Jane Stewart has always loved sharing stories. She wrote books as a child, which her mother proudly laminated for posterity. As a teenager, she chronicled family vacations on Instagram with the enthusiasm of a mega-influencer. And in college she graduated summa cum laude in digital storytelling from the University of Missouri with minors in journalism and film.
So it was no surprise when her mother’s friend, a Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite member, thought of the 22-year-old after hearing about the company’s “30 Stays, 300 Days” contest. Marriott Bonvoy’s search was on for engaging creators to each take at least ten trips over 300 days and share their adventures on the company’s TikTok account. The friend suggested Jane enter.
Scrolling through the videos already submitted, “I remember getting inspired and thinking, ‘I have an idea I don’t see on here,’” Jane recalls. So she began working on a script. Following her submission, which earned more than half a million views, Marriott Bonvoy selected her as one of three winning correspondents.
Armed with a shiny new diploma, she had her first job out of the gate to road-test her skills on a professional assignment. As part of her thrilling itinerary, the St. Louisan visited eight international locations in one month, treating this novice traveler to a series of incredible firsts.
Her journey kicked off in Germany at The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin, her first five-star hotel. “Staying right off the bat in this luxury hotel I have heard about my entire life was pretty surreal and exciting,” she admits. “My mind was blown.
In Cape Town, she took a crack at shark cage diving. “My heart was beating; I was sweating. But once I met the crew and the captain, I felt so safe,” she says. The ability to observe bronze whalers and Mako sharks swim in a haze of chum is, she explains, “one of my favorite things to talk about because it’s just so once in a lifetime.”
She confronted culture shock in Thailand when faced with a language that didn’t use English letters in its alphabet, leaving her disoriented and feeling powerless to understand what anything was. Another eye-opener was Bangkok’s infamous city traffic — a chaotic mix of people, motorbikes and cars with seemingly no rules for who has the right of way.
In truth, the complete lack of familiarity is exactly what intrigued her. “I loved being somewhere I could not compare to anything I’d ever seen before. I loved that feeling of newness and discovery.”
The Maldives was the stage for a maiden flight on a seaplane and a chance to snorkel with turtles, manta rays and other marine life as if starring in her own National Geographic documentary. In Dubai, she rode a camel in the Arabian Desert, joking that when she first saw the vastness of the dunes, she wondered how people didn’t fall straight through.
Her travels, however, were more than a series of unforgettable inaugural events. Jane’s month of exploration also led to self-discovery.
From the day she accepted the correspondent’s role, a question nagged at her: Could she do the job? Travel is not without its headaches.
Challenges inevitably come with managing logistics, bad weather, late nights and early mornings, and unforeseen circumstances turning plans upside-down. Plus, Jane faced the unique difficulties of maintaining a healthy balance between experiencing a place and properly documenting it for TikTok.
These things are trying enough during a personal holiday, but this adventure had responsibilities and could potentially shape her future. Still, she met every dilemma head on, and she recognizes that every success (and failure) added to her growth as a person and a professional.
“It felt good to become more comfortable in myself,” Jane says. “I learned what I’m capable of handling and the effort I’m willing to put into something I’m passionate about.”