What if you had said yes?

A couple of months ago we put out an unusual SOS; we wanted volunteers to stay in luxury hotels, for free, on our behalf.


We were just building momentum on a new site, www.luxuryandboutiquehotels.com but circumstances meant we couldn’t travel for a few months. That’s where we hoped trusty volunteers would come to our assistance.


When an offer comes along…


You’d think we’d have our hand bitten off wouldn’t you?

To be fair, we had a few people get in touch. Not as many as we thought though.

Whether they didn’t like the idea of having to contact hotels; didn’t want to write the requisite reviews; or simply weren’t far enough along in their travel planning to make it work, most of those who enquired drifted away before anything came of it.

But one person was different. She grabbed the opportunity with both hands, put herself on our radar (and made sure she stayed there) and became a trusted partner.


Taking an idea and making it your own


We offered some help to get her started, a template for approaching hotels and some guidance on the type of content we were looking for. From that basic starting point Johanna made it her own, developing her own style of negotiating with hotels and using her initiative to maximise what she could both offer and receive in terms of hospitality and adventure.

So to Johanna Read- our star hotel reviewer and all round ‘making extraordinary things happen’ expert.

Johanna’s story

“I’m an ex-Government of Canada executive. I was lucky to benefit from the downsizing of the Public Service and was able to retire early and live my retirement dream of travelling and writing. I’ve been lucky to travel a lot in my 43 years on this beautiful planet. My goal is to visit as many countries as my years. I’m still a couple short, but now that I’m travelling almost full time, my goal is well within reach.
How I Joined the LuxuryAndBoutiqueHotels.com Review Team
I subscribe to Chris and Hannah’s Love Play Work newsletter, and one day in summer 2013 there was a most intriguing invitation within it. With a baby coming soon, Hannah and Chris had to curtail their travelling for a bit and were looking for travelling writers willing and able to contribute to their Luxury And Boutique Hotels website. That sounded pretty ideal to me!

How It Works

Once I decide on a destination (as I write this I’m in Malaysia), I research luxury and boutique hotels through Google. I find other travel writers tend to have the best recommendations, but I’m not immune to looking at Trip Advisor. I then send a fairly long email to selected hotels explaining who I am and what I and luxuryandboutiquehotels.com will offer them in exchange for a two night stay at their property.

Some hotels say yes right away, some need to check with higher ups, some say no right away, and others I never hear back from (some emails are auto-sent to spam folders too).

We work out mutually convenient dates (weekends are rare), and I arrive.

Some hotels will create a schedule for me to show off everything their property has to offer:

  • The Danna Langkawi‘s lovely marketing manager came up from Kuala Lumpur and took me to sites like the Langkawi cable car, hosted a traditional Tippin lunch and an over-the-top tasting menu dinner at the hotel’s Planter’s dining room, plus treated me to a massage before her arrival.
  • At Rebak Island Resort – A Taj Hotel, my itinerary included a nature walk with a naturalist, a cooking demonstration, kayaking, a massage, and a meeting with the manager of their marina.

While days like this are full ones, they give me lots of material to develop stories beyond the short feature on luxuryandboutiquehotels.com. And the more info I have on what a hotel has to offer, the better I can promote them!

I get a tour of the property from most hotels. Sometimes I have dinner with the owner or manager. Sometimes every corner I turn has someone asking “Miss Johanna, are you enjoying your stay? Is there anything I can do for you?” Sometimes I’m pretty much left alone (which can be great when deadlines are pressing!)
Where I’ve Been / What I’ve Done

I’m on a six-month trip now: New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia. And maybe Burma and Brunei. We’ll see. I’ll start planning soon for more. I’m thinking Galapagos in the spring, and maybe northern Africa for the autumn.

I’ve been hosted at a full range of hotels — big resorts with all the luxury trimmings to tiny boutique hotels, even one with a bathroom under the stars and a cat sleeping in the wooden bathtub! And I giggle out loud a fair amount, can’t quite believing that I’m sleeping in a luxury suite, that a flower-strewn bath has been drawn for me, that I’m having two massages in one day, and that a chef has prepared a tasting plate of a dozen desserts, just to make sure there is something I like.

The Best Bits

Reviewing for luxuryandboutiquehotels.com has slowed down my travel and made me look differently at a destination. My travelling is now about living in a place — even for just a couple weeks — rather than vacationing somewhere. While I check out many tourist highlights, I spend more time talking to locals, expats and visitors to find out why they’re here, what they like and don’t like, and about their personal stories. I explore neighbourhoods with my camera discovering things I know I otherwise wouldn’t.

And as a former public servant where free coffee was a rare treat, I’m still genuinely surprised, thrilled and grateful when anyone offers me anything gratis. Especially the massages!

Writing for luxuryandboutiquehotels.com makes my long term travelling life a lot more affordable and a lot more comfortable. And a lot more fun. I’m travelling to experience the world — and find content to write about and photograph — and Luxury And Boutique Hotels gives me one more way to do that”.


Are you making the most of opportunities that come your way?


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10 Responses to “What if you had said yes?”

  1. Yay Johanna! I’m one of those who are not quite in a position to take advantage of Chris and Hannah’s offer but SOON I will be and plan on ‘helping’ as much as I can! It’s a tremendous offer, they help with templates and suggestions, and all you have to do is stay in a fabulous property and write a very short review. Win-win! Glad to hear someone is taking advantage of the opportunity!
    Gillian recently posted..Travel Magazines Now Available on The Global Bookshelf!

  2. Thanks Gillian!
    It is really wonderful working with Chris and Hannah and LuxuryAndBoutiqueHotels.com. And I love getting to know all the different hotels — they’re all different, but all great, and most fantastic — and finding new ways to promote them and help guests figure out which hotel would be best for them.
    Happy travels!
    @TravelEater recently posted..The Danna Langkawi (Malaysia) — Feature on LuxuryAndBoutiqueHotels.com

  3. Johanna,
    So proud of you and the lemonade you have made from lemons!
    Drink up you deserve to be wrapped in luxury!
    What a wonderful way to explore the world you have found!

  4. Johanna,

    You’re my hero!! I often think about you when I’m falling asleep in a meeting or suiting up for what promises to be a combative confrontation with a senior exec.

    Live the dream!!

    • Chris So
    • Reply
    • Awww thanks Chris :-)
      It is truly an amazing life I’ve stumbled into. It is possible to live your dreams :-)
      @TravelEater recently posted..Spectacular Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort

      • You’re certainly living proof of that Johanna!

        • Hannah and Chris
        • Reply
  5. I just stumbled upon this website while looking into trips to New Zealand (i see this as a place i would like to retire and start a family.)
    I could not have been more inspired and blown away with Johanna and how she pursued her dreams! Bravo!!
    The older and more mature I get, the more understanding I am of following my passions. I have missed out on sport opportunities in the past but I do believe it part of my journey.
    I want to see the world and what it has to offer.
    I am in no way shape or form ready financially and maybe even emotionally to pick up and leave my family and my home in New York but reading about all of these beautiful places this planet has to offer and reading upon Johanna’s story definitely makes me think!
    I wanted to let you guys know I envy what you guys do.
    I have no business writing to you and you have no reason to answer (whatever this is I am writing lol) but I just wanted to get my name out there.
    I am about to be 26 and have been having thoughts on how I want to live the rest of my life. I have a good job and am happy with a bright future but one that will not allow me to travel as much as I would like.
    I would like to subscribe to your newsletter (if it is still available) and would love to hear about any possible opportunities you guys may offer.
    I am all ears.
    Anyways I hope this reaches someone as it would be very cool to hear from you guys.
    When I get home later I plan to dig more into your story and how you made this all possible!


    • Zachary Lomita
    • Reply
    • Hi Zach
      I’m glad you are enjoying the site and the stories & info we have shared.

      While we are still living our location independent lifestyle for the time being we aren’t writing about it. It’s just a time issue! We have 2 young kids which takes any free time we might have had for blogging!

      That’s great that you are feeling inspired, thank you for your comments. If you have a good job then get some money behind you before taking your next step. And experience too, transferable skills which will give you the freedom you’re looking for. Good luck!

      • Hannah and Chris
      • Reply

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