It’s been awhile, I know. Trust me I know.
I think it’s pretty clear that my head and heart haven’t been here for a while. I didn’t want to admit it, but I’ve shown it in my actions as I’ve let this blog become more and more neglected. in the last couple years I’ve slowly abandoned this place, letting it collect traffic and comments without participating hardly at all. It’s a zombie. Megan still updates sometimes, and those updates are great, but I’ve almost completely quit.
This upcoming August Why Wait/Twenty-Something Travel will be ten years old. TEN YEARS. That’s longer than any romantic relationship I’ve ever had. I owe so much of who I am today, and where I am today to this website. It started my writing career, it helped me meet my husband, and allowed me to visit so many beautiful and amazing parts of the world from Fiji to Sri Lanka to Finland to Milwaukee (look: I really liked Milwaukee).
So why did I walk away?
I feel like I owe you guys an explanation, or maybe I at least owe one to myself. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. It’s complicated, because it wasn’t one major event or tipping point that drove me away. I was more of a long drawn out easing away from the community I had once embraced.
Here is what I think happened. I hope this doesn’t read as a list of excuses, it’s more like an honest explanation.
I Burned Out
The biggest issue was that after more than half a decade of playing the blogging game I just didn’t. want. To. Do. It. Anymore.
This website started as a labor of love and passion. I was 24 and just burning to see the world and to try to encourage other people to doit too. I religiously updated 2-3 times a week for YEARS (while full time traveling even) and it never even felt like a chore because I loved telling stories about my travels and writing motivational essays.
Overtime, the blog morphed from my fun hobby to my major source of income. That was alright for a while, because it was still exciting and interesting. I didn’t even need to make all that much money to live comfortably in places like China, Argentina and Mexico. I got to go on swanky press trips which were so much fun- I mean yes, the party line is they were work, but they really were fun and I kind of miss them.
I felt like I was getting away with something: carving a job out of the marble block of the internet. I got to do the things I loved the most- travel and writing, and I got to feel self-sufficient, glamorous and like a #bossbabe while I did it.
Then, slowly, that excitement and enthusiasm waned.
I would say it was some time after we moved to Seattle, but before Marcella was born… Maybe later 2015? The whole thing stopped being fun and started feeling a lot more like work.
Because the job wasn’t ever just about travel and writing. There was SEO, and Google Analytics and an endless Sisyphean struggle to stay afloat on all the different social media channels, all of which seemed equally crucial and inscrutable. There was dealing with the travel blogging community-tons of people whom I love on an individual level but am highly annoyed with collectively.
When I first started blogging there were so many interesting potential ways to make money, but after six or seven years of work it just seemed too difficult to pursue any of them. I didn’t WANT to pitch myself to sponsors- I hate selling myself. I didn’t want to organize blogger campaigns and deal with all the logistical details that entailed. I didn’t want to start a course or write an informational ebook or tediously thread affiliate links through my posts. I didn’t want to do public speaking or run social media contests or write sponsored posts.
Then there were my freelance gigs, which paid OK but mostly were dull as dishwater. 10 Things to Do in Buenos Aires, Budget Tips forEuropean Travel, How to Sleep on an Airplane. At first I didn’t mind them but over time they started to siphon the air out of my enthusiasm balloon. Not just for freelancing, but for travel writing in general.
I didn’t want to do any of the things you needed to do to run a successful, money-making website. I just wanted to write. Except I didn’t really want to do that anymore either. I was worried about staying on brand, attracting more people in the “Millennial niche” and writing the kind of content that would drive more traffic. It was paralyzing. I was so bogged down in the business side of things that I could no longer see the forest for the trees.
Where I used to ENJOY sitting down at my desk in the mornings, I started to dread the work I had to do. My website started out as a fun hobby, then become a fun job, and finally just a job. It wasn’t fun anymore. It was just work, and low paying work at that.
I Ran Out of Things to Say
Then, I had a baby, and everything changed.
Ok, I almost didn’t write that last sentence because a part of me fundamentally hates it. My biggest fear over having children was that becoming a mother would take away the part of me that’s ME, and I would lose my individuality and just become a faceless Mommy.
Thankfully that didn’t happen. What did happen was much more complicated. Having a newborn felt like having an atom bomb go off and just blow your entire existence to smithereens. Nothing felt the same at first- even basic human functions like sleeping and eating were a strange logistical challenge. Sleep deprivation was huge (and long lasting- Marcella didn’t sleep through the night consistently until she was over a year old).
All those pieces eventually started to come back togetherinto a semblance of normalcy. I was relieved to find I was still me, just a methat was head over heels in love with this little girl. That first year though,was a strange time. A time when I was equally likely to be awake at 3 pm or 3am. A time when I was basically a human milk machine, physically tied to mytiny human side kick. A time where hormones, sleep deprivation and new motherhoodmade me feel all over the place, all the time. It wasn’t a bad time, but itdidn’t give me much to blog about.
I had absolutely nothing interesting to say on the subject of travel during this time. I wasn’t going anywhere interesting anyway. We flew across country a couple of times to see the grandparents, and we went to Colombia for a family wedding, but we weren’t doing anything unique or cultural on these trips.
My inspiration level was zero. I didn’t have a single thingI wanted to say on this website. Which meant that when I did update it was mostly generic posts (the kind I had grown to hate), or guest posts and interviews.
Things have kind of come full circle on that point. My life is now full of travel again. Just a couple weeks ago we went to Vienna and Salzburg to see the Christmas markets, and earlier this year we were in Mexico. Next year we have trips booked already for Morocco, Spain, Germany, and that’s just the first half of the year. None of this stuff is sponsored, it’s just travel that we plan and pay for. Plus uhh, we live in Italy, which is an adventure in itself.
Even with all that, it’s only in the last few months that my desire to write about travel has come back at all. However, I don’t even know if the stuff I want to write about fits on this site anymore. Do people even want to hear about traveling with a toddler? I still can’t shake the fear of going “off brand.”
I Needed to Make More Money
Along the way my priorities shifted a bit. Not changed completely, but shifted. I have never ever wanted to give up working for motherhood, but I did realize that if I was going to take that time away from Marcella to work on my career, it had to be for something more than writing generic listicles of budget tips for various cities around the world. They paid ok, but not enough to make up for the time away from my infant.
I was itching to get back into the fray after 4 months of (self-funded)maternity leave. The first thing I did was quit all my mindless freelance gigs.Straight-up walked away. I started applying for other types of assignments, and eventually found a niche working with authors totally outside of the travel writing sphere. I was still able to make a living writing (actually, making more money than before), and it didn’t require me to think about travel blogging at all. I don’t LOVE it, but I like it, and that’s not bad.
The way I started looked at my time also changed significantly post baby. Before having a kid, I could work whenever I wanted, for as long as I wanted. But the most complicated thing about having a baby (at least for me) is that someone needs to be watching them ALL the time. If they aren’t asleep, someone needs to have eyes on them. The first 15 months of Marcella’s life Mike and I traded childcare and work duties- usually he worked in the mornings and I worked in the afternoon. It worked ok, but it meant much more limited time to work than before.
I know there are some parents who manage to get a full day’s work in during nap times and after bed, but I am not that kind of person. If my baby is in bed, I am on the couch with a glass of wine watching Riverdale. I can’t just be a mom and work machine, I need downtime too. Sorry, not sorry.
Even now that Marcella is in daycare, I need to very carefully weigh my time. I have five hours between when she walks out the door and when she needs to be picked up, and I need to get everything done in that period. If I’m lucky I might get another hour or two during her afternoon nap. So, my concentration is always on the highest paying work. Everything else kind of falls by the wayside.
This article took me three hours to write one morning, and it felt like an enormous sacrifice of time.
It’s occurred to me recently that this might be slightly shortsighted. It may make sense to invest more time in things that can make me money further down the line, not just what will make me money this week. I’m still trying to reconcile that with my driving need to keep paying my bills though.
I Gave Up
I tried all sorts of things to keep this blog alive. I hired writers, brought in guest posters, joined up with Megan as my partner. We rebranded. Mike redesigned our site (beautifully too). None of this really managed to renew my interest. If anything, it did the opposite, moving the site further and further away from the authentic personal blog it started out as.
I really started to dread working on this site, talking about this site, even thinking about this site. My email inbox started to overflow and I just ignored it because it stressed me out so much (it’s 99.5% junk anyway). The more time passed the worse I felt about the whole situation.
Awhile back Megan and I made the decision to move Why Wait towards more of a resource site and less of a blog. It hasn’t been a personal blog in so long that it hardly matters anymore, but it did feel like the death knell for that chapter of my work life.
I have a pretty wonderful and full life. I live in a beautiful city in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I get to travel frequently, not for work but for fun! My actual work keeps me very busy, and my toddler keeps me even busier (can you believe she is almost two and a half now?).
I made amazing friends when I was travel blogging, and I still get to see a lot of them frequently. In the past two months, we’ve had three separate sets of travel blogger houseguests. This wide network of friends around the world is one of the greatest gifts travel blogging has given me. So many brilliant entrepreneurial friends who are still making this internet thing work. When I talk to them, I start to get inspired all over again.
I love my life, but I do feel like something is missing. That outlet for expression, to share my travels and thoughts. The very reason I started blogging in the first place.
Can I Come Back?
I don’t know, I’m loathe to make any promises here and break them. Again. I obviously have a lot of complicated feelings, as you can see by the two thousand words I just banged out on the subject.
Here’s what I do know though: I spent almost a decade building this site, and I hate letting it just go to seed. I feel so guilty for letting things fall apart. I feel like I let people down, and that I wasted the potential of a website I spent so long to build. I hate that my major emotion when I think of this space- which was a catalyst for some of the greatest experiences of my entire life- is guilt.
I don’t want this to be the way things end.
A lot of the reasons I walked away are still real issues, and many of the things that attracted me to blogging at 24 are not as appealing anymore at 34.
But that drive to express myself is still there. And there are becoming more and more ways to make money online- like through display ads, that don’t necessarily require me to become more business woman than writer.
So, let’s just see what happens. In the meantime, I’m writing more personal and random musings (and posting lots of kid pictures) at stephanieyoder.com. That space is one that’s just for me.
Watch this space, you never know what might pop up. And if you’re still reading this after all this time, and all those words, thank you.