Laura / Podcast Host
Laura Hughes is a podcast host, photographer, writer, and full time traveler living on the road in her Ford Transit camper van.
Here, she talks about how human stories influence her creativity, and why saying "yes" in the midst of fear are her proudest moments.
You are a multi-talented woman! Tell us a little about your creative background and how you spend your time:
I do like to dabble! It’s taken me a while to see that as a strength, but in the past year I’ve really been leaning into it and it’s allowed me to be open to more opportunities and projects than I could have imagined.
My creative work has its strongest roots in photography. From the time I was 10, I was taking photos with a cheap point and shoot of the horses that lived at the end of the street in my neighborhood. That passion slowly evolved over time into various side hustles that would support me during grad school, invigorate me on my travels, and ultimately become a facet of my creative career as a women’s retreat and outdoor recreation tour group photographer. If I’m being completely honest, the reason I asked for a camera from my parents in the first place was because my sketch art was always being compared to a very talented childhood friend, and I wanted to try something else that nobody else was doing and remove competition from my close friendship.
Writing, for me, falls into a similar bucket, but unlike photography I have never worried about comparison with my words. It’s been a passion since childhood and something I will always do because I love it. I am infatuated with the power of language. I strive to make people feel something. My childhood self wanted to publish a book someday, and I hope to make that happen eventually.
In the past year, I’ve grown into creating audio stories as a podcast host and producer. It’s been a completely new experience for me-- not just in the technical aspect, but also in the medium. Our voices are mediums. And in a text-driven culture, it can be easy to feel disconnected from your voice. But our voices hold so much emotion and vulnerability. We make deep connections when we use our voices. I love that podcasting not only requires that I bring my most genuine and thoughtful voice to the table, but it calls others to do so as well.
When and how did you come up with the idea for your podcast, Women on the Road?
I can’t take much credit for the concept of “Women On The Road”, but sometimes with being a creative, opportunities really hinge on relationships and pitches. Women On The Road began as a written interview series on She-Explores.com (founded by Gale Straub), and as it happens I wrote a short piece there on how the podcast got started. I encourage you to check it out for the whole story!
What has been the biggest challenge of working on the road? And how have you handled it? Because sound is one of my main mediums currently, I’ve become keenly aware at how difficult it can be to truly find a consistently quiet place to record or interview! Everything from the whoosh of a truck passing by to the wind or rain slapping the roof of the camper can make a difference in the quality of the recording. Some things are within my control, and I’ve learned some techniques to help dampen sounds (it’s called pillows around the mic, and a blanket over your head-- true story!), but sometimes the ambience is unavoidable. That’s when I have to decide to either be patient and record again another time, or to let the sounds add to the story and the feel of being on the road in some way. Making that call always depends on my feeling at the time, or any deadlines I’m up against, but in the end the show always comes out how it’s supposed to: raw and real and a little bit quirky.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I typically make the most of my mornings by getting in calls, interviews, and recordings as early as possible before lunch. That’s when I’m most productive, and so I leverage that. I make decisions less effectively later in the day, and that’s when my creativity begins to come to the surface in a more prominent way. So I’ll tap into my creative side then: editing photos, writing pieces, and piecing together podcast episodes. Sometimes that means I stay up way too late, but I try to keep that in check most nights.
Do you have creative habits or rituals that help you stay focused? I think it comes back to the time of day, for one-- leveraging the energy I know I have, when I know I’m most likely to have it. And being a dynamic creative (the doer-of-all-master-of-none type), I am also a huge proponent of switching things up if I’m not feeling inspired by a certain aspect of my work on a given day, so long as no deadlines are riding on it. If I’m feeling like I want to listen to more music while I work-- something I can’t do while I’m editing audio-- then I switch over to writing for a day, or even a few hours, to get that jolt I need to get back to my podcasting.
What influences your creativity?
I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot recently! Conversations are, first and foremost, the biggest influencer of my creativity. I love human brains, human stories, and human emotions. Human hearts. They’re beautiful, and imperfect, and often times people will say the most inspired things without realizing it. I always make a practice of calling those thoughts out when I hear them, and taking those moments back with me to weave into my writing, my storytelling, and my own personal reflections and growth.
I look to the outdoors as another crucial source of my creativity. Everything words and conversations can’t give me rest within the outdoors. As a visual and an audio creative, I love seeing and hearing what nature shows us daily. I’ve always been about appreciating the little things, and on days I feel uninspired I am often forgetting just how miraculous this earth is. There’s nothing like bending over a small stream to listen to it trickle through headphones, or laying on the ground to get just the right rays of light on a tree, to remind you that everything on this planet counts. Including us.
What is your proudest moment in your creative journey so far?
Oof, that’s a tough one! Honestly, the most proud moments I’ve had in my creative journey have been all the small, seemingly meaningless times I’ve said “yes”. Yes to opportunities that made me nervous. Yes to an idea someone pitched to me that I wasn’t sure about. Yes to myself when am idea registered in my mind that wasn’t quite fully baked, but felt good on gut instinct.
One of the biggest “yes” moments I have ever had as a creative was the summer I said I would begin shooting weddings, about 10 years ago. It was my first season of paid photography work, and I dove in with no prior experience, no second shooter, and arguably not enough memory cards (which I learned all too quickly!). My very first wedding was stressful. I worried about my batteries dying. I was anxiety-ridden about making sure I got the couple’s first kiss. I didn’t know the right way to make sure I got food at the reception. I went to bed in a daze when I got home, unsure how I was going to complete the season of gigs I signed myself up for-- but when I saw the photos I took the next morning, I was immediately energized and ready to do more. Somehow, I had pulled it off. I knew I would have a lot of growing to do that summer, but I also knew that my gut “yes” response had led me in the right direction.
Are you creatively satisfied? Right now, more than ever. I’m in a fortunate place of continual growth and challenges within my three disciplines. I know it won’t last, but at this point in time I feel like I’ve bitten off just enough to chew on for the foreseeable short term. And when that satiation fades, it’ll be time to say “yes” to something I’m more unsure of but feels good on gut instinct.
What are you most excited about right now?
The Women On The Road podcast is doing incredibly well when it comes to generating new content, building a supportive community, and giving back to every person out there who wants to know more about road travel from a feminine perspective. I’m excited for how far we’ve come with the show, and also for the potential it holds in the short and long term future.
I’m also incredibly excited about finding my photography niches. I’ve come a long way from taking any gig that came my way, to taking the gigs that I know I’ll be the best fit for. You have to have a reasonable amount of confidence to say no when a client wants you to be their photographer. It’s flattering and it feels nice to have your work be sought after in this competitive space. But I’ve learned that saying yes to work that doesn’t serve your purpose is not only doing the client a disservice, but it’s doing you a disservice by limiting your ability to get what you want in the future. I’m excited that at this point, I’ve said no to work that doesn’t fire me up enough times that I don’t hesitate anymore… and it’ll hopefully set me up to attract more of the work I want moving forward.
What's your vision for your future? I want to keep furthering my ability to help others tell their stories, whether that’s through modeling raw stories myself, or crafting podcasts, photos, or written pieces showcasing the experience of others. Also-- I believe in the power of manifestation, so I’ll just say it: I want to publish a book.
Finish these sentences
My guiding value is growth.
I lose track of time when I’m finding just the right music for a podcast episode!
I can read The Alchemist over and over again
Sedona holds a special place in my heart because its golden colors and warmth fill a deep need within.
I believe you can.