Blogwatch: The New Diplomat’s Wife

Blog: The New Diplomat’s Wife
Girl behind the blog: Ania Krasniewska Shahidi
Occupation: HR Consultant

Where are you from, and where do you currently reside?
You would think that a question like “where are you from?” is relatively simple, but there are actually a lot of different ways that I could answer! I’m originally from Poland (which explains the long name) but have been mostly raised in the US—and of that, mostly in Fargo, North Dakota (yes, I own a parka). But my husband and I have been living off and on in Washington, DC when we’re not abroad for his diplomatic postings. We’re here now, but this summer we’ll be packing our bags for Copenhagen, Denmark. It seems like a lot of places I guess, but they all make up a pretty significant part of who I am.

How and when did you first decide to start your blog? What gave you the courage and motivation to go for it?
I started my blog about three years ago, mostly as a way to keep in touch with family and friends while we were abroad in Vienna, Austria. I was a huge keeper of journals when I was younger. This seemed like a more modern way to keep track of adventures and inspirations, and I was drawn to the more visual nature of things. I finally went for it at the encouragement of friends and also my husband. Once I was in it, I fell for the notion of having some record of our time—especially now that we have a daughter, all in one place.

What can people expect when they visit The New Diplomat’s Wife?
People can expect to find a mix of travel destinations and experiences from a different perspective that what they might otherwise see elsewhere, with a bit of fashion and arts and culture thrown in. I feature where we live—right now, Washington a lot, but since we’re always on the go, adventures from all over tend to make their way in. And you can definitely expect pictures!

What are three of your favorite posts you’ve ever written?
THE Guide to NYC Guides: I often go to New York for work a lot and usually just for a day or two. I found that I had all these little tidbits on the city all around so I decided to aggregate them all in one place—a guide of guides if you will that I update periodically when I find something new.

Around Town—Cherry Blossoms: With our departure from Washington on the horizon, I’ve been making a pointed effort to make sure I’m really taking advantage of some of the beautiful things this city has that we often take for granted. This year, in order to see the cherry blossoms, I got up before sunrise to see the light come over the tidal basin which changed the whole experience of seeing the bloom for me.

Anything from the Austria-isms Series: I love these posts because they’re such great reminders of our time in Austria. Generally when we’re abroad we try not to complain too much and for the most part, we enjoy differences that we have with our host country. After all, that’s pretty much the point of traveling. But every once in a while, you come across things that you really just don’t understand. This series was dedicated to those stories—for example, why would an established hospital advise a woman to smear cream cheese on her chest as a cure, or why was there never any air conditioning in the places that seemed to need it the most?

What influences and inspires you while you blog?
I’m inspired by anything that makes me pause to see or think differently. I’ve found that because of the blog, I’m more more likely to think about things visually. So for example, I have always loved magazines and they still remain one of my largest influences, but in addition to content, I’ll pay attention to the types of things they call out, to the layout, to the graphics they chose…Same with art exhibits. I love to catch them in my spare time, but I’ve learned to appreciate the presentation and flow and curation just as much as I do the artwork itself.

Your blog has a unique and fun “Notes from the Field” feature, which allows your readers a glimpse into the life of diplomats and their families during their time abroad. Why do you consider including these profiles so important?
Well, I think it’s a couple of different aspects that make them interesting. The first is that they help shed a little light on what the diplomatic experience is really about. After all, my own voice is just one but that doesn’t mean it’s the only type of experience that’s out there. The profiles give a sense of what life at a different post is like, how that particular person would entertain or live with their family, what they struggle with or what they enjoy. The profiles have become popular with the diplomatic community itself, as everyone is always thinking about their next assignment. But they have also become popular with readers in general who are curious about what life is like in a part of the world they might not be as familiar with.

One of our favorite features on your blog is your beautiful photography! What kind of camera do you use to achieve such stunning pictures?
You’re too kind! Thank you! The funny thing is that I owned the camera well before I knew how to use even a fraction of what the camera can do. I have a Canon 50 D, with a 50mm 1.4 lens that tends to be my go-to. But I also have an all around zoom lens 28-105 3.5 mm lens. It’s not as fancy as what most connoisseurs would get excited about but it works well enough for me, and it’s versatile when we travel. And because it’s not too precious, it’s okay if it gets banged up a little bit. But for little snippets of life here and there, or for pictures I take when I’m on business trips, the iPhone wins every time!

You say in your blog that originally you were studying to be a diplomat, but ended up marrying one instead! What originally inspired you to study international relations?
It’s funny but I don’t remember a day when I wasn’t inspired by international relations. I guess I just always assumed it to some degree. But what really sealed it for me was a high school class in American Post-War History, which ironically, I didn’t take in America but rather in France. It really opened my eyes to the power of diplomacy and brokering peace through negotiations and institutions. And when I went to college, I was lucky enough to have not one but two advisors who were inspiring Political Science professors and encouraged me to go to graduate school in international relations. Even though various twists led me to a corporate career, I’m convinced that I use what I learned in IR on a regular basis at work. That’s the thing about international relations, it has so many applications.

Tell us a little more about your career journey. How did you end up as a business consultant married to a diplomat?
I had always planned to be a diplomat—in fact, I never really considered many other careers, and certainly did not in graduate school. But like any best plaid plans, life tends to happen along the way. In my case, it wasn’t anything I had control over. While in graduate school, there was a combination of events (9/11, the anthrax scares, the aftermath of all of that) that led to all sorts of delays in the application and clearance process. Pretty soon it became clear that all of this wouldn’t sort itself out before graduation, so I started working in the private sector.

In the meantime my husband, who had a business degree, worked first in the private sector and then decided that he wanted a career in diplomacy. So in some sense, we had opposite experiences. But we met as consultants in the same office, he was deciding to leave consulting for diplomacy just as I was deciding to leave a potential career in diplomacy for consulting. And he asked me to lunch on his last day. Now he jokes that I still get the lifestyle without having to do the work!

If you had the power to pick your next post, where in the world would you go? Why would that be your dream post?
There are so many places that we would be so excited to go. That’s the beauty of living somewhere for 2-3 years, it’s not too permanent and just the right amount of time to still be an adventure. But I think one dream post would be Bangkok—we have such an affinity for southeast Asia, and the food, colors, and culture. It’s a great jumping off point for the rest of Asia and lots to do and see within the country as well. I think Mexico City would also be a dream post—we’ve really grown to love the country through the couple of visits we’ve made while back in the US. It’s seems to be a great combination of culturally interesting and politically relevant—and don’t even get me started on the food! But we’ll see, we have Copenhagen coming up next and that’s pretty dreamy in its own right!

In July, you and your family are relocating to Copenhagen—what excites you most about moving to Denmark? What makes you most nervous?
We’re excited for lots of reasons. First, it will be good to be back in Europe—we made lots of close friends in Austria so even though it’s not the same country, it feels a bit like the same neighborhood. Same with Poland where I still have family. But having lived in Europe several different times, I’m most excited to get to experience from a completely different optic. I’ve never been to Scandinavia apart from one weekend to Copenhagen to check things out, so this is a post that’s familiar in one way, since it’s in Europe, but completely foreign in another way. And different is always exciting. We’re exited to be near the ocean, to be in a place where quality of life is highly valued, to be in a place where you don’t need a car every time you leave the house. And since we have a two year old daughter, we’re excited to be in a place that puts a lot of emphasis on family.

In terms of what makes me nervous—hmmm! I do worry about the expense of Copenhagen as there is quite a different cost of living. And I worry that two winters in DC have made us weaklings in the cold! Winters here are mild and relatively short, so even now in these spring months we shudder every time we read the weather report for Copenhagen! Time to get out the parkas!

What advice do you have for girls who are looking to start a lifestyle and travel blog?
Like everyone probably says, my number one piece of advice is to find the angle for your blog that is uniquely yours. It’s okay to take time to develop your voice—you don’t have to have everything set right away. Find a cadence that works for you and develop your voice over time. And when you find your voice, be confident in it.

Also, you’ll find that there are a lot of bloggers who know each other as they write on similar topics, or started at the same time, or are from the same area. It will be a natural inclination to want to be part of those groups, to be accepted. Sometimes you’ll find that they are open to newer voices; but many times they might not be, and it’s hard not to take that personally. Just keep in mind that they have those connections with each other because they have been working on them for years. Find people who appreciate you for your own contribution, and focus on building your own networks based on what matters most to you. I guarantee the friends and connections will follow naturally from that.

Any other words of wisdom for Everygirl’s out there?
You can have it all—don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But it is a matter of prioritizing what “all” means to you—as it turns out, the definition of having it all changes for each individual so don’t use someone else’s yardstick to define your own growth and success and goals. And take time to appreciate the little things. Over time, it all adds up to a pretty big life.

NYC image via// mother daughter image via