When she was little, Emily Jansen would go to the local travel agency in St. Peter and bring home brochures about all the places in the world she wanted to visit when she grew up. From these brochures posted on the wall of her room, she planned her itinerary.
The internet has replaced brochures for planning purposes, but she has now visited more than 30 of these countries and is looking to add more in a travel-heavy 2022. She plans, markets and leads group tours around the world through her business, The Wanderlust Rose.
“I really wanted to travel and always planned to travel eventually when it was convenient,” Jansen recently said via Zoom. A 2013 graduate of Minnesota State University’s Department of Theater and Dance with a BFA in musical theater, Jansen found performing jobs in the Twin Cities after graduation.
But working long runs of shows at the Old Log Theater or Theater Latte Da was not conducive to a travel schedule.
“I was making a good living doing theater, but obviously anyone who works in the arts knows you don’t make millions to go off and travel the world with,” she said.
“So I found a lot of interesting and interesting jobs and volunteer positions all over the world to kind of support me this first year. I volunteered at Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. I did a pub crawl in Poland.
Along the way, she started planning.
When friends asked her about her secrets, she started a blog called The Wanderlust Rose, incorporating her free spirit and middle name into the headline. After starting slowly – WiFi isn’t always available in remote locations – she built a following through stories, photos and videos she posted.
She didn’t learn everything on her own. She credits Topdeck Travel with allowing her to go on her own one day. They recognized in this major theater the makings of a great travel guide.
“You’d be surprised how many people are interested in tourism and travel, but aren’t necessarily comfortable with public speaking,” Jansen said. “They don’t want to get up in front of a microphone and speak to large groups, aren’t comfortable putting themselves forward. Maybe they aren’t necessarily the ones with strong skills to think on their feet. These kind of skills that we develop in the theater, which served me enormously during this period.
Along with an engaging personality, Jansen strives to ensure that everyone on the group trip, which can range from eight to 25 people, has an exceptional individual experience.
Kathy Kapa Scinto knew Jansen from upstate Minnesota, where her daughter, Emily Scinto, shared a stage with Jansen. She decided to go on a trip to the southwestern United States.
“(Emily) took the time to get to know each person who was on the trip and made sure we all got what we wanted from our trip,” Scinto said. “It’s not easy to do with so many people.”
Everyone received a set of fairy lights for their tents, she said, along with handwritten cards and stickers to welcome them. These small gestures personalize the adventure. Jansen said many people had booked multiple trips with her and she received Christmas cards from other people.
“I really don’t sleep on these trips,” laughed Jansen.
Days can start with early risers wanting to explore a city on foot and only end hours later with those wanting to experience the bars and nightlife. This attention to detail can be so draining, Jansen said, that she often books two-day solo jaunts after a group trip to recharge her own batteries.
“She’s so wonderful at planning fun and interesting activities,” said Leigh (Jacobsen) Gladden, another MSU theater friend who has traveled to New Orleans and Indonesia with Jansen. “She’s also great at making sure your trip isn’t stressful.”
It takes careful planning and using one’s theatrical skills to adapt if a flight is cancelled, access to a country is denied, or a bus blows out a tire.
Most of the places she goes are places where she has had incredible experiences, she said. She partners with local guides to create trips that include the things she enjoyed and can add an activity recommended by them. In July, she will visit Mount Kilimanjaro for the first time.
At least four of his 11 trips planned for this year are sold out, including May to the Sahara Desert in Morocco, June to Turkey, July’s trip to Mount Kilimanjaro and a September trip to the Upper Trekking Trail. Iceland in February and Sail Croatia in August include two weeks to choose from.
Early in her efforts, she was able to do more planning ahead of schedule due to the pandemic. Because of this, she completed her five-year plan in about a year. She has now added an assistant to help plan trip logistics, but still plans to organize every trip for now.
“I think I’d like to continue touring,” she said of her future plans. “I would like the theater to be part of my life again. So I think eventually I would like to play part of the year and travel part of the year.
Her parents were surprised when she took that first solo trip to Europe in 2018, but saw how she grew up doing it.
“Loren and I are so proud of Emily and all that she has accomplished,” Laura Jansen said. “She took her passion for travel and made it her dream job.”