Last week, I celebrated five years of travel with a big ‘ol look over my shoulder at the last twelve months of border hopping. Today, I’m switching gears and celebrating the other big anniversary that rolled around this month – half a decade of blogging under my belt. I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun and replacing Apple laptop chargers!
Considering what a momentous number this one is — if Alex in Wanderland were a high school graduating class, we’d be having our first reunion right now — I’ve decided to write not just one but a whole week’s worth of behind-the-scenes blogging posts. I kind of feel like I owe it to you guys as you’ve politely requested it many times before – your response when I asked if you were interested in posts on this topic was overwhelming – and outside my anniversary roundups I’ve barely said so much as a peep on the topic.
That said, if you’re not so into anything to do with the business side of blogging, feel free to skip this stuff and come back next week, when I’ll be back to covering my time in Thailand (including answering the frequently asked question of “Is Koh Tao safe?,” mapping out a new hiking route, and giving you a tour of Bangkok Treehouse.) If you are into these kinds of posts, I might occasionally sprinkle more of them in. So we’ll see how it goes!
We’ll kick things off with our usual roundup of facts and figures, a few highlights of this year’s content, and some heartfelt reflections.
My Year in Blogging // By The Numbers
• Posts Written: 168. This averages out to 14 per month, or roughly one post every other day. It seems like so many, but it’s actually significantly less than I published the previous two years!
• Photos Uploaded: 3,836 – not even counting social media!
• Comments Replied To: 5,118. That last number went down quite a bit as well which makes me sad because it means there were less comments to reply to – receiving comments is my greatest joy as a blogger and I’ve definitely been bummed by the internet-wide trend to towards less of them as more people read on mobile devices or comment socially instead.
• Group Press Trips Turned Down: 15 – including to Curacao, Italy, Sweden and St. Thomas (those were the ones that really hurt to say no to). I include this number just to emphasize that when I do accept press trips, it’s because they are truly the perfect fit for me. The rest I either turn down with a heavy heart because I’m already busy with my own independent travels, or with a polite no thank you because I’m not interested or I need to focus my time and energy on other projects.
• Unique Monthly Visitors: Nearly 150,000! Y’all, I’m so grateful.
• Monthly Page Views: I hit a high of 300,000 page views, but generally still hover around a quarter million per month. Traffic has leveled out somewhat, which I’m okay with considering I’ve cut back on posting and spent most of my year focusing on restrategizing my business flow as opposed to growing content – but now that I’m back in the drivers seat I hope to head in that direction. I’ll have a lot more details in my upcoming post on goal setting and reflecting!
My Year in Blogging // By The Blog Posts
I had fun with writing this year — after all, I published my first poem (ha!) — and focused a lot on writing non-destination specific informational and inspirational pieces, something I’d like to further explore in the coming year. That said, I’d like to push myself to get a little more creative and experiment with different writing styles. One note — because I’m so behind chronological time, some of these posts were written in year five but cover travels that happened in year four.
What Matters Most is How You Walk Through The Fire • Five Gifts Travel Gave Me • Confessions of a Reformed Picky Eater • How Yoga Won Me Over • What the &!*# is Burning Man? Two Burns Down And The Question Still Burns • Back to the Beginning in Grand Cayman
Times I Laughed At My Own Jokes
The Wanderland Guide to Travel Planning • How to Vote Abroad • Where to Eat in Martha’s Vineyard • What to Pack for Bonaire • The Pet Friendly Guide to San Diego • Burning Man Budget 2015 • Central America Tops and Flops • Road Trip Facts and Figures
Literally My Only Post Ever To Go Viral on Facebook
Greatest Adventures Shared
Yoga at a Mayan Ruin • Dancing at Batabano • Glass Blowing in New York • Running my first 10K • Going to Bonnaroo • Diving in Bonaire • Seeing Britney • Burning • Road Tripping • Diving with Sea Lions
Reflections // Room to Grow
Let’s start with the bad news. Blogging is a job, and sometimes I am terrible at it. So, so cripplingly bad. Like if I applied how bad I can be at blogging to being, say, a bus driver, I’d be the one who is like, constantly on Google Maps trying to figure out where they are supposed to be taking a left and mowing down mailboxes while accidentally leaving old ladies behind on the curb and cringing and yelling helpless apologies out the window. Sometimes I just feel like I have no idea what I am doing.
My biggest problem? Email. I just do not answer it. I mean, I try, I really do. I open every one with the intention of eventually responding. It’s just that I never actually hit reply, and then three months later I’ll be in a yoga class transitioning into warrior one and suddenly I’m like OMG I NEVER WROTE BACK THAT ADVERTISER THAT WANTED TO GIVE ME TONS OF MONEY/AMAZING READER WHO MELTED MY HEART/INSERT REALLY IMPORTANT CORRESPONDENCE HERE. This is a large problem.
Also, I have very little idea what is going on when it comes to any aspect of blogging other than “photographing things,” “writing stories,” and “chatting with people in the comments.” When I hang out with other bloggers and they talk about analytics analyzation and site speed and newfangled social media sites, I nod serenely before politely excusing myself to the bathroom where I furiously attempt to Google away my confusion. This is another large problem.
But this was a really exciting year in terms of being totally clueless. I have reached the income level at Alex in Wanderland where I feel comfortable reinvesting a large percentage of what I earn right back into my business. And that means giving money to people who are way better at certain things than I am, so they can do it for me. I’ll talk more about this in my upcoming post on how I make and spend money blogging, but the short version is that in a year I’ve gone from one part time assistant to one management team and two part time assistants, and it has been a monumental shift for me in discovering how to scale a one-woman business while still feeling grass roots and keeping the fire burning in this passion project.
While I’m calmer and more at peace with the ups and downs of blogging than ever before, I have accepted that being occasionally crippled by insecurity, inadequacy and fear that you’ve made it onto the industry blacklist are an unavoidable aspect of self-employment, and I’ve started to feel comfortable with what my strengths and weaknesses are. I might still be a hot mess a large percentage of the time, but I am developing a great team who keeps me laughing and helps me hold it together.
Reflections // Back to the Beginning
And now for some good news. Have I ever told you all the story of how I first stumbled upon travel blogging? I don’t know where in the world my wanderlust came from, I suppose some of it I was born with and some of it was stoked by tumultuous teen years. But I do know that I was in high school, a restless kid in the suburbs, when I stumbled upon the first travel blog I’d ever laid eyes on, Thirteen Months. If only I could remember the weird internet wormhole that brought me there! What I do vividly remember is reading every word of this couple’s extended round-the-world honeymoon story, running into my mom’s room with a laptop to show her this absolute internet craziness, and just completely marveling at the idea that this couple found a way to travel for longer than an annual two week vacation. The world just cracked right open for me. How funny to think of going back in time and telling my younger self that at thirteen months, I was just getting started – and now I’ve been going for sixty of them.
Five years in, I still romanticize the idea of a traditional career path, which I envision consisting of coworkers to happy hour with, weekends off to play with, and fashionable young professional finds from the sales rack at Ann Taylor Loft – I feel like I’d really do well in a blazer. They say you work harder for yourself than anyone else, and sometimes the idea of clocking in and out of a job that someone else holds the stakes in seems delicious to me. But then I remember that along with those perks come frequent drawbacks like commuting, cubicles, and having to request time off for vacation. And that’s a nice little reality check.
The fact that I wake up the vast majority of mornings at my own leisure, my only alarm clock my own excitement to get started on a job I adore, is an incredible blessing. For me blogging started from an incredibly selfish place – I wanted so desperately to hold onto these magical travel memories before they slipped from my forgetful mind – but came full circle to a really rewarding one where I get comments and emails and messages from people for whom Alex in Wanderland was their very own Thirteen Months. It was their aha moment, as Oprah would say — and I do love to say things that Oprah would say — that there are people out there making a nontraditional travel-based lifestyle work, and maybe just maybe they can do it too.
Travel humbles me at every step and constantly reminds me that for every passport stamp I earn there have been hundreds of other explorers out there doing it bigger, better, and with a carry-on, but I am truly honored to think that reading my story could open a door that says, “hey, here you go, here’s the answer to that question that you weren’t sure how to ask.” Because that’s exactly what reading travel blogs, the heartfelt diaries of the hopelessly restless, did for me.
In spite of the inherent struggles of entrepreneurship, I am fully aware that there’s no path I’d rather be walking. Once, while playing the “if we won the lottery” game with a couple of friends, I was startled to realize that there’s really no powerball that would ever see me abandon blogging. Sure, if a cool couple million showed up in my bank account I’d probably drop many of my monetization efforts, but stop sharing my photos and stories of my travels? Never. Being able to answer the question “what would you do if you won the lottery” with “basically, what I’m doing right now” – I am grateful.
I love taking this time once a year to pause, reflect, and write about where I am in this journey of entrepreneurship and self-employment. It always gives me great clarity on where I’ve grown, where I have work to do yet, and how much I have to be thankful for.
Top of that list? You! If you’re reading this blog, you’re a part of what makes Wanderland. I wouldn’t be where I am doing what I’m doing without you stopping to spend a few minute of your day with me, and I never lose sight of that privilege. Whether you’ve emailed me with advice, shared your story in the comments, or just silently followed along (please do feel free to say hi sometime!), I’m sending a big ‘ol dose of gratitude out to the universe for ya. You guys make my day.
Want to Write Your Own Five Year Blogaversary Someday?
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