Almost a year ago to the day (June 7th, 2015), I clicked Publish from my WordPress dashboard to officially launch this travel blog, my travel blog, the Drift Away Travel Blog. I had been living in Harbin, China since 10 months prior and at the request of a few dozen friends and family members, I dove into blogging. In hindsight, the reception was lacklustre at best. But hey, what the hell did I know about blogging? Honestly, I still don’t know much about this whole blogging thing. That’s either a testament to how much of a scatter brain I can am or how amazing and ever-evolving this career is.
Here’s A Look Back At My First Year Of Travel Blogging, both the highs and the lows.
HOW LOW CAN YOU GO?
Dazed: One of my worst lows came before my blog even launched. I mean how hard could it be to launch a blog, right? I grew up in the Internet era. I’d just buy a domain name, find a host, think of a catchy name, write something clever and BOOM, I’d be internet famous. Like taking candy from a blind baby. Ha. Wrong! Because that baby is 6’8”, 260 lbs of “Nice try *sshole. Thank you, come again.”
WordPress is an intermediate platform in the world of web design and coding. I watched hours of video tutorials and read hundreds of articles over the course of 5 months (while battling Chinese web censorship and a sorry excuse for an internet connection) or so to build up the nerve to face my would-be blog again. What should I write? Where will I get pictures for my posts? What networks should I share stuff on? Has this idea already been done to death? I had nearly quit before I even started.
Confused: I came. I saw. I launched a blog (hooray for me). When do I get rich? Where’s the viral button? Why isn’t anyone reading my stuff?? I suck. I felt I had no voice or personality as a writer. Long nights penning my most readable, informational, touching thoughts and feelings about travel and the world, for a laughable amount of interaction with my content. And by laughable I mean, laughing at me, not with me.
“Maybe this isn’t for me.”
Battered: Sink or swim, and I’m feeling like an anchor. Why does everyone’s site look better than mine? Why do I feel like the loser at the cool table? All these travel bloggers already know each other. But how? What’s a collaboration post? How does one get a sponsored post? Do I really need to do this every week? I don’t feel like it this week. Who wants to write about travel while they’re traveling?
“I think I bit off more than I can chew. I’m choking man.”
Broke(n): I thought this was supposed to be affordable. Why haven’t I made any money yet? Adds don’t work without traffic, nothing does really. Why do I have to pay for everything? Hosting, camera and video equipment, removable hard drive, sightseeing, food, liquor, lots of liquor. I thought this was supposed to be cheap. Tall people weren’t meant to be stuffed into small uncomfortable chairs 30 thousand feet above the earth. They weren’t meant to stare into MacBook Pros through bloodshot eyes editing blog posts and photography either.
“If money talks, then I’m mute.”
SKY’S THE LIMIT!
Even A Broken Clock Is Right Two Times A Day: I look on the bright side, even if no one ever reads my stuff, how many people can say they have a proper blog anyway? I was working on my writing, and putting together a catalog of my work. If not blogging, maybe freelance writing, or editing, who knows? “You have a blog? I WAS gonna’ start a blog once … What’s yours about? Maybe I’ll check it out some time … Drift Away huh? Sounds pretty cool!”
“Who would’ve thought!?”
Time Heals All Wounds: I learned a thing or two about myself, branding, my readership and more. I also learned that good things come to those who get up and chase their dreams but exhibit the patience to endure. Most things worth having won’t be easy to attain, especially not goals. But that’s what makes the journey so rewarding. You earn everything you get. I decided to officially relaunch with a whole new look. Then all of a sudden, “Kyle, I read your post about travel and marriage and I just want to say, it lit my soul on fire! I absolutely love this post, I’m sharing it with all of my friends! Are you a photographer? Your Instagram gallery is beautiful! Your logo is awesome!!”
“I guess patience really is a virtue huh?”
I Can See Clearly Now (The Rain Is Gone): At some point, even though I still didn’t know exactly how to be a proper blogger, I had figured some things out.
1. Quality Over Quantity – It’s better to write a few REALLY great posts than to write hundreds of sucky ones. Don’t be sucky, because well, it sucks. You know?
2. Play Nice – The travel community in the blog world isn’t very big. You could be writing the best stuff in the universe, but it won’t matter if no one knows about it. I had to give to get. So I joined some Facebook groups, followed more Instagrammers and Twitter users and all that fun stuff. Then a cool thing happened. My material was getting shares, likes, retweets and feedback. I took part in several collaboration posts … and guess what? They liked me, they really liked me!
I quickly gave up on the mindset that we were competing with each other (even though we still are) and replaced it with the idea that we were all different players on the same team chasing a common dream.
3. Consistency is King – Growing your blog is like raising a pet. You have to pay lots of attention to it, you have fun with it, sometimes it screws up and pisses you off, but above all, you have to be consistent. Your pet gets used to a certain diet and meal times. It knows when it’s going for a walk. It expects you to be there on a regular basis.
In the same sense, my blog started small (and still is relatively), I put tons of hours of work into it, it is still very fun, and WordPress screws up on me at least once every few weeks. But most importantly, I do my best to be consistent with you, the readers. Every Wednesday, no matter what, I’m giving you new, quality content.
“Maybe I’ll keep blogging a little longer. Who knows?”
Started From The Bottom Now I’m Here (sort of): Over 100k shares, 15 or so countries, 40 some odd cities, dozens of posts, thousands of likes later and the Drift Away Travel Blog is starting to take shape. You, my international travel family show me an incredible amount of love. We have engaging conversations when we meet in person. Your emails and comments give me life. I’ve met some truly remarkable people. Not to mention my writing has been featured on the likes of Huffington Post, Elite Daily and The Thought Catalog.
If someone had sat me down and said that any of this would apply to me in 2014, I would have laughed my *ss off, out of my chair, rolled around, gotten up, brushed myself off and said, “Sorry, you definitely got the wrong guy.”
With that said, aside from the incredible joy of travel, I want to give a GINORMOUS THANK YOU to any and everyone who has, does and will continue to encourage me down this path. Family, friends, coworkers, doubters, fellow bloggers, you’re all spectacular in your own way.
Your presence in my life and as forces propelling me forward on my journey is irreplaceable. I couldn’t do this without you.
“Yea, I think I’m hitting my stride.”
What are the highs and lows of your passion projects? Comment below! I want to know your stories!
Until next time,