July 30th, 2013
03:00 PM ET
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Editor's note: This story is part of CNN's American Journey series, showing how people have turned hobbies into jobs. Have you transformed your passion into profits? Share your story with CNN iReport, and you could be featured in a CNN story.

Helping families build homes was a job that Jessica Vu excelled at. As a sales consultant in Bellbrook, Ohio, she walked people through buying homes, selecting floor plans and customizing everything from doors and windows to counters.

Then the housing market crashed in 2008, and she was laid off while she was eight weeks pregnant with her first child. Like many Americans who lost their income sources when employers cut more than 1.2 million jobs in the first 10 months of 2008, she struggled to find her footing.

As the ripple effects of the recession continue, with monthly unemployment claims up in July, people like Vu are seeking alternatives to traditional office jobs and gambling on their passions.

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Filed under: American Journeys • Small Business

April 12th, 2013
10:00 AM ET
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Picture this scene: You're just digging into your restaurant meal, the wine is flowing and the ambiance is perfect - and then, bam! Your dining companion swats away your hand, scolding you for touching the appetizer before she could take a photo.

Sound familiar? The trend of photographing one's food, brought about in large part by apps like Instagram, can seem obnoxious on many levels. But Mark Hill, director of photography at Turner Broadcasting Systems Inc., says it's all about preserving memories.

"Meals are special times for people ... the picture of the food is a representation of that moment," he said. "Food is very fleeting in our lives. It's on our plate and 20 minutes later it's gone and we have an empty dish."

Those meals become even more special when they are being enjoyed while traveling. Looking back on a photo of a meal eaten overseas can conjure up the sights, sounds, scents and tastes of the trip.

This spring, chef and author Anthony Bourdain will take his adventure-seeking appetite - and CNN viewers - along on a journey of cultures and cuisine from around the world on his new show, "Parts Unknown."

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Filed under: Buzz • Content Partner • iReport • Parts Unknown • Photography

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