“A dream come true” is how former flight attendant and travel photographer Autumn Carolynn described her book launch at Barnes and Noble on Saturday, March. 9. Her new book, ‘Traveling in Wonder’, details her mission to visit 30 countries in 30 years.

From a young age, Carolynn was driven to explore new places. Growing up near Chicago, she and her friends would ask the train conductor at their local train station to stamp their tickets for a random stop. Then, they spent the rest of the day exploring that area. Her parents also played a big part in inspiring her to travel. 

“They would take us to a different monuments or different places growing up like the Grand Canyon, Washington DC, or Niagara Falls. It was really nice for me to experience it like this because I had to learn what it’s like to travel on a budget,” she said. 

However, after her brother had a serious health incident while she was in college, she realized that she needed to start living life to the fullest. Majoring in English Literature with an emphasis on creative writing, she decided to sign up to study abroad in Canterbury, England.

“It was like a dream,” she said about studying in the same place where many of the authors she read in college were from.  

During her time studying abroad, Carolynn traveled to a new country every weekend, bringing her camera as a trusted companion. She said Norway is her favorite travel destination so far. 

“There were amazing landscapes everywhere that I went,” she said. 

Her desire to travel carried into her career, inspiring her to pursue a career as a flight attendant, travel agent, and later starting her own photography business: Autumn Carolynn Photography. 

However, with traveling and trying new things come inevitable hardships and obstacles. Carolynn mentioned a time during her study abroad when she was leading a group of students on a trip to Scotland and things didn’t go according to plan. 

“I didn’t realize that the train ended in Newcastle at 1:30 a.m. and didn’t start up until 7:30 a.m. to continue into Scotland. We had no cell service, no place to go, we didn’t know where we were.” 

She said they ended up sleeping on the bathroom floor of a casino until the train station opened in the morning. 

“I was so embarrassed,” she said. 

Her advice on navigating unexpected situations when traveling? 

“For me, the main thing that I had to learn was that you should just be happy to be here.  Be happy that you’re out and experiencing. Even if you’re embarrassed or feeling that shame or you’re upset that things aren’t working out. These experiences happen. And they will just make you a better, more prepared traveler in the future.” 

For college students and fresh graduates, the prospect of traveling the world can also seem financially daunting. Carolynn recommends staying in hostels as a major way to cut costs. 

“There are different types of dormitories that you can do that are like 30 beds in one room. That’s a cheaper option,” she said.

Her book is split up into four sections, starting with the Study Abroad Series. The other sections include the Flight Attendant Series, the Travel Agent Series, and the Autumn Carolynn Photography Series. Carolynn said the book started out as a Google document containing journal entries from her time studying abroad. 

“Sometimes I would write in coffee shops or when I couldn’t sleep in the middle of the night,” she said. 

During the pandemic, she started going through and compiling her journal entries.  

“I went through all my photography as well. When I was editing the photography, I had the idea to combine the two together and create it into a book.”

For anyone wanting to write a book, Carolynn recommends staying consistent with writing, even if that means just writing a few words on a page every day. 

“Just start and continue at it. It’s kind of like riding a bike, if you’re not doing it for a while, you can get off the bandwagon but when you start back up, you’re able to keep going.”

Carolynn decided to self-publish in order to get the book out for her loved ones to read as soon as possible. She said choosing to go this publishing route allowed for more creativity.

“I’m so grateful that I was able to keep the title that I always wanted. And the picture that’s on the cover is one of my favorite pictures because it holds a lot of meaning.”

The cover photo was taken at the Black Sand Beach in Iceland. It was during a trip with her mother, who suffers from macular degeneration and is legally blind. Not knowing how long her mother would have left with her current sight, Carolynn asked her to go on a trip abroad for the first time. 

“That’s what I think of when I see it. It’s not just a picture of the Black Sand Beach. To me, it’s like I got my mom to experience seeing something really cool while she is still able to physically see it. And that means way more to me than any picture that I could take,” she said. 

If readers were to have one takeaway from the book, Carolynn hopes it is this: “To just do something that pushes you out of your comfort zone. Even if it’s going to a grocery store that you’ve never been to before or driving to a town that you’ve never explored and going to a new coffee shop. I think building up the confidence so that when you are able to go to a new country, you feel ready for it.”


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