Today, July 23, 2012, is my three year blogaversary! For the past three years I have been pouring my narcissistic travel rants and observations out into the internet, and for some reason you people have kept reading.
I don’t usually write about the actual act of blogging, I prefer to stick to travel and the experiences that surround that. At this point though, blogging has come such a big part of my life that it not only influences the way I travel, but the way I look at the world. It’s deeply impacted my experiences and brought me a lot of rewards, both career-wise and personally.
I’ve been so so lucky. SO lucky. Literally every single day I count my blessings and beam at my incredible luck. A lot of bloggers don’t make it this far or haven’t gotten the breaks I have. But I’ve also worked a lot and learned a lot in these past three years. So on my anniversary I thought I’d share some of the lessons I’ve learned from blogging.
Success Takes a Metric Ton of Patience
Success, particularly blogging success, isn’t something that just happens to you. There’s a lot of work involved and a lot of well… waiting around. The first 6-12 months are a hard slog with little positive feedback, then one day, a switch just flips. Even after that it’s a fight every day to move forward and not give up.
It also takes a good pinch of luck. There are a lot of bloggers out there who have been working just as long as I have with not nearly the same results. It’s not necessarily that I’m more talented, but I’ve gotten some lucky breaks.
People Will Have a Lot of Misconceptions About You
There are people who think I’m flighty. People who think I’m irresponsible. There are people who think I’m on some sort of permanent vacation. They are wrong, but it’s a waste of energy to tell them so. To live a life less ordinary you need a thick skin.
Surround yourself with the positive, supportive people and forget the rest. They are less fun anyhow.
Being Self-Employed is no Picnic
There are certain things I love about not having a boss: I can get to work whenever I want (aka I can sleep in), I don’t have to argue for my days off and I get to work on things I really love, not stupid busy work.
Sometimes though, being self employed sucks. I’m a much meaner boss than my old one was: I make myself work longer hours, I’m harsher and way more critical, and I always know what I’m up to. I feel guilty when I’m not working, more often than I probably should.
Even worse, sometimes being self employed is really scary: There’s nobody else to cover your ass, no safety net when things go wrong. You don’t get cushy benefits like health insurance (man it would be great to have health insurance) and when the money drys up well, you better figure out how to hustle.
Good Business is About Learning When to Say No (and When to Say Yes)
When I go through my inbox each morning I have to make all sorts of decisions. On a daily basis I am flooded with sales pitches, advertising inquiries, favor requests and scams. Half of my time is spent sorting through this mess, trying to pick out the valuable stuff from the muck. A lot of it is muck.
I’ve always hated saying no. I think it’s that good-girl please everyone trait that far too many people (women in particular) suffer from. Over the years I’ve gotten much better at saying no. No, I won’t sell you an ad for 25% of my listed price. No, you can’t guest blog on my site to promote your spammy medical tourism company. No, your ebook actually looks really cool, but I just don’t have time I’m sorry.
On the flip side, it’s also important to know when to say yes! When to take a chance on some new project or adventure. When things are worth the risk. In some ways this is even harder than knowing when to say no.
It’s Remarkably Easy to Get Used to Just About Anything
I have a half-written post that I’ve been batting about for months called “The New Normal.” In my life what constitutes “normal” is constantly changing. One month normal is dog-sitting in chilly Bogota and the next it’s taking spanish lessons in sweltering Buenos Aires. One week I’m working at my mom’s kitchen table in Arlington and the next I’m trying to answer emails on the beach in Fiji. The changes are exhilarating, but somewhere in the chaos you have to find that familiar rhythm where you can sit down at your computer, crack open a diet coke, and write.
Making Connections is the Most Important Thing
In business, maybe in life too. I’ve become a networking fiend over the past few years and I make it a priority to attend conferences and meet other bloggers whenever possible. I’ve forced myself to be more extraverted than I’m really comfortable with and I’ve learned how to chat myself up without sounding full of it. You never know who may be a really great business contact, or a great friend, or something more (china link).
Choices Mean You Have to Give Things Up Too
I made a choice to quit my job and to be location independent and I have yet to regret it. However in making those choices I’ve given things up too: stability, steady income, a home, the option of getting a puppy I really really want a puppy).
I think this is an important point to realize. There’s no such thing as “having it all,” with every door you open you shut one too. Choices are good though, because the alternative is stagnation.
Nobody Really Knows What they are Doing
I originally meant this in terms of blogging but I think it’s true in a more universal sense too. This whole thing, this life that each of us are building for ourselves, is a total crapshoot. You can plan and plan and plan but you really have no idea how things are going to turn out. And that is great and that is terrifying but I think it’s also a little freeing.
The industry I work in is a really young one. Every year I go to the conferences and every year I see new bloggers, disappointed because they didn’t learn how to make money and become a successful blogger. Well, you never will learn that a conference because nobody actually knows. People don’t know how to make money or how to become successful, and if they tell you they do they are most likely lying. We’re all bumbling around trying to find our way. It’s kind of scary but it’s also exciting because in this wild west of the internet, there is so much to create and discover. There’s no right way to build a blog and there’s no wrong way either, so beat your own path.
But always be nice to your readers, you’re not much of anything without them.
61 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned From Three Years of Travel Blogging”
Congrats Steph! Three years is pretty impressive. Although we are blogging, simply to ‘scrapbook our journey’ as opposed to make a couple of bucks I still find it challenging, so I can’t imagine what it must be like to use it as your whole source of income…it takes a ton of courage… well played.
Keep having fun – and go talk to your boss about health insurance! 🙂
Terrific post – happy bloggerversary! One of my favourite things to remember is that no-one really knows what they’re doing – even if they seem super-confident – so it’s fine to be clueless and try new things.
The flipside of course is that successful people are often totally surprised by their success, and struggle to reverse-engineer it in a way that’s meaningful for other people. I’d say that the Chris Guillebeaus and Tim Ferrisses of the world, where their whole path seemed totally premeditated, are in the extreme minority.
And yeah, the biggest drawback of the nomadic lifestyle for us is that we really really want a puppy too 🙁
These are all fantastic words of wisdom Steph! I freelance, which essentially means that I’m self employed (at least in the eyes of the IRS) so I hear ya on the lack of financial stability and benefits. I’ve gotten used to that though, especially since the tradoff is the freedom that allows me to travel! And to me, that freedom is worth its weight in gold!
Oh, and that’s a FANTASTIC photo of Dave Dean… just saying!
Yay 3 years! I think you give great advice. Sad about not having a puppy though. I just couldnt give my puppy up, which caused me a LOT of stress in Buenos Aires, but I still think it was worth it. However, now that I am taking shorter trips in North America, my little pup stays at home with my mama. I struggle with the sacrifices of traveling a lot, but when I weigh it out, it always seems worth it!
A well written and thoughtful post. Love the part about not being around people’s negative energy. After a year of travel blogging I am still waiting to figure out how to make money at it and having the time of my life doing so. Happy anniversary.
Congrats! I just celebrated my first year of travel blogging as an addition to my many years as a travel writer. Doing what you love is worth it!
Happy Blogaversary! It’s crazy to look back and realize 3 years have passed! It’s only been 2 for me, but I know I’m in it for the long haul. I hope to see you guys again at another conference!
Congratulations and as always, thanks for the inspiration Steph!
Thank you for this post! So informative and reassuring at the same time. You are right, it’s a lot of hard work and motivation (and that is hard sometimes, when you don’t see the desired results and no one is pushing you to do it) and making some tough choices. Best of luck and I’m excited to start following your blog!
Thanks for the advice! It’s an inspiration to other blogger. I hope you could visit Playa del Carmen in Mexico. Anyways,Congratulations and Keep up the great job!