Award-winning broadcaster and author Tonya Fitzpatrick always knew “come hell or high water” she would become a lawyer. She did just that, and enjoyed an appointment as a Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education, and also served under a federal defense contract as the Senior Legal Advisor for the Office of Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. But her dissatisfaction with her legal career and the political environment in Washington, DC confirmed that she was ready for a change. Traveling has always allowed Tonya to reconnect with herself and her passion for travel. Her desire to live a purposeful life led her to reinvent her avocation and make it her career.
Wanderlust Leads to a New Career
This “recovering attorney” has stellar credentials that have empowered her with a myriad of transferable skills. Tonya graduated from the London School of Economics, East China University of Law and Politics, and Wayne State University Law School. She is also a student of the arts and previously worked at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego and the Globe Theatre (under the late Sam Wannamaker) in London. According to Tonya, her greatest education has come through traveling—discovering different cultures, learning about the history, and meeting the beautiful citizens of the world. This is how she transitioned into her new role as a travel broadcast journalist, multi-media producer, and global citizen.
But how does one make the break from a secure legal career to make a livelihood traveling? According to Tonya, you honor your passion and the rest will follow. Tonya and her husband, Ian, also an attorney, left their law practices behind to create a unique global community through their travel radio show – World Footprints (formerly Travel’n On). Their decision to grow a community of fellow responsible travelers was affirmed when they were awarded the 2009 First Place Travel Broadcast from North American Travel Journalists Association. Since forming Travel’n On Media Productions, LLC, the producer of World Footprints Radio, they have expanded their broadcast platform to include additional multimedia digital platforms including internet, TV, and multiple social media platforms. This allows them to stay connected with their fellow travelers and grow their audience, even while on the road.
In addition to her role as Executive Producer of World Footprints and CEO of Travel’n On Media Productions, LLC, Tonya is also an author and speaker. She and Ian are currently writing a chapter in a book with Stephen Covey and they are producing new travel video content for major online media companies. Tonya also frequents and covers travel-related legislation at the White House and Congress.
Planning for Change
Every move Tonya has made in life she has planned for and her exit from the legal profession was no exception. Her legal training helped her hone her research skills and she performs due diligence on every project she pursues. While she admits to being a risk taker, she also knows the importance of staying afloat financially. Tonya worked with a life/career coach to help her reinvent her passion for travel and turn it into a viable career. She also saved money to live on for a full year since she knew it would take time to turn a profit with the show and her new company.
The radio show makes money from investors, paid sponsors and advertisers but securing those has been a challenge in this tough economy. Tonya and Ian are now expanding their broadcast platforms and growing their audience by tapping into new markets like university students who travel, study, and work abroad, and providing them with resources and a venue to share their experiences.
While Tonya is always using her transferable skills in contracts, negotiations, and communication & writing for the show and her company, she found it tough at first to “sell” her ideas and thought it would be easier to market someone else’s product. But, she has since overcome that feeling of insecurity and embraced her humble confidence in this project and the company that she truly believes in.
Celebrity Power on the Show
Prominent personalities and celebrity interviews on the radio show have given the program extra cache and increased the listening audience. Those special guests include actress and wildlife advocate Stefanie Powers, NASCAR icon Kyle Petty, philanthropist David Rockefeller, Jr., Rajmohan Gandhi (grandson of Mahatma Gandhi), Travel Channel hosts Samantha Brown, Andrew Zimmern and Kirsten Gum, and many more celebrities and newsmakers.
World Footprints was recently granted accreditation to cover the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Although some sporting events were covered like the Luge, Bobsled and Biathlon, the broadcast focus was on the cultural stories behind the Games, i.e., how the First Nations people were represented, Vancouver’s sustainable/green development legacy and animal conservation efforts of the Olympic mascots. Tonya and Ian hope to travel to South Africa for the 2010 World Cup where, in addition to covering events and unique attractions, they will also volunteer for a South African-based charitable organization that supports disadvantaged children.
An influential commentator, journalist, and thought leader in the travel space, Tonya has been heard or seen on MSNBC.com, NPR, Retirement Living, AllAfrica.com, local CBS and NBC affiliate stations and others. Tonya is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers, the National Press Club, the North American Travel Journalist Association, and the Society of Professional Journalists. Both Tonya and Ian are members of the International Speakers Network.
Tonya and Ian are currently writing a chapter in a book entitled, Success Simplified, with Stephen Covey, Patricia Fripp and Tony Alessandra. This book is expected to be released in December 2010.
The Joy of Being Your Own Boss
The reality of being an entrepreneur is that you have total control over your business and that you are solely responsible for your success or failure. Tonya has always had a strong work ethic and she believes it is now even stronger because she has taken ownership of her career future and her business. According to Tonya, she relies on her spiritual strength, prays a lot, and has created a work environment with Ian that puts value on integrity, work ethic, and authenticity.
While Tonya’s life has consisted of many exciting travel experiences, she has learned to take calculated risks and plan for them. She has lived, studied, and worked abroad in England, China, Russia and Romania and her many travels have taken her through many regions of the world including a 5-week backpacking trip through Asia where she returned to China and visited eight other countries in the region. As an avid scuba diver, she gravitates to coastal areas. She loves adventure and wants to trek through Nepal and climb Kilimanjaro someday soon.
But, this adventurist has made a conscious effort to grow her business wisely instead of quickly honoring the vision she and her husband have created.
From the beginning responsible travel, culture and heritage were values that Tonya and Ian brought to their show. World Footprints is unique in that its entire focus is about leaving positive footprints by fostering cross-cultural understanding and friendships, encouraging positive impacts on local people and their environments, supporting local trade and fair markets and promoting authentic travel experiences that respect cultural heritage.
Tonya is on a quest to help others respect the natural environment and eco-balance of the planet by encouraging travel choices that minimize negative environmental impacts. One trip and one radio show or media product at a time, she and Ian are spreading their message, fulfilling their purpose and living their dream.
Tonya’s Advice and Action Steps
- Honor your “red flags” and trust your gut.
- Grow your business wisely and not just quickly.
- Utilize your mentors and personal resource team.
- Be ready to pay-it-forward and help others.
- Be aware of your total skill set and tap into your strengths.
Mantra: Honor Your SELF and the rest will follow.
World Footprints Media www.WorldFootprints.com
International Speakers Network: www.bookaspeaker.net
Facebook World Footprints community http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/WORLD-FOOTPRINTS-Media/272337714084