Casey Hynes

Casey Hynes is a writer, editor and novel consultant who left her newspaper job in Washington, DC, in 2010 to travel the world and has been wandering around Asia ever since. After a stint as an English teacher in Seoul, South Korea, she moved to Beijing to launch her career as a freelance writer.

In the past two and a half years, she has also visited Mongolia, the Philippines, Thailand and Borneo, where she experienced one of her greatest travel moments to date – seeing an orangutan mother feeding her baby along the Kinabatangan River in Sabah, Borneo. In addition to freelance writing, she also offers consulting and editing services for authors working on early drafts of their books, a role she stumbled into by choice and has come to truly love.

Casey has a M.S. degree from Columbia Journalism School in New York City, and has been published by the Wall Street Journal, Roll Call, Asian Correspondent, Travel Wire Asia, and several magazines in China. She also writes about travel and the journey of self-discovery on her blog, Spinning Free.

When you travel, do you get any perks because of your job?

I do, occasionally. These are usually getting to check out a great bar or restaurant or attraction and meet the people behind the scenes because someone has pitched me a story about the place and wants me to come out and see it. I always love doing this, especially at particularly high quality places. Meeting people who do excellent work and are passionate about their jobs inspires me to do mine better as well. But I pay for all of my own travel expenses.

You must be a very communicative person. How do you overcome awkward moments caused by cultural differences?

If it's something small or light-hearted, I usually laugh it off, make a self-deprecating joke and then ask the other person to explain their perspective or experience further, or offer mine.

I accept that when traveling, especially in Asia, where I have been for the past two and a half years, I will more often than not come up against something that is completely foreign to me and I try to embrace those moments as learning opportunities. If it's something more serious, a belief or stance that goes against my values or morals, I might push the issue more. I try to be sensitive to the other person's experience while still getting my point across so we can learn from each other.

Have you ever worked somewhere where press was very restricted? How did you deal with that?

I've lived and worked in China for a year and a half, which has been a fascinating experience. I generally write travel pieces or features on life in China, so I rarely come up against censorship issues. There have been times, however, when editors have cut lines from pieces I have written, such as a reference to Ai Wei Wei, "just in case." And I have had editors tell me there are certain subjects they simply don't cover, not because they've been told not to but just to avoid any potential problems.

In some cultures, people are more open to speaking to strangers and having their picture taken, in other's, talking to strangers is a no-go. Where have you found it hardest / easiest to do your job?

I found that the most challenging place to shoot photos of people, my favorite subject, was South Korea. When I would indicate that I wanted to take a picture of people selling fruit in a market or hanging out on the street, they would often wave me off and look away.

China has actually been the easiest. Some of my favorite shots that I have taken have been in the hutongs of Beijing, of locals sitting outside their homes, interacting at a local market, riding bikes. I've found so much inspiration there and the people are often incredibly accommodating and friendly as I snap away.

What is the most breathtaking place you have ever taken pictures of?

On any given day, there is usually at least one story on China Smack or Beijing Cream that seems almost too bizarre to be to true. Even while traveling, I try to keep an eye on what's going on in China and these sites tend to give alternative perspectives on current events that usually leave you laughing or just shaking your head.

Tagged as: China

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