Photo: Megan Varela

The Inside Scoop on Traveling the World While Becoming a Trusted Local Influencer

Travel Jobs Lifestyle
by Matador Creators Mar 21, 2023

Being a travel influencer sounds like an easy job. But there’s actually a lot more that goes into it than you might think, from packing considerations to choosing the right destinations to audience specific things like making sure your activities are dog friendly. The ins and outs of the job can be even more complex when you specialize in one city and are constantly tasked with illuminating what’s new in a place that’s familiar to the people who live there.

That’s what Megan Varela does on a daily basis. Varela is a San Diego-based travel influencer who focuses on exploring San Diego’s many hip neighborhoods, delicious restaurants, cool experiences, and accommodations. And while she is a world traveler, she’s garnered a large following primarily around her ability to highlight everything San Diego.

Matador: What’s your favorite trip you’ve taken so far and what made it special?

Megan Varela: In college, I spent three weeks in South Africa on a group trip and absolutely fell in love with the local people, the culture, and the wild nature of safari parks! There’s quite honestly nothing like hearing an elephant trumpet in front of you or waking up to the sounds of lions roaring. The South African people are some of the most kind I’ve ever met, the children will wave and hold your hands, the adults and business owners will want to hug or shake your hand, it’s like a cultural hug everywhere you go. I made some lifelong friends on this group trip that I still visit every year or so. I’ve been twice now and am dying to take my husband there someday!

What’s the one thing you never leave home without?

Sunscreen. It doesn’t matter if it’s cloudy or snowing, I can promise you I will come home looking like a tomato regardless!

How do you pick the place that you want to go to next?

I’m still working off of a continent bucket list so I’ve still got South America and Antarctica left! In the US, I like to prioritize coastal communities with some sort of historical aspect. I’m a huge museum and history lover!

Is there a destination that you’ve found is severely underrated? What makes it great?

Morro Bay, California. This sleepy little beach town is the perfect getaway if you want access to nature at Montana de Oro State Park, nearby San Luis Obispo wine country, and get a chance to kayak with adorable sea otters! It’s a relatively inexpensive place to stay in California and has a great food scene as well!

Where have you always wanted to go but haven’t made it to yet? Why?

I have always wanted to go to Egypt since I was obsessed with ancient Egypt’s history as a kid! I haven’t been yet because I lock myself in the anxiety loop of finding a tour group I want to go with and do I go alone or beg a friend to go with me (it’s not on my husband’s bucket list so he said no haha)? Just the fears of the unknown on a huge, long trip have held me back.

Where’s your next trip and what are you most excited to experience?

Our next trip is to Lake Tahoe, California for a friend’s wedding! Beyond that, we’re excited to experience the area since neither of us have been there before. We LOVE paddleboarding so we’re stoked to get out on the lake and hopefully experience the crystal clear water that everyone talks about!

How has publishing content about San Diego helped shape your view or appreciation of the city?

@meganelisevarela I think this one makes my Balboa Park top 3 list 🏆 #MegSD #SandiegoMuseums #CaliforniaMuseums #MuseumLover #BalboaPark #BalboaParkSanDiego #MuseumMoment #Museums #SanDiegoActivities #FallActivitiesSanDiego #TravelOften ♬ original sound – Megan | San Diego Travel Food

It’s made me realize what a gift it is to see the city you live in from a visitor’s perspective! I get messages all the time from people who have lived here their whole lives and say that I keep showing them places they’ve never heard of! I’m always on the lookout for new construction, renovations, and news articles about what and who is coming to town. It’s so exciting to see the city expand and grow and watch our small local businesses turn into national success stories like Cutwater Spirits.

What’s the most underrated neighborhood in San Diego that most travelers don’t visit (but should)?

North Park – You’ll need a car to get here and get around, but it’s got some of the best local restaurants, extraordinary themed speakeasies, and delicious craft coffee shops.

Any flight hacks you’d recommend for frequent travelers?

Skyscanner always!!

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