By Darcie Duttweiler
Photos by Brittany Dawn Short
Photo Shoot at Austin Mural and South Congress Ave.
Preferring to be labeled a “travel blogger” instead of “influencer,” Haley Plotkin is excited to travel internationally again after a very long quarantine. She recently returned from Spain and the Maldives and has a trip to London on the docket, but during 2020 she had to pivot her website and Instagram to focus more on Texas destinations and showcase road trips that were accessible in the Lone Star State. When she’s not traveling, Plotkin likes to flex her music photography skills and enjoys attending live shows at Stubb’s, the Mohawk, Emo’s and Antone’s. Although she admits it’s hard to balance a “normal” life as someone who travels so often, especially with meeting new people, she loves that she parlayed her travel “hobby” into a full-time career and gets to discover new places all over the world — and share them with her followers.
How did you get interested in your Instagram niche?
“I discovered my passion for travel while in college studying abroad in the U.K. I had so much fun backpacking and using credit card points hacking to fund my trips. I was already a photographer, focused on shooting live music for the past several years. It just made sense to combine my love of photography and travel.”
How did you get started working on Instagram and when?
“I started @readysetjetset in late 2013. At the time, the word ‘influencer’ was not a thing, but people were starting to create niche pages on Instagram instead of just personal pages. I was inspired by that and became what was part of the first wave of Instagram travel bloggers.”
How do you balance your life with your relationship to Instagram?
“It’s tough. I’m not home a lot, so it’s hard to have a normal life and stay close with friends. You miss a lot of things that others do with their more routine lives — like taking a weekly art class or joining a sports league or even just going out for trivia nights. I just can’t commit to anything like that since I never know what my schedule will be. It’s also hard to meet new people since you don’t exactly have traditional coworkers.”
What do you wish your followers knew about you that they don’t already?
“That I’m also a music photographer. I don’t really get to shoot shows often anymore, but I used to have so much fun capturing festivals and shows big and small. I wish I could combine music into my travel work more often.”
What goes into getting the perfect shot for you?
“It can mean getting up at sunrise to stake out a location when no one is there yet and the lighting is perfect, or spending hours editing the photo to get the coloring perfect and clone people out of the background. People on Instagram have high standards, so a lot of time if the photo isn’t ‘wow,’ it just won’t perform well.”
How has Instagram changed for you during the pandemic?
“I started focusing a lot more on video content, especially as I’ve been building my TikTok this past year. Also, I had to change my niche to showcase Texas destinations since I couldn’t travel far from home. My whole TikTok has really been built with Texas-themed content!”
Favorite Austin spots?
“I’m a big fan of Fresa’s for Tex-Mex. That’s one of my favorite places to eat right now. I will always be obsessed with the Alamo Drafthouse for a night out at the movies, especially for fun events like Master Pancake Theater. And of course, I love all our local live music venues, like Stubb’s, The Mohawk, Emo’s, Antone’s and so many more. Attending music during SXSW is probably my favorite week of the year.”
Why is travel so important, especially now?
“A lot of places rely on tourism for a large part of their economy. As long as we’re being safe and respectful, I think it’s important to get back to traveling to keep the world’s economy going. I also think visiting other countries and meeting people of different cultures is a necessary learning experience to broaden your worldview.”
Travel bucket list?
“Antarctica cruise for sure. Kenya is high on the list, especially staying at the Giraffe Manor. I think I may be the only travel blogger who still hasn’t been to Bali yet. And I’d love to go back to Japan properly during cherry blossom season! Last but not least, Tahiti.”