5 Minutes With Valerie Young of Imposter Syndrome Institute (Travel Interview)

For McCool Travel’s 196th travel interview, I am pleased to present Dr. Valerie Young, the Imposter Syndrome expert. I have been a loyal follower of Valerie Young for many years (decades!), a former subscriber to her Changing Course newsletter, and met her at a conference she co-hosted with Barbara Winter (my first travel interview!).

Valerie recently did a Ten Percent Happier podcast with Dan Harris where I learned she has spoken at more than 100 universities around the world. Dang it, I thought, why have I not asked her for an interview, so I did, and she graciously delivered these thoughts in between work, a trip to Italy, and more work. Thank you, Valerie!

Valerie Young’s bio:

After 25 years as the founder and Dreamer in Residence at ChangingCourse.com, I sold it in 2020 to focus entirely on my other area of expertise—impostor syndrome. In 2020, I co-founded Impostor Syndrome Institute with the mission of stamping out impostor syndrome around the world. That focus began in 1983 when I used the findings of my doctoral research to design the first educational intervention to impostor syndrome—which is a fancy way of saying I created a workshop.

Since then, I’ve spoke at over 100 universities in the US, Canada, Japan, the UK, and Europe—including Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford—and at scores of organizations including Pfizer, Hello Fresh, Google, NASA, Society of Women Engineers, STEM Africa, the National Cancer Institute, and the NBA.

My book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It has been reprinted in six languages.

Valerie Young, Imposter Syndrome TED Talk
Valerie Young, Imposter Syndrome TED Talk

Travel Interview With Valerie Young


I am a New Englander all the way. My family goes back to late 1700s and 1800s in western Massachusetts. In the Amherst-Northampton area where I live there are five colleges (Amherst, Smith, Mount Holyoke, and Hampshire college, and the major state university—UMass). Being a college area there are great restaurants and a heavy focus on the arts. Also, I can hike 7 different trails within 3 miles of my house. Most people in Boston do not know we exist… which is fine with us.


My own coffee (I pack a small Melita pour through and filters) and good dark chocolate.


  1. anywhere in the Southwest US
  2. a cottage on Danbury Lake in Danbury, NH with no motorboats and two loons… serene
  3. Truro, Massachusetts on Cape Cod


Shortly after college a friend and I backpacked around Europe—London, Amsterdam, Luzerne Switzerland, Florence, Venice, Croatia, and Greece. Our guide was a book called Let’s Go Europe on $25 a day.

Big highlight was meeting Levar Burton in a disco in Florence, Italy shortly after he starred in Roots and then going sightseeing together the next day.


I sometimes buy clothes on TravelSmith.com but cannot say I have favorite brands. It is all about style and comfort.


  1. I have 3 AMEX accounts—two for business and one personal. To rack up the points I put everything I can on them then I cash in the points for gift cards for restaurants or hotels as well as AMEX gift cards to pay for stuff while I’m there
  2. I “should” have some clever way to get the best price on flights. However, my number 1 and 2 considerations are, who can get me there quickest and is there a later flight in case mine is cancelled? That said, I do try to fly 1-2 airlines to rack up miles and free trips.
  3. As a speaker I travel a lot especially pre-COVID. For business travel I stay in hotels because it’s typically only 1-2 nights and order room service because, well… the client is paying. For pleasure travel I stay in a VRBO or AirBnB where I can feel more at home including saving on breakfast out.


  1. Not doing too much planning ahead. I prefer lots of open time to explore and figure things out as I go. If I do need to plan, like booking small tours to heavily visited sites in Rome, I only book one thing a day. Who wants all that rushing around?
  2. taking of photos with unusual angles or things others might look past
  3. talk to locals
Valerie Young in Italy
Valerie Young in Italy


It is what it is.

You cannot control the weather or the airlines. You have to just roll with it and remind yourself that the vast majority of things travelers’ angst about truly are “first world problems.”


The Washington Post. It’s important to me to stay engaged in current affairs.


I did not discover it—a friend did—but a true gem in Tuscany is Il Borghetto. Built 1000 years ago and abandoned for 50 years, two couples (brothers and their wives Simona and Sandra) bought it to realize their dream of getting off the fast track. The roofs were collapsed and inside was mostly rubble. It took 3 years to renovate. Much of the work they did themselves.

The internet was very new then and there was certainly no way for people to book online so they drove to Florence to meet with a travel agent hoping he would spread the word. A few weeks later the agent called to ask if they had a fax machine. Suddenly fax after fax after fax fell out of the machine and they were booked solid for the nine months.

Il Borghetto Italy
Il Borghetto in Tuscany Italy


Sir Richard Branson at a small 10 person Q&A session with fellow entrepreneurs.

Thank you so much Valerie for sharing your travel advice and inspiration.

Follow Valerie Young at Imposter Syndrome Institute and Twitter and watch her TED talk on Imposter Syndrome.

McCool Travel presents tips from travel experts in our 5 Minutes travel interview series—featuring travel industry giants, super frequent travelers, and adventurous persons.

Previous 5 Minutes travel interview: Carolyn Scott-Hamilton

Sharing is caring!