Sunday, September 2, 2012

Travel Spotlight: Sacramentan traveling, blogging for Expedia - Sacramento Bee

Jeremy Branham is living the dream: He's getting paid to travel.

Expedia recently hired the 37-year-old Sacramento resident and part-time travel writer to blog about his trips to see college football games nationwide.

"I just want to help people get the best travel experience possible," said Branham, who blogs at budgettraveladventures.com. "I'm trying to get people to think outside the box."

Branham was scheduled Saturday to attend his first game â€" a match between the U.S. Naval Academy and Notre Dame University â€" in Dublin, Ireland.

Last year, the South Carolina native combined his two passions â€" college football and travel â€" and went to college towns, blogging about the tailgating culture and local attractions.

The concept of college football travel caught the eye of Expedia's public relations director, Sarah Keeling. She agreed to sponsor the tour this year, paying for airfare, hotels and car rentals. In exchange, Branham will provide a post for Expedia's website on each football game he attends.

Ultimately, the travel company hopes the new content will translate into new sales.

"It's about taking travel out of this transactional space and being able to help people figure out their personal trip," Keeling said.

After Dublin, Branham will continue his tour with stops in Columbus, Ohio (UC Berkeley vs. Ohio State); Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Air Force Academy vs. Colorado State); and Dallas, Texas (University of Oklahoma vs. University of Texas, Austin). There will be eight games total, with a focus on traditional rivalries.

Many people blog about travel, but few are paid to do so professionally. The relationship gives Branham a large audience and may help generate sales for Expedia. "It's incredible for our company and the blogger," Keeling said.

The travel giant has hired 30 bloggers for similar projects.

Branham's love affair with travel began after a 1995 missionary trip to the eastern European nation of Estonia.

"It was definitely awakening for me to experience a different culture," said the now-married father of two.

At the time, the country was in a transitional phase, having just gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Since that trip, Branham has been back to Europe several times, culminating with a monthlong tour in 2004.

Branham's adventures have landed him in 17 countries, most of them in Europe. They include Germany, Croatia, Hungary, Poland and Portugal.

"I would like to spend more time in eastern Europe but also explore other continents," he said of his future travel plans.

Stateside, Branham's travels span 35 states. Though he's been "everywhere on the East Coast," California still is his favorite.

"Within a couple of hours you're in the woods or on the beach," he said of California's landscape.

In addition to running his travel website, Branham has a full-time job as a business analyst for a health care company. His busy schedule has meant sacrificing sleep.

"I don't have a dull moment during the day," Branham said.

Branham said he is lucky to have an understanding wife. Kristen Branham, a physical therapist, now works part-time, so she can take care of the couple's two young children, ages 2 and 4.

"I take care of our kids and do everything," she said.

Kristen, too, shares her husband's passion for travel and has been to 12 countries herself. The couple met at a Sacramento church in 2004 and clicked because of their common interest in travel.

Even in the down economy, Branham said, traveling is still within reach.

"Travel isn't about how much money you spend," he said. "It's a state of mind."

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Call The Bee's Richard Chang, (916) 321-1018.

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