Meet Julie Off Duty: Travel Entrepreneur

Today’s Culture with Travel interview is with Julie Kandalec from JulieOffDuty

What started your journey around the world, but also your career in beauty? 

Around 2000, I was watching a game show on MTV, and the grand prize was an 80-day trip around the world. I was instantly fascinated with the trip – the company boasted about visiting majestic sites such as the Great Wall, floating in the Dead Sea, and climbing Machu Picchu. But, at $40k, it was not even an option for teenage me to go on.

So, I set out to find a way to combine my two greatest loves: travel and the beauty industry. About 2 years later, I was reading a trade magazine that talked about working in the spa on a cruise ship: I knew I had found the perfect combo of beauty and travel. I ultimately ended up working in the gift shops instead of in the spa (way more time off to spend in port!). After my contract on the ship ended, I came back into the salon and began building my portfolio to be able to move to NYC to do nails for photo shoots and celebrities, which I did in 2010.

Julie aboard the cruise ship in 2003.

What does your day-to-day look like? 
These things I do every single day: Hit snooze at least twice, read The Skimm in bed, and check emails – I have about 5 email addresses to keep things streamlined with each of my companies, plus one just for travel, and one for shopping and other “fun” things!

Also, I’m just obsessed with looking at interior decorating! I’m moving from Manhattan to Brooklyn this week and cannot wait to do a full re-haul on my decor. I’m also on Instagram for a few hours a day, working on my story and next post. Being in the photo shoot industry, it’s natural for me to create and produce a story and having Instagram as a platform is really fun!

Julie’s beauty work for Marie Claire (photographer – Jamie Nelson)

Also every day I am planning some sort of trip, or researching for one I’ve already booked. In the spring, I went away for the longest stretch ever – two weeks in India followed by a week in the Maldives. Also, I just planned next family vacation (Rome, a cruise to the Amalfi Coast and 3 nights in Croatia!), so I am constantly emailing with my dad and brother with options of what to do.

Julie at a market in Rishikesh, India

I talk to my best friend every day, all day long about everything – my crazy work ideas, personal thoughts, future business plans. What’s better than having someone you trust in your corner? It’s priceless.

A few times a week I go to SoulCycle. I always swore I would never, ever go because I thought it was too hard. But, I got hooked back in the fall when my Paintbox CEO, Jane invited a bunch of us to go, and now I go about 3-4 times a week. If you want to see a fast change in your body – Soul is the way to do it. Plus, I love the “team” mentality there!

In addition, I’m creating nail art looks for Paintbox or looking at inspiration for color combos. During fashion week, I’m the lead backstage manicurist for Essie – part of my job is to create the nail art looks that go down the runway on models at shows like Oscar de la Renta. Those nail color trends are written about by dozens of beauty editors and influencers, so it’s really an honor to do that every fashion week for about 10 seasons (5 years) now.

Julie’s nail art looks for Paintbox.

I recently learned Lightroom and love editing my photos with it, so I’ll spend some time each week to edit my (new and old) photos with it. The before and afters are truly incredible! For example, I only have ONE photo of me in a suite at the Burj al Arab – thanks to bad interior lighting (and no professional camera), I thought it was useless. But, after Lightroom, its one of my favorite photos now. Here’s another before and after photo I edited in Lightroom:

Julie in Maldives (photo before editing using Lightroom)
Julie in Maldives (photo after editing using Lightroom)

These are things that can happen at any time, any of 7 days a week:
– A couple of weeks ago I got an email to come to set and do nails for a major beauty company… right then.
– Some days, one of the artists from Paintbox, where I am the Creative Director, is sick and I go in to cover their clients.

julie off duty sally field
Julie with Sally Field on set.

– My favorite actress, Viola Davis requested me to do her nails… in Los Angeles.

Julie off duty and Viola Davis
Julie with Viola Davis.

What advice would you give others who wonder how to make a living from travel? 

Be genuine! Everyone that knows me knows that I love to travel. Don’t do it for free trips, free clothes, or just for the money. Brands can sense that a mile away.

Also, have a niche and stick to it – there are a  million travel bloggers out there – find something that makes you different and memorable.

Where and when was your favorite work experience abroad? Why? 

Anything directly combining travel and beauty I get super excited about. When I was in the Maldives last year, I was chatting with the spa manager after my massage and mentioned that I did nails in NYC. He said that they don’t get a lot of manicure requests, so I offered to teach his staff on tips to do a flawless manicure and cross-promoting (I’m also an educator). The staff loved it and feel much more confident with their nail services now!

Julie teaching a class in Maldives at The Residence Maldives
Julie teaching a class in Maldives at The Residence Maldives

Why do you personally love to travel? Share a story (or two) about trips that have made a big impact on you. 

I love to travel because I’ve always loved international cuisine and taking photos in cool places – long before ANY social media was a thing. I also love little markets and picking up unique things there to bring home for gifts. The coolest thing I brought back was a hand-painted miniature tea set (okay, I actually brought three sets!).

My trip that made the biggest impact on me was my first trip to Asia, specifically Hong Kong in 2008. It was my first big international trip, we went for CosmoProf Hong Kong, a huge beauty trade show. But coincidentally, it wasn’t at the show that I learned how to sculpt gel nails – it was at a salon where I stopped to get my nails done. I’ve been working with sculpting gel ever since.

Julie at the trade show in Hong Kong in 2008.

As a travel entrepreneur, what mark are you hoping to leave in the world?

I just want people to know that it’s safe to leave their comfort zones and see different cities and countries!

It opens your eyes to so many beautiful things that you cannot experience in any other way. It truly changes how you view the world, opens your eyes, and your mind.

Follow Julie’s adventures on her website, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook

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