After getting divorced at the age of 38, La-Tessa Montgomery made herself a promise.
“For each birthday, I’m going to get another stamp in my passport.”
Since she made herself that promise, Montgomery has traveled all across the world — mostly solo — and she has documented all of it on her traveling blog and Instagram.
Montgomery, who lives in Southaven, wears many hats in her professional life. Using her master’s degree, she works as a marketing leader at an agency in Memphis. In the evenings and on weekends, she is sipping a new cocktail, creating new characters for another romance story or writing her latest blog post.
The Spirited Traveler, named for Montgomery’s desire to explore combined with her interest in the newest bars and breweries, is where she documents her best travel tips, her worst — and funniest — vacation stories and cocktail recipes for almost every occasion.
Montgomery has traveled to Cuba, Paris, London and, most recently, Italy. This year’s trip to Africa was canceled, she said, making this the first year that she won’t travel out of the country since her journeys began.
On each trip, she totes around at least two cameras to document her travels to share with her followers. Montgomery said that with her rheumatoid arthritis, she had to switch to smaller equipment.
“On my trip to London, I had this really big camera bag that I lugged around everywhere, and I looked like the biggest tourist ever,” she said, laughing. “Thankfully, the concierge took a liking to me.”
Montgomery said she learned to befriend the concierges wherever she stayed, and that they gave her helpful advice about the city and how to keep herself safe while traveling alone. This was one of the many tips that she has shared on her blog.
Between articles about her adventures, she writes “Spirited Conversations”: cocktail recipes and original photos of drinks she tries during her trips. She also features Local Tourist articles with local restaurant reviews, brewery tours and other stories.
Her writing doesn’t stop at her travel tips and drink recipes, though. Montgomery’s first literary love was writing romance novels — a genre she took a liking to at a young age.
“I’ve always been a really big reader,” she said. “I didn’t like shopping with my mom, so I’d make her drop me off at the library.”
Montgomery began reading romance novels in high school and quickly realized that, although she enjoyed what she was reading, she knew she could make something better.
“I went into a bookstore one time and saw an African American Romance (section) on the shelves,” she said. “Before then, I couldn’t find Black romance novels.”
Since then, Montgomery has been published in an anthology of short romance stories. One of her stories, “Found Rhythm” was published in the “Seven Dress Sizes” collection in 2013.
Montgomery said that how she writes her stories is unique — she doesn’t begin her writing process with a plot idea.
“I’m one of those weird people; I very rarely have a story idea. Instead, I create characters,” she said. “I usually have at least eight characters at a time.”
She said that after she creates a character and their background story, she finds personalities that match up and develops a story around them. In romance writing, characters need an opposite, so she said she has found this to be the easiest way to write.
Montgomery has joined writing critique groups to learn new techniques, and now she is able to share what she has learned in romance writing workshops she teaches in the Memphis area.
Though blogging about cocktails and vacations doesn’t at first seem to overlap with writing romance novels, Montgomery said that she has learned different skills from each type of writing.
“I used to be writing (my blog) with a voiceover point of view, but you don’t attract true followers like that,” she said. “I learned to start putting my own voice into things and bringing storytelling into my blog.”
In her career in marketing, Montgomery also spends a lot of her day writing in a professional style. She said that it’s been difficult to transition from marketing to storytelling to blogging, but she has learned to incorporate elements of her different writing styles into different mediums.
“It’s difficult... it’s hard not to be professional,” she said. “I used to write on my blog and edit them for hours, but I realized it’s not what I wanted to produce.”
Her more conversational, casual blogging style is what her readers have responded well to, she said. Her engaging blog has also attracted the attention of companies that want to use her blog for marketing purposes. She currently has about 1,200 followers on her blog’s Instagram page, which means she is considered a “micro influencer.”
Once she finds companies who want to pay her to post ads or sponsored content on her blog, this will make her blog monetized.
“I’m hoping to monetize (my blog) by 2021,” she said. “I’m taking the time to find what I like creating and what my audience wants to engage with.”
Montgomery credits her versatile personality for her success as a blogger, an author and a marketing leader.
“I like to think outside of the box,” Montgomery said. “I’m a very creative and resourceful person. It’s all about using what you’ve got.”