For the first time since starting this blog, I feel a little hesitant to hit publish, for fear of offending anyone. But here goes:
(Sit back and relax. Get ready for a long, long post!)
As this humble little blog’s first birthday has just passed, I feel a little bit conflicted, sad, and proud.
I feel confused about the direction this blog is going (this blog is having an identity crises!), sad that my stats are nowhere near where I want them to be (damn you SEO, still don’t know what you are), and yet proud that for someone with a notoriously short attention span, I’ve kept up this hobby for this long.
But that’s just it… this blog isn’t just my hobby anymore. It’s my blood, sweat, and tears (literally… D and I have had several teary arguments over how much time I spend on this). I’ve poured all my energy into it and it’s become my baby. I couldn’t be prouder of it than if I actually birthed it myself (though I guess, in a way, I did).
But lately, I’ve hit a wall. And blogging isn’t as fun anymore. After a lot of thought, I figured out that a lot of this has to do with the general travel blogging industry.
I started this blog (originally title the lost girl diaries) during a period of extreme confusion (more here). In short, I was hesitant to quit my job to travel and I felt pressured to find a way to make online income. So after learning that some people actually make a living with their blogs (I honestly didn’t even know that was a thing), I started one too.
Basically, I started a blog for all the wrong reasons. Before this, I’ve never been a writer or journal-er. I was an engineer, for goodness sake.
For the first 6 months, I kinda futzed around and just wrote whenever I wasn’t too tired. Plus, I hadn’t started traveling then, so I didn’t have much material. So not surprisingly, I had literally like 0 readers (except for a couple of real life friends). But because of it, I wrote honestly and didn’t confirm to a template or guidelines.
Then I finally boarded a plane and flew to South America. I decided to take it more seriously and connect with the travel blogging community. I set up weekly posting goals. After all, now I actually have things to talk about, right?? I’m going to be seeing all these new things! And eating all these new foods! And I’m going to have so many tips I can share! I envisioned that I would write about everything I do and eat, and that my blog would become an important resource for other travelers.
But here’s the problem: after a couple of months I realized that while I LOVE traveling, I actually really dislike travel blogging.
Don’t get me wrong. I like writing! I guess I should say… I dislike trying to fit into the general travel blogging mold.
As I started reading more and more blogs, what I found made me feel kinda conflicted. The travel blogosphere is inundated with posts such as “Top 10 things to do in [this city]!”. On one hand, these articles are the most helpful to me for planning my trips. But on the other hand, it irks me to no end because all I can think is…. what you really mean is “these are the only 10 things I did while I was visiting [this city] for 3 days, so therefore these are obviously the top 10 things to do, and now I am an authority.” (And don’t get me started on the bloggers who write about destinations that they’ve never even personally visited!)
What happened to talking about your personal experiences and opinions, and sharing fun anecdotes? Is this what it takes to get page clicks, to please the google-monster, and find success?
Blogs started out as online journals to talk about our days and random thoughts. When did it become just an e-textbook with a robotic voice? What happened to opinions and emotions? What happened to inspiring storytelling?
I’m just going to say it: in general, the travel blogging community tends to be soulless.
I mean, I get it. It’s easier to just provide some tips rather than injecting real emotion and feelings into a post. And it’s easy to throw up picture or two along with a handful of words to meet weekly posting goals.
But that’s not how I want to operate. I admit I tried to replicate the success formula with some of my posts (such as this one), but I don’t think it works for me, and it shows in my lackluster writing in those pieces.
I don’t want to tell you about the top 10 things to do in [insert random city name], or how to find cheap flights (I’m honestly too lazy to spend 2 hours checking 20 different websites anyway!), or why [this place] needs to be on your bucketlist right! now! And I don’t post photo essays if I can’t find anything meaningful to say about the pictures.
The second issue I have is with the general blogging world. Blogs nowadays have to serve a purpose and fill a niche. There are so many rules to follow. A post needs to be concise but have at least X number of words, be written in a particular format, provide value to the reader, but also entertain…. blah blah blah. It’s enough to make my head spin and takes the fun out of blogging.
I want to just be me. I want to write about things I find inspiring. I want blogging to be fun again.
So after a year of blogging, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am a really sucky travel blogger:
- I’ve visited 20 cities in Europe, and have only vaguely talked about exactly 7 of them.
- And hardly any of them contain any tips or useful city guides, and are therefore of absolutely no use to fellow travelers.
- I fail at social media. I often forget I even have a Facebook page. And quite honestly, I would rather read/nap/play iPhone games than spend hours social-media-ing.
- I have no idea how to use Pinterest. And I don’t even know what Trover is. Or Tumblr.
- I don’t know how to self-promote, and I feel arrogant doing so.
- I don’t guest post because I hardly have time to write posts for my own blog.
- A lot of times, I’ll sit down giddily to write about a place that I loved….aaaaand nothing. No words will come. So then it just doesn’t get done at all.
But you know what? I’ve decided that it’s okay. The world isn’t going to end if I don’t share the top 15 things to do in Montevideo. My memories aren’t going to die if I don’t write about my trip to the Budapest baths or my visit to a Prague cabaret. No one is eagerly refreshing my page every hour for a new post (except for my mom, maybe).
After a year, I think I’m finally starting to find my style. First and foremost, this blog is about me and D, our love story, and my personal growth. Secondly, this blog is to connect with my mom, whom I desperately wish to bring virtually around the world. I will continue to talk about destinations (to maintain some shred of credibility), but only the ones that have inspired me.
So I decided: this is a life blog. I still maintain that I’m just an ordinary girl who is now a very lucky girl who gets to visit some pretty cool places on Earth. I’m throwing all these blogging rules out of the window. I want to be just a girl who sits down at her laptop every few days and chat to you about her life. And hopefully my life will entertain you or inspire you to take a risk/travel/pursue happiness as well.
This blog may never become the travel resource that I originally envisioned. And I’m just a hobby blogger instead of a business blogger. And I’ve made many promises to write about travel tips and guides, only for them to never materialize. But this blog will contain all my heart and soul.
That, I can promise you.
Lastly, I want to say a huge THANK YOU! to all of you who spend a little of your day to read my posts, leave a comment, or email me privately. I am so incredibly humbled that you guys do this at all. I wish I could even begin to convey how happy it makes me and how much it means to me. I’m not sure what direction this blog is going, but I hope you continue to follow along on my journey.
I want to end this post here with a few highlights from my first year of blogging:
My favorite posts that nobody knows exists
A Tale of Two Parasailers: Shortly after we begin dating, D and I go parasailing. Being me, I ruin what should have been a wonderful day. But something beautiful occurs out of it.
Birthday Wishes for Dad: My wanting to quit my job to travel has costed me my relationship with my father (who doesn’t support it). In this post, it’s my dad’s 60th birthday, but I’m not celebrating it with him. Out of my sadness comes one of the most heartfelt posts I’ve ever written.
Most read post (according to Google Analytics):
Packing Tips: Mix & Match for Light Travel and Style: I’m a little surprised this is my most viewed (and by a long shot too). I provide tips (along with pictorial guides!) to properly mix and match just a few key pieces of clothing items to be prepared for a wide temperature range, while fitting it all into just a carry-on. I remember photoshopping until I died.
Readers’ favorite (most commented on post):
Paris, I get you now: I finally go to Paris (the dream destination for so many millions of people)… and it’s not like what I envisioned my first experience to be like. In fact, I don’t really like Paris all that much. But somewhere along the way, I find the magic.
My best piece of travel writing:
My most proud post:
Travel Reflections: 7 Lessons for my Younger Self: I poured my whole heart out into this post. You may already know that travel was never my dream. I was so terrified to quit my job. But after several months in, I honestly don’t know why I was so scared. Here is what I would have told myself.
Again, thank you to everyone who has supported my space! I can’t wait to share more in this upcoming year!
What kind of posts do you want to see? What do you like or don’t like about blogging?
I don’t mean to offend anyone. I read many blogs and enjoy many blogs. I regularly leave comments to let the blogger know that I enjoy their blogs. This is just my opinion about the general travel blogging community today.