Guys, it’s my blogiversary!
Okay no, that’s a total lie – I technically started blogging (for The Roaming Coconuts with my friend Danielle) at the start of July 2013, so this post is coming a bit late. But I do like celebrations, so I figured why not have a belated one?
After my first year of blogging I celebrated one year of travel and blogging by recapping my travels through 25 countries that year. A year later I celebrated two years of travel and blogging by recapping my travels through 26 countries. Do you see the pattern? Can you guess what I’ll be recapping in this third blogiversary post?
Um, I think I maybe visited 5 countries this year. Sorry guys, travel blogger no more.
At least that’s what I thought when I kicked off this past year of staying still in Norway, and in fact I was about 70% sure I’d stop blogging altogether a few months in. But instead it turned out I still did want to blog and actually maybe I had even better things to share than recaps of my travel adventures.
Because, can I be real for a second? When this blog was just about documenting my travels I always felt just a bit weird about it. Sometimes I couldn’t see much drive or meaning behind my posts aside from “look at what I did!” And sometimes it would feel like a chore writing about everywhere I went (which is the dumbest thing to say about something that is a hobby, hello), and most of the time I had a sneaking suspicion that if I weren’t me I probably would not read my blog.
But then this past year happened and now my drafts folder is crammed with 87 posts that I am just aching to finish and opening up WordPress is one of my favorite activities ever. I mean, maybe my life took a turn for the boring and pathetic this year and blogging is all I have left, or maybe I’ve just finally hit my blogging groove and realized what it is I love to share with the Internet and how I want to do that.
Or maybe it’s that somehow the coolest little community has gathered here and while, yes, sometimes I secretly feel a bit awkward talking about my Internet friends as if I really know them, luckily when you mention a friend people rarely ask wait, do you know this person in real life? so I think I’m in the clear.
So how did I get to this blog-happy place?
I thought about it a lot (stocking shelves at a supermarket provides a lot of thinking time) and it probably boils down to three key lessons I’ve learned about blogging over the past three years. I mean, actually there were four lessons, but “3 Lessons in 3 Years” makes for a much better blog post title so you’ll just have to wait until next year to hear the fourth one. That’s the Internet for you!
I was going to take a photo of my car at Trollstigen, but this car was prettier
People read differently on the Internet
I was a pretty horrible student at university – the kind that never did any of the readings and was too shy/terrified to participate in class discussions – but I managed to get by just fine with the help of my solid grammar skills. Most of my papers came back with comments like “well written, but next time please include something from the course readings.”
And since blog research just consists of, well, living, that meant writing blog posts would be a breeze, right?
Um, no. It turns out the Internet isn’t too interested in academic papers. Instead it’s all about short paragraphs, headings and/or lists to break up the text and make it easy to skim, and catchy (but accurate!) titles that just might make total strangers want to click on something you’ve written.
Basically I try to make my blog posts one of three things:
This is probably the type of post I’m worst at, because I’m pretty sure when I set out to write something that is interesting or funny or beautiful it ends up being the sort of post that you guys read and just think… what? Ha, sorry.
2. Super useful and practical
I mean, I turn to travel blogs for most of my travel planning, so at some point I realized that maybe I should try to be helpful in my blog posts too. Sometimes I worry that the practical posts are a bit dry and boring, but sometimes all we want are the straight facts and/or travel tips anyway.
One of my favorite things about travel is getting to know people from different backgrounds, and it always seems to turn out that we have a surprising amount in common (even in Afghanistan).
Well, the Internet is just the same – sometimes I’ll write a super personal post about my worries and struggles, fairly certain that no one else is going to care and I’ll have to sneakily delete the post later and replace it with “Top 10 Things to Do in –“, but then a few days later my inbox will be full of emails from people telling me that, oh my goodness, they feel just the same. At which point I’ll be all, sorry haters, the Internet is a good thing.
Blogging is always going to be a bit embarrassing
I mean, blogging makes me use words like “blogiversary.” Ugghhhh.
Last week a new girl at work told me that she had just found out I have a blog and as soon as she started talking about it I turned into a blushing, stuttering mess as if she had just uncovered some huge embarrassing secret of mine. It was awkward, and eventually she apologized for bringing it up, saying that she hadn’t meant to make me uncomfortable but just wanted to tell me how cool she thought it was and how impressive it is that I’ve built up such a large following.
And I just shook my head and was all “ugh no, it’s so dumb, no one reads my blog, it’s really ugly and boring.”
If I had put as much time into and grown anything else as much as I have this little blog I’m pretty sure I would be insanely proud of it.
And while there are plenty of travel bloggers who totally own what they do and I should probably try to do the same, judging from the last time I suggested that travel blogging is embarrassing, it seems like I’m not the only one who feels this way.
It can feel a bit self-indulgent at times, and often I wonder if my travel posts are actually helpful or come off more as “hey guys, look at the fun vacay I had!” But I think the biggest struggle for me has been accepting that it’s okay to monetize my blog.
Making money on a travel blog can be a bit awkward, because how are people supposed to trust what you say about a place if you’ve been paid to visit it?
But then, when I think of all the emails I get each week from people asking for help planning a trip to Norway or telling me they’ve decided to visit Norway because of my blog I’m sort of like excuse me, Norway, why am I working in a supermarket, I’m pretty sure you should be paying me for all the promotion I’m giving you.
It seems like that would be a good thing, because I’d be able to write about more places and help more people, but part of me is still iffy, so mostly I’ve stuck to display ads. I know a lot of bloggers are really agains them, but they at least seem upfront and honest! Umm… please don’t hate me?
It’s not just a journal, it’s a community
I love looking at a beautiful landscape or digging into a steaming bowl of something I can’t pronounce, but by far my favorite thing about traveling is meeting new people. Like, I really, really love people, to a probably sort of creepy extent, and the only thing keeping me at a socially acceptable distance from strangers is my intense shyness.
Though that’s also changing as I get older – whenever my dad hears people speaking Japanese he insists on approaching them to practice his Japanese, which as a kid would always make me want to die of embarrassment, but now I totally do the same thing. In fact I did it just yesterday at the supermarket with some German tourists who definitely just wanted to buy some ham and get out of there, but I was all “I (sort of, not really) speak your language, let’s exchange life stories!” Uff, sorry.
So I guess it’s no surprise that my favorite thing about blogging is the community that comes with it. I mean sure, there are plenty of aspects of social media that are annoying, but the part where you get to connect with totally cool strangers is something I’m super on board with.
And I don’t mind telling you guys that many of the posts on this blog are mediocre at best, but the comments they’ve received are pure gold. Oftentimes I’ll post something that’s sort of just rambling gibberish, but then I’ll read through the comments section and be all that was what I was trying to say! And oh right I should totally try that! You guys are just so smart.
This is going to make me sound a bit pathetic, but when I’m feeling lost or down about Life I often go back to my post about how travel killed my ambition and the wisdom and inspiration in the comments never fail to lift my spirits. The comment field on my post about female solo travel in Iran is also a way better testament to how warm and welcoming Iranians are than anything I could have written, and if you ever stumble across this post and or this recent post I highly recommend skipping what I wrote altogether and heading straight for the comments.
What I’m saying is, I’m totally not one of those people who would write even if no one were reading or take photos that I never planned on showing anyone, just because I loved it so. For me blogging is all about interacting with people.
And I guess what I’m also saying is if you just want me to leave your Internet alone then giving me the silent treatment will do the trick.
And finally, what I’m also trying to say is that you guys are really important to me and I want to know more about you and, um, would you mind filling out this super short reader survey? You can either fill it out in the box below, or click here to be taken to the survey page.
K THANKS BYE!