon poured a month’s worth of writing and rewriting into her very first travel article. Once perfected, she sent her tale of panhandling in Elba along to the editor of her familiar paper and childhood publisher, the Toronto Star, and got the story published.
Confessions of a Backpacker
“I saw my name and I saw my photo and I really liked that feeling,” Dimon remembers. The combination of the success of her first travel piece with the excitement of seeing her name and picture in print was enough for Dimon to accept an offer to regularly write travel articles, thus her very first column, Confessions of a Backpacker, was born.
The content for Dimon’s weekly backpacker column came from the first big backpacking trip she took, hitting up scores of different countries around Africa, Europe and East Asia.
With her love for traveling and writing on her mind, Dimon saved and scrounged and “squirreled her money away” for a year prior to her big trip and then lived off the money she made from each article, from paycheck to paycheck, for the following year.
“That was the year I did 27 countries,” Dimon said, and she recorded it all in her eloquently worded, descriptive travel articles, which became internationally syndicated and were eventually recognized by another travel writer, Robin Esrock.
Esrock’s recognition of Dimon’s work marked a big turning point in Dimon’s career, as he intended to include her as his co-host for a new reality TV show called Word Travels, about the adventures of two real-life travel writers.
The show, which was aired in over 40 countries by the National Geographic Adventure channel, sent Dimon and Esrock traveling around the world in front of a video camera, through 36 countries.
Today, Dimon is noticing that more and more passersby are recognizing her and are asking for her autograph, but she’ll still become humble and will laugh if you call her a celebrity. While she is enjoying the random recognition she has been receiving, she says that the best part about her new-found fame is the fan mail.
“I love the emails saying ‘Thank you so much, I really love your show, you’ve inspired me to travel,’” Dimon says. “And that makes me feel it’s a job well done, because that really is the goal of the show, to encourage people to not be fearful of travel.”
Independent or solo traveling is specifically what Dimon wants to encourage her fans to try, although she will be the first to admit that this form of traveling can be a very daunting practice. She now dedicates her career to making travel a little less scary so people will be more willing to travel and experience the world, just like she is not afraid to really get out there and get the most out of each travel opportunity.
“I just don’t think that people are going to get the same level of fulfillment going on an all-inclusive cruise that they would by going to India to practice yoga in an ashram,” she said. It is during this kind of cultural immersion, she says, that one gains a deeper understanding of the world, of humanity and of yourself.”
Dimon exhibits all of this passion for culture and travel on her TV show. After watching an episode, any viewer will know that, if given the opportunity, she will eat a giant slug, or drink from a glass with a human toe floating in it, if that is what it means to taste the local cuisine.
It is also plain to see that Dimon doesn’t care if the country she wants to visit is better known for its drug lords than its mountain ranges; she’ll still want to cover it, and chances are that she eventually will.
Despite the fact that Dimon has already gone around the world four times, she says that she still has many destinations to cross off her bucket list, including countries like Ghana, Nepal, West Africa and Iran.
As she continues to circle the globe and continues to become even more of a seasoned traveler, her desired destinations are becoming more adventurous and her mission to spread her love for traveling is still becoming stronger.
“I am attracted to countries that have a bad-ass reputation,” Dimon said. “In my experience, after going to places like Colombia, I realize that it really is just the stigma and a stereotype versus a reality. I’d like to share with people that the world is not as scary as it is made out to be, and I feel like I’m living proof of that.”
Christa Romano is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts and a former GoNOMAD intern.
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