Back in October, you miraculously helped me raise the funds I needed to pursue a course in travel blogging. I was able to get started on the course right away, even completing some of the modules in time for my trip to Thailand. Thailand, I’d decided, would be my first “official” trip on which I would blog seriously with the intention of ramping up the professional side of things in order to eventually monetize. I even made business cards.
Just one thing: I’ve had some hiccups on this journey, and I want to share them with you.
The course has, without a doubt, been immensely educational for me. I haven’t finished all of the material just yet, since the modules are quite lengthy and the resources eternally growing, but luckily, I have a “lifelong” membership to the network which means there is plenty of time to learn and utilize the lessons available. This is great!
I will tell you that there are some aspects of travel blogging that ultimately did not work for me while in Thailand, and I look back upon some of these things somewhat regretfully, wishing that I’d been less engaged with blog planning and more engaged with Thai culture.
For example, successful bloggers are expected to be social media gurus in general. Makes sense right? Yet, for someone who has not even converted to the Smart Phone era, I found the chore of regularly updating Twitter and Instagram to be exactly that: a chore; an obligation to be dreaded, a nuisance to endure, an activity that, quite frankly, has very little to do with writing. Professional bloggers have thousands of Instagram and Twitter followers. Professional bloggers master Snap Chat and Reddit and Stumble Upon and Pinterest and Facebook (at least Myspace wasn’t in there.)
Let me just reiterate: I still use a dumb phone.
Spending time worrying about updating Twitter and Instagram is precisely what I don’t want to be doing while I’m traveling. Unfortunately, this is precisely what I was doing while traveling in Thailand. I was also taking online classes for school (this was sort of a curse in disguise; while online classes indeed granted me the flexibility to travel, they did not grant me the flexibility to travel, well, flexibly) so I generally felt tied down by both real and imagined digital obligations.
Do I love the idea of funding travel by writing about it? Of course—by writing about it. Not by navigating the courtesies of Instagram or by creating a presence on Twitter. I just don’t know that I’m ready to play that game. The only game I want to play is the improving-my-writing-game. The writing-what-I-care-about-game. The engaging-in-the-local-culture-while-traveling-game, sans social media distractions. In the past, my travel experience have been wildly personal and inherently introspective. Most of my time in Africa, Europe and India was spent utterly disconnected by any happenings back home.
I feel a little sad that when I could have been practicing counting to 100 in the Lana language with the local villagers or even playing soccer on the concrete with the barefoot boys, I was instead thinking up hashtags, researching things to share on Twitter, obsessively and neurotically trying to capture perfect photos, and outlining future blog entries—instead of journaling about my own emotions, snapping candid photos here and there in my usual minimalistic fashion, and otherwise letting go just a little bit. I was often distracted; I looked at things from a different angle, wondering how I could portray them online. Throughout our experiences, I was often preoccupied with thoughts about how to incorporate them into an article that would interest other people or garner online traffic, instead of experiencing it organically in a way that just interested and fascinated me, myself and I. While parts of this aren’t necessarily bad, this outlook felt unnatural to me: my writing emanates from deeply personal experiences, yet I struggled to fully engage with my experiences in Thailand because I was too busy wondering how I’d write about them, how I’d photograph them, how I’d tweet about them, how I’d Instagram them, how I’d hashtag them.
I’m not declaring defeat by any means. I am merely sharing with you some of the struggles I’ve had with the idea of travel blogging the “right,” way, or the “guaranteed-success” way. I don’t want to write Listicles. I don’t want to tell you the top 87 things you MUST do in Thailand/Chiang Mai/Bangkok. I don’t want to write “Miss at your own peril” lists of tourist attractions and fancy “authentic” restaurants (Jimmy and I stuck to street food vendors and open air markets for the most part during our travels in Thailand, by the way.)
I love traveling. I love writing. I don’t love some of the rules or formulas that travel bloggers are expected to follow in order to be successful. So, my friends, I will continue to sift through the travel blogging modules of this course I’m taking and appropriate them to my own version of how I want things to be done. That’s kind of how I roll.
Thanks for sticking with me, and thanks for reading! Here’s to a super terrific New Year to all of you.