Of all the things I have done in my life that I am so grateful for, starting this blog is one of my favorites. Every day I get to wake up and know that I have an outlet, a resource for others, and a passion. Plus, not only do I get to know that I started something for myself, I get a reminder that I stuck with it, and that it’s always growing and reaching more like-minded people.
I wrote about what I learned in two years of blogging last December, and hoooo boy have things changed since that was published. I mean, I stand by all the major points of what I wrote in that, but my circumstances have blossomed. For starters, a year ago I still had a day go by every once in a while where my blog wasn’t looked at, and that is definitely no longer the case. Secondly, a year ago I wrote about how when I started this blog, I did so with a goal of becoming a Virtual Assistant but it hadn’t yet come to fruition and, um, I totally did that in 2018.
2018 was a year of real maturity for my blog; it was the year where I took off the training wheels so to speak, and here’s what I learned.
Notes From My Third Year of Travel Blogging
The Power of the Travel Blogging Conference
Now here’s a topic that you guys are probably sick of hearing about (but that I’m not quite sick of talking about), but in case you haven’t heard, 2018 was the year of my first ever travel blogging conference – TravelCon. I went to TravelCon not knowing at all what to expect, but isn’t it always the things you go into with no expectations that end up being the coolest?
To be straight up with you, instead of going to more logistical-type blog-building type seminars (as I’m not a newbie and I’ve already researched the crap out of that stuff), I decided to go to the ones that I felt would give me a motivational kick in the butt. I made point to go to seminars where I’d learn about some new initiatives in sustainable travel, inclusivity in the industry, and some key strategies on pitching ideas to editors. I also got to see some of my all-time favorite bloggers talk about their entrepreneurial journey’s, and got to meet some of them to boot.
All that said, the number one biggest thing I took away from TravelCon was about a billion new friends. I can’t even begin to express how grateful I am for the people I met in Austin and the shenanigans we got in together.
Just Send the Damn E-Mail
So, as much as 2018 was awesome for my blogging career, I’m not about to lie and say that I didn’t hustle like crazy, cause I totes did, and one of the biggest game-changers for me is a little thing called the cold e-mail. Cold e-mailing someone is essentially firing off an email about a topic, opportunity, or meeting without having met or established any kind of relationship with that person prior. And holy dinah, did this pay off. Not only did I get a 100% return e-mail rate from my cold-emailing efforts, I met some really cool people and made some business contacts.
All of this cold-emailing reminded me that I’ll never get anywhere waiting for the world to knock on my door. Reaching out to people can be the biggest thing you do for yourself and for your business efforts. But, and this should be obvious, always state your intentions straight up. Whenever I decided to cold-email someone, I made sure to explain where I was coming from, what my intentions where, and I always classily name-dropped some people/experiences that were relevant to them to let them know I’m a vetted professional.
Basically, there are good ways and bad ways to cold e-mail someone. Never harass them, and if they don’t e-mail you back after the first shot, let them go. Oh, and one more thing, never ask someone if you can “pick their brain” or hope that they’ll divulge all their hard-earned secrets or contacts. Just go in with the hope of making a friend and having an honest, human, conversation.
Just a note on the legality of cold-emailing, always make sure you get the person’s e-mail from a public source i.e. LinkedIn, or a legit resource website, as cold-emailing someone’s private address isn’t cool.
Reading Is Just as Important as Writing
Earlier this year I read Stephen King’s book “On Writing”, and I was happy to find that not only did King illustrate his personal journey as a writer, he outlined a lot of writing tips and tricks, grammar and otherwise. My favorite of those tips? If you want to be a writer, you have to be a reader.
It just makes sense though really, to refine your writing craft you have to take in as much on the subject as you can, and the best way to do that is to read other people’s work.
In 2017 I did a book challenge where I was to read 26 books all of different genres, and while I completed the task and it was fun, I wanted to take a chiller approach to 2018. Sure, I met my target of 25 books this year, but I chose each title based on how I felt at the time coupled with being cognizant of choosing an array of books by diverse authors.
I have to say, all this reading has helped me mature my writing style, as so sculpted under a now-consistent blogging style. Plus, it keeps me inspired.
There is No Recipe for Motivation
Yet, despite all that inspiration, I have concluded that personally, there is no one thing I can do to make me motivated to work. The truth of the matter is that sometimes I feel like writing, sometimes I don’t, and sometimes I get my butt in my office chair to work regardless of whether or not I feel like it; deadlines are real y’all.
And I’ve tried all different kinds of methods. I’ve tried waking up really early, I’ve tried being a nighthawk, I’ve tried lighting candles for ambiance, and I’ve tried outfitting my work space to be highly inspirational, and yet, it all comes down to my mood.
And it’s not just a happy or sad kind of mood, it’s a very specific I-feel-like-writing kind of mood. If only it would grace me with its presence more often.
Blogging is An Ebb-And-Flow Kind of Thing
Last year I was super prolific in my travels, having hit up a ton of countries and having some great experiences. At the same time, no doubt connected to that, my blogging output was pretty low-key and I didn’t have a lot of time to scout new gigs. This year, because I gave myself a home base, I wrote a bunch of articles yet took the least amount of trips that I have in a long while. I also now live the farthest away from an international airport that I ever have… ever.
Three hours away, and it hurts so bad.
What I’m saying though, is that I’ve learned that an element of what makes blogging super interesting for me is looking back on my travels and writing and seeing how much everything changes year-to-year.
There are Very Few Services That I Swear By
Over the course of my 3 years of blogging, I have had a couple different stances on how I felt about logistical blogging tools, and that’s what this point is in direct regard to. When I first started blogging, I was all about telling people about my chosen hosting company, my theme developers, and different plugins and tools. But now, I’m much more of the mind that even though my blog is set up, is running smoothly, and is being read, there are so many different ways to succeed.
When it comes to the technical side of blogging, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are no right answers. Some companies have models that work best for some people, while other companies just don’t jive, and that’s okay. I’ve now outlined a base of what works for me and my specific needs, but that might not suit someone else’s expectations.
Additionally, my services are continuously changing so that I can truly find what works best for me. For example, I recently switched my hosting provider and level of service to meet what I think should be included in every hosting package, and because of it my site is running way better than it used to.
I can only tell people what I’ve learned, knowing that there are about a million other options out there, some that might even be better.
Waking Up For Sunrise Is Always Worth It
Just in the past year or so I’ve been waking up before the crack of dawn, and it honestly feels so good. Getting up in time to see some wicked sunrises, and shoot great photos of it to boot, will never be a bad idea.
Seriously, if you want to up your travel photography game then getting up for the sunrise, when not a lot of other people are out and about, is definitely a good starting point.
Are you a blogger? What have you learned about blogging?