I started travelling as a kind of self-healing process. Facing into an abyss of depression, crying myself to sleep nightly and losing all drive and ambition except for surviving the day was not how I had pictured my glorious life as a graduate.
The “Dramatic” Backstory
Armed with two degrees, part-time working experience and a passion for cross-country working environments (foreign lands always had a very big appeal to me) I dived right into the tiresome process of job interviews. Exactly 300 applications and dozens of interviews all over the country of Germany later, I could no longer take it.
I booked a one-way ticket to Auckland, got two working holiday visas sorted, sat patiently for a range of vaccinations and all that while slaving away more than eight hours per day in a ridiculously underpaid and demeaning internship.
My family and friends would only hear of my plans three weeks before my departure. (On my grandpa’s funeral no less, which was another push for me to chase my dreams because I knew he would have supported me even if he didn’t understand it.) This was so they would not be able to sway me.
Three days after my contract ended, I boarded the plane and I had no clue what awaited me. All I knew is that it would be great. It couldn’t be worse. And one thing I knew for sure. If there is a skill that no one can doubt I have nailed down, it is travel.
Into the Unknown
Everything was swell. Even though I rarely knew where I would be the next day, I flourished in the uncertainty which I had previously dreaded. During the day, I beat my way up forlorn paths. Onto mountains, gazing down rugged cliffs and strolling by rocky beaches. In the evenings, I met the strangest of crowds and poured out my heart to people whose names I would never know. It was very therapeutic.
The kindness I received from strangers all over the world still humbles me to this day and it doesn’t stop.
Like when my shopping bags broke in the middle of the street and a man silently replaced everything for me and disappeared again.
Or when I mentioned I just started blogging and someone printed business cards for me and another one helped me create a media kit and then another gave me free counselling.
All the people who gave me priceless advice, took precious time out of their busy day and personally guided me to my destination.
There were many more ups and downs throughout my trip, such as me being thrown out on the street, being robbed, nearly drowning over the reef or critically dehydrating in the outback. I met a lot of creeps, some internet stalkers and narrowly dodged dangerous situations. But I still made it. And I am all the more powerful for it. You learn with your challenges – or stupid mistakes.
The Problem with Travel Burnout
But along the way, I got lost again. That’s the thing with humans, we are suckers for habits and routine. Even such an irregular life like that of a constant traveller can become “normal”. I no longer cared to see another beach in Australia or temple in Japan, whereas I had sworn to myself I would see them all in the beginning. I missed the famous wisteria festival in Japan because being glued to my laptop somehow seemed to be more fulfilling (oh, the regret).
But not only did the ever changing lifestyle take its toll, I became fully absorbed in the blogger life. There was no manual and if you think you have got a severe case of FOMO, then you don’t know what goes on in a travel blogger’s head. Which places do I have to visit for the next amazing blog post? What is in? Where can I add an angle? How many different photos can I take in different light? What are other bloggers doing? Cue the social media maelstrom…
I am unable to just take a photo. Even before I put the camera to my face I analyse the composition in my head, I figure out the best lighting, the caption and where and when it needs to be sent out into the interwebs. I get anxiety when I see a tourist crowd approach an object I am about to run towards, pretending to be the only one in the area. I tried to take a break and so-called holiday in early January in Portugal. It didn’t work out. In fact, trying not to turn everything into a blog post caused me even more stress.
The Crux of the Blogger Image
I realise all this are very much unrelatable blogger and first world problems. And they are. But I don’t presume to know all about the struggles you have to go through in your job. Everyone has their own battles to fight and it does not help to belittle or snear at those of others. Despite all of these I am happy that I have been privileged enough to travel the world on the money I saved and carve out a job along the way.
Lucky, it certainly wasn’t. The hard work and 24/7 dedication does not equal free treats and luxury life, which so many people associate with bloggers. And it bugs me a lot to still get emails of people asking me to “travel to a place for them so they could see what it is like” (are you volunteering to pay the airfee?). Or companies wanting me to advertise for them in exchange for “exposure” (I’ve run that by my bank and they don’t classify that under checks, sorry).
It bugs me that I get both kinds of people, those that ask me for quick cheat ways to start blogging (“What are your clients and oh, what salary do you have? Where can I buy followers?”). And those that resent me making money but downloading all the freebies (“Ha! I just downloaded a freebies but instantly removed myself from the newsletter. And I always block ads on blogs. They won’t get my money.” Maybe I should block your driveway, no need to get to work when you’re so busy trolling the web, right?)
Facing all this over the past three years I travelled has dampened my passion considerably. Add to this the ever-changing rules of social media. (Looking at you, pay-to-play facebook and instagram in particular!), ebbing tides of engagement and juggling client work on the side (I’m a freelancer most of all). It’s draining. It’s not rewarding. And I have been considering quitting a few times. Ok a lot. This is all normal.
Taking Time out for Reevaluation
But lately I’ve been stalling even more. After my failed attempt of a holiday and a much needed social media hiatus, I’ve been feeling even more unmotivated. I’m finding it hard to get back into the game. Where to start first? What to drop? Which new strategies to adopt? Should I change my niche?
So I have devoured self help books as much as I could. I attended Lilly Singh’s #BawseBook world tour (and yes, she is as amazing as in her youtube videos). I signed up to dozens of newsletters. (Which are currently exploding my mailbox. Bad idea.). But the main question is: why do I even have this blog? Why did I start to begin with? What am I passionate about? Lately, it all felt like work and that is not the point – in particular when I created a job I loved.
Intercultural communities. That is what makes my eyes sparkle. It makes my voice ring with excitement and that is what makes travel so special. Ever since study abroad experience have I been obsessed with teaching people about what makes us different and the same all over the world. Don’t get me wrong, I still get severe culture shock and incredibly frustrated when cultural expectations collide. But I learn tremendously from it. As a nice side product, I learn a lot about myself as well.
Finding Purpose Again
I started my blog to tell family and friends about my adventures. But even more so, to capture everything I’ve learned in one convenient little spot. When I worked in Sweden, I had a private blog collecting all the interesting things that I felt made Sweden unique (ranging from doorknobs over recycling and to fika). On my official blog I tried tapping into that curiosity again, for instance telling you what Halloween originally was about or why we celebrate St Patrick’s day.
But I felt like a teacher. I would have loved to write academic papers on cultural influences in national choice of dishes, how language shapes and reflects different world views and origins of local customs. But alas, who would read it (and where would I get all the relevant books and necessary time for research from?) Also, I would feel like an impostor. I am no longer at university. I am no professor or even PHD student (though I still keep that in the back of my mind, seriously. I’m a nerd.)
And who am I to talk about other cultures? Did I not nearly lose my mind over trying to find a first-hand account of Native Americans on certain topics and historical points when I did my thesis research? Where is the open-mindedness I preach and the “listening to” I encourage? If I write about others, is it ever enough? Granted, this is a personal blog and no story is ever 100% completely covered from all angles. But lukewarm is not enough for me.
New Angles, New Impressions
And so I decided to change my approach. Over time, this blog has turned from personal tales and local insights (did you see my interview series during Melbourne Spring Fashion Week or the Byron Bay Festival?) into a SEO machine, trying to get as many eyeballs as possible to impress companies who care more for numbers than the human connection. That is not acceptable to me. So I take a step back and let others speak for a change.
From now on I will try to include more interviews with locals, to hear their stories, about their life and their hotspots. I don’t care about the top 10 sightseeing lists (check Marco Polo for that – here’s an affiliate link) unless they show me the most whacky or quirky places no tourist has heard of. (How about the weird and wonderful roadside stops along Stuart Highway?)
I want to give you a behind-the-scenes look. Into life abroad. Into life on the road. Into life as a travel blogger. Because, frankly, we could all do with more real. The news are out-fearmongering themselves (the world is not as dangerous or rotten as you think). Bloggers are trying to outglam each other on instagram (seriously, who are all these model types with perfect wardrobes and photographer boyfriends?!)
Blogging and Business and You
Since the blog is my biz baby, you will still see sponsored posts and campaigns on here but that doesn’t mean I’m a sellout. It just means that I can bring you even more content, show you what services and products are out there to make your travel game even stronger and your trips even smoother.
I also plan to introduce you to their vision (so I will be very selective, too). Why should you care about them? What good do they do? Sustainability, community spirit and regionalism will be key values here. Travel itself is mind-opening.
But if you are herded around from A to B what can you really see about the country? If people go on a country hopping spree with a CO2 footprint that would make all the Yetis pale in comparison (and they are already white, apparently), it doesn’t matter how many cents they donate to a green project (although it’s still recommended). It’s just not cool.
So What Will You See in the Future?
Phew, so this was a rather long introduction into my little world of travel and blogging. I wanted to be more upfront with you about what is going on. After all, communication starts at home and I want to be better at it. To spread better understanding. For what bloggers do. What other cultures are like. How to travel better and more (and more sustainably).
This blog should be a happy place. But one, where you can learn something. If you ever have any recommendations, feedback or requests, you are always very welcome to get in touch. Drop me a comment below or say hi on twitter, instagram, facebook, youtube or pinterest.
And if you want to catch up on the crazy stories I have experienced over the past three years, why not check out the book I published? It’s up for grabs on Amazon in both digital and paperback. I would love to hear your feedback. (Seriously!)
Anyway, stay traveltastic!