Anna Kloots On Travel, Self-Discovery, And Her New Book My Own Magic - Exclusive Interview

Anyone who followed the adventures of travel influencer Anna Kloots five years ago would have thought her life was a dream come true. Her social media feed was full of colorful shots of her frequent international travels to glamorous locales, as she and her then-husband, a professional magician, traveled the world for performances as she worked as his assistant. Their travels together took them everywhere from all-expenses-paid international cruises to the beaches of Bali to castles in Europe. From all appearances, she lived a charmed life.

But appearances can be deceiving. Behind the scenes, their marriage was falling apart. Kloots gradually came to realize that everything she and her husband did as a couple served her husband's desires and career plans, not her own. As glamorous as their travels were, they also became profoundly lonely times for Kloots, who found that neither her husband nor any of his peers or adoring fans had any interest in her wants or interests as an individual. In her upcoming memoir, "My Own Magic," Kloots chronicles her globetrotting life, her complicated marriage, and how she learned to stand up for herself and follow her own values and dreams. Today, she still leads a life filled with travel and adventure — only now, she's living it on her own terms. In an exclusive interview with The List, Kloots shared her remarkable journey.

Learning to live on her own terms was a journey for Anna Kloots

You and Paris have both changed a lot since your first visit there. What is it like for you to live there now as a fully independent adult? Have your impressions of the city changed?

Paris has changed a lot since I lived here during my semester abroad, but that was a six-month stint in 2009, so it certainly has changed a bit. What's amazing is to experience it as an adult, and especially to move here on my own not knowing anyone at all. I was in total discovery mode, and that made it so special because I was able to fully do everything that I wanted. When you're a little bit older, you have your interests more defined than I did when I was younger. I moved here and didn't have plans to keep with anyone or any real agenda at first, and I could spend time getting to know and devouring the city. That was really special.

In your book, "My Own Magic," you have a lot of teachable moments, especially for young women, about relationships. What advice would you give your 18-year-old self now about boundaries and communication in relationships?

Boy, there's a lot I would tell myself. Mostly, it would be to not be afraid to set those boundaries and to not invalidate your own feelings. I spent so many years feeling something and instantly finding a way to talk myself out of it or dismissing it as not valid for whatever reason, rather than listening to what was very clearly my deep self talking to me and trying to show me: "This isn't going to lead to your happiness. This isn't what you're actually wanting; this isn't what you're working toward."

I tuned that out so easily, and that's how I eventually realized I had completely lost sight of myself — because I had stopped listening to my inner voice and what I knew was right for me and was what I wanted. So I would tell her that. I would say, "When that girl starts talking, you listen. You don't invalidate those feelings. Don't cast those needs aside for anybody else. Those things are what make you shine, they're what make you grow, and you need to honor and feed and listen to that voice."

Her advice for travelers: Let go of fear

At the time, what made you think you had to tamp down on those feelings or suppress them?

Because a lot of those feelings were new. I was 19 when I met my ex-husband, and in so many ways, I was still completely a kid. I wasn't fully aware yet of how important some of the things were to me that I ended up very willingly trading away to please someone else or to fit in with someone else's lifestyle. We do this in relationships, especially our first couple relationships, our young relationships. They seem to enter our world and cast an eclipse over everything else, and they become our most important thing. We'll do anything to keep that relationship going and keep that person in love with us, and we're willing to sacrifice the parts of ourselves that we shouldn't.

That's definitely what happened to me. I wasn't in tune enough with myself. I was so inebriated with this person I had met that I was willing to be what he wanted in someone more than what I knew I needed to be, to be me.

Switching gears a little bit, what advice would you give to someone who's never traveled abroad but would like to try?

You can't be scared. I know that's a hard thing to say, but I've noticed it's fear. I've asked people this: "What's the primary thing in your way?" It's fear. It's fear of not knowing the language or fear of not understanding things or getting lost. It's hard to not go into that fear, but everything can be scary when looked at through the right perspective. If you can reframe that fear as possibility — if you look at the unknown and consider it the zone of possibility instead of just the unknown — it opens up. Then you can trust your instincts and your passion to lead this experience in the right direction rather than ending up feeling lost and scared.

She recommends leaving room for spontaneity in your travel plans

As an experienced traveler, could you talk about any common mistakes people make when they travel abroad?

The most common mistake is people over-plan. They feel the need to organize every second of their trip. They have a whole list of things that they've been told they have to do, whether that's through a guidebook or a friend who recently went. They're not listening to their actual selves. They're not saying, "What are my passions? What do I want to do in this place?"

They're worried about ticking off these "You've got to see that" or "You've got to do this" lists. They're listening to advice from someone else, or they're so worried about their own instincts leading them in the right direction that they will over-plan this schedule that's so packed that they don't leave any time for the magic to creep in and the inspiration to lead them in a certain direction or toward a certain activity. I see that as the biggest error that people make.

Here's how – and why – Anna Kloots seeks out hidden gems when she travels

Related to that, you especially enjoy out-of-the-way, off-the-beaten-path spots when you travel. How do you go about finding these places?

I love reading travel magazines. Obviously, Instagram is an amazing source of inspiration because if you start following the right accounts and the algorithm learns what you like, it will start serving you up destinations that you didn't know existed. Very early on when I started traveling, that was how I learned about so many of the amazing places I wanted to see — just by doing a little bit of research.

Often, the best experiences are in these smaller, off-the-beaten-path places because it's there where you're more likely to be completely immersed in the most pure and raw form of that place. The cities are amazing in their own right, but also maybe not exactly the perfect representation of what that place has to offer you. I always say to someone, "If you go to America and you only visit New York or LA, you're not really seeing America. You're seeing a version of it, but you're not seeing the true America. It's a huge place, and you have to travel to the smaller destinations to really understand the culture and the country."

Can you share some of your favorite travel destinations?

It's so hard because it depends on my mood and who I'm with, if I'm alone or if I'm with a partner or a parent. The universal among them is that I love anywhere where I feel like I'm on another planet and nothing is anything like what I grew up with, what I was used to. Some of the first places I went that totally captured my heart were Japan [and] India. I absolutely fell in love with the whole area of Rajasthan. I started to want to move there. When I first visited Southeast Asia, I went to Indonesia. Any time I'm in a destination where I'm out of my element is when I come alive and feel like this is travel.

She discovered how to create compelling content without compromising her lifestyle

You discovered early on that you had a natural knack for social media. Can you share any advice for others trying to build their own online brand in whatever area?

When I started doing this, it was late 2014, and it wasn't anything like what it is now. Now, when people say to me, "How do I build a social following and how do I become a content creator?" I go, "Well, I can't exactly give you advice because that wasn't my goal when I started doing this. It wasn't a thing." But what is the most important is to be authentic. Very, very little of what I share and create is pre-planned or plotted or orchestrated. I used to do that in the early stages because it felt like that was what you needed to do in order to grow and survive, but it wasn't making me happy.

I realized that when I started sharing the real beauty rather than trying to create it — sharing the real moments rather than trying to photoshop them or orchestrate things and show up with props. It not only allowed me to actually experience the place and not have my entire day centered around creating content, but then that authenticity showed through. Often, real life is stranger than fiction and more beautiful than any type of scene or anything you could try to create. When you're in tune to what's around you and capturing your experience, that's the best tip I could give anyone.

She's got a lot of big plans in the coming months

What's next for you? Do you have any other big trips or projects planned?

I'm going to be doing a book tour through the U.S. for this, which is great. I'm so excited to be able to visit cities and meet people, and I'll hopefully continue to do some things abroad. I have some things planned in France, where I live, and in London, where I used to live, and I'm working on adapting the first book I co-wrote with my sister, Amanda, into a screenplay. We finally finished what was like draft four of the screenplay, and what a world of difference writing a movie is from writing a book. That was a beautiful and fun process, and we're hopefully working toward the next steps of making that into a physical thing that will hit the screen one day. That's been very exciting.

"My Own Magic" will be available from HarperCollins on May 16.

This interview has been edited for clarity.