It’s not everyday you impulsively quit your job, get seriously drunk, go home with a random (yet incredibly sexy) stranger, pour you heart out, listen as they tell you the solution to your problem is to start a travel blog, immediately purchase a domain name the next day, post your first story 1 week later, and find that the blog actually makes it to its 1st birthday.
Not to mention somewhere in between you become published…
In an award winning magazine.
Nope. That just doesn’t happen. But somehow, someway I’m sitting here blowing out candles and eating cake while thanking the Lord that that night led to the birth of this blog rather than to the birth of something else.
As with any new venture, its been accompanied by its fair share of ain’t-no-mountain-high-enough highs and ain’t-no-valley-low-enough lows.
1. The first time one of my posts went viral.
I started this blog soon after I hit rock bottom (or even worse) in my professional life. Rachel Green said it best – It’s like there’s rock bottom, ten feet of crap, and then me. I was utterly and suffocatingly lost.
When I finally snapped and slammed into my breaking point, I did it like any other insanely illogical person – just leapt straight into something I knew absolutely nothing about. Travel blogging. I barely knew how to use a computer much less create a website. Hell, I had never written so much as a paragraph since the 6th grade.
Yet somehow the fragments welded together and my blog became my creative outlet. It simply made me happy again. Travel is who am. It’s what I love. It’s one of the few constants in my life and to be able to eloquently share my adventures, advice, and passion in order to resonant with readers has been incredible. As this newfound happiness radiated into my personal life, everything else – including my professional life – followed suit. It all just fell into place and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my adult life.
In those first few months, I was only pulling in about 30 views a day – which didn’t really matter all that much to me. After all, I was writing this for self-fulfillment and sharing it primarily with close friends and family. Little did I know that one trip back to my hometown of Pensacola, FL would be the catalyst responsible for putting my writing career on the map.
I was floored by the how much the town had flourished in my long absence. What used to be considered one of the most dangerous places to live in America had transformed into this wondrously captivating city. I felt such a colossal rush of pride and love as I spent the week rediscovering the place I was born and raised. It was unbelievably moving and I was itching to share this endearing town with the world.
I had never worked so hard on an article in my life. It became somewhat of a struggle as I grew frustrated with the difficulty that came with trying to capture the essential spirit of the town.
After hours spent trying to do my hometown justice, I finally hit publish on the final product and was entirely unprepared for the response that would follow.
Within hours thousands of people had viewed and shared the article. That number would grow into tens of thousands in the coming weeks and to this day it remains my number 1 most viewed article.
I received an outpouring of comments and emails from locals and businesses thanking me for shedding such positive light on Pensacola. My inbox became inundated with people asking for travel advice and even the mayor himself took the time to send me a personal email expressing his gratitude.
I’ve had a couple of other posts go ‘viral’ since then but I still secretly root for this one to hang tight onto that top spot as my emotional attachment to it never seems to abate.
2. My first hate comment.
Sounds a bit strange to have this on my ‘Blogging Highs’ list I know. But you’re never truly successful online until you have a few haters. Turns out my most beloved post did not find its way into everyone’s hearts.
One gentlemen sent me a very colorful (so colorful that I’m choosing to paraphrase it) message telling me that I just singlehandedly ruined Pensacola and that if I were a true local I never would have exposed it to the masses. He ‘thanked’ me for bringing in the nasty tourists that will be the city’s downfall and that I should never come back because I’m not wanted there and my parents should be disgusted by my behavior.
Thanks for this impeccable advice. Rest assured, I worked everything out with my parents and they have miraculously forgiven me for my horrific behavior.
3. Having my first travel print piece featured in Coastal Lifestyle Magazine.
Every blogger’s dream – to see their work in print. The Art Director of Coastal Lifestyle Magazine caught wind of the blog and after reading a few articles he contacted me about writing a 1000 word feature on any topic I wanted for their travel section. I was astounded. People actually want to read what I write? And they actually want to put it in a magazine?!
My written piece focused on the Hammersmith and Chiswick neighborhoods in London and came out in the April/May issue. They even used my own photography (a skill I’m still trying to develop).
I’m proud to announce that I am currently working on another article on the Douro Valley wine tradition in Portugal for their Aug/Sept issue.
The feature was a breakthrough moment for me and that’s when I started to take my blogging to the next level. I went out and bought an old school planner to create an editorial schedule and began posting more regularly on the site while also focusing on building a social media network (which I am still admittedly struggling with).
1. Overcoming the so-called “rules” of blogging.
Since I impulsively started this blog and had no idea what I was doing, I spent the early months researching “How to be a travel blogger.” I had a huge learning curve and enjoyed dissecting other people’s posts and garnering inspiration. I focused on articles and advice from other travel bloggers, especially the wildly successful ones who made a full time living from it.
Then the age old adage of “Comparison is the thief of joy” came into play as I began to unconsciously compare myself to them.
I allowed them to get into my head with thoughts bordering the lines of: I could never weave words that creatively; That destination has been covered on EVERY FREAKING TRAVEL BLOG so how am I any different?; Her writing is so f****** bad – how does she have that many followers?; You’re supposed to post 3 times a week and they shouldn’t be more than 800 words – umm I can barely even write a ‘Happy Birthday’ post under 2000; “I’m so successful because I started before blogging was ‘popular’ – now it’s a completely different game and you’ll probably never make it into a full time career” Ok, sucks for me then.
As I began to recognize the early signs of discouragement, I majorly cut back on the amount of travel blog reading I was doing. I realized it’s ok for my practices and style to be different. In fact – it only makes my site that much more authentically me.
My experiences are mine alone and I only write when I have something to say. I refuse to post something just for posting’s sake. I don’t write for SEO and google rankings. I don’t edit my posts to conform to some ‘rule’ about word length. I choose only to include places that I’ve actually experienced – even if it’s just a minute mention of a restaurant, site, or particular bathroom.
You won’t see many ‘Top 10’ or ‘The Best Of’ lists on this site because how could I possibly become expert enough on any one place to accurately populate such a thing? I’ve travelled extensively throughout Europe but I won’t mislead anyone by saying “Top 10 Best European Towns to Visit”. Have I visited every single town, city, or municipality? Have I tried every single activity that each city has to offer? No. So I’m not going to define the ‘best’. Instead, I deliberately use phrases along the lines of “8 ways to experience this” or “10 reasons to do that.”
I found happiness works best when I stay true to myself so I stopped focusing on what others in my niche were doing. I’ll admit – it has paid off big time!
2. When you work your ass off on an article and nobody reads it.
It’s inevitable – there will always be winners and there will always be losers. Still, it sucks when you spend hours writing, editing photos, and promoting posts on various social media channels only to have a few eyeballs check it out.
I’ve learned to accept that it’s just part of the game and not every article will be successful.
3. Social Media
I didn’t even have Facebook before starting this blog. Now I not only have FB but also Pinterest, Instagram, StumbleUpon, Google+ and Twitter (which I find so frustrating that I’ve halfway given up on it).
I just want to travel and write but it sadly doesn’t really work that way. Social Media is a massive time suck but I can’t argue the importance of it when Facebook is my number one source of traffic – closely followed by Google search and then Twitter (which is why I’ve only halfway given up on it).
Top 3 Most Popular Posts
- Downtown Pensacola: The New ‘It’ Destination of the South
- 8 Unforgettable Ways to Experience Lisbon
- The Wonderful Wizarding World of Pottercon – One of my early (and most poorly written) articles. Not sure why it’s so popular. People just really love Harry Potter.
Top 3 Posts That Were Epic Failures
- I Don’t Know About You, But I’m Feeling 22…In Lisbon Come on guys. I talk about Taylor Swift. TAYLOR SWIFT.
- How Not to Right a Bike in Bali, Part 2 – Part 1 is pretty popular. I guess I suck at dramatic cliffhangers. Plus, I should have known better – the sequel is never as good.
- 10 Reasons to Rent a Jeep on Fraser Island, Australia – at least I had fun.
Top 3 Underrated Posts
- Luwak Coffee: Lies My Travels Told Me – I wholeheartedly believe that we should focus more on sustainable travel and ecotourism. This article sheds light on some of the ugly aspects of travel.
- Adopted by the Scottish (and Maybe a Brit or two) – People are my favorite part of traveling and this story describes a few encounters I had with the Scottish that led to one incredible night.
- The Importance of Honoring Your First Travel Bucket List – though my travel style has evolved over the years, I will never forget the people, places, and things that made me fall in love with travel in the first place.
I just want to thank ya’ll for being so unbelievably supportive throughout this whole process and for following my journey as I explore everything the world has to offer. I cherish each and every one of my readers and truly enjoy answering your questions and helping with your travel plans. Please always feel free to reach out to me if you ever have any questions or just want to say hello!
I can’t wait to see where Year 2 of the blog takes me!
All the best,
Why Suffer From FOMO When You Don’t Have To?
Taking on the classic “round-the-world” route, the next Travel Dispatch journey kicks off Nov 15 as I travel east to west, looping the globe over a period of 12 months with $25,000. Now’s your chance to get in on it from the very beginning!