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Q&A with Jessica van Dop DeJesus

Updated: Aug 6, 2021

Where did your love for travel begin?

I grew up on an island, Puerto Rico so I always watched NatGeo shows with my dad and fantasized about going to far away lands like Australia and Kenya.

What does travel mean to you?

Travel means connections, learning, inspiration and sometimes being uncomfortable. However, when I'm uncomfortable and beyond my comfort zone is when I learn the most.

Who were your inspiration(s) growing up?

My dad has always been an inspiration to me. He never had the opportunity travel much, however, he read a lot and watched a lot of documentaries. I believe that sparked my interest in seeing the world.

Some people may not know you’re a Marine Reserve Officer. Can you tell us about your journey and travels in military service?

Yes, I'm a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps. Most of the places I've lived abroad have been due to my job: Okinawa, South Korea, Germany, and Iraq. It's been an privilege to have the opportunity to live and work in a different country than my own. I've learned so much from each of those experiences. My first duty station as an officer was Okinawa, Japan and it truly opened my eyes and palate. I'll never forget the delicious food, the beaches, and most importantly the generosity of the Okinawan people.

Why is travel so important, especially for women?

I believe that travel is a school. There's so much we can learn-not only about other cultures but about ourselves. My biggest takeaway is that people want the same fundamental things in life: food, shelter, health, and love. I've been traveling for over 20 years and I'm always in a perpetual state of amazement.

As a woman, an American woman specifically, travel reiterates how much freedom we have. We should utilize the privilege of freedom to empower other women.

Can you tell us about The Dining Traveler?

I've been blogging about food and travel for over ten years now. I began writing about food and travel from the expat lens in Brussels. In 2014, I decided to rebrand to The Dining Traveler. I noticed that when I talked about travel with friends or even random people, the conversation always ended up being about a restaurant or a food experience. We are all Dining Travelers. Food is a connector and that's what we thrive to do with The Dining Traveler. Tell the story of travel through food. We want to be that well traveled friend who can help you pick a memorable travel experience centered around food.

Have you faced any setbacks during your journey? What did you learn?

The biggest setback, even know, is funding. I don't come from a rich family or have a wealthy husband. Everything I built, I've done with my paychecks from my former work as an IT and Security policy analyst and my military work. It's challenging to scale when the capital is limited. I'm always trying to find creative ways to fund my business and make it sustainable to support my family.

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to pursue a career in the travel industry?

Be clear on what you want to do. Find a niche. Network! Sadly, this industry is a lot about who you know. Go to conferences, read travel trade literature, and stay informed. Most of all, never forget that the travel industry is a service industry. Even if you're writing, you're still serving the audience you're writing for.

What is your dream for the future?

My dream for the future is to continue to scale The Dining Traveler, grow my team, and create more video content to highlight inspiring chefs, food industry change makers, and destinations that often go under the radar.

How can the people find out more about you?

Go to or find me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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