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How to travel the world while doing a PhD [Interview with Stephanie Huff]

Stephanie Huff - The Pink Backpack

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Steph and I’m a 30-year old doctoral candidate from Western University in London, Ontario, Canada – yes there is a London outside of England! I’m also originally from the same town, but I’ve lived all over the world, including Australia, England, Kenya, Tanzania and Switzerland. I did my BA in Kinesiology, my MSc in Occupational Therapy (after which I worked as an Occupational Therapist in Western Canada for 3 years) and am now currently in the 5th year of my PhD in Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (hopefully defending before 2020).

What is your PhD about?

My PhD thesis research explored women’s experiences of gender inequities in Tanzania through a critical decolonizing ethnography. Having found a gap in existing knowledge that created space for Tanzanian women’s voices, acknowledged colonialism or enacted culturally appropriate methods, I wanted to demonstrate the impact of coloniality in modern-day Tanzania and challenge the assumption that all knowledge is universal. I attempted to do this through a collaborative and decolonial approach to knowledge generation with local women via participatory and storytelling methods, all in the local language Swahili (which I am now fluent in).

Stephanie Huff - The Pink Backpack

What is your side hustle?

My side hustle is a website called The Pink Backpack, where I aim to inspire and teach other millennial women how to travel solo through sharing my best travel tips and advice. I truly believe travel has the capacity for transformation, evolving the traveler into a more open-minded and compassionate global citizen. However, travel itself is privileged and not often accessible to those with lower socioeconomic statuses, especially young people pursuing their education. I therefore always emphasize that I am a privileged, educated North American woman, but am definitely not rich. Rather, I’ve managed to travel to 50 countries and 6 continents while pursuing 10+ years of post-secondary education by taking advantage of funded travel opportunities through my university.

How does your PhD help you in your side hustle?

My degree and side hustle worked together in a very cohesive way. As a researcher interested in global health and gender equity within low-income countries (particularly in East Africa), the very nature of my research involved travel. As I mentioned above, I also took advantage of every single funded opportunity to travel that was available to me throughout my PhD. This included a 2016 internship in Tanzania, a 2017 research fellowship in Kenya, a 2018 research conference in South Africa and a domestic conference in Canada later this year. Through applying to scholarships and grants, these experiences were completely funded and enabled me to create new travel content for my website. I also lived in Tanzania for a year in 2018-2019 to conduct my thesis research, and this was partially funded by scholarships and supplemented by my side-hustle.

Do you make money from your side hustle?

While I started The Pink Backpack in 2016 as a way to share my travel stories, I quickly realized the potential for monetization. I have been side hustling ever since, earning money through sponsored blog posts, affiliate commission, ad revenue, and freelance writing. I also often receive free trips, which obviously doesn’t pay my bills but is a pretty nice perk of the job.

What advice would you give others looking at starting a side hustle?

Everyone has their own unique gifts and skillsets, so the advice I would give to others looking to start a side hustle is to hone in on your ‘zone of genius’. If you were in a room of 100 people, what is the one skill or topic that you would be the expert at in that room, or within the 90th percentile? What are you confident and passionate about doing? That is your ‘zone of genius’ and what you need to leverage. For me it is writing and anything that I can’t confidently do, like coding or search engine optimization, I outsource to experts in that area.

How can our readers find out more about you and your blog?

You can visit me on my blog, or stop by my Instagram to say hi.

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