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Army spouse maps the globe

Travel blogger finds professional advantage

Mandy Kruger, travel blogger and Joint Base Lewis-McChord spouse, has afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress hotel in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, recently. Courtesy photo

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Resilience ... it's one of the first words people think of when they hear military spouse -- and for good reason, too. Between the constant moves and family separations, anyone would have to be resilient to walk in those shoes.

But Joint Base Lewis-McChord spouse, Mandy Kruger, the mind behind the popular travel blog, "Mapping with Mandy," hasn't let the military lifestyle dull her sparkle. In fact, she is using her experiences to her advantage as she continues to build a career no matter what the Army throws in front of her.

"Sometimes, being a military spouse can be professionally disappointing," said Kruger. "You can have the perfect company, work there three years, have those great experiences and then you have to leave. You have to start your career all over again. But I had to take the perspective of, ‘we're not doomed because we're military spouses' to progress."

Even before she knew she loved her soldier, Kruger knew that she loved the travel and hospitality industry. After working her way up through Royal Caribbean and Costco Travel, Kruger was struggling with how to stay relevant in her field when the idea for her blog hit her.

"I just thought I have all this knowledge and all of these experiences with travel," Kruger said. "I want to be able to share it with others and just have this creative outlet."

With fellow military spouse Sarah Fultz, Kruger got to work turning her dream into a reality.

Together, the pair came up with the branding and design of the website. However, Kruger was still torn as to what type of content she wanted to focus on. She wanted her posts to be relevant but still incorporate some of the places she has been thanks to the military.

"There are some travel bloggers that are super niched in to wherever they live, so that's their focus and that's what they write about," Kruger said. "But because I've had all these experiences and have all this travel knowledge, writing just about Seattle wouldn't be something that would fulfill me. Our focus now is trying to give a travel tip with each blog post and we decided to go more global."

With that global focus in mind, Kruger decided to feature an interactive map which users can click on to find content for specific destinations, and that's how the concept for "Mapping with Mandy" was born.

Since the launch of the blog more than a year ago, word has gotten out within the local JBLM community, and Kruger now finds herself giving people advice on their next adventure.

"When I'm volunteering with the Lewis Community Spouses' Club, other spouses are always coming up to me and saying, ‘I saw your blog. I want to go whale watching, where should I go?'" said Kruger. "Then I think I really do have a voice in this and I am helping people."

As to what her must-sees are for families before they leave the Pacific Northwest, Seattle and the San Juan Islands are at the top of her list.

"I really love Seattle because it's so eclectic and there's so much to see and do," Kruger said. "And I think families would really be doing themselves a disservice if they didn't go to the San Juan Islands. The islands are so untouched, and if you can get in a kayak and see an Orca up close, it's amazing."

In addition to her blog, Kruger is now also working with Northwest Military (publishers of The Ranger and Northwest Airlifter newspapers) on a weekly travel-focused podcast and she hopes to keep sharing her love of travel.

"Instead of just going to a fancy restaurant and laying on a beach, for me, travel is so much more than that," Kruger said. "It's about making connections and doing something that's flexible. It's just so fulfilling in life for me personally. It's exciting being a military spouse and to continue getting to travel the world."

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